Jeannette DeOrchis has spent the last eight years volunteering to help women and their children get out of and overcome abusive relationships, a situation she was once in.
She spends her free time helping AVDA, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, Inc. by serving as vice chair of AVDA’s board, sponsoring and chairing their annual luncheon and sharing her story of overcoming an abusive relationship.
She was recognized for her work during the 31st annual Junior League of Boca Raton’s 2018 Woman Volunteer of the Year. DeOrchis edged out 49 other women who were nominated by nonprofits across Palm Beach County for their work as volunteers.
“I am still entirely amazed and grateful,” she said of the award. “I am just overwhelmed. I was just happy to be nominated. I had no thoughts of winning the top award.”
She said when she heard her name called, she was stunned.
“I couldn’t get up,” she said. “Then, I started to cry.”
When she finally made her way to the stage, she said the whole room fell silent and she was able to share some words about why she became a volunteer with AVDA.
“I hope none of you have to experience the feeling that I did of being hunted down, like an animal, with your little daughter in tow,” she said.
She said her husband at the time became addictive, abusive, adulterous and an alcoholic. When she filed for divorce, he became furious and wanted to hurt or kill her. She said he relented after two years of 911 calls and restraining orders.
“It is because of that experience that I resolved for the rest of my life to work and help every woman and child that comes to our 150 bed shelter, might I add, that is always filled, to help them so they don’t have to feel that way ever again,” she said. “I will do that until my last breath on this earth.”
She said her goal is to help women and children seeking refuge at AVDA’s shelter to live without fear and to achieve a productive, independent, happy life just like she has done.
When she isn’t volunteering her time to AVDA, she works as a financial advisor and is a certified financial planner. She works as a senior vice president and wealth manager.
She also donates her time to other nonprofits like the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation and Women of Tomorrow where she shares her story to high school girls attending lower income schools.
One of the most meaningful moments came from one of those talks. At the end of the year, the girls had to write which speaker meant the most to them. One girl picked DeOrchis and said she had planned on killing herself that day, until she heard DeOrchis speak about overcoming obstacles. She said her words helped her get through a tough time and persevere.
“It isn’t just writing a check,” she said of her volunteer work. “It’s a lot of hands on work.”
Joan Weidenfeld was also honored during the luncheon with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in advocating for people with disabilities.
Weidenfeld is a long-time board member of the Boca Raton Women’s Club, which is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. A board member of the deHoernle Alzheimer’s Pavilion and The Achievement Center for Children and Families, she was the Public Relations Chairperson for the construction of Sugar Sand Science Playground and was President of Friends of Boca Museum. She has been a member of the City of Boca Raton Beautification Committee for 25 years.
“Every year we are inspired by the accomplishments and commitment of the nominees. Jeannette and her fellow nominees are once again outstanding examples of selflessness in our community.” said Nikki Stelzer, 2018 Woman Volunteer of the Year Chair.
AVDA is holding its Annual Race for Hope on Jan. 12 from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. at John Prince Park in Lake Worth.