Giving Back Awards

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In its inaugural year, our Giving Back Awards has inspired us. We are impressed, not only with the incredible, selfless contributions that these organizations make to the Hampton Roads community, but also by the extent of participation from voters on their behalves. After a total of 85,286 votes cast in the final round and an amazing 136,230 votes overall, we are pleased to feature our top five non-profits of the year. PLUS: HRM staff members volunteer at the top three organizations to give you a first-hand account of the wonderful work they do. —The Editors

Wave City Care

2610 Potters Rd., Suite 206
Virginia Beach

Number of votes: 25,023

Established: 1999; incorporated 2002

Mission: Improving the lives of individuals, providing help and healing for the release of the best in human potential.

Key people/contacts: Steve Kelly, president; Sue Fitzgerald, vice president; Larry Van De Ree, executive director; Travis Knapp, director of operations; Cheryl Monaco and Sue Warren, volunteer coordinators

Programs: Programs fall into three core areas: Basic Care (healthy supplemental food programs, clothing handout and shelter referral); Educational Services (tutoring, mentoring and life skills training); and Health & Human Services (addiction recovery, support groups).

Volunteer opportunities: All programs listed above, as well as Community in Action Day, a monthly cookout and celebration for lowincome housing residents; Extreme School Makeovers, which involve setting up new playground equipment, refurbished landscaping, painting and volunteer services to transform school buildings; Back to School events to supply students with much-needed school supplies; and holiday initiatives such as holiday feasts and Angel Tree parties.

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “In 13 years, the organization has seen huge growth and many lives positively changed. Of course, with growth comes the need for additional funding, which comes exclusively from fundraisers, corporate and private donors. While the need for more funding is not necessarily ‘a struggle,’ it is what allows Wave City Care to do more to reach out to those in need in our community.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “The joy of sharing life with some amazing people—both the people we serve and the volunteers who are doing the serving. We have the privilege of seeing lives positively changed every day—sometimes quickly and in dramatic ways and other times, one step at a time. At Wave City Care, we also get to watch our volunteers’ passion for others grow and how they absolutely love giving back to others,” says Sue Fitzgerald.

—My Nguyen

Organization In Action
Wave City Care adopted a community to foster hope and happiness

By My Nguyen

On a rainy Saturday morning in September, I drove to Wave Church in Virginia Beach to participate in a day of volunteering with Wave City Care.

Truthfully, I was apprehensive upon arriving at the church because I thought surely, the day would be cancelled due to the dreary weather. To my surprise—and yet, meeting my expectations exactly—I was greeted enthusiastically by Wave City Care Executive Director Larry Van Dee and Director of Operations Travis Knapp. Larry led me into a room where volunteer coordinator Sue Warren was holding an orientation meeting for prospective volunteers. Larry introduced himself and gave a brief history of the organization and the path that led him to Wave City Care—initially called Beach Care, but later renamed because people assumed that they were a group dedicated to saving sea life, he joked.

The point Larry emphasized most in his introduction was the organization’s vision: “Partnering to empower the community one life at a time.” “We want to avoid the handout mentality,” Larry said. “We want to train, educate ... empower.”

And certainly, this vision was reflected in all of the interactions I witnessed that day. Following the orientation meeting, Larry, Travis and I, along with six volunteers, met at Oakleaf Forest, a public housing community in Norfolk, for Community in Action Day.

According to Vice President Sue Fitzgerald, Wave City Care “adopted” Oakleaf Forest about eight years ago. Then, they were delivering food weekly, but they soon decided to expand their program to help equip the residents to better manage limited resources, revitalize their dreams and acquire skills to reach their goals. Thus, Community in Action was created.

Once a month, Wave City Care invites the residents of Oakleaf Forest to join them for a day of fun and celebration. There are games, bike repairs, face painting, basketball and dance classes for the children.

When we arrived at the neighborhood, we were greeted by a teen nicknamed Buddy. Buddy was clearly comfortable with Larry, Travis, Jason and the other volunteers, as they asked him how school and his football career were going.

This reminded me of a comment that Larry had made earlier that morning. When Wave City Care began its non-profit work, it admittedly had a “shotgun approach.” Understandably, they wanted to help as many people as possible.

However, as time went on, the organization adopted its current mentality of dedicating themselves to being a constant, consistent presence in the lives of those they service.

We unloaded a truck filled with cookout materials, gently used clothing, books, games and other household items. Additionally, we unloaded two bicycles that were to be raffled off for free among the children in attendance following lunch.

Though the rain persisted, the children of Oakleaf slowly made their way to the picnic area where we had assembled. Many children came unattended, yet there was a noticeable trust between them and the volunteers—in fact, their faces brightened upon seeing familiar faces.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched two brothers examine the clothing table, looking through the winter clothing for anything that might be their size. We helped the younger boy find a warm, blue fleece jacket that he insisted on wearing immediately. After reassurance from the group that he looked handsome, the boy smiled and ran to join Travis and the other boys on the basketball court.

By noon, more children and families had gathered with us in the picnic area. We served up grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and a variety of snacks and drinks.

As the afternoon winded down, Buddy pulled me aside and asked me if I could paint a football on his arm. Despite his refusal to get his face painted earlier in the day because he was in “high school now,” it seemed that he succumbed to the youthful joy and excitement of the day. When I finished, he flexed and thanked me.

The gracious and lively spirit of the day remained with me as I drove home that afternoon. For all of the material things that Wave City Care provides for those they help, the nonmaterial is far more valuable. For every mouth they feed and body they clothe, greater still is the heart that they provide with stability, comfort, happiness and hope.