Browsing articles in "Meet Your Neighbor"

Kathryn Davis

Jun 3, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” – Winston Churchill

A study by the American Youth Horse Council found that equestrian activities have a direct affect on enhancing a range of life skills in children.  Children are naturally attracted to horses and they make wonderful childhood companions. They help children build character in addition to providing some healthy benefits like increased balance, coordination and flexibility. 

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By: Callie Thomas

Resident Kathryn Davis grew up in Irvine, California where her family kept horses at Irvine Park.  She and her sister made lots of friends who loved animals and her experience with horses throughout her youth provided her with a loving, learning and yes, stable environment. When she moved to Las Vegas, she looked for a place that her children would have a similar experience.  Little did she know that she would end up with three horses of her own and be looking for a place to live with them. The Las Vegas Riding Academy was the perfect solution. Davis is the owner and instructor of the facility which offers kids an opportunity to learn to ride, care for and develop a passion for animals and the great outdoors. Most of the horses Davis uses for her lessons have been rescued and she supports organizations that not only save horses but provide other services like therapeutic riding for kids.  She is passionate about an organization called Spirit Therapies, which assists physically, mentally and emotionally challenged children by connecting them with trained therapy horses, certified instructors and compassionate volunteers. 

Kathryn Davis talks about her dream of creating a facility with horse camps, play days and therapeutic riding for handicapped kids. She also discusses what children of today can learn from the experience and how her own mother was influential in her love of horses.

Tell us about your dream of creating a facility that includes therapeutic riding.

“I have dreamed of having a nonprofit organization that would bring in kids from all walks of life to share the therapeutic effects of horses and animals.  It would be a place where kids can spend time outside; a place to learn to care for and be compassionate about animals.  I am so passionate about this that I always seem to be talking about it.  I have several people who share the same dream as I do and we are working toward building a facility that will provide these services.  Las Vegas Riding Academy is busting at the seams so I know there is a real need out there.”

What do you hope kids will learn from the facility?

“I have children who come to Las Vegas Riding Academy and don’t realize eggs come from chickens.  We need to get our kids away from the computers and back outside interacting with their environment. I want kids to learn that life has its ups and downs, but animals have unconditional love and they don’t judge you.”

Tell us about your support for organizations like L.E.A.N., Shiloh Ranch in Sandy Valley and Spirit Therapies.

“Most of my lesson horses have been rescued. There are lots of wonderful horses out there that need a home. Organizations like L.E.A.N. and Shiloh Ranch help save horses.  Spirit Therapies offers therapeutic riding for mentally or physically handicapped kids as well as military members with physical or mental challenges.  We recently sponsored an American Competitive Trail Horse Association horse show and the proceeds were donated to Spirit Therapies.”

What or whom do you think was the biggest influence in your love of horses?

“I was taught a lot by my mother.  She was the youngest of six kids and grew up during the depression. Her mother died when she was five and when her father lost his job and couldn’t afford to feed the family, the kids were sent to other families.  My mother ended up on a farm and became a horse lover.  She also became a queen of the Ryan Horse Shows and I still have her trophy and pictures from 1944.”

Yannick Augy

Jun 3, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

Opening a new business is never easy, and focus tends to be on getting all the operational aspects in line (dealing with construction, décor, hiring employees, ordering supplies and so much more).  So, it’s pretty rare for a brand new business to immediately incorporate a community outreach initiative in the first year, but 89074 resident Yannick Augy, General Manager of Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant & Nightclub was instrumental in making it happen.

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By: Callie Thomas

Since opening in May 2013, giving back to the community has become very important to the organization, leading to the development of Hakkasan’s overarching local non-profit program, “Hakkasan Gives Back.”  Augy and the team set out to identify a partner the company could relate to in the food service and hospitality industries, and found Three Square Food Bank, a  non-profit committed to feeding the community with quality meals.

Augy has had a passion for food and dining since growing up in the Loire Valley of France.  His grandmother first introduced him to the restaurant business at age 13.  He gained his education at Jacques Cocur, culinary school in Borges, France and completed a Master of Hospitality Management and Tourism Accounting from the University of Angers.  His diverse training included being a Demi-Chef at the Michelin-starred Le Clos des Sens at the Châteaux & Hôtels de France and Assistant Maitre D’ at Hostellerie le Phébus at Relais & Châteaux. Augy worked at a number of high-end hotels throughout France, the United Kingdom and Monaco before coming to Las Vegas where he took a Food & Beverage position with the MGM Grand Hotel Resort & Casino.  He later joined Hakkasan Las Vegas as Assistant General Manager where he worked to open the venue and, just a few months later, became the General Manager.  Yannick Augy shares his experiences with Hakkasan Gives Back and his other accomplishments.

