LEAD San Diego, in partnership with ABC 10News, recognizes unsung heroes throughout the year with the monthly 10News LEADership Awards. The winners then become finalists for the annual Community Spotlight Award; the winner will be announced on the main stage during the Visionary Awards program. These finalists all make a significant impact on our community through their dedication of time, talent and treasure.
As an 8th grader, Ms. Benitez went with her school to build a house in Mexico for needy families through the San Diego nonprofit, Build a Miracle. She was so moved she told her mother, “I can do more.” And she did. Ms. Benitez took it upon herself to gather friends and family, and worked extremely hard to raise $16,000 in just six months to build another home for a needy family in Tijuana. In addition to raising money, Ms. Benitez and her friends also participate in the process by helping to do everything, from laying the foundation to the construction of the home itself.
Since Jane Wesley Brooks, a San Diego attorney, was 17 years old, she has been making Christmas stockings for the homeless each year. Ms. Brooks fills up the stockings with items they really need, such as beanie hats, gloves, socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, and more. She delivers 100 stockings to St. Vincent de Paul, and she delivers the other 100 herself. On Christmas Eve night, Ms. Brooks walks the streets of San Diego, putting a stocking next to a homeless person sleeping, so when they wake up they will see their Christmas surprise.
Robin Cohen has been the Pet Encounter Therapy (PET) manager at Helen Woodward for more than 24 years. The PET program began in 1983 with one visit each month at a local skilled nursing facility. Ms. Cohen saw a need to expand the program when she became the manager; it now conducts more than 60 visits each month, and has a waiting list. This animal-assisted therapy program is founded on the belief that animals can have a tremendous impact on the human spirit. The PET program provides opportunities for people with special needs to experience the benefits of human/animal interactions.
Wheels to Prosper
TJ Crossman is a Vista auto repair shop owner who last year accepted nominations for a person to receive a free, newly refurbished 2008 Ford Fusion. A team of judges chose the winner, who was announced in August at the Vista Rod Run in downtown Vista. This was the fourth year in a row that Mr. Crossman has given away a car to a needy local individual. He was inspired to start the program after discovering Wheels to Prosper, a nationwide collective of 66 independently owned auto shops that fix up cars and give them away. TJ Crossman’s Auto Repair is the only participant from San Diego County.
Sandra Lamb started Boys Team Charity in her area; the organization began in Phoenix and is now in its third year in the San Diego Del Norte area. It is not a fundraising group, but strictly community volunteering for boys, grades 7 through 12. Boys Team Charity has helped many organizations in the San Diego area. Members have served lunch at the Ronald McDonald House; collected and sorted food and helped at food banks; helped at senior centers; spread cheer at Autism Tree Project Foundation; helped out at the USS Midway Museum on Veterans Day; and volunteered at the Komen Race for the Cure.
Bishop Donnie N. McGriff has served in San Diego County for more than 34 years. He is a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran who continues to support military personnel and veterans. Under his leadership, Bishop McGriff and his wife support youth with mentoring programs, tutoring assistance, and academic excellence cash awards. He provides marriage and family counseling, as well as free anger management classes. Bishop McGriff also provides higher education programs through an on-campus university. In addition, food distribution in the City of El Cajon is one of the many services provided under his leadership.
Tammy & Chris Megison are the founders of Solutions for Change, a 1,000 day transitional housing and training program for families at risk. All the parents being helped through the program work, pay rent, attend onsite workshops and classes, and are engaged in a dynamic coaching system. The model, now known as Solutions University, blends affordable housing, educational opportunities, employment training, and health-related solutions all within one cohesive strategic program. There is but one goal: work with the community to solve family homelessness for kids and communities, permanently.
Founded seven years ago by Mia & Steve Roseberry, Wounded Warrior Homes is a grassroots charitable nonprofit chartered to provide transitional housing to single post 9/11 veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). For the first five years, Mr. and Mrs. Roseberry ran the organization out of their home. Thus far, Wounded Warrior Homes has provided 64 vets with housing; they have provided a total of 768 months’ worth of housing; and a total of 6,326 vets have been served by referrals to other services through Wounded Warrior Homes.
After a career in corporate management, Brandon Steppe built a professional private recording studio where he produced, mixed, and mastered musical, radio, and corporate recordings. In 2007, Mr. Steppe began to allow local teens to trade their good grades for studio time. He saw firsthand that music was a powerful platform to, not only help youth achieve academic success, but also teach them responsibility and accountability, while providing them with viable work and life skills. The David’s Harp Foundation received nonprofit status in 2009; the organization now serves more than 200 teens annually.