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Hunger awareness is personal for corporate lawyer

April 13, 2018 GMT

When Myrna Maysonet looks out the window of her fifth-story office adjacent to Lake Eola, she is reminded of her good fortune.

And how it is not enough.

The moment that Maysonet sees a person unsure when her next meal will be, she realizes she can do more. Maysonet connects with those bedraggled people on the other side of the crystal-clear glass, because her family sometimes did not have enough money for food after they left Puerto Rico in the mid-1980s.

“I see potential,’’ Maysonet said. “I wonder, ‘What is that person’s story?’ ’’

The Insurance Office of America Corporate 5k at 6:45 p.m., Thursday, April 12 in downtown Orlando promotes fitness and camaraderie among the roughly 16,700 runners and walkers representing 651 corporate teams. For Maysonet, the incentive is bigger — to help assist those less fortunate through the race’s 100 Meal Team Challenge.

The overall goal is to provide 100,000 meals — equal to 150,000 pounds of food or $25,000 — through Second Harvest Food Bank and the Christian Service Center Love Pantry. In 2017, the food bank honored the law firm for which Maysonet specializes in employment litigation for its Corporate 5K fundraising efforts.

More than 83,600 meals have been raised as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Track Shack, the Corporate 5k organizer.


Second Harvest distributes enough food to feed 48,000 people a day in Orange, Seminole, Lake, Osceola, Brevard, and Volusia counties, said Sasha Hausman, the food bank’s director of philanthropy.

“There’s no reason why a child should go to bed hungry any day here in Central Florida,’’ Hausman said.

Maysonet, 50, graduated high school early. She was 17 years old when she left college after her parents’ divorce and joined the Navy. The training base was in Central Florida. Maysonet’s mother, Maria Nunez, and her three younger siblings followed several months later.

A housewife in Puerto Rico, Nunez became a cleaning woman — parking lots, offices and hotels mostly. The children chipped in earnings from various jobs, but difficult decisions collected like dust.

Eat or pay the bills? Buy food or gas for the car?

“I remember one time my mom scraped together some money and got us a dozen doughnuts,’’ said Fred Maysonet, Myrna’s only brother. “([One of my sisters) took half of the doughnuts and gave it away to a bum.

“I was so mad,’’ he said, laughing.

That sense of touching others with less defined the family even as it received assistance from churches and accepted “government cheese.’’ Myrna Maysonet said the family laughed as much as it cried during the tough times, learning that bond will last much longer than hunger pangs.

“The lowest point was at the beginning, understanding that the life that we had known was no longer the life we had,’’ Maysonet said.

One time, Maysonet said she ate takeout pizza every day for a month because it could feed her family inexpensively. When they had enough money to shop for more nutritious options, the restaurant chain called.

“(They asked) us if we were upset and sent us a free pizza so we could go back,’’ Maysonet said.

Maysonet said asking for handouts was humbling during a period of her family’s lives she called “that fire and that hell.’’ Still, a closeness developed. She said she speaks to her siblings daily, and her mother, who is retired, lives with her.

Maysonet’s siblings have crafted successful careers. Marisol, who credits Myrna with teaching her math, works for Westgate Resorts. Mara is a personal trainer, and Fred is employed by an energy-drink distributor.

“Myrna provided an example for us about what we can reach in this new society, with this new set of values and these new circumstances,’’ Marisol said.

Said Fred: “She didn’t let the moment swallow her.’’

Maysonet became a lawyer partly because she enjoyed arguing.

From her experience, though, assisting the hungry is not debatable.

“It made me realize that I’m not the center of the world,’’ Maysonet said. “Achieving money and success is worthless if you can’t share it and help out.’’