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Women Who Make a Difference recognizes the influential women in the Gainesville area who positively impact and support their community.

Nominations are open 2021 Women Who Make a Difference. If you know a remarkable woman who should be recognized for her professional accomplishments and community impact, tell us about her!


Calling all Girl Scouts in the Gainesville area! You could be mentored by one of our Women Who Make a Difference honorees and gain possible opportunities to shadow them at work and share the stage with them as they are honored. Applications are due Feb. 15, 2021!


Thank you to all who attended the 2020 Women Who Make a Difference celebration! You made a difference by helping us bring the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to girls in our community development program where their entire GS Experience is funded by generous donors like you.

You can still view our event on:
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View the 2020 Virtual Program Book (PDF)

Support our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.


Show your support for Girl Scouts and the difference-makers in our communty. Become a sponsor today.

Girl Scouts are invited to apply for the Women Who Make a Difference mentorship program and be matched with an honoree to learn more about her professional accomplishments and service to the community. Apply now!

Women Who Make a Difference 2020 Honorees

Venisha White Buchanon

Venisha White Buchanon, a native of Florida, holds a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling and is the Statewide Administrative Director for Twin Oaks Forensic Outpatient Services.

TOFOS operates under the corporate structure of Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc. This program is the sole contractor for the Florida Department of Children & Families, Juvenile Incompetent to Proceed program which provides Community/Outpatient Competency Restoration Training Services to 220 clients daily throughout the state of Florida and the Florida Keys.

Venisha is credited with her involvement in the development and implementation of the state’s initial Juvenile Incompetent to Proceed program in 1996. She has continued to work in this specified field for the past 23 years. After working as case manager and client placement coordinator, she became the statewide director in 2001 for the contracted Juvenile Incompetent to Proceed Community/Outpatient Services program.

Venisha was hired by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc. in January 2003, after the agency was awarded the Juvenile Incompetent to Proceed contract for community/outpatient services. She is also certified as an expert witness throughout all 20 circuits in the field of juvenile forensic in the state of Florida. She has been called to render an opinion in matters before the juvenile court, with cause to the determination of juvenile competence.

Venisha continues to expand her knowledge and education in this field of forensic studies by participating in and conducting various state trainings on the topic of juvenile incompetency. She has facilitated and hosted meetings and work groups around the country with officials who were seeking to implement new programs for juvenile incompetent in their states.

Venisha has served as presenter nationally before the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services, Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, and the MacArthur Research Network, and she serves a member of the National Board of Juvenile Competency Services Administrators.

Venisha completed post graduate studies and an internship in applied therapy modules and modalities as outline through Florida’s Sexual Offender/Predator Treatment Programming. She also completed the state training requirements in 1997 to serve as a certified behavioral analyst.

Venisha serves her community as a member of various educational, civil, service and social organizations. She is a devoted member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., where she has served as the president of the Gainesville Alumnae Chapter since 2017.

Some of her other civic, community, and social involvement includes: Gainesville High School, School Advisory Council (community member), 2009-present; Community Vacation Bible School Group Ministry Co-Coordinator, 2004-12; Gainesville Striders Track Club, assistant director and lead parent, 2009-12.

Mostly importantly, Venisha and her husband are the proud parents of two amazing adult sons and one beautiful young daughter.

Margaret Cauthon

Margaret Cauthon began working at the Sidney Lanier Center in 2008. As a speech-language pathologist at the school, Margaret serves students with special needs to help them improve their communication with others. Some of her students are verbal and other students use communication devices. For the past seven years, she has been president of the Sidney Lanier Parent/Teacher Booster Club, which provides family activities at the school, other special activities for the students, and a way for parents to become involved.

Margaret serves on the board for the Council for Exceptional Children – Gatorland Chapter. Margaret serves as the Teacher Training Committee Chair, which provides support for new special education teachers. The Council for Exceptional Children – Gatorland Chapter raises funds and disperses them to special educators throughout Alachua County, as well as to families needing equipment for children having special needs. The organization raises money through The Amazing Give and Giving Tuesday.

Margaret has served as a Girl Scout leader from 2013-16 and as a Girl Scout volunteer parent since 2010, attending many camping trips and working at cookie booths. The members in her Girl Scout troop received their Silver Award in 2016. She is grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many amazing women and girls through Girl Scouts, and she truly appreciates the dedication of her daughters’ current Girl Scout leaders. 

