Suntree resident and Viera businesswoman Jill Blue-Gaines won the 2017 Women of Excellence Award in the category of giving back and building up the community at a capacity Crowne Plaza Melbourne-Oceanfront gala April 18.
Women of Excellence is a program of the Melbourne Regional Chamber of East Central Florida designed to foster opportunities for women to succeed.
Blue-Gaines is the CEO of Bluewater Creative Group, which publishes Viera Voice, Senior Life, its annual Boomer Guide and the Charlie Corbeil Viera Wetlands Birding Guide and creates several major expos and events each year.
She launched the Bluewater Foundation to expand efforts to help those less fortunate and improve the community overall, especially causes that benefit children and animals. Her monthly networking group Viera Means Business helps people build their businesses and brings them together with nonprofits for mutual gain.
Blue-Gaines was nominated for the WE Community Excellence award by Patty Hurst of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health-Florida, providing services to children with emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities; autism treatment; and treatment for girls removed from human trafficking. The Devereux school is a favorite charitable mission of Blue-Gaines.
"I'm delighted just to be nominated among all these great women who are so accomplished and so passionate about helping others," Blue-Gaines said of the list that included Kim Frodge of Nana's House; Christine Hackford of Project Response; Dr. Amidita Maloon-Gibson of ATIC & MG Center for Excellence; and Rachel W. McCreary of Wicker Smith O'Hara McCoy & Ford PA.
"We get so busy with building a business and you naturally do what you can to help others. You don't stop to think about whether anyone is noticing, so this is a thrill for me, for my family, and for my team that makes it all happen."
A second major award of the evening for Personal Excellence in Their Industry went to Constance Ortiz of Green Apple School Management, which runs the 1,800-student Odyssey Charter School.
Keynote speaker was the Hon. Michelle Naberhaus, who in addition to being a Brevard County judge appointed by Gov. Rick Scott is also mom to five children. The event was an opportunity for women to share success tips with others, a major WE platform.
"Girls are raised to be perfect, while boys are raised to be brave," Naberhaus said. "Women need to be willing to risk failure if they are to truly achieve excellence in the ways they are gifted."
Blue-Gaines recounted how she started Senior Life newspaper 20 years ago this June as a one-woman effort with little more than a car, a phone, and a tiny office she rarely spent time in because she also had to sell the ads she would later design, collect monies due, get articles written and everything else in between.
"You have to be willing to give it your all to succeed in a business," Blue-Gaines said. "I am very fortunate along the way to have built a team that also is willing to jump in as needed whenever I have taken on a new event or project. So surrounding yourself with capable individuals also is key."
Hurst said she nominated Blue-Gaines because it was an acknowledgment whose time had come.
"Jill may be an unknown gem to all but those in her close circle who see all the amazing things she does, the ways she builds up others and gives so much of herself and her resources to help others without asking for the spotlight in return for it, and in fact avoiding that spotlight," Hurst said. "I'm beyond thrilled that the WE committee agreed with me that it was time to put that secret to rest."