Leading Lights of NRV honors volunteerism
Leaders from New River Valley’s nonprofits and government-service institutions honored 53 local volunteers Thursday night.
All were nominated for the Leading Lights NRV volunteer award. Five winners were chosen from that field.
The five included Gerard “Jerry” Higgins, Radford; Rebecca Rees, Blacksburg; and Lindsay West, Blacksburg — all of whom won a community award. The collegiate award went to Analise Adams, Blacksburg, and the youth award went to Anne Marie Keppel-Benson, Blacksburg.
Higgins’ multi-decade-long leadership role as president with the Radford/Fairlawn Daily Bread and Meals On Wheels programs has been critical to their success. Meals On Wheels would have ceased to exist in the early 2000s had his leadership not taken the helm and helped it flourish into the program it is today. Higgins started a backpack program with the local Kiwanis chapter. Each week they fill backpacks with healthy snacks for our 40 in-need preschoolers to take home each weekend. His motto is “Helping others isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the only thing to do.”
Rees has distinguished herself with her critical leadership to the “To Our House” project and has served as the chairperson for that steering committee. Her leadership called attention to a community need for shelter for homeless men. She has provided assistance with program development, implementation and direct service to the “To Our House” project for more than three years, providing the foundation necessary for the success of this grass-roots effort that now involves 30 local churches and has assisted more than 30 homeless men during the first two seasons of operation.
West began volunteering for community groups when she moved to Blacksburg in 1962 and has been a dedicated volunteer to many NRV organizations. She was the founding chairwoman of the Lyric Council and founding president of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley. West has been chairwoman of the Lyric Council for six, non-consecutive terms. She has also been at the helm of other NRV service agencies, including the Montgomery County Board of Social Services, New River Community Action, New River Valley Workshop and YMCA of Virginia Tech.
Adams leads her peers in service projects locally and abroad with the SERVE living/learning community program at Virginia Tech. Adams has made a significant impact on SERVE as she has mentored more students and led more service projects than anyone else, inspiring scores of other students to follow their own passions and seek social change within their communities. Not satisfied with her tremendous work in this area, she is in her seventh year of serving as a volunteer leader with the YoungLife program in Floyd and in her third year of volunteering with the RAFT Crisis Hotline at New River Community Services.
Keppel-Benson is known for her gift of inspiring others to join her as she engages in her “responsibility” to give to others and work for justice in the world. She initiated a group at Blacksburg High School called the “Goodness Gorillas” which has since morphed into the most popular official club called “Random Acts of Kindness” that has more than 50 members. Through this organization, she has helped organize more than 40 specific projects that have affected others both locally and globally. She also logs volunteer time as president of the Blacksburg High School Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, president of the National Honor Society and captain of the BHS cross-country and track team.
Four years ago, area nonprofit organizations teamed up with the Virginia Tech German Club Alumni Foundation to create the Leading Lights NRV recognition program to recognize and award NRV volunteers from all sectors who make community-changing impacts and serve as models to inspire others. One thousand dollars is donated on behalf of each award winner to the NRV charity of their choice.
Guest speakers for the event were John Dooley, Zetta Nicely and Fran Rooker.
Winners are selected based on their strong community involvement, proven leadership, demonstrated lifestyle of dedicated, continuous, long-term involvement to our community and creativity in initiating and implementing projects that lead to a better quality of life.
Other nominees for 2012 honored at the event were:
Community: Dawn Barnes, Dr. Logan Brooke, Gary Brumfield, Joseph Chase, Kathryn “Kate” Delaney, Sharon Duncan, Mike Dunn, B.J. Flack, Deena Flinchum, Elizabeth Foster, Henry Ingram II, Thora Jo Jervey (in memoriam), Bob Job, Arlean Lambert, Frank Lau, Julie Ann Ligon, Angela Little, Mary Lough, Jo Martin, Donna Morgan, Dale Mull, Dale Nottingham, Steve Pond, Minnis Ridenour, L. David Roper, Mike Rozenzwig, Sharon Scott, Pat A. Shelor, Paul Smeal, Brenda Springer, Sally Anna Stapleton, Karisha Summers, Jo Ellen Taylor, B’easy Thompson and Dorothy Williams. Collegiate and Youth: Jason Forsyth, Laura Froggart, Kyle Gardiner, Justin Graves, Jessie Gunter, Kristin Haas, Danny Hazelwood, James T. Lee, Nicholas Mason, Alexandra Miley, Joel McCormick-Goodhart, Emily Wilkinson and Timothy Worles.
– The Burgs