2017 Men and Women of Distinction Awards


ST. PETERSBURG – The Gathering of Women, Inc. 2017 Men and Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony kicked off an amazing afternoon this past Sunday. The St. Petersburg Country Club, located at 2000 Country Club Way S, was filled with family and well wishers who came out to support the achievements of this year’s honorees.

The Distinction Awards are to honor individuals who have tirelessly given their time, talent and expertise to benefit the community. These community heroes represent a broad range of community activism that included health, culture, public service and business.

School Board Member Rene Flowers took over the Mistress of Ceremonies duties with a laugh and a smile. All dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, the audience enjoyed a dance number from the Flower Girls, an inspiration song by the group Tribe and honoree Alex Harris wowed the crowd with his soulful voice singing one of Sam Cooke’s tunes “A change is gonna come.”

As this year’s guest speaker, Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, director of Urban Affairs for the City of St. Petersburg, praised the honored guest for being “agents of change,” for “fighting the good fight” and putting in the hard work that is needed to leave behind a better community for our youth.


“Because no matter how many challenges we have, and yes we have many, we know we’re not where we are supposed to be, we are a long way from where we want to be, but we are not where we used to be,” she said.

Gaskin-Capehart encouraged them all to not get weary in the work and reminded them that the journey is the reward.

“Let’s be proud of the collective impact that we are having,” she said. “We all have a role to play.”

Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, featured

Each year, candidates for the Distinction Awards undergo a strict review process that starts in the previous year. To evaluate the nominations, a selection committee gauges all names within the context of community involvement, leadership, commitment, a concern for humanity and having an enduring and meaningful impact.

Each year, the Roger and Renee Ambrose Education Scholarships are presented to five local youths who are eager to make a difference in the community.  This year’s awardees were Jada Guzman (Florida State University), Khalil Harris (third year at Florida A&M University), Kayla Mond (Pinellas Technical College), Kristofer King (undecided) and Alexander King (St. Leo University).

Alex HarrisAlex Harris

Alex Harris is an accomplished award-winning national and international recording artist, co-founder and CEO of Arts Conservatory for Teens and a part-time faculty member at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.

Harris has accomplished much notoriety, awards and accolades from both the entertainment industry and in academia. When not performing or speaking, he devotes his time to giving back to communities. He has served with his organization thousands of youths and families across the United States, Canada, South Korea, Jamaica and Bermuda.

He has been in the music entertainment and theater industries for more than 15 years. In addition to his professional career as an entertainer and philanthropist, Harris has developed his academic talents, completing his studies at Christian Way Academy in Manchester, Ga., Bachelors of Arts degree in Human Services/Social Work and Psychology at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga., a Master of Social Work and Masters of Theological Studies from Boston University, extended graduate studies in Adolescent Counseling at Harvard University and doctorate studies in Organizational Leadership at Nova Southeastern University.

In addition to the thousands of youth Harris has already served and the many accolades, awards, fellowships and recognitions he has collected, he still has a burning desire and passion to reach out to more people through the many gifts and talents he has.

He speaks and facilitates seminars and workshops at various schools, colleges/universities, community and faith-based functions, inspiring each individual to discover and uncover his or her hidden gifts and talents – improving the “self” for a better today and tomorrow.

Alex Harris received the Arts, Culture & Heritage Awards.

Mary Ann YoungMary Ann Young

Mary Ann Young is a widow and the mother of two sons. The oldest of seven children and a native Floridian, she has always had a passion for health and wellness related issues.

• Retired nurse from active duty

• Currently employed as interim executive director/center director at Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center in Clearwater

• Vice president of the Clearwater/Largo Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association

• Honored by Cambridge Who’s Who registry of executives, professionals and entrepreneurs in 2008-09

• Attended Moffitt Cancer Center’s Train-the-Trainer program for certification as a breast and cervical cancer awareness educator

• Former tutor in reading for a basic learning skills program

• Very active in her church while holding several leadership positions

• Favorite scripture: Ephesians 3:20

• Very active in the community doing health awareness workshops for various agencies and church groups

Mary Ann Young received the Health & Awareness Award.

