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Thank you to those who attended our 2021 Gainesville Women Who Make a Difference event! Your support ensures that all girls in our local communities have the support, experiences, and opportunities they need to realize their potential. 

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

You can still view our 2021 Gainesville Women Who Make a Difference event on:
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Show your support for Girl Scouts and the difference-makers in our communty. Become a sponsor today.


Women Who Make a Difference 2021 Honorees

Juanita Miles Hamilton
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Juanita Miles Hamilton grew up in Marion County and the following values were instilled in her at an early age to: “respect others and never think yourself as less than nor greater than anyone”, “stay grounded and do unto to others as you would have them do unto to you” and to “always stand up for the things that you believe in”. Those values were challenged in the year of 1965 at the young age of fifteen, when she was selected or elected to be one of the first Blacks to integrate North Marion High School in Sparr, Florida. To this day, she respects and continuously lives from the lessons and guidance of her parents and family.

Juanita retired in 2000 from the City of Gainesville. During her tenure as a Supervisor, she volunteered for eighteen years to obtain grant funding from the State of Florida Department of Agriculture as Coordinator and Administrator of the Summer Nutrition Grant Program providing daily lunches and snacks at 35 sites throughout the county for over 1,500 youth daily during the summer months when school was not in session. Additionally, she went over and above the call of duty writing annual grants, securing funding for the Staff and renovations to the Northeast Community Center, presently named the Clarence R. Kelly Center, Woodlawn Park and Fred Cone Park to serve underserved youth.

Shortly after retirement, Juanita began a new venture with the State of Florida designated Duval Heights Front Porch Community, Inc., thereby directing and promoting revitalization efforts to improve the overall quality of life for the residents. She volunteers many hours of service to this community by writing grants, seeking community partners and working with volunteers to implement programs addressing issues.

In 2003, she was the recipient of an award from Governor Jeb Bush for the Housing Rehabilitation Program in Duval Heights in partnership with the City of Gainesville. During that same year, Front Porch was awarded $180,000 from the State of Florida Communities Trust Fund for the Duval Stormwater Project to eliminate neighborhood drainage problems and to provide a place where schools in the area can bring youth to participate in ecological and biological academic studies and activities.

For several years, she served as the Area Chairperson of the Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church managing twenty one churches in the following counties of Alachua, Levy, Putnam and Marion Counties respectively and implementing, executing and promoting mission programs and projects. She was awarded the City of Gainesville Employee Spotlight Award.

She is also a member of The Visionaires, Inc., Alachua County Bethune-Cookman University Alumni, Alachua County Black Caucus and has

served on the following: Guardian Ad Litem, City of Gainesville Enterprise Zone Development Board, SHIP Board, AHAC Committee, Eastside Redevelopment Board, Community Development Block Grant Board, Duval Elementary School Advisory Board, Horizon School Advisory Board, Caring and Sharing Learning Center, Focus on Leadership Academy, Police Advisory Board, Charter Review Committee and as an Officer and Member of Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church.

Juanita is a proud Mother of a Son and a Daughter in love and two Grandchildren. In her free time, she enjoys reading, golfing and traveling. Juanita’s favorite quote is by the late Dr. Maya Angelou: “When you know better, you do better.”

Fitz Koehler
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Fitz Koehler, M.S.E.S.S. is one of the most prominent and compelling fitness experts and race announcers in America. As the voice of the Los Angeles Marathon, Philadelphia Marathon, Big Sur Marathon, DC Wonder Woman Run Series, and more, she brings big structure, energy, and joy to sport. She’s passionate about guiding others to live better and longer through her company, Fitzness International and She’s appeared on national media outlets and worked with corporations like Disney, Tropicana, Oakley, and Office Depot. Fitz has also inspired millions of kids to get active through her successful school running/walking program, The Morning Mile®. Her second book, My Noisy Cancer Comeback, was released in October 2020 and has been welcomed with fantastic sales and reviews. Fitz enjoys water sports, strength training, animals, hugs, sarcasm, and travel. Fitz lives in Gainesville with her husband and two kids.

