Spanberger honors dedication, generosity, service of six more VA-07 Heroes
Rep. Abigail Spanberger is recognizing the second round of outstanding nominees to her “VA-07 Heroes” program, an initiative designed to highlight and celebrate the exceptional work of Central Virginians who have gone above and beyond to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This round of honorees includes a Chesterfield nail salon owner who has donated thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to local frontline workers, a Powhatan food pantry volunteer who has coordinated more than 16,000 meal deliveries to date, Chesterfield restaurant owners who have fed neighbors for free and continued hosting substance abuse support group meetings during the pandemic, a Culpeper veteran and volunteer who has facilitated donations and distribution for thousands of neighbors facing food insecurity, and a Henrico store owner who turned her expertise and passion for quilting into a project that has produced hundreds of masks for local health workers.
“COVID-19 has presented many challenges, and its devastating impact is still being felt by many families in our Central Virginia communities. Amid the ongoing and rapidly-evolving crisis, a bright spot of hope can be found in the many extraordinary stories of neighbors who have gone above and beyond to serve others in the Seventh District,” said Spanberger. “I have been deeply inspired by the many VA-07 Heroes nominations we’ve received, and I’m proud to honor six additional individuals who embody our Central Virginia values of service, kindness, courage, and excellence. As we navigate the uncertain weeks ahead and try to regain some normalcy in our everyday lives, I hope the empathy and generosity that these honorees represent will be our model for how to move forward without leaving anyone behind.”
This week’s honorees are:
MiMi Nguyen, Chesterfield County: Nguyen is the owner of MiMi Nails Spa in Midlothian. When the public health crisis forced her to temporarily close her doors, Nguyen was determined to play an active role in her community’s efforts to battle the pandemic. She donated over 4,000 surgical masks, over 15,000 pairs of gloves, and 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to St. Francis Hospital, a regional center for COVID-19 cases. As the outbreak progressed, Nguyen saw the growing need for personal protective equipment not just in hospitals but in many frontline industries. She went on to donate tens of thousands of gloves and masks to the Richmond Police Department, Chesterfield County Police Department, Chesterfield County Public Schools, and individual members of the local community. Nguyen’s generosity and persistent care for others has safeguarded the life and health of many Chesterfield residents.
Jennifer Davis, Powhatan County: Davis was furloughed from her job at the beginning of the outbreak in Virginia, but she refused to sit on the sidelines when her neighbors were in need. She has volunteered consistently with the Feeding Powhatan food pantry, clocking upwards of 30 hours per week and coordinating nearly 20 volunteers. In addition to purchasing, packing, and distributing food, Davis and her team have also provided cleaning and sanitation supplies to assist vulnerable community members with guarding against the virus. Each week, Davis and her volunteer colleagues have distributed over 2,000 meals to more than 300 families. In total, they have distributed more than 16,000 meals since the beginning of the outbreak in Virginia. Davis’ determination and logistical skills have kept hundreds of Powhatan families from going hungry during an uncertain, challenging time.
Joe and Emilia Sparatta, Chesterfield County: The Sparattas have remained committed to uplifting their neighbors and the Richmond-area restaurant community at a time when many restaurant owners are facing grave financial challenges. In addition to being a source of support for their colleagues, the Sparattas and their two children have fed neighbors for free with pasta from their restaurant. They have also continued holding weekly meetings for food and beverage industry workers in substance abuse recovery. These meetings have been a touchstone of stability, support, and care during the outbreak – especially in light of the added anxiety and strain that COVID-19 and its economic impacts can place on those facing the challenging work of substance abuse recovery. The Sparattas’ empathy and practical provision for those in need has made a difficult period for many Richmond-area neighbors just a bit easier.
Jill Skelton, Culpeper County: Skelton is a U.S. Air Force veteran who has brought her determination, tenacity, and problem-solving skills to bear on the COVID-19 crisis in Culpeper. Working with the volunteer team at Empowering Culpeper, she has overseen monthly food drives for families in need. When she saw a sharp rise in the number of food-insecure families needing assistance, she quickly marshalled additional food donations, organized dozens of volunteers to transition to twice-monthly distributions, and secured a larger distribution site with more space. The most recent distribution in May helped put food on the table for more than 1,100 Central Virginians, including more than 400 children and more than 100 seniors. Skelton’s indominable work ethic and warmth has helped meet the most basic needs of many families throughout the area.
Tiffany Sherman, Henrico County: Sherman, the owner of a quilting supplies and instruction shop in Henrico, quickly kicked into gear when the outbreak started in Virginia and began using the tools at her disposal to help those in need. She organized a fundraiser to be able to make masks for local health workers – the project has worked two-fold to help frontline workers and provide a source of income for her store workers while they are at home. As the need in Henrico County grew, Sherman began offering handmade masks for sale through her online store, with proceeds going directly to make more masks for health workers. Through this positive cycle, she and her team have provided more than 1,000 masks for health workers to date. Additionally, many members of the community have recognized Sherman for her daily Facebook Live show, a recurring moment of connection that has brightened a dark time for many people staying at home. Sherman’s giving spirit and compassion has lifted spirits and protected the health of hundreds of essential workers in Central Virginia.
Information about previous honorees in the “VA-07 Heroes” program can be found here. Central Virginians can nominate a Hero by completing this form. Nominations can include small businesses, non-profits, and any individuals who live, work, or volunteer in Virginia’s 7th District.