First Impressions Last a Lifetime

Some say first impressions have a sneaky way of leaving lasting impressions on new faces. This thought can apply to budding friendships, strangers on the street and even potential employers. When it comes to meeting a potential employer at a job interview, it certainly helps to dress and look the part of a successful employee. Whether we like it or not, our modern society deems presentability as a strength in the workplace.

For those less fortunate, clothing is certainly not of the utmost priority; survival is.​ According to Miami-Dade County’s Homeless Trust Census conducted in 2018, the homeless population in Miami-Dade county is 3,526. This number reflects those who are able to find occasional shelter and those who are unsheltered.

How has our community combatted this challenge? Camillus House, a notable local charity, offers the homeless a place of refuge. The organization provides emergency housing, transitional housing and permanent housing to homeless all over the city. Emergency housing is just as the name describes; it’s an immediate solution, a place to rest your head at night. That’s not all they do. In addition, Camillus House offers healthcare, treatment, breakfast several times a week, daily lunch, the ability to take a shower and obtain a fresh set of clothes, as well as career placement.

Photo courtesy of Camillus House

I had to find a way to get involved on a deeper level. This meant learning more about the organization firsthand. Recently, I had the privilege of touring Camillus House’s incredible facility. I was in awe of the men and women living on the streets of Downtown Miami that this organization had touched. These individuals had the opportunity each and every day of making one line, which in turn, allowed them access to food, a shower and their choice of an outfit for the day provided to them by the Camillus “store.” These gifts are not exclusive to regular attendees. No, they are for anyone.

The store at Camillus House is run by volunteers and outfitted by the many donations sent in from the community. Every corner of the women’s department was filled with ample clothing in most sizes, shoes and accessories. However, the men’s department did not seem to be so fruitful. It was clear there was a need for more men’s goods. More specifically, professional occasion wear for men. Suits and ties.

You see, Camillus House provides career counseling and placement for participating individuals. Camillus House too believes in first impressions and the importance of attending an initial job interview with a fresh face. That being said, menswear is very much needed at Camillus House, and we were prepared to answer that call.

And so, the Dress for Success donation drive was born. To do this, Be Love partnered with Belen Jesuit Preparatory School upperclassman, Luis Gonzalez. Luis is now a senior and gearing up for the second round of professional menswear collections. In February, he set up various collections bins throughout the community. From Little Havana to Key Biscayne, the collection focused on collecting men’s dress pants, oxfords, suits, ties and dress shoes. Our joint mission was clear: we wanted the homeless to have clothing options in order to feel confident and complete a successful job interview.

Photo courtesy of the Be Love Movement

The second collection will take place from September 23rd through October 3rd.

The following menswear items are in great need:

  • Suits
  • Slacks
  • Dress shirts
  • Sports Jackets
  • Belts
  • Ties
  • Shoes

Photo courtesy of the Be Love Movement

Bins will be placed at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, ​500 SW 127th Ave, Miami, FL 33184​ as well as Value Store It Self Storage facility located at 7500 NW 25th Street, suite 120. For more information regarding donations, please contact Cristina at For more information on Camillus House, please visit

Words from Cristina Alfonso

St. Teresa of Calcutta

September 4, 2016: certainly a day I will remember, as will so many others. A day for the record books. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a humble nun dedicated to reaching those in the slums of India, would be canonized to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. Some would argue they already believed she was a saint, as did my ten year-old daughter. It’s not often you are lucky enough to witness the life of a living Saint and ultimately live to see them officially canonized. I’m blessed enough to say I’m one of the lucky ones.

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Photo courtesy of the Be Love Movement

Influence, as defined by Wikipedia, is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something. Looking into Mother Teresa’s, or Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu’s, upbringing, I can only imagine how her own mother must have sparked the flame of influence, which eventually spread to Mother Teresa’s strong following.

In a book about Mother Teresa’s life, Beyond the Image, Anne Sebba makes several references to how pious and compassionate her mother, Dranafile, was. Dranafile was no stranger to the community, as she frequently invited neighbors from all walks of life to share a meal in their home. She would tell her daughter, “My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others,” and when Agnes would inquire if their dinner guests were family relatives she would simply state, “Some of them are our relations, but all of them are our people.” Often times when her father would travel he left enough money behind so the family could feed whoever came to their door. Agnes would accompany her mother to deliver parcels of food and small, but still generous funds to the poor in their community.

