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Help Somebody Spotlight: Erin Gardner, Connor’s Heroes

At the Community Foundation and ConnectVA, we are so excited to share more stories of individuals in our community doing great work, through the Help Somebody Hall of Fame.  Throughout the year, we are accepting nominations from the community at large and will highlight a compelling submission each month.  Once a quarter, we will select (at random) two people to receive a $1000 grant made in their name to give to a local nonprofit of their choosing.

This month we are highlighting Erin Gardner, who is the Program Coordinator at Connor’s Heroes.  The Executive Director of Connor’s Heroes, Celia Tetlow, reached out to us to share more about the great work Erin does in the community.

Celia said, “Erin is the heart and soul of our work at Connor’s Heroes. Her positive attitude and genuine desire to help others is truly inspiring. Erin goes above and beyond for our families to make sure they are not alone throughout their childhood cancer journey. She has proven to be an undeniable support during an unknown time for our families and continues to do so with a constant smile on her face!”

Here’s more about Erin and her work at Connor’s Heroes:

How does Erin demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Erin is the Program Coordinator for Connor’s Heroes, a local non-profit focused on providing hope, guidance, and support for children with cancer and their families. She is adept at connecting with children and families to identify needs and utilize resources to meet these needs with genuine empathy, concern, and interest during a very difficult time in their life. She is the face of Connor’s Heroes and enjoys meeting and engaging with all our wonderful patients, their families, and the volunteers.

She spends her time in the clinic making crafts with our patients as they wait for their chemotherapy and treatments to begin. Every Thursday she brings lunch to families on the pediatric floor of VCU always with the biggest smile on her face. Erin continuously looks out for our patients and provides them with a level of comfort when they need it the most. Whether it is a parking pass for a family who has a lengthy stay in the hospital or dropping off an iTunes gift card to a patient to brighten their day, Erin is a huge asset not only to Connor’s Heroes but to all of our families. She finds ways for kids to be kids, provides an extra hand in time of need, and makes sure a family’s stay in the hospital feels more like home.

What is the impact of Erin’s generosity?

When I have spoken to families about Erin, their eyes light up. You can tell the relationship and bond that Erin creates with these families surpasses any physical gift she brings them. It is her energy, sincerity, and overall positive attitude that makes her so special. One of our families said that Erin has supported them ever since diagnosis. Her three boys regularly ask about going to art sessions when the next tacky light tour is going to happen or if Miss Erin will be at clinic to talk and do art projects with them. She said Erin and Connor’s Heroes helps them feel as close to pre-cancer normal as possible. When talking to another mom, she associated Erin with love and support since the first time they heard the words “Your child has cancer” to now, 2 years off treatment. She has provided a fuller grocery cart when they needed it most and fuller hearts when they were hurting most. Erin is family to us. Erin’s smile is contagious and her willingness to help others is truly an inspiration.

Erin does not do the good work for recognition. She genuinely cares for these children and their families. She’s making a difference in our community and we are forever grateful for all she does!

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

Read more →

 

Help Somebody Spotlight: Marta Lefleor, The McShin Foundation

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in RVA.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members who are making a positive difference.

This month, we are recognizing an avid volunteer and board member at The McShin Foundation – Marta Lefleor.  The McShin Foundation is a recovery resource foundation whose mission is to deliver a message of hope to individuals with a Substance Use Disorder and to facilitate their journey to a healthier life.

Development Director, Alden Gregory shared Marta’s story and said, “I nominated Marta because of the love and empathy she has for the recovery community. She is a dedicated board member and volunteers weekly to spend time with our participants and share her story. She inspires me, personally, because I know how deeply she cares for all the staff, participants, and families of McShin. She is a living example of passion, selflessness, and gratitude. We love her!”

Marta and McShin alum Michael Quinn at the Houses for Hope fundraiser, a capital campaign started by Marta.

How does Marta demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Marta Lefleor is selfless, caring, tenacious, giving, and a fearless advocate for people with Substance Use Disorders. After losing her daughter, Brenna, to an overdose, Marta got involved with The McShin Foundation. Not only does she serve on our Board of Directors, but she spearheads our Philanthropy Committee, started our first capital campaign, advocates to our congressmen, volunteers at nearly every event and takes time out of her schedule each week to spend quality time with our participants.

