To honor and encourage volunteerism on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Allstate Insurance Company is honoring four African-American volunteers who generously serve their communities through extensive volunteer efforts and continuously make a positive impact in their neighborhoods.
The four inaugural Give Back Day Heroes, from Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago and Washington, D.C., attended the King Center’s “Salute to Greatness” Awards Banquet in Atlanta on Saturday.
Lucy Hall-Gainer, Marquis Smith, Deanna Woods, and 17 year-old Xavier Jefferies, were presented with the “Salute to Greatness” Award on behalf of the company’s ongoing dedication to the principles and philosophy of Dr. King. Each Hero will participate in a volunteer event in their hometown alongside Allstate employees and local citizens today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“We hope their stories inspire people to put their ‘good hands’ to good work in their own neighborhoods,” said Anise Wiley-Little, assistant vice president and chief diversity officer for Allstate, “Not just on Give Back Day, but throughout the year.”
Allstate is encouraging citizens interested in participating in Give Back Day on January 18, 2010 to visit BeyondFebruary.com to find volunteer opportunities in their communities. This interactive Web site links to VolunteerMatch.org, an online search engine that promotes volunteerism and civic engagement by matching volunteers with charitable organizations and non-profits. VolunteerMatch contains thousands of volunteer opportunities in communities all across the country. Additionally, watch videos featuring the four Give Back Day Heroes.
Allstate is continuing to collaborate with the King Center in Atlanta by hosting a volunteer rally after the annual commemorative service honoring Dr. King at Ebenezer Baptist Church this morning. To reinforce the company’s commitment to giving back, Allstate also is mobilizing Give Back Day events in markets across the country, to reinforce the dedication that Dr. King had to giving back to the community with a wide range of projects.
“Allstate has truly stepped up by creating Give Back Day, an outstanding volunteer initiative that embodies the spirit of my father and everything he fought for,” said Bernice King, Dr. King’s youngest daughter. “But an even greater tribute to my father’s legacy is evidenced by the people, like the Give Back Day Heroes, who demonstrate the commitment to serve their communities throughout the year, not just on MLK Day.”
The 2010 Give Back Day Heroes are:
Lucy Hall-Gainer – Atlanta, Ga.
For more than a decade, Lucy Hall-Gainer has assisted troubled women in Atlanta by providing them with a safe haven – the Mary Hall Freedom House (MHFH), named in memory of Hall-Gainer’s mother. As the organization’s CEO, she has helped more than 2,500 women beat addiction and become self-sufficient individuals. Hall-Gainer established MHFH with just $5,000, two apartments and two employees in 1996. Today, MHFH has over 50 apartments and 70 employees to accommodate distressed women and their children. At age six, Hall-Gainer watched her mother die of alcoholism, inspiring her life-long commitment to helping others. An addict herself for 10 years, Hall-Gainer sought help and guidance to eventually end her reliance on drugs and alcohol. With several years of experience working with nonprofits, Hall-Gainer is now living her dream of empowering women and their children to break the cycle of addiction, poverty and homelessness, offering that same helping hand with MHFH.
Xavier Jefferies – Charlotte, N.C.
At only 17 years of age, high school student Xavier Jefferies has done more for his community than most people do in a lifetime. Jefferies’ extensive volunteer efforts include donating his time to the local YMCA’s after-school daycare, where he tutors children in an effort to help them advance in both academics and athletics. He is the founder and president of the Kick Back Crew, a philanthropic youth group dedicated to beautifying Rockwell Park through a variety of community service initiatives. Jefferies spends his summers at the YMCA Blue Ridge Leaders’ School training teens to become leaders in physical education and annually attends the Young Black Men’s conference with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life in his community. Recognized in 2009 by The Charlotte Observer for his outstanding commitment to his Rockwell Park neighborhood, Jefferies was also honored with the 2009 Charlotte Neighborhood Youth Award. It was the second consecutive year he received the award.
Deanna Woods – Chicago, Ill.
In March 2006, Deanna Woods’ niece, Seritha White, 10, was killed by a stray bullet in her West Englewood, Ill., home as her family was celebrating a birthday party. It was this horrific tragedy that launched Woods into a life of giving back to her community. The incident inspired Woods to create the 68th and Marshfield Block Club and become an ambassador for Teamwork Englewood, an organization founded to promote community development. Along with more than 50 other members living near the same city block in Englewood, Woods, who serves as club president, challenges community issues such as drug dealing and gun violence. Woods is part of community policing with a mission to negotiate with gang members that they stay out of certain areas. Known in her neighborhood as the aunt of “Englewood angel” Seritha White, she has become a surrogate mother to the children of West Englewood who are looking for a trusted friend. With a focus on children’s safety and growth, Woods’ community work has been recognized by Local Initiatives Support Corporation /Chicago when it named her one of 25 community heroes in 2006.
Marquis Smith – Washington, D.C.
All his life, Marquis Smith has embraced the need for people to give back to their communities, and he took his mission of service one step further when he joined the Army. Upon his return from a three-year tour of duty, Smith compiled more than 600 hours of volunteerism as an AmeriCorps Jumpstart corps member. Today, he continues his community outreach as a student at Howard University. An education major, Smith is involved with “Library Makeover,” an organization that helps renovate and build libraries in deprived neighborhoods. Smith also interns at the Heart of America Foundation promoting literacy and volunteerism. In his free time, Smith lends a hand to Washington, D.C.’s Sunday Suppers program where he helps prepare and serve more than 200 meals for the homeless on a bi-weekly basis. In 2006, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Smith organized a clothing drive for the homeless in his former hometown of Baton Rouge, La., and collected over 3,500 items in just one month. Smith later organized a toy drive for low-income families in the city, donating more than 1,300 new toys to Toys 4 Tots, local churches and families.