Allen & Allen Hometown Heroes
Allen & Allen was founded on service and action. For over 100 years, our attorneys and staff have been inspired by those in the community who make Virginia such a great place to live and work. Now in its sixth 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 for impressive candidates from across the Commonwealth. After careful consideration, we've selected fifty 2015 Allen & Allen Hometown Heroes.
We invite you to read the inspiring stories of this year’s winners and join us in celebrating them at a series of events in Richmond, Fredericksburg and Charlottesville.
The winners of the 2015 HOMETOWN HEROES award include:
2015 Hometown Heroes Stories
Clint Arrington has dedicated his life to those who have served our country through the Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that he created to provide therapeutic riding and equine-related activities to over 1400 veterans with disabilities. Since 2008 Clint has created opportunities for veterans with special needs to improve muscle tone, balance, and mobility while providing mental stimulation, enhanced self-confidence, and self-esteem. Among other praises, Clint’s nominators said, “His compassion and love for veterans is limitless” and “His passion is contagious!”
Nelson County resident Nathou Attinger is a testament to compassion and devoted care. She founded the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary in 2004 as a non-profit organization designed to rehabilitate and release orphaned birds, reptiles, and mammals back into the wild. The sanctuary has aided almost 3,000 wild animals, and with Nathou’s help the community is more knowledgeable about what to do when they find a hurt or abandoned animal. Nathou’s nominators describe her as the “paragon of wildlife rehabilitation.”
At 3 a.m., when most of us are asleep, Paula Bartello begins cooking meals that she will later deliver to families in need. As the founder of Feed Fred House, Paula has provided homemade, nourishing meals within the greater Fredericksburg area since 2012. The people she serves are children and families living in motels, people who are suffering with an extended illness such as HIV/AIDS, veterans, elderly on fixed incomes, working poor, and the homeless. Paula’s nominators call her, “a dedicated, compassionate, authentic, altruist.”
Every year, Robert Bell’s Christmas Eve consists of making meals that he begins delivering on Christmas morning to the homeless in downtown Richmond. This past year, he also collected sweaters and coats that were delivered with his homemade meals. In addition to Robert’s holiday altruism, he recently helped raise money to take a team to Virginia Beach for the Special Olympics Polar Plunge. Robert’s motivation to give back comes from a scripture excerpt: “What you do for the least of them you do also for me.”
Shaw Blackmon gives back in countless ways. He runs a Family Olympics every year at Trinity United Methodist Church, helps operate the Upward Basketball League, holds events for men’s fellowship, teaches high school Sunday School, and establishes work crews to improve the church grounds. Shaw goes even further to help others by being a foster parent with his wife while caring for three of his own children and working a full time job. One of Shaw’s nominators calls him “an energetic leader who takes charge and organizes events for the community while also looking for ways for others to lead and grow.”
Kimberly is the founder and executive director of The Sophie House, a warm and caring environment that helps meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of single women and their children in order to equip and empower them to independently establish a stable, secure home upon successful completion of the program. Nominators say that Kimberly and her husband choose to give back to their community and never ask for anything in return. One nominator calls Kimberly “an angel God has placed on this earth to help others and help others become better.”
In 2005 Janet Call helped establish Greene Care Clinic, a free clinic located in Stanardsville. As the executive director, Call has helped provide a wide range of healthcare services to uninsured residents of Greene County whose family incomes are less than 200% of the federal poverty level. These services include medical, dental, mental health counseling, lab testing, and access to hospital services and prescription medication. Call and her team have also provided assistance to individuals seeking to obtain reduced-cost health insurance. Having previously launched two other free clinics in Virginia before moving to Greene County, Call exhibits the knowledge, skill, and compassion to successfully operate a free-standing, non-profit organization capable of impacting the lives of local residents.
“The epitome of a Hometown Hero and friend,” according to one of his nominators, Sam Carannante devotes his time, effort, and money to helping those in need everyday. Whether it is volunteering at Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity, building sets for the Live Arts, or organizing biannual trips to parts of New York and New Jersey that are still deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy, Sam is continually serving his community. Sam’s nominators say that he often donates his finances and resources anonymously and that he exhibits community service without self-glory.
