Putzulu is one of 11 women honored by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women—and
the only Tampa Bay resident.
(PINELLAS COUNTY, FL) – The Board and executive leadership of the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County (JWB) are proud to announce that The Florida Commission on the Status of Women (the Commission) honored JWB Director of Strategic Communications April Putzulu with its Spirit of Community Award during a special ceremony in Orlando on June 28, 2023.
Eleven women across the state of Florida were recognized, but Putzulu is the only Tampa Bay honoree.
The Commission is a nonpartisan board, statutorily created in 1991, with a mandate to study and make recommendations to the Governor, Cabinet, and Legislature on issues affecting women. The Commission’s mission is to raise awareness of and celebrate the contributions and successes of women and girls. The Spirit of Community Awards recognize 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.
According to the Commission, “The award honors the hometown heroes who go above and beyond to serve their communities, and the recipients are the embodiment of dedicated community service. Each day these extraordinary Floridians mentor children, advocate for women and families in need, empower and inspire our youth – in short, they show up and serve to and enrich the lives of their fellow Floridians.”
JWB CEO Beth Houghton said, “April Putzulu has dedicated her life to service. While the world’s problems are indeed great, her desire to improve the lives of others is far greater. She does not see the obstacles that overwhelm most but eyes opportunities to improve the lives of others.
She was once described to me by a peer as ‘someone whose heart makes it happen.’ I couldn’t agree more. We’re proud to have April at JWB—and to celebrate this great honor with her.”
The Commission’s award shines a spotlight on Putzulu’s 36 years of service to Florida’s children and families and her passion for developing creative prevention programs and campaigns—many of which remain in existence today.
Putzulu’s career has centered on children and youth; first as a probation officer with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and later with Operation PAR leading substance prevention programs, which resulted in two National Safe & Drug Free Schools designations. Next, motivated by her belief that all children should have opportunities, April oversaw the strategic work of DJJ Boards and Councils that led to new Teen Court programs and the first PACE Centers for Girls in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
Moving from delinquency to child welfare, April has also served as a connector of people and ideas. She was instrumental in forging a relationship with the Tampa Bay Rays, Rays pitcher James Shields, and his wife Ryane to form the Big Game James Club, giving hundreds of foster children the opportunity to attend major league baseball games each year.
Passionate about finding forever homes for foster children, she led efforts to create the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco, and partnered with the media on feature stories, including the viral piece by Tampa Bay Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lane DeGregory about 16-year-old Davion who wanted “someone, anyone” to adopt him.
As JWB’s Director of Strategic Communications, Putzulu continues to change the lives of children and families in Pinellas County. Over the last decade she has significantly expanded JWB’s major public education and awareness campaigns. She created the Sleep Baby Safely campaign aimed at protecting babies from sleep-related suffocation. The campaign has reduced the number of infant deaths in Pinellas County by half, was recently recognized as a best practice, and, as of 2023, is being replicated statewide.
Putzulu is currently leading a new birth-to-three campaign, Turbo Babies, fueled by JWB to support parents and caregivers as their child’s first and best teachers. Turbo Babies represents the rapid pace at which children birth to three develop and grow and shares everyday activities caregivers can use to encourage early connections and nurture a baby’s drive to learn.
Learn more about how JWB has been putting Pinellas County children first for more than 75 years at https://www.jwbpinellas.org/about/
The awards ceremony is available for viewing at https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/6-28-23-commission-on-the-status-of-womens-spirit-of-community-awards-ceremony/
For 75 years, the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County (JWB) has been investing in the futures of children to strengthen our community. Governed by an 11-member Board and driven by data, JWB ensures children are ready to learn, ready to succeed, and ready to thrive in homes, schools, and neighborhoods that are healthy and safe. In FY21, JWB and our partners served more than 58,000 children and families through 85 programs with 55 nonprofit agencies. Plus, collective efforts to address childhood hunger, grade-level reading, and preventable child deaths served thousands more. Learn more: www.jwbpinellas.org