2020 Giving Back Awards Winners

Our annual Giving Back and Community Impact Awards honor the nonprofits and businesses committed to making Coastal Virginia a better place for all
Survivor Ventures

While this year may be one most of us are anxious to put in the rearview mirror, 2020 was also a time when those willing to be of service to their communities reflected the best of human nature while faced with the worst of circumstances. The 10 amazing nonprofit organizations and 10 community-minded businesses featured in the following pages, winners of our 2020 Giving Back and Community Impact Awards respectively, represent a wide range of missions but share a common goal in improving and enhancing the lives of everyone who calls Coastal Virginia home.

Our 2020 Coastal Virginia Magazine Giving Back and Community Impact Awards winners were chosen through an online nomination process in which nonprofit organizations and businesses were encouraged to share information about their missions and community accomplishments. Nominations were reviewed by members of our editorial and marketing staff and selections were made based on the quality of the nominations, the missions and contributions of each organization. We also considered the diversity and breadth of the nonprofits and businesses in our region in an effort to include those of various types and sizes.

For our 2020 awards, we made the process more selective than in previous years, narrowing down winning organizations to just 10 in each category. We also selected a single top honoree for Nonprofit of the Year, Norfolk-based Survivor Ventures. Our staff was particularly moved by Survivor Ventures’ unique approach to helping victims of human trafficking.

Congratulations to all of our honorees and thank you for all you do to make Coastal Virginia a caring and compassionate community.

—Leona Baker, Editor-in-Chief

Nonprofit of the Year: Survivor Ventures

Life After “The Life”

Survivor Ventures
Photo by Janice Marshall-Pittman

“In the movies, [human trafficking] is this big kidnapping situation. You’re taken away and never heard from again, but it’s not like that. It’s actually the complete opposite. Most of the time, it’s the people that you trust, love and confide in that lead you to ‘the life’.”


Click here to read the full story.

Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia

Make A Wish

“Wishes help children replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope. Wishes give families faced with a critical diagnosis a chance to feel like a normal family again, and they give kids back the little piece of childhood they [lose] due to long hospital stays and complex treatment plans.”—Kiley Elward, Regional Development Officer

In 1980, 7-year-old Christopher James Greicius wanted nothing more than to be a police officer. His wish was granted by the local Phoenix community shortly before his untimely death later that year. Greicius became the first of hundreds of thousands of critically ill children to revel in the generosity of the 40-year-old Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to creating life-changing wishes for children battling malignant, progressive and degenerative diseases. Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia strives to carry out that same mission in all pediatric medical communities ranging from the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains to the sandy shores of Coastal Virginia.

How They Are Making a Difference

  • In 2019, Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia granted 39 wishes for children in the Coastal Virginia region, ranging from a XMAXX Remote Control Truck to a trip to Turks and Caicos.
  • The organization hired a dedicated Virginia Beach staff member to increase local awareness of its mission, expand its coastal volunteer base and raise additional funds.
  • Wish experiences increase children’s emotional and physical health, as well as improve their overall quality of life.
  • Even in the throes of a global pandemic, the mission of Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia never faltered. The organization granted a fully assembled and sanitized film studio to a local Virginia Beach boy on April 29, 2020, World Wish Day.

What You Can Do to Help

With its newly dedicated Virginia Beach staff, Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia is more ready than ever to garner support for Coastal Virginia’s ailing children. Make an impact by referring a child, volunteering your time or engaging in fundraising opportunities. Other ways to support Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia include adopting a wish, donating air miles, becoming a corporate sponsor and much more.

Va.Wish.org | 804-217-9474



“At REACH, we believe that education, especially literacy, is the clearest path for children to break the cycle of poverty. Books in a child’s home are the single biggest indicator for their academic success, surpassing parents’ education, income, family composition and all other factors.”—Jennifer Goff, Executive Director

For 21 years, REACH has fought to mitigate the risk of regression in children’s literacy abilities by providing kids of all ages and backgrounds with equal and free access to books. The substantially impactful organization is comprised of two full-time and two part-time employees, and nearly 1,000 local volunteers. REACH is the sole organization in Coastal Virginia to provide free access and ownership of books, and in 2019 alone, happily distributed 40,089 gently used books valued at over $230,000. REACH pivoted during COVID as well, expanding its program offerings to include delivery options, agency pick-ups and partnerships with two local restaurants—the Virginia Beach Oceanfront’s Zero Subs and District 41 of Newport News.

