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Hearts of Gold

BY Riki Altman-Yee | November 6, 2018 | Feature Features National

Palm Beach is known as one of the most generous charitable communities in the world. We caught up with a few of those philanthropic leaders who hold giving close to heart.
Ross Meltzer & Victor Figueredo

Ross Meltzer & Victor Figueredo
If the walls of the house shared by Ross Meltzer and Victor Figueredo could talk, they would likely shower their owners with compliments, first for their impeccable taste and secondly, for all their goodwill. Figueredo, the principal of Koi Design Group, and Meltzer, who owns Lodge Design Group and real estate development company Four Hounds Properties, have been known to open their home for groups they volunteer for, including Lambda Legal. “Philanthropy is part of our culture here,” explains Meltzer, who has served on the board of governors of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County for 15 years and the corporate board of the Boys and Girls Club for more than a decade. Figueredo has been involved with philanthropic efforts since the early 1990s, but the one cause closest to both their hearts is the Darbster Foundation, where they both serve on the board. “Dogs are a huge passion,” Figueredo says while surrounded by their four adorable rescues, which include three Italian greyhounds and one Chiweenie (Chihuahua-dalmation mix). Local shelters are bursting at the seams, the gentlemen explain, and Darbster’s main mission is to transport pups and kitties to no-kill shelters around the nation so they can find forever homes. All the while, Meltzer teaches a weekly Spin class, with donations going directly to help heartworm-positive shelter dogs, and Figueredo volunteers at a shelter every Sunday and is co-chairing Darbster’s inaugural fundraising event in March. Though it might be difficult for someone to understand how they accomplish it all, Figueredo has a straightforward explanation: “It’s just who we are and what we do.”

Geri Emmett
Geri Emmett remembers when her husband, Paul Emmett, bought and rebranded the first four Duffy’s Sports Grills in 2001. And she remembers how he and his business partner, Carlos Morrison, grew the company, supporting nonprofits along the way. “My husband said yes to everyone,” Geri recalls. “Small amounts, but, yes.” By 2012, Paul and Geri were spending most of their time in Palm Beach, along with their sons, Jason and Alex, when tragedy struck, and Paul was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. Three years later, he passed away, leaving Geri, who was at the high point of a successful 30-year career with beauty brand Trish McEvoy, to run Duffy’s with Carlos. Honoring Paul’s memory, she created Duffy’s Foundation in 2016. She also established “pillars” that every location backs, comprising Girl Scouts of South and Central Florida, Special Olympics Florida, Brigham Health’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and added support for Meals on Wheels, Forgotten Soldiers and Palm Beach School for Autism. “I feel that the foundation has brought Duffy’s closer together as a company,” says Alex, Duffy’s operations analyst. “It’s just started, but it will be around for years to come and that makes me happy.” Jason, the company’s president, adds, “Having a foundation arm has better organized our efforts and allowed us to make larger impacts than we were able to before.” Part of the contributions Duffy’s makes comes from its Change for Charity program, where the restaurants collect and donate an average of $120,000 annually by asking customers to round up their checks.

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