Good News Celebrates Women of Distinction 2024

In Proverbs 31, the Bible describes a virtuous woman whose value is far above rubies. It paints the image of a remarkable woman engaged in all facets of her community, active in the marketplace, involved in charity and managing the affairs of her household well. “Strength and honor are her clothing…She opens her mouth with wisdom and her tongue is the law of kindness… Many women do noble things… but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31: 25-26, 30). In conjunction with Mother’s Day, Good News presents our fourth annual feature applauding nine Women of Distinction who are leaders in our faith community.


Christine and Scott Auker

Christine Auker

Nonprofit Advisor, Grant Chair and President

StrikeForce 421


A nonprofit advocate and philanthropist, Christine Auker became engaged in the nonprofit community after attending Lifework Leadership South Florida in the 2013/2014 class. She and her late husband Dr. Bert DeVries also spoke as a case study on Courage, sharing their testimony “to surrender early” while facing Bert’s terminal diagnosis of ALS, which made a huge impact on the class. The Lifework Leadership family became a meaningful support system to them thru their difficult journey and kindled a passion in Christine to help people grow, connect and execute for God’s Kingdom.

Formerly working in the field of audiology for 25 years, Christine’s professional background includes ten years as the national sales manager/sales executive for Siemens Medical in greater New York, and three years as sales executive for Starkey Hearing Technologies in Florida. She earned a master’s in audiology from PennWest Clarion and a graduate certification in nonprofit management from Harvard University.

However it was the outpouring of prayers and support they received from their peers in Lifework Leadership that made a large impact in Christine’s path. Following Bert’s passing, Christine had the opportunity to serve as Director of Lifework Leadership for the National Christian Foundation South Florida for about five years, which is where she met her current husband of five years, Scott Auker, owner of SunCap Investments.

When fellow Lifework Alum and Attorney Joanne Daudt invited Christine to participate on a StrikeForce 421 committee, Christine was eager to get involved. StrikeForce 421 is a women’s giving circle in which they collectively pool their resources together to create a greater impact in giving towards faith-based ministries in South Florida. “Having been touched by so many people’s generosity in my own life through that season of suffering, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved in something where I could give back and inspire generosity in others,” Christine said. StrikeForce 421, along with their community pledge partners, has given more than 1.5 million dollars to Christian charities in South Florida since their inception in 2014.

In addition to her involvement with StrikeForce 421, Christine also serves on the boards of Heart2Heart Outreach of South Florida and is Chairman of the Board for Knox Theological Seminary.


What is God’s calling for you?

“God’s calling for me is to be a philanthropist and serve in such a way that can make a greater impact for the Kingdom. God’s given me a great passion for things in the faith-based area, whether it’s the church or ministries, particularly ministries that are teaching generosity.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

“I am very passionate about Christian education, caring for the elderly, the church and the other one is marriage. I came out of a marriage and then God gave me another marriage I’ve been so blessed by, so I’m just very passionate about any kind of ministry that’s supporting healthy marriages. It’s important for our society and our community, and it’s kind of the foundation of everything else.”


Do you have a family Mission statement?

“I’m a patron for Women Doing Well, which is a program that educates people and helps them find their passions so they can direct their generosity. The key word statement I developed at their conference is Inspiring Hope, so that is where we direct our time and energy and keep our focus.”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (NLT).


What was your most challenging time?

“Walking through my late husband’s disease of ALS, watching him suffer and losing him was definitely the most challenging time in my life. At the time Stephan Tchividjian told me when you experience significant loss, the joy you can experience after that may be tenfold, and that’s what I have found in my marriage with Scott. God has blessed me.”


What was your most rewarding time?

“My most rewarding time is having the ability to serve in ministries like StrikeForce 421, Knox Theological Seminary and Heart2Heart, and particularly that I’m in these leadership roles that are very meaningful and purposeful.”


Do you have a hobby?

Scott and I both enjoy doing yoga and working out at the gym. We also enjoy hiking in the Blueridge Mountains in North Carolina.


