Gainesville

Hometown Heroes

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Bogin, Munns & Munns and WCJB TV20 believe that community matters, and so we’ve teamed up to celebrate our Hometown Heroes!  Each month, BMM & WCJB recognize one person whose impact is making North Central Florida a better place to live.

Our Hometown Heroes are nominated by you!  If you know someone making a difference in North Central Florida, click the link below.  Tune in to WCJB TV20’s morning edition on the 1st Tuesday of each month to see who’s named our next Hometown Hero!

Nominate your pick for hometown hero here!

This month's

Hometown Hero!

Hank Whittier -
Veterans Helping Veterans

A former U.S. Marine, Hank Whittier is the Executive Director of Veterans Helping Veterans USA.  A North-Central Florida non-profit organization, Veterans Helping Veterans USA helps Veterans access all of the resources they need.

The staff describes Whittier as a motivator and an inspiration.  They say he understands the hardships Veterans face and that he truly cares about their suffering.

“Hank always knew a lot of people so he could just seem to get things done. He’s got a great personality, he loves to tell a joke and he loves to help people this is what kind of makes him tick,” says Veterans Helping Veterans USA Office Manager, Gary Pascale.

Jinky Diaz, a Loan Officer for Caliber Home Loans and Board Member at Veterans Helping Veterans, says, “His heart is really into the veterans and their families… I’m here every day and I see what happens in this building, truly he is one of the kindest person I’ve ever met.”

To get more information on Veterans Helping Veterans USA, Inc., click here.

Hometown Heroes

Previous Months' Heroes

Sabreina Williams - Empowering Local Women & Girls

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Sabreina Williams has become an empowering leader to help build connections and a community for women in north-central Florida.  Ms. Williams has been working hard over the last 15 years, hosting women’s workshops, book talks, and “Womens Night Out” events in the Gainesville community.

Hometown Heroes - Sabreina WilliamsShe is the author of 8 books, and created an essay contest for parents of school-age girls.  Parents are asked to nominate girls who exemplify good character, perform community service, and have good grades.  Ms. Williams works with local schools to choose a winner and celebrate good works being done by young girls in our community.

Sabreina Williams encourages women of all ages to know their worth and never let go of their dreams.  She encourages women to pick up the dreams they may have left behind as children and make them a reality as adults.

For information and how you can help, please visit Sabreina Williams’s profile on the official Hometown Heroes website!

Dennis Pollard - RMHC NCF

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The Christmas spirit is alive and well in no small part to this month’s Hometown Hero, Dennis Pollard!  For almost 20 years, Mr. Pollard has been making the most of his distinctive resemblance to one particular “jolly old elf!”  Mr. Pollard makes visits to the homes of North Florida families every holiday season dressed as Santa Claus to help spread holiday cheer!

Dennis Pollard - Gainesville Hometown HeroesRather than making a profit for his appearances, Mr. Pollard donates 100% of his booking fees to local charities.  One local charity that benefits from his kindness is Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida.  Mr. Pollard also visits with the children and families who are being serviced by the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida each year.  On December 4, Mr. Pollard made his latest appearance to the delight of local North Florida families.  He took time with the children and sat with them, keeping a small book in which he wrote their name and a little something about them.

For more information about Mr. Pollard and how you can donate, visit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida official website.

Ron Cadle - Hooked on Heroes

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For 5 years, Vietnam veteran and fishing enthusiast Ron Cadle has been sharing his enjoyment of the sport with his fellow vets.  Mr. Cadle is the founder of Hooked on Heroes, a North Florida non-profit organization with a simple and worthwhile goal put forth in their tagline: “We Take Veterans Fishin’.”

Ron Cadle - Gainesville Hometown HeroesHooked on Heroes is a semi-annual event that invites veterans and active members of our military out for a day of fishing along the scenic Steinhatchee River.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for vets share a day on the water.  Mr. Cadle enjoys seeing the camaraderie as vets come together and make the experience a memorable one for all involved.

Boats and fishing gear are loaned to Hooked on Heroes for the event by private owners, and each event takes 5 to 6 months of planning.  More than 187 vets participated in the most recent event in October, assisted by over 50 volunteers who gave their time and effort and 63 boats!  Ron Cadle hopes Hooked on Heroes’ next event (scheduled for April 2020) will attract over 250 veterans.  Hooked on Heroes is made possible through donations and fundraising.

For information and how you can help, please visit the official Hooked on Heroes website!

Bill & Verna Brown - The Children's Table

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A couple green thumbs have led to decades of charitable giving and hundreds of thousands of people going to bed with full stomachs.  Bill & Verna Brown got their start giving away excess food from their garden and opening their home to foster children.  While speaking to one of the investigators who worked placing foster children, the Browns were asked to donate some food to a nearby family who was desperately in need.  From that act of kindness grew The Children’s Table, a non-profit organization dedicated to feeding hungry families in North Florida.

Bill & Verna Brown - Gainesville Hometown HeroesOver the last 22 years, Bill & Verna have grown The Children’s Table to the size where it now serves 10 North Florida counties, hand-delivering food to the people who need it.  Each week, their charity visits 10 counties, and last year alone, The Children’s Table fed 115,000 people!  The Browns credit much of their success to the people who work with them processing and delivering food. All of the workers are volunteers, some of whom have been helping for decades, either part-time or full-time.  Thank you, Bill & Verna Brown!

Click the link to visit The Children’s Table official website.

Ryan, Kait & McKenzie Gray - McKenzie's Moment

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Inspired by a three-day stay at the UF Shands NICU following the premature birth of their youngest daughter McKenzie, Ryan and Kait Gray decided to help other families whose children were in the hospital.  During the Gray family’s stay at UF Shands, they noticed how many babies weren’t able to receive visits from their families.  Not ones to rest on their laurels, the Grays used their knowledge and professional connections to create McKenzie’s Moment, an annual golf tournament in memory of their late daughter, with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Partnering with RMHC and leveraging Ryan Gray’s position as Director of Golf at the Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club,  the Grays were able to create quite a buzz.  By the end of the inaugural tournament, $100,000 had been raised to help families stay together while their children were in the hospital!  The passing of 3-day-old McKenzie Gray is tragic, but out of that pain her family was able to bring comfort to numerous local families in their hours of need.  Thank you, Gray family.  And thank you, McKenzie.

Click the link to visit the official McKenzie’s Moment website.

Ronna Jackson - Blessing Buckets with the American Legion

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On February 13, 2010, Ronna Jackson received a knock on her door that no one wants to receive.  She was informed that her son, a soldier who was serving overseas, had been killed in action.  Rather than be overcome by grief, Ms. Jackson put her energy to good use and became part of a military support group.  This led to her inclusion with another group who sends much appreciated care packages to overseas soldiers.  She has taken to hosting events and fundraising in order to help veterans in her North Florida community.

Later this year, she’ll be working with the American Legion on her project called Blessing Buckets.  For the last 4 years, Ms. Jackson has handed out buckets of essential items to help homeless and transitioning veterans make it through the cold winter nights.  Ms. Jackson believes that helping active soldiers and veterans helped her with the loss of her son, and that her charity work is a valuable way to honor those who sacrifice everything for our freedom.  Thank you, Ronna!

Click the link to visit the Gainesville American Legion’s official website.