From left:   Joann Speers, Danielle Delli-Veneri, Carol Harris, Linda Wood, Ellen Reese, Jennifer Ferraro,  María Lourdes Baeza, Debbie Lyew, Erica Avila. Honorees not present were Sherie Harris and Devonne Waters-Davis. Photo CHudson

From left: Joann Speers, Danielle Delli-Veneri, Carol Harris, Linda Wood, Ellen Reese, Jennifer Ferraro, María Lourdes Baeza, Debbie Lyew, Erica Avila. Honorees not present were Sherie Harris and Devonne Waters-Davis. 

The annual Homestead Woman’s Club Women of the Year Fashion Show and Brunch was once again a lively gathering. The theme, “Sparkle and Shine”, was reflected in the décor and conversations that flowed through the crowded room. The Woman’s Club, founded in 1914, is Homestead and South Miami-Dade’s oldest civic organization. Among a long history of significant accomplishments, recognition of women from other non-profit organizations is an enjoyable tradition. After a great deal of laughter and chatter, brunch, the fashion show, and delicious “sharing of cake”, it was time to spotlight ten special women.

First up was the American Business Women Association (ABWA), Homestead Charter Chapter with Sherie Harris. Although she was not able to attend due to a schedule conflict, her devotion to education as an elementary school teacher for twenty years and now Pre-School Director at Rainbow Christian Academy (RCA) were highlighted. Her service in multiple roles within ABWA, church work, and tutoring children in need are additional contributions she makes to the community.

Carol Harris, well-known for decades of “giving back”, co-founded the Cultivating Dreams Foundation in 2019, “to harvest dreams, sow promise, and enrich the lives of others by scattering seeds of hope.” As she worked alongside her husband at Harris & Schroeder Builders for eighteen years, she made time to be involved with Dade County Farm

Bureau, the DCFB Women’s Committee, Homestead Hospital Pineapple Ladies

Committee, South Dade Red Cross, Good Hope Equestrian Center, the Taste of South Dade, Homestead Soroptimist Club, Builders Association of South Florida (BASF), and Gold Coast Builders Association.

Amid the smiles, there was a poignant tribute as the Dade County Farm Bureau on the behalf of DCFB’s Women’s Committee, posthumously acknowledged Angela Marie Delli-Veneri. Joann Speers, her sister, and daughter Danielle Delli-Veneri accepted the award in her name. Angela was co-owner/operator of LaRocca Farms for fourteen years. She also managed the Food Safety Program for S & L Beans until April 2019 when she was diagnosed with cancer. As a Homestead native, she was a Dade County Farm Bureau Director for many years, an integral part of the South Florida Farming Family, and an inspiration to all.

For Homestead Center of the Arts (HCA), Ellen Reese was probably the newest resident of Homestead in the room. She and her daughter relocated in late 2018 from Nebraska where they joined other family members. As a talented graphic artist, she

volunteered for HCA and immediately stepped into a demanding role with the Bea Peskoe Art Committee as the main coordinator for art exhibits that rotate every three months. She also provides extensive graphic support for each exhibit and for HCA’s promotional needs.

The Kiwanis of Homestead not only recognized Erica Avila, mother of three, military wife, businesswoman, and active Kiwanis volunteer since 2009, but also announced an extra distinction. She was recently appointed as City of Homestead Councilwoman for District 5, representing the Malibu Bay and Waterstone communities, through November 2021.

Le Jardin Community Center smiling introduced Jennifer Ferraro, a single mother of two young boys, who was selected as Teacher of the Year for Le Jardin Community Center on two occasions and nominated for Teacher of the Year through the Miami Dade County Head Start program. As a Curriculum Specialist, she works closely with sixteen teachers implementing a mentor and coaching plan, trainings, resources, educational lesson plan ideas and more. She is also involved in extracurricular activities as well as external community volunteer efforts.

MUJER, a leading organization that addresses domestic and sexual violence, applauded loudly for María Lourdes Baeza who has served several times as president and member of the Board of Directors during the past ten years. She has been active in women’s rights and other causes for three decades not only locally. One of her positions while in California was at Stanford University as Assistant to the President for Latino Affairs. She previously worked in Argentina and Brazil before accepting the position of Assistant Director in the Affirmative Action Office, Florida International University. She has given generously of her time to numerous non-profit organizations.

Devonne Waters-Davis was not able to be present when representatives of PrayInPink shared the story of why she established their organization in October 2017. Unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she underwent far more than a double mastectomy. Six additional surgeries followed due to different complications. As a fighter, she also attributes her strength to God. During her experiences she saw many patients struggling with cancer. In creating PrayInPink, she and a team of volunteers go to visit those diagnosed with any form of cancer/illness. They deliver a care package, pray with them and family members as well as share stories and testimonies with one another.

Debbie Lyew has been a co-director of Start off Smart, Inc (SOS) for twenty-nine years. Her background as a Child

Investigator for the

Department of Children and Family (DCF) and her tireless work is seen in her unwavering commitment to providing support services to women and children who are abused, homeless and neglected. She oversees over 1,500 cases annually, ensuring her caseworkers are providing exemplary services to those in need. She reviews every case that comes to SOS for support services. In 2010, she was instrumental in ensuring SOS became a State of Florida registered non-profit, and she continuously signs up for opportunities to put SOS information and communication out to the public.

Wrapping up the day’s recognition was the Woman’s Club of Homestead honoree, Linda Wood, who has been a member for twenty years. She was first a member of GFWC Homestead Juniors Woman’s Club for fourteen years and was the liaison between the two Homestead clubs for twelve years. Among myriad projects she’s worked with are Chairman of the Conservation Department leading the efforts on recycling, planting a tree on Arbor Day, and participating with Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program. She also chaired Home Life and participated in Shoes 4 Souls, Woman’s Heart Health and Breast Cancer, and led a program on Human Trafficking. She’s a huge advocate in the GFWC President’s Project Operation Smile and has been involved in at least a dozen other non-profits.

To learn more about the Homestead Woman’s Club, go to http://gfwcwomansclubofhomestead.com.

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