A family focused on the gifts of giving

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Rachel Florio-Urso (center) with husband, Robert Urso, and her best friend, Alison Warner, hold up photos of the couple and their five kids as a gift to baby Brooke Ava, due in January. (Lindsay May, Classic Kids Photography)

It was three years ago at Christmastime that Rachel Florio-Urso of Southport connected with two men who touched her heart and her path in ways she could not have anticipated.
The first was Paul.
Florio-Urso and her two teenage daughters were headed to midtown Manhattan for a special treat when they met him.
They had spent the day helping to feed the homeless at Operation Hope in Fairfield, as they often do. Florio-Urso, a divorced mother of three at the time, instilled in her children what her mother gave to her: a deep recognition of the value of giving.
She also worked hard to establish her successful business, Rachel Florio PR (http://rachelfloriopr.com), and her children have been able to enjoy the fruits of her labors, one of which was a night at the upscale Waldorf-Astoria hotel that holiday evening.
They were set to be indulged and pampered but got sidetracked by a GPS slip-up.
“The navigation got all confused,” Florio-Urso said. “It sent me to Harlem.”
The three women had pulled over and were getting their bearings when Florio-Urso spotted a homeless man in a Dumpster across the street.
Her daughter Ashley asked, “Oh, Mom, what are you thinking now?”
The teen was familiar with her mother’s philanthropy and giving heart — and had an inkling.
Florio-Urso instructed her daughters to stay in the locked car. She then approached the man, Paul, and gave him a $20 bill. She asked him to get a hot meal for Christmas.
“Paul, a recovering meth addict, was proud that this year he was not drinking the alcohol he found,” Florio-Urso said.
She returned to her car and sat there a few minutes.
Her daughters told her they knew she could not leave.
Instead, Florio-Urso went back to the man and got him to agree to let her help him.
“We walked down the street and the only stores open were bodegas and hip-hop stores,” Florio-Urso recalled.
She got Paul some clothing and supplies. She wanted to take him with them to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
He said that was too much for him. So she put him up at a local hotel.
“He was overwhelmed,” Ms. Florio-Urso said.
She badly wanted to do more.
“I could see he was a nice man, troubled,” she said.
She wanted to reunite Paul with his mother. They had not seen each other in a long time. He wasn’t ready though.
Paul wanted to complete a drug treatment program and get back on his feet before he went home. Florio-Urso did manage to reach his mother by cell phone and the mother and son talked.
“We all cried,” she said.
When it was time to leave, she gave Paul her cell phone number and made him promise to call.
“We went on our way,” she said. “We thought about him for two years, wishing and hoping he would call. … We felt a special connection [to him].”
He would call, but first Florio-Urso had another date with destiny.
Literally.
Enter the second man, Rob Urso, and he significantly changed her path.
That holiday season, she was getting messages from match.com trying to woo her into renewing her account with the online dating service. Eventually, she logged back in to her account and did a quick survey of the men who had looked at her profile.
One that caught her eye was Urso. He would become her husband.
“We met on match.com,” she said, “and proud of it.”
She sent him a message saying she was closing her account but he could call if he wanted to meet.
He did.
“[Rob is] so charming, charismatic, loyal, committed — amazing,” she said. “He’s an amazing husband and father. He puts his wife and children before anything else.”
But while they have found in each other best friends and companions they cannot get enough of, their path to true love came with some heartache.
“We both felt let down in our prior marriages,” Florio-Urso said. “We were both hurt.”
They worked through all of that and into each other’s arms.
Two years ago, on December 19, 2010, they married in the glow of their affection and the lead-up to Christmas.
They joined not only themselves together but also their combined five children: Ashley, now 19; Christie, now 18; Allie, now 14; Matt, now 10; and Gregory, now 9.
And this year, in the blaze of the holidays yet again, they await a new addition that will tie them all together even tighter. Florio-Urso is pregnant with a baby girl, Brooke Ava, due on Jan. 17.
“All I ever wanted was a big, happy family,” Florio-Urso said. “I was put here to be a mom, mentor and role model.”
Well, maybe that was not all she ever wanted.
Florio-Urso might be wife, mother, daughter, and humanitarian above all else, but she is also a successful, self-made businesswoman who specializes in celebrity baby trends. She is known for placing hot new maternity, baby, child, and tween products on highly rated blogs, in print and on television.
In addition to handling client accounts and meeting daily editorial deadlines, she is a television producer and on-air talent. She has made the rounds on all the major networks and affiliates for the past 13 years.
Last month, her personal and professional lives converged for her baby shower. Hosts Elegant Baby and NY Moms World, along with Boppy, Giggle, The Bump, and many other media/industry leaders, sponsored a happy hour baby shower for Florio-Urso at New York City’s exclusive Soho House.
Bravo’s Pregnant in Heels star, Rosie Pope, was in attendance.
Florio-Urso called it “one of the most incredible baby showers I’ve ever experienced!”
On Dec. 14, she will become a recurring guest on NBC Connecticut’s Morning Show.
And she did it all on her own.
“I’ve earned everything that I have,” she said. “Nothing came to me on a silver platter. I’ve been working since I was 14.”
But she never forgets her priorities.
“My children and my family come first,” she said.
And so she is highly organized.
“I’m proud that I can juggle it all,” she said. “I have to-do lists like any other mother. What can’t get done today, I’ll do tomorrow.”
And last year, on Christmas Eve, she got a special gift.
She was standing in Crate & Barrel with husband, Rob, when her cell phone rang.
“As soon as Paul said, ‘Is this Rachel?’ I knew it was him,” she said.
He was calling her from his mother’s kitchen, where she was baking Christmas cookies.
“He said, ‘It took me one and a half years to make it home,’” Florio-Urso said. “‘Thanks to you taking care of me … it was your doing.’”
It’s what she does.
“I speak to men and women about how to get back on their own feet,” she said. “Cheerlead them on.”
She also helps provide meals and needed supplies.
In 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti, she loaded up supplies and was on a plane to help there.
Florio-Urso is half “celebrity-showy” but it’s the other half, the giving to those in need, that keeps her grounded.
“I love giving back,” she said.

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