How They Are Making a Difference

  • REACH’s community efforts include a Read Aloud Program, Growing Readers giveaway, Literacy Mentors, Bulk Book Distribution, REACH ReadSource Packs and the new hybrid (online and in-person) bedtime reading initiative, Moon Beams and Sweet Dreams.
  • According to REACH, the ratio of books in higher-income homes is 13 developmentally appropriate books per child compared to one developmentally appropriate book for every 300 children in low-income areas.
  • REACH devotes 95% of its operating costs directly to programs, teachers, schools and agencies assisting children in underserved communities.
  • REACH boasts over 120 agency partnerships with ForKids, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, Minus 9 to 5 at EVMS and more.

What You Can Do to Help

REACH relies heavily on monetary and book donations to keep its mission alive. The organization is currently raising money to support its continued efforts of COVID-safe distribution and a socially distanced workforce. REACH matches every dollar to one book in its 5 Dollars = 5 Books campaign, too.

REACHReads.org | 757-627-4722

Dreams of Hope Foundation

Dreams Of Hope

“A woman made an appointment to receive clothing from our closing closet and food from our pantry. She was at risk of homelessness and while speaking with Simone, [co-founder of Dreams of Hope Foundation], revealed that she had written a letter to her family and was going to take her life that day. After coming into our office, she quickly changed her mind. [She was saved] from eviction, received food, a new pair of shoes, clothes and a new lease on life. It’s an incredible feeling to know that Dreams of Hope Foundation saved a life that day.”—Melissa Dale, Advocate/Volunteer

Coy Dreher, a Navy veteran, and his wife, Simone, are on a mission to give, even if it means paying out of their own pockets. For years the couple had been astounded by the number of families lacking basic necessities, but more than that, the number of individuals suffering from untreated mental illness. In an attempt to stunt this ever-growing population, the Drehers founded Dreams of Hope in 2015. The Newport News nonprofit promotes a culture of healing through mental wellness and self-sufficiency. In addition to their clothing closet and food pantry, Dreams of Hope offers mental health programs and partners with the Newport News Sherriff’s Office and Reentry Office to assist those struggling with probation and prepare them for reentry into daily life.

How They Are Making a Difference

  • Dreams of Hope provides pro bono mental health services to the Virginia community.
  • The foundation recently partnered with Conexus to build their iNfocus Eye Glasses Voucher Program which provides free eyeglasses to adults and children with prescriptions. A prescription reimbursement program was also implemented in late 2019.
  • Mental Health programs promote skills to become self-sufficient, conquer anger management, master budgeting, healthy eating and more.

What You Can Do to Help

The Foundation invites those willing to support its mission to fill out a volunteer interest for or donate a variety of items including clothing, food, furniture, toys and more. Cash donations are accepted as well. The Foundation claims that $25 can provide five meals to five individuals, and $100 can provide four free therapy sessions for an individual without insurance.

DreamsOfHopeFoundation.org | 757-806-6339

Mercy Chefs

Mercy Chefs

“When [Gary] LeBlanc came up with the idea for Mercy Chefs, he wanted to create an organization that wouldn’t serve just any meal, but food that would truly be a sign of comfort on a dark day, made with high-quality ingredients prepared by chefs. A plate with slow roasted turkey, mashed sweet potato casserole, fresh vegetables and a peach cobbler are not untypical fare.”—Megan Beckman, Marketing & Communications Manager

A tornado victim and Mercy Chefs’ recipient claims that the distribution of restaurant-quality meals does more than just nourish the body; it strengthens one’s soul and resolve.

Mercy Chefs was founded in 2006 by Gary LeBlanc, a veteran in the hospitality industry, after he assisted with food relief in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. The Portsmouth-based disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization serves professionally prepared meals to victims and first responders of national emergencies and natural disasters. Of the 5 million meals distributed since the organization’s establishment, 2.5 million have been served since March 2020 in response to the global pandemic. The mission of Mercy Chefs goes beyond cooking and plating, however. The organization is dedicated to assisting communities in finding their new normal for many months following the initial aftershock of disaster.

How They Are Making a Difference:

  • Nearly two years since Hurricane Michael hit Panama City, Florida, Mercy Chefs has continued to serve the coastal community.
  • Mercy Chefs boasts 50 partner sites and eight permanent community kitchens in the U.S., Haiti and Puerto Rico.
  • Nine nations and 26 states have benefited from Mercy Chefs’ relief efforts with the help of over 6,000 volunteers.
  • Mercy Chefs reached its 1 million mark during its tenth year; they are on track to serve 3 million meals in 2020 alone.

What You Can Do to Help

Support Mercy Chefs by making a 100% tax deductible financial contribution, donating products and equipment or fill out the volunteer form to offer hands-on assistance in your area. Mercy Chefs also seeks corporate and church partnerships, as the nonprofit is fully funded by private donors and sponsorships.

