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Local Residents Honored at 2018 Orange County Community Conference

Community & Services

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) recognized several Community Champions and the Distinguished Citizen of the Year at the 2018 Community Conference held on July 14 at the Renaissance Senior Center. For 23 years, the conference has been recognizing outstanding residents and their contributions in Orange County.

Col. Edwin R. Marrero was awarded Mayor Jacobs’ 2018 Distinguished Citizen of the Year. Marrero has lived in Orange County for more than 30 years and has served as the chair of Mayor Jacobs’ Veterans Advisory Council since 2013. Through his dedicated work within the community, he has increased membership to the council and has worked with local organizations to ensure local veterans have better access to vital services and resources. He has previously served on the County’s School Advisory Council and the City of Orlando’s Veterans Advisory Council.

“Col. Marrero is a decorated veteran, having served for more than four decades in leadership positions around the globe. Since moving to Central Florida, he has been engaged in our community in the areas he’s most passionate about, using his leadership skills to make a difference wherever possible,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Col. Marrero is a fierce advocate and champion for veterans, students and his faith. He is a model resident who is committed to ensuring Orange County remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Col. Marrero is also a member of Fairways for Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides hope, healing and camaraderie for combat wounded veterans and their families.

Additionally, each member of the Orange County BCC recognized a citizen in their district as Citizen of the Year:

District 1 – Cynthia Dailey

As a resident of West Orange County, Dailey has spearheaded the creation of a new community publication, Horizon West Happenings. She is actively engaged with Orange County Planning and Development and is currently working towards a more connected and walkable community in District 1. Dailey also serves as a board member of the Horizon West Alliance and communications chair for the Orlando Coworking Alliance.

District 2 – Monique Raquel Morris

Serving and volunteering in her community, Morris provides a meal and tutoring service every Tuesday for residents in District 2. In addition, she serves on the executive board for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event in Apopka. Morris is also a recipient of the “Service to the Community” award by the NAACP in Orange County.

District 3 – Bethanne Baer

Baer has served as a community advocate for many years. She spearheads efforts through her neighborhood and church within District 3 and works alongside government officials and local businesses to create activities that assist families and children in need. Baer has demonstrated the skills to be a leader within her community and has empowered many other residents to do the same. She continuously volunteers and dedicates her time to cultivating a cohesive community.

District 4 – Mark Gonzalez

Gonzales, who oversees infrastructure operations for Pleasant Stay, volunteers his time on local civic and charity boards. Through his service with these organizations, he has successfully implemented projects in District 4 with the collaboration of the County. As president for the Sawgrass Plantation homeowner’s association, he has collaborated with multiple Orange County departments to develop safety and improvement projects for his neighborhood.

District 5 – Pastor Charles H. Baxter

Pastor Baxter initiated and has maintained a food pantry to serve the Bithlo community since 2001.  It grew from serving 50 families in the Bithlo area, to serving 300 families each week.  Pastor Baxter has also recruited and trained 38 volunteers to serve families in Bithlo. His efforts encouraged the gathering of Bithlo at its community center which has encouraged friendships and social services available through Orange County.

Pastor Baxter’s motto is “Here at Bithlo we are developers of Hearts of Compassion and Hearts of Gratitude, as we serve each other and the greater community.” His service to the Bithlo Community has been recognized by the University of Central Florida, Florida Hospital, Second Harvest, Faith Assembly and local students at Orange County Public Schools where he has also served as a substitute teacher.

District 6 – Demetrius Summerville

Summerville currently serves as executive director of Kaley Square, a community center that cultivates hope, connection and growth for residents in District 6. The property serves as the first expansion site of the City of Orlando’s Parramore Kidz Zone and the headquarters for Fleet Farming, Polis Institute and the Emmanuel Fellowship and Worship Center. Summerville also serves as a member of the Orange Blossom Trail Development Board, as well as a youth football and basketball coach. His vision is to see Holden Heights flourish as a valuable community.

The annual conference strives to educate and assist citizens on how to revitalize their neighborhoods and provides valuable information about Orange County services and programs that can help neighborhoods thrive and prosper. This year, workshop sessions included topics on public health and safety, emergency preparedness, neighborhood beautification, code enforcement and more.

“We have come a long way since our first Community Conference, and I could not be more proud of the more than 1,600 neighborhood organizations that Orange County engages with on a regular basis,” Mayor Jacobs said during her remarks at the event. “I have watched this community grow and transform in so many ways, but one thing that has remained constant is our neighbors helping neighbor’s philosophy. Our compassion and support for others has become stronger with each passing year, and with every obstacle and challenge that has come our way.”

The 2018 Community Conference is hosted by Orange County’s Neighborhood Preservation and Revitalization Office and brings together hundreds of citizens, community leaders, homeowner’s association and nonprofit organizations to share ideas on improving their community.

Photo Caption: Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the Board of County Commissioners honor local residents and neighborhood leaders as “Community Champions” at Orange County’s 2018 Community Conference held on July 14 at the Renaissance Senior Center.

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