Coastal Virginia Magazine Giving Back Awards 2014

Coastal Virginia Magazine is proud to reveal the third annual Giving Back Awards winners. The awards’ aim to highlight the region’s often unrecognized organizations that tirelessly work to address the many needs of our community. After a nomination period and a total of an astounding 25,938 online votes cast, the following 15 charities received the highest accolades.

CoVa Mag Giving Back Awards 2014 Blankets for the Homeless


Century Drive, Virginia Beach. 757-434-4543.

Number of votes: 2,932

Established: Started in October 2011 by Mariah Smith, 17 years old at the time, after helping her first homeless man at a Sonic restaurant. 

Mission: To encourage and inspire as many people as possible to join them in helping the homeless and to change the way the people view the homeless. “They are people in desperate need of help, compassion and dignity as they try to survive in the worst of circumstances. This is our mission, and our ministry. To spread God’s love while helping his hurting children.”

Key people: Mariah Smith, founder; Moira Askew, Smith’s mother and partner. Also, Smith’s father, brother and everyone who gets involved. Smith gets invited to speak at schools, organizations, churches and businesses that do donation drives, have lunch-making fellowships, etc. 

Programs: Smith is a student at Regent University, and Askew is a full-time special education assistant for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, so they do all of their work—speaking engagements; collecting and sorting donations; lunch-making; and distributing blankets, coats, hats, gloves, clothes, shoes, backpacks, tents, toiletries and anything else the homeless need throughout Coastal Virginia—after work and school seven days a week. Right now, they do not have any formal programs in place but are growing every day and recently received their 501C3.  

Volunteer opportunities: Helping to sort through the donations and organize everything, assisting at their storage unit, drop box locations, making lunches and hosting donation drives for the items they distribute. Also, they participate in a Sunday feeding ministry in Norfolk where they serve food to more than 100 people who are homeless or in need, and are always looking for volunteers to bring food and help serve. 

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “Our biggest struggle is that we are non-funded. All of the donations that we get are the items that we distribute. We recently became a 501C3 and need to do fundraising. My mother works full time as a special education assistant at Kempsville Elementary, and I am a Student at Regent University. My speaking engagements are after that, and then we get everything ready and go distributing, so we honestly do not have the time needed to do the fundraising.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “There are so many rewarding aspects in what I do. Just seeing the looks on the faces of the people that we help and knowing that I have the ability to make a difference in their lives. It is also very rewarding to know that I am inspiring thousands of people to get involved. Another rewarding part is how fast my organization grew and knowing that my personal story, which was something that was once a feeling of loss and confusion for me, was something that could be used to touch the hearts of the people that hear it. I do feel that everything happens for a reason. When I was a child, the story of my birth was hard for me to understand, and there was a terrible feeling of abandonment and not feeling worthy enough. I now believe that being born and abandoned on Christmas Eve is not something for me to mourn. It is part of who I am.” 


CoVa Magazine Giving Back Awards 2014 Hospice House Williamsburg2. HOSPICE HOUSE AND SUPPORT CARE OF WILLIAMSBURG

4445 Powhatan Pkwy., Williamsburg. 757-253-1220.

Number of votes: 2,000

Established: 1982 as Hospice Support Care; Hospice House was built in 2002.

Mission: To enhance the quality of living for those facing end-of-life and to support those who love them.

Key people: Linda Taylor, executive director; Janet Reid, deputy director; Linda Osborn, director of patient/family volunteer services; Allison Delaney, chaplain and bereavement coordinator; Brenda Stout, director of clinical services; Bell-Jo Rodgers, nurse consultant; Hospice “Companions” (certified nursing assistants who provide hands-on care to guests); Hospice Guild of 300-plus volunteers

Programs: Respite at Hospice House and in patient’s homes with trained volunteers; home care equipment and supplies; spiritual care and support; bereavement care.

Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers range from all ages and skill sets. Volunteers can tend to gardens, write/edit publications, bake for guests, sew, speak as outreach facilitators, offer bereavement support, serve as volunteers in the home/at Hospice House/on the Board of Directors, perform musically in the house, plan events/fundraisers and assist with clerical work and maintenance tasks at the House.

