Browsing articles in "Meet Your Neighbor"

Joanie McCarty

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

By: Callie Thomas

This month, many of us will consider what we want to accomplish in the year ahead…new resolutions, aspirations or just taking time to appreciate others and embrace life with a bit more gusto.  Resident Joanie McCarty is not one to stand on the sidelines of her life and is an inspiration on becoming more involved with family, home, work and helping others throughout the community.

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Although originally hailing from Milwaukee, Wis., McCarty and her family moved to Southern California, then on to Naperville, Ill. and finally to Las Vegas five and a half years ago.  Joanie and her husband, Alan, have been married for the past 37 years and have three sons, John, Robert and Matthew.  She has always stayed active in her children’s lives and while her husband was a Little League Coach for all of the boys, she was their team mom.  She also ran the Little League Snack Bar, and when her kids were in grammar school was the PTA president, room mom for class parties and field trips, and a teacher’s aide when they were in the 3rd grade helping under achievers. 

When her children were older she decided to go back to work in accounting, a career she had started prior to being a stay at home mom. She worked for Lawry’s Foods Inc., where she learned more about fundraisers and getting involved in the community. As a newcomer to Las Vegas, McCarty came upon The Assistance League where she found truly caring, giving women who were making a difference. She joined the group as a volunteer but also found many new friends.  Joanie talks about her work with the organization and why she tries never to miss a Green Bay Packers game.

How did you get involved with The Assistance League?

“The day I went to their new member’s coffee, I really didn’t think I would join, but thought, what the heck, I’ll go check this out.  It was raining and I looked like a drowned rat.  I walked in and saw the beautiful fresh flowers on the tables and everything was first class.  As I listened to the president and all the speakers and took the tour of the facility, I knew this is where I belong.”

What is your role with the group?

“I am the chairman of their Thrift Shop.  The shop’s income takes care of the Assistance League facilities and Operation School Bell. I got involved because I feel every child needs a good start in life and when I saw the way The Assistance League works for our community children I knew I had to be a part of this wonderful organization.”

Any experiences you’d like to share?

“It’s so satisfying when I hear the customers compliment our prices, the merchandise, the cleanliness and our wonderful volunteers. We have customers who come in here every day, as it is their social place to meet. People may not be able to afford a nice outfit or a new pair of shoes and they are thrilled with the merchandise. It brings a smile to my face to see them excited about what they’ve found.”

What would you say you are you most passionate about?

“My grandchildren. They live in Chicago but we get to spend time with them in the summer.  I try to teach them games and things that I did when I was young like swimming, skating and hula hoop and try to get them away from the video games. We tell stories at night and I get a hundred kisses and hugs before tucking them in.”

So… we hear you’re a “Cheesehead”?

“Yes, I’m an avid Green Bay Packers fan and try not to miss ANY games.  If they win it really starts my week and if they lose I am really sad, but I’m over it by the next Sunday.”

For more information on The Assistance League visit

Wendy Albert

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

By Callie Thomas

For many, the mere idea of shopping conjures up a feeling of excitement and adventure.  It’s a true passion and some even consider it a “sport” to track down the latest trend or the best deal.  Shopping, marketing and the arts are all passions of 89135 resident Wendy Albert, and she is happy to be able to combine those interests in her work within the retail industry for the past 20 years.  She has honed her skills in this arena and utilized her expertise within the marketing departments of nine different shopping centers throughout her career.  Albert moved to Las Vegas in 2001 and continues to be a part of the city’s ongoing transformation into a premier shopping destination by marketing the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

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While shopping (particularly for shoes) has always been near and dear to her heart, so has giving back to the community. Through her work with the Miracle Mile Shops she has become involved in community relations efforts including overseeing donations to a wide variety of nonprofits such as Opportunity Village, Habitat for Humanity and HELP of Southern Nevada, as well as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada.  She also participates in numerous charitable events, both hosted at Miracle Mile Shops and off-property.  Her desire to give back to the community began in her college years when she was involved in student-group activities that included feeding the homeless. Today she is especially happy to support organizations that allow her to interact with kids such as the Girl’s Day and Fun Day for Kids program through the Boys and Girls Clubs.  Albert tells us about her volunteer efforts and interest in the arts, and shares her life inspirations.

