Bill & Toby Rohrer are amongst the most inspiring Key Biscayne residents you will ever meet. The couple has lived on the island since 1992; Bill arrived just before Hurricane Andrew, and Toby shortly thereafter. “In both cases, job opportunities brought us here independently of one another,” they say. “We had briefly met in NYC and neither of us knew many people in Miami but through mutual friends, we became re-acquainted.” And so it came that in 1995, the couple married at St. Christopher’s Church, with Father Bob Libby, who recently passed away, officiating the wedding and becoming a close friend of the newlyweds. Today, Bill is a leading Tax Attorney, focusing primarily on international (cross-border) tax issues for HNWI and foreign funds investing in the U.S.; and Toby is a Property Manager for homeowners who have second homes or residential rental properties in Miami.
Over the years, the dynamic duo has seen The Key evolve rapidly into the island paradise it is today. “Since 1992, Key Biscayne has become more densely populated and the Latin American population has now become a majority,” they say. Since Bill’s ancestry is European and Toby’s is Colombian, they say they “characteristically fit within the island’s demographics.” “Because Key Biscayne is an island, it has always provided us with a strong sense of community,” they say. “Thankfully, we have made lots of friends and these friends are what truly make this island our home.”
When it comes to philanthropic endeavors and the causes that are near and dear to their hearts, there’s plenty they are involved with. “Some years ago, we realized that as Key Biscayne had become our home — not a temporary assignment — we knew that we must do whatever we can to contribute to the wellbeing of our island and of the community at large; as such, we are charitably minded in many ways,” they say. “For years, we’ve been involved with United Way of Miami-Dade, the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, the Baptist Foundation, the Rotary Club, St. Christopher’s as well as other local initiatives.” Their biggest passion, however, is providing college scholarships for economically disadvantaged minority students. “We strongly believe that racism is systemic, and that education is the best way to permanently improve one’s station in life — it has been a learning experience for us,” they say. “We started sponsoring younger children, but eventually wanted to make an impact at the college level. We then began giving college scholarships in Haiti through Food For The Poor, but really wanted to make an impact closer to home.”
As a result, Bill became involved with the Key Biscayne Community Foundation and was intrigued with its “sister city” initiative for Liberty City residents. Eventually, they became aware of the good work of Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press and his Liberty City Foundation, and together with Melissa McCaughan from the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, discussed all the great things their respective foundations were doing for residents of Liberty City. “The only thing missing was college scholarships so we decided to ‘fill the gap’ by forming the Liberty City Student College Scholarship Fund, which grants college scholarships to Liberty City students, primarily through Miami-Dade College,” they say. Thus far, they have provided, or committed to provide in the next few years, close to 50 college scholarships. “In the hopes that this fund will eventually develop a life of its own (continuing beyond our lifetimes), we intentionally left our names out of the fund’s title,” they say. “True charitable giving is not about personal recognition, it is about results. Thus far, we have received contributions from other caring residents to fund an additional 5 scholarships. We hope that is just the beginning!”
Among the many standout moments of their best giving experiences to date, the spiritual benefits make all of their hard work well worth it. “It has been extremely rewarding to talk with the scholarship awardees and see the impact that these scholarships have on children who are the first in their families to go to college and who would not otherwise be able to afford higher education,” they say. In fact, Toby became so involved with the scholarship process that she was invited to join the Board of the Miami-Dade College Foundation, helping the college raise even more scholarship funds. “There are lots of well-deserving charitable causes, but it is always best to find a charitable passion, and to concentrate a meaningful part of your giving in that direction. Our passion is to help the economically disadvantaged minority families overcome long-standing systemic obstacles and improve their station in life. College education is the key. We eventually hope to see geometric results with the first child of each family earning a degree and then ‘paying it forward’ by helping their siblings do the same. Giving a college scholarship has a definite impact not only on the person receiving it but for the family and the community at large.”
In line with the spirit of giving, they say the key is to keep the momentum going. “We are immensely proud of the work we are doing and grateful for the generous contributions of our friends and neighbors…but it is just a drop in the bucket as the need is huge,” they say. “This is an exceptional community. But our lives in Key Biscayne are for the most part isolated from the reality of life ‘over the bridge.’ As a community, we can achieve amazing things for our hometown, and providing a college education to the children of Liberty City leaves a lasting imprint that will have positive ripple effects for generations to come.”
In conclusion, above all, the Rohrers believe philanthropy is all about finding your true passion. “In so doing, try to identify ways that your giving will have the most lasting impact. Then, get involved so that you can witness the results of your charitable efforts,” they say. “Finally, tell others about your passion. Hopefully, when they hear what is in your heart, they will follow your lead.”