Jonathan’s story is one of a life devoted to service as a result of personal tragedy. After a drunk driver ended his brother’s life, Jonathan served as a paramedic and then moved to Virginia to work as an organ transplant coordinator. “His belief is that organ and tissue donations offer a living legacy while giving a new life to someone in need,” said Jonathan’s nominator. He also volunteers at his local fire department in order to further help members of the community. His selflessness is inspiring to those around him, who have seen him grow from his challenges in order to enrich the lives of others.
Officer Bianca Clark of the Albemarle County Police Department, like her colleague and fellow Hometown Hero Mark Gillispie, is known for integrity, calm under pressure, and strength. After finding a man attempting to commit suicide in a wooded area, Officer Clark and Corporal Gillispie disarmed the subject and ensured that he promptly received medical attention. Officer Clark’s nominators say that it was because of their quick response that the individual is alive today.
There are numerous reasons Corporal Gillispie’s nominators describe him as the type of leader who is “always willing to go the extra mile.” One of which was how he reacted to an emergency call in November 2014. With the help of Officer Bianca Clark, the corporal from Albemarle County Police Department found a self-mutilating individual on a trail. Thanks to their prompt response, the subject was taken to UVA Medical Center and went from critical condition to psychiatric care.
As a police officer of 14 years, Patricia uses her career to raise money and awareness to help the Petersburg community. Apart from her “extreme couponing” used to buy presents, food, and other items for residents of Petersburg in need, Patricia is also a part of the Kiwanis Club in Petersburg and the Big Brothers and Sisters program, in which she mentors young girls. Her devotion to helping others expands to her church, where she helps to feed the needy on Thanksgiving. She is the owner and head coach of JumpStarz, a jump rope business that teaches fitness and confidence. “Patricia is a humble, caring, and loving mother and wife that dreams big and wants everyone to succeed,” says her nominator.
Passionate about Civil War history in Chesterfield, George has successfully saved ten battlefield sites that were part of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign of 1864. When he’s not protecting Civil War History sites, George works for Chesterfield County, a position that he has held since 1971. George’s nominators says that he is dedicated to continuing Chesterfield’s legacy as the second permanent English settlement and the only county in which an entire Civil War campaign has been fought.
Patricia “Pat” FitzGerald is the assistant chief of the Colonial Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad where she has answered over 10,000 emergency calls, and served as the squad’s top call runner, since 1993. “This amazing woman, who could have much to boast about, is the most modest and humble person in the room,” writes one of her nominators. Community members say that Pat is a true role model to not only her fellow volunteers, but also to all whom she meets.
Karen’s license plate says it all: “1M3RD,” which means that she places herself third after God and others. This hierarchy held true even after she was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer. As a mother, wife, and Post Oak Middle School Principal, Karen was immediately concerned about how her family was taking the news and how she would keep the attention on her students rather than herself. In her spare time Karen volunteers at the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, the Boy Scouts, and is an active member of her church. Because of her heroism and resilience, Karen was the subject of an award-winning essay written by one of her students, just one of the many influenced by the strong and altruistic principal.
Sally Graham helped create the Goochland Free Clinic in 1998 to help those who could not obtain health insurance. In 2007 she merged the clinic with Goochland Fellowship and Family Services in order to better serve the citizens of Goochland County in the most cost efficient way possible. Today she serves as the executive director of the new organization, called Goochland Free Clinic & Family Services (GFCFS), which serves as one of the two certified Patient-Centered Medical Homes in Virginia. With 400 volunteers, GFCFS is a testament to Sally’s leadership and ability to gather others in support of her cause. Sally works tirelessly to ensure access to health care and basic human services to Goochland community residents who are in need of assistance.
As a veteran Virginia State Trooper, James Gregory, Sr. realized the lack of local activities for Charlotte County’s kids 13 years ago and helped create the Charlotte County Recreation Association (CCRA). In addition to serving as the founder and president of the association, James runs the CCRA basketball program and coaches for its minor and major baseball teams. He recently spearheaded an initiative to build a local basketball court in Drakes Branch. When he is not volunteering with CCRA and raising funds, James serves as a member of Optima Family Care advisory panel. James continues to build new opportunities for the youth in his community and is inspiring the next generation of Charlotte Country residents.