What is it like being involved with Three Square?

“I feel privileged that we were able to raise so much money so Three Square can provide thousands of meals to its patrons in-need.  It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to know that I helped contribute to a great cause and I look forward to many more opportunities like this one.”

 

 

What are some of the initiatives of Hakkasan Gives Back?

“We wanted to align ourselves with a local food-based organization and give back to the community any way we could. Three Square Food Bank introduced us to their facility just before the holiday season and just a few days later, we created a campaign to help increase hunger awareness within Southern Nevada. Our next step was to have our staff involved (both in the restaurant and nightclub) as they raised contributions and donated their personal time at Three Square’s warehouse to help assemble meals for those in need

In just two hours we packaged 10,000 meals to-go for the Kid’s Café, 1,500 bags of food for Backpacks for Kids and 130 Senior Share Boxes. In addition to this volunteer activity, for each guest that dined in the restaurant during the month of December, Hakkasan donated $5 to the nonprofit organization. In January 2014, Hakkasan restaurant hosted Three Square Food Bank’s key executives and board members to present a cumulative check totaling $50,636 which included all funds collected throughout this time.”

What are you personally most proud to have achieved?

“I am extremely proud of what Las Vegas has given me.  I left France in 2007 right after college, leaving my entire family and friends back home to come to a country where I didn’t know anyone, didn’t know if I was going to like it or make it.  I will always be thankful to MGM Grand for giving me the best work experience and opportunity to grow.”

You’ve also received a few awards along the way for your efforts.

“I’m very honored to have received awards such as the MGM Mirage Warriorship Award, the Seventh Restaurant Service World Award and a few others. It’s a great feeling to be recognized, especially in a city that is so full of exemplary leaders in the hospitality industry.”

Any life inspirations or quote you’d like to share?

“My boyfriend introduced me to a TV show called Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey and one episode with Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, fascinated me and was a great lesson. I learned to lead my team not only by the way I see my surroundings but also the way I see myself.  Also, my grandmother Suzanne would say, don’t forget to smile, it’s the only free thing in this world.”

Chris Bezsylko

Jun 3, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

It’s safe to say that no parent would intentionally put their child in front of a shark…or would they?  Parents and teachers alike were thrilled to let their 5th graders from Henderson International School present to a group of judges affectionately known as the “Shark Tank” as part of a fundraising activity to decrease poverty and combat childhood diseases in the community.  Their efforts were in conjunction with a national organization called Change for Change, under the direction of 89052 resident Chris Bezsylko, who happens to be both their middle school principal and preschool through eighth grade curriculum director.  The organization’s mission is to help empower young adults to create big changes.  In this case, students created real-life business concepts designed to fight poverty and disease and presented them to the “tank” of investors for a possible total of $750, which was invested in the winning businesses as start-up capital.

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By: Callie Thomas

Bezsylko began his education career as a teacher in inner city Philadelphia and later left to become a full-time educational consultant.  Although he spent four years traveling across the country and working with many educators, he missed being part of a school community and seeing his students grow.  He went back to teaching and earned a Master of Arts in private school leadership through the Klingenstein Center Teachers College at Columbia University.  He began his career as an administrator and later moved to Las Vegas. His mission for Henderson International School is not a common one.  Their goal is to develop and nurture life-long learners who are prepared to work and support others, making service the primary purpose of education. Bezsylko talks about the school’s efforts with a variety of charitable organizations, his personal experiences through their support of Change for Change and unplugging after a busy day.

Tell us about the mission of the Henderson International Schools.

“Henderson International School is dedicated to nurturing great learners and responsible global citizens. The idea of community service is not novel, however, it is not common to make service a primary purpose of education. This resonates with who I am as an individual, as a father and as an educator.  I believe that as a community of learners, schools have a responsibility to engage and be active members of a community.”

How was the school involved with Change for Change?

“This is the first year that Henderson International School has participated in the initiative.  Our fifth graders engaged in a year-long study of poverty where they met with guest speakers, exchanged research and opinions with peers at our Meritas sister schools, and participated in a variety of community-service projects.  The project challenges our students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real-life issue.”

How does the “Change Project” work?