Joanna Grace MillerJoanna Grace Miller

Joanna Grace Miller is 15 years old and in 10th grade at Gibbs High School where she is enrolled in the Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA) as a dance major. She has been dancing since age nine and performed ballet, tap, modern and belly dance. Miller was awarded scholarships to attend a dance intensive in Lakeland during the summers of 2016 and 2017.

The PCCA dance program is very rigorous. There are mandatory after-school rehearsals plus students are required to complete 60 hours each semester in other arts areas such as attending concerts, plays and visual art displays.

Even with this schedule, Miller is consistently on the honor roll and is in honors classes. She was recently recognized by St. Petersburg College for the Dr. Mac J. Williams, Sr. Salute to Academic Excellence Award.

Miller has been involved with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. youth auxiliary since age five, participating in leadership training and community service. Her volunteer activities include collecting donations for the Ronald McDonald House, assisting participants in the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, distributing NAACP social justice information during the Dr. Martin Luther King parade, walking to raise money for March of Dimes March4Babies and helping build a community garden in Jordan Park.

She attends Pinellas Community Church and is actively involved in the teen ministry. As a member of the LiveFree! Coalition, she worked with other teens to create media campaigns and activities designed to raise awareness about the dangers of underage drinking.

The daughter of Daphne Lampley and Algene Miller, Sr. and big sister to Jonathan, she would like a career that includes helping others.

Joanna Grace Miller received the Young Woman of Distinction Award.

Jalen Alexander Nelson WhiteJalen Alexander Nelson White

Jalen Alexander Nelson White is the son of David and Ann Sherman-White. He has three siblings David Jr., Niaya and Adrian. He is an exceptional young man that has proven that hard work and determination has its rewards.


• Sophomore at Lakewood High School with a 3.7 GPA

• Was a freshman at The Boca Ciega High School

Extra Curricula Activities:

• The AKAdemy Pathfinder’s Program

• Pinellas County Commissioner’s Youth Advisory Board

• MLK Day of Service Project Manager for LHS Basketball Team Activity

• NAACP Youth Works Advisory member

• The Each One Teach One Nike sponsored, nationally recognized AAU Basketball Team member

• Lakewood High School Multi Cultural Club

Awards and Acknowledgments

• The Inaugural Vyrle Davis Student Achievement Award recipient

• The SPC Dr. Mac J. Williams, Sr. Academic Excellence Award

• All-Conference PCAC-Second Team

• Pangos All-American 2017

Educational Goals

• Receive a Division I Athletic scholarship that will compensate a degree in English and a minor in African-American studies.

• Obtain an MBA and a law degree

• Secure a doctorate in higher education

Career Objective

After completing a career in professional basketball, he wants to become either a circuit court judge, accept a position as a college coach or professor or pursue a career in politics.

Jalen Alexander Nelson White received the Young Man of Distinction Award.

Joseph BryantJoseph Bryant

Joseph Bryant is the youngest of eight children born to the union of James and Katherleen Bryant. A native of St. Pete, he is a product of the Pinellas County School system, graduating from Gibbs High School in 1972.

Bryant was raised in a Christian home, as his father was a pastor and his mother a missionary. His parents saw the need to share in the lives with foster children while raising their three youngest children.

Coming from a family of individuals in the ministry, Bryant continues in the principles he witnessed throughout his life that was exemplified by his parents. He has a passion for helping others and believes every child should be afforded every opportunity to be successful.

He can find something good in every person and focus on that positive trait.

Bryant is a giver, even if it requires him to utilize personal resources. He mentors adults, young adults as well as children.

He has worked as a job placement counselor and career trainer for Juvenile Services Program and has served as a past president for the local YPWW Union for the Churches of God in Christ in the St. Petersburg area during the 1980s.

