2013 Governor’s Award Winners

Faith Based  Volunteer Group: New Life for Youth, Inc. (Richmond)

For thousands of young men and women struggling with addiction, the road to recovery leads to New Life for Youth, Inc. For more than forty years, New Life for Youth has successfully assisted broken families by providing spiritual, educational and job training for Virginians with substance abuse and other life-controlling addictions. Thousands of students have made significant life changes because of New Life for Youth -- with a ripple-effect impacting tens of thousands of additional family members, friends, neighbors and associates. The organization has never turned away anyone regardless of their ability to pay with the ministry absorbing millions of dollars of expenses and covering those costs through community fundraising and support programs. While the ministry has as its primary focus on issues relating to addiction, it has also used its structure and philosophy to address other community needs -- including feeding the hungry, day care and camp programs for children in difficult living situations, providing transitional housing for men and women integrating back into society, responding to community disasters, and providing toys to children in need for Christmas. New Life for Youth has developed a network of supporters and service providers, as well as public and private partners, to assist in the organization's mission. As this ministry begins its fifth decade, a new generation of volunteers are ready to continue the work of saving and transforming lives, moving people from dependence to independence, and using faith as the basis of serving their fellow man.

Volunteer Family: Shak and Robin Hill (Centreville)

There's a baby crib permanently set up in Shak and Robin Hill's master bedroom despite the fact they have no babies in the house of their own. This crib is a symbol of the family's dedication to serving others. Since 1997, the Hill’s have been foster parents to 46 children through the Fairfax County's Department of Social Services. Along with their six children, the Hill's regularly welcome one foster child into their home at a time and, occasionally, as many as three to keep families together. Mrs. Hill works closely with Social Services to improve the placement process of the foster child and continues to work with social workers and the new permanent families during the transition period. Not only do the Hills serve as foster parents, but they also volunteer throughout the community in a wide variety of activities and organizations. Mr. Hill serves with various organizations, including the Family and Children’s Trust Fund of Virginia (FACT), Congressman Wolf's Service Academy Advisory Board, and as a youth soccer coach and referee. Mr. Hill has been recognized for his leadership and elected by his fellow trustees as vice chairman of FACT, allowing him to directly impact the lives of domestic violence survivors in the Commonwealth. Mrs. Hill volunteers as a soccer coordinator, with Families in Support of Home Education (FISHE), and instructs an after-school Lego Club. Their son, Jake, is a medic and volunteers at Station 416 where, in 2010 and 2011, he volunteered more than 1,000 hours. Jake has even delivered two babies -- the first when he was just 16 years old! For the Hill family, serving their community is about more than giving back and being good citizens -- its about love and caring. With each foster child, they give their whole hearts knowing that, ultimately, the children will, themselves, learn to love and learn to trust others.

Community Organization: Henrico County Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (Henrico CASA) (Henrico)

Since 1994, more than 400 dedicated volunteers have been a voice for nearly 2,000 abused and neglected children through Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Currently, 136 community volunteers receive ongoing training and commit to an average of 100 hours per year working on behalf of children in need. Due to an overstressed child welfare system, there is a real need for these volunteers who work one-on-one with each individual child to show them the compassion they deserve. CASA volunteers provide judges with complete case histories, documented factual findings, recommendations for family stabilization services, and plans for ensuring safe and permanent homes. Volunteers, often working on more than one case at a time for up to a year, have no other mandate than to protect the child, and often place themselves in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and sometimes hostile environments in order to serve the children. The CASA Board of Directors work to build community support and educate the general public about the needs of abused and neglected children. They are involved in several successful fundraising events, including the annual CASA Superhero Run and the annual Art in Action Event. The results of the program speak for themselves. Children in CASA spend less time in foster care, are less likely to suffer from repeat abuse and neglect, and are more likely to receive services mandated by the court, stay in school, and be placed in a safe, permanent home.

