8th Annual Giving Back Awards: Coastal Virginia's Top Nonprofits

Honoring Nonprofits Making a Difference for Those In Need

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For the eighth year, the staff of Coastal Virginia Magazine is honored to share the stories of some of the top nonprofit organizations making a difference in our community. Our annual Giving Back Awards shine a light on nonprofits of varying sizes and missions but with a common interest in answering the call for those who need it most—whether they are helping families battling cancer, providing support for members of the military special forces, combatting hunger in the region or offering life-changing experiences for individuals with disabilities through the powerful bond shared by humans and animals. Our 2019 awards also include a special recognition for local first responders, the men and women who put themselves in harm's way when duty called on May 31, 2019.


VB First Responders

Honorary Recognition

When Giving Back Means Going First

A Tribute to Virginia Beach First Responders

Each year, the members of Coastal Virginia Magazine’s Giving Back Awards panel gather to select local nonprofits to feature in the pages of our annual Giving Back issue. With so many worthy organizations offering so many meaningful and life-changing services, it is never an easy task.

Yet, this year was different. As we did our best to consider thoughtfully what it means to give back and which organizations best represent that idea, the painful events of May 31, 2019, were never far from our minds. Our community continues to mourn the 12 lives we lost in the Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooting and to make sense of how and why our beloved city became the latest pin on an ever-expanding map of similar tragedies.

It became clear to us that we wanted to recognize the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis on behalf of others. To those men and women—our Virginia Beach police, fire and rescue, emergency services personnel, doctors, nurses, counselors and other first responders—we humbly thank you for your service.

The organizations we traditionally honor in these pages rely on the compassion and generosity of volunteers and donors who support their organizations and make it possible for them to serve the region in the variety of ways that they do each day. Thanks to the giving spirit of so many, these nonprofits are able to make a real difference in the lives of real people.

For those who serve the public in jobs that require a level of personal sacrifice beyond what most of us are willing to take on or can even imagine, giving back is just part of the job. And sometimes giving back means be willing to go first.

On the afternoon of May 31 and in the hours and days that followed, Virginia Beach first responders did what their jobs require of them. They put aside concerns for their own safety and well-being in order to be of service to others. In some cases, they risked their lives by being the first on the scene of the unfolding tragedy. In others, they were there to tend to the wounded or provide critical support to victims and families.

For these reasons and for all that they do for our community throughout the year, our Giving Back Awards panel wishes to extend a special recognition and our sincerest gratitude to the first responders of Virginia Beach.


Top Nonprofits


Photo by David Uhrin

1. Equi-Kids

Read about Equi-Kids here.

EquiKids.org | 757-721-7350

How they started: Founded in 1989 by Barbara Ford while focusing on therapeutic riding before expanding on its facility and programs in 2009/

What they do: Provide, promote and support equine-assisted activities for individuals with mental, physical, emotional, social or learning disabling conditions.

How they do it:

  • Therapeutic Horseback Riding provides equine-assisted activities to individuals with disabilities.
  • Equi-Vets offers physical and mental healing through equine activities for service men and women suffering internal and external injuries from their time serving the nation.
  • School Partnership Program benefits special needs students from area public schools with riding and theory classes enhancing life skills and development.
  • Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy combines the use of horses, a licensed therapist and equine specialist to address mental health goals while building trust relationships with horses.
  • Hippotherapy provides advanced physical and occupational therapies using horses.
  • Work Experience Program partners with special needs teenagers and young adults to provide onsite job training to help them transition into the workforce as they age out of the school system.

Who they serve: Children and adults, service men and women and individuals with disabilities.

Where to give: EquiKids.org/Donate.html

How to help: Volunteers can contact Equi-Kids through their website or by calling to join as either a sidewalker, horse leader, barn volunteer or office and special event volunteers. No background experience working with horses is necessary. Volunteers need to be 14 or older to assist with their programs and 21 or over to work with their veterans’ program.

What volunteers say: “My heart is so full because we see, we get to experience every day something that had a positive impact on people.”


Daniel's Grace

2. Daniel’s Grace

Read about Daniel's Grace here.

DanielsGrace.org | 757-663-6977

How they started: Founded in 2014 by Jodi Newland and Jonathan Burns, loved ones of Daniel Burns who lost his life to colon cancer.

Who they serve: Families and individuals battling the emotional and financial hardships of cancer diagnoses.

What they do: Help cancer families survive and thrive following diagnoses by providing financial assistance for living and medical expenses.

How they do it:

  • Living Support, addressing the primary assistance requested by Daniel’s Grace applicants including such things as direct rent and mortgage payments to the grant recipient’s leasing office or mortgage company, help with car payments and meal support offered through purchased groceries and restaurant gift cards.
  • COBRA Insurance Support, offering direct payments to the insurance company to ensure coverage of the cancer patient.
  • Academic Scholarships, eliminating the burden of student loans or tuition payments for graduating high school seniors and college students who have been directly impacted by cancer.
  • Community Outreach, Daniel’s Grace volunteers donate time by grocery shopping for families, answering phones, writing thank you notes and volunteering at fundraising events.

Where to give: Mail a check to 4216 Virginia Beach Blvd., Suite 140, Virginia Beach, VA 23452, or donate online at DanielsGrace.org.

How to help: Donate or volunteer.

What recipients say: “[Founder] Jodi [Newland] and her team of volunteers represent all that is right about 501 charities. They are focused on service and their mission remains constant.”


Navy Special Operations Foundation
Photo by David Uhrin

3. Navy Special Operations Foundation

Read about Navy Special Operations Foundation here.

NSOFoundation.org | 757-656-9769

How they started: Founded in 2018 by Joe Cockrell, who served in the Navy for 20 years, including as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician (EOD)

Who they serve: Current and former Navy Special Operations personnel including EODs and Navy Divers and their families.