Caroline Country Sheriff’s Sergeant Chris Hall has many fans. His nominators describe him as caring, understanding, and hardworking. But most of all, he’s credited as a true friend. His endorsements stem from an inspiring attitude and commitment to his job and to his community. Sergeant Hall was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic in a school zone in April 2015. Despite his injuries, Sergeant Hall was deeply concerned about the children’s safety over his own and was determined to let them know he would recover. Parents of schools in Caroline County say that they know their kids are in good hands with Sergeant Hall.
Richard “Dick” Halterman’s nominator called him the “ultimate community asset,” a true hero that loves to serve those in need with little expected in return. Dick is known in his community as a dedicated supporter of the local high school in Fort Defiance as well for assisting the Economic Development Authority at Shenandoah Small Business Development Center. In addition, he serves as a deacon at his church, is the finance chair, and is a member of thepraise band. As a Hall of Fame member of his high school, Dick continues to motivate the Fort Defiance community and inspire the next generation of heroes.
Mary started her commitment to giving when she was in high school in 1965. She regularly sought out organizations that she could impact, such as Meals on Wheels, at an early age—and she hasn’t stopped since. For 15 years Mary has served as a mentor to children whose parents were incarcerated and for 12 years she has served as a troop leader for the Girl Scouts. In addition, Mary has helped the Micah Initiative, CrossOver Health Clinic, CrossOver Dental Clinic, and the Trinity United Methodist Church. One of her favorite ways to give back is serving as a “lunch buddy” at Oak Grove Elementary School.
Walter’s nominators describe him as a hero who takes action whenever it’s needed, someone with true leadership that is vital to his local community. His collaborative style and penchant for hard work led to wildlife habitat restoration at Pleasant Grove Park in Fluvanna. Walter, who once worked for NASA, completed the Master Naturalist Class, and has personally planted over 850 trees in Pleasant Grove Park as part of renaturalization efforts of almost 50 acres of parkland. In addition, Walter is involved with Fluvanna Master Gardeners and organized an annual Earth Day event for 250 Fluvanna first graders.
A true hero, Morgan Jacobs has used personal experiences and challenges to give hope and inspiration to others. Her brother’s autism and her father’s passing due to cancer led Morgan to mentor young, disadvantaged girls at VCU’s Camp Kesem, a camp for kids who have lost parents from cancer. She is a source of light and support for her campers, her mentees, and most importantly, for her brother. Morgan’s nominator praises her selfless demeanor and encourages others to echo her love and care towards others: “If we could all be as exemplary, what a positive, wonderful world this would be.”
As the founder of the Carrying on Project, Kit Jenkins has found a second family and a way to serve her community. Kit’s project gives carriers and wraps to families, veterans, and wounded warriors so they can carry their babies hands free. Starting as an idea when she was stationed with her husband in DC, the Carrying on Project has gone worldwide since 2012. With the help of the companies that donate the carriers, Kit is able to help parents secure attachments with their children, something that deployment and injuries will often interrupt.
Darrel’s nominators see him as an inspiration to others and as a testament to hard work. In between his full time job at Virginia Department of Transportation, Darrel works part time for the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office, where he helped create an in-house blood draw program. Unique to the state at the time, Darrel’s program has proven imperative to collecting key evidence in DUI cases. He serves as a volunteer medic for the Montross Volunteer Rescue Squad and advocates for and donates to Relay for Life. He believes that volunteerism is an important way to give back to the community.
Called the “Energizer Bunny” by her nominator, C. Lynn’s enthusiasm and support gives a boost to a wide array of organizations in her community. An award winning Realtor with advanced real estate certifications, C. Lynn is actively involved with the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors. She devotes her time to community organizations such as Healthy Families Rappahannock Area, St. Asaph’s Episcopal Church, St. Asaph’s Rotary Club Caroline, and her church choir. C. Lynn has also been known to jump into frigid water as part of a Polar Plunge fundraiser to help pay the heating bills for needy families in her community.
