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The Florida Catholic

Awards honor various health advocates

WEST PALM BEACH | The Catholic Charities Interfaith Health and Wellness Program presented honors at its spring awards luncheon March 23, 2023, at the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach.

Those receiving awards included Martha Ahr, with the St. Mother Teresa Award; the Frank J. Lewis Family Foundation, with the Pope Francis Award; and the St. Bernadette Parish nurse team, with the Faith Community Nurse of the Year Award.

As announced at the luncheon, Ahr has been a volunteer in the Guardian ad Litem program for 15 years, advocating for children of all ages who are affected by a family situation of substance abuse in Palm Beach County. As a guardian, she ensures that the child’s needs are met, including housing, transportation, day care, summer camp and school fees. She has been named “Guardian ad Litem of the Year” and received Florida’s first “Advocate of the Year” award.

The Frank J. Lewis Family Foundation provided start-up funding for the Interfaith Health and Wellness nurse program nearly 20 years ago, and has provided continuous support for its operations, nursing outreach in Riviera Beach, nurse mentoring and community outreach projects. The Lewis Family Foundation is a local leader in philanthropy and voluntarism dedicated to providing support for those in crisis, the underserved and those who have fallen through the cracks. Timothy Lewis, partner at La Cava Jacobson and Goodis, accepted the award on behalf of the family.

The team of nurses at St. Bernadette Parish in Port St. Lucie completed the Foundations of Faith Community Nursing course in 2017 and 2019. They make referrals for home health care, addiction treatment and other community resources, and provide bereavement support and instruction, including their weekly “Backdoor Health Education” outreach.

The team goes “beyond the call of duty” by participating in special events, rotate schedules to ensure their caring presence at each Mass, serve in the soup kitchen, provide assistance to the homeless to transition to stable housing, set annual goals in consultation with their pastor, keep the elderly engaged in the community and advocate for people at all stages of life.

Phyllis King, dean of the Palm Beach Atlantic University School of Nursing, was the luncheon’s guest speaker, talking about resilience and fortitude and the importance of supporting the nurses’ work in the community.

Mary Ierardi and Elizabeth Ailes of the St. Edward Catholic Church Women’s Guild were co-chairs of the event, and Margaret Donnelly was honorary chair. St. Edward Parish is a supporter of the Interfaith Health and Wellness Program.

Interfaith Health and Wellness is committed to the education of registered nurses who serve communities through affiliation with churches, temples, mosques and other faith-based initiatives, and works to promote whole-person care of the body, mind and spirit.

For more information about the program, visit, email or call 561-345-2000.