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Miami Proud: 'SHINE' leader shows unmatched passion for helping the elderly

Miami Proud: Kathy Sarmiento 'shines' when it comes to helping seniors
Miami Proud: Kathy Sarmiento 'shines' when it comes to helping seniors 02:12

MIAMI - You can feel the love at this annual party for stellar volunteers at SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders).  

The Miami-Dade and Keys office is headed by Kathy Sarmiento, who gleefully doles out praise, providing pins to commemorate each volunteer's years of service.

"Betty was the original volunteer when I started 18 years ago, and she's still at it and I love you and thank you very much," says Sarmiento, as she hugs the volunteer.

Sarmiento credits Betty Crane with over 20 years of service, as the attendees, both volunteers and staff, cheer. 

The work is not glamorous, it's important though. 

SHINE provides free counseling to help folks navigate the complex Medicare and Medicaid services. 

The staff and volunteers all adore and admire Sarmiento.

Quenton Ford is with the Department of Elder Affairs for Florida which oversees SHINE. 

He praises Sarmiento saying, "her passion for the program is unmatched."

"She's created a family environment where everybody feels like 'This is my sister, this is a person I can look up to,' shes very personable," Ford adds.

Marta Culver is a volunteer who started in 2018.

She said Sarmiento is both patient and helpful, overall, just "very good to have as a boss."

She's a perfect fit for this job. 

Her good friend and CBS Miami viewer, Sid Kaskey, calls her a 'dynamo' and suggested we profile her. 

When CBS reached out to her, she was quite humbled.

Sarmiento had a lot of careers before landing here at SHINE. 

With a degree in international business and fluency in Spanish, the Ohio native relocated to South Florida and was a training coordinator for Citibank Latin America. 

She has also been a sales rep for AT&T and was at one time a stockbroker.

"That was a very competitive environment- and that wasn't for me," she admits.

Here at SHINE, she finds the work much more fulfilling.

"The people they are helping are so grateful to receive the information and the support and the handholding, " Sarmiento said. "Helping other people, that is what we are here for."

SHINE is part of a national program, the one-on-one counseling is free, unbiased, and confidential.

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