Women with Heart honored by Volunteers in Medicine


Volunteers in Medicine hosted its fourth annual Women with Heart luncheon Feb. 5, honoring 10 outstanding women who have made a difference in the First Coast community.

 In addition, Nina Waters received the top honor, the Dorion-Burt Heart of Gold award.

“The Dorian-Burt Heart of Gold is in honor of our two founders, Dotty Dorian and Dr. Jim Burt,” said Jennifer Ryan, CEO of Volunteers in Medicine. “The honoree is someone who’s not only advocated and helped Volunteers in Medicine, but someone who’s advocated and helped the whole community for health. Past recipients are Sherry Magill and Dolores Barr-Weaver. This year is Nina Waters.”

Waters is president of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Florida’s oldest and one of its largest community foundations since 2005. During her tenure, the foundation’s assets and annual grantmaking quadrupled since her leadership, with $47 million worth of annual grants to the community by the end of 2018.

“When we think of philanthropy, we often think of people giving money but actually, money is sometimes the least important gift you can give,” Waters said. Then she laughed and added, “except for today when you text VIM to donate to Volunteers in Medicine.

“But there are many ways individuals can support — through work, wisdom and wealth — and Volunteers in Medicine is a perfect example of people giving all three,” Waters said. “I’m very honored and humble to receive this award,” she added, thanking her friends and everyone attending the luncheon.

Women with Heart is not only an awards ceremony, but also VIM’s top fundraiser of the year.

News4Jax anchor Joy Purdy encouraged guests to donate to VIM’s $10,000 goal and said that if the goal is reached, Florida Blue and an anonymous donor would match the $10,000.

Guests donated via smart phones from their seats and could view the progress on a large projector screen at the front of the room.

To show where donations would be directed, videos of clients’ stories were aired on the screen.

One story featured Maria Gabbard, a hypertension diabetic who lost her husband 11 years ago, along with her health insurance. VIM was and continues to be a safe haven of support, said Gabbard, who attended the luncheon.

“It’s been the most amazing thing for me,” Gabbard said. “I can’t thank the nurses, doctors, supporters and all that make Volunteers in Medicine possible.”

 The luncheon also highlighted the 2020 Women with Heart honorees one by one, with videos that explained and highlighted their contributions.

            One of the honorees, attorney and shareholder at commercial law firm Smith, Hulsey & Busey, Charmaine Chiu, does not directly deal with patients or work in the medical field. But she does help acquire land and property for medical practices to flourish.

            She said in her video that although she doesn’t deal with patients first-hand, she feels proud and honored to “indirectly” impact organizations like Volunteers in Medicine.


            “I’m very, very honored,” Chiu said at the luncheon. “This is an incredible organization and what it does for working people without health insurance is just miraculous. It’s amazing.”

            To honor all attending the luncheon, each guest went home with a “happy bag” provided by VIM and their participating sponsors.

            “Our major sponsors are Baptist and Bacardi,” Ryan said. “Everybody’s leaving with a bottle of rum, so it’s pretty fun.”

            The 10 award winners, in addition to Waters, included Chiu and Kristi Aiello of Florida Blue; Mickee Brown of Special Project Partners; Tammy Daniel of Baptist Health; Tracee Holzendorf of All About Kids and Families; Mary Reval of Memorial Hospital; Ann-Marie Knight of UF Health Jacksonville; Melanie Lawson of WJXT News; Donna Orender of Orender Unlimited and Ellen Williams of Ascension, St. Vincent’s.

The Women with Heart award is not just open to those in the medical field. Any woman who makes a difference in health and wellness can be recognized, Ryan said.

           “It could be someone who’s written grants and advocated for health activities in our community. It could be a TV anchor who works and promotes the American Cancer Society. It could be anyone.”

            The event raised more than $165,000.


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