In honor of Women’s History Month, Osceola County recognized five women for their positive contributions to the community on Monday.

“I’m proud that our commission makes it a priority to recognize women who have shown such determination, wisdom and compassion in making a difference in our community,” said Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer. “These women lead by example and inspire others to step forward and assume important roles as go-getters, mentors and advocates. They help keep Osceola County aligned with its mindset to “be first to what’s next.’”

The impetus for the Woman Warrior awards as part the celebration of Women’s History Month started nine years ago after Chairwoman Viviana Janer was elected to the County Commission. Each commissioner selects a nominee.

This year’s Woman Warrior honorees include:

  • District 1, Gwenn Paracha: Gwenn was born in Tampa and moved to South Florida around age 9. After the birth of her second daughter, she moved to Georgia where she stayed for nine years before moving back to Kissimmee. As a single mom, she used her passion towards a long and accomplished career in the medical field. She worked in all forms of nursing: home health, critical care, assistant head nurse for a 32-bed ICU & trauma center, relief house supervisor, trauma specialist, and operating room nurse, before ending as a labor and delivery nurse. She taught diabetic medical classes at Miami Dade Community College and pulmonary classes while she was a trauma nurse. During her time at Palmetto General Hospital, she developed, oversaw, and taught a program for intracranial pressure care. She took her medical expertise to the Girls Scouts as a camp nurse and taught first aid to troops throughout Central Florida. After 30 years of dedicated service, she turned her attention to her community. For the last 10 years, she has served the Indian Ridge HOA as secretary and president.  She has her sights set on travelling more, becoming a hospice volunteer — and maybe even a polling volunteer.
  • District 2, Doreen Edwards-Baker: Doreen is a native of Jamaica, who relocated to the United States at the age of 12. She received a degree in Fashion Design, but it was her pursuit of nursing that was always calling her to serve others. This was instilled in her by her mother Clarita Edwards who was her inspiration for starting a homeless ministry. Her involvement in street outreach ministry and feeding the homeless started shortly after her 1986 graduation from Bethel Bible Institute. Doreen is an ordained minister. Doreen’s vision is to someday have an overnight shelter and a transition home. Her and her husband, Aldwin, have a passion to serve the homeless. After moving here in 2002, they became involved in Hope for Destiny, an outreach program that served the homeless every Sunday – providing hot meals,  haircuts, medical screenings, clothing, and toiletries. Wanting to move to the next level, Doreen purchased a “fixer-upper” a minute away from the church and started a transition house. Clarita’s House was born. Unfortunately, it closed because of a lack of funding. Doreen loves to travel, spend quality time with family and friends, and hang out at the beach.
  • District 3, Peggy Rivers: Peggy was born and raised in Mississippi, where she attended segregated schools. Upon graduation, she moved to Kissimmee to live with her aunt. She raised 5 children. Peggy retired from the Osceola School system where she served 35 years as teacher’s aide. More than 20 years ago, Peggy became a dedicated election worker for Osceola County. She has a reputation as an outstanding worker and is also the number one recruiter of election workers. Without her, Osceola would have struggled to have enough election workers for the 2022 election cycle. Peggy shows up every day with a smile on her face and enthusiasm for the voting process, no matter when she is called upon. Peggy gets her positive reviews, and many clerks request to her services. Her tireless work and dedication help make the election process run smoothly. In the community, she also is an outstanding recruiter for the NAACP – so much so they waived her dues for the next 5 years due to the number of members she has enlisted. She volunteers at St Luke’s Church in Kissimmee where is known as the “Decorator in Chief” — because she decorates for all  Church hosted events.
  • District 4, Dr. Tara Gaston: Dr. Gaston has her own equine practice in St. Cloud. She graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. From there she worked at Large Animal Associates in St. Cloud, from 1997-2000. Soon after, she started her own large animal practice, Gaston Equine Veterinary Service and has been practicing large animal medicine in Central Florida ever since. She has been a life-saver to Animal services during the time Osceola County was without a full time veterinarian. She is a large animal veterinarian specializing in equines, but has also helped by administering rabies vaccinations to dogs and cats as required by law, examining and treating sick/injured pets, and testifying on behalf of the County in numerous animal cruelty cases. She has also accompanied us in the field to help identify animals that require intervention. Dr. Gaston is very easy to work with and is always teaching staff more about horses. She uses every interaction as an opportunity to expand our knowledge and help us provide the best care possible to the animals in our charge. We are extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful and compassionate veterinarian in our community.
  • District 5, Debbie Henderson: Debbie was born in Essington, Pennsylvania. As one of four sisters, she quickly learned being a team player was the only way to win. Debbie’s family moved to Poinciana in 1981. Shortly after graduating from Gateway High School, Debbie met future husband, Scott. The two have three grown children. The first Jake was born just three weeks after the passing of Debbie’s mom — a loss that impacted her greatly. Debbie enrolled her boys in St. Cloud Little League and immediately became the “Baseball Mom.” She would serve as the commissioner and treasurer before being elected president 17 years ago. St. Cloud Little League is a 50-year-old program and is one of the largest in the state by membership and arguably the largest in the Southeast Region with a current roster of 80 teams with 945 players. The continued growth and success of our program could not have occurred without Debbie. She gives heart and soul to the program and puts the league and its needs before everything in her life. It is her personal objective to create a safe place for the kids in our community to play and she never wavers from her commitment.