Bryant currently serves youth pastor at Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ where he coordinates services for the youth department.

A husband, father and grandfather, Bryant learned his work ethic early in life, acknowledging his father as his mentor. He began working alongside his father at the age of nine or ten doing yard work, concrete, asphalt and site development.

He continues to use those principles as the owner of his own businesses. He is a multifaceted jeweler, videographer, drummer, a smoked food expert, heavy equipment operator, surveyor, civil engineer, paver installer, landscaper, asphalt and concrete installer and asphalt seal coater, just to name a few trades he exhibits.

Bryant loves interacting with others. It doesn’t matter if he just met you or has known you for years. He is a true people person. He truly believes it takes a village to raise a child regardless of race, creed, color or economic status.

Joseph Bryant received the Humanitarian Award.

Debbie StrukDebbie Struk

To say that Debbie Struk loves books is a huge understatement. She is passionate about books and dedicated to getting them into the hands of children who do not have a single book to call their own.

Struk moved to Florida by way of Yugoslavia and Brazil in 1984. When her son started kindergarten in 1986, she began volunteering and soon was working at St. Cecelia Interparochial School in Clearwater. She spent the next 20 years there in the school library where she discovered her passion for children’s books.

She currently works in Youth Services at the Tarpon Springs Public Library, where her love of getting children excited about reading continues.

Struk has been a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) North Pinellas for more than a decade. The club is a 126-year-old international organization and is one of the largest community service organizations in the world with 100,000 members. GFWC members dedicate themselves to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.

Struk has served her local GFWC club as its president and has also served on the state-level board. She has worked with the GFWC Juniorettes for the past 10 years getting high school aged girls exposed to a volunteer experience and involved in a positive way in the community.

She currently serves as the lead advisor to the GFWC Clearwater Juniorettes Club and is also a member of the state level advisory board for all Juniorette clubs in the state of Florida. In 2010, she was honored by a civic group as Mrs. Countryside, a recognition given annually since 1977 to one woman who has made outstanding contributions to the community in this North Pinellas area.

In 2004, Struk found her philanthropic calling and the Book Fairy Project that has become synonymous with her throughout the Tampa Bay area. GFWC is no stranger to books, having started 75 percent of the nation’s first libraries. The goal of the Book Fairy Project was to recycle gently used books back into the community.

Over the 12 years, 30,000 books and counting have been distributed. Books are donated and supplied everywhere children gather in the community. Special efforts are made to provide Spanish language books and also to find books representing various ethnicities.

Beyond the Book Fairy Project, Struk has also made great efforts to increase domestic violence awareness throughout the state of Florida. She served as GFWC Florida Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Chair in 2012-14 and co-chair in 2014-16.

She advocated for Teen Dating 101 programs at the high school level to help teens understand good and bad dating patterns. She encouraged clubs to support the Pinwheels for Prevention of Child Abuse program, a fundraising project that supports Prevent Child Abuse America.

Debbie Struk received the Community Activist & Leadership Award.

Jabaar EdmondsJabaar Edmonds

“Working with many community leaders to improve the lives of inner-city youth and their families has made being a community organizer my first passion along with filmmaking and graphic arts,” said Jabaar Edmonds

Getting information to grassroots organizations that will help them rise up out of their current situation is a top priority for Edmonds, and it is evident through his community involvement.

He currently works for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as an organizer. SEIU is a statewide community union empowering working families to fight for economic and racial justice, immigration reform and healthcare for all.

You will find Edmonds in the midst of any meeting or opportunity to get information that will empower grassroots organizations and change individual lives in communities. A few of his focuses has been voter registration, youth jobs projects and community outreach. He is also a consultant and advisor for grassroots projects, events and movements.

His work and contributions include, but is not limited to, the NAACP, SCLC, USF St. Pete, Gathering of Women, vice president of Childs Park Neighborhood Association, board member of Pinellas Opportunity Council, Dream Defenders, St. Pete for Justice, 20/20 Plan and many others.

