Home Page -> Annual Conferences -> Previous Conferences -> 2016 Annual Conference, Arlington -> 2016 VSNC Neighborhood Award Winners

2016 VSNC Neighborhood Award Winners

The annual Virginia Statewide Neighborhood Conference Awards Program is the only neighborhood award recognition event in Virginia that recognizes those individual and group volunteers who undertake self-help initiatives and invest their time and energy toward improving the quality of life in their respective neighborhoods for the benefit of others. The following groups and individuals were the recipients of the 2015 awards, as follows:

Project of the Year

Ms. Sarah Bergen’s Team that Facilitates – Thursday Night Tutoring – Alexandria, VA

Contact Person: Betsy Doud – betsy.doud@cornerstonesva.org

Hume Springs Citizens Association area of Alexandria is a wonderfully diverse neighborhood. When neighbors saw kids running around in neighborhood every day after school and became curious as to why kids weren’t doing homework after school. After questioning the kids, they realized the had homework but some of their parents had challenges with working late and juggling multiple jobs. Additionally language barriers created communication gaps that left a lack in understanding how to help their children with their homework. Given this, the neighbors of Hume Springs decided to organize and host Thursday Night Tutoring for children of all ages in the community. It began as a small group of kids and a few tutors and turned into 9-13 youth and 6-7 tutors each Thursday night. Starting in September and lasting throughout school year the group meets in the host tutor’s home to cook and share a healthy meal and then they work from 6 to 7 one-on-one or in small groups. The youth have goals for the program. They are to (1) show up on time, (2) try hard (3) be respectful (4)bring your homework and (5) a wild card- where the youth can just do something special for someone else. The positive results from Thursday Night Tutoring are numerous. The youth are more plugged into their academics and as a result, academics has become more important to them and their families. They also gained the valuable skills of time management, being prepared, setting goals and achieving them. While this program was started for the kids, it is transforming the Hume Springs Community for young and old alike. People used to just do their own thing and go about their own business. Now because of the youth have built bridges of connectedness, everyone knows each other and takes care of each other.

2nd Place – Community Cultivators “Unity In The Community” – Roanoke, VA

Contact Person: Shamon L. Gilbert- shamongilbert@yahoo.com

Community Cultivators is a non-profit organization that works as conduit with other community organizations to create employment opportunities for adults & Youth, while bringing the community together to create sacred connections and smart partnerships. In July 2015 Community Cultivators hosted their first annual Career and Life Development event. Over 80 people obtained employment and are still working today. Community Cultivators hosted and shared the second annual epic event on July 23, 2016 which also promoted life and career development opportunities. Several people came back to share their testimonials and reveal the impact this event had on their lives. Community Cultivators, along with local employers and organizations accomplished connecting the people with employers and resources that were in order to give them a chance to succeed and plan for a better future. They came together to deliver positive messages and access to resources which enhanced the participants ability to become employed, build a resume. Learn how to interview, register to vote and more. This gave the people of the community an outlet that was life changing all in this one day, one location event.

3rd Place – Lea Outdoor Basketball League – Roanoke, VA

Contact Person: Bob Clement – bob.clement@roanokeva.gov

Representatives from the Roanoke’s Police Dept. Athletic Association and Inner City Athletic League helped Sherman Lea, a City Councilman create the Lea Outdoor Basketball League. Lea and former Police Chief Perkins realized that basketball related evens could help community members and youth get to know their police officers outside of the law enforcement duties. In turn this would help strengthen relationships with one another by forging a bond between them. The program was focused in an area of Roanoke where most of the city’s violent crime took place during 2015 including five homicides. The goals of the program are to teach leadership, decision making skills and foster community in an otherwise troubled neighborhood.

