Health, Local

Yes, these doctors and med students make house calls

For Miami Herald.

Sarah Braxton has spent most of her life taking care of her family.

First she took care of her daughter, Pretious Latae Walker, who had open-heart surgery when she was 21 and died about four years later. Then it was her mother, Pauline Mason, who had a heart attack and a stroke in her early 30s. She died two years ago on Christmas Eve.

Even with the history of heart disease in her family, it wasn’t until recently that Braxton, 51, decided to start caring for herself.

The Miami Gardens resident woke up one morning in early January and knew that something wasn’t right. She was having chest pains and was short of breath.

“I kept telling myself that it was going to go away and I was OK,” Braxton said. “But I knew in the back of my mind it wasn’t. Something was wrong.”

She spent one week in the hospital, where she learned about the Green Family Foundation Health Education Learning Program NeighborhoodHELP. Rolled out about six years ago, the program, also funded by the Batchelor Foundation and other nonprofits, pairs students and faculty from Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and other FIU schools with medically underserved families.

The medical teams make house calls, going door to door to help people stay on track with their medications, assess their vital signs and discuss steps they need to make to improve their health.

Today Braxton is doing much better and credits her turnaround to the program.

“I feel 10 years younger,” she said.

NeighborhoodHelp has expanded to several communities, including North Miami, Miami Gardens, Opa-locka, Hialeah, Miami Lakes and South Miami.

The program also has broadened beyond medicine. The outreach team collaborates with more than 150 organizations, such as schools, places of worship and healthcare providers. Often, these groups refer patients to NeighborhoodHelp.

Once in the program, interprofessional teams of FIU faculty and students from the colleges of medicine, public health and social work, nursing, law and education work with the families, going to their homes, diagnosing their medical conditions and helping them resolve legal or socioeconomic issues that come up. The program also hosts cooking classes and provides mobile health centers.

“Ultimately what is more important than the quality of medical care are these other aspects that are considered non-medical,” said Dr. Fred Anderson, Braxton’s primary care doctor from FIU. “We can provide the best care in the world, but if we neglect all these social determinants — the quality of the communities, the quality of schools, legal concerns — you will never make a significant impact in the overall health.

“It’s much more holistic than simply having blood pressure at a certain number.”

In South Miami, Baptist Health South Florida has stepped in, working with FIU’s medical college and the Green Family Foundation. The program, called the South Miami Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP, works with nearly 100 families.

According to Anderson, access to basic needs like schools, safe environments and gainful employment has not been historically emphasized by doctors because they’re not considered medical factors.

When Braxton left the hospital, she was told to find a doctor immediately. With no health insurance, she wasn’t sure what to do. That’s when NeighborhoodHelp stepped in.

“They kind of took over. They came in and set me up with the doctors I needed to see,” Braxton said, who now has access to home visits from medical professionals.

She has grown attached to one FIU medical school student, Andrew Miller, in particular.

“I look forward to my appointments,” Braxton said. “They made me feel like my life mattered.”

For Miller, the key was to implement realistic changes into Braxton’s life.

“When Sarah and I first started talking, our conversation began with what changes she wanted to make,” Miller said. “It wasn’t me just giving her a list. So many times in medicine, doctors will do that for their patients and it’s not something that they want or can necessarily do.”

For the first time, Braxton is taking her medication regularly and is eating a more nutritious and well-balanced diet. Vegetables now make up half of her dinner plate, and she has replaced sugary and salty snacks with almonds, pistachios or carrots.

She and Miller also discussed different ways to exercise, which for Braxton is key because of her sedentary desk job. She loves to walk, but plans to start Zumba soon.

“I really do need to get back to a healthier weight because I know better. Especially after taking care of mom and my daughter,” said Braxton, who helped her daughter, Pretious Latae Walker, lose a significant amount of weight.

At one point, doctors had predicted that Walker would live for only three to six months and suggested she be placed in hospice. Instead, Braxton took Walker home. She weighed almost 600 pounds and with her mother’s help, she lost more than 400 pounds. Walker lived for three more years.

