Margate resident Julie Jones said her dad was a bit of a scrooge when she was growing up. He provided for a roof over her head and food on the table, but gifts were a problem. “That wasn’t going to happen to these kids,” Jones said, as she and husband Glaister just a few days before Christmas brought beautifully wrapped presents, along with stockings “to be hung by the chimney with care” to six foster children at Charlee House in Margate.
(Pictured above at Charlee House left to right back: Glaister Jones, Amanda and Tommy Ruzzano (Margate Mayor), D'Mauree, Dorothy Moore and Bob Berman. Front is Suzanne Higgins, Assia Caggiano, Arlene Schwartz (Margate Vice Mayor), Anthony Caggiano (Margate Commissioner) and Julie Jones) _____________
Jones, 70, not only loves to cook, she enjoys cooking for others. Along with gifts last week (bottom photo) she brought a menu of Chicken Cacciatore, Spaghetti & Meatballs and Fettuccine Alfredo.
“When someone else cooks I tell the boys that’s ‘home cooking,’” said Foster dad and head of the Charlee household, Bob Berman. “When I cook I call it bachelor’s night out.”
Berman founded Charlee House at NW 69 Terrace and has been a foster parent for 18 years. He first encountered the foster home experience as an occupational therapist and “fell in love with the concept,” he told MargateNews.net. Since, the "60-something" has fostered a total 32 children, six at a time, with many finding success in the military and in college. Residents at Charlee House typically range in age from 9 to 18 and the waiting list to get in is long. “Charlee” is an acronym for “Children have all rights legal, emotional and educational.”
Berman pointed to the picture of one foster son who is studying Aerospace at University of Central Florida and another who is a Navy Seal. Another young man is about to get his Bachelor’s Degree at the age of 20 and yet another is a missionary for Calvary Chapel.
Living at the House now, 17-year-old, D’Mauree, is already enrolled in college and pursuing a career in nursing. The teen has lived there for four years.
“This is a good place. Much better than where I was before. Bob makes us feel comfortable, loved and wanted. We’re all very close and feel safe,” he said.
Of 32 foster children raised over the years, Berman brags that five are professional chefs, six are in college and one has made a career driving for Uber. Only a few have had issues or passed away, said house mom, Dorothy Moore.
“I push for school or a trade and do my best to put them on a path for a future,” Berman said. “They need to be able to survive on their own and growing up here we point them in the right direction."
Jones said she would have helped out Charlee House long ago had she known about it. She recently read about the place on Social Media site www.nextdoor.com and scrambled last minute to gather donations that would enable her to buy gifts for children living there. She gave special mention to police officer, Robert Pirmann, and newly-elected County Commissioner, Michael Udine, for generous donations.“Personally I think this is a wonderful concept and I am very proud of what you’re doing,” Jones told Berman. “It’s really, really nice and I’m so happy that I learned of this.”Charlee House is one of four foster homes supported by South Florida-based Henderson Behavioral Health. Homes are funded through DCF (Department of Children & Families), ChildNet, the Jim Moran Foundation and a handful of private benefactors, said Director of Development, Suzanne Higgins, who complimented Berman on his success as a foster dad.“He’s very open. He communicates with the kids and lets them know what’s going on. There’s a very good dynamic here. This is where you deserve to grow up,” she said. Of Charlee House neighbors; “they understand we’re raising young men here and it takes a village,” Higgins said.When Jones arrived with food and presents just days before Christmas, Berman and Moore were getting the house ready for the annual holiday shin-dig when the majority of kids who grew up in Charlee House bring their wives and children and celebrate the holiday with their foster dad and family. An ornament hangs on the wall for each.“The oldest one coming is 30 years old. Boy time flies,” Berman said. "We start opening gifts one at a time at midnight and go until like four in the morning.”