Although not many more details are well known about Mother Teresa’s early life, there is still enough information to connect us with the missionary’s underlying principles. Perhaps a little mystery behind her background was her way of focusing the world on her efforts rather than on themes that may undermine her core message. Even so, I have always been intrigued by her life, particularly the many years of sacrifice and humility she experienced. At the ripe age of 18, Agnes embarked on the journey of self discovery, as many of us only wish we could try, and later transformed into the Mother Teresa we know today. Witnessing the life and work of Mother Teresa has never failed to amaze me. I admire her steady hand undoubtedly guided by an unyielding sense faith.


Photo courtesy of the Be Love Movement

September 4, 2016: as I watched the proceedings in Rome, I stared at the crowd that gathered to affirm Mother Teresa a Saint. My thoughts immediately roamed to Dranafile and how she must have instilled a sense of belief in her, a sense of purpose that drove her daughter’s conviction. I am reminded how we can be influenced by our parents and how we can similarly influence our children; how our children resemble us and we resemble our parents; and how we should throw logic out the window and begin to think from the heart. Dranafile certainly did not anticipate sainthood for her young Agnes, but she succeeded in setting the foundation for Mother Teresa’s life of simplicity, selflessness and, as always, humility.

Words from Cristina Alfonso

Meet Caty Villavicencio: A #BeLove Micro-Philanthropist

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Most children eagerly await the start of each new school year and all the excitement that comes along with it. An 11 year-old Caty Villavicencio would be no exception. During the summer of 2010, Caty would be starting at a new school. She wanted brand new school supplies, preferably all in her favorite shade of pink. Her mother, Annie, wisely reminded Caty to be mindful of the costs of all these matching pink supplies, as the expenses were mounting quickly; uniforms, a new laptop required by the school as well as tuition costs all piled on. It was an opportunity for Annie to gently remind her daughter of how fortunate she truly was. Annie pointed out how many children go without the simplest of necessities because their parents can’t afford one thing from the long list of school supplies. Caty had never really realized some kids may not even show up to their first day of class with so much as a pencil case.

  12 year-old Caty Villavicencio (Fall 2011)IMG_1427Photo courtesy of Caty Villavicencio

In that moment at the Target school supply section, Caty had her “epiphany.” She asked her mother if she could give some of her stuff away, and that’s exactly what she did. She took it one step further and started collecting donations by reaching out to friends, neighbors and family members. That summer, her ultimate mission became clear. She surpassed her goal of helping just a few students and collected enough resources to donate 15 backpacks filled with supplies. Now 17 years old, her resolve is the same: to provide children with the basic materials to start the school year prepared.

As parents, we have the incredible ability, in the most unimposing way, to positively influence our children. In turn, it is magical how our children, in their innocence, influence us back. So why did Be Love chose to support Caty’s school supplies and backpack drive, using her service project to launch the Be Love Movement? The answer is simple… we were inspired. The idea that just a few backpacks can impact change is perhaps idealistic; but having the conviction to believe it can actually do just that is refreshing. It is an idea that renews hope, is rooted in love and serves a sole purpose of spreading love. Individuals like Caty are the very reason Be Love was created. It is our desire to highlight those individuals within our community who are choosing to be the “light” in someone’s life and do so with such humility that they often go unnoticed. It is our hope and our mission that these unassuming heroes who are “light” be brought to light and by doing so fulfilling our vision: a world filled with faith, restored by love.

   16 year-old Caty Villavicencio (Fall 2015)FullSizeRender    Photo courtesy of Caty Villavicencio

I am happy to announce Caty’s annual school supply and backpack drive is in full gear! Caty and her team are accepting monetary donations as well as school supply donations until the end of this summer season. As always, even the smallest amount of your generosity and kindness will make the biggest difference for a child in need. For more information on how you can be a part of the drive, please check out her GoFundMe HERE or contact Be Love at

Give Love, Spread Love, Be love

Words from Cristina Alfonso