Women of the Year 2023 Honorees Part 4
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
Paula A. Stark
Representative | Florida House District 47
A graduate of Osceola High School and former Miss Osceola, Paula A. Stark—director of St. Cloud Main Street and former publisher of the Osceola News Gazette—culminated her 40 years of leadership in the St. Cloud community in the November elections with a red win in her blue district.
She grasps the “significance of knowing I have been put there for a purpose and that I must live up to the expectations of those I’m representing,” says Stark, who aspires to be a role model for perseverance in adversity. “As my grandmother said, ‘Can’t never could.'”
According to her nomination, Stark has worked to increase wages and improve transportation in her community while also honoring veterans. The representative says she hopes to “leave my community better than I found it” while helping others achieve success. “She is one of the hardest-working people I know and is dedicated to helping her community become a better place to live, work and play,” her nomination reads.
CEO | Hollerbach’s
For Christina Hollerbach, each day brings an opportunity to create gemutlichkeit, a homey familiarity among people around her, regardless of whether she’s overseeing her family’s restaurant and three other businesses in downtown Sanford, acting as president of Sanford Main Street, or serving in one of her many community service roles.
Beginning as a dishwasher at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café and working her way to the helm, Hollerbach earned her place on Orlando Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list in 2019. She’s seeing the fruit of her efforts.
“I have been at the helm during massive growth and development for the Hollerbach’s brand by doubling our capacity and staff to about 180 employees with over 700 seats and seeing over 8,000 guests a week,” Hollerbach says.
Her family’s own success aside, Hollerbach’s vision is anything but myopic. She works “hand in hand with other local merchants and organizations to encourage commerce and growth in the community. I consider investment into the future of Historic Downtown Sanford vital to our ongoing success.”
Executive Director | Art & History Museums of Maitland
Danielle Thomas believes in the “transformative power of learning through play,” but it’s not all play and no work for the head of the four-museum complex, the success of which her nomination attributes to her leadership.
Named interim director in 2020 and co-executive director later that year, Thomas stepped into the role of executive director in 2021. The 5-acre site, which just completed its most successful fiscal year, is Greater Orlando’s only National Historic Landmark.
“Because of her vision and direction, this National Historic Landmark is now thriving, the staff has found expression, our art students and visitors now have a more complete and immersive experience, and our related community partners . . . have benefitted from her incredible care and passion for our local arts community,” according to her nomination.
Thomas says she hopes to use cultural experiences as a bridge. “We live in a divisive world, but art and history belong to all of us, and learning and creativity belong to all of us.
Liaison | Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings
A Hong Kong immigrant, Shally Wong advocates for Asian Americans and members of the Pacific Island community, a typically underrepresented population who may be unaccustomed to having a voice.
Wong helped found the area’s annual Dragon Parade in honor of the Lunar New Year, and she also presented the county’s first Diwali celebration in 2021. She serves in multiple community service roles and has received the Ellison S. Onizuka Humanitarian Award and the Asian American Heritage Council Community Service Award for her work.
“She takes great pride in representing her culture,” her nomination reads.
Wong works closely with more than 40 Asian-American nonprofits to help them find needed resources or to initiate collaboration. She hopes to increase representation of the minority group in government and corporate settings while also establishing a resource and cultural center.
Hope for the next generation propels her forward. “I would like the American-born Asian Americans to feel proud and to believe they can engage and contribute while keeping their heritage.”