GREENSBORO, N.C. – As the Greensboro Grasshoppers bids farewell to summertime baseball, the second season of an exciting new program of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro has wrapped, as well.
Again this year, the Foundation honored outstanding individuals – a diverse group from all corners of our community who are contributing in a variety of ways to making greater Greensboro an even better place to live and work. Whether they’re tackling hunger or assisting big thinkers in making their ideas reality, these honorees are “Game Changers” for our community.
Last year, The Community Foundation partnered with the Grasshoppers to present the Game Changer Award. The public is invited to suggest people they believed were worthy of the accolade, and a recipient is honored at each of the Saturday home baseball game throughout the baseball season. Honorees are invited onto the field as baseball fans learn what each of them has added to our community. Recipients are then presented with the Game Changer Award, a Grasshoppers team-signed baseball bat.
The public can suggest someone for consideration as a Game Changer recipient by going to CFGG.org.
The following individuals are this year’s honorees of The Community Foundation Game Changer Award
• Mary Lacklen and the late Ken Conrad
Co-Founders, Thanksgiving/Holiday Fund
In 1986, Ken Conrad and Mary Lacklen co-founded one of the most beloved programs in this community — the Thanksgiving/Holiday Fund. The fund provides holiday meals to local residents in need who otherwise would not get one.
Ken, who passed away last December, was a well-known Greensboro businessman who oversaw the family business, Libby Hill Seafood Restaurants, and was involved with many organizations, including Knights of Columbus, Wyndham Championship and National Restaurant Association. Mary, likewise, has been actively involved in the community through work with Triad Health Project, Weatherspoon Art Museum and Triad Local First, among others.
But perhaps no other cause of theirs has captured the attention and hearts of greater Greensboro residents than the Thanksgiving/Holiday Fund. Now marking its 30th anniversary, the fund has provided nearly 100,000 holiday meals – prepared and served by some 10,000 volunteers!
• The Hon. Lawrence McSwain
Retired District Court Judge, community activist and volunteer
The Hon. Lawrence McSwain is a retired district court judge. Known as “Judge Mac,” he still fills in on the bench in emergency situations throughout North Carolina. Judge Mac served as a judge for 23 years, and prior to that was an assistant district attorney.
Judge Mac also is a community activist in Guilford County and statewide. He is a speaker in the area of 21st Century Leadership and Community Development and a member of the World Future Society and the High Point Children’s Cabinet. He is on the board of The First Tee of the Triad, and mentors junior and senior male students at the Academy at Ben L. Smith High School.
At The Community Foundation, Judge Mac has been actively involved, most recently playing an integral role in addressing our area’s workforce development needs. He also is working alongside us in our efforts with CEOs for Cities, a national program that looks at how communities and metro areas can maximize their potential through connecting cross-sector change makers with each other and exploring smart ideas and best practices.
For more information on CEOs for Cities, visit ceosforcities.org.
• Dr. Susan L. “Sue” Polinsky
Founder and President of TechTriad and Community Volunteer
In 1998, Sue Polinsky established TechTriad, Inc. in Greensboro, one of North Carolina’s oldest female-owned technology firms. TechTriad focuses on website development and internet strategy for its clients — many of whom are some of the Triad’s best-known nonprofits.
Sue moved to Greensboro in 1977 and became a self-described “serial volunteer” after raising her children and working as a teacher, principal and professor. A community advocate dedicated to improving the Triad, she is an Action Greensboro Groundbreaker and serves on the boards of several nonprofits and civic organizations. She also helped conceptualize and deliver area economic development opportunities through showcasing area technology talent. Sue founded and recently retired after 10 years as the volunteer chair of ConvergeSouth, the Triad’s first technology and innovation conference that draws national attendance.
Just a few of the many organizations and programs that Sue has helped serve include Community Theatre of Greensboro, Leadership Greensboro, the Triad Entrepreneurial Initiative, Leadership Greensboro, Girl Scouts, UNCG Board of Visitors, ArtsGreensboro, Guilford County Schools, Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra, Patriot Rovers, Carolina Air & Auto Museum, Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development and many more.
• James “Jimmi” Williams, III
Executive Director, Communities in Schools of Greater Greensboro, Inc. and community volunteer
A native of Winston-Salem, Jimmi was among the first black students there to be bused to traditionally white schools during desegregation. And through his profession, Jimmi’s life has come full circle. He has served as Executive Director of Communities In Schools since 1994. During his tenure, the organization – which surrounds students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life – has grown to serve an average of 4,000 students! The local Communities In Schools chapter was one of the first commissioned as a certified member of the national Communities In Schools network and is the recipient of the prestigious 2 Those Who Care Award, as well as the Volunteer Center’s Outstanding Volunteer Program.
In his community service work, Jimmi has been active with the YWCA Adolescent Parent Program, Senior Resources of Guilford County and the John R. Kernodle, Jr. Memorial Scholarship, which helps local high school students go to college in order to become teachers.
For more information on Communities In Schools, visit cfgg.org.
• Betty Ward Cone
Community volunteer and civic leader
Betty Ward Cone served four years as chairman – and now as honorary board chair – of the United Arts Council (now ArtsGreensboro). She headed the effort to save Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre as a community performing arts center and challenged the city to develop the Greensboro Cultural Center on Davie Street.
In 1993, she began as executive director of Grassroots Productions Limited and produced the Fun Fourth Festival and Festival of Lights.
Betty also has been chair of the boards of Old Greensborough Preservation Society, Greensboro Merchants Association, Downtown Greensboro, Inc., and Heritage North Carolina. She has served on the boards of N.C. A&T State University, N.C. School of the Arts, N.C. Arts Council and The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.