Of the many charitable organizations you support, you have a soft spot for the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“Yes, I’m actively involved and have served on the Board of Directors for many years and have been fortunate to participate in numerous committees and events. My favorite thing is being matched up with a child and spending the day with them.  I’m always touched by how much the children seem to value a few hours of our time.  I benefit from these days so much more than the children do!”

Why do you think giving back is so important?

“Giving back reminds me that the world is so much bigger than our lives here in Las Vegas.  I’m humbled by how fortunate I’ve been and, over the years, I’ve learned how important my time and effort can be.  People depend on other people and I think we need to continue to lift each other up as a society.”

You also have a passion for the arts, which you’ve combined to help the community?

“I am passionate about all forms of artistic expression whether it be found in museums, theaters or concert halls.  I am also a member of the Bellagio Modern Art Council that supports art programs in the community and benefits the Public Education Foundation.  I enjoy being a part of groups that do so much for children in our city.”

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not crunched at work or volunteering?

“I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family and friends. I’m actually a really big foodie and love trying new restaurants.  We’re lucky to have so many options in Las Vegas.”

So, if you weren’t in your present job what else would you like to do?

“Without a doubt, I’d be a food critic.”

Do you have any life inspirations that you’d like to share?

“I try to remember to tell the people that I care about that I love them.  I don’t take for granted how much they mean to me and how appreciative I am for all of them and what they bring to my life.”

Carol Marker

Dec 3, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

It is the season of giving and that suits Carol Marker just fine.  Although currently retired as manager of the family business, Marker Boat & Mini Storage, not a day goes by that Carol doesn’t keep busy or take on a challenge to make the community a better place.  In fact, her definition of “retirement” would not be complete without tackling a problem or finding a solution to help others. 

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As a wife, mother and grandmother of four, she has been particularly interested in finding ways to help young children.  She has been involved in a variety of charitable organizations including March of Dimes. She’s also assisted at a home for unwed mothers, and has been an Association President and Troop Leader for Girl Scouts as well as a Den Mother for the Cub Scouts. Out of all the organizations to which she’s lent assistance, however, it is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Henderson (now Southern Nevada) that is closest to her heart.  Carol is a past President and Board Member and has made an indelible influence on its success through leadership. During her tenure she introduced new programs, many of which are still in practice today, and pushed forward even when things got tough for the group.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada provides a positive place for kids to go before and after school and during summer break.  The group offers affordable and fun activities for youth age 5-18.  The organization’s caring and dedicated staff provides weekly programs including activities such as sports, table games, board games, arts and crafts, technology, educational activities, field trips and more to help nurture productive, responsible young citizens.  Carol Marker talks about the Boys & Girls Club, and why giving up…on anything… is just not in her nature.

What or whom do you think inspires you to want to help others?

“My life inspiration was my mother.  She was a great lady and demanded the best from me.  She believed that the more you gave to aid the community or family, the more that would come back to you.  The last few years of her life were difficult for her, but she handled them without complaint and with dignity.  It is my hope that I reflect some of those traits as I go through life.”

You must have also inherited your mother’s will to keep pushing forward?

“I have been known to tackle any problem and work alone or with others to find and implement a solution.  I do not know how to give up on a task.”

That includes the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada?  It went through a rough period at the beginning.

“I have seen the Clubs from a time of almost financial ruin to a successful, healthy organization.  At the time I was President, the Henderson organization was in jeopardy of having to put locks on the doors because of financial problems.  With the help of new Board Members and Mike Meyers we were able to put the Clubs on secure financial footing.  I was the originator of our current annual auction and have participated in the ongoing merger discussions with the Las Vegas organization.”

What are you most proud to have achieved with the Clubs?

“I am most proud of the Marker Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada, which is still one of the year-round clubs that provides programs for young children.”

So tell us about retirement life. How is it different on a day-to-day basis?

“I can’t think of a better job than the job of retirement.  It is hard to go from the work-a-day world to days of seeming unending free time but I hope to do it well enough that I will have done and seen everything I can.”