Advocate of the Year

1st Place- Lee Highway Alliance, Co-Founders Ginger Brown & Sandi Chesrown -Arlington County, VA

Contact Person – Ginger Brown, Co-founder – gingerb97@gmail.com

The Lee Highway Alliance is a grassroots citizen led effort of 18 civic associations that began three years ago. The Alliance contributed to improving the quality of life in the neighborhoods along the Lee Highway Corridor by building consensus for a new joint vision for an economically vibrant, walkable, attractive Lee Highway Corridor through an inclusive, transparent grassroots citizen led effort. Lee Highway was the only corridor in Arlington County without a focused planning effort and the General Land Use Plan had not been comprehensively updated for 57 years. These citizens created a step-by-step process to imagine a new future for Lee Highway and worked together to come up with new ideas. The process included (1) organizing and developing trust within & amongst numerous communities (2) Researching land use & policy topics (3) identifying goals of community which became a strategic vision and (4) convincing the County to formally plan the corridor & create the Lee Highway Taskforce. This process was followed to the letter and resulted in a new strategic vision for Lee Highway and a commitment by Arlington County to begin a formal planning process and the establishment of a Lee Highway Task Force in January 2017.

2nd Place – Carmen Vargas- Manassas Park, VA

Contact person- Matias Alvarez – Matiasalvarez108@icloud.com

Founder of the Chantilly Youth Group, Carmen Vargas focuses on teaching kids the importance of giving back and volunteering in their communities. The Meadows of Chantilly is a community of trailers where Carmen lives and she recognized signs of struggle in her community. Children in the street during school hours and the local park being overtaken by drug users where ambulance would come often due to overdoses in the park were indications of community struggles. Carmen opened her door to her home to advocate for the well being of these kids. Carmen implemented various Anti-drug, Healthy Relationships, Anger Management and financial planning classes which has been a tremendous help not only for the kids but also the parents to help them understand the consequences of their actions. She recently implemented workshops on getting students ready for college and real life situations such bill paying and finances (life skills) that the public schools don’t devote as much time to teaching. Over the past year Carmen orchestrated a financial fair where professional s spoke to parents and the youth about the importance of budgeting their money and setting & attaining goals. At a health fair Carmen planned people in the community were able to get medical attention and diabetes exams. Many of the residents hadn’t been to a doctor in awhile and this was an opportunity for them to get check and receive information to clinics where they can get affordable care. According to the youth group there has been such an upward change in the community, its residents and the youth themselves of which several have moved up to leadership roles within the group. They contribute this positive change to the leadership & advocacy of Carmen Vargas.

3rd Place – Nicole Harris/Dale Ave Mural & others- Roanoke, VA

Contact person – Ron McCorkle – ron@urbiculture.org

The Dale Ave Mural was an idea destined to happen. Southeast Roanoke has appeared to be a forgotten part of Roanoke. For various reasons, many residents felt disenfranchised from the city as a whole. Driving down this main corridor, over 25,000 vehicles each day pass this wall. Nicole Harris knew that there needed to be mural on this perfectly blank cement wall. Nicole initiated a group of neighborhood residents who took up the project, worked collaboratively together and created a masterpiece. It turned out to be possibly the largest community build mural in the state of Virginia . Working with the City of Roanoke Office of Neighborhood Services, Dept. of Engineering, The Roanoke Arts Commission the REACH Youth group, a nearby elementary school two neighborhood groups and many volunteers this project consisted of hundreds of hours. A muralist and volunteer Coordinator were the two paid positions. Paid for with a Neighborhood Development grant, this group was able to leverage $6,100 in to a $45,000 mural. Nicole Harris is the source of inspiration for this mural. By initiating this idea and encouraging others to participate, she kept the project alive and ensured it was completed in a timely manner with as much community input as possible.