Today, Braxton’s advice to others is simple: Stay positive.

“Believe what your doctors say and work at it,” she said. “Don’t give up.”


For more information on the Green Family Foundation Health Education Learning Program (NeighborhoodHELP), call 305-919-4594.
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Events, Fitness, Health, Local

Post-marathon: Allow 2-3 weeks to recover after big race

Maria Ramos helps Jaime Medina stretch after completing the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon on Sunday. The two are from Colombia. CARL JUSTE
Maria Ramos helps Jaime Medina stretch after completing the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon on Sunday. The two are from Colombia. CARL JUSTE

On Sunday, thousands woke in the predawn hours and headed to American Airlines Arena, where they ran, ran/walked (intervals) or rode special bikes to compete in the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon.

When they crossed the finish line, they got a rush of adrenaline and took a moment — maybe more — to recover.

But sitting still after the race is not the way to go, say sports medicine doctors and experienced marathoners. In fact, there are important steps to take immediately after a big race, and in the days following it, to prevent injury.

“Research shows that muscle, cellular and immune systems are compromised for two to three weeks post-race, so recovery from a marathon is a critical component,” said Dr. Farah Tejpar, a sport medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston. “Runners who don’t recover properly from a marathon put themselves at increased risk of injury and delayed healing.”

Tejpar recommends resting for at least three to four days after a big race before returning to a normal exercise routine. She suggests starting with low-impact cross training or 20 to 30 minutes easy jogging.

“Don’t rush to compete again. Allow your body the time it needs to recovery,” Tejpar said.

Dr. Thomas San Giovanni, an orthopedic surgeon at Miami Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute of Baptist Health South Florida, concurred that rest is essential.

“The next day, runners want to get right back into running because they figured they’ve reached this maximal fitness and they don’t want to lose that,” said San Giovanni, who is also the co-medical director of the Miami Marathon. “That is a common mistake. You want to give your body some time to rest to allow your body to recuperate and restore.”

He advocates a good night’s rest and a well-balanced meal. To help reduce inflammation, take ice baths and keep legs elevated.

After a race, some people may not be able to distinguish between post-race soreness and an injury because it’s common to feel pain and aches.

“Look for swelling and inflammation that lasts and pain that persists,” San Giovanni said. “As the days go by, if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting better, then you may want to seek medical attention or get evaluated.”

Frankie Ruiz, brand manager for the Miami Marathon and chief running officer at Life Time Fitness, says support is crucial in the period immediately after a race.

“Have somebody near by, so that you can lean on them or in case you might need attention,” Ruiz said. “I definitely recommend somebody walk with you through the recovery and that you’re not by yourself.”

Tracy Smith, a marathon runner and director of physical therapy at Cleveland Clinic, completed the Miami Marathon last January in four hours and 27 minutes. She advises athletes to stay hydrated and get some food immediately after a race. Many marathons are stocked with bananas, oranges, bagels and protein bars for the runners at the end of the race.

“You don’t want to overeat because your body doesn’t really digest at that point,” said Smith, 41, who lives in Davie. “But you have to get some calories and some carbohydrates back in.”

She also advises not to stop after a race.

“The key after is to really keep moving,” Smith said. “Not to cross that finish line and sit down. Walk around and enjoy whatever the marathon has for entertainment.”

Paul Sykes would agree. The 50-year-old Coral Gables resident completed the New York City marathon on Nov. 1 and walked a mile to retrieve his personal items.

“At the time, that felt really bad, but it’s actually the best thing that I could have done,” Sykes said. “The last thing you want to do is run 26.2 miles and then sit down and let your legs seize up.”’

According to Ruiz, marathon organizers kept this in mind. At the Miami Marathon, organizers placed the finish line a quarter of a mile from Bayfront Park, where the food and entertainment awaited.