Jami Artiga

Dec 3, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

The magic of dance has been felt around the globe for centuries.  Think back to when you were a child or when you took your own children to see their first Nutcracker performance.  The wonder and excitement is relived as the young girl, Clara, experiences the enchanting dance of the Sugarplum Fairy after her beloved Nutcracker toy comes to life. Jami Artiga of 89123 has dedicated her life to recreating the magic of dance by using her own gifts as a dancer, and teaching children about self-expression through the art. Through The Dance Zone, a local school that she founded with fellow dance enthusiast and partner Kaydee Francis, Artiga harnesses her passion to help others in the community with the power of dance.

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The lifelong resident has helped to ensure that The Dance Zone and its students have been associated with several charitable outreach organizations such as Dancer’s Responding to Aids, Golden Rainbow, Josh Steven’s Foundation, Ragtag Entertainment, NYCDA’s College Scholarship Foundation and the Lindsay Bennett Foundation.  They’ve also been involved with the NF Hope’s annual concert and supported drives for Three Square and Toys for Tots.  The Dance Zone also provides practice space to dancer’s performing in benefits.  Recently they’ve begun a partnership with After School All-Stars, a group that provides comprehensive after school programs to keep kids safe and help them to succeed in school and in life.  Artiga and the group have been holding dancewear costume drives and providing other supplies for All-Star after school dance programs. Jami Artiga talks about her love of dance, making a difference and sharing a bit of the magic with others around the community.

How did you begin using dance as a way of helping others?

“I started teaching and performing before I was 18.  I have always loved dance and children.  I worked professionally as a dancer anywhere I could until I had my second child. After he was born I turned to teaching dance as my career choice.  I love sharing all I have learned in dance and in life with my students.  Doing performances and benefits for non-profit organizations always gives me such a thrill. Many parents of our students are invested in an organization and also ask us to be a part.  We love to help whenever we can.”

What do you enjoy most about performing for non-profits?

“It brings dancers and entertainers from all around to get together for a cause.  We try to get involved with organizations as much as possible.  It allows our dancers who have been given this gift to share with people who need something special, or even to help raise money for charities.”

Why do you feel it is so important to give back to the community?

“There is so much more than what is right in front of us.  Being a small business we do not always have the money to give, but we have other resources at times that are valuable to others.”

What do you enjoy when you’re not in dance mode?

“When I am not at a dance competition, convention or fundraising event, you’ll find me at home or a family member’s home.  I’m very lucky to have my sisters and mother here in Vegas as well.  I spend as much free time as I can with my family.  I enjoy sitting and chatting with my kids and husband. My kids don’t always love me invading their space but it makes me re-connect with what is truly important.”

Aside from dance and family, do you have any other passions?

“I’m passionate about children growing up happy and healthy.  Dance is amazing for your mind and body but I’m also passionate about life and making the most of what you have.”

Kaydee Francis

Dec 3, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

We all have traditions of the season, whether it’s making an annual trip to view holiday lights, sharing special foods with family and friends, or making sure others have the benefit of a memorable holiday. Kaydee Francis of 89052 believes that even the little things make a big impact.  She engages in a year-long tradition of small gestures every day, like smiling and opening a door for others as well as using her given gift of dance to make a difference in the community. 

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Dance has been a passion for Kaydee since she was very young.  Growing up in Utah, it was an everyday part of her family.  She began teaching dance at her mother’s studio as a teenager and, after college and dabbling in a few industries, returned to her first love.  Her career has included working for two national dance competition companies as a Show Director and Adjudicator.  She’s traveled the country teaching master classes and setting choreography for competitions and television.  She finally fulfilled her dream of owning her own dance studio when she met her business partner Jami Artiga. Together, they created The Dance Zone.

The local dance facility not only gives young people an opportunity to learn and express themselves through the art, but also to help others by using their craft. The Dance Zone and its students have been associated with several charitable organizations such as Dancer’s Responding to Aids, Golden Rainbow, Josh Steven’s Foundation, Three Square and Toys for Tots.  They recently partnered with After School All-Stars, a group that provides after school programs to keep kids safe and help them to succeed in school.  Kaydee has been busy holding dancewear costume drives for All-Star after school dance programs.  She tells us more about The Dance Zone, getting crafty and her favorite tradition.

It must have been exciting to start your own dance studio.  How did it come about?

