Browsing articles in "Meet Your Neighbor"

Staci Columbo Alonso, Noah’s Animal House

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







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


Shawn Ritchie, Epicurean Charitable Foundation

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








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

Pat Byrne, Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada

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











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

Frank Lowery, Ironman 70.3 Silverman

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









It seems triathlons are big biz these days, but an Ironman, well that’s a race of a different breed.  After crafting the original Silverman event back in 2005, Frank continued to direct this arduous display of athletic prowess until 2010. Silverman was then acquired by the World Triathlon Corporation, a.k.a Ironman.   Working with them, alongside the City of Henderson, he’s been a key player in bringing thousands of athletes (and their tourist-spending wallets) to Henderson to compete in various Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events. Coming full circle, the Ironman 70.3 Silverman race will return this October, with Frank again at the helm. To the delight of returning and future athletes alike Frank adds, “I plan to continue to host the Silverman 70.3 triathlon in Henderson. I love race directing and being involved with triathlons around the world.”  

Fran Smith, ITNLasVegasValley

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











After working tirelessly with the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada, Fran took some well deserved time off to “recharge”.  But philanthropy is in her DNA, so along with colleague Nancy Sprague, she soon established an affiliation of ITN Independent Transportation Network, a senior citizen transportation service with affiliates across the United States.  With funding generously provided by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), they were able to get the venture off the ground in less than a year, offering the elderly transportation around the city by way of volunteer drivers and a small staff. Recognizing the shortage of paratransit services, especially in age restricted communities like Anthem, the RTC again partnered with ITNLasVegasValley in 2011, providing retrofitted mini vans to accommodate wheel chair access. This collaboration resulted in ITN going from 100 rides per month to more than 3500 rides per month in a very short period of time.

“We exceeded 75,000 total rides by the end of 2013,” Fran commented. “More than 400 individuals per month are able to get to doctor’s appointments, work, day programs and worship services, while also having fun visiting friends and relatives or even the casinos.  Seniors and individuals with disabilities are able to remain active, contributing members of the community thanks to their ability to get from place to place.”  She adds, “It is truly gratifying to know we are making a difference.”  For information on ITN services, visit

Drew & Barbara Stevens, The Josh Stevens Foundation

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











In a brave effort to honor the spirit of their late son Josh, the Stevens family has created a worldwide initiative to encourage children to embrace being kind. The Josh Stevens Foundation has made great strides over the last few years, engaging 350 schools in 7 states while including children from Uganda via a Kind playground named after Josh.  Since 2009, Drew has spoken to more than 300,000 kids about the importance of leaving a Kind legacy behind, while Barbara oversees all design aspects of the Foundation and their “Be Kind… like Josh” apparel, a major source of fundraising for the organization. 

“Through the work of our family, along with foundation supporters, volunteers and staff, Josh will forever be known as the Kind kid who started a Kindness revolution,” says the Stevens family.   “Barbara and I feel blessed to have so much support for Josh’s Foundation, and our family is so grateful that his heart continues to shine in our community and beyond.”  To help further their mission of Kindness, visit

Nikki Berti, Goodie Two Shoes Foundation

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











Since being featured eight years ago, Nikki Berti, Co-Founder and CEO of Goodie Two Shoes Foundation has grown the organization from a single shoe distribution event, held once a year and run from her home, to providing thousands of Southern Nevada children with new shoes and renewed self esteem.  With a permanent warehouse and 48-foot mobile shoe-store-on-wheels, the Foundation outfits 10,000 Southern Nevada children in need via 25 coordinated and scheduled school-based shoe distribution events held September to May, each school year. They recently hit an impressive milestone of outfitting 40,000th kids this past October, distributing 20,000 pairs of those sneakers in the past two years alone.    

“We don’t just hand a child a pair of new shoes” says Berti, when asked what makes Goodie Two Shoes different than other organizations.  “We make the participants the center of attention and empower them with choice by giving them the opportunity to select any pair of shoes from our traveling inventory of high-quality athletic shoes, just like the ones their friends at school might be wearing.”  To help them grow, visit

10 Years of Meet the Neighbor

Jan 28, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

From our very first issue 10 years ago, we embarked on a mission to bring attention to all that’s good in our community.  Tired of negative press and news stories that did nothing to bring positivity to our daily lives, we decided to shine the spotlight on those who were making a difference. We caught up with a few of those special people, all of whom continue to make Las Vegas and Henderson a place we’re proud to call home. We’re truly grateful for what you, and many others in this community have done to create a better future for all.  


Click on the links below to see what they’re up to:

Nikki Berti, Goodie Two Shoes Foundation | 2006
Drew and Barbara Stevens, Josh Stevens Foundation | 2009
Fran Smith, ITNLasVegasValley | 2007
Frank Lowery, Ironman 70.3 Silverman | 2005
Pat Byrne, Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada | 2006
Shawn Ritchie, Epicurean Charitable Foundation | 2007
Staci Columbo Alonso, Noah’s Animal House | 2006
Stacey Escalante, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network | 2010
Jeff Roberts, Springs Preserve & Desert Living Center | 2008
Paige Candee & Paula Lawrence, Dress for Success | 2011


Steven Leibowitz

Dec 30, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

By Callie Thomas

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller

The gift of sight is truly a blessing, and it takes a man with an enormous amount of heart to dedicate himself to allowing others that opportunity.  Resident Steven Leibowitz specializes in ophthalmology and has used his skills as an eye surgeon to help his patients.  He’s founded The Center for Graves’ Disease at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center to ensure that all Southern Nevadans have access to first-class medical care without having to leave the state. He has also personally funded medical missions to the Island of St. Lucia in the West Indies to provide much-needed eye care.