“There’s a purpose to that,” Ruiz said. “So people don’t just come to a complete halt, throw themselves on the ground, and end up needing medical attention.”

Sykes completed the New York Marathon in four hours and 18 minutes. In total, he has run eight marathons and 25 half-marathons. His biggest advice to others is to stay in shape.

“How you recover is impacted a lot by how you prepare,” said Sykes, who had heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach nine months before the New York City race.

Sykes underwent a minimally invasive method that involved a small, five-centimeter incision, resulting in a quick recovery. He was training just three weeks after his surgery.

His surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lamelas, the chief of cardiac surgery at Mount Sinai, recommended a minimally invasive approach because the recovery is more rapid and patients who are athletes can return more quickly to an active lifestyle.

Marathon runners and doctors also advise runners to congratulate themselves once they cross the finish line. Ruiz believes in rewards such as a massage or a small treat.

“A little bit later in the day, it might be time to reach for that dessert,” Ruiz said. “A scoop of ice cream or a key lime pie.”

Although he doesn’t recommend overindulgence, Ruiz does enjoy a sip of soda after completing a big race.

Features, Local

Helping the homeless find homes, jobs and schooling

Features, Local

Helping veterans transition to everyday life

Edwin S. Vasco Gonzalez, first Miami service platoon leader for Mission Continues, listens to a speech at an event earlier this year.
Edwin S. Vasco Gonzalez, first Miami service platoon leader for Mission Continues, listens to a speech at an event earlier this year.

For the Miami Herald.

He dreamed of becoming a doctor. He even had a job lined up at Baptist Hospital in Kendall before he completed his service for the Marine Corps in December 2006.

“I thought I was going to be fine,” said Edwin Vasco González, who joined the Marines in December 2002.

Six months later, he quit his job at the hospital and he was far from fine. González was experiencing just how difficult and unnerving the shift to civilian life can be compared to the years of discipline and structure in the military.

“I was going through a lot at the time and I didn’t have a lot of support,” González said. “ I was doing poorly psychologically and emotionally.”

Like many veterans, González, 31, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He tried to find a place and sense of purpose through jobs and education. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University, where he studied sport physiology.

“I didn’t really like anything I was doing because I felt like I wasn’t doing anything positive for other people,” he said.

González was lost until he found Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization based in St. Louis that aims to empower veterans through community service.

“It was something that I had been missing,” said the Kendall resident, who completed a six-month fellowship for the organization.

He soon found what he was lacking by being around other veterans and doing community service projects.

Now González is the first Miami service platoon leader for the organization. He hopes to help other South Florida veterans cope with adjusting to civilian life, while giving them the opportunity to continue to serve the public.

The organization, which has about 270 members, meets the first Saturday of each month. They host and assist with many events and service projects.

In June, Miami’s Mission Continues hosted a PTSD/Suicide Awareness Walk.

“In our country, at least 22 veterans commit suicide every single day. That’s almost one an hour,” said Tabitha Aragon, a reactionary therapist at the Miami VA. “A lot of our platoon members focus on trying to keep that suicide rate from increasing and to hopefully bring it down.”

Aragon, who has worked for the VA for 12 years, is not a veteran but volunteers at Mission Continues because she sees the daily struggle that veterans go through.

“Transition is very hard. The way military works is so different,” Aragon said. “They were in a combat zone, under high stress for months, day in and day out.”

She sees many young veterans return feeling lost, lacking support and having survivor’s guilt. To her, having an organization run by veterans, for veterans helps with these issues.

In August, the organization hosted a tree-planting event at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, where they planted 1,000 trees.

For Shane Suzuki, 34, doing great things for the community with people who have a common background is important.

“I think Mission Continues is different because it’s so oriented around service; we’re not just getting together and telling war stories,” said the Marine Corps veteran who was deployed in 2005 to Ramadi, Iraq.

“We’re getting together, telling war stories, while we’re doing something worthwhile in the community.”

People from every branch of service participate in the organization, and they often bring their families and friends.

