Community advocate Debbie Toler wins Florida ‘Spirit of Community Award’

spirit of community award debbie toler

Debbie Toler, a community advocate whose service focuses on at-risk and disadvantaged youth, has been named a Spirit of Community Award winner by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

Toler, of Bonita Springs, is a former marketing and communications professional who has channeled her passion toward helping nonprofits serve vulnerable populations in Southwest Florida. She currently serves on the boards of trustees for three organizations:

  • Guadalupe Center, which provides high-quality, transformational education programs to students in Immokalee, helping to create a cycle of prosperity for families in the community.
  • Lee Health Foundation, which raises philanthropic dollars on behalf of Lee Health to establish, expand and enhance innovative, lifesaving and preventative programs.
  • Pace Center for Girls, a national organization that provides girls and young women across three states with an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.

Between 2016 and 2019, Toler was a board member and trustee with SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc., helping raise $8 million to support pediatric health care and education through the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. Toler has co-chaired Guadalupe Center’s last two signature galas, helping to raise a combined $2.5 million to bolster academic programs and provide endless opportunities for children and teens in Immokalee.

“Guadalupe Center and other Southwest Florida nonprofits rely on dedicated individuals who will do whatever is needed to support a cause,” said Guadalupe Center President and CEO Dawn Montecalvo, who nominated Toler for the Spirit of Community Award. “I have had the honor of working with Debbie for many years; she is invested in our mission and students’ success, and is always generous with her time, experience and connections. Her leadership is felt in how she listens, encourages and takes action. I am fortunate to call her a mentor and role model. Extraordinary women like Debbie are truly heroes in the communities they serve.”

The Spirit of Community Awards recognizes meritorious women and men who have improved the lives of women of Florida and have served as positive role models for women and girls in their community.

“The recipients of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women Spirit of Community Awards are the embodiment of dedicated community service,” said Commission Chair Sophia Eccleston. “Each day these extraordinary Floridians mentor children, advocate for women and families in need, empower and inspire our youth – in short, they show up to serve and enrich the lives of their fellow Floridians.”

Spirit of Community Awards

Since 2020, the Florida Commission on the Status of Women has honored 33 individuals with Spirit of Community Awards. This year’s recipients were honored June 28 in Orlando and include:

  • Lauren Book, Davie
  • Pam Brasch, Stuart
  • Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Jacksonville
  • Marie Etienne, North Miami Beach
  • Darnitha Gaskin Johnson, Ocala
  • Glenna Hayhoe, Naples
  • Jonnie Mae Perry, Vero Beach
  • April Putzulu, Seminole
  • Heidi Schaeffer, M.D., Boynton Beach
  • Meghan Shea, Boca Raton
  • Debbie Toler, Bonita Springs