Citizen of the Year and Community Organization Award Winners Recognized
Due to Hurricane Ian, the 2022 Orange County Community Conference, which was scheduled for early October, was canceled. In lieu of the conference, Orange County Neighborhood Services hosted a Community Awards Recognition breakfast on October 24, during which the 2022 Citizen of the Year and Community Organization Award winners were honored.
The Citizen of the Year awards recognize dedicated individuals who continue to work diligently to improve the quality of life in Orange County, either through their professional work or volunteer activities. Each of the six District Commissioners selected a Citizen of the Year for their respective district to recognize them for their contributions. Mayor Jerry L. Demings will recognize his Distinguished Citizen of the Year winner at a later date.
Office of the Mayor Distinguished Citizen of the Year
The Office of the Mayor Distinguished Citizen of the Year is Dr. George A. Wallace, the CEO of The LGBT+ Center in Orlando. Since becoming CEO, Dr. Wallace has overseen the expansion of The Center to include the main community center on Mills Avenue, a dedicated health services office in Orlando and a secondary community center in Kissimmee. Through his leadership, and the creation of the strategic public, private and philanthropic partnerships, The Center has become one of the most trusted LGBTQ+ organizations in Central Florida and has increase its service portfolio to address the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals and the community at-large.
District 1 Citizen of the Year
The District 1 Citizen of the Year is Jennie Joseph, a British-trained midwife who fights to ensure every person has their healthiest possible pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience with dignity and support. She created The JJ Way®, an evidence-based, maternity care model that delivers readily-accessible, patient-centered, culturally-congruent care to women. She is the founder and president of Commonsense Childbirth Inc., which operates a perinatal training division, clinical division, national midwifery school and the National Perinatal Task Force, whose mission is to eliminate racial disparities in maternal child health in the United States.
District 2 Citizen of the Year
The District 2 Citizen of the Year is Robert J. Samson, an active volunteer in Orange County who has served 15 years with the Central Florida Crime Prevention Association; 12 years as coeditor of The Sludge Report.org, a blog that informs homeowners statewide on legislative issues and departmental rules concerning septic systems; and three years as an Orange County Sheriff’s Office volunteer. He has assisted Commissioner Christine Moore and local HOAs in District 2 with understanding the Florida Springs and Aquafer Protection Act of 2016 and its impact on homeowners.
District 3 Citizen of the Year
The District 3 Citizen of the Year, Noel Howard, provides unselfish assistance to the district’s youth. He tutors students for the ACT and SAT, while also teaching reading. He mentors, supports and runs the tennis team and Student Government Association at Oak Ridge High School and always pushes students to do their best, while also serving as a support system for students and their families, particularly the underserved.
District 4 Citizen of the Year
The District 4 Citizen of the Year, Cynthia Borgwing, is the founder and executive director of Rebuild Yourself Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit focused on building self-esteem, confidence and friendships for teenagers in a post-pandemic environment. She believes teenage mental and social health can be dramatically improved through a sense of community, friends and shared experiences. In addition to Rebuild Yourself, she has coordinated fundraising opportunities and developed an operational framework that has led to exponential growth in teenage memberships.
District 5 Citizen of the Year
The District 5 Citizen of the Year, Florida Rising Together, is an organization that for the past 10 years has served Orange County through dedicated voter registration, education, housing justice and disaster response. Its housing program has provided a pathway for community members to express concerns about the current housing crisis. The organization seeks to develop people of color, students and citizens as leaders and visionaries for a better future. Through its housing work, the organization has provided opportunities for communities in Orlando to stand together and make their voices heard.
District 6 Citizen of the Year
The District 6 Citizen of the Year is Debi Meli, chair of the Orlo Vista United Safe Neighborhood organization. Under her leadership, the organization petitioned Orange County Parks and Recreation and the Neighborhood Services Division to renovate a Ranger house located at Orlo Vista Park to serve as an off-duty deputy station to address crime. She also led the building of a community garden to help increase residents’ engagement and improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
The Community Organization Awards recognize the talents and accomplishments of residents and community organizations in Orange County in each of three categories: Monica Harris Spires Excellence in Leadership, Excellence in Community Building Projects, and Excellence in Neighborly Service. The winner of this year’s Monica Harris Spires Excellence in Leadership is Arnold Jones. The winner of this year’s Excellence in Community Building Projects award is Yvonne Turner. The winners of this year’s Excellence in Neighborly Service award are Roselyn Clouden, Rashida Ryan and Lorna Wilmoth.