Browsing articles in "Meet Your Neighbor"

Brad & Kristen Mainor

Feb 27, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

By Callie Thomas

There’s nothing that would make a parent happier than to know they’ve reached “superhero” status in their child’s eyes.  For 89135 residents Brad and Kristen Mainor, it is their 9-year-old son Sullivan (Sully) Mainor that will be forever remembered as the superhero in the family.  Their son was killed in a tragic accident on January 15, 2013.  Rather than focusing on the circumstances of his death, the Mainor family and friends are keeping his memory alive by helping other children in the community in his honor.

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Sully Mainor is remembered for his kindness, giving nature and contagious laugh.  Even at an early age he always wanted to give his own money to the homeless and hungry throughout the valley. His former school, Ober Elementary, has created a special award in his honor called “The Sully Mainor Kindness Award.”  Students can receive the award for being exceptionally kind and caring throughout the school year.

As a means of dealing with their grief, the family decided to make a donation in his honor to organizations that would benefit other children on the 15th of each month. Sully’s favorite thing in the world was superheroes, particularly Spiderman and The Hulk. Their friend’s 9-year old daughter came up with the “Superheroes 4 Sully,” which has become the name of their charitable giving.  Their mission became clear:  They would collect new superhero themed toys, clothing, blankets, etc. and give them to needy charitable organizations including the KLUC Annual Toy Drive, Peggy’s Attic, Boys and Girls Clubs and others. Superheroes 4 Sully’s first donation was to the Ronald McDonald House on February 15, 2013. Since that time, they’ve received about 5,000 dollars in donations that benefitted more than 1500 children across the valley.  Brad and Kristen Mainor talk about coping by giving, the generosity of the community and taking one day at a time.

How does it feel to help other children in the community?

Kristen: “Seeing children light up when they are allowed to pick new clothes or a new toy is heartwarming and would make Sully proud.”

Brad: “Being born and raised in Vegas, it means a lot to help our local kids.  Personally it helps to pass each day without Sully, knowing we are remembering him in such a positive way, giving as he loved to do in this city that he loved.”

How are donations distributed?

Kristen: “The bulk of the clothing and toy donations go to Peggy’s Attic and are given to foster kids in the valley.  Many come through the court system with only the clothes on their backs.  They get to pick something new and are told the items have “Sully Power.”  The kids fighting cancer are given Superhero blankets and soft pillows.”

You made a big impression at the KLUC Toy Drive last December.

Brad: “Through word of mouth and social media, our tiny charity managed to collect 10 bikes and over $500 worth of toys which were donated to the KLUC Toy Drive.”

Kristen: “It touched us to receive donations from strangers and friends alike who had followed our first grief-stricken year and were moved to help and share in honoring Sully by helping the community.  There are wonderful, generous people in Las Vegas.”

What are you most proud to have achieved?

Brad: “One of our proudest moments was when our daughter Taylor initiated a Superheroes 4 Sully Donation Drive during senior week.  At the assembly Taylor and her sisters Hannah, Sydney and Avery stood up and spoke to the student body about Superheroes, Sully and the kind of brother he was.  To see our daughters honor their brother and get involved in this charity fills us with such pride.”

What does this charity mean to you?

Kristen: “It is a way to give back, honor our son and fill the hole in our lives left by his death.  Big or small the act of giving in Sully’s name will be our monthly tradition.  We thank the community for their support both emotionally and with contributions and hope to spread Sully Power for years to come.”

Terry Murphy

Feb 27, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

By Callie Thomas

There’s an old Irish saying that, “You never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.”   Resident Terry Murphy is definitely an action girl.  With a Masters Degree in Sociology, the study of how people function in groups (which can be as small as a family unit or as large as society as a whole), she began working in Government Affairs for the Southern Nevada Homebuilders Association back in 1989.  That was at the height of the desert tortoise predicament. The species was listed as endangered and efforts to protect it threatened to bring development and other economic activities to a standstill.  Murphy was instrumental in forging a compromise among parties and helped to establish conservation mechanisms that allowed development to continue.  Years later, she lent her expertise to the Clark County government before starting her own business, which focuses on helping private companies communicate with local governments.  In addition to her consulting business, she’s currently the Honorary Consul to Ireland for the State of Nevada.