“Students worked as individuals or in small groups to turn a modest financial investment into greater change.  They created one-page business proposals, met with project coaches and finally pitched their proposals to a panel of judges called the “Shark Tank.”  The judges awarded start-up funds to viablestudent projects that aid local, national and global causesand organizations.”

Any experiences you’d like to share?

“I spoke with a parent who witnessed her son’s change over the course of the Change for Change project.  She said he thinks of others and wants to find more ways to help.  I’ve also heard from students who thought they were going to hate working on the project but ended up loving it.”

 What other organizations does the school support?

“We’ve partnered with the American Heart Association’s Hoops for Heart and Jump Rope for Heart, the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree holiday project and the Las Vegas Rescue Mission’s Holiday Food Drive.”

What are you most proud to have accomplished?

“My wife Marta and I have two boys, Max and Luca, who are by far my greatest accomplishments, but fatherhood is a work in progress that I cannot consider something I have accomplished just yet.”

How do you de-stress after a busy day?

“A bicycle ride home and cooking for my family.”  

Jim Brock

Jun 3, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

How long have you had your computer?  According to the folks at the Encyclopedia of Earth, the average life expectancy of a desktop today is around 3-5 years, depending on use, and the amount of computer waste increases annually as electronic systems play a progressively more important role in all aspects of technology. So, the question arises, what exactly should you do with your old computer? Resident Jim Brock has the answer: give it to him.  More specifically, give it to Computers4Cause, Brock’s nonprofit organization, which fixes computers, wipes the hard drives and restores factory settings in order to give them to those in need.

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By: Callie Thomas

Brock knows a thing or two about computers. He “officially” retired at the age of 38 after selling one of his telecommunications businesses to Nextel.  Being too young and restless to settle into retirement, he started Simple Computer Repair to fill a void in the marketplace.  He created a neighborhood repair store dedicated to three principals:  No speculation, no opinions and no geek speak – just a flat rate repair model with a free diagnosis.  By creating an alternative to the big box stores, Brock put himself in direct contact with the community and has provided a real service for individuals and neighboring businesses.  Through his simple repair business he recognized the need to provide technology to individuals, businesses and charitable organizations who couldn’t afford it, but also to help customers who just didn’t know what to do with their old models. With microchip development becoming so rapid, users are able to purchase computers that are twice as powerful at the same price as those currently available about every 18-months, hence, a more rapid turnover of used computers.  Brock talks about creating Computers4Cause and how it’s making a difference.

Tell us about Computers4Cause and how it helps others.

“I founded our nonprofit organization in 2010 out of market demand.  We heard it continually, ‘Is there anywhere I can donate my old computer?’ We heard it so often, I thought, why not do something good for the community?  So now we fix up and recycle working desktops, laptops, keyboards, flat screen monitors and mice by wiping the hard drives and giving them to people and organizations in need.”

 

Any experiences through Computers4Cause you’d like to share?

“I’ve seen people cry when we give them a computer.  It’s very rewarding when the mom, dad and kids come in so excited and they’re hugging you because they’re so happy.  Often it can mean the difference between employment and unemployment for them.”

How can people or organizations apply for computers?

“If you or someone you know is in need, you can fill out an application on our website (www.computers4cause.com) and apply.  Applications can be mailed, faxed or hand delivered.”

What does giving back to the community mean to you?

“Everything.  I’m blessed to be in a position to help.  Other than raising my kids Stephanie and James, it’s the most rewarding thing I do.  I’d hope someone would do the same for me if the tables were turned.”

What do you think makes you successful?

“Fear of failure and a narrow focus.”

Of all your accomplishments, what are you most proud to have achieved?

“Being a father…to my kids and to many successful businesses I have founded.”

Any life inspirations or a favorite quote that you’d like to share with others?

“That would be a quote by Napoleon Hill:  What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” 

Matt Smith

May 1, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

Passion means many things to many people.  For resident Matt Smith, it is synonymous with family, and helping people through the rehabilitation services provided at his physical therapy clinics.  Smith owns and operates 13 facilities and manages four more throughout the state.  He has become the largest provider in Nevada for physical therapy.  Their cultural mantra of “changing lives” and helping the patient as well as those in need throughout the community is number one.

