Women of the Year 2023 Honorees Part 2
They are educators, mentors, nurses, physicians, fundraisers, entrepreneurs, and individuals who stand up for others. But most of all they are leaders who help keep our community strong. Orlando magazine is proud to honor the 23 individuals featured on the following pages as Women of the Year.
Photo By: Roberto Gonzalez
Executive Director and CEO | The VERB Kind
Haley Hunt has sung the national anthem in front of thousands of sports fans. She has helped develop and launch brands, including the “Entrepreneur Showcase” at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. But her greatest impact has been felt in the hearts of incarcerated youth as she meets them, quite literally, where they are.
What began with an invitation to hang out with teens in juvenile detention has swelled into a 10-county nonprofit with 400 volunteers. The organization plans to expand into Texas, Alabama and Maryland. More than 10,000 youth have benefitted.
“When I get to invite people to come to jail with me, it shifts perspective, opens eyes and gives meaning to people’s lives beyond anything I could have imagined,” Hunt says.
Motivated by her faith, she hopes “to remind the person who thinks they have nothing to offer this world—whether they are a potential mentor or an incarcerated individual—that they are full of purpose and the world needs their story. Don’t underestimate the power of just showing up.”
Founder and Director | LANES Teenage Girls Inc.
By day, Lisa Williams serves as a national sales manager for the Orange County Convention Center. But on nights and weekends, she and her team of 20 volunteers pour themselves into the lives of the county’s teenage girls.
Williams launched her nonprofit, officially named Loving Assisting Nurturing Educating and Supporting Teenage Girls Inc., in 2004. Her goal was to provide “teenage girls in Orange County a safe, adult-led mentor environment for candid discussions about education, respect, discipline, self-control, self-esteem, leadership, and good decision- making,” she says.
As Williams sees it, her professional role dovetails into her community service role. “I love knowing that by confirming conventions for future years, I’m creating jobs for kids who are still in elementary school today,” she says. Her nonprofit serves 120 girls from grades 5 to 12 each year.
Lisa’s proudest moment was establishing a memorial scholarship in her late mother’s honor in her ongoing quest to help girls pursue their dreams. LANES has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships since 2005.
Executive Director | SoDo Main Street District
A self-described “firm believer in the power of community,” Misty Heath stepped into her role in November 2021 with a goal of connecting “individuals and businesses throughout our community to make Orlando an even better place,” she says.
According to her nomination, “She is an amazing person inside and out and always willing to help,” as evidenced by her extensive community involvement. In 2019, Heath was a leading fundraiser for Best Buddies in Central Florida and was the nonprofit’s gala chair in 2020.
“Ultimately, what attracts me to a role is to what degree I will be able to make a difference,” Heath says. She hopes to revitalize her community’s business district and “instill a sense of place, culture and pride in our community.”
In January 2022, Heath began another challenging journey: reclaiming her sobriety, a goal that gained significance in light of her father’s liver transplant.
“As cliché as it sounds, I ultimately want to be remembered as someone who sought to do better and be better—for my loved ones and my community,” Heath says.
Kimberly Renk, Ph.D.
Psychology Professor | University of Central Florida
Research shows the bonds between children and their caregivers is key to brain development and long-term mental health. Kimberly Renk, a proud mother of two, puts her research and clinical services to work as she advocates for children and families to ensure healthy outcomes. A recognized leader in infant and early childhood mental health worldwide, Renk works to mediate the challenges in establishing strong family bonds, especially in the face of changes in caregivers, substance abuse, trauma and neglect. And she is grateful to those families who have placed their trust in her.
“These families have allowed me to provide intervention to their children, consult with them on their parenting, and watch their children grow and mature,” says Dr. Renk, who also teaches and mentors undergraduate and graduate students.
“It is such a privilege to watch my own and other families’ children make such fine achievements, particularly when families have had to struggle with significant difficulties overall,” she adds.