“Jami and I decided to go to breakfast at Blueberry Hill…little did we know that this meal would change the course of our lives.  It was this breakfast where we conceptualized The Dance Zone!” 

Why do you think it’s important to give back—even in little ways?

“My take on it is simple; be considerate and set a shining example.  It’s not always how much time or money you donate to a charity that will give back to your community, but the example you set. Small actions can help grow a sense of community.”

Your efforts through The Dance Zone aren’t always so simple.

“We assist in a variety of ways both big and little from dancing at fundraising events to holding a drive for dance costumes, but I am most proud of watching our dancers grow from young people into passionate, beautiful and caring adults.”

What inspires you?

“I believe that if you want something you’ve never had before, you must DO something you’ve never done before!”

What else are you passionate about?

Spending time with my husband, friends and family, traveling and I love animals. I am mom to a giant dog and two fluffy kitties.  I’ve also been involved with the organization No More Homeless Pets.”

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at the studio?

“I really enjoy getting crafty.  If it’s messy you can count me in! I like painting and usually I’m sewing and adding rhinestones to costumes but I also love reading. I have tons of books lined up on my Kindle.”

Tell us something you think others might not know about you.

“I’m a big Tomboy!  Even though I love my make-up and rhinestones, I love to camp, hike and spend time outdoors with my husband and dog.”

Any holiday traditions you’d like to share?

“It has to be my mom’s homemade lasagna.  It’s our family’s holiday tradition.”

Patricia Lee

Oct 31, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

The holiday season is here and it is a time to reflect on the blessings around us, give thanks to those that have enriched our lives and commend our neighbors who have blazed new trails to improve our community. Patricia Lee of 89144 is a perfect example of someone worth honoring.  Giving her time and talents to make a difference, it is abundantly evident that Lee’s efforts have allowed us all to reap the rewards.

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Since graduating from the George Washington University Law School in 2002 and moving to Las Vegas immediately thereafter, Lee has made her mark both as an associate and eventually as partner of the Hutchison & Steffen Law Firm.  She has not only expanded the structure of her firm to include programs designed to grant access to legal services for those who might not otherwise be able to afford them, but also continues to pay her blessings forward through her involvement with a variety of charitable organizations.  This includes acting as President of the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association Foundation, as a board member of the Civil Self Help Center, the Las Vegas Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Lili Claire Foundation Living Library, the Nevada Crime Commission as well as on the Advisory Council for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, which provides legal assistance for those who do not have the financial means to retain an attorney.

The accomplished attorney, wife and mother of two young children provides us with insight into what drives her to continue to lead the way for others to succeed, what she is doing to be an influence in her own children’s lives and why conversing with her just might feel as comfortable as being interviewed by one of your favorite talk show hosts.

Tell us about your role with Hutchison & Steffen and the Legal Aid program the firm has adopted.

“I practice in the areas of commercial litigation, trademarks, copyrights, family law and mechanic’s lien law.  In 2009 I became the first female and the first African American partner of the firm. My promotion allowed me to take a more active role in structuring and expanding our firm’s practice to give access to justice for those who may not otherwise be able to afford it.  I was able to forge a partnership between the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and the firm to adopt their domestic violence cases.”

Your firm was the first-ever to take on Domestic Violence cases through Legal Aid.

“Well, the first to adopt a specific practice area as a whole, yes.  Our attorneys have committed to taking at least one domestic violence case free of charge in hopes of contributing to decrease the state’s number of incidents (Nevada currently has the highest rate of deaths associated with domestic violence than any other state in the nation.)”

You’ve also been instrumental in helping small business owners.

“My husband Ronnie is a small business owner and I fully understand the challenges they face.  I was able to charter our firm’s Small Business Program, to provide comprehensive services. For a small fee they have access to a wealth of legal advice.”

Why is giving back so important?

“It’s a means of connecting with the community in ways that I would not otherwise be able to do. Any success I’ve achieved is thanks to various people and outreach programs that saved me from what promised to be an unfortunate fate.”

How are you an influence in your own children’s lives?

“Hopefully my efforts help to set moral standards for my children through example and doing something that has value and meaning.”