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Murphy also shares her gifts to the community in other ways.  As President of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance she’s helped to establish growth in the downtown area.  As a Community Advisory Board member of The Smith Center, she’s been a part of launching and executing the project to fruition and, in effect, making the arts accessible to everyone. Murphy is also a big champion of Casa De Luz, an organization that serves children and families living in a challenged neighborhood downtown and The Center, which provides counseling services to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Questioning) community. Terry Murphy discusses the growth of Downtown Las Vegas, her support of community organizations and what it’s like to be Honorary Consul to Ireland.

How did you get involved in the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance?

“I’ve worked in downtown on and off since 1991. I’ve always been an advocate of redeveloping downtown and have participated in lots of projects over the years that have come to fruition.  I love watching the growing sense of community downtown and seeing people’s surprise at what’s going on here after not visiting the area for a while.”

How has the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance helped the city?

“It’s growing exponentially and is at the tipping point toward becoming an influential public policy voice for business downtown, as well as a resource for some of the other organizations like the 18B Las Vegas Arts District.” 

Tell us about your involvement with the other community groups.

“I enjoy being on the Advisory Board of the Smith Center.  The arts were a large part of my growing up in New York and it was a missing ingredient here for a long time. It’s like a “coming of age” for Las Vegas.  Casa De Luz is a community based in love, and the organization is literally changing lives. The Center is dear to my heart primarily because I’m a firm believer in and advocate for human rights.  The Center provides a place for youth who may have nowhere else to turn.”

What’s it like being Honorary Consul to Ireland?

“I assist Irish citizens when they have issues here in Nevada, whether it’s a lost passport, severe illness or sadly, the death of a loved one.  I also help promote the Republic of Ireland as a tourist destination.  It’s probably the greatest honor in my entire life.”

What does giving back mean to you?

“I believe we are all given certain gifts or talents and our lives aren’t complete without sharing them. At least mine wouldn’t be.”

What are you most proud to have achieved?

“First and foremost would be my daughter who is a happy, healthy adult.  Beyond that, everything else is icing on the cake.”

What do you think makes you successful?

“I don’t think about being successful.  I think about getting things done.  And I very much enjoy the journey.”

Stephen Gordon, MD

Feb 27, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

How many times have you heard about the importance of looks?  As Americans we take for granted much that affects our overall appearance and well-being. In third world countries it’s not about looks, but rather, the ability to survive.  89117 resident Stephen Gordon has made a career of performing surgeries that not only improve appearance, but also improve lives.

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Gordon completed his Plastic Surgery residency at Emory University in Atlanta and later entered private practice there.  For the first five years he was on staff at 12 hospitals and on call every night.  He kept busy with trauma and reconstructive plastic surgery until he made the decision to develop a cosmetic surgery practice.  Since moving to Las Vegas over fifteen years ago, Gordon has lent his expertise to the community and to programs that make a difference.  He has long thought it better to give of his time and assistance to ensure that the contributions he makes directly benefit the people he serves. 

At home in Las Vegas, he volunteers each month as a ringside physician for amateur boxing.  He also travels to places like Africa and other third world countries on medical missions to help the people who would have no way of obtaining treatment for deformities such as massive keloids, cleft lip and palate as well as burn scar atrocities and reconstructive challenges. As a result of his travels, he and his wife have founded The Stephen and Lori Gordon Plastic Surgery Foundation to provide surgical care and consultation to third world countries. Gordon provides insight into the widespread needs in these areas and why he is so passionate about involving other medical professionals.

Tell us about The Stephen and Lori Gordon Plastic Surgery Foundation.

“We are currently seeking not-for-profit status so that we can receive funding and material contributions and participation by other medical professionals to help those in need. I am regarded as a goodwill medical ambassador and the capacity in which I perform ranges from training and performing medical procedures and surgeries to providing integral information about the facilities I have visited along with recommendations on improving services to the community.  For example, I identify and report unsanitary conditions such as insufficient running water, or over-extended physicians.” 

Any observances you’d like to share about your medical missions?

“African medical facilities are still 100 years behind the medical community in the United States.  There is little or no formal medical training beyond six months in pediatrics, internal medicine, OB/GYN and surgery (two years).  As a barometer, an American surgeon trains for a minimum of five years after medical school to become a general surgeon. Part of my mission there was to train the local doctor in plastic surgery techniques such as skin grafting, but he missed most of the surgeries because he was seeing as many as 200 people a day in his emergency clinic.”

Based on your findings, are burn accidents prevalent in Africa?