Standing from left to right: Victoria Baugh, Paul Baugh, Allan Baugh; Seated: Germaine Smith Baugh

Dr. Germaine Smith Baugh

President and CEO

Urban League of Broward County


Dr. Germaine Smith Baugh has dedicated more than two decades promoting social and economic advancement in underserved communities through the Urban League of Broward County, leading the nonprofit organization as president and CEO since 2006. She spearheaded the opening of an iconic $9 million Community Empowerment Center in the historic Sistrunk neighborhood and was instrumental in securing Greater Fort Lauderdale as the destination for the National Urban League Conference, which attracted over 13,000 attendees and generated an estimated economic impact of $10 million for the region.

She and her husband Paul Baugh, assistant principal at Pioneer Middle School, have been married 28 years, and have two children. They actively participate at First Church of the Open Bible in Lauderhill, where Paul Baugh is an assistant pastor and Germaine serves as director of Christian education, working with young people and their parents, and also supports her husband’s pastoral role.

“I want to be an example of the activation of God’s love and service,” said Germaine, “whether it is professionally, at the Urban League at church or in community as I serve on boards.”


What is God’s calling for you?

“I have a gift of administration, so I think God’s calling for me is to use the various gifts to help people find their purpose and reveal what is next for them. I’m always thinking about how to connect people to the next thing. Being a connector is a call for me, being purpose driven myself and helping others find their purpose and lastly, I’m an encourager.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

“A lot of my time, talent and treasure goes to the Urban League of Broward County and First Church of the Open Bible. I’m also using my access or resources to help other people. I currently serve as chair of Grounded Solutions Network and as first vice chair of the Florida Community Loan Fund, and I participate in a few mastermind groups for other nonprofit CEOs. My board work is focused on issues of housing affordability, access to living wage jobs, education, access to capital for small businesses and creating economic resiliency to truly move families and communities to the next level.”


Did you have a family Mission statement?

“My truest desire for my children is that we have an authentic relationship with God so that at the end of it all, we will be a circle unbroken in heaven.”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

“I find hope and take refuge in reading stories of women in the Bible. I think about Esther and the courage she had to have, Ruth and the authenticity of the relationships she cultivated, and Mary seeing a child she birthed be prosecuted and persecuted in such a way. And most recently, so many stories of women in the civil rights movement who just kept going like the women in the Bible.”


What was your most challenging time as a mother?

“That would be the birth of my daughter who was born a micro preemie at 1 lb. 7 oz. That same year I was appointed as president and CEO of the Urban League. So, I rode a great professional high and then a huge valley of almost stroking because I had preeclampsia. I look back and realize how my family came together, it strengthened my marriage and the organization thrived. It was definitely a high and low, but I realize just how many lessons were learned and then the Urban League Maternal Health program came out of that.”


What was your most challenging and rewarding time as a professional or mother?

“I don’t know what balance is, so the most challenging thing as a professional woman and female leader is this dance of being a mother, wife, daughter, sister, community leader. I’ve had to learn to give myself grace in keeping all the balls up in the air. In those moments where we have the superwoman cape on, sometimes you need to take that cape to form a blanket and wrap yourself in it. When the cape is really flying and you feel yourself gliding on air is when it all comes together – when my husband is at an Urban League Gala and I see him smiling because I’ve made some great comments, or I’m at my daughter’s event or my son’s football game and they do something really great, and I’m able to be present. Those are the moments where we are uplifted. We have to learn to use that cape to fly and to comfort us all at the same time.”


Christopher (James) Chen Jr, Rebecca Chen, Christopher Chen, Stephanie Chen, Natalie Chen, John Chen

Stephanie Chen

Board Member and Chief Culture Officer



Stephanie Chen is currently a Board Member at ChenMed, having served as General Counsel, Chief Legal Officer and as Chief Culture Officer. A graduate of Westminster Academy, she attended University of Florida for one year then married Chris Chen, at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale before transferring to Boston College where she graduated cum laude with a degree in economics. While her husband was training at Cornell University, Stephanie attended New York Law School on a Harlan Scholarship and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2008. Stephanie and her husband of 25 years, Dr. Chris Chen, the CEO of ChenMed, have four children and are actively involved in several charitable organizations.

A premier physician-led, technology-enabled healthcare organization, ChenMed is a champion for equitable health outcomes, transforming the care of underserved seniors by providing a VIP-like, one-stop shop for seniors 65 and up.

