The Coastal Star

Pay it Forward: AVDA fundraiser to focus on MeToo with address from founder

Co-chairs Anne Vegso and Jeannette DeOrchis both have pins recognizing their volunteer work on behalf of abuse victims. Photo provided

By Amy Woods

Two leaders of South County’s philanthropic community have stepped up to co-chair this year’s Heart of a Woman Luncheon in Boca Raton.

Anne Vegso and Jeannette DeOrchis will lead the annual fundraiser for Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, or AVDA. Both have received the Woman Volunteer of the Year Award — one of the most competitive awards of the season — from the Junior League of Boca Raton for their work on behalf of the Delray Beach nonprofit.

“It is going to be amazing,” said Vegso, who won the award in 2005. “We have a great group of women on our committee, No. 1, and it is a fabulous organization, No. 2. Jeannette and I both feel very strongly about our mission and that we really are making a difference in the lives of these victims.”

AVDA promotes violence-free relationships by offering programs and services that help women and children in harm’s way. Proceeds will benefit its 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency shelter, transitional-housing facility and educational outreach efforts in Palm Beach County schools.

“The money goes straight to where it needs to be,” said DeOrchis, who was named Woman Volunteer of the Year in 2018. “It’s really a hand up instead of a handout.”

She should know. From age 4 to age 12, she was abused by her father and, as a young adult, married a husband she feared was going to kill her.

“I wondered if I would make it out of childhood alive. I wondered whether I would make it out of my marriage alive," DeOrchis said of her first marriage. I decided that for the rest of my life, I would help these poor women and children so that they would no longer have to feel that way.”

She joined AVDA’s board in 2010.

“It gives me great peace and happiness to know that I’m helping women and children who are in even more desperate circumstances than I was,” DeOrchis said. “So many women are understanding that they don’t have to take it anymore.”

Keynote speaker is Tarana Burke, founder of the MeToo movement, who will share the story behind its genesis. Recognition will go out to survivor and activist Julie Weil, Palm Beach County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center, and Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services.

“We talk about the wonderful triumphs we have with the shelter and how many people we’re saving,” DeOrchis said. “It’s a real atmosphere of hope."

If You Go

What: Heart of a Woman Luncheon

When: 10:30 a.m. Feb. 28

Where: Royal Palm Yacht Club, 2425 W. Maya Palm Drive, Boca Raton

Cost: $175

Info: Call 265-3797, ext. 100 or visit

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