Published On: Fri, Mar 15th, 2019

Mohamed Abdalla – Changing Minds, Healing Hearts

By: Jay Van Vechten 

What does the legacy of Princess Diana have to do with a Boca Raton resident named Mohamed Abdalla? A lot. You see Mohamed’s family hails from Alexandria, Egypt, where they spent 30 years working in the jewelry business. In 1977 grandfather Abdalla immigrated to the United States, with Mohamed’s father and uncle following two years later. The family settled in Rhode Island and established an American branch of their company. And a very young Mohamed set about growing up in the town of North Providence, not far from the state capitol.

A big part of the family’s prolific enterprise was making something called castings, wherein vast quantities of a top selling fashion accessory or commemorative item could be made by the thousands and distributed across the nation to companies like Monet Jewelry and Chico’s for Women. The family was also called upon to make commemorative candles, including one for the Empire State Building and another for the Statue of Liberty.  But it was their commission to create a candle for the Princess Diana Trust that put them on the map – so much so that Mohamed’s middle sister is named after Diana.

The famed Princess Diana rose-scented candle, in a pink gift box, is probably the single most popular candle ever made. The Abdalla family, in cooperation with the famed candle company – Slatkin & Co., also created and manufactured the Sir Elton John candle, benefitting the Elton John Aids Foundation.

How ironic it is that Diana met her untimely death while sitting in the back seat of a speeding Mercedes next to her special friend, Dodi al-Fayed, who grew up only a few blocks from Mohamed and his family in the Roshdy neighborhood of Alexandria.

Mohamed, who is fluent in Arabic and English, made his way to Boca Raton about a decade ago. He enrolled at Lynn University, where he excelled in everything he touched, starting with the student government. His first position was as Chief Financial Officer of his class, then President of the student body, a post he held for two consecutive terms. In 2011, he graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a specialization in Aviation Management. In 2014 he earned an additional degree, graduating Summa Cum Laude with Master of Business Administration in Marketing.

Mohamed’s impact on the college cannot be overstated. He was so visible and respected that the school asked him to stay on and work there. He started at the university as an Admission Assistant, eventually working as Senior Assistant Director of Graduate and Corporate Partner Liaison.

In 2013 his interest in local politics, led him to announce his candidacy for the Boca Raton City Council. While he didn’t win, at 23 he was the youngest candidate to ever run for this office. Suddenly everyone knew of this outgoing, well-spoken, smart young man.

The following year he was appointed Commissioner of the Affordable Housing Board for the City of Boca Raton. Soon the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce came calling and Mohamed took a position on the Chamber’s Advisory Board for Blue-Pac, where he helped guide progress and set priorities for the esteemed Leadership Boca Program. Most recently, he was invited to serve on the Chamber’s Board of Directors. He is also the youngest recipient of the Chamber’s prestigious Chairman’s Award, honoring him for his commitment to the community and the business world.

In 2014 Mohamed was named to the Board of Directors of the Peter Blum Family YMCA of Boca Raton. The following year he left his full-time position with the university to become Senior Director of Government and Community Affairs for Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach. “We help families build and improve places to call home. I believe affordable housing plays a critical role in a strong and stable community,” he says.

One of the first things Mohamed did for Habitat was recruit other young professionals to join forces to create Habitat Young Professionals, an interfaith, diverse-community comprised of Christians, Jews and Muslims. The group’s first task was to help residents of the Florida Keys clean up after the last devastating hurricane flattened many of the islands in the chain. “It’s always been important to me to give back to my community” he says, “and to never assume that people from different ethnicities and backgrounds could be limited in the way they can work together to achieve a higher goal.”

Did we mention he’s only 29? He also is an avid pilot, was a finalist in Boca Raton Magazine’s search for the most eligible bachelor in South Palm Beach and is the recipient of the Up & Comer Award from South Florida Business & Wealth.

In his spare time when he’s not volunteering to help various community organizations, he’s a global explorer with a true passion for travel domestically and internationally. Most recently he was in Guatemala, where he helped build a home for a family in only 10 days, changing the lives of a people deeply in need of a helping hand, something Mohamed is only too eager to offer.

And since he can fly himself anywhere, the world is his oyster – in more ways than one.

We believe Princess Diana would be very proud.

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If you are interested in volunteering in the greater Boca Raton area, I suggest you think about what interests you and start making calls to organizations that could benefit from your donation of time – perhaps the most precious thing you have to offer them. If you seek specific volunteer opportunities, check out the listings at bocaguide.com/volunteer.html. You can also contact the Spirit of Giving Network at 561-299-1205.  The Network’s staff will train you in how to be a volunteer and help match you to a local nonprofit organization. Visit www.spiritofgivingnetwork.com.  For further information about the Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities or to volunteer, visit: www.boatingbeachbash.com or call 561.715.2622.

About the Author

- Jay Van Vechten is a retired New York City PR man. He operated his own award winning agency for 25 years until a fall changed his life. A full time resident of Boca Raton, Van Vechten chairs the American Disabilities Foundation, Inc., and serves as the Executive Director of the annual Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities. He was recently named Direct Service Provider of the Year by the Special Needs Advisory Coalition of Palm Beach County. He is also the past Chair of the City of Boca Raton Advisory Board for People with Disabilities. And currently sits on the city’s Community Advisory Panel.

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