Christopher Lynch was not going to sit idly by when his wife went into acute liver failure. He sprung into action, petitioning the Army for a reassignment back to the East Coast from Washington state in order for her to get on UNOS’s transplant list. In keeping with his “take action” attitude, Christopher gave his wife half of his liver in a living donor liver transplant rather than waiting for her to receive one from the list. Christopher’s wife -- and nominator -- calls him, “a hero on the field and off.”
Henry Mack, a retired Navy veteran, spent decades fighting for benefits after returning from the Vietnam War. Today he uses these first hand experiences as part of an effort to help create healthier lives for veterans and their families. As a result, Henry has orchestrated a Veterans Helping Veterans Now (VHVNOW) program to increase community awareness and understanding of veterans’ challenges and needs. In addition, Henry has contributed to the Boy Scouts of America, served on the Chesterfield Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee, and participated in the Chesterfield Fire and EMS Citizen Fire Academy. He also plans to open an outreach center and a transitional housing building for women.
“Officer Cynthia Marlow embodies what it means to protect and serve and she does this with selflessness each and everyday,” says her nominator. As an officer who cares about the community’s youth, Cynthia started a mentorship program at a local elementary school where she has inspired students for almost three years. Those who know Cynthia say that her love for others can be witnessed on a daily basis through the small acts of kindness she regularly performs. As an example, Cynthia recently paid for a hotel room for someone without a place to sleep. Cynthia shows through her actions a desire to not only protect but to also give back to her community.
As an instrumental part of Friends of Cumberland County Animal Control, Leigh McCrea saved 359 animals in a year after she realized that only a fraction of the animals that came into the Animal Control were being adopted. Through social media and other awareness campaigns, Leigh makes sure that every animal has a chance to find a new home. Her license plate displays her favorite part of the job, “Rescue Rides,” in which she delivers animals to their new homes.
Thomas McGowan wears many hats in the community. He spends 60 hours a week at his job as a supervisor at LifeCare Medical Transports while finding time to volunteer as an EMS provider with Chancellor Volunteer Fire and Rescue. He does all of this while also caring for his grandmother. In addition, he organizes public events and programs for kids to learn about health and safety. And for those children who aspire to work in the medical field, Thomas has developed a program at LifeCare. Thomas is the recipient of the National American Ambulance Association Star of Life Award.
LinGina exemplifies the spirit of giving in her daily actions. In 2008, LinGina founded Embraced by Wings, a youth outreach organization that allows kids an opportunity to showcase their talents and gifts in their communities. Offering a well-rounded program for local youth, LinGina’s initiative is designed to uphold the gifts, talents, and abilities of our youth through poetry, spoken word, photography, painting, performing arts, and community service work. LinGina also participates in free clothes drives, gives gifts to children in the hospital, and makes greeting cards for soldiers during the holiday season. Her nominator says she is “an awesome, loving, and courageous leader.” Click to contact Ms. Moe.
Alma Morgan looks for as many ways as possible to bring joy to the lives of children bravely battling cancer. Alma visited over sixty schools last year as part of ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation’s effort to support patients and survivors in different ways. In Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Colonial Heights she organizes a weekly tutoring program and other initiatives designed to make the lives of patients and survivors easier.
As someone who was homeless at one point in her life, Rosia Parker understands the challenges that life can bring. Today, a mother of three with a full time job, Rosia volunteers with PACEM (People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry),agrassroots organization that coordinates space and volunteers to provide shelter for individuals who are homeless. In addition, Rosia holds many positions at her church and volunteers at The Haven, a multi-purpose community space that provides opportunities for individual who are homeless.
Nick Pasker joined the Henry Fire Station in 2003 where he maintains the station’s tradition of professionalism, courage, and loyalty. Passionate about keeping the community safe, Nick plans the duty crews, regularly works with volunteer membership, and serves as a mentor to the younger members. His nominator says that Nick has a hunger for both learning and teaching, making him a highly respected peer among both veteran firefighters and the next generation that he strives to inspire.