Stacy Roman, 30, a member of the platoon, was among those who planted trees. The Barry University student was in the Marines for 10 years and has gone through her own challenges when she came to Miami two years ago.

For her, the organization helps to bring awareness to veterans.

“Sometimes there is a bad stigma for veterans,” said Roman, who is a sales representative for the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. “We’re 1 percent of America; 99 percent of America isn’t going to adjust and try to understand us 1 percent. Us 1 percent has to figure out a way to adapt.”

For González, Mission Continues is a platform for veterans to make lasting impact.

“We have to feel like we count for something,” he said. “Which is what we try to build with the platoon. We make veterans feel like they are greater than themselves again. They are pulling for one common goal and doing something positive.”


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Features, Local

Help for the homeless: Chapman Partnership celebrates 20 years

Photo by Max Reed for the Miami Herald
Photo by Max Reed for the Miami Herald

For the Miami Herald

Features, Local, TCPalm

Book Review: Local lawyer’s new book recalls tales of Treasure Coast

Rick Crary went on his own personal treasure hunt. Not one of gold or riches but historical tales from an area where he and previous generations have grown up.

After a house that belonged to his grandparents was saved from being demolished and then moved to downtown Stuart, Crary was asked to give a talk about the home’s history.

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Art, Features, Local, TCPalm

Local upcyclers promote art and rescue discards from landfills

Nichole Rouse, who runs Treasure Coast Reuse Center in Port St. Lucie, thinks everything has a purpose and tries to educate people on upcycling. (PROVIDED BY TREASURE COAST REUSE CENTER)
Nichole Rouse, who runs Treasure Coast Reuse Center in Port St. Lucie, thinks everything has a purpose and tries to educate people on upcycling. (PROVIDED BY TREASURE COAST REUSE CENTER)

Some may consider those mismatched socks, empty coffee bags and old-fashioned entertainment centers designed for tube televisions, a waste of space.

To Treasure Coast upcyclers, these untouched items collecting dust in corners of houses, are anything but junk. They turn that perceived trash into cash.

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Features, Local, TCPalm

Treasure Coast metal detectorists looking for more than just treasures

Mitch King, a member of the Treasure Coast Archeological Society, says he visits the beach several evenings a week to metal detect on the beach. "We try to go down at low tide because it gives you more access to the lower parts of the beach where people were swimming earlier," said King, adding that he tries to return jewelry, such as rings, to their original owners whenever possible. (SAM WOLFE/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS)
  Mitch King, a member of the Treasure Coast Archeological Society, says he visits the beach several evenings a week to metal detect on the beach. “We try to go down at low tide because it gives you more access to the lower parts of the beach where people were swimming earlier,” said King, adding that he tries to return jewelry, such as rings, to their original owners whenever possible. (SAM WOLFE/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS)

While some facets of the 1715 treasure fleet disaster remain a mystery, one thing is certain: coins and artifacts continue to wash up on Treasure Coast shores.

People who scrounge the beaches with metal detectors hope to recover some of those precious fleet treasures and anything of monetary value.

Members of the Treasure Coast Archeological Society, founded in 1988 by a group of metal detectorists, are driven by a variety of reasons.

Mitch King, the organization’s vice president, has found two silvers rings from the 1715 fleet, but he considers some of his best finds, the rings he’s been able to reunite with people who have lost them.

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Local, TCPalm

Lunch on a budget? No problem with affordable, delicious Martin County options

Luna Italian Restaurant on Flagler Avenue in Downtown Stuart has a maximum capacity of 50 people inside, tables for outdoor seating and a sidewalk takeout window. (Crystal Chew/Treasure Coast Newspaper)
Luna Italian Restaurant on Flagler Avenue in Downtown Stuart has a maximum capacity of 50 people inside, tables for outdoor seating and a sidewalk takeout window. (Crystal Chew/Treasure Coast Newspaper)

For The Stuart News, The Indian River Press Journal and The St. Lucie News-Tribune

My grandma always said that if I had a penny, I would try to spend two.