You’re so easy to talk with…I’m sure your clients feel the same way…

(Laughs) “If I wasn’t a lawyer I would have loved to have been a TV talk show host… or someone that gets to try out and review day spas around the world (does that job really exist?)”

Maureen Romito

Oct 31, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

By: Callie Thomas

One of the newest non-profit organizations to be launched in Las Vegas is all about the numbers, that is, strength in numbers. An 89128 resident, Maureen Romito, is at the helm of this new group as the founder of Impact Las Vegas, a membership of 100 women throughout the community who aspire to make a substantial difference by giving vital resources to charitable organizations in need.

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Romito is a thirty-year Las Vegas resident and a “retired” Regional Human Resources Director who had found that while climbing the ladder in reaching her career goals, it didn’t leave a lot of time for developing new friendships or reaching out more in the community.  Although time prevented her from participating and volunteering as much as she would have liked in charitable organizations, she continued to support many through donations such as United Way and the American Heart Association. It was when she decided to “make a career change” by developing Impact Las Vegas that she started the ball rolling and moved her life in a different direction.

Women of all ages and backgrounds are invited to make a difference in the lives of others and participate in this transformational grant making organization. Each year, the goal of Impact Las Vegas is to provide at least one grant of $100,000 to a Southern Nevada non-profit organization that is focused in one of the five criteria areas of culture, education, environment, family or health and wellness.  Romito and current members have scheduled multiple networking events over the next few months to introduce Impact Las Vegas to potential members. She talks with us about her inspiration for developing the organization, what it means to give back and how she’s finally adjusted her pace to not only spend more time with loved ones, but to create lasting friendships as well as an indelible impact on the Las Vegas community.

What was your inspiration in developing Impact Las Vegas?

“It really started as a wish to mean more; to make a bigger difference in the community than just what I could do alone.  I founded the organization just last year after hearing about and meeting with Rebecca Powers, the founder of a similar and highly successful organization, Impact Austin.  There are now more than fifteen Impact organizations in cities throughout the U.S.  They have cumulatively given grants of more than $15 million, improving their communities and empowering and educating women in the process.”

How does Impact Las Vegas work?

“The non-profit giving circle is made up of 100 women who each donate $1,000 each year by December 31. Member donations are pooled to fund an annual $100,000 grant to a local worthy non-profit organization.”

So there really is “strength in numbers?”

“Absolutely! Most of us are not in the financial position to expand a day care program, provide free or low cost services for low-income families or to help a senior community center purchase a new roof and build a larger recreational room. All of us want to make a significant impact in the community and this way we can.”

Each of the members is an integral part of the organization and you’ve made some new friends?

“Yes, each member gets a voice in deciding which cause will be the recipient of the combined grant but we also have an opportunity to connect with other amazing women who are concerned about making this a better place.”

Why is it important for you to give back?

“This community has been my home for more than thirty years and where I have experienced personal and professional success. I want to make our community a better place to live.”

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

“The love of my life, my husband of 38 years, and I have a regular “date” with another couple we have been good friends with for years. We rotate weekly who chooses where we go but the rule used to be that it had to be someplace we’ve not been to, but we actually stopped that so we could go back to the places we really liked!”

For information about joining Impact Las Vegas visit

Dr. Michael D. Richards

Oct 31, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  No Comments

By: Callie Thomas

Why is it that when you want time to pass it moves slowly and yet, when you’re doing something that you’re passionate about and has significant meaning to you, it passes with the blink of an eye?  For 30 years, area resident Dr. Michael Richards has been an educator and mentor and it seems that it was just yesterday he began a long and deeply satisfying career as President of the College of Southern Nevada (CSN).  After completing his bachelor’s degree at Weber State University in Utah in the early 1970’s, Richards decided to enter the Air Force, where he served from 1972 – 1979.  He joined the ROTC and completed his Masters in English at Utah State University, where he got his first taste of teaching.  While stationed in Alabama, he was able to teach English at night and enjoyed working with the students.  It was then that he first thought of higher education as a career.