He is a contributor to The Weekly Challenger and St. Pete Bulletin newspapers, and independent filmmaker with 909films, magazine publisher and founder of 1Lovemagazine, program director/executive producer of Hard Hitting Radio.

An urban media mogul, Edmonds is a film and social media specialist and was a major contributor to the Sunshine City Film Festival, which is one of the premier film festivals that highlight some of the best independent filmmakers in the Tampa Bay area and other parts of the country.

Each January this festival looks to celebrate diversity and present the amazing works of up and coming filmmakers from all over the Bay area and beyond. Edmonds directed the film “Art in the City,” which tells the story of a homeless war veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2011, Edmonds and Eric Alexander formed 909films and produced “Dollaz” that opened in 2012 at Muvico in Tampa to a packed house. That film was followed by “Dropz” that also opened to a sell-out crowd.

Jabaar Edmonds received the Community Building & Public Service Award.

Delquanda TurnerDelquanda Turner

Delquanda Turner has been a dedicated professional for over 20 years with expertise in leadership, management and community organizing. She is an advocate for healthy, stronger communities and services for families and has convened providers to be more educated in efforts to avoid duplication and leverage resources.

She currently serves as the community engagement officer for the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. Turner represents the foundation in multiple capacities where she holds the vital responsibility for developing and maintaining external community relationships with a focus on individuals, agencies, collectives, planning bodies, municipalities and corporations involved in the broad range of social determinants of health.

She also presents the foundation’s unique role to the community as an accessible, responsive and as a progressive leader in population health to improve the health and well being of south Pinellas residents.

Prior to, she served as the community planning manager at the Juvenile Welfare Board for more than nine years with the primary responsibility of leading her team to positive impact and community change initiatives via community engagement, consultation, planning, mobilization and partnerships for Pinellas County children and families.

Congruently, she served as the South County liaison, growing the Community Council’s membership, attendance, governance and being known as a conduit of information and resource awareness. Turner also presented, trained and developed a tool to better communicate to community resources.

She is a Take Stock in Children group mentor and serves on several boards and committees such as the Leadership St. Petersburg Alumni Association, St. Petersburg Chamber Diversity & Inclusiveness Advisory Board, Greater Tampa Bay Area Black Child Development Institute, AFM Tampa Bay Grants Committee and the COQEBS School Readiness Committee.

Turner spent several years in both in the not-for-profit and private industries. During that time she developed an extensive background in leadership, training, customer service, quality assurance and program development.

She holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration along with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business from Eckerd College with certifications in human resources, leadership and youth development. She is a native of St. Petersburg, a loving mother of two boys and belongs to a proud, supportive family.

Delquanda Turner received the Volunteer, Advocacy & Community Leadership Award.

Albert LeeAlbert Lee

President of the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation (TBBBIC), Albert Lee knows how financing and small business works. With a banking career that has spanned more than 25 years, he’s been responsible for providing millions of dollars in loan capital.

As an entrepreneur, he’s been responsible for generating revenue, managing people and expenses, making payroll, managing multiple locations and finding capital. In his current role as president & CEO of TBBBIC, a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution, Lee continues to oversee the flow of capital to small companies and entrepreneurs.

As a business economics graduate from Florida A&M University, Lee was recruited into a bank training program and received extensive training in commercial credit analysis, underwriting, commercial lending, real estate lending, consumer lending and retail bank management. His experience as a banker has included positions as senior vice president, commercial loan manager, vice president and senior business banker, vice president and bank manager and small business loan manager.

Lee is certified through the University of South Florida as a business analyst and community real estate development professional. He’s received numerous certificates for banking, finance and community development, has owned and started two businesses and served as a consultant in numerous business ventures.

As such, he is a sought-after business finance speaker, panelist and consultant. Lee’s service extends outside his profession having served in many leadership positions on boards, advisory groups and committees.

