Jason Lazar: “Changing Lives”

It began approximately 17 years ago when Jason Lazar moved from the New York City area to South Florida.
He had been working as a lawyer in New York but when he passed the Florida Bar, he thought it might be a good move for himself and his family. After sending out his resume, he was contacted by philanthropist Jim Batmasian of Boca Raton. Not knowing that name yet, he questioned his mother-in-law who lived in Boca Raton and SHE knew the name. She quickly encouraged Jason to follow up and meet “Mr. B.” The meeting ensued turned into a 17 year long engaging and satisfying job for Jason.

For Mr. B, Jason mostly does transactional work, acquisitions, financing, and unfortunately to Jason, some litigation which he humorously called “the nature of the beast.” He said, “We have about 200 properties in the South Florida area, though Mr. B continues to own property in the Boston area where “Mr. B. had originally started his real estate business and still owns some 50 years later.”

Outside of his regular job responsibilities Jason talked about how he and Mr. B spend much of their time and focus on charitable endeavors. One project they are currently working on is buying run-down hotels, renovating them, and converting them into affordable housing. The goal is to provide a safe community for the underprivileged. The hotels that are built are full service. They contain mini-kitchens in the individual units so the occupants can prepare their own meals. There is also a business center and a day care center on the premises, everything geared to encourage success while transitioning into independence. According to Jason, “too many people in our country cannot meet the criteria for renting a clean and safe apartment and our goal is to provide that community.” However, the beauty of the plan is that the renovations ultimately put homeless veterans to work. The veterans are trained and with new skill sets, they work in many aspects of the construction from plumbing to sheetrock installation. Not only does this plan help in “Changing Lives” by providing jobs but in the end, it provides housing in beautiful projects that ultimately deplete the number of homeless. These workers forge on ahead, even if they have had a “blemish” on their records, as Jason kindly referred to any criminal or financial past issue. The veterans learn new skills, gain a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction upon completion of the construction, not to mention a home in which to live. Jason referred to these projects and the use of private funds to create social change as “conscious capitalism.” “We believe in the capitalistic market, and we are not just giving money away. We want to be an example for other philanthropists and show that for-profit endeavors can be a successful and meaningful path to social change.”

The properties have expanded to include locations in Tampa and also outside of Florida, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jason gave a heartfelt and apt description of the results: “These deserving people who gave to our country are now employed and able to work and to help others.”

Jason spoke about Investments Limited, Mr. B.‘s business here in Florida. Our business model at Investments Limited is to buy poorly managed or underperforming properties and provide value in renovating the properties and improving the tenancy. Mr. Batmasian is always improving his properties and always with his own money, not money from the government. Every business, and, in fact, every citizen benefits from the improvements. We all work hard and feel a lot of pride about it all.”

Jason is also on the Board of Directors and counsel to Changing Lives of Boca Raton an outreach program for homeless individuals which was started by Mr. Batmasian. Jason described how Jim Batmasian drives around the city or takes a walk on the beach in the morning and notices homeless people sleeping there. Mr. B’s desire to help them get a job, get off the streets, and have a home is why he started Changing Lives. The goal of “Changing Lives” is to help fix the many issues with which the homeless struggle. In referring to Mr. B., Jason said, “Impossible is not in his vocabulary.” Jason said that housing is a major and constant issue at “Changing Lives.” He continued, “I try to find immediate housing and permanent solutions” for many of the issues of the homeless. Jason wants to clarify and alter any negative “stigmas” about the homeless. He said he has spent time with dozens of people and many are very smart and extraordinarily talented. He has found that, “in general, we are more similar to that population, with much more in common than most realize.” Unfortunately, it may be that they have had a tragic incident in their life that had led them to a downward spiral, and, unfortunately, “a day on the streets, psychologically, increases that spiral like a snowball.” Jason said, whether the issue is sobriety or mental health, “Changing Lives” has tried to help. Changing Lives has forged relationships with sober-houses, mental health facilities and housing agencies and it is Changing Lives who often pays for the costs of the services.

Once again, Jason said he was grateful to Jim Batmasian. He said, “Jim’s energy pushes all of us. His philanthropy has been an inspiration to me personally. I see “Changing Lives” growing beyond the community, with a far-reaching goal to help save the world one community at a time.”

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