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “All services are provided by the generosity of the community, for the community. Because there are so few hospices operating as we do, there is often confusion in the community as to how we operate. In effect, we provide the services that are not covered by the hospice benefit. As such, medical hospices often partner with us to bring their patients to Hospice House. Approximately 50 percent of our budget is made up of individual gifts, and 20 percent is from special events Hospice House organizes. In times of economic challenge, raising the dollars necessary can be a struggle. Our third greatest challenge is getting families to bring their loved ones to Hospice House or to receive hospice services while there is time to benefit from them. It is always difficult for people to step through the doors, but once they do, the burden is eased.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “The moments of laughter that are allowed between family members and a loved one who may only have days remaining, knowing that we have made a bad situation the best possible experience a family can have, allowing a caretaker to return to activities that they enjoy (at ease because a patient volunteer is with their loved one) and seeing those bereaved engage in life again … these are the greatest rewards.”


CoVa Magazine Giving Back Awards 2014 Samaritan House3. SAMARITAN HOUSE

2620 Southern Blvd., Virginia Beach. 757-631-0710.

Number of votes: 1,933

Established: Since 1984, Samaritan House has provided emergency housing, transitional housing and community outreach to victims of domestic violence and homeless families.

Mission: To foster personal safety, growth and self-sufficiency in adults and their children through freedom from domestic abuse and homelessness.

Key people: Angela Kellam, executive director; Karen Anderson, board president; Robin Gauthier, program director; Larissa Sutherland, education; Shereese Floyd-Thompson, marketing; Melissa Sutherland, grants; Brooke Briggs, major gifts; Melody Sanders and Katherine Ashford, volunteers.

Programs: Samaritan House hosts a 24-hour crisis hotline and provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, low-cost affordable housing and supportive services. Families who come into the shelter have access to case management, support groups, housing assistance and education and employment training. Their victim advocacy program helps victims prepare protective orders and accompany them to court, and their Safe Start program gives a therapeutic model for children affected by violence. In addition, Samaritan House operates Connection Point, the only 24-hour central access line for homeless people in Virginia Beach.

Volunteer opportunities: Samaritan House offers free training for volunteers to gain information about the organization and relevant issues. Some volunteer opportunities include: 24-hour crisis hotline operator, shelter grocery shopper, development and fundraising assistant, special events assistant, children’s program assistant, administrative/clerical assistant, landscaper/gardener, maintenance assistant, holiday helper and driver.

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “Broadening people’s perception of domestic and intimate partner violence and moving people to act. Every face of domestic violence has a story. No two stories are alike and thus no solution the same. Domestic violence is on the national stage like never before. People have a good sense of ‘awareness,’ but we encourage them to do something with that awareness that creates real-life change, whether it’s supporting Samaritan House financially, giving goods to our thrift store or volunteering. It’s good that we’re talking about it, but it’s not enough to just know violence exists. We all have a role in preventing and ending it.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “Seeing the notion of “ending domestic violence” come to life, whether it’s watching a person move along the continuum from victim to survivor or bringing law enforcement, magistrates, judges, city officials and concerned advocates around the table to discuss fatalities and how to prevent them.”


CoVa Magazine Giving Back Awards 2014 Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore4. FOODBANK OF SOUTHEASTERN VIRGINIA AND THE EASTERN SHORE  

800 Tidewater Dr., Norfolk. 757-627-6599.        

Number of votes: 1,194

Established: March 1981

Mission: Leading the effort to eliminate hunger in our community.

Key people: Joanne E. Batson, CEO; Renee Figurelle, COO; Marianne Smith Vargas, CPO; Van Woods, CFO; Kenneth J. Thomas, board president

Programs: The heart of the Foodbank is the Warehouse Distribution Program, which includes all food and grocery products collected from food drives, purchases and donations from manufacturers and supermarkets. On average, more than 1.4 million pounds of food and product are distributed monthly—millions of pounds of food are sorted, boxed and delivered to 400 partner agencies and programs.

Other programs include USDA Distribution—the Foodbank is a Commonwealth of Virginia contractor for the distribution of USDA commodities to designated agencies—and Mobile Pantries, a powerful tool to deliver fresh, refrigerated and frozen items in communities and neighborhoods that do not have adequate grocery stores, feeding agencies or food pantries.