She was right.

I’ve never been the best at budgeting, but I been working on it, especially since I’m a typical college intern. so what does an intern working 9-to-5 eat?

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Events, Features, Local, TCPalm

Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson returns to Treasure Coast for charity fashion show

PHOTO CAPTION: Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson (12) runs against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of their NFL football game in Kansas City, Missouri, on Dec. 14, 2014. Wilson, a Port St. Lucie High School graduate, will be in Vero Beach June 27 for a charity event. (REED HOFFMANN/AP FILE PHOTO)

It was never a question of whether or not Albert Wilson was going to be successful, it was more about how he would one day give back to the community that has helped him become who he is today.

“He was very driven and strong willed,” said Hilary Poole, his high school football coach, “one of the most focused people I have ever come across. Once he set his mind to something, that was it.”

As a student at Port St. Lucie High School, Wilson, the current wide receiver of the Kansas City Chiefs, wondered how he could make a difference. He asked one of his mentors, Marylin Richardson-Pryor for her advice.

“Make good choices and give back to your community,” said Richardson-Pryor, who was a school-based social worker at the time. “Seek the right path and choose a productive life.”

Taking her wisdom to heart, Wilson will return to Indian River County July 27 for a charity fashion show hosted by Moral Value Love Sincerity Trust, Inc., run by four women, including Richardson-Pryor.

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Features, Health, Local, TCPalm

More vegan options sprouting up in Martin County

PHOTO CAPTION: Pesto breadsticks from Fruits & Roots are toasted flatbreads spread with pesto and topped with house Parmesan cheese. (PHOTO BY RENEE ATHAUSER/FRUITS & ROOTS)

Amber Eichling, like many vegans in the area, thought she had limited food options when dining out.

She could order salad without meat or cheese, but after a while that was boring.

She also was concerned about cross-contamination. If chefs were not careful or unaware the dish was for a vegan diner, they might use the same kitchenware used to cook a burger.

So Eichling, a former Terra Fermata bartender and mother of a 6-year-old daughter, opened her own vegan café, Fruits & Roots Juice Bar + Vegan Cafe, in March.

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Health, Local

Widow starts charity for firefighters with Parkinson’s

For Miami Herald.

Shortly after marrying John Somerville, his wife Donna noticed a drastic change in his behavior: He was walking differently and his face had turned blank.

“It was like he had a stroke,’’ said Donna, who later learned her husband had Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that develops gradually and causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

John was an avid athlete who had no previous health issues and had retired as a fire captain. He had worked for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue for 31 years.

Donna, a former educator with Miami-Dade Schools, scrambled to figure out how to take care of her husband for the next eight years. He died on Jan. 7. He was 62.

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Events, Local

Florida City turns 100-years-old

For Miami Herald.

Florida City, whose early inhabitants were from Detroit, recently turned 100.

The city began its celebration of the milestone birthday in late July with an event that honored residents 80 and older.

“They are the ones who deserve it,” said Commissioner Avis Brown, whose father was born in Florida City in 1922.

“They deserve the honor of saying they made an impact on Florida City. But the impact is not only on the city, but also on our children and our families.”

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Surfside baffled over $1 million cost to remove sand from beach

For Miami Herald.

Surfside has been stuck in the sand — or at least it’s how many residents feel.

In March, a developer, Fort Capital, dug up sand from underneath the construction site on 9011 Collins Ave., the site of a hotel and condominium called the Surf Club. Florida law says excavated sand must be placed near the site from which it came. As such, the developer spread the sand over Surfside’s public beach.

But many residents said the sand was completely different, even calling it dirt. To them, the beach was no longer the same. Florida law also says the sand must be compatible with the existing sand.

Residents grew more concerned when toxicology reports indicated levels of arsenic higher than state residential guidelines. Experts hired by town staff and Miami-Dade County Health Department, however, said the sand posed a low risk to human or pet health.