“When we started with ChenMed, there were about 40 employees. We joined his parents and helped it grow to over 130 centers across the country,” said Stephanie. “As we took on health plan providers and partners, we needed a compliance organization, so I helped build that. When I transitioned to chief culture officer, my job was to keep the amazing people that were attracted to ChenMed plugged in and energized, to keep them loving what they’re doing. It was an amazing job!”

Her role changed recently when they decided to trust a professional executive team to help take the company to the next level with the goal of reaching one million patients in the next 10 years. As a family business, however, she said they still feel like it is their “fifth child.”


What is God’s calling for you?

“He’s given me an ability to organize people, to get people energized and excited about what’s coming and to see one vision or goal and how we all can contribute to achieve it. And as a woman of 2024 with a law degree, my number one thing is still to help my husband Chris be successful, happy, holy and healthy. I love doing that for him, and with him, I love witnessing to our kids and doing morning devotions.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

Stephanie said she is passionate about many charities, including 4KIDS, Sheridan House Family Ministries, First Priority, the local Church, Westminster Academy, Pine Crest School and Nicaraguan Medical Missions.


Did you have a family Mission statement?

“Yes, it has seven points: 1) We love and serve the one true God. 2) We love one another but start with family. 3) We work hard and persevere. 4) We appreciate the blessing of living, working and being together as a family. 5) We have an endless pursuit of learning. 6) We promote health and healthcare, and 7) We pass these down to future generations.”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

When I’m sad or don’t know what to pray or need comfort, I remember Psalm 139:5, “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me” (NIV).


What was your most challenging time as a mother?

“My hardest part was the only time I realized I was in a bi-racial marriage. My husband is American born, but he’s Chinese, and when it came to parenting a middle schooler, my husband was so strict on grades, required study hall for 2 1/2 hours every night, and the only acceptable grade is an A. This was not how I grew up, and I graduated with honors. So, his standard was a big source of contention. We went to Christian couple counseling when our oldest was in 8th grade and entering that rebellious phase. Finally, I came around to thinking that grades are a reflection of your effort, so with effort and practice you can get there. Now after family dinner at a set time every night we follow up with family study hall.”


What was your most rewarding time as a mother?

“The most rewarding time in my life was when my son as a freshman went to Pine Crest and his high school football coach told Chris and I that each player on the football team had to announce in front of 100 other guys what their goal for this season was, and our son stood up as a little 13-year-old and said he’s dedicating this season to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then when he went to Vanderbilt, he was walking with the Lord, attending RUF every Tuesday night for Bible study and every Sunday texting us sermon notes. There’s no greater joy than to see our children walking with the Lord. That’s my full circle moment on just James, and I could go through each child sharing similar stories.”


Do you have a hobby?

“I love taking cooking classes or buying new recipe books. Last year I tried to learn tennis and this year I’m trying to learn how to salsa dance.”


Joshua Elswick, Melissa Elswick, Ethan Elswick, Dr. Jon Elswick

Melissa Elswick

Communications Director and Sisterhood Visionary

Crossway Church


Melissa Elswick, Communications Director and Sisterhood Visionary, serves alongside her husband Dr. Jon Elswick, lead pastor of Crossway Church, which meets at Indian Ridge Middle School Auditorium in Davie. Married for 23 years, the couple has two sons and planted the church 14 years ago. Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree in ministry from Trinity International University and currently co-leads a newly established Women’s Soul Care Cohort for women in church leadership that is powered by Church United.

“We’ve always been collaborative with other churches and try to push back against that competitiveness in our human heart,” said Melissa. “Church United is doing incredible things, but we’ve been dreaming about how to create a pathway to care for pastors’ wives and women in leadership on church staff. We’re in the pioneering phase, but we just accepted a $35,000 grant from StrikeForce 421 to create a pathway for women who may need counseling sessions paid for so they can talk to someone privately. Women are also supporting each other in Soul Care Groups for senior pastors’ wives, worship leaders and staff ministry leaders as a safe space outside your church where you can connect with other like-minded women in ministry. We also plan to have some practical trainings to resource women and possibly plan a women’s leadership conference one day.”