Youth Individual Effort of the Year

1st Place – Ayanna Henderson – Danville, VA

Contact Person = Constance Covington- ccovington@drhava.com

Ayanna Henderson is a 14yr old who resides in the Cardinal Village Community. She is co-captain of the JV cheerleading squad and has a love and spirit to make everyone who crosses her path, happy and a better person. Ayanna formed a cheer squad within the Cardinal Village Community. The girls practice three days a week three hours a day. It’s very popular and growing larger each day. Ayanna has incorporated Praise Dance as another outlet for the girls to learn and enjoy. The squad now goes on the road to perform for others. Ayanna is a natural born leader. She hosts parties for the Pretty in Pink Girls Club and has served as president of that club for the past 4 years. Ayanna also helps the girls with grooming. After a long practice day she takes 5 to 6 girls home with her and washes their hair, flat irons and styles it. She teaches them about dressing appropriately for functions they attend. Additionally she takes her squad out in the community to clean up trash and debris. She shows them by example how to care for their community and the environment. Ayanna also works with the community choir and gathers the children for rehearsal and helps maintain order during this time. She has so many wonderful qualities and her heart is as big as the universe. She looks for ways to be a blessing to others always. She is one in a million.

2nd Place – Ciara Lewis- Hampton, VA

Contact Person- Marcie Spragan – mspragan@hampton.gov

Ciara Lewis was nominated for this award for her leadership role in the civic engagement of young people. Ms. Lewis is a graduate of Class of 2016 Phoebus High School in Hampton VA. Ciara has demonstrated a strong passion and sincere interest in improving the Hampton Community and being civically involved. She served as a student leader in her community in various capacities. At her school she was a member of the Principal’s Ambassadors, a freshman mentor and in her last year she served as the student representative for Hampton School Board and for the Hampton PTSA. The passion for leading civic engagement of Hampton’s young people was not limited to her school environment. She is committed to service in her neighborhood and the City of Hampton Communities. During the local campaign season Ciara served as youth engagement advisor on multiple local campaigns. In this position she lead youth voter registration drives, organized meet & greets between City Council candidates and Hampton youth residents of voting age. She lead teams of young people conducting door to door canvassing in Hampton’s neighborhoods. During one of he candidates campaigns, Ciara served as social media team leader and worked to ensure that information and coverage of the evens were shared through Periscope, snapchat and Facebook Live. She and her team were often seen at campaign events conducting live interviews of the candidates and those in attendance & then sharing those interviews with a wide audience through social media. As a result of Ms. Lewis demonstrated leadership she was invited to attend a national security town hall meeting with Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton held in Hampton. This gathering focused on ways our government and community could support military families who loved one are consistently deployed. Ciara represented the youth voice in that town hall meeting.

Youth Group Effort of the Year

1st Place- Chantilly Youth Group Foundation, Chantilly VA

Contact person – Matias Alvarez – Matiasalvarez108@icloud.com

The Chantilly Youth Group Foundation is comprised of a number of teen/young adult leaders that focus on teaching kids the importance of giving back to the community. This is a community that has worked together to overcome some of their challenges. The Foundation this year planned and carried out a health fair where many people got free medical attention, many of whom this was there first time receiving preventative medical care. The youth group has implemented various anti-drugs, anger management, healthy relationships, and financial planning classes. These classes have been a tremendous asset not only for the kids but as well as their parents. As a result of the work of the Chantilly Youth Group Foundation there has been such an upward change in the community, its residents and the youth themselves. Kids who became a part of the Foundation at an early age have now moved into leadership roles in the organization. These young people are viewed as resources in their community.

2nd Place- Nauck Youth Enterprises (NYE) - Community Services Team, Arlington, VA

Contact Person – Portia Clark – portiaclark1@gmail.com

The NYE Community Services Team was started as a way to engage youth in and around the Nauck Community. Many were hanging around and getting into trouble at a nearby Community Center. Nauck Youth Enterprises began meeting with the youth at the community center where they were hanging out. Through the meetings they gained more insight into what was going on in the neighborhood and what was going on in their lives. They found that young people wanted someone to talk to and listen to them. Many needed food and money so they were fed and then began projects where the youth would help and in some cases they were able to be paid a stipend for their help. Some of the projects youth are engaged in include helping seniors aging in place with snow removal from driveways and public spaces, raking leaves in yards and helping with odd jobs as needed. Through this engagement a “Learn to Earn program” was started where the youth learn to earn money in the community through NYE.