Celebrating 50 Years!

Branches has been providing critical services to the Miami-Dade community for 50 Years. Yet, our name was not always Branches. As an organization we have evolved in many ways, not just rebranding from Miami Urban Ministries, to South Florida Urban Ministries and then to Branches, but also in regards to programming and who we serve.

In 1973, Bishop Lloyd Knox proposed to the Miami United Methodist District Board of Mission & Church Extension that an urban ministry be established. Shortly thereafter, Rev. Morrell Robinson was appointed as the organization’s first Urban Minister and Miami Urban Ministries was born.

1973 -


Rev. Robinson conducted a needs assessment and “transformative” ministries were gradually launched such as:

  • The Telephone Reassurance Service – calling elderly shut-ins on a daily basis to check on them
  • The City Circuit – monthly newsletter to communicate across the United Methodist Church District
  • Miami Hospice – launched by Rev. Hugh Westbrook, eventually spun off and became today’s VITAS
  • Formation of a grassroots ministry to people in crisis at Jackson Health’s Emergency Room
  • Helped to establish the Miami Haitian Refugee Center
  • Served on the Board of the Christian Community Service Agency
  • Helped to form the Florida Coalition Against Hunger
  • Helped to establish CALAS: Coalition for Arms Limitation and Survival
  • Helped with strategy planning with Hispanic churches, among other support roles.



Rev. Dr. Wayne Leaver serves as Urban Minister

  • Continued several programs and activities begun under Rev. Robinson
  • Developed a series of workshops and seminars, most notably, “Bridging Racial and Cultural Barriers” attended by over 200 people
  • Established Anglo, Black and Hispanic caucuses
  • Launched Centro Hispano Accion Metodista Unida Miami (CHAMUM) 
  • CHAMUM developed a lay seminary, planted Tamiami UMC Community Outreach, District Hispanic Choir, Lakeview Pre-School and family camping program
  • Assisted People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE) in community work
  • Began ministry to Cuban and Haitian refugee women and children
  • Provided grant writing services to agencies such as Charlee of Dade County

1983 -


Rev. John Powers serves as Urban Minister

  • Sustained several programs including Telephone Reassurance, CHAMUM, Ministry with Refugee Women and Children, Black Caucus, etc.
  • Developed and led workshops for youth on prejudice and cultural identity
  • Worked closely and served on boards of Florida IMPACT and Church World Service
  • Sponsored summertime outreach for 200 children and youth in 6 churches
  • Launched Le Jardin Headstart Center in Homestead as well as literacy and tutoring program
  • Began work on developing a day care center in Little Haiti at Grace UMC
  • Sponsored an MCC service worker in 1986 who began community organizing work in Little Haiti and eventually established Little Haiti Housing Association, Inc.
  • Assisted in the development of South Florida Peace Coalition and active in the work of the National Farm Worker Ministry


Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans serves a brief 6 months as Urban Minister and then accepts appointment to the General Board of Global Ministries. Upon Rev. Campbell-Evans return to Miami, he is appointed Chairman of the Board

1989 -


Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder serves as Executive Director
  • Strengthened the work of the Grace Preschool in Little Haiti to become a Head Start Center
  • Developed The Welcome House to provide transitional housing to refugees regardless of their country of origin
  • Provided church redevelopment consultations
  • Served on boards of DART and S. FL AIDS Advisory Research and Training, Inc.
  • Coordinated disaster response of the United Methodist Church in the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Andrew

1994 -


Rev. Dr. Carol Hoffman-Guzman serves as Executive Director
  • In partnership with Branches Outreach and Kim Torres, launched OASIS Spring Break Camp for local Miami youth at Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Leesburg, FL
  • Expanded OASIS to include youth leadership development activities, career training opportunities, service projects and advocacy on urgent social issues
  • Provided training on development of family-oriented ministries to local churches
  • Assisted Shalom Zone churches in effective implementation of ministries
  • Community wide collaboration to sponsor training programs for non-profits
  • Implemented strategic planning process to refocus Miami Urban Ministries to become a strong partner and a catalyst for ministry with local churches

