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Commission honors outstanding women for volunteer work in their communities

The Florida Commission on the Status of Women will honor  Dr. Josephine Beoku-Betts of Delray Beach, Erin DiMeglio of Plantation, Doby Flowers of Tallahassee, Katherine Koch of Ft. Lauderdale, Shawna Machado of Sarasota, Deirdre Macnab of Winter Park, Linda Nottingham of Ponte Vedra Beach, and Tina Tharpe of Bristol with a FCSW Florida Achievement Award for their work in improving the lives of women and families in their communities. They will receive recognition at a special ceremony during the fourth quarterly meeting of the Commission on Thursday, November 15, 2012, 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., at the TCC Capitol Center in Tallahassee, FL. The awards ceremony includes a very special Keynote address by Cassaundra St. John and Victoria Wegwert, with the F7 group in Dallas, Texas. In addition to the Achievement Award from the Commission, each will receive a congratulatory letter from Governor Rick Scott.

“The Florida Commission on the Status of Women is dedicated to empowering women in achieving their fullest potential, and to recognizing women’s accomplishments,” said Laurie Pizzo, Commission Chair. “We are proud to honor these outstanding women for their tremendous achievements and dedicated service.”

Doby Flowers of Tallahassee, FL was elected as the first African-American Homecoming queen at Florida State University in 1970. Ever since then, she has been a beacon of light for young African-Americans. After earning two degrees from Florida State University and a certificate in executive management from Harvard University, Ms. Flowers worked for two high-profile mayoral administrations in Boston and New York before returning to her hometown. She has led a life of leadership, as a pioneer for integration at Florida State University, a champion for welfare reform and programs to help disadvantaged children in Boston and New York City, and as a role model for black women and girls. Ms. Flowers is one of three trailblazers (along with her brother, Fred) depicted in the Integration monument on Florida State University’s campus. With a quiet confidence and commitment to change the status quo, she has become a steadfast example for countless young women and girls throughout Florida.

Tina Tharpe of Bristol, FL was elected to the Liberty County School Board in August 2012, making her the first female member since its inception in the 1800’s. She believes in working directly with teachers and students in order to provide the very best educational choices. She is also an active volunteer in the community. She is an active member of the Liberty County Bulldog Club and Liberty County Middle School Athletics, which help fund high school and middle school sports. She also helps lead various fundraising efforts for local schools, as well as volunteer work with Sunny Hill Pentecostal Church. She recently helped to organize the Hosford Fall Festival, which raised money for Hosford School. Ms. Tharpe never shies away from a challenge and is always willing to tackle any worthwhile cause. She displays a passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to excellence in everything she does. 

Deirdre Macnab of Winter Park, FL is the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. This is a full time voluntary commitment to educating citizens on issues and candidates in a nonpartisan manner. She advocates for fair elections, transparency in government, and civic engagement in the democratic process. Due to Ms. Macnab’s remarkable ability to attract and grow the league’s membership in diversity of age, ethnicity and political parties, the League of Women Voters of Florida is more vital than ever before and with the highest regard of credibility. She is highly regarded as an expert in the field of voting rights and voter access. She has been recognized by the Orlando Sentinel in 2008 and 2010 as a runner-up for the Most Influential Central Floridian of the Year award. Ms. Macnab works tirelessly to ensure good government and strong ethics throughout the state.

Linda Nottingham of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL is a successful business owner and her strong commitment to help, educate, mentor, and support small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs makes her an invaluable asset to Northeast Florida. For seven years she has served as a facilitator for the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center’s Business Advisory Council’s CEO Roundtable program. She has mentored more than 130 female entrepreneurs by facilitating three roundtable groups that meet monthly for peer-to-peer mentoring to help them solve their business challenges. She also provides one-on-one counseling to women business owners. Ms. Nottingham has volunteered as a business coach for SCORE Jacksonville for ten years, and is a citizen diplomat for Global Jacksonville, which is a non-profit organization that hosts delegations of international women who influence business and development in their countries. In the words of one of Ms. Nottingham’s mentees, “I don’t know what I would do without her. She’s a lifesaver, a great mentor, and an inspiration. We are so fortunate to have her in Jacksonville.”

Shawna Machado of Sarasota, FL was presented with the Outstanding Graduate Award from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee in May 2012. She was recognized for her volunteer work as a member of Social Justice Initiative, working with victims of abuse and homelessness. What makes her story truly extraordinary is that Ms. Machado herself has been homeless since 2010, staying with friends for short periods of time or sleeping in her Hyundai in Wal Mart parking lots. She did her homework in 24-hour Starbucks coffee houses. A 2012 graduate of USF Sarasota-Manatee with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Ms. Machado currently works at Safe Children Coalition in Sarasota County as a case manager for abused and neglected children for the Department of Children and Families. According to Ms. Machado, she is ready to take everything she has learned to help those whose situations are even worse than hers. She is very passionate about speaking for those who do not have a voice.

Dr. Josephine Beoku-Betts of Delray Beach, FL is the Director of the Center for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (CWGSS) at Florida Atlantic University. Faced with a budget crisis that could adversely affect the Center, Dr. Beoku-Betts formed an Advisory Council and a Friends of Women’s Studies group to actively engage in fundraising. In response to extreme budget cuts, she not only had to salvage but also to enhance and strengthen the FAU Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. In 2009 she organized a Women’s Leadership Forum in conjunction with the President’s Diversity Committee, which has become an annual event. The importance of her scholarship and depth of her international reputation as a leading researcher and advocate for women is confirmed by her reception of the Fulbright Award for her work in Sierra Leone, participating in several women’s movements and civil society programs in 2011-2012. Dr. Beoku-Betts is an exceptional and resourceful leader, whose value is incalculable to FAU as well as to the greater Florida community.

Katherine Koch of Fort Lauderdale, FL is a respected leader in her community and has grown her PR agency on the philosophy that people are always what matter most. She is passionate about her work and is constantly challenging herself and her staff to reach to new heights, open their minds, and make a real difference in their work and in their personal lives. Some of her charitable work includes PR services for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Planned Parenthood, Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse, Boys & Girls Club, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and United Way. She is also currently working with her son to open a teen club as a safe and attractive environment for teens to dance, watch movies, relax with friends, and enjoy non-alcoholic drinks and snacks. Ms. Koch continues to have a positive impact on individuals and projects in her community, and is inspiring her son and his friends to follow in her path and “do a good thing”.

Erin DiMeglio of Plantation, FL is the first female high school quarterback in Florida, playing on her high school varsity boys’ tackle football team. She is also the starting guard on her school basketball team. She is dual enrolled at Broward College and will start college next year as a sophomore. She has volunteered her time with local sports camps as a camp captain. She has managed to impact lives of young women in Florida and nationwide by showing them their hard work can pay off. Erin has been featured on local TV stations and local newspapers, as well as the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Morning Show, and She is featured in the November 2012 Sports Illustrated Kids Magazine. Erin was recently voted Plantation High School’s Homecoming Queen. Her mother Kathleen states, “I think this makes a statement, that not only can girls be athletic and strong, but also still be a girl.” Erin is unique in that she is well liked by many groups
and cliques in high school- she is friendly with everyone. By pursuing her dream she has become a leader and a positive role model for all students, athletes, and most of all young women.

The Florida Commission on the Status of Women is a nonpartisan board, statutorily created in 1991 consisting of 22 appointed members, administratively housed in the Office of the Attorney General, Pam Bondi. The Commission is dedicated to empowering women in achieving their fullest potential, to eliminating barriers to that achievement, and to recognizing women’s accomplishments. Additional information on the Commission is available from its web site at

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