In addition to their work with Church United, the Elswicks are strong advocates for 4KIDS and established a culture favorable toward adoption and foster care at their church, so they often share their own story of adoption. Their two sons, Ethan, 14, and Joshua, 11, were both adopted from a Christian orphanage in Taiwan. Melissa explained, “Our first Easter Sunday at Crossway as a new baby church plant, my husband preached his first Easter sermon then we raced to Miami International and flew to Taiwan to adopt our first son.” Three years later, they received an international call out of the blue and learned the birth mother had given birth to a second son, so they quickly got their paperwork together and adopted Joshua. “I just get goosebumps thinking only God can pull two little boys from the island of Taiwan and plant them in our family,” said Melissa.


What is God’s calling for you?

“My calling is to follow Jesus with all that I have and to serve my husband and my children well. That’s my first calling, and I think pastors’ wives really struggle with that sometimes because it almost feels like our church is another kid. And we really do feel called to the local church and to South Florida.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

“We have three organizations we have partnered with for many years: 4KIDS of South Florida, Sheridan House Family Ministries and Every Mother’s Advocate. All three of those organizations are working towards unifying and healing families, children and single moms.”


Did you have a family Mission statement?

“We want to be a family that loves God, loves others and impacts our world, which is the same mission that we have for our church.”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

Matthew 6:25-30, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?…”


What was your most challenging time as a mother?

“For me COVID flipped our world upside down. We were displaced as a church and lost our normal meeting place. We also faced the passing of my brother and the passing of my grandmother during COVID, so we had two significant family losses. It was probably the most challenging time in my life, but God brought us through it. Our hearts are still filled with grief, but the church is back and we’re gaining traction again.”


What was your most rewarding time as a mother?

“Having a portable church, our boys show up every Sunday early. My teenage son serves in kids ministry and they’re willing to set up and tear down and be a part of the mission, so for me as a mom where we live in a world of entitlement to see our boys really be excited about what God is building at Crossway and want to be a part of it just makes my heart sing.”


Do you have a hobby?

“We love watching our boys play sports and trying new restaurants and coffee shops, but in my heart of hearts I wish my hobby was dancing because I always dreamed of dancing on Broadway.”


Sean Glasser, Scarlett Glasser, Autumn Glasser, Kristen Mitchell Glasser, Andy Mitchell, Kathy Ireland Mitchell, Marilyn Ireland Markos, Jaxon Campbell, Kate Mitchell Campbell, Landon Campbell and Brent Campbell

Kathy Ireland Mitchell


The Fairwinds Group


Kathy Ireland Mitchell, principal, and her husband Andy Mitchell, president and CEO of The Fairwinds Group, will celebrate 50 years of marriage in June. They have two children and five grandchildren. The Mitchell – Ireland family has been at the forefront of Fort Lauderdale’s evolution for over 60 years, building on the legacy of Ireland’s Inn, opened on Fort Lauderdale beach in 1965 by Kathy’s father, Jack Ireland, and grandmother, Lillian Ireland.

Kathy remembers fondly helping out with the family business, showing people rooms from the age of 12 when her family lived on the top floor of Irelands Inn. Due for a refresh, especially after hurricane Wilma damaged it in 2005, The Fairwinds Group erected the $650 million luxurious Auberge Beach Residences and Spa in its place after acquiring the needed land to expand its footprint in Fort Lauderdale. And they are currently involved in construction of The Ritz-Carlton Residences at 1380 S. Ocean Blvd. in Pompano Beach, joining forces with an exemplary team comprised of Fortune International Group, Oak Capital, Lissoni & Partners, and Revuelta Architecture International.

Throughout both building projects, the Mitchells have sought God’s blessing and protection, and they recently buried a Bible in the foundation of the future Ritz-Carlton Residences building, following a blessing by Pastor Rob Pacienza, of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, witnessed by family members, by Bob and Sandy Moss and members of the development team and construction crew.

However, the Mitchells have also built community by helping homeless families and veterans through their support of HOPE South Florida and Operation Lift Hope, and Kathy participates as a Chairman’s Circle Partner on the Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council where she has supported several events to benefit children of the fallen.


What is God’s calling for you?

“I adopted a rescue dog that I felt God just shown a light on, and he was just crazy, so I decided to put him in the best training, and he became certified as a therapy dog. So, for about three years, I took Champ to Broward General and nursing homes to comfort people. So, I would say my calling is to bring joy to other people and be a light for Jesus then to be open to seeing needs in our community.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

In addition to supporting Hope South Florida, Kathy has been involved in Junior League and supported Jack and Jill Children’s Center; however, her main involvement right now is as a pledge partner in StrikeForce 421 women’s giving circle. She likes that 100% of the funds given go directly to charity and that you have the opportunity to learn about so many different charities and the opportunity to help choose which ministries receive support.