Dr. Maggie Labarta
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Dr. Maggie Labarta retired in December 2019 as President and Chief Executive Officer for Meridian Behavioral Healthcare after almost 20 years in that position. In her role as CEO, she oversaw the agency’s comprehensive mental health and substance use disorder treatment, primary care, vocational, and housing programs. The organization had a $50 million annual budget, employed 800 individuals, and provided services to about 23,000 individuals across 11 sites in north central Florida. Labarta’s professional experience spanned 40 years, 36 at Meridian, and included clinical work and administrative functions. She is a clinical psychologist with experience in child abuse and divorce, having served as a court appointed evaluator in these cases.  She has provided clinical and management training as well as consulting on strategic planning to a number of organizations.

Labarta has been involved in numerous professional and community organizations. She has been involved in local efforts related to child abuse prevention and treatment, school-based behavioral health services, homelessness, and diverting those with a mental illness from the criminal justice system. She is currently Vice Chair of the Community Foundation of North Central Florida and the Children’s Trust of Alachua County. She chairs the board of New Horizons Properties, which provides affordable and supported housing to individuals with psychiatric disabilities. She remains a passionate advocate for those affected by mental illnesses and substance use disorders and the system of care that they depend on. 

Since retiring, she founded Impact Non-profit Consulting helping non-profits in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, information and data analytics, and program design. She is an emerging artist, having taken up oil painting in the past year. And she is mom to an unruly and rambunctious adopted terrier. She is married to a fellow healthcare executive and is mom to a daughter (a former girl scout) who is a writer lving in Brooklyn and working for the Daily Beast.

Labarta was born in Havana, Cuba and arrived in the US as a six-year-old, non-English speaker when her family fled the Castro regime. She has since developed a love of languages and reading. Labarta went on to ontain a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Mathematics from Barry University and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Clinical and Community Psychology from the University of Maryland and completed an internship in Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida and the VA Medical Center, as well as a residency at Meridian.

Faye McKnight

Faye McKnight is a resident of Gainesville, Florida. She is the owner of McKnight Insurance Agency, Incorporated/Allstate Insurance in Lake City, Florida. Faye previously was in the banking industry for approximately twenty years. Starting with Florida National Bank, merger to First Union Bank, merger to Wachovia Bank.

Faye is a graduate of Bethune Cookman University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Faye also hold the following licenses: State of Florida Property and Casualty, Life Health and Variable Annuity and Series 6 Investments.

One of Faye’s goals and aspirations is to visit half of the countries throughout the world. While traveling, Faye would like to learn the language of various countries.

Faye is married to her wonderful husband, Ray for almost forty years. They have two daughters, one son in law, four grandchildren and another on the way.    

Faye is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated- Mu Upsilon Omega Chapter, Board Member of The Twenty Pearls Foundation Incorporated, and The Gainesville (FL) Chapter of The Links. All are all service organizations which help fulfill Faye’s desire to help others.

One of the most important things in life is to help others enhance their life’s fullest potential. Always provide community service to assist others that are in need.

Faye is a huge sports fan and very seldom miss a Gator football or basketball home game. She once participated in the Gator halftime football game to present the check to the winner of the Allstate Insurance winner of the punt and kick competition.

Faye’s two daughters were in Girl Scouts of America, starting with Daises, Brownies and then onto Juniors. Faye served as ‘Cookie Mom’ for her oldest daughter Aurielle’s troop. She had so many cookies at home until she could not eat one for a year. We sold lots of cookies because while working at the bank, we set up tables every Friday in front of the bank.     


Thank you to our sponsors!

Presenting Sponsor

PSMC Stacked

Gold Sponsors

  • Dr. Pauline O. Lawrence

  • Mrs. C. Ann Scott

Silver Sponsors

  • Gainesville Regional Utilities
  • MY21_WODJax_PearlSpons_VyStar

Juliette Sponsors

Mrs. Ann Marie Rogers
The Ayers Family
Ms. Beth Mills
Brian Kramer; State Attorney's Office
Ms. Carrie Parker-Warren
Coldwell Banker / MM Parrish Realtors
Community Foundation of North Central Florida
Mrs. Dawn Burgess-Krop
Ms. Ester Tibbs
Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano PA
Florida Blue Farms, Inc.
Janet Christie
Linda G. Kallman
Maggie Labarta and Jon Cherry
McDonald's of Gainesville
McKnight Insurance Agency
Merrill Lynch/Baker duBois Group
Oak Hammock at the University of Florida
Dr. Portia L. Taylor
Rotary Club of Gainesville
Mrs. Terry Van Nortwick
Virginia Maurer
UF Health Shands