Honoring Community Celebrities
Meet our 6 Community Celebrities that won a 6-day, 5-night Celebrity Cruises trip in the Western Caribbean for themselves and one guest, including airfare.
Diane was inspired by a nurse she met while living in Guinea, West Africa. In 1990, Diane, Ted, and their three young sons followed their heart and moved to the Ivory Coast of West Africa where Diane served as a school nurse. With few doctors in the area, Diane served the broader community as well, despite poor facilities and extremely limited medical supplies. She returned later to Sierra Leone where she set up a women’s clinic to help the victims of the atrocities that occurred during that country’s civil unrest.
Haiti was a big part of Diane's life even before the horrific earthquake last year. She was the driving force behind establishing an operating center in a community seven miles north of Port-Au-Prince. She got major medical equipment manufacturers to donate the needed equipment and she organized teams of doctors and nurses to go there at various times throughout the year to provide surgical services free of charge. The facility is top notch with excellent equipment. Thankfully it was spared during the recent earthquake. Since then it has become one of the most active surgical facilities in the country, having completed over 700 operations. Says Diane: Everybody has been so helpful and willing to give with an open heart and charitable spirit. It is making a great difference in the country. We are also training local people to run the facility so they won’t always need to depend on outsiders for these services".
Nikki Jo struggled growing up as she went from foster home to foster home, personally facing many of the problems these girls are confronting today. She learned early on that she wanted to be part of the solution and has committed the past fifteen years to foster children. She and David have fostered teenage girls of all races … Latinas, whites, blacks, Asians. The only requirement is that they need the love, support and guidance that Nikki Jo’s family can provide.
Most of these girls come from broken homes where drug abuse, sexual abuse, violence, and psychological trauma are a daily part of their lives. With equal doses of patience and tough love, Nikki Jo helps give them hope. She stresses the importance of education, a foundation of values, Christianity, and taking charge of their own lives. She teaches them that they are responsible for their futures and what they will become. They can’t change the past, but they can mold their own lives going forward.
So far, Nikki and David have been foster parents to 51 girls, and they show no signs of slowing down. Nikki Jo and David never know what they are going to get and not every story is a success, but enough of them are to make them stay the course. Says Nikki Jo: “It just lifts my heart to see these girls, many of them with sharp minds and a keen desire to build a better life for themselves. To see them get that life inspires me every day.”
Ev has a huge heart, great organizational skills, and an infectious personality. She has been active in volunteering all her life, but perhaps her most intriguing venture was to establish the “Staten Island Giving Circle” in 2008. The group of 125 meet monthly. Every member contributes at least $10 for a raffle. They choose two winners, split the funds equally, and distribute the money to the charities of the winners’ choice. Over the past three years, they have raised over $35,000 for foundations ranging from Alzheimer’s to the Wounded Warriors Foundation and the Coalition of Children in Need in Haiti. They also support many local groups such as food pantries, shelters for the homeless, and homes for victims of domestic abuse.
Ev always responds where she sees the need, and when she and Michael discovered that Iraqi children could not attend school unless they had shoes to wear, she found a way to collect and send 19 cartons of shoes to a young friend from her church who was serving there. Ev and Michael have also sent countless cartons of shoes and school supplies to other places throughout the world. In another instance when Ev learned of the plight of homeless kids in Detroit, she started a program called “Denim for Detroit.” She mobilized her church group and others and sent over 500 pounds of clothing and supplies.
Says Ev: “The needs out there are vast, and we can’t fix every problem. But we can try. And we can sure help some people. It brings me joy every day to know my friends and I are making a real difference for some of the neediest among us.”
Jim was a conservationist and environmentalist long before it was cool. He has put his beliefs into action by riding his bicycle to get places, when most people would drive, and making sure his house and his life had the lowest possible carbon footprint. He has a house oriented to retain heat and cooling in season and a lawn filled with plants that grow naturally and thrive in the local environment.
For the past year, Jim has been working with the Ponce Inlet Marine Science Center, and it’s a labor of love. One day he may be tube feeding baby sea turtles or doing maintenance chores on the Center’s property. They next day he is on a boat rescuing an uncooperative 70 pound green sea turtle caught in a crab trap line. He puts in so many hours of volunteer work each week, you are more likely to find Jim at the Marine Science Center than at his home.
The Ponce Inlet Marine Science Center is dedicated to marine studies and the rehabilitation and preservation of endangered species. They study the life cycle and habits of various sea creatures, and they educate the public at large about sea life and its importance to our existence. Says Jim: “It’s not really work if you love it. I enjoy paddling to the Marine Center, when possible, and doing whatever I can to lend a hand.”
Beverly has had a deep interest in Native American culture and history since the age of six when her Dad gave her an Indian arrowhead. Two years later she received a cigar box full of arrowheads and other native treasures from a neighbor. She would comb the fields for hours on end looking to add to her collection, and this ultimately led her to appear in local schools in native garb to introduce young students to the history and tribal ways of the western tribes.
Over the years, Beverly has collected thousands of boxes of new and gently used clothing for the most impoverished tribes of Arizona and New Mexico. Her house is a staging area but her real problem was transporting these treasures to the tribes, some 1500 miles away. She called the Council of Indian Nations, and in 2007 they arranged for a 28’ truck to bring the supplies to the Zuni Pueblo Indian Nation in NM. A year and a half later, she did it again, and this time it took a small army of local college students four hours to load the 53’ truck.
Each year, Beverly now mails boxes of new clothing to the Navajo tribe, and she travels to Arizona to participate in their annual Elderly Appreciation Day. The tribe has come to know and love her. Says Beverly: “I didn’t know it would come to all this, and I didn’t know how I could get everything to the tribes, but I believe that God always provides a path if you provide the a little effort and thought.”
Gary always has his bags packed and answers the call to help out in any emergency. A fellow Red Cross volunteer describes Gary as a “logistics genius,” and that probably understates the fact. To date, Gary has assisted at 63 Red Cross disasters traveling to wherever the crisis may be, usually serving for a three week stint each time.
Logistics for the Red Cross covers many areas, and Gary is always there at the latest disaster with credit cards in hand. He gets food, shelter, and clothing for the dislocated. He rents vans and transportation equipment to move people and equipment. He makes arrangements to get support for medical and mental health professionals at the scene. He purchases copiers, printers, and supplies to support the administrative end of things. He solves problems.
After 9/11, Gary personally served four stints of three weeks each at Ground Zero, arranging to meet the needs of people displaced from surrounding areas and families of the victims. Gary was also one of the earliest people to arrive in LA in 2005 after Katrina hit. Says Gary: “I have a lot of experience after 63 disasters, and it’s always critical to get there fast and get control of the logistics needed to support the victims as swiftly as possible.”