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After completing his Ph.D. at the University of Denver, Colorado he transitioned into his current career in colleges and universities. Since moving to Las Vegas eight years ago, he’s been the President and CEO of CSN. He is committed to improving pathways into higher education for people in the diverse community of Las Vegas and in strengthening the college’s role in serving our residents in addition to giving students the tools to accomplish their educational, career, and personal goals.  As such, he is dedicated to supporting the work of the CSN Foundation, an organization made up of community supporters to raise millions of dollars in cash and equipment for student scholarships and academic programs. Dr. Richards talks about the program, why giving back to the community is so important and what is behind his most treasured accomplishments.

Tell us about the CSN Foundation.

“The Foundation is made up of 28 wonderful community supporters that continue to work tirelessly to make it possible for the organization to develop scholarships and academic programs. Over the last 10 years the Foundation has expanded in the area of scholarships and the impact of this aid on individual students is both moving and gratifying.  The scholarship awards change lives on a personal level.”

What experiences through the Foundation can you share with us?

“A great example is the Engelstad Family Foundation gift totaling $8.2 million dollars.  This generous donation helped CSN build a state-of-the-art cardiorespiratory education center and provided a $1 million scholarship endowment for health sciences students.

What does giving back to the community mean to you?

“I believe each of us, regardless of our circumstances can give back to our community to advance and improve the lives of people.  Some of us can do it through money, others can commit time and talents.  I am still in awe at the way the community comes out to support charitable events. People do it repeatedly and they care about what’s going on here.”

Are there any other organizations in which you’re involved?

“I am also involved with the Las Vegas South Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is important as I also get involved with many volunteer events, sports and activities that serve the community.”

What do you think makes you successful?

“I am blessed to work with colleagues who work hard on behalf of education, workforce development, and community advancement.  Also, my family—I have five daughters and seven grandchildren and they all give me a great perspective on life.”

How do you relax after a busy day?

“I’ll be honest, often I don’t. This is a great job with a lot of responsibility and it does not come with a set number of hours.  But this is the best job, helping students achieve a college education.”

What life inspirations would you give to others?

“Our most important work, as working adults and parents, is in the walls of our homes with our families.”

Debbie Roxarzade

Oct 31, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  1 Comment

By: Callie Thomas

Restaurateur and Las Vegas neighbor Debbie Roxarzade has the recipe for success.  The 89135 resident is the founder and developer of the popular Rachel’s Kitchen franchise, which has grown to five locations in Las Vegas with another slated to open in the McCarran Airport D Gates at the end of this year.  Not only has she set a trend in fresh, wholesome food with a gourmet twist, she’s used her success to support a variety of non-profit organizations that impact our community.












Roxarzade’s been in the restaurant industry for nearly 20 years, turning her passion for cooking into owning and operating multiple dining venues both in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  What started with a small coffee shop in L.A. has grown into a popular franchise now in Las Vegas featuring sandwiches, salads, pastas and more to please every palate.

Debbie has always felt it was important to give back for the successes she has attained, and it has been a priority in her hometown since moving to the community seven years ago.  She is a Board member of the Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA Foundation, which identifies and funds the needs of abused and neglected children in foster care.  She’s also donated to several organizations including Three Square, Smiles for Survivors, Communities in Schools, Baby’s Bounty and St. Balderick’s Foundation. Roxarzade and the Rachel’s Kitchen franchise owners have also come together to create a website that offers information to online guests about the various organizations they support throughout the year and to educate visitors about the impact of these non-profits in the community at Debbie Roxarzade gives us an inside look at Rachel’s Kitchen and tells us why she feels giving back is so important.

How did the concept of Rachel’s Kitchen come about?

“It is actually named for my daughter Rachel.  Rachel’s Kitchen has many of the same menu items from my restaurants in Los Angeles.  I had a vision that this café would be warm and inviting where people would feel comfortable and want to return.”

What do you think makes it so special? 

“It’s where people can eat regularly and find something different to try.  We pride ourselves on wholesome food and delicious recipes that are easy to enjoy.”

What are the challenges (and rewards) of developing a franchise compared to a stand-alone restaurant?

“The challenges are that I need to relinquish some control, while the rewards are watching something that I created grow and expand in the hands of others.”

Is opening a restaurant at McCarran Airport different then a neighborhood franchise?

“It’s been a learning experience. It’s definitely more challenging and different than a regular storefront. I am proud to say I am now an official airport badge holder.  I am still finalizing the menu as a grab & go location but we will have many of the same smoothies and juices, salads and sandwiches.”