Margaret also served as Littlewood Elementary School PTA president from 2013-15 and as Westwood Middle School volunteer coordinator 2015-18. Her responsibilities as Westwood volunteer coordinator included doing background checks for every adult who signed up to volunteer at the school ahead of time, and she helped organize volunteers for events at the school. While she was a Westwood parent, Margaret also served as vice president for the Westwood Band Boosters. She was the adult volunteer of the year for Westwood in 2018.

Margaret has taught Sunday School on Sunday mornings at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church for many years. She is grateful for the opportunity to give back, after having a childhood full of wonderful Sunday School teachers there.

Margaret enjoys spending time with her family. She lives with her husband Ray and two daughters Claire and Caroline in Gainesville. She is grateful for their support and the support she has received from her parents Marion and David Colburn.

Mary Chance

Mary Chance is president and CEO of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, a statewide nonprofit that connects individuals, organizations and financial resources to build the capacity and effectiveness of the local education foundations aligned with nearly all of Florida’s 67 countywide school districts. She believes that high functioning local education foundations are key for school districts and communities to close opportunity gaps and ensure educational success for all students. Consortium members now raise more than $80 million annually to support initiatives that innovate learning, power student and teacher potential and celebrate success in local public schools.

As the ultimate champion for these locally driven nonprofits, Mary strives to elevate the impact of individual member education foundations through providing a collegial community for ongoing learning, shared resources, and support. Since assuming the leadership role in 2008, she has successfully advocated for and facilitated more than $40 million in the nation’s only 1:1 incentive for private-sector investment in classroom innovation through the State of Florida School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program. She also serves as the intermediary in several strategic partnerships with corporations and philanthropic organizations, matching the interests of national and statewide funders to facilitate high impact, locally driven programs in school districts throughout Florida.

Before assuming the CEO role for the Consortium, Mary was active as a volunteer leader in the organization while serving as executive director of the Education Foundation of Alachua County for ten years. In that role, she elevated the organization’s Take Stock in Children incentive scholarship and mentoring program for at-risk students while also diversifying the scope of work for the education foundation significantly by increasing annual revenue from $100,000 to $1.2 million and engaging several new partners.

Mary currently serves as an ex officio board member of the Florida Department of Education’s foundation (the Florida Education Foundation),  the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Teaching and Learning Advisory Council, Florida’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading Policy Council and is a state affiliate leader of the National Schools Foundation Association. Mary is a graduate of Leadership Florida Education Class I and Leadership Gainesville Class XVII. She has many fond memories of serving as co-leader of Girl Scouts of Gateway Council Troop 334 at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Newberry for five years.

Mary enjoys reading and active travel with her husband Chris. She is the proud mother of Hayden, Kate and Grace and “bonus mom” to Kyle.

Jean Kiner
Jean kiner

Jean Kiner grew up in Orange County in Central Florida. She graduated from an Orange County Public High School with honors and went on to further her education at Bethune-Cookman University where she received a bachelor’s degree in education. She began her teaching career in Orange County Public Schools. After getting married, Jean later taught in the Dixie County Public Schools. It was in Dixie County where her desire to help the community began to flourish. After seeing so many needs within the community, she organized the first ever community vacation Bible school within the African American community. The vacation Bible school was a huge success. After speaking with other women in the community, she felt the need to organize a women’s club. Jean founded the Ebony Women’s Club of Cross City and became its first president.

In 1972, she moved to Gainesville where she joined Springhill Missionary Baptist Church and served in many capacities over the years. She served as a choir member, deaconess, usher, youth Sunshine Band sponsor, youth Bible study teacher, Trustee Board member, education council member, scholarship coordinator, advisory council member, welcome and announcement spokesperson, vacation Bible school teacher, and Sunday School teacher. She also chaired many activities in the church such as the church’s anniversary and Sunday School banquet. Today, she remains a very active choir member, assistant Sunday School teacher, and Deaconess.

One of the things she is most proud of is her first connection with Girl Scouting. Jean established Brownie Troop 435 in 1981 at Springhill Baptist Church where she served as the leader. This was the first Brownie troop in Southeast Gainesville. She then went on to become a cluster coordinator for Gateway Council for the troops in Southeast Gainesville.

