We’re excited and honored to introduce you to this year’s Live Your Dash Award recipients. These individuals are using their time, skills and energy to make a positive, meaningful, and lasting impact in our community and are truly living their dash.
Community Advocate and Founder of Skylar’s Love Mission
In October 2016, Shannon and Tracy Armes’ daughter, Skylar, was stillborn at full term due to an umbilical cord entanglement. Less than two months later, Shannon planned an Angel of Hope Community Memorial Service at their church in Dinwiddie County. Now held annually by Shannon and her family on December 6th, it offers those grieving a special opportunity to remember loved ones during the holiday season.
Seeking additional support for her own grieving heart, Shannon participated in the Full Circle Perinatal Loss Support Group in January 2018. There she found lifelong friends, along with the validation and inspiration to continue sharing her love for her daughter through acts of kindness.
These acts include the creation of a memorial garden at their church, a toy drive for children at Madeline’s House – a women’s domestic violence shelter, the donation of a CuddleCot to Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center, a drive-thru community luncheon, donation of school supplies, and making and donating infant hats to local hospitals.
Driven by a desire to demonstrate compassion and love to families experiencing tragedy and grief, Shannon’s largest act of kindness involves donating comfort care bags and Skylar’s comfort bears to hospitals and first responders in Central Virginia. She is relentless in searching for additional ways to give back and finding more people to comfort. Shannon and her husband look forward to announcing their official nonprofit in Skylar’s memory later this year named Skylar’s Love Mission.
“Shannon is a true example of the Live Your Dash motto because since facing the profound pain she experienced with the death of her baby, she has searched for and found healing through giving back to others. She makes the most of every day by finding ways to bring comfort to others who are grieving.”
Community Volunteer and Retired Energy Professional
Drexel Harris, a retired HR Recruiting & Talent Pipeline Strategic Advisor, was responsible for developing mutually beneficial relationships with universities, community colleges, and high school programs. He oversaw recruiting and development of new talent pipeline sources. He is responsible for proactively developing new sources that meet current and future workforce needs.
Drexel spends most of his retirement donating time and money to the Moton Museum, Goodwill, First Robotics as a Judge, the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), National Association of Black Engineers (NSBE), Make-A-Wish, and providing coaching and mentoring to many in the community to individuals in age ranges to help them achieve some of their personal, career, and educational goals – all free of charge.
Prior to joining Dominion Energy, he served in the US Navy as a nuclear reactor operator and electronics technician on a nuclear submarine. He was also a nuclear training instructor for the US Nuclear Navy, General Electric Company, and the Long Island Lighting Company.
Drexel has been a role model and mentor for so many students (high school and college) and individuals who are early or advancing in their careers and is an outstanding advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity. He has inspired so many people of color and others to pursue their dreams — whether it be a college degree or a certificate/vocational career — and has used both formal and informal networks to ensure others pursue their interests and passions.
Drexel’s passions are clearly focused on helping others break through barriers and educating our community about what barriers exist and how we may reduce and eliminate them for individual long-term success.
His involvement with the Moton Museum aids in addressing racial and social justice education for students and educators. His leadership and engagement on boards such as Pathways, Goodwill and the CRWDB, is helping to ensure individuals seeking employment or growth are equipped with the hard and soft skills and certifications that employers demand.
“All in all, Drexel has paved a way for thousands of students and others who may not ever otherwise have had an opportunity or access to college or a career that will allow them to reach their dreams of success — and, in some cases, financial independence.”
Founder and Executive Director, Celebrate RVA
When Julia Warren Mattingly was 16, she experienced a profound moment that forever changed the trajectory of her life. After asking a child she was tutoring how old he was and when he was born – she was met with a simple yet stunning response: “I don’t know. I think I was born when it was cold out.” After grappling with this and consulting community leaders, in January 2013, Julia founded the non-profit, Celebrate RVA.
In the nine years since, Celebrate RVA has celebrated thousands of children throughout Central Virginia and partnered with dozens of organizations to bring moments of joy to the community. Julia currently serves as the Executive Director and is a firm believer in the power of a celebration and how JOY can impact a child’s heart.
Covid has made throwing a birthday party very challenging, but Julia and her team used their creativity and determination to make it work by putting together birthday bags. When schools closed, Julia opened her doors to many kids who do not have access to computers and Wi-Fi, and welcomed them with a smiling face.
Passionate about creating meaningful impact, Julia also works closely with corporate and small business sponsors to help create a culture of community, giving, and philanthropy. When she isn’t throwing confetti, she is spending time with her husband, Justin, and feeding their rescue dog, Georgia, Chick-Fil-A nuggets.
“Julia is the perfect example of someone living her dash. She saw a need in the community and as a teenager, still in high school, found a creative way to meet that need. Some may think that giving kids a birthday celebration isn’t a need, but giving kids hope and a few hours of joy on their special day, absolutely is.”
Founder and CEO, Sisters In Loss
Erica McAfee is the Founder and CEO of Sisters in Loss, a Maternal Child Health company dedicated to helping Black women replace silence with storytelling around pregnancy and infant loss and infertility.
Sisters in Loss provides pregnancy, birth, postpartum, bereavement doula, and grief services to help women step beyond anxiety and fear, and into trust and peace after loss. Its self-titled podcast spotlights resilient Black mothers who share intimate details of their journey to motherhood through painful, but inspirational loss and infertility stories.
Erica is a member of the MOMMAs Voices Council of the Preeclampsia Foundation and partner with Black Mamas Matter Alliance. She is a Certified Full Spectrum Doula, Birth worker Educator and Mentor. Erica is an alumnae of Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a Masters candidate at Bastyr University studying Maternal Child Health Systems.
Driven by her 2 babies in heaven and rainbow baby Maxwell (Super Mighty Max), Erica uses her voice to create change on local and national levels while holding space for storytelling and healing. Sisters in Loss has been featured in Forbes, BBC News, Black Enterprise, Women’s Health, The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and The White House.
“Erica has developed a space for black women to feel heard, seen, and validated. She lives her dash through the sharing of her own personal story, the comfort that she provides community members, services that are unparalleled in the community, and so much more. She is an advocate, counselor, mentor, confidant, and a strong leader in a space that requires significant destigmatization and thoughtfulness. She uses her voice to create change on local and national levels and holds space for storytelling about grief and loss.”
Please consider joining us Friday, April 29 for our annual Live Your Dash luncheon as we honor these wonderful community members truly living their dash.