MercyChefs.com | 757-292-4264

Williamsburg House of Mercy

Williamsburg House Of Mercy

“We envision a community where no one will ever have to spend a night on the streets or in the woods. We believe that safe, affordable housing and a livable wage [are] fundamental human rights, and that every person, regardless of class, condition, color, gender, orientation or belief system was created to live a full, rich life.”—Nicole Lancour, Director of Communications

Williamsburg House of Mercy fosters community partnerships while bettering the lives of area homeless. The nonprofit collaborates with local organizations to provide safe and welcoming environments for those seeking shelter and provide such individuals with access to emergency assistance and support services. The end goal of Williamsburg House of Mercy is to break the cycle of poverty and promote long-term stability and independence. To do so, Williamsburg House of Mercy offers an array of food pantry services, pregnancy and family support, re-entry services and rehousing services through Mercy Housing. The organization pivoted during COVID-19 to accommodate worldwide shutdowns. They pooled resources from businesses, fellow nonprofits and individual community members to arrange a drive-thru food pantry and carry out services.

How They Are Making a Difference

  • Williamsburg House of Mercy raised over $1 million in 2019 alone.
  • The drive-thru pantry provided an average of 350 meals per day and nearly 154,000 diapers and feminine hygiene products.
  • Affiliations include The Harbor Day Shelter for the Homeless, Grace Haven Family Shelter, Regional Diaper Bank, Hope Pregnancy Center, Virginia Peninsula Food Bank and more.
  • COVID surprisingly increased the impact of the organization’s operations, growing its daily population of families fed from three to over 150.

What You Can Do to Help

Williamsburg House of Mercy funnels nearly all monetary contributions from its gift matching program and donation portal directly into programming such as food offerings, clothing and shelter. Other support opportunities include shopping the organization’s Target and Amazon WishLists, donating much-needed pantry items or hosting an office-wide diaper drive to support the community and boost workplace rapport.

WilliamsburgHouseOfMercy.org | 757-229-3700

ACCESS College Foundation


“The Foundation understands that there are barriers for many students to taking their first step in getting to college and pursuing postsecondary education, and that is why our organization exists—to help these students and their families overcome [any personal, financial and other] barriers.”—Kenyetta Fauntleroy, Fundraising Coordinator

Access, aid and education are at the center of this Norfolk-based nonprofit. ACCESS College Foundation believes all high school students, especially those with limited resources, deserve the opportunity to attain a college degree. ACCESS Advisors expose students to postsecondary education offerings, guide them through the application process, cover standardized testing fees when applicable and facilitate campus tours for over a dozen Virginia institutions. Last year, a grant from Obici Healthcare Foundation allowed ACCESS to expand its student services into high schools in Franklin County, Southampton County and Surry County. ACCESS Advisors now have a presence in nine school districts administering educational services to 33 public high schools and 28 high-need public middle schools. ACCESS looks beyond the college experience too and instills excitement in students about career opportunities and professional internships through its Career Connection Program.

How They Are Making a Difference

  • ACCESS College Foundation is the only provider of school-based higher education access and success services in every public high school in South Hampton Roads, Northampton County and Western Tidewater, as well as 13 universities and colleges across the state.
  • Over 32 years, ACCESS has provided $719 million in financial aid and scholarships to college-bound students, including $12 million in “Last Dollar” Scholarships.
  • ACCESS assists in the development of the Western Tidewater workforce by selecting ACCESS Scholars pursuing a career in healthcare as potential hires for local employers.
  • The graduation rate for ACCESS Scholars is 90%, significantly higher than the 59% national average.

What You Can Do to Help

ACCESS offers a host of philanthropic opportunities by collecting direct donations, Amazon Smile donations and designations on gifts granted through United Way campaigns. You can also support ACCESS College Foundation by attending or sponsoring one of their many events including College Commitment Day, Annual Luncheon and the Scholarship Awards Luncheon.

ACCESSCollege.org | 757-962-6113

Newport News Public Art Foundation

Selene By Maria Gamundi Photo By Alexander Kravets Newport News Public Art
Selene by Maria Gamundi, Photo by Alexander Kravets

“Our Foundation’s mission is to bring the finest public art to the City of Newport News that educates, transforms and inspires. We exist to help make Newport News an appealing place to live, work, visit and do business by creating and expanding a unique and significant cultural asset. In doing so, we increase the quality of life of all residents and visitors.—Danny Carroll, Executive Director

The Newport News Public Art Foundation goes above and beyond mainstream beautification efforts of landscaping and modern amenities and pursues instead the magnificence of art. For 20 years, the Foundation has looked beyond gallery walls and seasonal exhibits to erect meaningful statues and sculptures in heavily trafficked areas to inspire the Peninsula community. In addition to curating a diverse collection of public art, the Foundation organizes a variety of outreach program to encourage engagement and education. Programs include a children’s activity book, public tours and talks by revered artists, a free audio tour mobile app and school visits. The Foundation is also dedicated to maintaining city cleanliness and partakes in city-wide renovation efforts such as repainting public buildings and replacing lights.

