Boynton Beach woman honored for hurricane help by former presidents

11:43 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 Local
Boynton Beach resident Leah Halbina shakes hands with former U.S. president George W. Bush on Oct. 21 at the Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal concert, benefiting communities hit by recent hurricanes. (Handout)

Boynton Beach resident Leah Halbina was honored Saturday in Texas by the five living former presidents at the Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal concert, which raised money for hurricane relief efforts.

Halbina, a 28-year-old director of marketing communications for a digital marketing agency, was one of five to be given a Daily Point of Light award for using technology to help Hurricane Harvey and Irma victims find their nearest shelter. Point of Light was founded by former president George H.W. Bush. It is now the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, according to a news release.

At the event, Halbina stood on stage with Bush as well as former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Halbina connected with friends in the Houston area to see how she could help. She found out about Sketch City , a group of civic hackers who use technology to organize rescue efforts, help victims locate their nearest shelter and satisfy other needs, according to the release. She became a skills-based volunteer on HarveyNeeds.org .

When Hurricane Irma hit Florida, Halbina worked with a group of volunteers to set up and manage irmaresponse.org . The website gave victims, who spoke English, Spanish and Creole, information on shelter capacity and locations, and provided information for donors on the needs of each shelter.

“The most rewarding part is the opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself,” Halbina said in a statement. “Being part of something that helps people during a time of unimaginable stress, destruction and devastation, and having the support to keep it going makes it all worth it.”

Points of Light CEO Natalye Paquin said she hopes Halbina’s work will inspire others to help the community.

“Leah Halbina represents the ripple effect that one volunteer can have in their communities,” she said in a statement.

Donations to One America Appeal campaign will go to hurricane victims in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. It has raised more than $31 million, according to its website .

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