neighborhoodsawards 110819

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea (left) stands with the city’s 2019 Neighborhood All-Star Sunni Purviance (from left), Councilman Bill Bestpitch and Neighborhood Services Coordinator Tonya Pickett. The award was presented at the annual Harvesting of the Fruits Potluck Dinner.

Sunni Purviance seems to have more hours in her days than the rest of us — and she fills them with a long-as-your-arm list of efforts on behalf of her southeast Roanoke neighborhood.

The president of the Southeast Action Forum founded and organized the Love SE Festival at Belmont Park. She organized a collaborative art project with a Virginia Tech student and Western Virginia Water Authority that rallied her community to create a Love Southeast sign.

She created a regular event called “Plawking” with the Fitness for Good campaign that brings out neighbors to walk their streets, talk and pick up trash.

Oh, and she’s on the board of the Presbyterian Community Center and recruits teams to join in fundraising events like the Big Lick Train Tug, which benefits the center, and the Hustle for the Homeless to aid the homeless.

There’s more — on top of a full-time job — but you get the idea.

For all that, Purviance was recognized Friday at this year’s Roanoke Neighborhood Awards as the 2019 Neighborhood All-Star.

Roanoke City Council members and other leaders presented the awards at the annual Harvesting of the Fruits Potluck Dinner at the Jefferson Center. The winners were selected by the Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates, a city-council appointed panel.

This year’s other winners are:

  • Youth Volunteer Award: Steven McKee, a James Madison Middle School eighth grader for his work with the Roanoke Prevention Alliance’s Youth Leadership Alliance on alcohol, tobacco and vaping prevention, including sharing his own story, “Growing Up With An Alcoholic Father.”
  • Unsung Hero Award — two winners: Bishop Jamaal Jackson for efforts to curb gun violence, including his own “Refresh Roanoke Initiative: Guns Down; Prayers Up,” and his role on the city’s Gun Violence Task Force. And Gregory Samantha Rosenthal and members of the SWVA LGBTQ+ History Project, which collects oral histories and leads tours of the “Old SW Gayborhood.”
  • Outstanding Volunteer Leadership Award: Fairland Neighborhood Organization President Cheryl Hilton for her work on behalf of her community, in particular being a voice for neighbors in the proposed Evans Spring development project, which will turn a neighborhood greenspace into a major retail center.
  • Neighborhood Improvement Award: REACH in Roanoke for its “Dale Sisters” project to restore two abandoned houses at 1602 and 1608 Dale Ave. S.E., using hundreds of volunteers to turn the blighted properties into a source of neighborhood pride.
  • Community Partnership Award: Garland Properties for its revitalization of multiple buildings along Wasena’s Main Street village center, including commercial properties now home to thriving businesses and residential buildings that were once the sources of numerous city zoning and building code violations and police calls.
  • Communications Award: Wasena Neighborhood Forum for its new website, email newsblasts, social media, a neighborhood information pamphlet for newcomers, and hand-delivery of 700 postcards to invite residents to the neighborhoods centennial celebration.
  • City Partnership Award: Roanoke City Libraries and residents of the Melrose-Orange Target Area for collaboration on the planning, style, art and use of space in the new Melrose Library.
  • Neighborhood Arts Award: Southeast Action Forum for the creation of a Love sign that features images of 300 brightly colored houses all painted by the community.

Matt Chittum covers Roanoke City. A Roanoke native, he’s been at the Roanoke Times for more than two decades, having overcome an inauspicious start with a part-time clerical job.

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