Each year, when Nfocus wraps the annual New Faces of Philanthropy celebration, there is a lingering fear that we may never again find a group of individuals as inspiring as the year before. But because we live in Louisville, the great city of compassion, there never seems to be a shortage of commendable young candidates representing extremely worthy organizations within our community. This year is no exception.
We are proud to present the 2013 class of New Faces of Philanthropy: Jeremy Jarvi with Team Shaan Foundation, Josh Moore with March of Dimes, Daniel Noltemeyer with Best Buddies Kentucky, Elizabeth Scott with Family Scholar House, and Kristen Williams with Louisville Grows. May their stories open your eyes to these important charities, but more importantly, may their efforts encourage you to do something – be it small or significant – to improve the world, the region, the community around you.
Team Shaan Foundation
As President of Team Shaan Foundation, Jeremy Jarvi has shared the tragic story of this organization many times; but as he recounted the details to us on October 6, there was an almost unnerving similarity to the circumstances surrounding its formation 16 years ago. We met amidst warnings of flooded roads – weather conditions that led to dozens of home evacuations, including 12 rescues and 250 assists. Fortunately, there were no fatalities associated with this year’s flooding. Such was not the case on March 2, 1997.
On that night Jeremy, then a high school student, gathered with close childhood friends Shaan Willis, Brian Logsdon, Andy Hennessey, Matt Kuerzi and Bart Becker. As they went their separate ways Shaan phoned his parents to update them that he was on his way home – a trip that should have taken five minutes. Thirty minutes later, his parents called to report that he had never arrived. Shaan had drowned when the van he was driving was swept off the road.
“Shaan was a very popular person,” Jeremy says of his best friend. “He always had a big network of friends and we knew we wanted to keep his memory alive by doing something positive in his name from the very start.” With respect for a life well-lived but gone too soon, Jeremy and Shaan’s network of grieving friends – teenagers at the time – vowed to raise $50,000 for the Center for Women & Families. Jeremy shares, “We were able to actually raise $65,000 for an adolescent room in Shaan’s name. We furnished the room with couches and computers to give the kids a safe and secure environment to do homework, play games, or just relax and hang out.”
The mission of Team Shaan Foundation is to improve the lives of youth within our community by giving them the opportunity to succeed, and Jeremy, along with the original board members, has successfully done that multiple times over. In addition to their efforts on behalf of Center for Women & Families, they established the RaShaan Roland Willis Scholarship Fund, an endowment for which they raised $200,000 for students who desire but cannot afford a Catholic education at St. Xavier High School. “We all attended St. Gabriel grade school together where we met and became close friends,” Jeremy explains. “As we moved on to high school, half of us went to St. Xavier, including Shaan, and the rest of us attended Trinity. We always had fun going back and forth with the Trinity/ St. X rivalry. And yes, although I am a proud Trinity guy, I have helped raise over $200,000 for an endowment fund in Shaan’s name at St. X.”
In 2007, Team Shaan started a campaign to raise $150,000 for Kosair Children’s Hospital to install Get Well Networks in every room. The system revolutionizes patients’ experience by allowing them access to information related to their illness, play video games, watch movies, participate in webinars and complete homework. “We attain our fundraising goals through several events every year.” Jeremy describes the shared effort, “Our biggest event is our annual golf outing which is the first Saturday in August. Next year will be our 15th consecutive year for that. We’ve done everything from a Monte Carlo night to a Mardi Gras party; but, as our lives change, our events reflect that. We are now planning more family events.”
Team Shaan has become a family affair. Jeremy, who balances his Foundation work with his career at Greater Louisville Inc., says, “The Willises have become a second family to all of us. Shaan’s parents, Bob and Marita, and sister, Tanya, are the most selfless and generous people I know. I am blessed to have them in my life.” Jeremy engaged the spouses of Team Shaan board members including his own wife, Kristen, with whom he will soon welcome a second child to join their three-year-old son Landon. “Our kids will grow up knowing the Team Shaan story, volunteering and giving back to the community. It’s my vision one day that they will take the reins and continue to keep Shaan’s spirit alive.”