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By: Callie Thomas

Smith’s lifelong career began from a devastating accident that left a high school friend a paraplegic. While accompanying his friend to physical therapy, Smith was impressed by the therapists’ commitment to the work and how they were making a difference in the lives of their patients. It was then he decided to become a physical therapist.  Throughout his practice he has met many people from all walks of life and circumstance, which has been the catalyst in becoming committed to supporting the community. 

Matt Smith Physical Therapy Centers interact directly with those in need by supporting a variety of charitable organizations.  Funding drives which involve the staff and patients at each of the therapy centers are held on a quarterly basis.  From feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless to starting a scholarship program for at risk kids, Smith and crew are living true to their customer-centric culture.

While Matt finds success difficult to define, he has much to be proud of, first and foremost his family, which includes wife Kami and his four children, Christopher, Alyssa, Sophia and Jaxon. We had an opportunity to talk with him about his charitable efforts and learned about some of his out-of-the-ordinary hobbies which just might include an upcoming safari trip to Africa.

Tell us about the charitable organizations that you support.

“In first quarter we support Three Square, which provides food for in-need kids throughout the community.  In second quarter we are involved in a drive to obtain school supplies for an at-risk junior high or grade school.  We support the Nevada Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the annual Rock the Walk, which is a family concert under the stars in third quarter, and then a toy drive to benefit Child Haven in fourth quarter.  These are all company-wide events and there’s a bit of competition among the 13 clinics. We also started a scholarship program with the Latin Chamber of Commerce to help three students go to college and pursue degrees each year.  We also give matching dollars at each clinic annually to donate to a charity of their choice.”

Any experiences through your charitable efforts that you would like to share?

“The thank you cards we receive alone are worth the effort.  The near homeless, brilliant youths that we have been able to assist in secondary education has been particularly enriching. The stories of these kids are both humbling and inspiring.”

Why is giving back so important?

“I’m at an age where I get to look in the rearview mirror and appreciate everything the community has done for me. To return this in a small way seems insignificant, but we do what we can.”

What are you most proud to have achieved?

“Nothing brings a smile like watching your kids grow up and succeed.  I also enjoy helping people reduce their pain and live their lives to the fullest through our services at the clinics.”

How do you unplug after a busy day?

“I like to kick back at home with a glass of wine from France or Italy after a day in the backyard with the kids in the pool and a serious game of bocce ball!”

We understand you also have some unique hobbies?

“I really enjoy hunting pheasant, partridge and grouse in the UK each October.  Dressing up in British attire and being in the countryside is the best. I’ve been on African safaris and would like to do more. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

 

Barbro Eastling

May 1, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

Imagine what it would be like to travel to another country without knowing anyone and with nothing but one suitcase and a twenty-dollar bill in your wallet. For many of our ancestors, this tale rings true as their first trip to America.  For 89135 resident Barbro Eastling, it’s exactly how she entered her new home in the United States in 1966.

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By: Callie Thomas

Barbro grew up in Western Sweden with two younger brothers.  At the age of fourteen a teacher encouraged her to contact a pen pal in order to refine her English skills. Not only did Barbro become fluent in English, she has remained friends with her pen pal to this day.  In her early twenties she made the trip to America by securing a position as an au pair in Los Angeles.  Eventually she took a position with the Swedish Consulate there, and served as the Swedish Consul to fifteen Western U.S. States for thirty years. During that time she met and married her husband Wendell and was welcomed by his son and daughter into the family.  In 1992 she proudly became an American citizen. 

A few years (and earthquakes) later, the family moved to Las Vegas.  Barbro wanted to become involved in her new hometown and discovered the Women’s Club of Summerlin (WCS).  After a luncheon with members of the organization, Barbro became a member in 2000 and has been very active ever since. Using her meticulous organizational skills and creativity, she continues to chair and co-chair on the many raffle/silent auction committees for the group’s Annual Charity Event. For all of her efforts, Barbro Eastling was given the WCS 2013 Award of Excellence. She talks about her work with the group, coming to America and being a consul to so many other newcomers to the United States.

What was it like when you first came to America?

“When I look back at my life I am proud of the fact that I was brave enough to move to the United States.  I had not travelled at all before and it was actually my first time on an airplane.  All I thought was Stockholm to Los Angeles, here I come!”

Your work with the Consulate General of Sweden must have been memorable.

“Since the Internet, cell phones and email did not yet exist, my job was to assist Swedish citizens as a contact link with their families in Sweden in case of emergency.  This involved everything from Swedes in hospitals, runaways, jail and death cases.  I never knew what the day would bring.  I met many interesting people during that time: royalty, government officials, actors and artists.  Several times I would help organize their official visits.  I think it made me become what I am today.”

