These Delaware residents are changing the state for the better
Across Delaware, citizens are doing good for the state and for each other.
As part of the Delaware Salute to Service with Multiplying Good, five Delawareans were chosen for their exceptional service to benefit local communities. Delaware Online / The News Journal is a co-sponsor of the event.
The five finalists were a “driving force” behind significant local change, according to Michele Fidance, general manager of Multiplying Good in Delaware.
“These people are the backbone of public service,” said Fidance, detailing how each has brought their community together despite the pandemic to respond to an ongoing call to help others.
All five will be honored during the Delaware Salute to Service 2021 at 6 p.m. on April 29. During the ceremony, one of the five finalists will also be chosen to represent Delaware at the National Jefferson Awards later this year.
In 2017, Louise Cummings’ late husband, Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard was killed in the line of duty while investigating a suspicious vehicle.
Since her death, Cummings has dedicated herself to charitable work in her memory, including launching the Ballard Community Fund at the Delaware Community Foundation, which raised over $ 44,000 through its virtual event in 2020. The foundation has sponsored nonprofits focused on veterans mental health, education, domestic violence and other local causes.
During the pandemic, the fund chose to focus on distributing PPE, raising more than $ 12,000 to distribute face shields to law enforcement officers statewide.
Beyond the Ballard Community Fund, Cummings also created and manages Ballard Reading Buddies, an organization that partners with the United Way to foster a love of reading in first and second graders.
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She also found time to volunteer as the Interim Executive Director of Supporting Kidds, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports children and families who have suffered loss.
As she wrote during a fundraiser for her birthday, she organized for the organization: “My daughter never met her biological father because he died before she was born. Then her only father she knew in physical form Delaware State Trooper Cpl. Stephen Ballard was killed in the line of duty 2 years ago. She was only 5 years old.
“This year on my birthday, I want to help other families who have suffered a loss like ours (be it a child, sibling, parent or any other special someone) … my birthday is truly a blessing to bless others. “
Over a long and meaningful life, Bill Gay has kept busy.
After a 20-year, 24-year military career in information technology, he began his third – and favorite so far – career as a full-time volunteer in Sussex County.
Gay focused on supporting veterans, serving as the mentor coordinator for the Sussex County Veterans Treatment Court, which has grown to help 60 male and 7 female veterans. He and his wife Donna also served as two of the first volunteers for Bethany Warrior Family Beach Week, Operation SEA, an event that helped more than 175 wounded warriors and their families heal and connect with each other.
He also volunteers with several other veterans-focused organizations including the Home of the Brave, the Delaware Veterans Home, and the National Guard Youth Foundation.
In addition, Gay has also helped five families become homeowners through a partnership with the Sussex Habitat for Humanity, the Diamond State Community Land Trust and the Sussex Contractors for a Cause. He is also deeply involved with St. Martha’s Episcopal Church and chaired the team that hosted the annual Bethany Welcome to the Community Picnic for over 125 international students.
When Markevis Gideon was 12, a college teacher let him take an old computer home so he could try his hand at fixing it.
Gideon credits the teacher’s investment made him believe that a career in technology was possible for him at a young age, and gave him the incentive to focus his passions at Howard High School of Technology.
Now, he has built a successful career as the founder of NERDiT NOW, an organization that aims to “make technology affordable, accessible and inspiring,” according to their website. NERDiT NOW aims to create a more ethical ‘tech ecosystem’ by purchasing and repairing faulty technologies, then reselling them affordably or donating them to those in need in the community.
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So far, the NERDiT Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company, has donated more than 7,500 computers to those in need, to support their mission: “Everyone should be able to have the technology. in his life ”. Over the past year, they have stepped up their services, donating a total of 5,000 devices in 2020 alone.
The foundation also offers pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training programs for those looking for a path to a technology career, and aims to reduce not only the digital divide, but the income divide as well.
Just over eight years ago, Jeremy Moore was seriously injured while on a night patrol in Afghanistan.
Moore, an Army veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division, suffered severe back, leg and head injuries, and had to relearn to walk while battling chronic pain, depression and self-doubt . But after finding himself physically, mentally, and spiritually broken, Moore rebuilt his life by pursuing his passions for service and fitness.
In 2018, he co-founded the nonprofit More Than Fitness, an organization that works to “equip young people with the tools to build a strong body, a resilient mind and an unbreakable mind,” according to the website. ‘organization. Through More Than Fitness, Moore has so far helped more than 100 high school students build their confidence through exercise, mindfulness and meditation.
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Over the past three years, the nonprofit has already raised over $ 40,000 and thrived with CrossFit Diamond State and Wilmington’s Classic Barber Shop. Through their successful fundraising efforts, Moore has been able to provide free programs to young people across the state and help them build their physical and mental health and resiliency.
After suffering a serious neck and back injury while working as a nurse in 2014, Toni Short was left homeless.
With nowhere to call, Short and his three cats pulled into the Rehoboth Walmart parking lot and ended up living there for two years. It didn’t take long for Short to realize that she wasn’t the only homeless person living in the parking lot – nor for her to start working to help.
Every day, she went looking for food for those who lived in that parking lot and worked to connect them with motel rooms, clothes, meals and money. In 2015, those efforts morphed into Lighthouse for Broken Wings, a non-profit organization for the homeless that opened its first home the following year. Short’s outreach efforts increased to support over 50 people who were able to use his first halfway house.
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In 2019, Short’s advocacy for the homeless entered a new chapter when she was hired as manager of the Emmanuel shelter. There, Short supervised 81 homeless people and helped many of them find jobs, permanent housing and necessary medical care.
Short worked without pay for his foundation for several years and used his own money from outside jobs to pay those who could not afford to live in his homes. In the many years she has helped the homeless, Short has impacted the lives of over 500 people and raised $ 30,000 to support them.
How to watch
Tune in to watch the Jefferson Awards online at 6 p.m. Thursday. To register in advance and virtually save your spot, visit delaware.multiplyinggood.org/dss.
Contact Joy Ashford at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @joy_ashford.