“Serving in the military changed the trajectory of my life and was one of the best decisions I ever made,” explained Gretchen Pace, the March 2022 Gratitude “Friend of Freedom” award winner. Pace is President and Founder of Goose and Willow, an artisan home goods company celebrating America and the Veterans who have served. “All of our products feature Americana-themed hand painted artwork and designs by US military veterans and our goal is to source everything right here in the USA.” The company offers discounts to military—past and present, and has plans on the drawing board to give a percentage of profits to local Veteran non-profit organizations.
Michaux Hood is an outstanding Charlottesville based graphic designer and website developer. Her dedication and focus in developing Gratitude Cville’s comprehensive website directly benefits and improves the lives of our communities’ active duty military, veterans and police as it communicates the myriad of programs available to support them, and also serves as a tool to raise funds on their behalf. Michaux’s knowledge and affinity for our military was greatly influenced by working under the guidance of Colonel John “Jack” Reeves when she was a teenager working for three years as a summer camp counselor at Nature Camp, Inc. Colonel Reeves exhibited leadership and compassion as the Camp Director, and he also served as an instructor at the Virginia Military Institute for over 30 years in primarily biology, ecology, archeology, and wildlife management.
Jayne Cox has a true passion for our military, and she never hesitates to “jump in” and volunteer her time to help a cause she deeply believes in. Last November she learned of Gratitude Charlottesville’s “Birthday Blanket for Vets”, a unique program in which we provide a special Birthday Blanket to veterans who reside in one of six local Nursing and Assisted Living Homes. Jayne decided this was an initiative she’d love to support! She immediately went to work designing the gift wrap presentation and agreed to write the personal note that goes along with each blanket to thank the resident vet for their service to our nation. In the first year of offering this program Gratitude C’ville will reach more than 150 elderly veterans, many who are alone and have had minimal contact with family do the COVID pandemic.
Gratitude Charlottesville is honored to jointly recognize five surviving World War II veterans as our July Friend of Freedom (FOF) award winners. On July 2nd at a special ceremony at Commonwealth Assisted Living Center Charles Oliver USN, Frank James USAF, Charles Kaut US Army, Ted Placzkouski US Army and Dick Rowe US Army, all residents of Commonwealth received a military service pin and special Freedom Fund Challenge Coin from Captain (retired) Tom Freshwater, Executive Director of Gratitude Cville.
Dan believes it’s important to show support to our local police. “We need to break down barriers of division with more open lines of communication. Interact with officers when you see them in public. Give them an immediate morale boost by letting them know you support them. If you have questions, take advantage of any public awareness initiatives or community functions your local department may be offering. Start engaging in your neighborhood watch forums or apps and alert police of any suspicious activity you witness. Bottom line, we need to re-learn how to work with law enforcement agencies again.”
When asked why he’s so passionate about supporting our military and police, Russ shared: “As Americans, we take for granted all that our military and police do for us daily, keeping both our country and our local cities safe. Every opportunity we have at Boar’s Head to honor and help them, we will.” Russ credits his Grandfather, a veteran who served in Viet Nam with infusing his passion for support. Russ believes “the resort’s efforts are a way to show our small token of appreciation for our military and police and we look forward to doing so for years to come”.
“I have worked with members of the military for almost all of my career, “explained Charlottesville resident David Rathburn. He is our “Friend of Freedom” winner for March 2021 because of his generous support of Gratitude Charlottesville, and many other military related charities–the VFW, the Navy League, the Marine Corp Foundation, the Coast Guard Foundation, the National D-Day memorial, the Pacific War Museum, the National WWII Museum. and Wounded Warriors among others.
Glenn Rust has been a long-time supporter of Gratitude Charlottesville, and his recognition as a “Friend of Freedom” for February 2021 is long overdue. “I sponsor Gratitude Charlottesville as a way to say thanks for the many sacrifices that our veterans, active military and first responders have made, and continue to make, on a daily basis for us. They are that very small percent that have answered the call to serve and protect our community, state and country.”
Friends of Freedom Award: 2020 Year in Review
These great organizations and individuals were recognized and received our Friends of Freedom Award in 2020. Each has a passion for supporting our active-duty military, military veterans, our police and their families. They stepped up big time during this challenging year of the pandemic, never wavering in their support. Please click on “Read More” to browse our archive to review the many contributions our 2020 Friends of Freedom made in order to understand why they were recognized and honored.
January will mark the two-year anniversary of the “DP Cares Program” that gives meaningful advertising space in the paper to area non-profits. “It’s a great way for these non-profits to introduce themselves to the larger community, or perhaps to highlight an event or fundraiser that’s coming up, “explains Richard Alblas, Special Sections Editor at The Progress. “Our hope is that, by offering this service, we contribute to the goals of these organizations, and by extension helping the people who benefit from these non-profits.”