Tell us how you became involved in the Women’s Club of Summerlin.

“I had heard about WCS and the work they do to benefit women and children in the community. I felt that this would be a new challenge for me.  I had never been involved in fundraising before I moved here.”

What is your role within the organization?

“I have chaired and co-chaired the auction committees to benefit our Annual Charity Event for many years, organizing and coordinating all the donations.  I have also been in charge of special fundraising events and fashion shows for the Dare to Dream program, which provides grants to local women who are trying to better their lives. I’ve also volunteered in a variety of places including cooking dinners at Ronald McDonald House and assisting at charity sports.”

Any other organizations where you are involved?

“I am a founding member of SWEA, Swedish Women’s Education Association, a global networking group that gives grants to women in a variety of fields. There are now 73 chapters around the world and 7,500 members.  Knowing that you can make a difference is very important to me and it is so rewarding.”

Shari Exber-Scheele

May 1, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

Is there a mentor in your life?  For many of us, it is the influence of these special people that are responsible for pushing us toward a path that we might not have found on our own.   Resident Shari Exber-Scheele is a Las Vegas native that credits Principal Rick Watson for encouraging her to become the best possible teacher.  Mentoring comes full circle as Exber-Scheele is also the inspiration for many of the students she has taught throughout her twenty-year career as an elementary school teacher in the Clark County School District.

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By: Callie Thomas

Shari was born and raised in Las Vegas, and it was a bit ironic that her first teaching assignment (as a student teacher) was at Howard Wasden Elementary, the school she attended as a child. After teaching at a variety of schools throughout the district, she was ready for a new challenge and, as sad as it was to leave the classroom, Exber-Scheele found a new role within our local education system that has become even more rewarding.

For the last decade Shari has continued to make sure all children in our community receive the very best public education as the Senior Vice President of Development and Community Relations for The Public Education Foundation.  She is responsible for raising awareness and funding for the nonprofit organization that supports education reform and initiatives to improve public education. We talked with Shari about her passion for putting opportunities within reach of our children to obtain higher education, as well as influencers within her own education and career, and why giving back is a necessity for the future growth of the community.

You’ve made a lifetime commitment to improving public education.  Who was your mentor and how did they make a difference?

“I worked for an amazing principal (Rick Watson), whom I looked up to and he helped me to be the best teacher I could be.  I was fortunate to follow him, teaching at the schools he led.  By 2003, I knew there was something bigger out there in the community for me to do that was still in the public education arena.  That’s when I took a leave of absence from teaching and began my ‘new’ career at The Public Education Foundation.”

What are your current projects through the Foundation?

“We’re in the midst of our annual Giving With Purpose fundraising campaign to support our vital initiatives, including those that provide college scholarships, promote early childhood learning and family literacy, and grow the leadership capacity of education administrators through our Leadership Institute of Nevada.”

Any experiences through your efforts with the Foundation you’d like to share?

“It’s so rewarding to see children from all parts of Southern Nevada benefit from our programs, including the Scholarship Program, which provides hundreds of students with the opportunity to seek higher education annually.  I still stay in touch with former students and their parents from my teaching days and have the opportunity to get them involved by becoming donors and volunteers.”

Why is it so important to give back to the community?

“It is gratifying to keep children growing and thriving in Las Vegas.  It is heartening to see my colleagues and former students in the workforce being successful and knowing I’m making a difference in the lives of so many children.”

Of your many accomplishments, what are you most proud to have achieved?

“As a mother, I’m so proud of my own children, Hilary and Zachary.  Just as I was, they’re both products of the public education system in Clark County and they’re college graduates and have already embarked on successful careers.”

Is there any specific inspiration you live by?

 “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

For more information about The Public Education Foundation, visit thepef.org or call

(702) 799-1042.  Follow the Foundation on Twitter @ThePEFoundation.

Jason Gerber

May 1, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

Unlike the title of the 1992 movie, there are more than “A Few Good Men” and 89117 resident Jason Gerber is one of them.  The attorney at Marquis Aurbach Coffing (MAC) currently handles corporate, business and civil litigation, but once upon a time he was an officer in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (also known as JAG, and yes, also the central theme of a few hit television shows). During his time in the army he became the sole trial defense counsel (defending soldiers being court martialed) in California at Fort Irwin. Gerber was deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 and 2005. He represented hundreds of soldiers in court martial and administrative proceedings in the United States, Kuwait and Iraq.  