March of Dimes
In a city that has firmly established itself as a food lover’s destination, Chef Josh Moore is a name that has emerged as a talent that makes it so. His 20 years in the restaurant industry include a start at Vincenzo’s at the age of 14, followed by 7 years as a pastry and sous chef at Porcini Restaurant. Having learned from the masters, he has now established himself among them as the Executive Chef and partner at Volare Italian Ristorante, where he has contributed to the Clifton neighborhood dining scene for almost 10 years.
Local charitable organizations rely on Louisville’s tight-knit group of celebrated chefs almost as much as their own kitchens do. A lot is asked of our restaurant community in terms of donating time and resources, but because of the commitment of professionals like Josh, there always seems to be an abundance of enthusiasm and participation. “For me, it comes down to supporting the people who have supported me,” Josh shares. “I’ll probably do 25 offsite events this year alone – charity events or private dinners that I’ve donated to auctions to raise money. I love it, though, and I love being able to give back to the community.” Josh’s generosity has benefited an incredible number of organizations, including Dress for Success, Brooklawn, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Young Breast Cancer Survivors, Hosparus, Shamrock Foundation, Apron, Inc., Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and Guardiacare. But the organization to which Josh donates the most significant amount of his limited free time is March of Dimes.
“Initially I was approached by my good friend Harry Dennery to just set up and do a tasting with the other restaurants at the Signature Chefs Auction. Now for the past five years I have found myself in the position of Lead Chef, where I lead the efforts of recruiting and coordinating chefs and restaurants to participate in the tasting event. Through the years I’ve also gotten involved with getting auction items together and encouraging chefs to contribute some enticing packages for the exciting live auction element of the event,” Josh explains. “On a personal level, I was born over two months premature. I only weighed four pounds – not that you would believe it now!” laughs the power lifter. “I also have a five-year-old son, Gibson, and while he was born healthy, he has brought great meaning to my work with March of Dimes. Everyone wants to support the health of babies.”
Josh’s commitment, reliability and infectious enthusiasm have helped March of Dimes raise over $1 million during his time with the organization and his contributions have proven him invaluable to the Signature Chefs Auction. This year’s event, to be held on November 14 at the Marriott Downtown, will feed and entertain over 650 people and promises to raise big bucks as usual. Josh adds, “I’ll be donating a dinner for ten people in a private home again this year at the live auction. My experiences can be as hands-on, like a cooking class, as you want, which sometimes makes it more fun for the guests. There are also some amazing travel and sports packages available as usual.”
In addition to his professional role as a chef, Josh also manages a 10-acre farm in Taylorsville, where he grows much of the produce for Volare. The antique enthusiast has nearly completed a top-to-bottom renovation on the 110-year-old farmhouse that sits on the property. “I picked two of the most consuming things to be – a chef and a farmer!” he jokes. “But my involvement with March of Dimes is therapeutic to me in the same way that farming is. I love my job and I love my community work so that takes the stress out of it for me. Through March of Dimes I’ve been able to reach out and help a fellow chef who I have a lot of respect for when he had a baby born prematurely. We were able to offer help through that challenging and stressful time. For me, out of all the charity stuff I do, March of Dimes is my ‘baby.’”
Best Buddies Kentucky
If you’ve ever attended a Best Buddies Kentucky event, you’ve likely seen Daniel Noltemeyer working the crowd like a seasoned politician. His charisma and excellent public speaking skills are frequently sought after to represent Best Buddies, an organization that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, employment and leadership development for people like Daniel with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
Daniel, 31, is in high demand not only locally for Best Buddies Kentucky, but nationally as an Ambassador for Best Buddies International – an honor for which he was handpicked by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, the organization’s founder and chairman. “My favorite part is traveling to represent Best Buddies. I have been to California; Dallas, Texas; Washington, DC; and Bloomington, Indiana,” where he attended the Best Buddies International leadership conference with 1,700 volunteers from 18 countries. “Washington, DC is my favorite,” he shares, flashing his characteristic mega-watt smile.
