Hometown Heroes 2017
Allen & Allen was founded on service and action. For more than 100 years, our attorneys and staff have been inspired by those in the community who make Virginia a great place to live and work. Now in its eighth year, the Allen & Allen Hometown Heroes award recognizes Virginians who are responsible for generating positive change in the community or in the lives of others.
During April and May, the Firm received hundreds of nominations highlighting inspiring citizens from across the Commonwealth. After careful consideration, we've selected twenty-five 2017 Allen & Allen Hometown Heroes.
We invite you to read the inspiring stories of this year’s winners and join us in celebrating them at our upcoming events in Richmond and Charlottesville.
2017 Award Winners:
Hometown Heroes Stories
Travis Bell is the director of child care and leader of the praise dance ministry at New Bridge Baptist Church. As an instrumental part of the Highland Springs community, Travis serves as mentor and coach for multiple sports teams, including the Glen Lea Lions football team and the East End Youth Basketball organization. Travis is also part of the Inspire Outreach program that provides meals to those in need.
Fonda Bell has been a tireless advocate for homeless animals in Nelson County, Virginia for years. She has fostered hundreds of dogs and secured safe and permanent homes for them. She is also a board member of Almost Home Pet Adoption Center. As a representative of the shelter, she has worked with Nelson County's Animal Control Department to make sure every adoptable dog finds a home.
Jim Darin has a love of sports and is active in youth and church programs in the Charlottesville community. For more than 25 years, he has volunteered his time as a coach for several local teams and sports leagues, including for Monticello High School. During the summer, he travels to the Dominican Republic where he serves as a coach and language tutor for a baseball camp.
Jenny Derr helps facilitate a local support group for those who have loved ones suffering from the disease of substance use disorders. After losing her son to the disease of substance use disorder in 2016, Jenny began to share her son's story in hopes that other families could be spared the pain of losing a child to this disease. Her work includes speaking engagements at schools to educate parents and teens on the dangers of substance use.
Vincent Ellis White is a motivational speaker, activist, and author. He takes an active role in the educational, social, and emotional development of youth in the Richmond community. His passion for addressing fatherlessness and empowering others led him to write his memoir "Finding Chris, My Father", which has gained national recognition for its impact and has also been adapted into a stage play. He is dedicated to helping others achieve in the wake of adversity.
Brandon Farbstein, a 17 year old from Glen Allen, is dedicated to helping others expand perspectives and defy limits through motivational speaking. Diagnosed with a rare form of dwarfism at age two, he has an incredible perspective on the world. Brandon has spent over 50 hours speaking to nonprofit organizations, professional business groups, youth, and senior citizens about the beauty of embracing those who are different, thriving in spite of negative circumstances, and the immense power of one person.
Mike Lee created MAKING MEN, an after school program that focuses on character building, education and etiquette training for boys at Bellevue Elementary. He also volunteers with Big Brothers as a mentor for underprivileged children in Richmond City Schools. Blind since the age of 24, Mike uses this experience to teach youth how to face adversity and fulfill their potential.
Debbie Leidheiser is the Senior Advocate in Chesterfield where she provides information and resources to Chesterfield’s senior citizens, their family members, and caregivers. During her tenure, Debbie has established several programs including the Kinship Connection, a support group for grandparents and other relatives raising a child. Debbie also founded the Lifelong Learning Institute, a Chesterfield organization that provides educational, fitness, and social programs for senior citizens.
Andie McConnell founded a nonprofit in Fredericksburg called the Fairy Godmother Project, an organization that aims to alleviate stress from caregivers, families, and patients of pediatric cancer. Her services range from household chores and grocery shopping, to offering financial assistance with medical bills. Andie is dedicated to helping families through the struggle of cancer treatment, providing financial, emotional, and daily life support.
Anna McRay has been involved in emergency medical services and emergency management for more than 30 years. She started the Henrico Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program as volunteer coordinator before becoming the Virginia Department of Emergency Management's state CERT coordinator, leading this outreach program for all Virginia. Anna is passionate about community outreach and educating residents and business organizations about disaster preparedness.
Karen Mick volunteers her time working to help women obtain access to health care at Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services (GFCFS). She also helped develop the Well Woman Program, which provides free women's healthcare services including breast exams. Through her advocacy, Karen has helped hundreds of women get mammograms and for those diagnosed, she has supported them through treatment.
Pam Mines is a passionate advocate for her son and families who are part of the special needs community. In 2013, she established the JP Jumpers Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on bridging the gap between children who have special needs and children who do not. Her advocacy efforts led to the creation of a law in 2014 that allows individuals to voluntarily add an innocuous code to their Virginia issued driver's license or identification card noting they have an intellectual disability.