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By: Callie Thomas

Upon his return to the states, he married his wife Tammy, completed his active duty service and was hired by MAC.  After working his way through the legal ranks, he was promoted to Director, and now Shareholder, at the firm. While he’s dedicated his life and career to helping others, he continues to support those in need through several local organizations.

In his early days at the MAC law firm, his wife volunteered for Camp-to-Belong, which helps bring siblings separated in the foster care system together for a week of bonding.  While at the camp, Tammy met a sibling group of three, Josh, Kyla and Skyler and fell in love with them. When she came home, the couple began proceedings to become foster parents and to adopt the children.  Their adoption was finalized in 2012 and they’ve become one big happy family, along with their three dogs Pepe, Gus and Grover.  Jason Gerber talks about their work with foster care services, Red Rock Rotary of Las Vegas and his other passion—the Cleveland Indians.

Youve become very involved in organizations that assist foster care kids.

“I don’t think I could be more fortunate.  I grew up in a great home, with great supportive parents, with access to great education and opportunities.  I know how lucky I am and feel a need to try and help those who are not as lucky.  After working with Camp to Belong we started volunteering with Child Focus, another group that help siblings separated in foster care.”

 

How did you become involved with Red Rock Rotary of Las Vegas?

“While volunteering for Child Focus I met several members of the Red Rock Rotary Club.  I started attending their meetings and eventually joined.  We do regular service projects and social events each month.  It’s a great way to help a lot of different groups on a regular basis.”

Other than Red Rock Rotary, how do you and your family support local charities?

“I’m a board member of the Global Charity Foundation and I participate in the Annual Veterans Free Legal Clinic on Veterans Day.  Our family also donates regularly to Heaven Can Wait Sanctuary (we rescued two of our dogs from their shelter) and St. Baldericks.”

We hear you also built a house for a family in Mexico?

“I was part of Corazon Super Build with the Rotary last year.  In just one day you build a house for a family in need.  You make the trip to Mexico with a group of about 45 people and spend one really hard day working on the house.  The level of poverty in the community you visit is overwhelming and the entire trip is a life changing experience that I intend on participating in every year.”

In your spare time what do you enjoy doing?

“I coach sports with the kids and I like sitting in our backyard with my wife and a glass of good whiskey listening to some Springsteen. Since buying our house we’ve become pretty talented DIY-ers and we’ve had to spend a lot of time on projects.”

So, how about those Cleveland Indians?

“At the beginning of every baseball season, no matter what, I’m convinced the Cleveland Indians will win the World Series.  I am wrong every year. But, I have a really good feeling about this season.”

Diana Weeks

Apr 1, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over twenty years since the world learned a new language…the SMS (short message service) or text message.  AAMOF (As a matter of fact) over six billion texts are deployed each day in the U.S. according to Forester Research, with a whopping 8.6 trillion annually sent on a global basis. Of these messages, Pew Internet Research indicates that 75% of teens use text messaging and on average send 60 messages per day.   The numbers continue to grow and with more children with access to mobile devices, it is imperative that parents and kids be aware of potential problems. 89123 resident Diana Weeks, a Client Relations Manager with Imagine Communications is making a difference in the community by volunteering her time to a number of causes, including SM@RT Connections, an organization that works under the umbrella of the Henderson Community Foundation.  The organization’s purpose is to help educate parents and children about the dangers of the Internet, sexting and how to become good digital citizens.

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By: Callie Thomas
The nine year resident is active in the community, not only through her work with Imagine Communications and the clients she assists, but also as an important part of her faith. While SM@RT Connections is an organization that’s close to her heart, she also makes time to help others through her church, where she teaches Sunday school and she and her husband Eric manage the church’s bus ministry to transport kids from lower income communities to church each week. Diana Weeks talks about her philanthropic efforts and why working with organizations that assist children are especially important.

How did you become involved with SM@RT Connections?

“I am a part of Leadership Henderson’s Class of 2014 and have become an active volunteer.  As a class we chose SM@RT Connections because this is an issue that is growing in vast proportions amongst our youth today. The mobile phone is the new desktop and with it comes a somewhat ambiguous platform from which bullies and pedophiles can play.  The Internet has become part of the daily fabric of our lives and people need to know how to use it safely.”

How do you assist the group?

