Lakesha Burton, assistant chief in Jacksonville, Florida’s Sheriff’s Office, understands what it’s like to feel helpless. One of an estimated 60,000 minors who are victims of sexual abuse each year in the U.S., she was 12 when her stepfather began to molest her. The abuse continued for the next four years, until Burton told a police officer. Her stepfather went to jail, and Burton decided to pursue a career in law enforcement. In 2016, she helped to pilot a Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF) after-school program designed to prevent not only sexual abuse, but also bullying and cyberbullying. “You just see that knowledge is power,” says Burton. “Had I had this training in fifth grade, I wouldn’t have been molested.”
MBF, which has educated more than 5 million children in Florida, shows how big a difference one person can make. Edward Burr, the CEO of GreenPointe Holdings in Jacksonville, started the foundation in 1997 in honor of his late wife. Like Burton, personal tragedy also led Burr to look for ways to serve the community.
“Hearthstone is proud to recognize Mr. Ed Burr as our 2021 private home builder winner for 25 years of dedication and support to educate and protect children and teens from all types of bullying, abuse, and victimization,” says Mark Porath, CEO of Hearthstone. “The prevention education programs that the Monique Burr Foundation has provided to over 5 million children and teens throughout Florida and the U.S. is truly inspiring.”
Burr’s own story is also inspiring. A native of Jacksonville, he longed to be a professional athlete. He was captain of his high school football team and went to the University of Tampa on a football scholarship, but quickly realized that he didn’t have the physicality of other players. Switching gears, he left before the football season started and transferred to Florida State University. The first person in his family to go to college, he supported himself through school by working as a bartender and studied accounting. In his senior year, he began dating a freshman named Monique Anne Carsten, who was a marketing major.
Burr took a job with the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand in Miami after graduating in 1979. His first client was a real estate developer, and Burr developed expertise in that area, joining Coopers & Lybrand’s real estate group. He transferred to the firm’s New York City office. But after the death of his father in 1984, he began spending more time in Florida. In 1986, he and Carsten, who was working in sales for Xerox, moved back to Jacksonville and got married.
Shortly thereafter, Burr started his own real estate development company, LandMar Group. He saw an opportunity to create something different with Osprey Pointe, a development with 276 single-family lots. “It was the first community in Jacksonville that was highly amenitized, but wasn’t a country club. It had a nice clubhouse, swimming pools, tennis, and architectural review controls—our tagline was ‘Country club living without the golf course,’” he says. He continued to build more planned communities. When he started working on his first golf-course community, he cofounded a company, Hampton Golf and Lifestyles Management, in order to have quality control over those amenities.
Meanwhile, Monique Burr launched a career in children’s advocacy. After moving to Jacksonville, she started a franchise of the health care staffing company Norrell. She noticed that there was a gap in services for sick children and infants. To address this need, she sold her franchise and opened the nonprofit PALS Center, one of the nation’s first prescribed pediatric extended care facilities—essentially, a specialized day care for children requiring medical assistance. She also began serving on the board of the Children’s Crisis Center, a local nonprofit in charge of handling all cases of child abuse in northeast Florida.
In 1996, Ed and Monique Burr went to California’s Napa Valley, where they had honeymooned, to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They were driving along the celebrated Silverado Trail when an oncoming truck blew a tire and smashed into their car, killing Monique, who was 36, and injuring Ed. Their sons, who were at home in Jacksonville, were 2 and 5 years old. The next year, Ed Burr started MBF. “I wanted to try to hold on to my wife—and especially hold on to her memory for my children—by having the foundation and being actively involved in the work that she was doing,” he says.
Launched with a $1.4 million endowment, MBF started out as a private operating foundation and funded a range of child advocacy programs, including a sexual abuse prevention program called “Good Touch, Bad Touch.” In 2008, MBF hired a new executive director, Lynn Layton. She helped the organization transition into a nonprofit and developed Child Safety Matters, which continues to be the only comprehensive, evidence-based program for abuse prevention education. “If a child is victimized in one way, they are much more likely to be victimized in another,” says Burr. “Therefore, research tells us the best way to protect children is to provide tools and strategies they can use anytime they do not feel safe.” The MBF programs cover four types of child abuse—neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse—in an age-appropriate way.
By 2007, LandMar was responsible for 30,000 homesites in Florida and coastal Georgia. That year, Burr sold his interest in the company to his financial partner—for reasons that had nothing to do with the subsequent recession. But the timing was fortuitous. To take advantage of the market distress, Burr promptly started a new company, GreenPointe Holdings. Today, it has 14 communities completed or under development, including the Quay, an ambitious 14-acre mixed-use waterfront development in Sarasota, Florida.
“Ed and his team have developed some of the most sought-after residential and mixed-use communities in the Southeast,” says Rick Beckwitt, co-CEO and president of Lennar, who nominated Burr for the Hearthstone award. “Ed is a trusted business partner for Lennar and has a big heart. He is constantly there to help those around him and always does the right thing for the right reasons.”
In addition to his involvement with MBF, Burr also has put his energy and resources into several other community organizations. He has served as chair of Florida State University’s board since 2014; spent eight years on the board of the local transportation authority; and was a board member of the local chamber of commerce for 12 years.
“Ed is a very compassionate man,” says Burton. “He is very authentic, genuine, and trustworthy—I can’t say enough about him.”