One of our core values is to give back to the communities where we do business,” explains Cathcart Group’s CEO, Todd Dofflemyer. The notion of giving back dates to Todd’s childhood when his grandfather “instilled in me how important it is to give back to others when able.” The company’s founder, Rip Cathcart, shares this philanthropic nature, having served on the YMCA Board that was instrumental in bringing the YMCA to Charlottesville, supporting the Senior Center and the Salvation Army, just to name a few. In fact, the company’s primary purpose is “to improve communities and lifestyles,” and the giving back mentality is prevalent throughout the company culture
“Veterans deserve to have the kind of unconditional support a pet can provide,” explains Angie Gunter, Chief Executive Officer of the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA. Angie launched a Free Adoptions for Veterans program in August 2019 that resulted in close to 20 adoptions by the end of the first year. Adopters ranged in age, branch of military, and gender, resulting in a diverse pool of participants. “Our goal for our adoption program for veterans is to match as many veterans looking for an animal companion with a pet from the shelter as possible,” she said.
If Gratitude Charlottesville had a “lifetime achievement award”, Mindy Goodall would be our first recipient. Goodall recently left her position as the Executive Director of the Charlottesville Police Foundation (CPF) after a decade of service. Her drive and determination enabled the foundation to exceed its goals in serving the Charlottesville Police Department (CPD) and importantly, the community-at-large.
Doug serves veterans “out of respect for what they give”. For the past 5 years he’s been a donor to the “Freedom 5K” Run that benefits local vets. He also supports the UVA ROTC Run which raises scholarship money for aspiring ROTC cadets and midshipman. Every March for the past 8 years, he’s donated a portion of each patient’s office visit fees to local organizations supporting vets. Using his entrepreneurial talents, Doug developed a “Hero Honey” program where he donates money from honey he produces to Virginia Veterans.
ParadeRest Virginia, a local non-profit expressing gratitude to our military, their families, and veterans, recently overcame the great challenge of the Coronavirus Pandemic. When faced with possibly postponing or worse, cancelling their 10th Annual June 4 Our Freedom 5K Run/Walk fund raiser, their Board elected to make it a “VIRTUAL EVENT”.
After moving to Virginia in 1995, Dick became aware of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA, and decided he wanted to work there as a guide. He has been volunteering at the memorial for 10 years and thoroughly enjoys the work because it’s a very meaningful way for him to honor the military service and sacrifice of his father. In addition, the National D – Day Memorial is a wonderful tribute to the Bedford Boys whose service and sacrifice is both sad and uplifting.
The reason I belong to RWB is because it feels like family to me. When I retired in 2013, I missed the camaraderie of my soldiers, and RWB fulfills that gap. I love playing an active role in RWB because we impact people’s lives, including my own, and we always help our military community. Military members, whether current or prior, often enjoy sharing war stories to gain a warm sense of camaraderie back or may want to vent about certain issues. RWB is there for them, whether it’s over coffee or out on a hike.
If there is a military or police event in town, there is a good chance Manager Jeremy Vaughan and his patriotic crew are there and enthusiastically serving up some delicious Mission BBQ. “We as a team and brand feel that there is nothing more American than those that raise their right hand and vow to protect and serve their communities and country. These core ideals of our First Responders or Armed Forces members are the sole reason we are able to have a successful restaurant in the beautiful community of Charlottesville.”
Blue Star Families of Central Virginia supports fellow Blue Star members and their friends and family members who are serving or who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. According to Martha Horsfall Chapter President, their most important mission is to mail CARE packages throughout the year to our military personnel stationed abroad. Since their inception in 2003 they have shipped more than 5,500 CARE packages to service members deployed throughout the world.
A few years ago Ashley and her crew at James River Reeling and Rafting started “BBQ on the Bend”, an annual cook-off festival benefitting local charities. “Every year we end our season with a celebration. Staff, friends and their families would gather to eat, drink and be merry to celebrate the close of the season. It became a goal after a few years to turn this into something much more grand and “BBQ on the Bend” was born.” The Freedom Fund was the beneficiary of the 2019 event in September.
The new owners of The Club at Glenmore, Damon Devito and David Swales of Affinity Management, provided a free wedding to a local military couple on 9/11. Glenmore invited any recent veteran, active military or first responder couples to enter to win a “LOVE & LIBERTY” free wedding on 9/11. It is their way of “showing a token of appreciation for the men and women risking their lives on the front lines at home and abroad.”
The Albemarle County Police Department Foundation promotes public safety by supporting our Police Department in its efforts to be a professional, highly educated and trained organization, equipped to prevent crime and enhance the overall safety of our community.
Blue Star Families of Central Virginia is a tight knit team of local mothers committed to working to support our veterans, military members, and their families. One of their more important outreach missions is the shipment of CARE packages to deployed service members throughout the year.
The Charlottesville Police Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization of local citizens who help our police get the tools and training they need to do their best work.
“The Charlottesville Police Department has been transformed from a reactive force focused on arresting lawbreakers to one that is creatively connecting with the community to solve specific problems. As in most cities, a large portion of the Charlottesville Police Department budget goes to pay for salaries and vehicles. And with high housing costs in the area, very few officers can afford to live in the city they serve. Founded in 2004 by a group of local citizens, the Foundation helps the department address these and other issues by providing advanced training, new technologies and equipment, housing assistance, structured community outreach and other support,” Mindy Goodall, Executive Director.