Western Boynton Beach neighbors donate
9/11 paintings to fire station

By Carlos Frias Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 10:34 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5, 2011
Posted: 8:35 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5, 2011

Just weeks after Lance Berkowitz moved into his new home in suburban Boynton Beach, a neighbor collapsed on the tennis court from a heart attack.

But within minutes, the local firefighters from Station 47 were rushing him to the hospital where he had a stent put in within 51 minutes.

"And that saved his life," Berkowitz said.

And that's when Berkowitz decided he wanted to turn his lifelong efforts in charitable fund raising to help local firefighters. Berkowitz, 68, a retired pharmacist, joined the Community Assistance and Benefit Corporation - a local nonprofit started in 2003 that has helped raise more than $100,000 to help local first responders.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, they will donate a pair of September 11-theme paintings by the late Palm Beach entertainer and philanthropist Celia Lipton Farris to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Station 47, which is the closest to their Tivoli Lakes complex, in memory of the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.

"She was so touched by 9/11 that she painted these two paintings," Berkowitz said. "We felt this would be the most appropriate way to memorialize the 10th anniversary."

Donating the paintings is just another way to say, "Thank you," to the firefighters, Berkowitz said.

The Berkowitzes have a deep connection to firefighters, particularly Lance Berkowitz's daughter, Robyn. She was a New York marathoner who stopped in daily for water and to chat with the firefighters of Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. That entire company was lost in the towers.

For the next three months after 9/11, she and three friends started a nonprofit there to provide meals for Ground Zero volunteers and workers. Together, they served more than 200,000 meals, Berkowitz said.

When the family lived in Maryland, until 2005, they raised money for local first responders and more than $1 million total for different causes ranging from local schools to children's recreational facilities. Today, Robyn Berkowitz, 43, raises money for cancer research in Connecticut and their son, Richard, 41, a chiropractor in North Carolina, is the head of the local Boys and Girls Club.

"It's always been important to us to give back to the community," Berkowitz said.

The Community Assistance and Benefit Corporation raises money for all Palm Beach Fire Rescue, but especially for Battalion 4, making up for budget shortfalls, Berkowitz said. Their 300-home community alone raises more than $6,000 a year to help purchase necessary equipment for the fire department, he said.

"We've been very supportive of the needs of our firefighters," Berkowitz said. "We're very thankful for the quality of care we receive."