It was in DC that Daniel spent meaningful time at a National Leadership Conference with Ben Cocanougher, whom he refers to as his “friend for life.” Ben was Daniel’s assigned Buddy as a student at Centre College in 2009. He is now a medical school student at Georgetown University and was witness to Daniel’s personal story of social isolation and bullying. Ben shares, “Daniel gave a speech to over 600 students from colleges all over the world. By the end of the speech, over two-thirds of the crowd was in tears. The other third was just afraid to cry. He even included me in the speech and invited me up on stage to stand with him. I don’t think I have ever been as honored as I was when I stood beside Daniel as he advocated for himself and others with intellectual disabilities. I could not be more proud to be his friend and his buddy.”
Daniel grew up in Fern Creek, where he lives now with his mother Lois Hart and stepfather Bill Hart. His birth father, Burt Nol, died of leukemia when Daniel was only 18 months old. He credits his parents for their support: “Lois and Bill Hart are always the best thing in my life. They worked so hard to raise me to grow up to be a man. I am proud to call them my mom and dad.” Daniel also boasts of how proud he is of his big brother, Patrick, 34, who is the individual who suggested the start of Best Buddies in Kentucky five years ago to benefit people like his younger brother.
When Daniel isn’t serving the community as a Board Member for Best Buddies Kentucky, the Buddy Director at University of Louisville or as an Ambassador for the Council on Developmental Disabilities, he is working at one of his two jobs – as an office clerk for Ceridian Stored Value Solutions where he has been employed for three years, and at Kaplan Barron Pediatric Group where he has worked for 14 years. Because of his strong work ethic and reliability, Daniel was awarded with the 2012 Awesome Client Award by Zoom Group. “My hobbies are dancing, video games and playing sports – basketball is my favorite. I like to go to Okolona Presbyterian Church on Sundays and spend time with my church family and get to know their lifestyle too,” Daniel says.
“Best Buddies is a better place to be in. You should be respectful to people and learn what their life is really about. My disability is just a chromosome that is inside of me. I see people who go to college and I wish I could go to college and now I get to be friends with people who do. Best Buddies closes the gap for those people with disabilities,” Daniel shares of his devotion to the organization that he says has built his confidence and changed his life. Daniel is a gifted individual with an enormous heart. He is an example of kindness, courage, optimism and social inclusion. In his own words, his mission is “to show people that the world is a better place to be in.” I think Daniel teaches us just that.
Family Scholar House
Elizabeth chooses to focus on the future instead of the past. “Pay it forward” is a phrase she uses often. She doesn’t dwell on her rebellious teenage years when she “managed to graduate from Seneca High School by the skin of my teeth,” and the dark period of poverty and homelessness. Instead she looks to the most incredible part of her story…which is yet to be. Elizabeth is a devoted mother, a professional, a homeowner, board member, community leader, world traveler and international author. She is proof that education is one of the most important vehicles for reaching goals in life and thanks to her success through Family Scholar House she says, “I’ve moved beyond survival mode and am now living life to the fullest.”
In 2008, the single mother of two was enrolled at Jefferson Community Technical College taking one credit at a time when she was approached by a counselor who convinced her that she would be an ideal candidate for Family Scholar House. “It was intimidating at the time,” she recalls, “but having someone who believed in me motivated me to take the first step.” Upon arrival to Family Scholar House, she was met with the same encouragement by president and CEO, Cathe Dykstra. “I call her the dream catcher because she looked me in the eyes and told me she believed in me when I wasn’t sure if I believed in myself. If I can dream it, Cathe believes in me and backs me, and we celebrate the success together.”
While at the Family Scholar House, Elizabeth enrolled as a full-time student at the University of Louisville, where she pursued a degree in social work. “I excelled in school, my confidence boosted and so many amazing doors started to open for me!” she says. She was able to study abroad in Uganda, Africa, for an entire summer and was even presented the opportunity to co-author three books with her fourth currently in development. Through the books she shares her personal story and encourages others to reach for their own educational, career and personal goals despite obstacles. She says, “Through it all I was working toward becoming a good role model, not only for my children, but for the community.”
Since graduating from Family Scholar House in 2010, Elizabeth received her master’s degree, completed their home ownership program and has recently created an alumni committee. “The alumni committee is important because Family Scholar House is turning out so many graduates, but the next step is missing. My goal is to harness that momentum so we can give back to current participants in the form of peer mentorship, but also to give back to the community that has invested in our success,” she shares.
