BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – The legacy of family values, love, tradition and pride is passed from generation to generation. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, wife Donna and their two daughters Keonna and Kenya is a family that exemplifies all of those attributes, and that is why they are being honored as Family of the Year at the 2017 Gathering of Women Awards Ceremony being held Sunday, April 23 at the St. Petersburg Country Club.
“The family of the year award recognizes the importance of family,” said Chairperson Samantha Richardson of the Gathering of Women.
This award brings positive recognition to families in the community and shows the importance of family and the effort needed from all members to keep the bond strong.
“Our mission is to provide services to our youth and their families as well as seniors and to transform the conditions of our community,” said Richardson.
The Welch family name is woven into the history of St. Petersburg. His grandparents, Flagmon and Gussie Welch, arrived in St. Petersburg in 1917 from Alachua County. His father David was the second black city council member and also owned a successful accountant firm, and his uncle Clarence pastored Prayer Tower Church of God from 1964 until his death in 2013.
Donna’s family tree has deep roots within the community also. She was raised by her grandparents Ezell and Dorothy Boykins who owned the Spur gas station on 34th Street South. She learned lessons of humanity at the station when she saw her grandfather extend credit for gas and much-needed groceries to people in need.
Fondly remembering a household filled with family members, she learned early that it takes a village to raise a child.
Ken graduated from Lakewood High School, the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg and Florida A&M University. He was elected to the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners in 2000, representing District 7.
Re-elected in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016, he also served on several boards including Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors, Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative and Pinellas Juvenile Welfare Board.
Donna graduated from Gibbs High School and attended St. Petersburg College. Her career has included 14 years in retail advertising with the St. Petersburg Times and her own wedding planning business.
In 2008, Donna launched My Daughter’s Keeper of Tampa Bay Inc., a non-profit venture dedicated to educating, inspiring and nurturing the needs of young girls while being a support to parents and caregivers.
Continuing her passion for serving, Donna played an integral role in the development and launching of the Faith Based Literacy and Technology Afterschool & Summer Enrichment Program, designed to provide academic assistance and support to youth and families during out of school time. She has served as the program director for the past 10 years and currently oversees nine program sites under the James B. Sanderlin Family Center.
Both Ken and Donna strive to impart valuable life lessons to both Keonna, who graduated from FAMU with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration, and Kenya, who is enrolled in the culinary arts program at Northeast High School.
Keonna said her father stresses to keep God first while Kenya said her mom constantly reminds her to put other first.
Ken feels his grandparents’ principles of hard work and faith in God was passed on through all of the branches of the Welch family tree.
“My values are faith and family, and the four Ps: Pray, plan, prepare and perform.”
2017 Men& Women of Distinction Honorees
Arts, Cultural & Heritage — Alex Harris
Health & Awareness — Mary Ann Young
Young Woman of Distinction — Joanna Miller
Young Man of Distinction — Jalen White
Humanitarian Award — Rev. Joe Bryant
Community Activist & Leadership — Debbie Struk
Volunteer, Advocacy & Community Leadership — Delquanda Turner
Community Building & Public Service — Jabaar Edmonds
Business & Innovation Award — Albert Lee
Journalism & Communication Award — Mike Deeson
Higher Education, Training & Development — Kevin Gordon
Education, Training & Development — Jeannie McDaniel Pappas
Family of the Year – The Welch Family
Spiritual & Religion Award — William Graveley
President’s Award — Trenia Cox
The Gwen Reese Lifetime Achievement Award — Carl Lavender