On a Tuesday evening, far from the South Beach glitz where you’d normally expect to see a guy like him, Aracibo Quintana is surrounded by children and volunteers at a homeless shelter in downtown Miami. Tables are cluttered with colored paper, cups of glitter and Elmer’s glue. It’s been an arts and crafts melee of sorts; now it’s story hour. “Please sit down so everyone can see,” Quintana tells an overexcited tyke, who complies soon enough. The kids remain relatively tractable as they listen to three imaginary tales, followed by an impromptu dance session Quintana unabashedly joins, happy to wiggle his thumbs and get all silly doing the “Hokey Pokey.”
A tall figure with an unmistakably warm grin, Quintana is director and cofounder of The Little Lighthouse Foundation, and he jumped at the opportunity to help with this program at the Community Partnership for Homeless. “I find that among all those people partying on Miami Beach, very few are actually from here, and even fewer are concerned with community ties,” he says. “But that’s crucial for me. It’d be easy for us to just cut checks, but what are you really giving then? Does that mean you’re actually invested in this?”
Born in New York City and raised in Coral Springs, Quintana—a senior vice president with the global real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle—is part of a new but all too rare breed of young, dynamic grassroots philanthropists. In 2010, he founded The Little Lighthouse with three friends (Robert Sena, Aaron Resnick and Charlie Venturi) to focus on children and families in South Florida, raising donations to disperse to local facilities and programs, promoting volunteerism and working with local chapters of the Ronald McDonald House and the Children’s Home Society.
Even though The Little Lighthouse is relatively new, the foundation has already raised about $200,000. His high-profile fundraising events—known to attract hordes of young professionals—include the Hearts & Stars Gala and the much-anticipated Nightmare on Lincoln Road. Held inside the striking, open-air seventh floor of the 1111 building, last year’s ghoulish bash garnered more than $100,000 and 900 attendees. Quintana expects to double those figures this October.
“Even if the Miami Beach zip code is one of the wealthiest in the country, we’re just one mile from a tremendous amount of poverty and so many children in need,” Quintana points out. “It’s very tangible.” He’s also motivated to change Miami’s surprisingly low, 14.8 percent volunteer rate (according to the Corporation for National & Community Service—placing Miami at the bottom among the country’s 50 largest cities).
“Our goal is to get Miami in the top 20, minimum,” he says. “We know people can donate money, but we’d also like them to donate their time, something that is truly more precious to them. That’s the challenge.” And how did Quintana personally become involved? “Five years ago, [The Little Lighthouse cofounder] Robert Sena invited me to volunteer at the McLamore Children’s Center. After my third visit, the kids I’d connected with would greet me with hugs, or jump into my arms. This opened my eyes to children out there in need of love and caring—two things that no check, however big, can provide.”