Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: James Rode, Orlando Gay Chorus’ artistic director

By : Jeremy Williams
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It’s difficult to take an organization that’s celebrating 25 years and change the way the community sees it, but Orlando Gay Chorus artistic director James Rode doesn’t make decisions based on what’s the easiest thing to do.

OGC celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2015, the same year Rode became the organization’s new artistic director.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Barry Miller, Orlando attorney and founder of The 49 Fund

By : David Lee, writer/director of O-Town: Voices from Orlando
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David Lee

In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, local attorney, entrepreneur and CEO of The Closing Agent, Barry Miller wondered “What about the kids?” He was concerned about the future of the children of the victims of the attack.

We sat outside of his apartment at Lake Eola in the summer of 2016 and he said to me, “So many of the victims of the Pulse incident were parents of small children. Some of the survivors are barely out of high school. Who is going to take care of them? Their future? Their education?” Thus began the idea that became my friend Mr. Miller’s very own brainchild, The 49 Fund, an endowed scholarship administered by The Central Florida Foundation (CFF). This scholarship is offered to LGBTQ students in Central Florida with special consideration to be provided to survivors of the Pulse tragedy or to immediate family members of those whose lives were lost in the tragedy.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Kellie Parkin, MBA Orlando’s Executive director

By : Lu Muller-Kaul, MBA Orlando President
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Lu Muller-Kaul

Kellie Parkin is a friend, supporter and the best employee I could have hoped for. In title and job description, she is responsible for running MBA’s operations, but she adds volunteer time for the One Orlando Alliance and other projects.

Kellie has also been working with founding MBA members, most importantly Debbie Simmons and Michael Thomas, to connect MBA’s past of now 25 years to a successful future, always ensuring equality through economics for our business members and the whole LGBTQ community of Central Florida.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Pamela Schwartz, Orange County Regional History Center’s Chief Curator

By : Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Mayor
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Teresa Jacobs

It’s an honor and privilege to celebrate Pamela Schwartz as a 2017 “Remarkable Person.”

In the early hours after the Pulse Nightclub massacre, when we were reeling with anguish and disbelief from the brutal attack on our LGBTQ, Latinx and Hispanic communities and the unimaginable loss of 49 innocent souls, one person was already thinking about how we could help memorialize the staggering loss and remember the innocent victims. That was Pam Schwartz, who by the next day, had already outlined a plan for the collection and preservation of the tribute items that she knew would come.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Jennifer Foster, Owner of Foster Productions, Inc.

By : Robin Maynard, Founder of Libby’s Legacy
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Robin Maynard

It’s interesting that the very definition of remarkable is “worthy of attention” because it’s the one thing Jennifer Foster doesn’t seek. She simply puts her head down and focuses on the important work to be done and she does so with compassion and true leadership.

Allow me to back up: I’ve been friends with Jennifer for more than a decade. Jennifer owns Foster Productions; however, she has volunteered with Florida little dog rescue, Big Brother/Big Sisters, HRC, Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation and more over the years. We hung out in friendship while our nonprofit work would occasionally meet (our two rescue dogs were brought to us by Jennifer and her wife to ‘foster’ and Jennifer would rally with a team to fundraiser for Libby’s Legacy once a year as well). Other than that, it was porch talks and football , birthday gatherings and the occasional dinner.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Robin Daily, Zebra Coalition Community Engagement Coordinator

By : Heather Wilke, Zebra Coalition Executive Director
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Heather Wilke

Robin Daily has been involved in work with Zebra Coalition since the organization opened a youth drop-in center in 2012. She was a dedicated volunteer for many years until April 2017 when she accepted a position as the Community Engagement Coordinator.

In this role, Robin is responsible for connecting with the community to raise awareness for the mission of Zebra Coalition, to inspire and support LGBTQ youth. Robin excels in this role through her passion for improving the lives of young people.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Rebecca Storozuk, Orange County’s first transgender deputy

By : Grace Peek, Orlando Police Department’s LGBTQ Liaison
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Grace Peek

I have only had the pleasure of meeting Becca on one occasion (Gay Pride Parade). With me working for Orlando Police Department and her working for Orange County Sheriff’s Office our paths have not crossed too much as of yet but I expect that to change in the near future.

Her “coming out” as transgender in the law enforcement environment of Central Florida—that is huge!

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Marco Antonio Quiroga, Program Director at Our Fund Foundation

By : Carlos Carbonell, CEO and Founder Echo Interaction Group
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Carlos Carbonell

It’s times like today that call for leadership like Marco Quiroga.

Although kind and soft-spoken, he unapologetically and confidently speaks loudly for those who have less of a voice in our community. He collaborates with leadership who came before him in the struggle of both the Latinx and LGBTQ communities, while still challenging and educating the status quo on what is still left to do and for whom.

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Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith named breakthrough LGBTQ politician, dedicates award to Pulse first responder being let go from duty

By : Jeremy Williams
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Carlos Guillermo Smith (R) shows off his Breakthrough Award from the Victory Institute with the honor’s namesake, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Photo courtesy Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith’s Facebook).

ORLANDO | Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) was recognized with the Victory Institute’s inaugural Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award during the 2017 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington, DC on Dec. 6.

Smith was nominated along with five other LGBTQ elected officials including sitting mayors, councilpersons and legislators from across the country. The award was designed to recognize an “up-and-coming LGBTQ elected official who is driving equality forward.”

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Jake Emmerling of ‘Book of Mormon’ talks theater and life on the road as the tour lands at the Dr. Phillips Center

By : Jeremy Williams
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Jake Emmerling

You may not think there are any similarities between the outrageous animated TV series South Park and the family-friendly Disney film Frozen aside from they are both animated, but they do share another connection. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creative team behind South Park, and Robert Lopez, composer of those infectious Frozen songs, are the names behind one of Broadway’s most successful musicals, Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon was a juggernaut when it opened on Broadway in 2011. The show went on to win nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, a Grammy for the Broadway cast album and spawned two massively successful national tours. Book of Mormon is now back in Central Florida with a run at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando playing now through Dec. 17.

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Rhodes Perry to hold live ‘The Out Entrepreneur’ podcast in Orlando

By : Jeremy Williams
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One year after launching his LGBTQ business podcast “The Out Entrepreneur,” host Rhodes Perry is heading to Orlando for the show’s first-ever live recording at The Orange Studio Dec. 11.

The Out Entrepreneur is a weekly podcast in which Perry gets to “interview today’s most inspiring LGBTQ bosses crushing it in business,” as he says to start off each podcast.

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Florida officer who saved Pulse shooting victim losing job

By : wire report
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — One of the first police officers to respond to the Pulse nightclub massacre is losing his job with only months to go before he’s entitled to full pension benefits. He called on Florida lawmakers to do more to support first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Eatonville Town Council agreed unanimously Tuesday night to pay Cpl. Omar Delgado some $1,200 in accrued sick time when his job ends at year’s end, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

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