Her tremendous outpouring of love spills out into our community. She has touched the lives of countless program participants who are just starting their recovery journey. Her patience and understanding allows them to open up and feel comforted. She shares her passions and interests with them, like crocheting, and teaches them new skills with each visit. She also shares stories of Brenna, her daughter. Because the loss of her daughter is what led Marta to McShin, Marta allows Brenna’s spirit to drive her involvement.

Marta and some of McShin’s program participants with the finished product from their quilting lesson.

Although working so closely with people with Substance Use Disorders can be challenging at times, Marta continues to push forward and refuses to see anything but hope and positivity in each life she comes across. She doesn’t let her own problems affect how she interacts and gives back. This attitude is contagious, and Marta’s presence puts a smile on the faces of our participants and staff each time she enters the recovery center. Marta has used the pain of her grief and loss of her daughter to provide hope and support for every single person she touches. This gift is irreplaceable, and truly saves lives.

 

What is the impact of Marta’s generosity? 

Marta’s generous giving of her time and energy has not only made a difference in the lives of participants at an individual level, but her dedication has allowed us to expand our organization. Through the capital campaign she started, Houses for Hope, and the scholarship fund started in Brenna’s name, Marta has allowed McShin to provide financial assistance and safe, comfortable environments for people to begin their recovery journeys. Marta truly makes a difference in the lives of others every day and the legacy of her love for this community and her love for her daughter will be her legacy.

Cynthia May and Marta volunteering at McShin’s Annual Bluegrass Festival and Brunswick Stew.

After leading one of her fist crocheting groups one Friday afternoon, Marta shared the following message: “I am so very blessed to have McShin. You all saved my life, truly. I had no willingness to continue living after Brenna died. She led me to McShin and is making a difference.” However, we see ourselves being blessed by Marta’s belonging to the McShin community rather than the other way around. She is a light of selflessness and growth when we need it the most and we are so grateful for everything she does for us.

Debbie Rosenbaum and Marta Lefleor at McShin’s 4th of July cookout.

 

 

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

Read more →

 

Help Somebody Spotlight: Angela Harper, Northstar Academy

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in our RVA community.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members who are making a positive difference.

This month, we’re recognizing Angela Harper – an IEP/IAP Liaison at Northstar Academy.  Northstar Academy is a unique and highly successful non-profit school serving children in grades K-12. They promote educational excellence and career opportunities for students with disabilities who have academic, physical and social challenges.

Angela’s colleague (who asked to remain anonymous) nominated her, saying, “I nominated Angela because I thought she embodied the spirit of the Help Somebody Hall of Fame. She spends her days helping others. She works tirelessly to ensure both the nuts and bolts of special needs education as well as the creative magic of garnering individualized growth in her students.”

Here’s what else she had to say about Angela…..

 

How does Angela demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame?”

Here at Northstar, our students have academic, physical or social challenges. Angela works diligently to ensure our students and their families have someone to turn to when they need help. She meets with students to develop appropriate annual goals. She helps them talk through difficult problems. She encourages students to strive to be the very best version of themselves.

What really impresses me about Angela is that she has developed innovative approaches to ensure our students achieve their goals. Since our students have a wide range of disabilities, there is no one way to help students overcome their challenges. They benefit from tailored approaches.

For example, every tissue box at Northstar is decorated in conversation starter stickers because she created a game to teach one student how to have appropriate conversations. Another example is that all staff know when we go on vacations, to collect some “swag” from our hotel stay, because Angela has created a plan for another student to earn these goodies with good behavior, after she discovered he has a penchant for hotels. She has transformed her office into a cocoon full of coping strategies disguised as fun. In a prominent location, she has a photograph of another student’s pet dog, which she custom makes holiday-themed outfits, to decorate the image. This makes him smile most days, even when it is hard for him to do so.

 

What is the impact of Angela’s generosity?