Did you have a family Mission statement?

“We were always teaching God’s principles and fighting for our children in a world that is not easy to navigate. I’d say it was to love one another, be kind and help people. One of the biggest things to us growing up in the hotel was you treat everybody including the janitor as important as the president of a company. This was instilled in me by my father, and he was friends with everybody.”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (NIV).


What was your most challenging time as a mother?

“The teenage years with girls was very challenging, and I have very strong-willed girls. I would literally ask God to put angels around them because I couldn’t protect them the way God did.”


What was your most rewarding time as a mother?

“Now we’ve got two incredibly strong, very accomplished daughters that love the Lord, are very family oriented and doing a wonderful job raising their children. That’s probably the most rewarding, and the fact that I have a very wonderful husband. I feel we’ve been very blessed.”


Brigitte and Gibson Sylvestre

Brigitte Sylvestre

Morning Show Co-Host and Producer

Moody Radio South Florida


Tune your radio to 89.3 FM during your morning commute and you’re likely to be uplifted by the voice of Brigitte Sylvestre during Mornings with Eric and Brigitte. Brigitte and Gibson Sylvestre were married at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale 17 years ago, where he was formerly on staff. A graduate of Westminster Academy, Brigitte earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Palm Beach Atlantic University and has worked at Moody Radio South Florida for more than 17 years where she is currently the Morning Show Co-Host and producer.

Recognizing the power of media, Brigitte said that even as a kid she knew she wanted to work in broadcasting so she could be a part of sending a hopeful message out, and what’s more hopeful than the message of Christ!

“As cohost and producer of the morning show, my role is to encourage and inspire the audience every morning as they’re getting ready for their day. Some of the conversations we have point to issues of the day, sometimes it’s a devotional, and I love those reminders of God’s love for us. There are other times where we might be talking about how to understand cultural issues from a biblical perspective, and that can be a very challenging thing. How do we address issues in our personal lives that we may not quite know how to handle? I love the gamut of what we’re able to talk about to really encourage people in their faith, especially in the morning as we help our listeners to set our minds on things above, like it says in Colossians 3:2.”

Brigitte has also travelled extensively with her husband Gibson, doing short term international missions to share the gospel in India, Uganda, Romania and several South American and Central American countries as part of a 501C3 ministry formerly connected with the Louis Palau Association called Gibson Sylvestre Global Outreach.


What is God’s calling for you?

“A big part of my calling is to help communicate in a way that reminds people of God’s love for them, God’s purpose for them and the wholeness that we can find in Him.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

“I currently volunteer with an organization called Women in the Window International. They are a faith-based organization that helps women who are in the 10:40 Window, such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Because their culture is influenced by different religious beliefs, women are often seen as second-class citizens and girls are devalued because of their gender, but God says each and every individual is made in His image. They are valuable, have purpose and dignity, and this ministry helps empower women with different trainings and equip them.”


Did you have a family Mission statement?

“We have not written down a formal mission statement, but it probably would be living a life of impact for God’s glory.”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. “


What was the most challenging thing you’ve experienced?

“I lost my dad in 2021. My father was a quadriplegic and was in a wheelchair my entire life after he was in a very severe car accident while my mom was pregnant with me, but it was awesome to see him overcome that. He was a hero in my eyes because with this handicap, yet he was so alive and passionate about the Lord and served as pastor of a small congregation. Seeing his health rapidly decline before he passed was a challenge.”


What do you find rewarding or an accomplishment you’re proud of?

“It’s that my husband and I are so happily married. It’s not a perfect relationship by any means but a growing one. Being married to Gibson has helped me grow closer to the Lord. He encourages me and covers me spiritually, and I am thankful that we have a growing relationship after 17 years.”


