Christina Ward has the heart of a selfless philanthropist and the passion and energy to make the impossible work.
Oddly enough, Christina’s path to philanthropy came from a series of jobs in the hospitality industry over the years. In 2008, after spending 15 years serving tables at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, she was promoted to Private Dining director.
With no background in marketing or sales, Ward became an avid reader on the topic, attended conferences and made friends in the industry while increasing the restaurant’s dining sales by 45 percent. Through work she met people in the world of philanthropy who changed the direction, purpose, and passion for her career path.
Ward helped produce an event for the C h i l d r e n ’s Cancer Fund that made her realize how she quietly could be of great community service behind thescenes. Little did she know that years later she would serve as that same organization’s annual speaker on the subject of her father’s battle with a rare cancer. She later was nominated by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as its “Woman of the Year.” While she did not win, the nomination made her aware of how powerful her resources were and how she could use them for good.
After four years at Fleming’s, Christina joined Morton’s the Steakhouse as sales and marketing manager where she had even more opportunities to create events that could help the community.
Her marketing dollars always were directed to non-profits in some way and she partnered with radio stations for Breast Cancer Awareness, Special Olympics, Florida Marlins helping the Children’s Cancer Fund, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Coral Gables Community Foundation, and many others. One of her best experiences at Morton’s was coordinating a “build” with the entire staff for Habitat for Humanity benefiting two hearingimpaired members of their own team.
Having donated to “Women for Women International,” an organization that extends micro loans to women in wartorn countries to rebuild their lives, she became the South Florida Ambassador for “Women for Women International” and began raising money and awareness to help their cause. She reached out to young women with startup companies like one of the Morton’s servers, Irene Gonzalez with 620 Swim Wear and Tania Montanez of Mavuno “Jewelry with Purpose,” giving them tables at High Heels and Handshakes events at Season’s 52 and Westin Colonnade to promote their new brands.
The events grew from 40 event guests to over 300 guests in a few short months and they started taking donations of high heels at the door. These were donated to Dress for Success Miami. Events featured great women like Macarena Zilveti, founder of Badges of Courage; a raffle for the Coral Gables Woman’s Club May Van Sickle Children’s Dental Clinic; a fundraiser for Global Medical Brigades, and more.
While Christina left the Gables for a short while to work at Capital Grille in Brickell, she was lured back to Coral Gables by a little known restaurant opening in the Village of Merrick Park, CRAVE. When Ward learned of CRAVE’s incredible local outreach and philanthropy, she was hooked.
The CRAVE Cares program allows her to select a local charity each month, plan an event for them, feature them throughout the restaurant for 30 days and promote the charitable cause via social media all month long. Coral Gables Community Foundation, Junior Orange Bowl, Aspira Foundation, Neat Stuff, Amigo’s for Kids, Badges of Courage, Coral Gables Woman’s Club, Women of Tomorrow, The UM Lampidis Foundation, Dress for Success, Sandy B. Muller Foundation and many others already have benefited in some way through cards and auction items.
Christina Ward clearly loves what she does. In 2012, she was featured as one of Brickell Magazine’s “Top 20 Professionals Under 40” in Miami for her work as the “High Heels and Handshakes” president. Her events have been featured and covered by Social Florida Guide, South Florida Luxury Guide, Soul of Miami, Gables Home Page, Coral Gables TV, Community Newspapers and many others.
Christina Ward has a 17-year-old son who attends Coral Gables High School, is active in her church, loves eating out and serving the community.