How They Are Making a Difference

  • Complimentary copies of the Foundation’s “Explore Art in Our Community” activity book were distributed to all first and second grade art classrooms in Newport News public schools.
  • The Foundation routinely cleans and waxes sculptures to maintain and restore their original beauty.
  • Provides free access to art for residents and visitors of all ages and abilities.
  • Supports research that suggests 70% of residents believe public art improves the identity and image of a community and that aesthetics are one of the top qualities considered by travelers and future residents.

What You Can Do to Help

All methods of giving to the Newport News Public Art Foundation are tax-deductible. You can support the local arts movement by donating online, by check or matching gifts. The Foundation is always looking to expand its ever-growing portfolio of donors, business sponsors and Foundation supporters, too.

NNPAF.org | 757-369-3014

Riverside Health System Foundation


“Riverside achieves its mission by going far beyond what others may call “good” enough. This higher standard of care comes with a cost, which is not compensated, but Riverside unwaveringly strides past the financial obstacles to achieve its mission.”—Theresa Emory, M.D., Pathologist at Peninsula Pathology Associates and Donors

Riverside’s priority is to serve the whole patient and has been for over a century. The not-for-profit health system treats patients with the highest quality of care, regardless of their lack of insurance coverage or financial capabilities. Riverside is also dedicated to ensuring the patient is served beyond treatment facility walls. Last year, the Riverside Foundation invested $529,000 of privately donated funds into patient assistance reserves to help with patients’ utility bills, rent for those at risk of losing housing during cancer treatments and access to safe transportation to Riverside facilities. The Foundation also recently established the Every Woman’s Life program in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Health. The public initiative provides low-income and uninsured women between 18 and 64 years of age with complimentary screening services for breast and cervical cancer.

How They Are Making a Difference

  • Riverside is served by over 600 clinical health care providers and nearly 10,000 team members supporting specialized care in cancer, heart and vascular treatment, as well as radiology and surgical specialties in general, oncology, neurosurgery, urology and orthopedics.
  • Riverside Patient Navigators eliminate barriers for healing by offering support and guidance for treatment options.
  • In 2019, Riverside provided uninsured and underinsured patients with $246 million worth of uncompensated care.
  • Performed 200 free breast cancer screenings and mammograms to underserved women throughout the Peninsula, Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck.

What You Can Do to Help

Make a difference in the lives of Riverside staff and patients by giving a gift. All gifts received are designated to a fund, hospital or scholarship of the donor’s choice. You can also memorialize a friend or family member through Riverside’s Honor a Loved One program or nominate one of the organization’s standout caregivers through the Champions of Caring program.

RiversideOnline.com | 800-675-6368

United Way of South Hampton Roads

United Way

“’We bring people and resources together to solve problems too large for any of us to solve alone.’ United Way serves as the backbone, convener and leader in collaboration to orchestrate systematic change across South Hampton Roads.”—Judi Morgan, Senior Director of Operations and Administration

Emerging as the thought and action leader of Coastal Virginia, United Way of South Hampton Roads is on a nearly century-old mission to evolve, support and advocate for the community’s less fortunate. United Way strives to break the cycle of poverty among Coastal Virginia’s future generation as well as help a number of struggling community members through support programs. The Norfolk-based nonprofit partners with over 100 local organizations to assist at-risk students through United for Children, offer military connection services through Mission United, facilitate ALICE mentorships and job training through the Aspire Program and more. The impact and presence of United Way of South Hampton Roads has increased substantially over the last two years as the organization was called to action during government shutdowns, the City of Virginia Beach shooting and the ongoing COVID crisis.

How They Are Making a Difference

  • In 2019, United Way connected over 2,500 students to critical preventive health services for dental, vision, routine checkups and emergency care.
  • With the help of 67 new community partners, local veterans and military families are receiving services from 125 unique providers.
  • United Way set a $35 million fundraising goal to support its mission. They have raised over $28 million so far.
  • In light of current social and political strife, United Way will complete all work through a lens of equity and inclusion.

What You Can Do to Help

United Way of Southampton Roads sets forth a myriad of involvement opportunities. Help the nonprofit achieve its fundraising goal by donating everything from dollars and food to stocks and bitcoin. You can also participate in a Giving Campaign, Workplace Campaign or one of several community-wide events.

UnitedWaySHR.org | 757-853-8500

Leona Baker
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