Sue Trombino, Mia Trombino, A. Michael Trombino, Michael Trombino and Kaitlyne Trombino

Sue Trombino

Founder and President

Women Impacting the Nation


Sue Trombino is a passionate advocate for America and tirelessly works to embolden every Christian and American to get involved in saving the moral compass of our nation. Seeking to make a difference, Sue founded Women Impacting the Nation (W.I.N.) in the fall of 2005 to inform, inspire and initiate action from women and men of all backgrounds. W.I.N. provides resources, information and biblical knowledge to anyone seeking to take personal responsibility for their freedoms and to be accountable to God’s Word. She speaks at business-related and professional seminars, political rallies and women and church events across the country, sharing God’s truth and her strong love of America.

The organization also developed small groups entitled W.I.N. Talks that are hosted in homes and churches across the country in which people meet to study a series of patriotic books followed by discussion. “We start everything with a prayer, pledge and praise,” said Sue, and the objective is to help others become educated about the founding fathers and ideals of our nation.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, and raised in Central and South America, Africa and Europe, her diverse upbringing has given her a unique perspective on America and fostered an appreciation for the Judeo-Christian values upon which it was founded. Sue takes great pride in the armed services as her father, mother and brother served with honor. She is also a graduate of the Chuck Colson Centurion Program and has served as a Bible Study Fellowship leader.

Sue and her husband Michael Trombino have been married for 39 years and have one son and a granddaughter. When not travelling, the attend Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Delray Beach or Maranatha Bible Church in Lantana.


What is God’s calling for you?

“I believe we are called to be bridge builders, so I’m about Kingdom building, not castle building. I love to bring people together.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

“I work with so many other different groups, for example Liberty Council. What’s important to me is my faith, my family and my freedom, and our civic duty, getting involved. We’ve also been involved helping with issues like trafficking, the border, the Constitution, education and life, so I try to support different groups.”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”


What was your most challenging time and most rewarding time as a mother?

“As far as being a mom, the toughest time of my life was home schooling my son, and the best time of my life was homeschooling my son. Actually, a girlfriend of mine said, “God didn’t have you homeschool Mikey for him, it was for you.” And that’s how W.I.N. started. “I took our son Michael to the Washington briefing of Family Research Council because my husband had been going at the time, and next thing you know I’m meeting David Barton (the founder of WallBuilders, an organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage). Then I homeschooled Mikey with all the books that I use. What was challenging about homeschooling was he was a strong-willed child, so we became very good friends with Bob Barnes, and it was funny because when Michael graduated from Calvary Christian Academy, the speaker was Bob Barnes.”


Do you have a hobby?

“I love spending time with my husband and our two dogs. And spending time with my son, my daughter-in-law and my new grandbaby invigorates me.”


Miranda Parma-Vera, Samantha Parma-Vera, Dr. Jessica Vera

Dr. Jessica L Vera PHD, LLC

Transformational Therapist and Founder/CEO

Elite Foundation


Dr. Jessica Vera’s journey from childhood trauma to outward success to inner healing to real, sustainable success serves as a real-life platform for the work she does today. An expert in psychology focused on transformative healing and applied human sciences, Jessica is founder and president of the Elite Foundation, a nonprofit organization that combats human trafficking and exploitation through various initiatives, including raising awareness, providing survivor support and implementing prevention programs. A Latin American mother of two daughters, Jessica is an award-winning writer, entrepreneur and philanthropist. She earned her Doctoral Degree of Philosophy with a specialization in trauma, clinical counseling and leadership from Barry University.

Dr. Jessica Vera has worked in the field of forensics the last 26 years, often consulting with the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Justice and Family Court, particularly specialization in trauma. She often provide services that are required by the judicial system with expertise in cases involving commercially, sexually exploited children and disadvantaged at risk youth.

“I work with people in their worst, darkest moments, helping to equip them, to educate and be a voice in the judicial process on their behalf,” she said.

Having experienced abuse herself from the ages of 4 to 14, Jessica said, “It really shaped my understanding of relationships with men and my self-worth” … until at about the age of 30 when she had a significant intersection with God while considering ending her life. Today she is able to speak into the lives of others from a place of healing and she shares her personal story in her book, Rise Up.

It was during the writing of her book that Jessica realized the abuse impacted three generations of her family. She discovered that her mother had been exploited and victimized as a child, a matter she had been silent about for almost 75 years, and later learned her own 15-year old daughter was being entrapped by a man posing as a teen online with the intent to traffic young girls.

When I found out that it could happen in my household, under my own nose, someone supposedly so aware and so involved, I thought this is crazy!”

