Partnership honors leader, ‘Friends’

Published 10:46 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2009

During nearly 10 years serving as the president of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, Virginia Savage has built quite a legacy.

Directing the organization that was ultimately responsible for the birth of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic would have assured that Savage would be remembered for years to come.

But during that time, Savage has led a community-service organization that also has worked to encourage healthy eating, to help out lonely senior citizens and to spur Suffolk residents to plant and cultivate community gardens that can be used to help feed their neighbors.

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In its primary effort this year, the group was able to sponsor three community gardens around the city, with hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables grown and distributed to people in need throughout Suffolk.

The gardens helped meet the Partnership’s goal of “coordinating the resources of the community in a collaborative effort to improve the mental, physical, socioeconomic and spiritual health of all its citizens.”

The Partnership and the city are “deeply grateful” for Savage’s “untiring service and unwavering dedication,” incoming President Caroline Martin said Tuesday as she read a proclamation from the organization’s board of directors honoring Savage’s service.

Savage, however, was humble about the Partnership’s accomplishments under her leadership.

“One person can do nothing,” she said, thanking fellow members in attendance “for all your support, all you dedication, all your commitment.”

In fact, Tuesday’s lunchtime meeting at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic’s new facility in the Meade office park off of Pruden Boulevard also presented a chance for the Partnership to honor some of those outside of the regular membership who had been especially vital to the success this year of the community gardens project.

Six of those volunteers were named as “Friends of the Partnership” in a special ceremony following lunch.

“A friend is defined as someone who participates in and supports the Partnership projects and initiatives and who is committed to community collaboration,” member Bobbi Chapman explained.

The idea, she said, is that the “Friends,” who will be chosen from all of the city’s boroughs, will help the Partnership extend its reach into and increase its impact in the community.

Among those honored as Friends were Mike Kelly, senior planner for the Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation, who helped in the East Suffolk Recreational Center garden; Carol Warren, a member of Holland Baptist Church, who put many hours of work into the garden outside her church; Tim Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Gardens, who served as an advisor and donated seeds and plants; and Theresa Boone, Tyrone Johnson and Kelvin Boone, Chorey Park employees, who helped in the garden in that apartment complex.

The Partnership expects the initiative to expand to other Suffolk locations next year. One Ruritan Club already has asked to be involved, Chapman said.