 

Angela’s hard work and creativity has been instrumental in helping Northstar serve families. One parent was recently interviewed and exclaimed, “Northstar is a great new beginning for our son.” We pride ourselves on transforming lives, families and futures and we would not be able to do so without the tireless efforts of our teachers and staff.

I wish I had someone like Angela helping me through the trials and tribulations of childhood and young adulthood. I am glad that our students have Angela in their corner.

 

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

Read more →

 

Help Somebody Spotlight: Shandra Thompson, Director of Operations and Programs, Dress for Success Central Virginia

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in our RVA community.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members.  This month, we’re recognizing Shandra Thompson – a staff member at Dress for Success Central Virginia.

Dress for Success Central Virginia is best known for providing professional attire to women reentering the workforce but we are about much more than simply a new outfit. Besides physically equipping a woman with apparel and accessories, our programs furnish her with a confidence that she carries forever and the knowledge that she can actively define her life, the direction she takes and what success means to her.Support from our donors ensures we can continue to offer our wide range of programs to women striving for economic empowerment. Your financial contribution is an investment that will generate tremendous benefits not just for the women we serve and their families but also for your community.Visit centralvirginia.dressforsuccess.org to learn more about how we are empowering women around the world and how you can get involved. #DressforSuccess #CentralVirginia #RVA #womensempowerment #economicindependence

Posted by Dress for Success Central Virginia on Saturday, March 4, 2017

Shandra was nominated by Dress for Success Central Virginia’s Executive Director, Shantell Malachi.  Shantell told us, “When I think of ‘help’ her name is the first that comes to mind. She really is the embodiment of the empathy and selflessness that is necessary to move Dress for Success’ mission forward and impact the lives of the women we serve.  On a personal level Shandra has allowed me to grow as a leader. Most Executive Directors have to wear many hats but Shandra allows me to delegate, focus on my personal and professional goals, and be physically present in the community, while never having to worry that our clients aren’t being served.”

Read more about Shandra’s story:

How does Shandra demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Shandra serves as the Director of Operations and Programs for Dress for Success Central Virginia.  The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

As the Director of Operations and Programs, Shandra helps more than 250 women a year find appropriate professional attire and prepare for interviews. However, her empathy for her clients goes so much further than clothing and resumes. Shandra’s ability to establish personal relationships with each of her clients never ceases to amaze me.

Shandra serves women on such a high level because she cares to a degree that surpasses most people’s understanding. It’s hard to describe one time that she acted selflessly because it is embedded in her DNA.

Dress for Success clients can tell you that Shandra has helped them obtain emergency housing, restored their faith in God, healed emotional wounds, and provided a safe space for them physically and emotionally. She ministers to women outside of Dress for Success through her church and her business, New Beginnings Enterprises.

Shandra with Team Members from DFS

 

What is the impact of Shandra’s generosity? 

Because of her generosity she directly impacts the foundation of every family, the woman. She is helping women change the trajectory of their personal and professional lives through her service. She is lending a hand to fight against poverty by helping to heal the whole woman, not just a piece. It’s so refreshing to see someone give some much of themselves outside of the confines of 9-5.

Shandra with DFS Volunteers

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

Read more →

 

Help Somebody Spotlight: Kris Folgner, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond

How does Kris demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?  Kris serves as one of our House Volunteers at RMHC Richmond. Our House Volunteers help with the day to day tasks to keep our house operations running smoothly for up to 9 families to stay per night who have a child receiving medical treatment in Richmond. For the past 2 years, Kris has dedicated 3 hours every Wednesday to RMHC Richmond which has totaled in over 220 hours.

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Sam Baronian Jr., Board President, The READ Center

We love sharing stories and examples of people giving back in our community – investing their time, talent or treasure with local organizations.  Sam Baronian Jr. is a shining example of this and was selected to be inducted into the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame” for February 2018! Lisa Fitz-Coy, Marketing and Development Assistant for The READ Center nominated him, saying that he is a very “accessible and active” Board President.  Executive Director for the READ Center, Karen La Forge, agrees saying, “Sam is one of the most committed and caring Board members I have ever worked with. His greatest strength as a board member is his ability and willingness to connect READ to other organizations and individuals in the community for partnerships, funding and awareness.” Read more about Sam and his work with READ:

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Michelle Smith, World Pediatric Project

At the Community Foundation and ConnectVA, we are so excited to share more stories of individuals in our community lending a hand to help another through the Help Somebody Hall of Fame.  As in 2017, we are accepting nominations from the community at large and will highlight a compelling submission each month.  Once a quarter, we will select (at random) two people to receive a $1000 grant made in their name to give to a local nonprofit of their choosing.