1999 -


Susan Krehbiel serves as Executive Director for 18 months
  • Launched the Emergency Services Network of local church food ministries
  • Organized the Outreach Coordinators Roundtable of church based after school and enrichment programs
  • Served on local nonprofit boards; Little Haiti Housing, Emergency Food and Shelter Program, South FL Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

2000 -


Brent McLaughlin hired as CEO of Miami Urban Ministries, who still presides over the organization to date
  • Began process of comprehensive development of the organization at board, staff and program levels
  • Developed Emergency Services Network to include 12 active church food ministries
  • Moved HQ office from Riverside United Methodist Church to Coconut Grove
  • Created and launched 1st Annual Thanksgiving Meal Delivery, serving over 600 meals with 130 volunteers
  • Merged Branches Florida City children’s program founded by Kim Torres after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 into Miami Urban Ministries
  • Launched ASSETS Miami, a micro-business training program
  • Developed a strategic Business Plan and 5 Year Projections
  • Hosted 1st Annual Black Tie & Blue Jeans Benefit Dinner & Auction at First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables and raised over $15,000
  • Trish and Dan Bell made their first gift to Miami Urban Ministries
  • Received the first contract from The Children’s Trust and expanded the Florida City location to utilize space in church building for daily operations to serve 100 students

2005 -


Rodney H. Bell elected as Board Chair
  • Miami Urban Ministries changed its name to South Florida Urban Ministries (SFLUM)
  • Trish and Dan Bell made their first Matching Grant commitment of $4:$1 
  • Formed a Board Committee to plan for further Florida City expansion to accommodate the growing needs from the South Dade community
  • Became a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) certified organization and began providing free tax prep services to the Miami community
  • Secured a $1 Million General Obligation Grant through Building Better Communities to help renovate the SFLUM Main Office & Community Center in North Miami
  • The Black Tie & Blue Jeans Benefit Dinner and Auction raised over $100,000
  • United Way of Miami-Dade selected SFLUM to house and operate the United Way Center for Financial Stability at Branches Lakeview in North Miami, to provide comprehensive financial coaching and tax prep services for the community
  • Opened a new program site to serve children and youth in South Miami at the United Methodist Church of South Miami
  • The Batchelor Foundation provided grant funding to allow SFLUM to build a new playground and shade system for the Florida City location

2010 -


In January 2010, SFLUM launched a Capital Campaign “Building Up Branches” to renovate Florida City’s existing Methodist Church building as well as add a new second building. Trish and Dan Bell then made an anonymous $2:$1 Matching Grant commitment toward the Capital Campaign

The 2010 Fire

In May, a massive fire destroyed the church building and the new playground. A large tent was set up the next day so services to the community were never interrupted. Branches continued to serve 125+ students and families from the small older building and a large tent until December, when a 5,000 sq. foot portable was brought onto the premises as a temporary program space.

  • SFLUM moved their HQ to the new Main Office & Community Center to the Lakeview location in North Miami which was just fully renovated
  • In early 2013, South Florida Urban Ministries rebranded to become Branches, Inc.
    New logo, new tag line, same mission and impact. Branches now operated three sites: Branches Florida City, Branches South Miami and Branches Lakeview & HQ in North Miami. Branches’ 3 main program areas are renamed as Grow, Climb and Achieve. Grow and Climb serve children and youth, and Achieve programs focus on financial wellness for adults throughout the Miami community
  • The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce honored Branches’ Board Chair Rodney Bell with the 2013 NOVO Outstanding Board Leader Award
  • Launched the Grow and Climb children and youth programs at Branches Lakeview
  • Branches Florida City Groundbreaking Ceremony took place to unveil the Trish & Dan Bell Family Branches Center – Florida City. Branches shared that Trish and Dan Bell had been supporting the organization anonymously through a generous Matching Grant since 2005 and to thank them for their Capital Campaign gift, Branches named their new site and the Lakeview site in the Bell’s honor
  • Selected by the IRS to become the lead VITA organization in Miami-Dade County to manage all related tax prep services in the Miami community
  • Branches Lakeview was selected by the Miami HEAT as an official Learn & Play Center
  • ChamberSOUTH honored Branches with the 2014 Non-Profit Excellence Award
  • Branches delivered over 5,000 hot meals and resources through our 9th Annual Thanksgiving  Meal Delivery to individuals in need through Miami-Dade and Broward Counties
  • Launched 1st Annual Under the Tree Toy Shops for Branches’ parents, empowering them and allowing them to select and purchase toys for their own children at 90% off 

