Let's Get Social - Again! The Pandemic Couldn’t Stop These Social Citizens

By Cesar A. Becerra

June 15, 2021

The Social Citizens of Southeast Florida (SCS) mission is to Educate, Entertain and Socialize so all their members can and will have a good time in whatever they partake in.

Everyone can agree that the Pandemic did not bode well for social situations. Double that, for an older generation going through the Pandemic and after that, is what what seemed like an eternity, the decade old Social Citizens of Southeast Florida, returned with a vengeance on March 27th at their first function of the amended 2021 season, for a luncheon and lecture at The Olive Garden in Aventura. On that day, the group looked forward, as they simultaneously honored the past with a brief talk by former Sunny Isles Beach Mayor, Norman Edelcup about the nascent beginnings of their city, no less, than 25 years ago.

Buzzing about with great intensity and ready to get back to normal, were 40 fully vaccinated members of the Social Citizens who were eager to get back to their adventuresome pace of bus tours, luncheons, socials and broadway play outings. President Dennis Stubbolo flitted about welcoming back new and old members alike, as they consumed a never ending array of pasta dishes, unlimited salad and of course, the never ending refills of teas and The Olive Garden's signature breadsticks.

The season, though cut in half, by the ongoing issues of the Pandemic and vaccination rules for gathering, would have rendered most groups a death knell, but, the "Citizens" used it wisely to regroup, re-plan and re-envision a future, that has new programming already abuzz, beginning with a hearty re-launch of activities, beginning with a special tour on July 29th to coincide with Miami's 125th anniversary. Speaking of history, The Citizens - with their main office in Sunny Isles Beach, organized a special reunion of the key pioneers, who, actually birthed the town of Sunny Isles Beach on the 12th of April, 1996.

"We thought this is the perfect time to make sure we get our story right," feigned, Stubbolo, who discovered Sunny Isles in 1995 as his firm offered to transfer him to South Florida and adds "we figure instead of just a photo of the group, we may as well record their thoughts and details of what they remembered in their respective roles in creating, Sunny Isles Beach. One doesn't get that opportunity everywhere, in cities that are several centuries old!" And so, it was on 12th of April at One Netanya Center, that founders, Danny Iglesias and Godmother Susan Fried, convened with Norman Edelcup for a one and a half hour recording session, that was immortalized on both audio and video.

The former Mayor, who hailed originally from Chicago and who served as Sunny Isles Beach Mayor from 2003 to 2014, shared a few anecdotes and details about those early days at the luncheon, last week. Mr. Edelcup, spoke as a true and bold pioneer, when he shared the story of how Sunny Isles Beach had dropped in stature by the early 1990's from its original glory, as the place to see and be seen in the 1940's, when it was at its height, at the top the list of all of Florida's beach resorts. "We were the envy of all beach front resort towns, until slowly, the way American and foreign families vacationed, began to shift to Disney's powerful and trendy allure." Slowly, a decay began to fall over the area, to the point where hotel properties and our sandy sidewalks of Sunny Isles Beach, began to be snatched up by hungry developers, at below market prices and even prostitutes began outnumbering tourists, as its citizenry realized, that they had to take matters into their own hands.

A push to break away, also meant a push to even jettison, the name Sunny Isles as Edelcup mentioned, in his speech that: "The people that did choose to break away and wanted to join the Aventura bandwagon." With a promise to eventually do just that, they initially tabled the Aventura name and incorporated it, as Sunny Isles Beach with the promise that in the near future, they would vote to rename it. Edelcup added; "It never got brought up formally, after incorporation, so, we kept on with Sunny Isles Beach!"

Also on hand at the luncheon, was Lewis Thaler, The Former Vice Mayor and present Vice President of Social Citizens, who, piggybacked on Edelcup's assessment and added that to pull away from Dade County, was both easy and a no brainer. "You have to understand, that we had to do something. We were not being treated fairly, even, when it came to basic services. We, of course would not have any clue of the level of expertise that we would have, to take on, over the upcoming years, but, we knew it was better than seeing our paradise, run amok."

Indeed they did and from the allure, of the quick-buck-property-owners, who were susceptible to quick and lucrative, payouts. It would take years before Sunny Isles Beach, would see their population and reputation skyrocket. By the new millennium, Sunny Isles Beach had been saved and the community began being known once again, as The City of Sun and Sea. It is no surprise, that Social Citizens was born (on March 10th 2011), within their city limits and chose to headquarter it, right down the street from City Hall. But, President Stubbolo explained, that in the future, plans are afoot to grow past those boundaries; "Remember when we started, we didn't want to be pigeonholed to just Sunny Isles, in fact, we are now seeing, some of our members who are located in locales, far away, from the beach, even deeper, inland, which makes sense, as our name was purposefully chosen as, Social Citizens of Southeast Florida and this upcoming year, we intend to grow into that zone by some exciting promotional materials, we have even planned tours, that stretch from here to Key West."

As the coffee and dessert was served at the tail end of a nearly 3 hour robust lunch, several members like, Gloria Ezrin along with Marvin Zubisky, wished it to not come to an end. Marvin echoed; "Now I wish I had planned to stay longer, but, I'm headed back to New York in a week. But I'm definitely looking forward to the next season!" For a full roster of activities, Social Citizens urge newcomers to check out their web-site at: www.socialcitizens sef.org. This reminds all of us, that with a discounted $10.00 membership, (instead of the regular, $20.00 a year), this year, only due to the cut in programming, you are getting a steal of a deal, in time for the rest of the season. "It's still, the best deal in town!" enthusiastically explains, Nancy Leyton, who, is happy the group is back and firing on all cylinders. "Where else are you going to have an entire year of social outings planned for such an affordable membership?"

Speaking of affordable membership, the club is about to launch a membership expansion program, with even more great (and sometimes NEW) programming, which include: Dinner Theatre Trips, Educational Trips plus our Monthly Luncheons, that are held at different restaurants in Sunny Isles Beach, Aventura and Hallandale Beach.

The next big activity, will be an all day tour, celebrating the 125th Anniversary of Miami with Historian Cesar A. Becerra on July 29th, all tours and activities, can be booked, by calling Dennis Stubbolo at: (305) 333-2865. E-mail him at: dennis@socialcitizenssef.org. Or go to the web-site at: www.socialcitizenssef.org.