This month we are highlighting Michelle Smith, a volunteer at World Pediatric Project.   World Pediatric Project (WPP) heals critically ill children and builds indigenous healthcare capacity in developing nations. Michelle was nominated anonymously by a WPP staff member, who says, Michelle is “one in a million” and wanted to thank her for her service.  Here’s more about Michelle’s incredible contributions to this local nonprofit and our community:

 

 How does Michelle demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Michelle is a volunteer for our organization and selflessly gives her time as though she were a full-time employee. If she is welcoming a new patient at the airport she will stay and wait for them even if their flight is delayed, or, if it starts snowing!

Michelle not only selflessly gives her time, she also gives her heart to the families we serve through her good humor and her friendly and open demeanor. Our families arrive from other countries scared and unsure. Michelle instantly makes them feel at ease. She warms them with her smile and interacts with their child as if they were her own – to the point she has been made a godmother many times over. If she knows a child is going to be having a birthday during their stay here, she will bring them to her house and throw a party. Similarly, she makes sure every child has a chance to experience Sweet Frog and other American wonders, like Walmart and Dollar Tree. No task is too big or too small for Michelle.

 

What is the impact of Michelle’s generosity?

Michelle’s impact goes beyond words and is further multiplied by the number of families she has touched. Michelle meets and assists with almost every single family for whom we facilitate surgical care in a year; that’s close to 50 children a year since 2010.

When she traveled to the Caribbean island of St. Vincent last year (where most of our patients are from) the patient families threw a party for her attending by at least 60 former patients with whom she had connected. Her kindness in some of their darkest moments with a child suffering from a major medical problem is not something they ever forget and something for which they continue to show gratitude and keep in touch with her over.

Michelle in St. Vincent at a party the families put on for her. There were about 50 families in attendance whose lives she had touched.

Michelle not only serves our organization selflessly, but does so in the rest of her life as well. When she met a young woman studying to be a doctor while traveling abroad, she invited her to live in her home for six months to learn English. She is the first one to take in any stray animal needing of a home. She also faithfully served the public school system for over 20 years as an art teacher. Michelle demonstrates her love and compassion for others in everything that she does.

We have a list of close to 400 volunteers, and Michelle’s dedication is unparalleled. She is the first to offer help and the last to go home at the end of the day. Our patients have needs 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Michelle doesn’t shy away from late nights or early mornings, but rather always asks me “what can I do to help?” Our program would not be the same without her.

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Sara Fender, The Caring Clothes Closet

We are honored to have received (and are still receiving!) so many incredible nominations for the Help Somebody Hall of Fame. This week we are highlighting the work of Sara Fender, a passionate volunteer with a desire to make a difference and a great idea to fill a need she saw in the community. The person who nominated Sara, and wishes to remain anonymous, says that Sara is a true inspiration and leader. Read more about Sara’s story in October’s “Help Somebody Spotlight”:

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Allen Earehart, Volunteer, Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services

ConnectVA and The Community Foundation are excited to share another shining example of a great person doing great work in our community, through the Help Somebody Hall of Fame – meet, Allen Earehart, active volunteer and board member for Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services (GFCFS) ! Diane Reale, Director of Volunteer Resources for GFCFS, reached out to us to share more about the firm commitment and incredible impact Allen has in the Goochland community.

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Susan DeFazio, Founder and Director, Prevent A Litter

ConnectVA and The Community Foundation are excited to share another shining example of a great person doing great work in our community, through the Help Somebody Hall of Fame – meet, Susan DeFazio, Founder and Director of Prevent A Litter (P.A.L.)!

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