Real Life Heroes: CoVa Giving Back Awards 2015

Coastal Virginia Magazine is proud to reveal the fourth annual Giving Back Awards winners. The awards aim to highlight the real superheroes of our region that tirelessly work to address the many needs of our community and the people in it. After a nomination period and a series of online voting rounds, the following 50 local charities received the highest accolades. Our staff was honored to spend time volunteering with our top three non-profits.


hope for life rescue virginia beach1. Hope for Life Rescue

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

Established: February 2002, after 7 years of prayer.

Mission: To rescue, rehabilitate and place abandoned, abused and neglected animals in forever loving homes.

Key people: Director Pauline Cushman and “our people—both volunteer and paid—who tirelessly give of themselves to benefit the needs of helpless animals,” Cushman says.

Programs: Hope Center is the free-roam facility where cats and dogs are placed after rescued and brought to full health until adopted. Next door is their Hope’s Garden Resort & Boutique, which is a vacation and day care facility for cats and dogs that also offers grooming services and bordatella vaccinations. All of the resort’s proceeds directly support Hope for Life Rescue. Their Heart to Heart program matches senior pets with seniors that are lonely and in need of a furry companion; no adoption donation is received. Helping Hands of Hope allows Hope for Life Rescue to provide food and medication for pets in need when families undergo financial difficulties. Partners in Hope allows individuals and businesses to partner with them to save lives by committing to a monthly payment. Samuel Fund exists to fund the bills of severely abused animals and their medical needs.

Volunteer Opportunities: Each day, Hope for Life Rescue’s volunteers walk dogs every two hours, scoop and clean litter boxes, sterilize the rooms, sweep and mop, wash and refill food and water bowls, answer phones, groom animals and keep up the general cleanliness of Hope Center.

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “We need financial resources, but we also need a lot more space,” Pauline says. Hope for Life Rescue does not receive grants or city or state funding. By operating solely on donations, financial resources are always welcomed, but a larger space is needed to continue to rescue and accommodate more animals.

What is the most rewarding part about what your nonprofit does? “It’s all about saving lives and helping people.” More than 5,500 animals have been rescued and brought to full health in the 13 years that Hope for Life Rescue has existed.

Read about our volunteer experience with Hope for Life.


blankets for the homeless mariah smith2. Blankets for the Homeless

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

Established: Started in October 2011 by Mariah Smith, 17 years old at the time, after helping her first homeless man at a Sonic restaurant. “It was freezing cold, and we just happened to have a blanket in the back of our van,” Mariah recalls. “When I gave him the blanket and some food, the look of desperation he gave me—but thankfulness at the same time—was something I’ll never be able to forget.”

Mission: To encourage and inspire as many people as possible to join them in helping the homeless and to change the way people view the homeless. “Homelessness doesn’t discriminate; it can happen to anyone,” Mariah expresses. “Their circumstances are unreal. We hear so many of these stories, so often, every day.”

Key people: Mariah Smith, founder; Moira Askew, Smith’s mother and partner. Also, Smith’s father, brother and everyone who gets involved.

Programs: Smith is a full-time student at Regent University but still carries out all the tasks pertinent to the organization, including: 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 school, between homework, seven days a week.

Volunteer Opportunities: Sorting through the donations and helping to organize everything, assisting at their storage units, making lunches and hosting donation drives for the items they distribute. Mariah encourages those interested in volunteering to visit their website and Facebook page to learn about current volunteer opportunities.

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “Our biggest need is to acquire funding as soon as possible so that we can successfully continue what we’re doing and so that we can soon have a location—a commercial space, a warehouse space of some kind. We work out of our tiny duplex, so it’s become a little bit overwhelming. There would be so many more opportunities for people to get involved if we actually did have a building to work out of.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “It is bittersweet helping the homeless because it’s hard to see the way that they’re living, but it’s also a blessing to know that we’re making some sort of a difference in their lives. It’s just the most remarkable thing for them, and that makes everything worthwhile for us.”

Read about our volunteer experience with Blankets for the Homeless, and learn how to make your own blessing bags to give to people in need.


life enrichment center norfolk3. Life Enrichment Center

230 W. Bute St., Norfolk. 757-623-6001.

Established: 2003

Mission: To provide educational, cultural, social and spiritual enrichment to children, youth and adults in under-served communities throughout Coastal Virginia. LEC fosters stable, nurturing support networks and reinforces a positive work ethic by providing critical support in parenting and life skills, early childhood development programs, computer basics, job readiness and literacy skills.