Why are you so passionate about giving back?

“For me and my family, giving back means being thankful for all the things we have in life and remembering those who are less fortunate- especially children.  I am trying to teach my children daily to be grateful for what they have, and to understand the challenges that some children face. I try to include my children in some of the events that I do so they can see how they can personally make in impact in the lives of others. It’s heartbreaking for me when I meet these children who don’t have a stable home life.  I want to do whatever I can to help them.”

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

“My strong marriage to my husband Jon and raising my two children Rachel and Ryan while building my business.”

How do you unplug after a busy day?

“Dinner with my family and a glass of Pinot Noir.  We talk about our favorite and least favorite parts of our day.”

Meet the Neighbor: Sonia McTaggart-Anderson

Oct 1, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Meet Your Neighbor  //  3 Comments

By: Callie Thomas

From an early age, resident Sonia McTaggart-Anderson has upheld the belief passed on from her mother that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”  Those words of wisdom do not come from a woman who has led a privileged life but rather, one that has overcome much–some would say more than one could possibly endure—to give her children a good life.  Sonia is the sixth child of eight who were all raised in British Guiana, now Guyana South America. She grew up in a village with no running water or electricity. Everyone in the family worked in the farms and rice fields to put food on the table.  Her father was relentlessly abusive to her mother as well as the children. One by one, her brothers and sisters were sent off to live with other members of the family so that they could go to school and escape the horrors of their daily life.

Sonia recalls her mother scrimping and saving enough to buy school supplies, books, uniforms and bus fare so that they could get an education. Even with extreme challenges, Sonia excelled at school and got her first job at 16 with the Royal Bank of Canada.  With the help of relatives she came to the United States at the age of 17, finding work in the garment district, and in the years following married, had a son and obtained scholarships to enroll in a college in New York. She graduated with honors and embarked on a career in finance which she enjoyed for nearly twenty years. For over two decades, inspired by her own struggles and triumphs, Sonia has been donating her time and resources to help improve the lives of children in addition to working and raising her family. She founded the Andson Foundation, which currently assists thousands of children and youths at organizations throughout the valley to give them a better life.  Sonia talks of her extraordinary story and why ensuring others are afforded a good life means everything.

Meet the Neighbor Zip Code Magazines Sonia McTaggert Anderson

You led an incredibly challenging life as a youth—what do you think helped you through it all?

“My drive and self-confidence that was bestowed upon me by my mother, (without whom I would not have survived) and caring strangers who saw the potential in me [helped me through it all].  I believe that I am here today for a purpose. There were so many reasons and situations that I should not have survived, but here I am. I utilize each day to achieve something new and touch another life.”

What does giving back mean to you?

“My mother (who did not have a first grade education) was instrumental in making sure I had an education.  Looking back, I realize I was given an opportunity for a tremendously blessed life that I now so proudly enjoy, and to which much has been given. I joyfully give back as much as I can to my siblings, my extended family, staff and to thousands of non-related kids on a daily basis.”

You’ve assisted many charitable organizations but tell us about the Andson Foundation.

“My happiness comes from changing the lives of anyone in need.  What I enjoy most is making a difference in the lives of children and helping them excel.  Along with my son and my husband, we do just that on a daily basis through the Andson Foundation.  Our belief is that by delivering both financial and educational support to students, we will aid not only in their academic careers, but also in their personal development. Our programs develop and empower students to achieve sound and promising futures.

Our goal is to install a lifelong love of learning in every child through academic assistance and to provide social mobility by way of financial education. We’ve provided tens of thousands of hours of lessons and tutoring through partnerships with the Boys and Girls Clubs, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, Communities in Schools, Bracken Elementary School and Bridger Middle School, Chaparral High School and Desert Oasis High School. Several other centers and elementary schools are scheduled to launch in the coming weeks. It is so important to change attitudes and behaviors and instill a lifelong love of learning.  Education will end the cycle of poverty and lack of confidence for the disadvantaged.  It did for me.”

Do you have any inspiration to give others?

“Success doesn’t come without hard work. Opportunities only knock once so seize them eagerly.  Always remember the people that helped you along the way, and a sibling will always be the best friend you will ever have.”