Martina Myers is a 12 year old activist for the autistic community and victims of domestic violence. She is an ambassador for the "National Autism Awareness Foundation" and the youngest member ever to be selected for the Autism Society of Northern Virginia's summer training program. Martina takes an active role in the Fredericksburg community, volunteering her time at animal rescue shelters and working with senior citizens.
Jim and Susan Nagy coordinate the Buck Mountain Food Pantry, a food donation service through Buck Mountain Episcopal Church. The pantry also distributes non-food necessities including toilet paper, hygiene products, and toothpaste. Buck Mountain Food Pantry serves over 100 families monthly in the Earlysville community and surrounding areas, providing food for more than 200 individuals.
Angela Patton is founder of Camp Diva and CEO of Girls For A Change, a nonprofit that enables African American girls and other girls of color to create social change in their own communities. Because of her years of work of advocating for and supporting girls of color, the Obama Administration named Angela a White House Champion of Change.
Pat Payne, a former ER nurse, founded Farmville’s Heart of Virginia Free Clinic in 2012 where she currently serves as Executive Director. It is the only free clinic in South Central Virginia. To date, the Heart of Virginia Free clinic has served almost 400 patients with over 2,000 office visits. The clinic provides compassionate, quality health care at little or no charge to low-income, uninsured Virginians in Prince Edward and surrounding counties.
Kalista Pepper, a 16 year old junior at Glen Allen High School, started an ALZ Awareness Group to educate classmates about Alzheimer's. After seeing the effects of Alzheimer's on her great grandmother, she was determined to educate other teens about this disease. She recently gave a speech at the "Reason to Hope" ALZ fundraiser, alongside the Richmond Mayor, telling her story in hopes of raising awareness and compassion for those suffering from this disease.
Al Quist, a retired Navy Seal, helps coordinate the Mobile Food Pantry in Scottsville, as well as the Bread of Life food distribution by local churches. He organizes food pickups, volunteer training, and registration for the pantry and distribution center. In addition, he tutors at-risk elementary students. Recently, Al assisted in building the new storage facility at the Southside Health Clinic.
Joey Reinhardt has volunteered for the Tappahannock-Essex Rescue and Volunteer Fire Departments for the past 30 years and is currently serving as President. His leadership as director of the Tornado Response Team during the February 2016 storm led TEVFD to receive the 2016 Governor's Award. Joey also supports his community in various ways, including hanging the American flags down Main Street for holidays, donating at blood drives, and cutting grass and clearing snow from driveways for elderly residents.
Brian and Susan Rich are founders of A Grateful Nation, an organization that has supported military troops worldwide for more than a decade. They collect donations from businesses throughout the Chesterfield community and send them to troops overseas. More than 1,000 donations have been sent to date. Brian and Susan are adamant that troops know how much patriots back home support and care about them.
Ryan Rinn is the Executive Director for Storefront for Community Design, a nonprofit organization that improves the quality of life in the City of Richmond through planning and design. What started as a school project for Ryan evolved into a full-time passion to revitalize the Richmond neighborhood of Highland Park. During Ryan’s tenure, Storefront has been named “Best in Community Development” and “Best in Urban Planning” by Richmond Magazine.
Gabe and Sonya Silver established the Rivanna River Company in 2015. They provide tour guides and outfitting services with the goal of helping the Charlottesville community learn about and explore the Rivanna River. Additionally, these heroes organize events including trash clean-up days on the river to make sure they are doing their part to protect and preserve this natural resource.
Kelly Sydnor is the founder of RollwithCole, an organization that fosters active, healthy, accessible, and mobile lifestyles for the physically challenged within the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a full time caregiver, she provides round-the-clock support to her son, Cole, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2011. Both she and Cole are community advocates for those with spinal cord injuries and participate annually in fundraising and awareness efforts for Sheltering Arms Rehab Institute.
Marcy Williams has been a Richmond youth mentor for more than a decade. She founded Kollege and Kareer 4 Youth, a program that provides resources for college preparation, job readiness, and life skills. Marcy has hosted several social media safety, financial literacy and sex trafficking workshops to ensure youth and their families have what they need to be safe and successful.
MaryRose Gonzalez, Jenny Witteborg, and Sallie Mae Pauley are Fredericksburg advocates for language equality through LEAD-K, a nonprofit organization that aims to ensure pre-Kindergarten deaf children have language skills before Kindergarten. Jenny, MaryRose, and Sallie Mae work tirelessly presenting to educational groups and state legislators. They also work closely with advocates at the Federal level. Jenny, MaryRose, and Sallie Mae are passionate about bringing equal language awareness to the hearing community.
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