Jean taught students with special needs at Santa Fe High School and volunteered very closely with Special Olympics traveling throughout Florida. She later took girls’ basketball teams to Kentucky and Washington, D.C., to compete. Jean obtained her master’s degree in education from the University of Florida and an educational specialist degree from Nova Southeastern University.

She continued teaching students with special needs at Buchholz High School for 26 years. While there, she served as the department chairperson for several years, served as a peer teacher, supervised interns and practicum students from the University of Florida and served in various other capacities. Through her membership in the Historic Camelliaettes Club, she started a teen improvement program for low-income girls that attended Buchholz High School. Another member of the club and Jean would meet monthly with these young ladies holding workshops in the areas of proper etiquette, self-esteem, and other social graces. TIP supported and encouraged these young ladies by celebrating their uniqueness and individuality.

Through her membership with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Jean logged numerous volunteer hours. The greatest and most rewarding position with the sorority was serving as the Stork’s Nest Coordinator for several years. This position required her to open the Nest two Saturdays per month to low-income pregnant women for them to redeem points for free items in the Nest for practicing healthy behaviors during pregnancy. As the coordinator, it was her job to secure agency community partners, and shop for the Nest in order to keep it stocked with items that the mothers needed for their babies.

As a member of the Gainesville Chapter of the Links Inc., Jean has served on various committees/facets during her membership. She also served as vice president, secretary, treasurer and chaplain. During her time with the Services to Youth facet, she volunteered monthly with the county Head Start Program where she encouraged parents to read daily with their preschoolers. She also taught parents activities to do at home to better prepare their children for school. As a member of the Services to Youth Facet, she also participated in monthly workshops at the PACE Center for Girls in the areas of building self esteem, nutrition and other topics.

Jean is a life-long educator with more than 45 years of teaching experience. She served as a college administrator for more than 10 years with Bethune-Cookman College (University) as its Gainesville site coordinator. Today, she is presently employed at Caring and Sharing Learning School as an exceptional education consultant.

Jean was married to the late Mal Kiner. She is the proud mother of two children, Marsha and Malcolm Kiner and one grand-dog, Baku.

Nancy P. Mendenhall, MD

Nancy Mendenhall MD, FASTRO, Associate Chair and Medical Director of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, has more than 30 years of experience in Radiation Oncology and specializes in the areas of breast cancer, Hodgkin disease, lymphomas and pediatric cancers, as well as prostate cancer. Her primary focus for the past 14 years has been the expansion of the use of proton therapy.

Prior to assuming her current role as the Medical Director for the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute (UFHPTI) in 2006, she was Department Chair for Radiation Oncology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, and the first female Chair in the College’s history. Dr. Mendenhall is an enthusiastic teacher who is invited to lecture at numerous national and international meetings, delivering more than 100 educational lectures in her career, and has become a sought-after visiting professor, panelist and refresher course lecturer. She is also an endless source of inspiration for young scientists in the field of radiation and has trained more than 87 residents and fostered over 75 resident peer-reviewed publications.

As the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Particle Therapy, she, along with Dr. Bill Mendenhall as Operations Editor, helped to found the first peer-reviewed international academic journal for particle therapy. Dr. Mendenhall and her team received a five-year, $11.9 million award in 2017 from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute which supports the research study ‘A Prospective COMparative Study of Outcomes with Proton and Photon RAdiation in PRostate CancEr ( COMPPARE)’ which is a large-scale, pragmatic clinical study to compare outcomes between proton and conventional radiation in 3,000 men with prostate cancer for which she is lead Principle Investigator. Also, she recently received the 2020 Paulus Award for Clinical Excellence from the University of Florida for ‘Making a difference for patient care; an unfailing moral compass; engagement at every level of patient care; and championing teamwork.’.  She also won the University of Florida’s College of Medicine Clinical Science Researcher of the Year in 2018 and was included in the Wall of Fame for Distinguished UF College of Medicine Alumni in 2014.

Growing up, Dr. Mendenhall was both a Brownie and then a Girls Scout and thoroughly enjoyed the comradery of the organization and the challenge of, and education that comes from, working on different badges as well as all the adventures associated with the field trips. Both of her daughters were brownies and then girl scouts as well and she enjoyed participating in the organization again, this time as a cookie mom.


Thank you to our sponsors!

Presenting Sponsor

PSMC Stacked

Gold Sponsors

Dr. Pauline O. Lawrence
C. Ann Scott

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Silver Sponsors

Gainesville Regional Utilities