Corporation: MeadWestvaco (Richmond)

At MWV, service begins at the highest levels of leadership and filters throughout the company including the work of the MeadWestvaco Foundation. Employees are engaged in every type of philanthropic engagement – including broad service volunteering and financial support for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Science Museum of Virginia, United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg, YMCA, ChildSavers and many more. Since the relocation of their international headquarters to Richmond in 2006, MWV has given more than $11.8 million to organizations in the Commonwealth and matched more than $190,000 to organizations where employees gave their money or time. Employees have volunteered more than 125,000 hours to nonprofit organizations, and more than $475,000 in volunteer recognition grants have been given to organizations in Virginia where employees have volunteered. One great example of this cooperation is MWV’s involvement with the Special Olympics of Virginia Summer Games where more than 120 employees, family members and friends ran the track and field events for the athletes. MWV volunteers also teach the Junior Achievement curriculum in every classroom at Elizabeth Redd Elementary School in the City of Richmond. MWV’s Richmond Women's Network recently partnered with the Women’s Leadership Initiative of the United Way of Greater Richmond with volunteers participating in the Bright Beginnings school shopping event and the Christmas Shoebox program. Members of the company's African-American Network, interns/co-ops and employees have also worked with local nonprofits like Boaz & Ruth and volunteered their time at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Middle School. Even the construction of MWV’s new headquarters, built five years ago, generated more than $475,000 through a special community fund that was distributed to 13 local nonprofits. The company's involvement also expands outside the Richmond community to Covington where one of its plants is located. There, employees have been volunteering in that community since the plant opened in 1897 -- serving at the local fire department, with youth sports teams, local schools, and animal shelters. To quote Virginia Senator Mark Warner, "Corporate citizens like MeadWestvaco and its employees’ commitment to service is what makes our Commonwealth a better place to live, work and grow.”

Youth Volunteer: Niasia Mea Ellis (Richmond)

Although she's only 16 years old, Niasia Ellis has already made significant contributions to the lives of Virginia's citizens. She has volunteered regularly for countless hours to the Chickahominy YMCA Leader’s Club, Black Achievers Club, Young Philanthropist, Partnership for the Future, the East End Youth Basketball League, and is currently serving as the reigning Miss Virginia Teen Essence 2012. While serving as Miss Virginia Teen Essence, Miss Ellis has worked to inform the community about how to live an active lifestyle with asthma by partnering with several organizations such as the Virginia Asthma Coalition, Virginia Lung Association and Bon Secours Hospital. She has appeared on WTVR-CBS 6 Virginia This Morning show during Asthma Awareness Month, as well as represented her fellow students at a Henrico County School Board meeting to discuss a ban on smoking on school property. Recently, Miss Ellis was accepted into the Richmond Youth Peace Project Teen Training Team where she participated in conflict resolution workshops for teen trainers and is now qualified to help facilitate Conflict Resolution Workshops for youth around the city. Even with all of this, she has continued to be active at Saint Paul’s Baptist Church where she is a member of the choir, mime ministry and dance ministry. And when many children were taking a break over the summer, Miss Ellis held a book drive on two occasions handing out books to school-aged children to encourage summer reading. She has already been recognized for her commitment to serve by Open High School for the Most Community Service Hours, Henrico Citizen Newspaper, and Style Weekly’s 16 under 16. Miss Ellis has truly found a balance between schoolwork and volunteerism -- exuding a passion for people and becoming a catalyst for change in her community.

Small Business: Ferber’s Tire and Auto Service (Ashland)

The family-owned Ferber’s Tire and Auto Service is one small business who doesn't think small when it comes to serving its community. When Pearson's Corner Elementary School needed supplies not covered by the school budget, Ferber's stepped in to support the community's Fall Festival and raised enough funds to outfit nearly 100 percent of their classrooms with current technology. When a family being helped by the Christmas Mother Program needed car repairs, Ferber’s was there to help them out at no cost. Started in 1982 by Jim Armstrong and now owned by his nephew Rob Ferber, Ferber’s provides ongoing financial support to various local organizations by sponsoring them throughout the year. Despite the struggling economy affecting so many small businesses, Ferber’s has maintained its commitment to support the organizations who would have limited resources to provide the programs they offer for so many children and families. This past year, Ferber’s was also honored as the recipient of Hanover’s 2012 Commitment to Community Award recognizing them as a business that has provided outstanding service to the community. They stand as an example to other businesses -- both big and small -- as an impactful partner in sustaining a vital community.

