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Commission honors Woman Warriors for second year

Posted on Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 10:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
Five professional women in Osceola County were recognized at Monday’s County Commission meeting for their local contributions.
March is Women’s History Month, and to commemorate it, last year Commissioner Viviana Janer created the Osceola Women Warrior Awards, which were given out for the first time at Monday’s meeting.
Each of the five commissioners selected one recipient based on her advocacy and volunteerism within the county, and sometimes beyond.
“We honor and celebrate the contributions of special women in our community,” Janer, the commission chairwoman, said. “This is a special moment for these ladies; all women who have taken time from their busy lives to give back to Osceola County.”
The honorees were:
Mary Jane Arrington, nominated by Janer, has been Osceola County’s Supervisor of Elections since 2009, and prior to that was the county’s first female commissioner. She was also a founding supervisor of the Toho Water Authority and the only woman to serve in this capacity.
“Mary Jane learned from her parents that through involvement in your community, you can make a difference,”Janer said.
Gloria Niec, nominated by Michael Harford, is the executive director of the Celebration Foundation, and has led more than 1,000 volunteers packing meals for crisis food pantries over the last three years to pack some 850,000 meals.
She was also instrumental in starting children’s programs like Osceola Connected, which combats childhood hunger by providing meals on the weekend to 1,000 Osceola school students. She’s also the backbone of an Education Foundation program that takes high school seniors who may not have a plan for college or have never set foot on a campus on trips to Valenica College and Technical Education Center Osceola (TECO) to expose them and get excited about college.
“She gives children a chance to see possibilities,” Harford said. “These graduating seniors had no thought of post-secondary education. These efforts give tours to 2,000 students. They’ve also awarded 28 scholarships to high school students. She saw a need in that. A woman warrior is someone who fights, and I give this to Gloria and the Celebration Foundation for the fight she does.”
Brandon Arrington honored Poinciana community activist Annette Brown-Best, who could not attend Monday’s event due to illness.
She is widely known in Poinciana for advocating for medical facilities and infrastructure and as a driving force behind the arrival of Poinciana Hospital.
“When I first got elected, there was an opportunity for us to work with or against each other. She’s been my strongest community advocate,” he said. “If there’s a problem, I’m gonna get an email or call from Annette. When a bus runs late or a park needs to be built, people reach out to her. We work together to get things done, and it’s exciting to have someone like that in our community.”
Cheryl Grieb nominated Anna Pinellas, who also could not attend. Her granddaughter, Dr. Telva Miller, accepted the award on Pinellas’ behalf.
Pinellas, who as a political consultant worked beyond her assigned duties and secured grants for the city of Kissimmee without compensation, also worked for the county for 15 years. She was also the creator of a group to assure that Martin Luther King Day was an officially recognized holiday; that group became the Osceola Visionaries.
“Courtesy and compassion, combined with a no-nonsense attitude, helped to train those who applied for help along with challenging her staff to be the best they could be,” Grieb said. “She often rose above the call of duty. There was no hesitation to call on state and national officials to ensure Osceola County was not left out.”
Fred Hawkins nominated Darlene Maresco, who helped create a ministry called My Beloved Widows in 2011 to give widows an opportunity to gather together for monthly lunches and support, and a chance to be with other widows who understand what they are or have been going through in a comfortable, peaceful and loving setting.
“We attend the funerals, but after a few weeks, how many calls to they get, what do they do with their time?” Hawkins asked. “These luncheons for widows now average 50 attendees, and they’ve recruited volunteers because it’s gotten so big.
“People who lose a spouse must keep living their lives, and through this ministry ladies have a place to be with others who understand what they’re going through. This is a calling from God to help.”