Moraima “Mori” Serpa was named this year’s Woman of the Year by the Junior League of Indian River last Wednesday afternoon at the seventh annual Woman of the Year Luncheon at the Oak Harbor Clubhouse.
Serpa currently serves as vice president for the American Legion Auxiliary’s Children & Youth, Education and Scholarships program. She instituted the North County Quarter Auction, a monthly auction to benefit local charities, and she works with CareBag, a mobile shower project which enables the homeless to take showers.
The local Junior League has been serving the community for nearly 30 years, promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through effective action.
The Woman of the Year Award honors someone who demonstrates high ethical standards, is a recognized role model, has a strong sense of community responsibility and is outstanding in her contributions within the county.
The collective contributions of the 21 women selected as finalists for the honor covered a wide range of community involvement in the categories of Business/Professional, Civic/Non-Profit Professional, Volunteer and Rising Star. Nominees were judged by members of the Junior League of Greater Orlando to ensure impartiality.
Event chair Susan Aguirre said the judges had a difficult time choosing just one woman and, when asked what qualities determine the award, shared the words of her own mother.
“A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink. Every one of these women is good at winking. Each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint, and the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service,” said Aguirre.
“The Junior League brings like minds together and serves multiple functions to actively support our community through effective action, leadership and the development of women,” said Allison Cloughley, JLIRC board president. “Within the league year, our membership provided focus and funding toward communal projects that promote the development of women and children.”
“This year’s Woman of the Year showed exemplary leadership through acts of selflessness and willingness to do for others without any regard of recognition,” said Aguirre of Serpa, who was also presented with the Volunteer Award.
“I do this because the world has a lot of things that it needs help with,” said Serpa. “People need help, whether it’s children, veterans, the community or businesses. That’s what motivates me.”
Karen Franke, general manager for Treasure and Space Coast Radio, was selected for the Business/Professional Award for her work post-hurricane Harvey, where she spearheaded a donation collection at the radio station, for boosting the station’s partnership with United Against Poverty, and for her dedication to the Healthy Start Coalition through Dancing With Vero Stars.
Jerusha Stewart was selected for the Civic/Nonprofit Professional Award for her work as the founder and executive director of the Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival, the first multi-day, multi-venue event in Florida supporting mental health awareness.
Florida Tech student Katie Toperzer was selected for the Rising Star Award. The 2018 Miss Hibiscus organized a Women in STEAM conference for middle school girls, founded the Key Club in her high school, collected hats for children fighting cancer, and held toy drives to benefit Hibiscus Children’s Center.
Other nominees included Renee Boesch, Christina Klingler, Laura LaPorte and Michelle Napier for Business/Professional; Kendra Cope, Jenny Davis, Allison Falana, Katie Nall and Jacque Petrone for Civic/Non-Profit Professional; Fran Adams, Brenda Bradley, Marybeth Cunningham and Cathy Durrett-Filusch for Volunteer; and Katie Alerte, Grace Dooley, Isabel Ernst and Elizabeth Zoltak for Rising Star.
“Every year I’m in awe of the accomplishments of the women who are recognized at this event,” said Meg Cunningham, JLIRC president-elect. “It’s truly inspiring to hear that women are making such a difference in our community. It’s this sentiment that’s truly the cornerstone of the Junior League.”