“Those living in small villages have to pump water from a well, carry large buckets to their hut and then sterilize the water over an open fire in order to have drinking water.  Practically everything they consume is prepared this way so there are many burn victims. Most of the time the victim lives with a permanent disability or disfigurement because they do not have access to appropriate timely medical care.”

How does it feel to have helped so many in need?

“Despite many hurdles, it was rewarding to repair an eleven-year-old girl’s cleft lip, or to remove a massive keloid around a handsome, yet depressed, twenty one year old man’s neck.  From that moment on, I never saw them without a smile on their faces.”

What does giving back mean to you?

“Not only is it necessary for community survival and growth, it is a spiritual principal that you reap what you sow.”

Judi Steele, The Public Education Foundation

Jan 28, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   10 Years of Meet the Neighbor  //  No Comments

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You may not think much has changed since featuring Judi almost seven years ago; after all, she is still the President of The Public Education Foundation. But implementing bold strategies to improve education requires innovation, something Judi knows much about. The Foundation has helped students realize their dreams in many ways. In addition to investing in early childhood and family engagement programming, the Foundation’s Scholarship Program awarded more than 440 scholarships – totaling nearly $1 million- this past year alone. Programs including Teacher EXCHANGE™, a green initiative that distributes books, office supplies and other material – frequently headed for landfills – to valley teachers brings much needed supplies to the classroom, and the Foundation’s Artists 4 Kidz initiative, developed in association with the Clint Holmes Foundation and other performing artists, is providing students with meaningful visual and performing arts experiences. 

But the Foundation’s Leadership Institute of Nevada is what Steele feels is a real game changer for the future of education.  “To effect real change in our schools we must develop entrepreneurial leaders who are strategic thinkers and demonstrate the courage to execute innovative solutions and produce results,” she says.  “Through exposure to national thought leaders and collaborations, the Leadership Institute of Nevada is developing a statewide network of great leaders who are capable of transforming our public schools.” For information, visit www.thepef.org.

 

Paige Candee & Paula Lawrence, Dress for Success

Jan 28, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   10 Years of Meet the Neighbor  //  No Comments

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When the great recession hit hard in Las Vegas, Paige Candee decided to make a difference for out-of-work women by founding our city’s affiliate of the international organization, Dress for Success, in 2009.  Shortly thereafter, Paula Lawrence joined the Board of Directors, only to leave her post for a permanent position as the organizations Executive Director. With these two women at the helm, and the help of countless volunteers in the community, the organization has launched more than 1000 women on the road to self-sufficiency.  “I founded DFSSNV with the intention of empowering women and helping them gain the skills necessary to not only stay employed, but to build careers and become role models to their children,” says Paige.  “We have definitely done that through our suiting program that clothed more than 600 women in 2013 alone, and our job skills training and retention programs.” 

Utilizing innovative fundraising ideas like their “Little Black Dress Club”, as well as signature social events including the annual Power Walk, Derby Rose Champagne Luncheon & Fashion Show and Diamond Dig sponsored by M.J. Christensen Diamond Centers, the group has big plans for the future. As Paula enthusiastically proclaims, With the continued support of the community, Dress for Success Southern Nevada will help thousands of women find the spark that ignites their future. The years ahead are very bright for women looking to become self-sufficient.” To find out more, visit www.dressforsuccess.org/southernnevada.

Jeff Roberts, Springs Preserve and Desert Living Center

Jan 28, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   10 Years of Meet the Neighbor  //  No Comments

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With a passion for sustainability and eco friendly initiatives, Jeff was instrumental in developing the Spring Preserve’s master plan prior to its opening in 2007, and also designed the Desert Living Center at the preserve. Today, this award winning facility is viewed as a cultural institution that prides itself on being a community leader in environmental stewardship, while offering interactive exhibits and events that entertain the masses. Influencing ecological initiatives around the globe, the preserve is toured and studied by building professionals and environmental organizations from around the world, making it a leading international example of sustainable architecture. Never has a public utility taken on such a bold and visionary task to transform its community with such a rich and culturally diverse resource, and Jeff is proud to be a part of it all.  

