Hilton Garden recognizes community heroes

Published 9:21 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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Individuals who made a difference were on full display at The Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront on Saturday, Oct. 14, for the 6th annual Community Leaders Brunch. The event is held annually to show appreciation to those creating a positive impact within Virginia-based communities.

Under the theme of “Community Hero,” the brunch included clergy appreciation, youth entrepreneurs, vendors, and door prizes while honoring inspirational people in their communities. Musical selections were provided by The D.O.V.E.S, as well as an original song by both Everette and Ladele Johnson. Dr. Ervin Harvey of Increase International Ministries served as guest speaker for the event. Reflecting on the commemorative day, Hilton Garden Suffolk Riverfront Director of Sales and Catering Lisa Burrell called the brunch “amazing,” with over 380 attendees — the brunch’s largest ever.

“One of the things that even the speaker talked about was unity. You have a lot of churches that were represented, a lot of nonprofits and business owners, even civic leaders were in the room, council members in the room and it’s part of us all working together, we’re not an island,” Burrell said. “All last week, I heard different people calling me up and say ‘Hey, I reached out to this one, I reached out, we’re working together,’ and I believe that’s the whole plan for the event. To bring people together, to bridge a gap between the churches and other organizations so we can all work together in our community to make our communities better. And this year, I believe that it really hit home …”

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Dr. Milton Hathaway of Embracing the Beloved Community, Judge Helivi L. Holland of the 5th Judicial District of Virginia, Do Gooders of Hampton Roads President Whalen McDew, Shining Light Homes Founder and President Patti Hall-Johnson, Hampton Roads Community Action Program Executive Director Edith white and Bishop Darren L. Gay Sr. of Higher Way Ministries were the six award honorees of the brunch. Each was honored for positive contributions to their Virginia communities ranging from New Kent, Petersburg, Chesapeake and Suffolk. 

Surprise awards were also given — Harvey and Dr. Donald A. Moss Sr. of King William, Virginia, were awarded for their community contributions. Likewise, 15-year-old Software Engineer and soon to be published author Amari Robinson was also given the Surprise Youth Hero Award as well.

“She has apps on the App Store, she has a podcast already, [called] BDK, and she’s just so visible and impactful in New Kent County, part of the NAACP, and all these different things that she’s already doing. And that’s why she was the Community Hero for the youth,” Burrell said.

The surprises didn’t stop there as Mari L. Robinson was presented with her Doctor of Ministry from Grace Bible College and Theological Seminary during the event. Burrell also planned to honor her team members who worked behind the scenes during the brunch as well. She reflected that before the event, Banquet Manager K’Shona Eley noticed a team member having shoes in bad shape, making work difficult for him. Eley “took it upon herself” to buy the team member a new pair of shoes and once her team found out, they joined in by each contributing $10 via Cash App. They all raised $70 with the shoes equaling to $68. Simultaneously, a member of the Do Gooders of Hampton Roads came to Burrell and expressed that he wanted to “be a blessing to everybody that’s working behind the scenes.” Burrell talked about bringing her hotel staff and department directors on stage to honor them. 

“So everybody came on stage and I gave out the medals. And then I told them what happened. So he gave me $600 in $20s, and it happened to be 30 employees. One was at the front desk. So I gave each person a $20 bill and held up the last $20 and said, ‘This is for the young lady at the front desk,’” Burrell said. 

Burrell reflected how both these simultaneous events resulted into something amazing – representing the power of giving. 

“I didn’t know when the young man, when all of them came up on stage, this particular person had on new shoes. But in turn — this is what is so amazing about the power of unity, teamwork, caring and giving — is that they gave to their fellow team worker. And somebody in the audience, one of the attendees, ended up putting their money back in their hand, plus $10. It was just amazing,” Burrell said. “For the love that she felt in her heart to go buy him some shoes, and then her team contributing, and then it all came back within that same hour. Because she ran and got the shoes, came back, and then they came on stage — and he wouldn’t have been able to come on stage with shoes he had — he came on stage and had on his new shoes, and they all got their money back… To me, that was an exclamation point about working together, bridging the gap, being in unity, caring and sharing about everybody, just everybody reaching out to each other.”


Editor’s note: Updated second and fifth passages at 11:25 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 1 to reflect correct spelling.