Giving back to the community is something Elizabeth does a lot of these days. “A humble receiver makes for a motivated giver,” she says, and she is a tremendous example of that. Besides her work on the Speakers Bureau for Family Scholar House, she is a board member at the House of Ruth and on the Board of Directors for The Younger Woman’s Club of Louisville where she will co-chair their 2014 Charity Ball. She was recently honored by Mayor Fischer and presented with a proclamation for “being compassionate through philanthropy.”
A certified social worker she shares that it is rewarding to knock on a door for a home visit only to ask, “How can I help you?” while being able to relate to the feeling of desperation she often encounters on these visits. Her daughter Neveah (the name is Heaven spelled backwards) is 11 and her son Isaiah is 9. She doesn’t invest in cable television or internet in their home because she says, “We stay active as a family playing piano and violin, or getting sticks and building a fort outside. We do things that don’t cost a lot of money but focus on building our relationship.”
Elizabeth is committed to investing in the community that invested in her. Her efforts will benefit many “humble receivers” and will hopefully produce, like herself, just as many “motivated givers.”
If the tales of Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk don’t bring to mind food justice, then you haven’t heard them as told by Kristen Williams. Luckily, many children in West Louisville’s Shawnee neighborhood have heard the stories performed by Kristen and her husband Agyei in their neighborhood garden; and hopefully they leave feeling empowered to make a difference in their community and in their own lives.
“I enjoy storytelling and I love to dress up,” Kristen explains. “So two years ago my husband and I dressed in costumes and started telling stories in The People’s Garden!” The couple received a grant last summer to perform every Saturday for two months. “We twist the stories around a little so there is always a message about fairness or equality.” Her favorite to tell is Jack and the Beanstalk where Jack climbs the stalk discovering a giant who lives among riches, including a captive goose laying golden eggs. “Jack exclaims, ‘This isn’t right! We are living in poverty down there. I’ve got to get this back to my people!’ So he avenges his town and we incorporated a garden into the story so that Jack can teach his community to be self-sufficient and not to rely on others to lift them out of poverty.”
Creating a fun atmosphere for the children of Shawnee to learn about important issues is just one of the ways Kristen serves her neighborhood. “Food justice has always been an issue that is close to my heart,” she says of her decision to get involved with Louisville Grows. “I always had a garden in my back yard, but when I heard about The People’s Garden I saw it as an opportunity to restore a sense of community to our neighborhood.” Already a board member of the Shawnee Neighborhood Association, Kristen became an advocate for educating her neighbors on the value of growing their own food.
“Shawnee is a food desert. We don’t have a single grocery store, only a few corner stores and fast food restaurants. Surrounding grocery stores have limited produce options and it’s less likely to be fresh,” Kristen explains. “Many people don’t realize this, but the life expectancy for people in West Louisville is 10 years less than those of more affluent neighborhoods in the city. If you are going to tell that fact to someone, you have to be able to offer them a solution.” Gardening, she explains, isn’t just for people who are economically deprived: “There is value in growing your own food no matter where you fall on the economic spectrum. It is something that brings Louisville together and is why it is one of the top cities having this powerful food conversation.”
With her first child on the way, Kristen discusses her choice to make her home in the Shawnee neighborhood. Raised in the East End of Louisville and a graduate of Presentation Academy, she began questioning the disparity among communities while studying Sociology at University of Louisville. “I was struck by the injustice in the world and I didn’t want to sit among academia and discuss answers but never actually apply those in my life. If you’re not teaching others what’s right, the information dies when you do.” Her message is for the residents of West Louisville to reclaim their space. “I want to defy stereotypes and for people to see that I am not ashamed of where I live. I own my home and I’m not afraid to walk my dogs or play tennis with my husband.” Most importantly, she encourages, we must stop sending the negative messages to our kids.
Kristen’s strategy encourages self-empowerment above all else. “Louisville Grows is on the forefront of this change.” Plots in The People’s Garden are available for $25/year and have so far produced over 300 pounds of organically grown fruits and vegetables. Recently, Kristen helped to design and implement the Family Garden Program and the Shippingport Memorial Garden in the Portland neighborhood. “I love challenging the way people look at food and changing the way they live their lives.”