Floridians won’t soon forget Category 4 Hurricane Ian, its mammoth 2022 battering of the South Atlantic states. But, for those Floridians surviving its direct hit, like the Kertzman Family, Ian also produced some wondrous heroes.
Husband and wife, Flavio and Frances Kertzman, had moved their family of four from Southeast Florida to head up Central Florida’s Signature International Real Estate (SIRE) brokerage several years back. During the summer of 2022, they moved to a nearby Kissimmee rental home so their sons could be closer to the charter school they are attending; little did they know, three months later they’d be moving yet again.
According to Frances, Ian’s waters swelled the backyard lake and, with commingling rainfall, rose up to nearly four feet on the first floor of their home. “Cars started to go under water.” When Frances called 911, the dispatcher was dismissive. Her sliver of hope crumbling, she reached out to good friend, Miriam, one support she felt she had to escape Ian’s wrath and save her family.
Meanwhile the family bolted to the second floor carrying parcels that had special meaning. Their despair widened, but hours later they got a surprise phone call. It was Rabbi Yosef Konikov of the Chabad of South Orlando. “He told us to ‘be ready, we’re coming to get you. Don’t worry, just be ready to come,’” recounts Frances. The rabbi brought another Chabad member, and the two successfully hailed an emergency response vehicle to rescue all four family members.
“I never thought my rabbi would be my hero!”
The family returned to their rental home 10 days later to find most of their possessions ruined. Rebuilding a lifestyle with normalcy has required massive community aid. It has taken a cadre of Signature Family around the state, volunteers to tip the scales in the Kertzmans’ favor.
HEROES AT LARGE
Signature Gives Back’s (SGB) Executive Vice President Jack Jaiven says, “It just seemed natural that our close-knit Signature Family would be eager to support the Kertzman Family in their time of need by donating thousands of dollars to SGB’s matching Kertzman Family Fundraiser. SGB execs granted the family $10,000 and harnessed several truckloads of essentials, all of which helped the Kertzmans begin calibrating their lives and securing another rental home.”
“I was just overwhelmed by the love of the company I’ve worked with for over 10 years. I was so happily surprised,” says Frances.
Her faith resolute, Frances continues, “We’re all good now. We’re resilient, we’re Jews! We’re finally on the road to recovery.”
Amid the seriousness of the Kertzman Family Fundraiser, SGB was also able to conduct its annual toy drive. This past December, SGB collected more than $2,500 in Amazon gift cards for the children of SOS Children’s Villages Coconut Creek.
“No child in the village should feel left out. Every single child is praiseworthy,” says SGB President Ben G. Schachter.
Both Jaiven and Schachter personify altruism. Their following: an army of REALTORS® and Signature staffers who devote about 100 individual hours of volunteer time each year.
ABOUT SIGNATURE GIVES BACK, INC.
Since its inception in 2016, Signature Gives Back, Inc. (SGB), the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable arm of The Signature Real Estate Companies (Signature), has organized a myriad of volunteer and fundraising events, supporting a variety of charities and causes principally in the communities Signature serves. SGB is a volunteer-driven organization, and Signature volunteers are the heart and soul of our unique organization donating hundreds of thousands of dollars and completing thousands of hours volunteering.