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Education, Events, Local

Young musicians from the Miami Lighthouse visit Jungle Island

For Miami Herald.

On Saturday mornings, while many teenagers are sleeping in, the 25 students from the music program at Miami Lighthouse for the Blind are learning sound production from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During the summer, the music production program meets Monday through Friday for two months.

Last Saturday, the teens put down their instruments and had a chance to visit Jungle Island for a Touch Tour to visit animals for a multi-sensory field trip.

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Ground broken for family aquatic center in West Perrine Park

For Miami Herald.

Miami-Dade County Parks broke ground for a new $5.9 million family aquatic center at West Perrine Park at 10301 SW 170th Ter. last Saturday.

The ceremony was led by Miami-Dade County District 9 Commissioner Dennis C. Moss. There was about 30 people in attendance.

When Moss began his term, he was committed to building a pool in West Perrine.

“We are going to make good on the promise that I made,” he said. “This will be a state of the art swimming pool and the community is going to be very pleased.”

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Local, Uncategorized

Gobbling up bargains: Holiday shopping kicks into high gear in South Florida

For Miami Herald.


Hector Perez camped out for more than 29 hours at Best Buy, to be first in line to snag a 50-inch Panasonic TV for $199, speakers and a tablet.

“Between all that, I’ll save 500 bucks,” said Perez, 32, of Westchester, who arrived at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday to await the store’s 5 p.m. opening on Thanksgiving. “So it’s worth it.”

Nearby, Natalie Leon and her fiancé Leonardo Gonzalez had gotten in line at 6 a.m. on Thursday to get the same doorbuster TV and a GoPro camera.

“We’re getting married in June, so it’s the first TV for our new apartment, and the GoPro camera is for our honeymoon” — a weeklong cruise in the Caribbean, said Leon, 23, of Westchester.

Across South Florida, the holiday shopping season kicked into high gear on Thanksgiving Day, as many stores paraded their wares in a flurry of doorbusters, deals and discounts. At some stores, lines snaked around buildings hundreds-thick, as shoppers salivated — for deals.

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Local, Profile

Surfside gets new veterinary clinic

For Miami Herald.

Residents of Surfside who walk down Harding Avenue may notice a new business that opened earlier last month.

The Veterinary Wellness Center of Surfside is the first of it’s kind in the neighborhood.

“It’s exciting to start something new,” said Dr. David Carmona, 38, who went through various obstacles while pursuing his dream of opening a pet clinic in the town where he’s spent the majority of his life.

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Surfside advertising for new town manager

Surfside town manager Michael Crotty and Vice-Mayor Eli Tourgeman before a town meeting on Sept. 23 at the commission chambers. MATIAS OCNER/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

For Miami Herald.

Surfside commissioners — advertising for a new town manager — will move ahead with a local search firm despite “grave concerns” raised by the vice mayor during a meeting on Monday.

The commission hired Colin Baenziger & Associates to find candidates after Michael Crotty, who became town manager in March 2013, resigned in June.

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Miami Beach names first female firefighter to rank of division chief

For Miami Herald. 

Sitting at the Miami Beach City Commission meeting on a recent Wednesday, Lt. Digna Abello waited alongside colleagues to be recognized for their recent promotions.

Abello, who was announced last, was promoted to the chief of training and support services for the Miami Beach Fire Department. She is the first female firefighter to reach the rank of division chief in the city’s history.

“Today is a special day because women have to work twice as hard,” Commissioner Deede Weithorn said.

Abello, 32, who has been with the department for more than nine years, does not see it that way.

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Local, Technology

New phone apps let drivers find and pay for parking in Miami Beach

Miami Beach residents and visitors have a new way to find and pay for parking. Rather than having to insert credit cards or carrying a pocket full of change, they can now pay through an app on their phones.

The city of Miami Beach introduced two new mobile apps this month, Parkmobile and ParkMe-Miami Beach. These apps help locate parking facilities as well as provide turn-by-turn direction to vacant parking spots in the area.

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