Tom Powell founded the Toy Lift in 1988 when he perched himself eighty feet in the air in a bucket truck at a busy intersection. He stayed there until people donated 1,000 toys, which he then distributed to local children. Because of Tom’s efforts, the Toy Lift has grown into a community event with 600 volunteers raising over 17,000 toys. A 25-year tradition, the Toy Lift has helped between 2,000 and 4,000 kids every year. Even while battling cancer and heart attacks over the past decade, Tom found a way to help the Toy Lift continue to grow. Tom says he’ll never miss a Toy Lift.
In the words of her nominator, “Mary Beth is smart, dedicated, and hugely creative with making good things happen in her community.” She is a Realtor who was integral to the founding of Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program in Fredericksburg. Mary Beth has recruited volunteers, planned events, and helped organize annual fundraisers for Habitat for Humanity in an effort to make it possible for families to live in safe and affordable conditions.
Since 1998, Sharon has touched the lives of families through C2Adopt, an organization that she founded with Mim Scalin. As a foster, adoptive, biological, and step-parent to eleven children, Sharon is devoted to bettering the lives of every child that comes through her agency. She works tirelessly to find every child a permanent home as well as provides lifetime counseling and support services. Sharon has changed numerous policies in the past 30 years within the Commonwealth while regularly advocating for foster children.
Though he has retired from the Albemarle/Charlottesville Recreational Jail (ACRJ), Adam’s legacy lives on through Celebrate Recovery Inside (CRI), a program designed to help incarcerated men recover from alcoholism and drug addiction. Adam was appointed as a Virginia CR Inside State Representative in 2009 where he encouraged fellowship as incarcerated individuals worked their way along the road to recovery. Since the start of the first initiative there are now 12 CR Inside programs in jails and prisons within Virginia for men and women. Adam continues to serve as a catalyst in the growth of the program that is changing people’s lives.
“After suffering from a major stroke at the age of 49 he didn’t give up but instead gives back,” said Bert’s nominator. Bert has used his experience to support and inspire other stroke survivors. Attitude and motivation were crucial to Bert’s recovery process, and he demonstrates this in his own life and to those around him. Bert was recognized by Mary Washington Healthcare in 2013 with the “Community Spirit Award.”
Lou Stevens is an award winning hair stylist and make-up artist who has helped empower hundreds of women and teen girls in our community through a series of makeovers for single mothers as well as victims of domestic violence. Lou’s first business was a one-chair mobile salon that she ran from her home. She grew that business into The Glam Squad, a leading hair and make-up company with more than 18 stylists. As her business has grown so has her giving. Lou serves as a mentor to young girls, delivers educational presentations as a guest speaker for Fresh Start, and she volunteers with Dress for Success.
Everyone needs a hero, and Sylvia is one to countless single mothers of Richmond. For more than 11 years Sylvia has served the Richmond area through her role as program director and coordinator of Fresh Start for Single Mothers and Their Children, a non-profit community outreach project. According to her nominators, Sylvia is a selfless, kind, and gracious advocate. The mothers and families that Sylvia has impacted are testaments to her devotion to her community.
According to one of Sherry’s many nominators, she is a “heroic, positive force in our community.” When Sherry is not entertaining the Charlottesville area as a morning radio personality, she collects Valentine’s Day cards for troops overseas. Sherry is also a regular volunteer at a number of local non-profits, including the Fluvanna Habitat for Humanity. Sherry’s fans say that she shows the community that it is possible to excel at a job and still have time to give back in many different ways.
Tina Townsend is a true definition of a hometown hero with a humble commitment to serve others without any fanfare expected in return. Her deeds of kindness range in size and scope over the years as she has worked as a nurse, coached EOAA basketball, volunteered at Boys and Girls Clubs, worked in the local food pantry, and served as an advocate for better education. Tina is valued in her community and continues to find ways to give back during times of need as well as simply serving as a reliable friend and neighbor to all who know her.
Serving in the Navy since 2001, John is an inspiration to his nominators, his local community, and the country at large. In the words of his nominator, John is “a man who takes his position seriously and strives to instill the same in those he trains to defend and protect this country.” John is known and respected for the strength and bravery it takes to protect our nation.