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To say that Leibowitz is an accomplished eye surgeon would only be the beginning of the story.  He attended Columbia, interned at Stanford and did his residency in ophthalmology and his fellowship in ophthalmic plastic and orbital surgery at Harvard. After his training, he joined the faculty at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, at UCLA Medical Center. Although a Las Vegas resident since 1993, he is still on the faculty there and travels to Los Angeles every week doing surgery, teaching and research at the center.

It is evident that Leibowitz is passionate about giving back, as his entire practice has been built on that philosophy.  He assists those without access to medical eye treatment by traveling and providing his skills to people in need inside and outside of the country and has been a part of the Founders Group, which provides funds to local charities.  Steven Leibowitz talks more about giving back and shares some personal facts that even his friends may not know.

Tell us more about some of the charitable organizations you support.

“I was a member of the Founders Group for years.  We sponsored the Las Vegas PGA annual tournament and gave away the entire profits to local charities.  While it was very time consuming we gave away $16 million dollars to local charities. Through UCLA I started the ophthalmic plastic, orbital and trauma service at Martin Luther King Hospital for this much underserved medical population, and operated on over 50,000 patients there.”

How did you get started with the missions to St. Lucia?

“I started going there when I was a resident at Harvard.  At that time, there were 120,000 people and no ophthalmologists.  Today there are 170,000 people and four ophthalmologists. In this area people walk four hours to come to my clinic.  Everyone from the Prime Minister to the poorest person comes to the clinic.”

How does your practice here assist those in the community?

“In addition to founding The Center for Graves’ Disease at Sunrise Hospital, I also operate on Saturdays and Sundays so that people can have needed surgery and not miss time at work.  During the recession when many of my patients lost their jobs and their insurance, I still kept them as patients. When many ophthalmic plastic surgeons around the country don’t accept any type of insurance, I accept Medicaid and others so that all patients can have needed surgery.”

What are you most passionate about?

“Aside from raising my three sons Jeremy, Brett and Shaine, it would be helping the less fortunate.  I grew up in an economically depressed neighborhood in Philadelphia and went to university on full scholarship.  I also try to help young people apply to university and attend top colleges.”

So, we hear there may be a surprising job that some may not know you’ve had?

“I was a Ringside Physician for the Nevada State Athletic Commission for 3-1/2 years. My favorite quote is by Mike Tyson, who said that everybody has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”

If you weren’t an Ophthalmic Plastic Surgeon, what would be your other dream job?

“Commissioner on the Nevada State Athletic Commission.”

Dean Fletcher

Dec 30, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

By Callie Thomas

“Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, but rather the hero’s heart”. –Proverb

There’s a very good reason that firefighters have long been considered heroes…they possess equal parts courage and heart.  Resident Dean Fletcher has been a firefighter for the City of Las Vegas for more than 31 years, and has not only served the city well but continues to show heart through his volunteer efforts.  Whether it is the American Red Cross Southern Nevada Chapter, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) or his work as a board member for the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada Benevolent Fund, it is easy to say that Fletcher is driven to influence positive change and make a difference throughout the community.

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The 33-year resident has established deep roots in the city he calls home.  He and his wife Cindy have been married for 32 years and both of their children, Ashlee and Ryan, were born in Las Vegas.  Fletcher and his wife are equally elated to have welcomed their first granddaughter, Flynn, in December.  Children are and have been an important part of his life, and so it is natural that he has aligned himself with organizations that assist them including the Coats for Kids Program, the Public Education Foundation and the “Fill the Boot” MDA Drive.  Although he considers himself a “simple” person, Fletcher has made a difference in the community.  He shares some of his experiences through the charities he’s chosen, as well as a passion for all things sports.

How is it you first became a firefighter?

“I was a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force prior to becoming a firefighter with the City of Las Vegas.”

Any experiences in the early days of your career you’d like to share?

“Well, as a rookie firefighter I responded to both the MGM and Las Vegas Hilton fires the first six months of my career within the Las Vegas Fire Department.” 

Tell us a bit about your volunteer efforts. How did you get started?

“Over the past 31 years as a firefighter for the city, I was able to become involved in the Professional Fire Fighters of Las Vegas local union early on in my career, which eventually allowed me to serve as the Southern District Vice President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada.  The Fund allows us to assist many charitable organizations such as the Coats for Kids Program, which will provide new coats for children in need throughout Northern and Southern Nevada. Volunteering for the American Red Cross Southern Nevada Chapter was also part of a natural progression as they assist citizens on a daily basis because of fires in their residence.  The Red Cross does an exceptional job of helping families who have been affected by home fires, which is a big part of why I continue to volunteer for them.”

Any personal experiences you’d like to share about these charities?

“While working with the MDA, you become very attached to the children that are affected with Muscular Dystrophy.  This charitable cause in particular has become a very rewarding (yet sometimes difficult) experience as the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada continue to assist children affected throughout the years.”

So… we hear you’re a really big sports fan…

“Yes, I enjoy watching college sports and I’m a big football fan… love playing Fantasy Football as well as traveling to watch college and professional football games. I’m also a pretty big Dallas Cowboys fan.”

So…if you weren’t a firefighter, what would be your dream job?

“Coach of the Dallas Cowboys.”