He has been involved with or currently involved in more than 13 civic or professional organizations and is the co-host of “Let’s Talk About,” a popular weekend talk show on radio station WTMP 1150AM.

Albert Lee received the Business & Innovation Award.

Mike DeesonMike Deeson

Mike Deeson recently retired as the senior investigative reporter for Channel 10 News where he worked for 35 years. He worked to expose people who thought they were above the law and who didn’t feel like they had to play by the rules. He always looked for politicians who grabbed power and abused the system.

He is an 11-time Emmy award-winning reporter and also had been awarded the Silver Circle Lifetime Achievement Award from the Suncoast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Science, the Emmy parent organization. He was the first journalist in the Tampa Bay area to ever win this award. In all, he has been nominated for 40 Emmy awards.

In 2015, the Society of Professional Journalists chose Deeson as the Florida Journalist of the Year, the first time a broadcast journalist had ever been given this honor. He is also a five-time winner of the Green Eye Shade Awards, the nation’s largest and oldest regional journalism contest.

He has won more than 50 awards from the Associated Press, United Press International and the Society for Professional Journalists, including being honored as the outstanding reporter in Florida more than four times and outstanding reporter in the Southeast.

Deeson is a 1970 graduate of the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism and began working in broadcasting and journalism at the age of 17. In 2008, he went back to the University of Missouri for an intense course on computer assisted reporting that was sponsored by the Investigative Reporters and Editors Association.

He is active in several community events, for several years hosting the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in both Norfolk and Tampa.

Deeson is a songwriter and for 15 years was the regional coordinator for the Nashville Songwriters Association International. His song “Paradise Lost” for a special on the BP Oil spill was nominated for an Emmy.

He wrote the title song “Way Too Hot to Handle” on Gene Garrett’s debut album entitled “Way Too Hot!” And has several songs signed with publishers in Nashville and Los Angeles.

 Deeson has also written numerous songs that have aired in news stories including Lotto Fever,” “Magic in the Air,” “Everyone’s Home for Christmas” and “Got to Keep the Bucs in Tampa Bay.” He wrote several other songs in the country, pop and children category.

He and his wife Laurie live in Tampa and have two grown children and a granddaughter.

Mike Deeson received the Journalism and Communication Award.

Doris McDaniel-PappasDoris McDaniel-Pappas

Doris McDaniel-Pappas is a pharmacy technician instructor at Pinellas Technical College (PTC), where she has spent the past 22.5 years.

Prior to teaching, she spent 20 years working in hospitals as a pharmacy technician, including Moffitt Cancer Center. She has been published in the “Journal of Pharmacy Technology” and currently serves on their editing board.

McDaniel-Pappas served as an item writer for the national Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Exam. In addition, she served on the American Society of Health-System Pharmacist Pharmacy Technician Advisory Group and is a past recipient of the Florida Society of Health-System Pharmacist, Technician of the Year.

As a member of the Florida Society of Health-System Pharmacists, McDaniel-Pappas has served on the Education Council, Legal Affairs Council, served as the Technician Division Chair and Technician co-chair.

She is a Florida native of eight generations and is an enrolled member of the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe. McDaniel-Pappas enjoys participating in her traditional ceremonial customs.

Doris McDaniel-Pappas received the Education, Training & Development Award.

Dr. Kevin GordonDr. Kevin Gordon

Dr. Kevin Gordon has more than 29 years of educational experience that includes K-12 and Higher Ed. He serves as St. Petersburg College’s provost & CEO for the Downtown and Midtown Centers, as well as the Palladium Theater.

He serves on numerous community organizations, forums, and boards that include:

• St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce

• The Suncoast Boys and Girls Clubs

•  Concerned Organization for quality Education for Black Students (COQEBS)

• The Pinellas County Urban League

• Healthy Foundation for St. Petersburg

• St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership

His community work focuses on improving lives through education and access to resources that will provide economic empowerment and improve the quality of life. Gordon has received numerous awards and honors that include the 2016 Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Citizen of the Year and being featured on the cover of the February/ March 2014 Power Broker magazine.

He graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Economics, holds a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida.

Kevin Gordon received the Education, Training & Development Award.

The Welch FamilyThe Welch Family

Commissioner Kenneth Welch was elected to the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners in 2000, representing District 7. He was re-elected in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. He has focused on key issues that are vital to moving the community forward, including jobs, housing, youth services, transportation, justice reform and community development.

Recently, Welch led the effort to create the first Pinellas Community Redevelopment Areas (CRAs) focused on poverty reduction. The South St. Petersburg CRA is the first, and will direct approximately $60 million in county and city funding to reduce poverty over the next 30 years.

He also led the recently adopted countywide Wage Theft ordinance, the recently implemented increase in the minimum wage for county employees to $12.50/hour and the county’s $35 million local investment in affordable and workforce housing.

Welch is a third generation St. Petersburg native, and a graduate of Lakewood High School, USF St. Pete and Florida A&M University.

Donna Welch is a native of St. Petersburg and a graduate of Gibbs High School. She began her journey in working in youth development immediately after graduating from high school by signing up with the Big Bothers, Big Sisters organization, mentoring her first teen mom.

In 2008, she pursued one of her life dreams and launched My Daughter’s Keeper of Tampa Bay Inc., a non-profit venture designed to aide young girls in the transitional and developmental stages to become empowered and powerful women in today’s society, while being a support to parents and caregivers.

Continuing her passion to serve others, she played an integral role in the development and launching of the Faith Based Literacy and Technology Afterschool & Summer Enrichment Program in 2007, designed to provide academic assistance and support to youth and families in some of the rural communities of south St. Petersburg, during out of school time.

Donna has served as the program director for the past 10 years overseeing nine sites throughout the county under the James B Sanderlin Family Center.

Kenneth and Donna have two daughters, 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.

The Welch family received the Family of the Year Award.

Rev. William GraveleyRev. William Graveley

William Graveley was born in Springfield, Mass., to the late William T. and Mary E.B. Graveley. After his father retired from the Air Force, the family moved to St. Petersburg where he attended Perkins Elementary, Bay Point Middle and graduated from Lakewood High School.

He continued his education at Florida A&M University, majoring in economics. While in college, he entered the ministry, becoming a licensed minister at Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church of Quincy, Fla. He currently serves as assistant pastor to Rev. Curtis L. Long of New Faith Free Methodist Church, where has been for 20 years.

Graveley’s grandfather introduced him to the world of business at an early age while working at his business called Better Way Cleaners. He made hangers and performed other odd jobs until he learned every aspect. While still in high school, he ran the business when his grandfather became too old to continue on his own.

The entrepreneur bug bit William again and he, his brother Bryan and sister Harriet started BetterWay Catering Company.

Graveley’s involvement in politics started with a member to the first campaign team to elect the late Doug Tim Jamerson to the Florida House of Representatives. Since that time he has worked on countless political campaigns including, Rick Baker for Mayor, Charlie Crist for Governor and Congress, Jamerson for State Senate, James Hargrett for State Senate, Al Gore for President, Kendrick Meek for U.S. Senate.

Graveley has been an educator with Pinellas County Schools since 1992 where he has chosen to accept some of the most difficult assignments because he saw the need to give each kid a chance and try to set an example for them as to how to conduct themselves. His quest in education has been to develop the character of the child and get them ready for learning. He currently serves as a substitute teacher.

He believes there is too much division in the world based on people’s differences. He seeks to bring people together to celebrate our individual cultures and religions and better understand each other through open and honest communication.

Rev. William Graveley received the Spiritual & Religion Award.

Trenia CoxTrenia Cox

Trenia Cox is known as much for her advocacy roles as well as the multiple roles she has assumed during her 19 years of service at the Juvenile Welfare Board (JWB), a local funding source to promote the healthy development of youth and families.