Key people: Kevin Turpin, founder and president; Wanda Turpin, office manager and director of school-based literacy programs; Sandra Christmas, school-based literacy coordinator

Programs: Literacy Tutoring Initiative—The Life Enrichment Center mobilizes, screens and trains individuals to tutor one child, one hour a week, for one academic year. LEC Summer Urban Youth Camp Academy—Six-week camp which emphasizes math, science, literacy, technology and music and the arts. Also includes several field trips. Old Dominion University is a major partner. They also have an Adult Literacy Tutoring Program and provide Title I elementary schools with needed technology, furniture, etc. to support the various special needs of children from-low income communities.

Volunteer opportunities: Literacy tutor, adult literacy tutor, summer program counselor. “We need more community involvement with churches and companies we can partner with,” says founder Kevin Turpin. “My hope is that we will be able to play a role in mobilizing the community.”

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “Recruiting tutors who can commit one hour a week for an academic year. Tutoring occurs during the school hours. Also, identifying funding sources to support our efforts.

Two out of three students who can’t read well by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “Providing children with the tools needed to succeed in school. We also play a role in building the self-esteem of these children so they can discover their talents and abilities and develop a positive future outlook.

Every enlightened child has the potential of igniting life and light in the lives of many others in their community, city and nation. They will, indeed, one day be a part of ‘the village’ which helped them find success so they are empowered to do the same for another.” 

Read about our volunteer experience with Life Enrichment Center.


sinkinson dyslexia foundation4. Sinkinson Dyslexia Foundation, Inc.

3701 Pacific Ave., Suite 500, Virginia Beach. 757-437-0733.

Established: September 2008

Mission: “To teach children and adults who are dyslexic to read through professional assessments and one-to-one tutoring. Our tutoring program is based on the Orton-Gillingham, multi-sensory method of teaching reading, writing and spelling to individuals with deficient reading skills due to dyslexia.”

Key people: “Marie C. Sexton, M.Ed., president/CEO; Christin Rogers, COO; Sheri Knecht, office assistant; and all of our wonderful volunteers who commit their time to working with our students.”

Programs: “We provide free reading tutoring to children and adults who come from low to low-middle income families. All new students are screened and then carefully matched with a volunteer tutor. Our goal is to have our students reading above their grade level before they graduate from our services.

Our foundation’s other focus is to educate the community on dyslexia, a learning disability that frequently goes undiagnosed and is often misunderstood. Individuals with dyslexia are within the average or above average range of intellectual functioning. When an individual doesn’t receive the necessary accommodations and specialized instruction to remediate their dyslexia it can cause them to struggle academically and suffer emotionally. We are committed to informing parents and educators about the importance of early intervention.”

Volunteer opportunities: “Our tutors are all volunteers—they don’t have to be educators; however most have a college background. Volunteers are trained at our facility and asked to commit to staying with their student for a minimum of 60 hours and a maximum of 100 hours.”  

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “There are significant misunderstandings about dyslexia. But funding has become our greatest challenge. Our foundation struggles with securing financial support to continue maintaining and growing our services. It is stressful to know that we can do so much to change lives, but to not have the funding to reach more than just a handful of students a year with a part-time staff of only two.” 

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “We are changing lives! Our students don’t have to go through the rest of their lives feeling like they aren’t as smart as their peers. We get to witness children who once hated reading enjoying books that are equal to their grade level and beyond, who discover that reading is something they truly love. And we get to see the parents who can’t believe their ears when their child says all he wants to do now is read.” 


wave city care5. Wave City Care   

629 Wesley Dr., Suite 200, Virginia Beach. 757-965-8494.

Established: September 2002

Mission: “To partner with others to educate, equip and empower our community, one life at a time, through educational, basic care and health and human services programs and events.” 

Key people: Steve Kelly, president; Sue Fitzgerald, vice president; and Larry Van De Ree, executive director. “And of course the really key people are our amazing volunteers, donors and sponsors. We have over 600 volunteers who donate their valuable time to help throughout the year—more than 150 of those volunteers contribute two to four hours every week.”