This was what prompted her in 2016 to establish the Elite Foundation to combat human trafficking with the goal of education, prevention and empowerment.


What is God’s calling for you?

“My call is to be His hands and feet, but in a very specific way. It’s to be the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. Every role I’ve had has involved speaking on behalf of others for their rights and advocating for what they need.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

“I am partial to any ministry that empowers and equips children, so I’ve done work with 4KIDS, Grace Place School and Women of Tomorrow.”


Did you have a family Mission statement?

“Yes, our family mission statement is grounded in two fundamental principles: We’re called to realize our potential in Christ and to serve others.” It was founded in 1 Peter 4:10. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”


What was your most challenging time as a mother?

“It’s the enemy’s lies that one isn’t good enough in any role in your life and then coming to the realization in the light of Christ, I’m everything I’m supposed to be… My daughter in adolescence was also very challenging. It’s contending with so many footholds for evil. The Internet is such a strong tool in the wrong hands and can influence the mind, self-confidence and self-worth.”


What was your most rewarding time as a mother?

“Now I can see God’s hands and footprints. My eldest has a passion to go into cyber security, making sure there’s safeguards for the Internet, and my younger daughter is waiting for admission into law school and wants to go into human rights. So, it’s a beautiful full circle.”


Do you have a hobby?

“I love to travel, and my greatest joy is learning.”


Alexandra Whiddon Hamilton, Lindsey Whiddon, Caroline Whiddon, Margaret Whiddon, Scott Whiddon, Elle Chapman, Stephanie Chapman, Steven Chapman and Olivia Chapman in front.

Margaret Whiddon

Board Member

Live the Life South Florida


Margaret Whiddon, and her husband Scott Whiddon, formerly president of Causeway Lumber Company, founded by his grandfather in 1939, currently serve as board members for Live the Life South Florida, an organization committed to nurturing family relationships. Married for 40 years, the Whiddons have four daughters and three grandchildren.

Born and raised in the greater Detroit, Michigan area, Margaret’s father was the lead minister at Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church in Pontiac, and her mother served as both teacher and principal at Christian schools in their district. A graduate of Grace College in Indiana, Margaret relocated to Fort Lauderdale in 1980 where she managed office systems until she met her husband and worked at home to raise their family. Over the years, Margaret has held leadership positions for the Junior League, Women’s Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), 4 KIDS, and Firewall Ministries. She has also served in chair positions at Charity Guild of Fort Lauderdale and First Priority South Florida and is actively involved at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale.


What is God’s calling for you?

“I’ve often wondered about my calling, but my sister once said, ‘Your gift is that you raised four children and you were so supportive of your husband and kids.’ My calling really has been to my family.”


Do you have a favorite charity?

“My husband and I have really thrown our heart and soul into Live the Life South Florida.” Having seen her own parents’ divorce when she was in high school, Margaret shared, “I’ve seen the devastation that happens and just feel so strongly that we have to get this right.” They and their own children have attended Adventures in Marriage classes designed to strengthen marriages. They also help with fundraising to help support Live the Life’s relationship education classes for students at local middle and high schools.

The Whiddons also help out with Hope Weekends, serving as marriage coaches for couples in troubled marriages. “These people come in and they’re not even speaking to each other; they’re kind of turned away from each other, and by the end of the weekend, they’re recommitted to working it out,” said Margaret. “Sometimes they’ve already filed for divorce, so it is so exciting to see these marriages restored, especially when they have kids because it means those kids won’t be affected by the back and forth of joint custody and all that.”


Did you have a family Mission statement?

“I wish I had done that, but I always told my children if they saw somebody at school, they always knew to look out for the underdog. For the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 26:36-39).”


What Bible verse has encouraged you?

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”


What was your most challenging time as a mother?

“I would say that a challenging time was when they were in middle school and high school because girls can be really catty and mean… It was important for us to let them know they really mattered to us and to God and that they could come to us with anything.”


What was your most rewarding time as a mother or what you’re most proud of?

“As a mother, the most rewarding thing is grandchildren! They live in town, and we are having so much fun with them. But I think I’m most proud that we’ve been married as long as we have, and I’m really proud of my kids. They’re really making a difference and they’re super empathetic, all of them.”


Do you have a hobby?

Besides playing with her grandchildren, Margaret enjoys traveling, reading and boating.


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