Shannon Walsh feels that anything can be a treasure to a preschooler, especially to a preschooler with nothing. She says that the link between poverty and childhood self-esteem is undeniable. To help, Shannon created Project Treasure Box in 2011 as a way to provide underprivileged preschool kids with supplies for school and the holidays. Since that time Shannon has devoted herself to raising funds and securing the necessary supplies for Charlottesville area kids in need. Her nominator describes Shannon as “a selfless, strong, and giving woman.”
When Julia Warren saw a need in her community for a celebration she created one. A high school student at the time, Julia launched Celebrate RVA!, a nonprofit organization that creates a culture of love and joy in Richmond through the simple act of throwing a birthday party. As a firm believer in the power of celebration, Julia’s mission is to give disadvantaged children a memorable birthday celebration in a safe and fun environment. Through the support of athletic teams from VCU, University of Richmond, Randolph Macon College, and other organizations, she has helped make parties a reality for local children. As one nominator puts it, “Julia leads and acts from her heart in all that she does.” Julia blogs about the utter joy she receives from helping kids celebrate their special day and believes everybody deserves a party.
At an age when most children focus on themselves, rising second grader Kiara Weatherless looks for ways to help everyone around her. Instead of asking for gifts on her birthday, Kiara requested that people make donations to the food pantry at her church. Kiara, who is known as the “Queen” at Greater Nazarene Baptist Church, has helped spearhead ongoing donations in the community. Her nominator calls her “a little girl with a big heart, who desires to make everyone feel loved and cared for.”
Matt is the type of community hero that finds a way to help others through every aspect of his life. His nominator writes, “Matt’s unwavering dedication to his family, his strong sense of duty to the Army, and his passion for community volunteering through the Rescue Squad make Matt the epitome of a hometown hero.” After the Army, Matt joined the Virginia Army National Guard where he has continued to serve for the past 14 years. In addition, for the past nine years he has volunteered as an EMT for the Forest View Volunteer Rescue Squad. At his kids’ school he volunteers as a “Watchdog” and helps coach the soccer team. He is a dedicated father and citizen in his community.
Rose lives by the phrase “Find your passion and make it happen.” Born with athetoid cerebral palsy, Rose has never let her disability stand in her way. From the very beginning, her family set an example for achievement and advocacy by encouraging her to try everything as they fought for her to attend school in regular classrooms with full access to the general curriculum. Today Rose is a motivational speaker, published author, workshop leader, and community volunteer. She is also currently the chair of VSA, the regional organization on arts and disability in Charlottesville/Albemarle, and a board member for the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities. In 2008 Rose was awarded Ms. Wheelchair Virginia for her advocacy of disability awareness. Rose has a positive spirit and contagious smile that has inspired and raised awareness of people of all abilities on both a local and state level.
As a family, Clarence, Carol, and David devote their lives to community service. Clarence has served for over 37 years as a police officer and sheriff in their county. Carol started Estes Down Syndrome softball tournament 28 years ago and has coached softball teams for Special Olympics Virginia. David, who has Down syndrome, has been a part of the Special Olympics since he was eight years old and he is the recipient of two gold medals in Ireland. The entire family shows their commitment to both the Special Olympics and the Down syndrome Association through their constant support, participation, and volunteerism.
2015 Hometown Heroes Events
The 2015 Allen & Allen HOMETOWN HEROES will be honored at a series of concerts and events taking place in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Charlottesville. The law firm invites the community to come out and celebrate these extraordinary individuals.
Friday July 17, 2015
Chamomile & Whiskey *
Fridays After Five
Tuesday July 21, 2015
Flying Squirrels Game
Tuesday July 28, 2015
Celebrate Virginia Live Concert
* The 2015 Hometown Heroes will be recognized on stage after the opening act.
Follow Allen & Allen on social media to stay informed and up to date on the 2015Hometown Heroes program, winners and events.
Learn about the 50 Hometown Heroes we honored in: 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011
To learn about the 100 Hometown Heroes honored in 2010, click here.