RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen is has announced the winners of the 2018 Allen & Allen Hometown Heroes Award.
The award celebrates acts of kindness and heroism throughout Richmond, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, and surrounding areas.
"We're honored to recognize the special people in our communities who are making a difference on an individual basis," said Edward Allen, President of Allen & Allen. "For over 100 years Allen & Allen has been inspired by the people we have helped. Today, we recognize the heroes around us—those you might not hear about. These are everyday people who devote their time, energy, and talents to improving our communities."
The law firm asked the public to complete a nomination form in recognition of their favorite local hero. The award represents an annual tradition for the local law firm, having honored over 400 individuals since it was created in 2010.
This year's Allen & Allen Hometown Heroes in Richmond will be honored on Tuesday at the Richmond Flying Squirrels game.
Here are the winners from the Richmond area:
Mark Casper is a former US Marine who leads the Tech for Troops Project, an organization that provides software training, computer skills, and social support for veterans in the Richmond area. He is passionate about helping those struggling both mentally and physically as a result of their service. Mark lists his greatest motivators as the connections he makes with other veterans in the community and the positive changes he sees them experience as a result of his efforts. He was owner and operator of an IT firm when he learned that Tech for Troops needed help with their mission, and he knew he had the right set of skills to get the job done. He accepted the position of Executive Director with the organization in 2016. "The veteran brotherhood is a strong one. When Tech for Troops needed help, I knew that I was in the right place at the right time."
Duron Chavis has dedicated his work to fighting food deserts by increasing education and teaching communities how to use green spaces for food cultivation and positive community engagement. As a food justice advocate, Duron has been active in the Richmond community for the last 10 years. Through the Lewis Ginter Urban Gardener Program, Duron teaches communities how to cultivate their own produce, even if they live in an urban environment. Duron has also worked with Harding Street Urban Ag Center as the project director for the past two years, where he conducts research and develops educational programs focused on training members of the community in operations, marketing and entrepreneurship. "My career is dedicated to human service. I have found that when you transform environments, you identify tangible impacts that create shared vision and purpose for communities. My goal is to teach a new generation of leaders about how to share power and accountability to solve community problems."
Kelly Chenault wanted to be part of the solution and make a difference when others were in need. This energy prompted her to create The ALEX Project (Actively Loving and Encouraging eXcellence) in memory of Hanover Deputy Alex Moore. As organizer of The ALEX Project, Kelly pairs volunteers with elementary classrooms to support teachers and provide help and encouragement to students in Title-1 schools. This volunteer assistance is credited with boosting student test scores, improving overall behavior, and even helping one school achieve full accreditation. Kelly feels that she has a responsibility to the kids, the teachers, Alex's family, and Alex's memory. "Even with all of that, I do this because it's a labor of love. Seeing how much these children thrive with encouragement is incredibly fulfilling."
Darlene Chinn, a former military spouse, is passionate about helping veterans. She first became involved with Veterans Helping Veterans Now (VHVNOW) after meeting its founder, Henry Mack, at a grandparents support group, Kinship Connection. She is an integral part of the fundraising efforts to build a new community outreach center for VHVNOW that will provide expanded services to veterans. Through VHVNOW, she helps veterans and former military wives and children fight for benefits. Darlene also helps women suffering from PTSD and other health issues. In addition to her work with VHVNOW, Darlene is involved in community service projects for youth and adults. "If I can help, I'll do whatever I can. I want people to know you're not alone, but you have to seek out the help."
Hassan Fountain is a champion for literacy who has provided over 46,000 books to children in Richmond's underserved neighborhoods since 2016. Hassan always had books in his home growing up because his mother worked as a librarian, and he learned at a very young age that reading was an essential tool to building a better life. When Hassan discovered that nearly all of the children in Gilpin Court had no books at home, he started his first free library in the neighborhood. His organization, Fountain for Youth, has since established eleven free libraries that he and other volunteers regularly maintain. When talking about the importance of reading, Hassan said, "Literacy lasts forever—it's the skill that builds all others."
Kenneth Frenier entered the Cadet Firefighter program in Colonial Heights in 1973 and served until his retirement in 2007 as a Battalion Chief. Kenneth continues to serve the Colonial Heights community as a member of its city council and as the sole American Red Cross disaster response representative to the area while simultaneously balancing the roles of husband, father, and grandfather. When asked if he'd ever consider a leisurely retirement, he said, "Public safety is my way of life and I plan to continue to give all I can. I feel it's my duty and responsibility."
Danielle Gilbert, creator of Manifest in You Consulting, is driven to help women in the Richmond community achieve greatness. She works to organize career skills and financial literacy training, arrange mentoring, and provide the resources needed to accomplish personal and professional goals. Danielle is driven to be the role model she wants to see in the community. She attributes her motivation for countless hours of volunteer work to helping others identify their purpose and their passion, and says, "I know that anyone, no matter what you have or where you came from, can accomplish their goals if they have faith and a true belief in themselves."
Crystal Holmes sees a need in the Amelia community and works to address it. She has organized the collection of bottled water for those affected by natural disasters, the collection of office paper and school supplies for the local elementary school, and has coordinated volunteers for various labor-sharing projects within the community. Crystal says that the inspiration and motivation her work provides to others is what drives her to continue to find creative resolutions to problems. She encourages taking action and being kind. "Being proactive can make a difference, no matter how small or insignificant you think you might be. Always pay it forward."
Cindy Maynard created the Maynard Childhood Cancer Foundation after facing the earth-shattering news of her son's cancer diagnosis in 2004. When she learned that research for childhood cancer lacked funding, she set out to make a change by fundraising, serving as an advocate, and providing educational outreach. Since 2004, Cindy has expanded her support of those in treatment by providing comfort items for hospitalized children, coping books for children and families, and even by lobbying on Capitol Hill with the Alliance for Childhood Cancer. Her son is now in remission, but Cindy's efforts have not slowed down. "Seeing the overwhelming response from others who also want to help is truly motivating. If you feel called to help anyone or any cause you care about, take the leap."
Amanda Oliver is determined to make a positive impact on the next generation of young women in Central Virginia. She established the organization Brand New to provide safe spaces for girls to be vulnerable, to learn, and to be empowered. One of Brand New's annual activities, the Books Before Boys Pajama Jam, has been celebrated as the "ultimate girl power event" by attendees. By teaching young women to lift each other up instead of competing, Amanda works to create a community of supportive and encouraging female relationships. She hopes to help teens avoid poor choices, but stresses, "When life goes in a direction you don't plan, know that you can still start over and make a difference."
Fred Orelove has worked as a special education and disability instructor for over 30 years. In recent years, Fred has also become a dedicated volunteer for Greater Richmond Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) and is also an active volunteer with Circle Preschool, a program that provides trauma informed resources and a safe space for children affected by trauma. Fred also works with the Trauma Informed Community Network and is a member of the Trauma Informed Education Committee that aims to provide resources to schools at every education level. "I've always had a strong sense of social justice," said Orelove. "I don't feel like a hero by any means, but I do hope people read my story and become more attuned to the risk children with disabilities face and the trauma of children who have been abused and neglected."
Mike Thompson dedicated 50 years of service as a volunteer EMS provider with Southside Virginia Emergency Crew. Mike began his volunteer career at the age of 16 when he was still a student at Petersburg High School, and served throughout college and while raising a family. He currently works with young EMS volunteers to help ensure that the organization continues to deliver the highest-quality prehospital care. Mike was named Crewman of the Year by Southside Virginia Emergency Crew in 2017. "My greatest motivation has been the feeling that comes with belonging to a group that gives selflessly to the community. I hope that others will follow my lead in learning and serving."
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