BY ROGER CALDWELL
ORLANDO – “In the summer of 1982, three nurses Bernice Edwards, Susie Forehand, and Mercerdese Clark along with approximately 60 other nurses, met with the intent of organizing a Black Professional Nurses group as no such group existed in Orlando. Following two interest meetings, the group organized as Black Nurses Association with Mercerdese Clark serving as the chapter’s first president,” says Bernice Edwards.
Over the years, the organization flourished and in May 1994 became a chartered chapter of the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) during the annual conference in Las Vegas NV. At that time the name officially became Central Florida Black Nurses Association of Orlando.
The Central Florida Black Association of Orlando is comprised of various ethnic groups, males and females, with a present membership of 85. With belief in health equity for all through prayer and health events, thousands of individuals in Orange County, Seminole County, Osceola County, and Lake County have benefited from educational classes and health screenings. These activities address the healthcare crisis in the Black community in 2022, and CFBNA is making a difference.
The 38th Annual Scholarship & Awards Luncheon was held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel on September 24, 2022, from 11:00 – 2:00, and presided by Denise Brown. The program was excellent, and there were over 300 attendees celebrating forty years of success, and hard work.
There was a Proclamation from Mayor Buddy Dryer and The City of Orlando, a greeting and welcome from Mayor Jerry L. Demings, and a Letter of Congratulation from Dr. Martha A Dawson, President National Black Nurses Association, Inc. “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it,” said the president of CFBNA –Orlando Dr. Jennifer Ruth Sankey.
There was a Tribute to the Founders, a message from the Sponsors (Orlando Health) and lunch was served. While the lunch was consumed, the band – Ocean Breeze entertained the audience with their music.
The keynote speaker of the awards luncheon was Tiffany Moore Russell, the first African American female Clerk in Florida, elected to Orange County Clerk of Courts in 2014. Her speech was very inspiring with a focus on self-management of one’s own health and wellness. Through her personal stories, she encouraged all to make their health a priority, and validated the need for African American Nurses in the workforce to advocate for the health and wellness of patients.
Mrs. Moore left some additional and higher aspirations for the organization, “So what I am saying is what we have to do to get the next Mercerdese Clark in the room There is much more so I challenge you to expand your territory, and do more to serve our community. I want to thank the Black Nurses Association of Orlando for bridging the gap through education to get us where we are today,” says Tiffany Moore Russell.
After the keynote speech, there were nine scholarship recipients given to nursing students in 2022. Their names were Bernard Edward, Laura Florestal, Faith Gerrick, Dawn Leeds, Rose Miguel, Gabrielle Phillipps, Peter Serrano, Trinity Shaw, and Alaysis Flowers Sirns. This is a tremendous achievement for all the students, and these scholarships well help change their lives.
The closing remarks and presentations were given from Dr, Jennifer Ruth Sankey, president of CFBNA of Orlando and a new VIPP (Vision, Initiative, Purpose, Passion) awards. “I am very excited and delighted to have you here for this grand celebration that allows us to reflect on the past, live in the present, and position ourselves for beyond 40 years. This year we have accomplished a lot. We are intentional about providing health services, scholarships, and providing educational classes for the growth and development of our members. This year we received two grants, and we are using the funds to provide programs with the aim to prevent disease, preserve health, and prolong life,” says Dr, Sankey.
The organization has served over 2,000 individuals this year, and the awarding of academic scholarships is an investment in the future of nursing, who assume roles as bedside nurses, leaders, administrators, and researchers. CFBNA promotes health and wellness of its nurses, and this year the President’s walk for wellness has inspired many members to move more. The Executive board decided to recognize six members for exemplary service to the organization with the VIPP award.
The six members who received the first annual VIPP award were Constance Brown, Gail Parker, Christa Clark, Juanita Green, Dorothy Jackson, and June Robinson. This was a phenomenal afternoon and everyone who attended was inspired, and this was a special day.
“We are glad to celebrate God’s blessings and favor upon the work of our hands. We value you and thank you again for joining us at this historic and one-of-a kind event,” says President Jennifer Ruth Sankey.