The Junior League of Greensboro named Betty the first winner of the Kathleen Price Bryan Award. She received the Athena Award and the O.Henry Award – twice – from the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. For the past five years, Betty has been named one of the 100 Most Influential in the Triad by the Triad Business Journal.
• Akir Khan
Akir Khan is a student success coach and adjunct professor at High Point University.
He has been a program facilitator at the Center for Creative Leadership and a community liaison for the nonprofit organization Out of the Garden. He earned a degree in Business Administration from UNC-Charlotte and a Master’s in Public Affairs from UNC-Greensboro. Today he is a doctoral candidate at High Point University for Educational Leadership.
In 2014, Akir was selected by the Triad Business Journal as one of the community’s “Forty Leaders Under 40.” He also was a community interfaith mission participant to Israel and the Palestinian territories. He is the 2015-17 chair of the Piedmont Interfaith Council and serves as a community advisor on interfaith relations to Guilford County Schools and the Greensboro’s police chief.
• Garland Graham
Founder, Red Dog Farm Animal Rescue Network
Garland Graham is a business lawyer with Schell Bray PLLC, but she starts her days differently than most corporate lawyers. Early each morning, she tends to the more than 20 farm animals on her Summerfield farm. Some of these animals are family pets, but most are temporary foster animals who have come from either an animal control organization or an owner who could no longer care for them.
Garland founded Red Dog Farm Animal Rescue Network in 2006 with the mission to rehabilitate and re-home animals in need, particularly horses and domestic farm animals. Since its inception, Red Dog Farm’s network of volunteer foster families has taken in nearly 2,500 animals, from horses and goats to sheep, potbellied pigs, iguanas, parrots, dogs, cats, and even two emus. The nonprofit organization now has a full-time executive director and several part-time employees and leases administrative office space at Bur-Mil Park.
Today, Garland serves in a volunteer capacity as founder, president and daily foster parent to horses, goats, pigs, dogs, cats and whatever else needs a safe place until an adopter can be found.
For more information, please visit reddogfarm.com.
• Art Davis
NC A&T University Adjunct Professor/Lecturer and community volunteer
Since retiring from the role of Planning Research Manager with the City of Greensboro in 2005, Art Davis has been employed by North Carolina A&T State University as an adjunct Instructor and lecturer. In addition to his professional life, he is actively involved in our community, serving on various boards and commissions. His areas of focus in volunteering largely pertain to neighborhood development, land and taxation, participatory budgeting, economic development and community empowerment and engagement.
Art is a certified manager, certified facilitator and professional consultant. A graduate of Morehouse College, Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, he has completed numerous national conferences, workshops, institutes and seminars.
• Glenn D. Dobrogosz
CEO, Greensboro Science Center
A native of Raleigh, Glenn D. Dobrogosz parlayed a lifelong passion for nature and animals into degrees in biology and zoology before launching a full-time career. He is the chief executive officer of the Greensboro Science Center, a beloved cultural jewel in our community that has undergone significant growth and expansion under Glenn’s leadership. He is the vice chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ accreditation commission, a national organization.
Glenn previously worked as the general curator at Grassmere Wildlife Park in Nashville, as well as executive director of Chehaw Wild Animal Park in Albany, Ga., and the New York State Living Museum in Watertown, N.Y. He has led his current and prior organizations to first-time national accreditation status with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
From 1985-87, Glenn served as a Peace Corps volunteer as an integrated science teacher.
For more information about the exciting programs at the Greensboro Science Center, visit greensboroscience.org.
• Joyce Martin Dixon
Joyce Dixon is a Greensboro native and was the co-owner of Creative Management Technology, Inc., a well-established federal services contracting firm headquartered in Cocoa Beach, Fla., where the majority of employees worked on the Space Shuttle Program at Kennedy Space Center.
Ten years ago, Joyce returned to Greensboro. Her extensive volunteer work includes the Bennett College Board of Trustees, NCCJ, Greensboro Public Library Foundation and Hayes-Taylor YMCA. She also is a member of Providence Baptist Church and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Joyce initiated Linkages to Life, an organ, tissue and bone marrow donation awareness program through The Links, Inc. This program is credited with saving thousands of lives. In addition, she assisted with building three schools in Africa, promotes education through mentoring and providing scholarships to deserving students and supports programs that benefit our community’s hungry and homeless populations.
The White House recognized Joyce for “superior performance and commitment to excellence as an entrepreneur,” and she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree from Bennett College. The Martin Dixon Intergenerational Center at Bennett College is named in her honor.
• Birkha Gurung
Community volunteer in refugee community
A native of Bhutan, Birkha Gurung grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal before moving to the United States. Once settled, he began serving as a volunteer, helping refugees in our community.
Today, Birkha focuses on improving the life of refugees in the Glen Haven and Margate communities, teaching them how to be self-sufficient. One strategy to achieving self-sufficiency is through gardening, which helps the refugees save money by not having to buy as many vegetables and other staples in stores. This initiative is supported by grants from The Community Foundation through the Building Stronger Neighborhoods program. The programs of and outreach by Building Stronger Neighborhoods also help this community feel more self-empowered.
Additionally, succeeding in classes through which refugees can become citizens is one of their biggest challenges. Birkha plays an important role in helping guide them through this successfully.
For more information on Building Stronger Neighborhoods, visit CFGG.org.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Photographs of each Game Changer Award recipient are available for download and your use as needed. CLICK HERE (https://cfgg.org/game-changer-photos-2016) to access the photos.
About The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro
The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro is a charitable organization dedicated to strengthening the community for present and future generations. The Community Foundation promotes philanthropy, builds and maintains a permanent collection of endowment funds and serves as a trustworthy partner and leader in shaping effective responses to community issues and opportunities. Visit CFGG.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.