“Through my continued engagement with the Springs Preserve I have been incredibly fortunate to be exposed to countless professionals, organizations and leaders in the green industry.  It has allowed me to work on numerous other deep green projects in the area, including the Corn Creek, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Spring Mountains visitor centers, as well as the Discover Children’s Museum.  I am honored to be associated with the project and proud that the Springs Preserve has the ability to influence future generations about appropriate decisions required by the community of tomorrow.”    Visit them at www.springspreserve.com

Stacey Escalante, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Jan 28, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   10 Years of Meet the Neighbor  //  No Comments

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You can have all of the research in the world, but if you don’t have public policy to implement it, it doesn’t matter. This is the mindset of Stacey Escalante, the volunteer Media Chair for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN). Along with other passionate voices, Stacey, a Stage III melanoma survivor, played a pivotal role in getting Senate Bill 267 passed this past October. The ground breaking law makes Nevada one of only three states in the nation to completely ban the use of tanning beds by anyone under the age of 18 years old. It’s a personal victory for Stacey, considering the chances of being afflicted by melanoma are drastically increased by UV exposure from tanning beds, but she’s just getting started.

“Getting involved with ACSCAN was such a blessing after my own diagnosis and subsequent remission. It’s a natural fit for me.  As a cancer survivor, former broadcast journalist & a political science major (from UCLA), lobbying on behalf of cancer patients is right in my wheelhouse. I absolutely love it!” For information, visit www.acscan.org/nevada.

Staci Columbo Alonso, Noah’s Animal House

Jan 28, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   10 Years of Meet the Neighbor  //  No Comments

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Determined to bring victims of domestic violence together with their beloved pets, animal lover Staci Columbo Alonso opened Noah’s Animal House, a full service pet facility on the grounds of The Shade Tree Shelter, in October 2007. Through hard work and perseverance, her efforts have not only housed, spayed and neutered, and provided veterinary care for hundreds of animals at the 1400 square foot facility, but has garnered national recognition from like-minded entities including Woman’s Day Magazine.

“Noah’s is still the largest facility in the country and includes over 30 kennels/cat condos, separate intake room for new arrivals, a vet station, grooming, and two living rooms for women, children and their pets to spend quality time together in a home environment,” say Alonso. With only two percent of domestic violence shelters in the U.S. offering some form of pet services, Staci’s has plans to change the national climate. “Thanks to the generosity of the Las Vegas community and the success of our operation, our goal is to partner with other domestic violence shelters in the U.S. to expand Noah’s Animal House outside of Las Vegas,” she adds.  For more information, visit www.noahsanimalhouse.org.

 

Shawn Ritchie, Epicurean Charitable Foundation

Jan 28, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   10 Years of Meet the Neighbor  //  No Comments

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Shawn Ritchie’s got a lot on his plate as the V.P. of Food & Beverage for Caesars Entertainment: Harrah’s Las Vegas, Flamingo Las Vegas, The Quad Resort & Casino and The LINQ. But although he’s a busy guy, he enthusiastically continues to support the Epicurean Charitable Foundation (ECF) as an advocate and seasoned Board Member. Providing full-ride scholarships and mentorship opportunities to financially-underprivileged local students interested in attaining careers in hospitality or the culinary arts, the foundation has donated more than $1.3 million to Clark County students since its inception and is currently providing the means for more than 15 young individuals to study at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Penn State University, Culinary Institute of America and other prestigious institutions.

Besides playing an active role in mentoring students, one, of many factors that’s responsible for 100% of scholarship recipients garnering employment in their chosen field, Ritchie is vested in helping hard working kids obtain their goals. “I am inspired by the students of ECF. They prove that no matter what family background, financial situation or other obstacles we face, hard work and determination can lead to achieving your dreams.” For information, visit www.ecflv.org

Pat Byrne, Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada

Jan 28, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   10 Years of Meet the Neighbor  //  No Comments

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Having served as the President of the Foundation for the Boys and Girls Club of Las Vegas for nearly 10 years, as well as serving as an Executive Committee Board Member for the clubs since 2007, Pat played a key role in structuring a recent merger that combined the Las Vegas and Henderson organizations – a move that resulted in one entity that better serves the youth of our city. “As a board member of both Las Vegas and the Foundation, I could see that both organizations suffered with separate and competing identities.  Neither Club was confined to the geographic location in their name.  Donors and friends of the Clubs were often confused and many did not even realize there were two separate organizations,” said Pat.

Along with the tireless efforts of Club CEO Ken Rubeli and countless other volunteers, the newly formed Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada serves more than 32,000 youth attending 14, year-round club houses and 3 summer outreach programs. It gives kids, many of whom are underprivileged, a positive place to hang out, do homework and learn responsibility. Pat, a busy guy with two boys of his own, is looking forward to an even brighter future for the organization, he adds, “ I am excited to continue my involvement as a member of the new combined Board.”  Visit their website at www.bgcsnv.org.

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