More than 87,700 youth in the area are eligible for the free and reduced price lunch program at their schools. The Foodbank has numerous programs specifically designed to meet the needs of those children throughout the year including Kids Cafe®, a national program administered by the Foodbank to reach children after school; the BackPack Program, which distributes food for the weekend and school breaks to children at 49 local elementary schools; and the Summer Food Service Program, which provides healthy meals and snacks to kids who might otherwise go without nutritious food when school is out.

Volunteer opportunities: More than 7,100 volunteers contributed a total of almost 47,000 hours to the Foodbank last year. The Foodbank welcomes individuals and groups to work on a variety of tasks related to its mission of leading the effort to eliminate hunger—from one-time shifts to more long-term commitments. Projects include food sorting, BackPack packing, mobile pantry distribution, event opportunities and more.

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “Securing the necessary resources—food, funds and volunteers. Without all three elements firing at top capacity, food cannot be distributed to those in our community who struggle with hunger.” 

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “Knowing that, with the support of our community, we can make sure children, families and seniors have food on their tables and hope in their hearts. Seeing the smiles and hearing the sincere thank yous from our customers keeps us highly motivated to work toward a hunger-free community.”


CoVa Magazine Giving Back Awards 2014 Hope for Life5. HOPE FOR LIFE RESCUE, INC.          

610 Jack Rabbit Rd., Suite 1, Virginia Beach. 757-491-4609.

Number of votes: 790

Established: February 2002 

Mission: To rescue and place abandoned, abused and neglected street animals and those on “death row.” Each animal receives everything they need, including major surgeries. Hope For Life has rescued more than 3,500 animals in the 12 years it has been in operation. The animals are brought to full health and are spayed/neutered before going to their forever homes.

Key people: Everyone is key in the mission—volunteers, staff and the director Pauline Cushman. Hope for Life believes in building lasting relationships with their volunteers, adoptive parents, foster parents and vets.   

Programs: The primary focus is on rescue, rehabilitation and adoptions. The animals they rescue are given medical treatment, shelter and loving care while they work toward placing them with the right forever home. They see some of the worst cases of animal abuse and neglect and believe firmly that every animal deserves a chance, “not just the healthy ones.” Rescues free roam or live in cheerfully decorated glass rooms at Hope Center, a six-room urban sanctuary in Virginia Beach, until they go to their permanent homes.

Hope’s Garden Resort & Boutique offers doggie daycare, grooming and boarding for cats and dogs, with all proceeds going directly to support the mission of Hope for Life Rescue.

Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers are a vital part of the day-to-day operations of Hope for Life Rescue. They serve as sanctuary workers, adoption counselors and cleaning personnel to clean and sanitize the facilty.

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? Hope for Life Rescue, Inc. operates solely on donations from people and businesses in the community. “Our biggest challenges are securing financial support and continuing to maintain, upgrade and expand our facility.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “There is no greater joy than saving a life and finding homes for abused and abandoned animals. We get to see the transformation from ‘hopeless’ to ‘hopeful and happy’ every day.”


Other Non-Profits honored:

Honor Flight Historic Triangle Virginia

HFHTV’s goal is to take every World War II and terminally ill veteran in the Coastal Virginia and Richmond areas that is able and has not visited the World War II Memorial built in their honor on a charter bus day trip to Washington, D.C. 

ForKids Inc.

ForKids is breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children through housing, educational and clinical programs that work.

Virginia Peninsula Foodbank

A community leader in providing food to residents across the greater Peninsula. Since 1986 they have provided more than 117 million meals to residents in their service area.

Virginia Voices International

A volunteer, non-profit organization that provides a bridge through music into realms of emotions that are hard to describe, but people respond to deeply.  They touch a diverse society with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds both domestically and internationally.  

Beyond Boobs! Young Breast Cancer Survivors

Dedicated to healing and saving lives by supporting  young women diagnosed with breast cancer while providing breast health education for all.

Junior League of Hampton Roads

Jewish Family Service of Tidewater

Center for Child and Family Services

International Order of Rainbow for Girls, Hampton Assembly #2

Goodwill Industries

Read our November/December issue for the full article, including our staff’s volunteer experiences at the top three organizations.


Click here to read about our 2013 Giving Back Award winners.

Categories: Issue Page Features