Programs: “On any given week, we have up to eight different programs running including ShineGIRL and Man POWER (personal development youth mentoring programs hosted in Virginia Beach and Norfolk school systems), and 1Life Mentoring (one-on-one mentoring for homeless and at-risk youth). We focus on equipping youth with vital life skills, positive self-esteem and the keys to building healthy relationships. Other initiatives include REGENERATION, a weekly program assisting people of all ages struggling with life-controlling issues; Jobs for Life, for those looking for new or better jobs; and Healthy Living Food Distribution, for those struggling to make ends meet on a limited income. Our goal is to empower the entire family to live life well and achieve their goals and dreams.”

Volunteer opportunities: “We are always looking for new volunteers, particularly for our youth mentoring programs. Or you can join us as we deliver Thanksgiving baskets, make-over a local school or at any of our events. There’s room for you, and it is so rewarding!”

What are the biggest struggles your organization faces? “As with most non-profit organizations, additional funding is our greatest need. Our programs are offered to participants at no cost, and the expenses for supplies quickly escalate as we increase the number of people we are impacting. But the return for the investment is priceless.”

What is the most rewarding part about what your non-profit does? “Being able to encourage and empower people and watch their lives transform! To hear a ShineGIRL say, ‘You guys made me realize that my life is important!’ Or for a 13-year-old student in Man POWER to remark, ‘Today, I learned that my life has meaning!’ That’s what it’s all about, showing people that there is hope, that they have a great life ahead.”

6. Dogs Deserve Better

A non-profit voice for all dogs living chained and penned lives outside. Includes information about how to educate the public and change the laws to improve the lives of dogs.

7. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Norfolk Alumnae Chapter

Striving to enhance the goals of the sorority, annual projects focus on providing services and funding to many community organizations, churches, schools and students.

8. Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg

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

9. Chesapeake Humane Society

Works to promote the welfare of companion animals through programs and initiatives that reduce pet overpopulation, increase adoptions and encourage responsible pet guardianship through affordable pet care.

10. Jewish Family Service of Tidewater

JFS strengthens our community by providing essential services such as counseling, home health care, food assistance and more to people of all faiths, ages, ethnicities and incomes.

11. Five Points Community Market

The Five Points Community Farm Market is a project of the Five Points Partnership, formed in 2001. Programs include a mobile markets, mini markets, community gardens and CSA. Encourages all people to, “Follow Your Food.”

12. Judeo-Christian Outreach Center

Mission to empower homeless families and individuals to recover from crisis situations and return to being self-supporting, productive and independent members of our community.

13. 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. 

14. Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia

Regional organization in South Hampton Roads that supports and enriches the lives of seniors and their families through advocacy, education, information and comprehensive services.

15. 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.


Top 50 Non-Profits


Access Aids Care

ACCESS College Foundation

Alzheimer’s Association of Southeast Virginia

Animal Resources of Tidewater

Beach Ambassadors

Blankets for the Homeless

Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia

Cerebral Palsy of Virginia

Chesapeake Humane Society


Daniels Grace

Dogs Deserve Better

East Coast Gentle Giants Rescue, Inc.

Eastern Shore’s Own Arts Center

Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. Health Center & Spa

Eggleston Services

Five Points Community Farm Market

Honor Flight Historic Triangle Virginia

Hope for Life Rescue

Hope House Foundation

Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg


I Need a Lighthouse

Jewish Family Service of Tidewater

Judeo-Christian Outreach Center

Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach

Life Enrichment Center

LRNOW – Lynnhaven River Now

Poquoson Animal Welfare Sanctuary

Portsmouth Service League

Norfolk SPCA

Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia

Sacred Friends Inc.

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Norfolk Alumnae Chapter

Sinkinson Dyslexia Foundation, Inc.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

The Storehouse of Ocean View

The Up Center

Untamed Spirit Therapeutic Riding and Education Program

Vanguard Landing

VersAbility Resources

Virginia Beach CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)

Virginia Beach SPCA

Virginia Gentlemen

Virginia Living Museum

Virginia Peninsula Foodbank

Wags for Warriors of Virginia

Wave City Care

XOXO Pet Rescue, Inc.  

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