2015 -


In January 2015, Branches celebrated the Open House & Grand Opening of the new Trish and Dan Bell Family Branches Center – Florida City Campus. The Center is also home to the United Way Center for Financial Stability of South Dade operated by Branches

  • In May 2015, Branches’ board members, volunteers, students and parents joined together to build the Branches Florida City playground, exactly five years to the day after the 2010 Fire which destroyed the former building and playground
  • Branches was honored with the Volunteer Florida 2015-2016 AmeriCorps Program of the Year Award
  • Branches honored Trish and Dan Bell for their incredible commitment to improving the lives of children and families by launching and dedicating an annual award to them, The Trish & Dan Bell Community Empowerment Award. The award is presented at Branches’ Annual Gala, honoring a special individual or entity for their generosity
  • Bank of America honored Branches with the prestigious 2015 Neighborhood Builder Award
  • With support from Trish & Dan Bell, Branches launched its Climb to College & Career Scholarship to help support Branches students who were entering college and help them with incidentals so they can persevere and persist until graduation
  • The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce honored Branches’ Board Member Ed Deppman with the 2016 NOVO Outstanding Board Leader Award
  • Branches launched its 1st Annual Back to School Bash to collect school supplies and launched Branches’ Annual Volunteer Award dedicated to longtime volunteer Herbert C. Parlato
  • In the Fall of 2017, Hurricane Irma hit South Florida. Branches immediately responded and opened its sites right after the storm has passed to serve families, from calling FEMA to help with emergency relief to providing hot meals. Branches offered “Hurricane Shade” Camp for our children so parents could focus on getting their homes and lives back together. Branches also helped reform FRIEND, an organization dedicated to long-term disaster recovery
  • United Way of Miami-Dade and Branches branded the Miami free tax prep effort as Miami Tax Pros, and provided over 10,000 free tax returns to the community, securing over $11 Million in refunds
  • Branches’ Black Tie & Blue Jeans Benefit Dinner and Auction raised over $300,000
  • SunTrust honored Branches with the 2018 Lighting the Way Award
  • The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce presented the 2019 NOVO Award to Branches’ Climb to College & Career Program
  • United Way of Miami-Dade honored Branches’ President & CEO Brent McLaughlin with the 2019 Monsignor Walsh Outstanding Human Services Professional Award
  • United Way of Miami-Dade also honored Branches’ Board Member Jim Morgan with the 2019 Dorothy Shula Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Award

2020 -


  • COVID-19 hit the Miami community. Branches immediately responded, from cooking meals, to virtual tutoring and Zoom financial coaching. At the end of 2020, Branches had provided over 28,000 to-go meals for Branches families, over 27,000 virtual financial coaching and tax prep sessions, and provided nearly $1 Million in grants to support Micro-Businesses
  • Branches was forced to cancel its Black Tie & Blue Jeans Gala and Auction, yet raised a record $400,000+ for its programs thanks to the incredible generosity of the Miami community
  • Branches expanded its tax services by launching Florida Tax Pros which provides free tax prep services to individuals in Broward County, Monroe County and Hillsborough County
  • The Board of County Commissioners approved Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s plan to launch a Community ID program in Miami-Dade County and selected Branches to provide this program to the community
  • Branches 6th Annual Back to School Bash raised nearly $50,000 to support Branches’ Grow and Climb programs serving 500+ children and youth
  • Branches partnered with City National Bank to launch the SPARK program and expanded the Micro-Business program, now serving 100+ entrepreneurs
  • On February 15, 2023, Branches rebranded to include Trish and Dan Bell as part of their logo to honor them for their nearly $9 Million in incredible support of Branches over the last 19 years
  • Branches celebrates its 50th Anniversary as an organization!

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