Adult Volunteer: Stephen J. Craven (Paeonian Springs)

As an Angel Flight pilot and chairman of the board of directors for Angel Flight Virginia, Angle Flight Mid-Atlantic, and Air Charity Network, Stephen (Steve) J. Craven has flown more than 200 Angel Flights since 1996. This is even more remarkable because he has flown these flights in his own airplane, a Piper Saratoga, paying for all costs -- including fuel, maintenance and repair and landing fees. Most of these flights have been for medical reasons, transporting patients and wounded veterans for specialized treatment. Mr. Craven also flies missions related to natural disasters, the most recent being a photo reconnaissance mission at the request of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assess damage from Hurricane Sandy. As board chairman of the state and regional Angel Flight nonprofit charities, Mr. Craven also manages 141 volunteer pilots in Virginia and some 500 pilots from surrounding states. Passionate about safety, not only does he serve as the director of safety, he spent months of volunteer time working to install the highest, most stringent pilot standards of any volunteer pilot group in existence. He also spearheaded a drive to persuade the FAA to allow pilots to receive fuel reimbursement under a special exemption. Additionally, he is the director and chief pilot of Angel Flight’s partner charity, the Homeland Security Emergency Air Transportation System. Mr. Craven's dedication to service and the ripple effect of creating a way for others to do the same has given countless Virginians the most precious thing of all -- the gift of life.

Senior Volunteer: James N. Carter, Jr. (Irvington)

Dubbed a local Don Quixote by his nominator, James (aka Jimmie) Carter has proven that one person can make a difference despite incredible odds. A near-lifelong resident of the Northern Neck, Mr. Carter has proven to be a valuable advocate for a variety of causes throughout the years -- often volunteering 20-40 hours per week in the community. His biggest passion has proven to be improving and providing health care to rural, underserved communities (especially aging seniors) of Virginia's Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. In 2012, the tiny community of Tangier Island saw the rewards of five years of effort from Mr. Carter with the opening of the $1.7 million state-of-the-art David B. Nichols Health Center. He also established an endowment to ensure that Tangier residents would have quality healthcare for years to come. During this same period of time, Mr. Carter also tirelessly worked to strengthen agency governance and regain public confidence during some challenging years. He also played a key role in negotiations to save Rappahannock General Hospital and helped to establish a Virginia State Park in the region. Recently, Mr. Carter has become a part of Visions, a nonprofit dedicated to economic development and improving quality of life in the Northern Neck. Working with the Visions board, he seeks to educate community leaders to help them understand the issues facing the struggling rural region and, ultimately, come together to find effective solutions. Additionally, Mr. Carter serves as an appointee to two statewide commissions promoting health services and providing input to Congress serving on Congressman Wittman’s Health Advisory Council. Respected for his selfless, energetic enthusiasm, he is always willing to fight the "unbeatable foe," with the residents of Northern Neck being the ultimate winners.

Educational Institution: Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (Lexington)

In just six short years, the number of meals served each month by the Campus Kitchens Project at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) has skyrocketed from 200 to more than 2,000. Using an innovative model for hunger relief, food is utilized that would otherwise go to waste to prepare balanced meals for low-income community members in Rockbridge County. Additionally, CKWL has developed an organic garden that is used not only to secure produce for the kitchen’s operation, but also as a hands-on classroom for nutrition education. Despite being, by far, the most rural of the Campus Kitchens around the country, CKWL has been able to coordinate more than 200 students and 100 community members to volunteer each year. In 2012, CKWL served its 100,000th meal in the community, as well as saw the renovation of a permanent kitchen space -- complete with walk-in coolers and brand-new industrial appliances. CKWL also increased its Weekend Backpack Program in 2012 to include all seven area elementary schools. The program serves students who receive free or reduced lunch at school by providing them with backpacks filled with non-perishable foods to take home for the weekends. In return, the student volunteers have received valuable life lessons. Not only do they receive remarkable leadership skills, but they are becoming more engaged in their community, learning how to initiate nutrition programs, and becoming promoters of nutrition and hunger issues.

Published on Monday, March 24, 2014

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