On Thursday, October 12th, United Way of Indian River County held its highly anticipated annual Community Leaders’ Breakfast, gathering a diverse group of 150 attendees, including community leaders, business owners, nonprofit executives, and friendly faces. The event, hosted at the beautiful Quail Valley, was generously sponsored by Seacoast Bank and SouthState Bank. The highlight of the event was the keynote address delivered by Dr. John Wensveen, Ph.D., Chief Innovation Officer at Nova Southeastern University and Executive Director of the Alan B. Levan, NSU Broward Center of Innovation.
The Community Leaders’ Breakfast has become a tradition, marking the beginning of the season and inspiring attendees to approach the coming months with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
The event commenced with a warm welcome from the Board Chair, Jeff Petersen, and an inspiring invocation by Jasmine Taylor, the Boys & Girls Club’s Youth of the Year. Meredith, Chief Executive Officer of United Way, shared her insights on the organization’s tech-driven vision and its commitment to shaping a brighter future for the community.
Dr. John Wensveen, Ph.D., captivated the audience with his dynamic presentation, which highlighted the multimillion-dollar public-private partnership he oversees to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem’s growth in Broward County and South Florida. He provided valuable insights and details about this groundbreaking initiative. Dr. Wensveen discussed the importance of communities building capacity to respond to the rapidly changing landscape around the world. The Alan B. Levan NSU Broward Center of Innovation is helping to provide the infrastructure to accelerate job growth, particularly in high-tech industries and other careers that require high levels of training and skill. These efforts are shaping the future of our workforce and serve as an academic and economic development engine for our region.
The morning also featured the presentation of the annual Richardson Spirit of Indian River County Awards, an honor bestowed upon companies, agencies, and volunteers who dedicate their time, talents, and resources to enhance the community. These awards were presented by Chris Bieber, Senior VP of SouthState Bank and Margo Lind, VP of Quality Assurance at Seacoast Bank.
The first award was conferred upon Gould Cooksey Fennell, a dedicated workplace partner whose commitment to the community has been truly exceptional. For 20 years, they have supported United Way with a workplace campaign and recently quadrupled their giving to become Torchbearers, workplaces that give $12K or more through employee and corporate giving. They have been Elite sponsors, Citrus Golf Tournament participants, Day of Caring volunteers and presenting sponsors of the Inaugural Trike Wars and Thank You Block Party.
The next Richardson Spirit Award of Special Recognition was presented to Ruth Durkee-Killinger, acknowledging her exceptional contributions for 8 years with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. Her dedication knows no bounds. She has volunteered countless hours to ensure the success of the program and works year-round unraveling the most complicated tax scenarios for clients.
The grand finale of the awards ceremony was presented by Margo Lind, last year’s Ralph T. King Award recipient who bestowed the prestigious Ralph T. King Award to Susan Adams, in recognition of her outstanding long-term commitment, remarkable achievements, and unwavering dedication to the community. An advocate for all things United Way, Susan Adams is a true champion for every corner of the community. She served as a board member from 2010 to 2020, and her current focus is on advancing affordable housing, ensuring the safety of the Indian River Lagoon, and facilitating access to mental health services for everyone.
CEO Meredith Egan summed up the event by stating, “Together, we can activate the caring power of our community and change lives. Each of you is a champion, a game changer, and a hero. Together, we can script a better future for Indian River County.”
For more information about United Way of Indian River County and its initiatives, please visit UnitedWayIRC.org.
About United Way of Indian River County
United Way of Indian River County (UWIRC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every community member. United Way works with local programs to provide resources to individuals and families in crisis today while working year-round to improve community conditions and create lasting solutions. We are effectively building a strong foundation and improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. For more information about your local United Way, please call (772) 567-8900 or visit our website, UnitedWayIRC.org.