By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 5/23/19
ROCKINGHAM COUNTY — In an otherwise quiet field, a barn in Rockingham County resounded with applause and laughter multiple times Wednesday evening as the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham held its second U*Nite to honor “community leaders and unsung heroes,” said Laura Toni-Holsinger, executive director.
“These are all people that I am lucky to get to interact with on a regular basis and work so hard for people in our community who don’t have access to all the resources to be successful,” she said.
Over 200 people attended the ceremony at the Cross Keys Barn outside Harrisonburg.
“We wanted to create something to shine a light on and appreciate them,” Toni- Holsinger said.
Betty Newell, one of the winners of a Bright Star award, is the president and founder of Way To Go Inc., a nonprofit that helps low-income, working residents of the city and county with transportation needs.
Newell has worked in the human services sector for decades in various capacities, even starting and running the Charlottesville Free Clinic from 1992 to 1997.
“There is so much collaboration here — there really is,” she said. “How important it is to have people who do work well together.”
Rachel Howdyshell won the Young Community Builder award. Howdyshell has been the executive director of Open Doors since 2013, an organization she began volunteering with in 2009. Open Doors is a rotating emergency homeless shelter in the city and county that operates from November to April and offers food and shelter for up to 40 people a night.
“I’m very honored to receive this award and to receive it from people I consider to be mentors and friends,” Howdyshell said.
Candy Phillips, the executive director of First Step: A Response to Domestic Violence, was also honored for her efforts.
Phillips has been with First Step since 1995 and has held multiple positions in the organization, as well as worked with the Harrisonburg Rockingham Social Services District and Healthy Families of Shenandoah County.
Philips recalled her journey from James Madison University to her role as director of First Step to being recognized as a 2019 Bright Star.
“No one, no person, no agency, nothing is perfect in this world, and how we move forward is those that we surround ourselves with,” she said, thanking her colleagues.
Jim DeLucas won the Charlie Wampler Jr. Community Builder Award.
DeLucas is chief development officer for Nielsen Builders, which supports United Way. DeLucas is a native of South Jersey and alumnus of Bridgewater College, which he graduated from two weeks before beginning work at Nielsen.
Service work is part of the company culture at Nielsen Builders, DeLucas said, “giving time, whether it’s families or the company’s, to go serve the needs of the community.”