“As a volunteer I head up the Marketing & Outreach Committee for the class project. The committee has worked diligently these last couple of months to try to market SM@RT Connections to the Southern Nevada community.”

Any experiences you would like to share?

“We created the SM@RT Connections brand and logo, manage the project’s social media (Facebook & Instagram) accounts and we’ve developed the website, beingsmart.org. In the future, we will continue to look for media opportunities for SM@RT Connections as well.”

Why is giving back so important to you?

“It means everything to me. It’s an ordinance of my faith and it keeps me humble. I’m reminded that no matter how bad I think I’ve got it, others have it worse.  It is encouraging to see the lives that are transformed.”

How do you unplug after a busy day?

“Yoga and a long hot shower but I also enjoy designing stationary, reading and writing short stories. I also love going on picnics with my husband and traveling with my younger sister. Every year we visit a place we’ve never been together and have fun.”

If you weren’t in your present career, what other job would you like to do?

“I am originally from Nairobi, Kenya and am the third daughter in a family of four girls.  My father, Charles Chege, worked in the Kenyan Air Force and as the attaché to the Kenyan Embassy in New Delhi, India.  I would love to own/manage an orphanage in Kenya for kids who have been orphaned as a result of the AIDs epidemic.  I am passionate about kids and working in any type of child ministry/service or volunteer opportunity.”

Kevin Morss

Apr 1, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

They say that everything old becomes new again.  For instance, retro t-shirts are the newest rage.  Remember the ones you may have collected with your favorite band like, The Rolling Stones or The Who?  New stores have popped up and specialize in just these shirts.  89074 resident Kevin Morss wears a t-shirt that some might think of as a retro notion, but today seems more important than ever.  On days when he’s not in his office at WestCare of Southern Nevada, (a family of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations which provide a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments,) you’ll see him wearing a shirt that says just two words…Be Kind.  Kindness was a common courtesy that seems more prevalent in earlier days, but the word is spreading through a kindness revolution.  Kevin Morss is committed to the tagline—not just by wearing the shirt, but by living the message.

Kevin Morss DS1D0862F

By: Callie Thomas
Kevin began his career with WestCare as an Outreach Worker, targeting high-risk youth.  Each night he’d map the streets of Las Vegas talking to homeless kids about the services they offered at WestCare. Throughout the years he’s worked diligently with various populations and in a multitude of positions within the company. Throughout his travels he’s met many people that have increased his involvement in the community through innovative organizations and people working in social services.  Through those associations he became involved with the Josh Stevens Foundation.  An organization that honors the memory of a boy who lost his life just before his 13th birthday by carrying on his legacy for kind acts. Morss tells us about his commitment to community-based non-profit programs and why he’s part of the Kindness Revolution.

At WestCare the motto is “Uplifting the human spirit.” How do you accomplish this?

“By consistently improving, expanding and strengthening the quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of everything that we do in building for the future.  We empower everyone to engage in a process of healing, growing and change which benefits themselves, their families, coworkers and communities.”

What type of services are offered at WestCare?

“We offer programs for women and children, Veterans, the homeless plus resident treatment facilities, mental health services and transitional living services.”

That alone must keep you busy, but you’ve also become very involved in the Josh Stevens Foundation?

“Yes, Josh’s legacy of kindness has now spread to more than 350 schools in eight states including Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Florida, New Jersey and Mississippi.  We’re currently working with new schools in Germany, Alaska and Hawaii and have reached worldwide to support a Kind playground in Uganda, Africa named after Josh.”

What’s the mission of the Josh Stevens Foundation?

“We want children and adults to know that people really do appreciate their kind actions, even though most times they go unnoticed. Kindness cards are a simple way to let someone know that their genuine kindness can change the world.”

Any experiences you’d like to share?

“In working with Josh’s family I’ve learned the importance of my own legacy and talking to my children about theirs.  I find myself often thinking about how people will remember me and if they will say that I was a genuinely kind person.”

Why is it important for you to give back to the community?

“Both my wife and I work in community-based, non-profit organizations.  You might say that our hearts are rich, but our pockets are empty.  Our family believes in the importance of involving ourselves in our community and of philanthropy.”

What are you most proud to have accomplished?

“Marrying my wife.  And I’m not just saying that because our anniversary is coming up. I’m proud of being a dad to my two beautiful children Madilynn and Carter.  I never imagined being a dad would be so awesome.”

Any inspiration or advice to others you’d like to share?

“The choices we make today will determine the legacy we leave behind.”

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