WINTER HAVEN, Fla.—Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis awarded $1,000 bonus checks to all Hope Navigators through the Hope Florida Fund, with $2,500 bonus checks going to six Navigators who were recognized for their outstanding performance helping people in need. Hope Navigators unite communities from the non-profit to faith-based entities to help people identify and serve immediate needs while setting and accomplishing long-term goals.


“Hope Navigators unite good people in need of help with good people in the community who are willing to help,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Thanks to the Hope Florida program, Hope Navigators are in a unique position to make the connection between Floridians in need and local charities, non-profits, faith-based institutions, and private sector partners ready and willing to assist. Hope Navigators are the reason Hope Florida has been extremely successful—it was an honor to award them much deserved bonuses.”


“First Lady Casey DeSantis often refers to the Hope Navigators as the secret sauce of the program and she is correct,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris. “They are making such a difference in the lives of the individuals seeking help through the program by activating local resources, but also helping participants dream bigger dreams for their future. It was so inspiring to watch the First Lady celebrate and reward the hard work of the Navigators at today’s meeting.”


First Lady Casey DeSantis also presented six peer-nominated Hope Navigators with $2,500 checks for their dedication to serving Floridians, including;


Jacqueline Walker Bell

Known to everyone as “Miss Jackie,” Jacqueline has been a part of Hope Florida since the program began. Miss Jackie is always willing to help and be a team player. Miss Jackie maintains an upright spirit and shows her participants service through her smile and connection. She is never too busy to take on a new employee, allowing them to shadow her day-to-day work. Jackie not only has the highest number of face-to-face participants each month, but she also has many successful Hope Florida graduates. One graduate, Justin, credits Miss Jackie for helping him go from homelessness to a job in residential construction.


Aaron Pelone

Aaron, a Hope Navigator at the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, helped nearly 100 veterans access services to clear trees and debris from their property during Hurricane Idalia. Aaron quickly develops trust and rapport with participants, allowing them to connect and share deep personal concerns and goals. Recently, Aaron assisted a United States Air Force veteran and Hope Florida participant who had been struggling with mental health issues. He connected the participant to the Fort Freedom program, where he received timely and effective treatment, leading to a remarkable turnaround. The participant is now thriving because of the treatment, finding a new purpose in helping other veterans with Aaron’s crucial support.


Sandra Pinkey

In her 43 years with the Department of Juvenile Justice, Sandra has worn many hats. From Detention to Probation, she has experienced it all. Her willingness to take on the role of a Hope Navigator, in addition to her regular duties, has allowed her to bring all her unique expertise to serving families on the very front end, often before they get involved with juvenile justice. There have been countless examples of times when Sandra’s efforts have made a meaningful difference for our Hope Florida participants. She creates a safe haven for each parent to share their stories without fear of judgment or inadequacy. Sandra’s focus on finding solutions and her relentless effort until the goal is achieved is truly commendable.


Kirsten Lovett

Kirsten has been with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities since 2010 and currently works as a Hope Navigator. Kirsten recently assisted a mother and daughter Hope Florida participant who was in need of food by connecting them with support from City Church and others in the community. Kirsten continues to work with the family to also help address their transportation-related barriers.


Yolanda Rowling

Yolanda has been a part of the Hope Florida team since June 2023. She has a strong background in serving people with developmental disabilities and is known for her cheerful and peaceful demeanor. Yolanda has been working with a young Hope Florida participant with an intellectual disability. She helped them access therapy, connect with a local equestrian ranch for additional support, and encouraged their entrepreneurial spirit. With rapid personal improvement, the participant now sells handmade jewelry at a local market. Yolanda has developed a close bond with this individual and still communicates regularly.


Dawn Murray

Dawn holds the position of Director of Partnerships and Prevention at the Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency within the Department of Children and Families. Dawn began working at the Department in June 1994 as a counselor in the Foster Care Program. She has gained experience in various programs within the Department, including Family Safety, Budget, Contracts, and Economic Self-Sufficiency. Drawing from her background in Family Safety and Economic Self-Sufficiency, Dawn played a key role in creating and implementing the pilot that developed into Hope Florida—A Pathway to Prosperity.


About Hope Florida

Through implementation at multiple state agencies, Hope Florida guides Floridians on an individualized path to prosperity and economic self-sufficiency by focusing on community collaboration between the private sector, faith-based communities, nonprofits, and government entities to break down traditional community silos, maximize support, and uncover new opportunities.


Floridians who are in need of support can connect with Hope Florida by visiting or calling the Hope Line (850-300-HOPE).





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