People of Action: Honoring Eight Asheville Heroes - TribPapers

People of Action: Honoring Eight Asheville Heroes

The “People of Action”(L-R) Chief Michael Lamb, Asheville Police Department, Dr. Joel Callahan, UNC Health Pardee Hospital, Victoria Roberts, Read to Succeed, Trish Hickling Beckman, Asheville Women’s Wellness and Education Center, Ken Brame, Sierra Club, Renee Fortner, RiverLink, Matthew Bacoate, Jr., and Pat Snyder, Rotary Club of Asheville President. Not pictured: Judy Mattox, Sierra Club. Photo submitted.

Asheville – A city is only as good as its citizens, and Asheville is lucky to have some wonderful people who have worked hard to improve our community. On May 16th, the Rotary Club of Asheville held the inaugural Heroes Hoorah Gala to honor just a few of these “people of action”—highlighting eight area residents for their outstanding contributions to the community. Guests enjoyed an evening filled with music, drinks, food, and desserts prepared by local chefs.

The honorees, who ranged from the Asheville police chief to healthcare and nonprofit leaders, embody Rotary’s “Service Above Self” philosophy, and their contributions to the community align with Rotary International’s seven focus areas. These heroes align with Rotary’s vision to take action and create lasting change—across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.

These community heroes will be honored in seven categories: peacebuilding and conflict resolution, basic education and literacy, disease prevention and treatment, water sanitation and hygiene, maternal and child health, economic and community development, and supporting the environment.

Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution

Asheville Police Department’s Chief, Michael Lamb, has worked his way through the ranks at APD from patrol officer to chief, a position he accepted in early 2024. He is credited with fostering improved communication between law enforcement and local residents, nonprofits, and businesses to create a more peaceful community.

Basic Education and Literacy

Victoria Roberts, president of the Read to Succeed Asheville/Buncombe board of directors, is a servant leader who wants young people to have the best opportunities and outcomes. Roberts, who works as Associate Director of Data & Evaluation for United Way Asheville and Buncombe County, has spent countless hours helping Read to Succeed grow in the community. The nonprofit’s mission is to help close the race-based opportunity gap through community-powered literacy programming that engages children, their families, and community partners. Roberts shared, ”I was always taught to work hard and keep building.”

Disease Prevention and Treatment

Dr. Joel Callahan, Chief of Staff for UNC Health Pardee, personally administered the first dose of Lecanemab, a newly approved FDA drug for Alzheimer’s disease, making UNC Health Pardee the first healthcare organization in Western North Carolina to offer the drug. He has also been instrumental in revitalizing UNC Health Pardee Hospital’s stroke program, which has been ranked #1 in North Carolina for stroke care and is part of a facility that has been named one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for a second consecutive year.

Water Sanitation and Hygiene

As Water Resources Manager at RiverLink, Renee Fortner led RiverLink’s development of the central Asheville Watershed Assessment, creating the potential for significant grant funding to address water quality and stream impairment issues. Most recently, she led the Southside Community Stormwater Project in an area near the Asheville Housing Authority’s Erskine Apartments, which provided significant water quality and drainage improvements for residents.

Maternal and Child Health

Trish Hickling Beckman, co-owner of Asheville Women’s Wellness and Education Center, is a certified nurse midwife who has delivered thousands of babies in homes, hospitals, and birthing centers. Beckman offers education, support, and counseling for moms-to-be so that the birthing process is a positive and empowering experience.

Economic and Community development

Matthew Bacoate, Jr.’s contributions to Western North Carolina are immeasurable. He is recognized as being a major factor in helping Asheville businesses integrate and in enlisting investors to start AFRAM, Asheville’s first black-owned and operated manufacturing company. His advocacy for small businesses resulted in the establishment of the North Carolina Small Business Advocacy Council, showcasing his commitment to strengthening businesses statewide.

Supporting the Environment

The duo of Ken Brame and Judy Mattox works to protect our environment through leadership in the Sierra Club. Their efforts include protecting wild places and endangered species, keeping our air and water clean, ensuring a clean energy future, and working to curb climate change.

“We’re thrilled to honor these eight community heroes, whose actions have created lasting positive change in our community that are aligned with Rotary International’s focus areas,” said Pat Snyder, President of the Rotary Club of Asheville. “The Heroes Hoorah Gala gives us the opportunity to honor their work and highlight their accomplishments, and we look forward to making this an annual event.”

Funds raised will contribute to projects such as providing local scholarships, recognizing teachers and first responders, protecting the French Broad watershed, supporting local food security initiatives, and international medical, dental, optical, and literacy projects in Guatemala, Honduras, and Argentina.

Congratulations to all of the honorees.

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