MIAMI -- The Caring Place has been changing lives in the South Florida community for more than 100 years, and the group's efforts during the holiday season can have a profound impact on those in need.
The, which was previously known as the Miami Rescue Mission, inspires many of its volunteers to get involved.
Hudson Elegant is one of those volunteers who helps the group in is efforts to help the homeless get back on their feet.
"It's much more of a transformative experience," Hudson Elegant said. "It really takes someone from homeless to potentially employed as opposed to fed for a day or given materials that run out in a week."
Hudson and Luke Elegant said they started volunteering with their mother Jennifer around 15 years ago.
She teaches at Miami-Dade College and had a student in her class who changed her life.
"He was a formerly homeless man (and) former drug addict who worked through the program at the mission," Jennifer Elegant said. "Not only did they give him food, but they gave him shelter."
His name was Richard Benabe, and he had previously been the recipient of services from The Caring Place.
The group gave him a chance at a better life through housing, education and rehabilitation. The Elegant family said that is what the group does.
"They literally stop homelessness," Jennifer Elegant said. "They get people back on their feet, they save lives. They give you more than food, they give you job skills."
Benabe served as a guiding light for the family and although he died recently, his lessons still resonate with many of those he met.
"The vast majority of people have the innate desire to really help people and give back to the communities they're a part of," Luke Elegant said. "I think it's very difficult, while that desire is there to figure out how to do it in a way that actually helps"
The Elegants help run an annual Thanksgiving fundraiser that has collected $100,000 to date, money that allows The Caring Place to continue helping South Florida's homeless population.
Reflecting on Benabe's impact on her life, Jennifer Elegant said he
"He became my teacher (and) he got an A in my class, but he's the one who taught me," she said.
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