Current Advocate-in-Residence: Valencia Gunder

Valencia Gunder or as most recognize her, “Vee”, is an enthusiastic, self-motivated and driven community leader who has been branded as the “Modern Day Fannie Lou Hamer”. A Miami native, Valencia is the Founder/Co-Director of the Smile Trust Inc., formerly known as Make the Homeless Smile Miami/Atlanta, Co-Founder of The Black Collective, and Campaign manager at Dignity Florida.

Valencia assists many community-based organizations with a variety of strategies around Florida to ensure that the community feels the impact in a positive way. Though she is not an environmentalist, Valencia has lead conversations around climate awareness in many communities on topics including sea-level rise, emergency preparedness, and climate gentrification, she is a part of the Steering Committee for Greater Miami, 100 Resilient Cities and has spoken around the country on her work around Climate Gentrification. She is the founder of the Community Emergency Outreach Center that assisted over 23,000 residents after Hurricane Irma.

After Hurricane Dorian, Valencia and the Smile Team expanded their emergency response outreach to the global south with their “One Bahamas” programs, providing over 3 tons of supplies to the islands of Bahamas in less than a week, building coalition with local Bahamian Orgs and assisting Bahamians that were seeking refuge in South Florida. After experiencing the tragedy of losing her goddaughter Jada Page to gun violence, Valencia worked through her grief and pulled her community together to fight against the status quo, receiving the Soros Justice Fellowship, Valencia created a Rapid Response toolkit “LIFT” to help decrease Police and inter community violence in Miami. Valencia, who is a returning citizen, was a leader on passing Amendment 4 in Florida which restored the right to vote to 1.4 million Floridians and works alongside over 80 Formerly incarcerated Black Women (Dignity Florida) to change legislation to assist with de-carcerating women in the State of Florida. Valencia has been a faithful advocate fighting alongside the residents of her community to ensure they receive fair and just treatment.