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JACKSON, Miss. (Press Release) -– Volunteer Mississippi, in coordination with the Office of the Governor and First Lady Deborah Bryant, Honorary Chair of the Volunteer Mississippi Board of Commissioners, is pleased to annually announce an inspiring slate of Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE) Award honorees and distinguished Honorable Mentions. Judie Granderson Holmes earned the Outstanding Service to Veterans and Military Families, and Shaw Pit Bull Rescue (Shaw PBR) won the Outstanding Achievement by a Grassroots Volunteer Initiative. Awards will be presented to Holmes and other outstanding recipients at a special luncheon ceremony to be held Monday, April 14, 2014 at the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Roberta Weeks earned a distinguished honorable mention for making a significant impact on school improvement efforts in the Lowndes County School District. A full slate of winners, and expanded information about local winners is attached to this release.

Volunteer Mississippi is the state office of volunteerism, with its mission to engage and support Mississippians of all ages and backgrounds in service to their communities. Established by executive order in 1994 as the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service (MCVS), Volunteer Mississippi has worked to encourage a culture of citizenship, service and responsibility to America.

In partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, and faith-based and community organizations statewide, Volunteer Mississippi is fostering community engagement and building volunteer capacity throughout the state.

Judie Granderson Holmes

2014 GIVE Award for Outstanding Service to Veterans and Military Families

When Judie Holmes’ son, Richard E. Holmes II, 28, lost his life to an overdose, Judie and her husband were determined to try and prevent other veterans from suffering similar fates. 

An eight-year U.S. Army veteran, their son had difficulty acclimating to life back home. Prior to his death, he told his parents that his years in the service, his divorce, and the death of his own child had taken a toll, and he was struggling with addiction. After four months in a substance abuse rehabilitation program, he enrolled in film school, made new friends and seemed upbeat. A year passed, and Judie and Richard thought he was recovering. Unexpectedly, Holmes took his own life.

The Veterans Administration estimates approximately 18 U.S. veterans take their lives each day—a statistic that has increased since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Holmes Family believes their son may have lived if more resources to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life had been available. That is why The Richard E. Holmes II Memorial Foundation was founded on Veterans Day, two months after Holmes’ death, to connect veterans with the personal and financial resources to transition back to civilian life. The Foundation is committed to addressing the mental, physical and emotional needs of veterans with a special emphasis on mental wellness, homelessness and readjusting to society.

Currently there is an eight to twelve month delay in monetary compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for returning veterans. The Foundation hopes to provide a safety net for these patriots during this critical transition.

To raise awareness and community support of the Holmes Foundation, Judie pushed to establish a Memorial Day Walk/Run for Veterans’ Causes held in Columbus. This year’s proceeds benefit veterans of Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee counties.

Despite her tireless efforts to grow the Foundation, Judie has also taken time to volunteer elsewhere in the community. She is a regular volunteer at the Loaves and Fishes Community Soup Kitchen and the United Way, sits on the board for the local Boys and Girls Club, and is a member of the Women’s Council at Kingdom Vision International Church. She volunteers for annual events such as the Columbus Spring Pilgrimage, the Veterans’ Health Fair, and Fireworks on the Water.

Dedicated to others needs, Judie Holmes has borne great tragedy, and through it, found purpose in the wake of terrible loss.

Shaw Pit Bull Rescue

Outstanding Achievement by a Grassroots Volunteer Initiative

Since July 2012, Shaw Pit Bull Rescue (Shaw PBR) has found loving homes for one hundred dogs, operating under the motto “American Pit Bull Terriers: love them, or leave them alone.”

Pit Bulls are the most abused breed in America—in great part due to lack of public education and sensationalist media. Since pit bulls are often the victims of abuse and neglect, many wind up homeless or abandoned.

Kenneth and Aimee Shaw founded this grassroots rescue organization with the intention of helping save one or two dogs at a time. They worked alone for a few months, but quickly realized the need was larger than the two of them. Shaw PBR’s “PitCrew” now has a third partner (Lesley Bailey), a faithful board of directors, and a new mission: to provide abused, abandoned or homeless pit bull dogs with the medical attention they need; as well as the love and attention they deserve to heal—both emotionally, and physically.

Sadly, for every pit bull successfully adopted, there are many more waiting for “forever homes.” For every success, twenty more “adopt-a-bulls” are waiting for their special person. Shaw PBR’s board and volunteers actively seek to foster responsible pit bull ownership through low-cost veterinary spay/neuter programming, education, adoption, and breed advocacy. Aimee Shaw’s humorous, edgy tee-shirt and sticker slogans raise funds while keeping the organization, and the cause, in the public eye. The rescue group and their fans engage others via social media and a positive presence at community events.

In June 2013, Shaw PBR was involved in the rescue of five horses, along with 23 pit bulls and four other dogs at a single location. The animals were found in poor shape, emaciated, and severely flea infested. As a result of this rescue, they were awarded a $1,500 grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to be used toward housing and care of the animals at the PBR facility in Columbus.

A vast amount of volunteer time, effort, and love is required to meet the daily needs of these animals, as well as the fundraising events and grant writing necessary to sustain this organization. Shaw PBR volunteers commit to a minimum of 1,200 volunteer hours annually. Their services have been invaluable to the forgotten, neglected and abused pit bulls in our region.

Distinguished Honorable Mention: Roberta Weeks

Roberta Weeks was selected as the 2013 Mississippi Parent of the year by the MS Department of Education for making a significant impact on school improvement efforts in the Lowndes County School District. Roberta’s fluency in both Spanish and English has been a tremendous boon to teachers, non-English speaking students, and their families. She has served as a translator and cultural ambassador, helping build common ground between English as a Second Language (ESL) students and their peers in the classroom. Roberta also helps Spanish speaking families complete vital paperwork, find affordable health care, and obtain clothing when needed. She has also served many other community causes, including her role as a beloved “House Mother” to a home of at-risk young women for five years.

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