Community Leadership Awards finalists: Volunteer team

Sep 15, 2013 @ 12:01 am

CHRIS KITTRELL

“It's like stepping back in time. People live in run-down shacks with no heat in the winter and no running water,” said Chris Kittrell, describing one of the impoverished areas of Tennessee served by the Mission of Hope.

Mr. Kittrell, a partner, and his 14 colleagues at Rather & Kittrell Inc. in Knoxville, Tenn., have been volunteering for the charity since 2000.

Twice a year — back-to-school time and Christmastime — the team, their families and clients bring truckloads of supplies, clothing and food to the children and families of Huntsville, Tenn., 90 minutes north in the Appalachian mountains.

In addition to the deliveries, the Rather & Kittrell team works on fundraising throughout the year.

Clients have res-ponded enthusiastically, Mr. Kittrell said.

“Many times, we have been blown away by how much the clients want to participate. Even with the Great Recession, people are becoming much more aware and sensitive to charitable giving,” he said.

The need hits close to home.

“This work is something we're proud of. We're all from this immediate area, and we feel so fortunate ourselves,” Mr. Kittrell said.

He recalls the responses of the Hunstville children.

“For a moment, these kids can say, 'Someone cares about me.'”

JOHN L. MCKEEVER III

When a child has cancer, it's not only emotionally devastating but often financially devastating, as well, according to John L. McKeever III of Financial Advisors of Delaware Valley in Conshohocken, Penn.

In 1980, he lost his 12-year-old son Johnny to a rare and aggressive form of leukemia.

Understanding the toll the disease takes on patients, parents and siblings, Mr. McKeever was determined to help other families, and co-founded the Committee to Benefit the Children at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

“Often one parent can't work — a lot of time is taken off work to be with the child. They lose jobs,” he said.

Since its inception, the CBC has raised more than $3 million, which has gone toward direct financial assistance with essential expenses such as meals, rent/mortgages, utility bills and funerals; parties for the young patients and their siblings; and a special summer camp where the counselors are all cancer survivors.

Mr. McKeever's philanthropic teammates include colleagues Mikki Romano, Danielle Yoch, Meghan Houck and Jim Murray Jr. Four have served on the charity's board.

The CBC brings a charitable focus down to the patient level, Mr. McKeever said.

“There's a lot of money going to research, but we need to help the families survive this horrible experience,” he said.

AMY TREAT AND VAN MASON

When Amy Treat's infant son Riley was diagnosed with a serious hearing impairment, she was introduced to the very expensive world of audiology products and programs.

For example, a midrange hearing aid costs $2,500 and needs to be replaced every four to seven years — and typically is not covered by insurance.

Ms. Treat, a partner and chief operating officer of StoneRidge Wealth Management in Portland, Ore., and her business partner, company president Van Mason, were concerned.

“We began to wonder about the low-income kids and the parents who don't have the money for the same programs that have allowed Riley to flourish,” she said.

To address this need in their community, they decided in 2007 to establish the StoneRidge Foundation. Ms. Treat and Mr. Mason donated $30,000 to seed the effort and have raised $16,000 in donations.

Since then, the team has provided 69 low-income children with hearing aids, a year's worth of batteries (which cost $10 every two weeks), speech classes and classroom microphones.

Hearing loss is more common than one might realize — 15% of school-age children have some type of hearing impairment, Ms. Treat said.

Early treatment is critical.

“If a kid can't hear, they can be held back mentally, emotionally and educationally,” she said. “They can't hear life.”

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