MIAMI — Last month, Persephone Taylor-Gary heard a knock at her front door at 3 a.m. It was the police, with three children in tow.
Taylor-Gary, 28, welcomed those foster kids – ages 18 months, 3 and 8 – into her Miami home, and introduced them to her own stepchildren Britt, 6, and Brittani, 11.
“Our household doubled,” Taylor-Gary said. “God is good. We have the provisions and we were able to make the adjustment.”
Raising six kids with her husband, Britt, hasn't stopped Taylor-Gary from maintaining her busy schedule as public policy and outreach coordinator for The Children's Trust, a Miami-Dade county agency dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in the community.
“She never says ‘No’ to anything," said Diana Ragbeer, director of public policy and communications at The Children's Trust. "Her heart is big and her smile is wide. We have received very good feedback from the community on her behalf.”
Taylor-Gary's commitment to her job and the community earned her a spot on Success South Florida magazine's list of “2008's 40 under 40 Black Professionals,” an annual class of young, black professionals recognized for making significant strides in industries ranging from medicine, media, education, real estate, law, government and community development.
The magazine received more than 150 nominations from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties; 41 people were selected. The group was honored during a July 25 private lunch and awards ceremony held at Morton's The Steakhouse in North Miami Beach.
“The award is kind of unexpected,” Taylor-Gary said. “It's an honor because it's reflective of the people in this community. I think the common denominator is there are working professionals that have a responsibility to the community in which we work and live.”
For Taylor-Gary, those values were instilled in her at a young age. Growing up in Miami, she was one of 10 children whose parents were always mentoring troubled kids. Both of her parents worked for Miami-Dade County public schools.
“I had a lot of surrogate brothers and sisters,” she said. “I come from a family that really values being community active and doing your part to making the community better.”
Taylor-Gary received her undergraduate degree in environmental science from Shaw University, a historically black university in Raleigh, N.C. She's also recognized as being the school’s first female graduate of the environmental science program.
She later completed her master's degree in Health Policy Research at Florida State University.
She joined The Children's Trust in 2005.
As an advocate for children's issues, Taylor-Gary said the job has been a “natural marriage” with her work as a foster parent.
“Working for the Children's Trust has given me a platform to share about different issues to improve the lives of children in South Florida,” she said.
Taylor-Gary and her husband have been foster parents for several years, and have been dedicated to reaching out to troubled kids, Ragbeer said.
“These kids come with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” said Ragbeer, who nominated Taylor-Gary for the award. “She has stepped right in and stabilized those children who have suffered trauma. Persephone is an outstanding, remarkable human being.
She sacrifices a lot of her time.”
Despite the demanding schedule she keeps, Taylor-Gary said she welcomes the challenges it brings.
Said Taylor-Gary: “People always ask me, ‘Don't you get tired?’ And yes, I do. But if we don't make the sacrifices for our community, where are we going to be? At the end of the day, I am physically and mentally exhausted, but I know I've made my community better. I can sleep better knowing that I gave of myself to someone else.”
Photo: Persephone Taylor-Gary