February 10, 2014 12:00 PM

NICK SILVERIO, 70

Miami

Ten years ago Miami computer consultant Nick Silverio answered the 24-hour crisis hotline he founded to discover a frightened teen mother on the other end. A few days earlier she’d given birth to a baby boy. Now, feeling in no position to raise a child, the distraught girl said she didn’t know what to do. Calmly Silverio told her he would be right over. Hopping in his car, Silverio stopped to buy a baby carrier then continued on to the girl’s apartment, where he found a sleeping infant in a blue-and-white jumpsuit. Today that boy is Kristopher Terrell, 10, an inquisitive fourth grader who will never forget the hand Silverio had in his subsequent adoption. “Uncle Nick,” Kristopher says, “is my hero.”

To date, Silverio has helped 206 newborns find their way to loving adoptive homes. Looking to buttress the safe haven law passed by the Florida legislature in 2000 that enables desperate parents to leave infants up to a week old at hospitals and fire stations no questions asked, Silverio dipped into his own pocket the following year to found A Safe Haven for Newborns (asafehavenfornewborns.com), a 24-hour referral hotline for new moms on the verge of abandoning their babies. Today his nonprofit, staffed by 300 volunteers, operates in all 67 Florida counties, partnering with fire chiefs, emergency medical services and hospitals to take in infants and then move them on to adoption agencies. “It’s my purpose in life,” says Silverio, who draws no salary and who has also helped frightened moms get their babies back under the law’s 30-day grace period. “Nick’s reaching people at their most desperate moment,” says Broward County firefighter Tammy Henghold. “He’s saving lives every day.”

Helping others proved a lifesaver for Silverio too. Married almost 32 years, the gregarious Silverio was devastated when his wife, Gloria, was killed in a car accident in 1999. Godparents to 14 children, Nick and Gloria had been unable to have kids of their own. “We were always told we would have made wonderful parents,” he says. Thanks to Silverio, other states look to Florida for advice on implementing infant-protection laws. And dozens of loving families have been created as a result of his efforts. “Because of Nick,” says Kristopher’s mom, Aja Iglesias-Terrell, 44, she and her husband, Richard Terrell, 53 (who have four biological children), “are blessed to have Kristopher in our life. There are people in this world who are truly angels. Nick is one of them.”

KNOW A HERO? SEND SUGGESTIONS TO HEROESAMONGUS@PEOPLEMAG.COM

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