In her current role as senior special projects coordinator, she is dedicated to building the partnership of the faith-based community with JWB through capacity building, technical assistance and innovative programming to better address the needs of at-risk populations.

Cox earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Sociology from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich. Also, she is a graduate of Eckerd College Leadership Development Institute (2013) and Leadership Pinellas (2003). For eight years, Cox was an adjunct professor at St. Petersburg College in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

She lends her time and talent to a number of professional and community endeavors. Currently, she is chair of the United Way’s Federal Emergency Management Community Advisory Committee, who is charged with the disbursement of local funds for safety net services.

She was appointed by the St. Petersburg’s City Council to serve on the Social Services Allocation Committee to address the needs of the homeless population and recently elected as chair. For JWB, she is the lead staff member assigned to Family Oriented Concept Unified to Serve (FOCUS), a network of faith-based leaders and social service providers for technical assistance.

Additionally, she is credited with four national presentations to the Child Welfare League of America, three presentations at the National Faith-based Symposium and the National Association of Planning Councils on the value of social capitalism, community planning and faith-based engagement.

Her professionalism and volunteerism have not gone unnoticed. She was recently recognized by the Office of U.S. Representative Kathy Castor and the City of St. Petersburg City Council as one of the 2014 First Ladies in African-American History. Cox was also a finalist for the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year Award and Human Rights Hero Award in 2006.

In her spare time, Cox serves as a mentor to at-risk youth and young professional women. Her current advocacy efforts are focused on the educational achievement gap, juvenile justice reform and the pipeline to prison.

Trenia Cox received the President’s Award.

Carl Lavender Jr.Carl Lavender, Jr.

Carl Lavender, Jr. is a retired executive with 40 years’ experience in the non-profit industry (public and private sector). He is an expert in non-profit management.

He was awarded a full academic scholarship from DECA and received his undergraduate degree from Ohio State University/Columbus and his master’s degree from Springfield College/ Tampa, graduating Cum Laude.

Lavender served the majority of his professional career with Boys & Girls Clubs of America advancing professionally from youth leader to executive director. A highly respected community leader, he has served on numerous local, state, national and international community planning and advisory councils, task forces and boards of directors, including United Way Executive Council, Greater Chicago Arts Forum, National Advisory Councils, Allegany Franciscan Ministries, International Board for the Revere School in Ghana, among many others.

His noted accomplishments include the largest philanthropic gift to date from sports icon Michael Jordan to create the James Jordan Boys & Girls Club & Family Life Center in Chicago and the Royal Theater Urban Youth and Arts Center here in St. Pete (funded in part by actress Angela Bassett-Vance).

Lavender’s career move brought him to St. Petersburg in 2000 from Chicago. In St. Pete, he has served as co-founder of PACT (People Advocating Change Together), the Agenda 2010 steering committee, Dream Team community mentors, The 2020 Plan and many more.

As CEO for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Pinellas County, he secured first time major gifts from the Hough Family Foundation, and the largest gift ever given by the Sweetbay Community Foundation.

Lavender has been recognized and honored by United Way, Public, Private and Family Foundations, civic organizations and philanthropists for his work with youth. He is also a popular keynote speaker, television and radio
guest, having appeared on numerous talk shows and community panels.

Currently, he is a senior consultant for Capacity Building Strategy with Pinellas County Schools Pinellas Technical College, Mt. Zion Human Services, the Pinellas Education Foundation, Habitat for Humanity Pinellas Advisory
Council, the Ford Foundation National Next Generation Learning Project and The Allegany Franciscan Ministries Foundation Florida statewide Common Good Initiative.

He also serves on the board for the Heart Gallery, the Florida Healthcare Foundation and the Allegany Franciscan Ministries Foundation.

Carl Lavender received the Gwen Reese Lifetime Achievement Award.

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