What they do: Ensure that EODs and Navy Divers and their families are provided with all the tools necessary to overcome any challenges they may face and let them know they are never alone in the fight.       

How they do it:

  • Warrior Care, addressing immediate needs or gaps in coverage for EDO and Navy Divers with logistical and financial support on anything from specialized medical treatments to childcare
  • Community Presence, facilitating engagement for the service members and fostering awareness of the sacrifices they have made and what they have to offer the community
  • Youth Programs, offering opportunities for the children of these service members to learn and connect with one another through summer camps and other special events
  • Transition Assistance, helping service members bridge the gap between their time in the military and the pursuit of successful careers and rewarding civilian lives

How to help: Donate, volunteer or host an event, become an NSOF athlete, partner with NSOF to provide business or support services for service members

Where to give: NSOFoundation.org/Products/Donate-Now

What recipients say: “It’s really relieving to have an organization like NSOF around to kind of help you pick up the pieces and to be a resource. They have so much information, so many ties.”


Tie: 4 & 5. Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and Virginia Peninsula Foodbank

Dual Forces Fighting Hunger

Two Local Organizations, One on the Peninsula and One on the Southside, are Making a Meaningful Difference One Meal at a Time

In addition to the tough decisions our Giving Back Awards panel tackled this year in selecting area nonprofits from among many worthy candidates, members were equally impressed with the submissions of two local organizations with parallel missions serving two different populations. Thus, the committee chose to honor both the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank as a tie in our No. 4 and 5 slots. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of these remarkable organizations, hunger has met its match in Coastal Virginia.



Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore

FoodbankOnline.org | 757-627-6599

Leadership: Ruth Jones Nichols, President & Chief Executive Officer; Kevin X. Jones, Board Chair

How they started: Founded in 1981 from a group of individuals from the Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Project (STOP, Inc.) of Hampton Roads.

Who they serve: Over 160,000 individuals who don’t have consistent access to nutritionally adequate foods in the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Franklin and Virginia Beach as well as the counties of Southampton, Northampton, Sussex, Isle of Wight and Accomack.

What they do: Lead the effort to eliminate hunger in our community.

How they do it: Collecting, sorting and distributing food and grocery products from food drives, purchases and donations to 320 pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, Mobile Pantry sites and school partners, managing key programs like Kids Café and BackPack Programs—offering direct delivery of nutritious food for low-income school children—and undertaking innovative initiatives such as understanding and addressing the root causes of hunger and food insecurity. Their work is centered on feeding the line and ending the line of individuals in need of services.

Foodbank donations

Foodbank food drive

Making it count: Over 300 million meals distributed since 1981

Point of pride: Over the last year, the Foodbank launched the new Healthy School Market program in partnership with nine local elementary schools with a high prevalence of food insecurity. The program provided fresh produce to children and households connected to the schools by way of 13 distributions completed on evenings when the schools had planned an engagement activity with students and/or their parents. The Foodbank was able to serve over 900 households through this program, and due to the positive reception from partner schools, plans to scale it up during the 2019–20 school year.

How to help: Donate funds. For every $10 the Foodbank receives, they can distribute up to $60 worth of grocery products. Donate food through a food drive. Donate time by volunteering. Donate your voice through raising awareness about hunger.

Where to give: FoodbankOnline.org/Give

What recipients say: “It’s hard to believe how excited the children get over the food in their backpack,” explains one schoolteacher who relied on food assistance programs herself before becoming a teacher and says the BackPack Program helped her form new bonds with her students. “That is a testament to how much they actually need it."


Foodbank volunteer

Virginia Peninsula Foodbank

HRFoodbank.org | 757-596-7188

Leadership: Karen Joyner, Chief Executive Officer; Jim Mears, Board President

How they started: Established in 1986 as the leading hunger relief organization across the greater Peninsula region.

Who they serve: The one in seven Virginians who struggle with hunger in the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Williamsburg as well as the counties of Gloucester, James City, Mathews, Surry and York.

What they do: Distribute food effectively through collaborative measures that minimize hunger, promote nutrition and encourage self-reliance through education.

How they do it: Efficiently sourcing and distributing donated products, fresh produce and emergency food commodities to a network of 200 community partners; managing key programs like the Mobile Pantry, Kids Café and BackPack Programs, offering services such as direct delivery of meals and nutritious food for low-income school children; and implementing unique opportunities like the Culinary Training Program for eligible adults to develop skills that can lead to jobs and self-reliance.

Fighting hunger

service men at the Foodbank

Making it count: 71,000 chronically food insecure individuals served on an ongoing basis.

Point of pride: When a U.S. Government shutdown unexpectedly caused employees from locally based organizations such as NASA, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration to fall into the need for food assistance in early 2019, the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank stepped up to the plate by delivering large quantities of food and other supplies such as diapers and baby formula to effected families and holding a series of special distribution events. The organization was able to accomplish this despite losing one of its key donors with the closing of area Farm Fresh locations. People who find themselves in temporary situations such as those precipitated by the government shutdown are sometimes described as the “hidden faces of hunger,” and addressing their needs and working to tell their stories is an important component of the Foodbank’s work.

How to help: Donate food or supplies, host an event or food drive at your school or place of business, volunteer for a Mobile Pantry or other opportunity.

Where to give: HRFoodbank.org/Get-Involved

What recipients say: “Having good quality food around the house brightens my day,” says one elderly food recipient who lives with chronic pain and a lack of mobility. “Since I need to be at home more, having good, fresh food makes meals more enjoyable. I appreciate what the Foodbank does for people like me who are just trying to have a nice life. My neighbors and I count on this food each month, and we are thankful it is there.”

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