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On The Spot: Geri Emmett


How did the idea for the foundation come about?
In the space of four months, both Paul and his parents passed away. Out of the bleakness, I just knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to honor his memory and remember where we came from. We started with two restaurants and humble beginnings. I want to make sure the foundation acts as a way to organize the giving. This is giving me a purpose in life. When I see staff wearing a Duffy’s T-shirt, it represents the memory of my husband. I’m lucky we’re all united in the memory of Paul and do good in his honor.

What does the foundation do?
We support community­based charities. We have three pillars of giving: one to the Dana Farber Cancer Cen­ter in Boston, who extended Paul’s life by 18 months and is looking for a cure for bile duct cancer, the cancer Paul died from.
The second pillar is the Girl Scouts. I was a Brownie, Girl Scout and Cadet in Syosset, Long Island. One year I sold the most cookies and received a 45- rpm record with the Ohio Ex­press’ ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I Got Love in My Tummy.’ I learned a lot with the Girl Scouts, including how to always be prepared.
The third pillar is our sup­port for the Special Olympics. Paul had a close relationship with his dad, Jay, who was president of the Spe­cial Olympics in Washington, D.C. Each July, we do a fund­raiser in his memory.
We donated $5 3,943 this year to the Special Olympics, Florida Chapter and $50,000 to Dana Farber this year.
What drives you in phil­anthropic activities?
We are so lucky and much luckier than others and in a position to give back. It’s also a way to honor Paul’s memory.

What is the most rewarding part of your philanthropic activities?
I’ll give you an example. The Arc of Palm Beach County, which provides serv­ices for people with devel­opmental disabilities, had two specialized bicycles for their disabled clients stolen. We got involved to replace the bicy­cles. It gave me joy to know that every day you can take so much for granted, but when you are able to say they need help and make an immediate decision to replace the bicy­cles -that makes me feel good.

Did you have any role models in your life?
My mother. She was a social worker and the Development Head of Catholic Charities in New York for 30 years. She worked with seniors and drafted us into her efforts. Charity runs deep in my roots.

What motto do you live by?
Family is important to me. I take my Girl Scout teaching of ‘be prepared’ to heart and try to put myself into others’ shoes. If you have empathy, you’ll do good things.

What gets you through the day?
I understand we are only promised today. I live my life knowing every day when I wake up it’s a gift and I try my best to do the most with my gift of time. None of us are promised tomorrow, so give your all every day.

What do you do on your day off?
We’ll spend family time at the restaurants. I love casual bike riding and every Sunday, we play tennis together as a Family. It’s been a tradition for the past 10 years. Then, we’ll go out for a bite to eat, but not at Duffy’s. We’ll go home and my sons, Jason and Alex, will barbecue.