COVID-19 has put a stop to most events and gatherings in South Florida. However, there are several businesses and organizations that are moving forward by doing business as normal virtually. Aqua Foundation for Women held its 8th annual Ally Awards online for free via Zoom. The event took place on June 25.

“This year we honored three Miami Dade County Commissioners who were at the forefront of approving the first-ever LGBTQ Advisory Board at the county level,” said Grace C. Lopez, CEO of Aqua Foundation. “These commissioners like many others were champions for the fight for equality.”   

In the beginning, Aqua was the brainchild of Alicia Apfel who believed that South Florida deserved an organization for and by LBT women. Apfel gathered local lesbian leaders to create the Women’s Fund in 2004. Amongst her recruits were Cindy Brown, Vivian La Madrid, Elizabeth Schwartz, Robin Schwartz and Martha Sternberg as the original board members.  

Three years later, the organization changed its name to Aqua Foundation for Women. Throughout the years Aqua has provided programming that supports an array of issues that are important to LBT women in South Florida. Their sole mission is to serve and support the lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community in South Florida through grants, scholarships, and initiatives. 

Last year, Aqua honored Pauline Green, Roger Thompson, and Jim Tyrrell. This year Aqua is honoring Commissioner for District 5 Eileen Higgins. She has a proven track record of assisting residents and local organizations tackle the pressing issues facing our community. During her time as County Commissioner, Higgins has been a strong advocate for local and small businesses alike. Some of the issues that she has advocated for transpiration solutions, championed affordable housing, assisted Flagler St. businesses that were suffering through endless construction recovery, in addition to defending our environment and the ever-growing green space. Elected June 19, 2018, she represents parts of Miami Beach, downtown, and Brickell as well as Coral Way neighborhoods like the Roads, Silver Bluff, and Shenandoah-alongside Little Havana and West Flagler to the north. 

Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson from District 3 is another award recipient. 

Edmonson was elected to serve to a two–year term as Chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission on December 4, 2018. Her territory includes Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown, the Upper East Side, Edgewater, Buena Vista, Wynwood, San Marco Island, and Watson Island. 

“It is an honor to be recognized for my work. Since joining the Miami-Dade County Commission, I have built a solid record of support for the LGBTQ agenda and have sponsored several pieces of legislation for the cause. I was pleased to share this award with my colleagues, Commissioners Jordan and Higgins. My colleagues and I have fought long and hard against discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression,” Edmonson said. “My support of the LGBTQ community has been steadfast because I take pride in the diverse and inclusive community we have here in Miami-Dade County. Everyone deserves equal rights, representation and recognition, no matter how they identify.”

Lastly, Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan from District 1 is the third recipient of the Ally Awards.  Jordan was born in New York, but raised in South Miami Dade, she represents cities like Opa-Locka and Miami Gardens, in addition to the unincorporated communities that include California Club, Ives Estates and Country Club Lakes. Throughout her role, she has been a leader in the areas of affordable housing, small business development, children and senior programs, and restoration of the historic Opa-Locka City Hall.

In October of 2019, Miami-Dade County created its first LGBTQ Advisory Board and the aforementioned commissioners along with many others helped to make this a reality. 

“It’s important to have prominent organizations that represent our residents and advocate for them. Aqua supports the LGBTQ community with grants, scholarships, and other financial initiatives that support and enrich this community. They play a vital role in keeping the spotlight bright and focused on the many issues faced by the LGBTQ community, especially women,” Edmondson said. “While elected officials come and go, organizations like Aqua are much-needed anchors to ensure that we continue the work to address these issues and celebrate the LGBTQ community.”

For more information on how you can donate or catch up with Aqua, visit their website at