On October 27, 2022, the New River Valley Regional Commission board of directors, comprised of elected officials and citizen appointees across the region, hosted a dinner event at Brick House Pizza in Radford, VA to honor their annual award recipients. Approximately 100 local government elected officials, state and federal representatives, and local government planning commission chairs were in attendance.
Mr. Janaka Casper, Community Housing Partners (CHP), was the recipient of the Citizen of the Valley award. This award is given to a citizen within the New River Valley who has made significant contributions to the betterment of the region. CHP was founded in 1975 by two concerned citizens that organized volunteers to perform minor home repairs for low-to-moderate income families living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Under Mr. Casper’s leadership, CHP has grown to over 350 employees that have delivered weatherization services to more than 50,000 homes in Virginia, and provides safe and affordable housing to over 5,800 households across 90 rental properties in multiple states, 14 of which are in the New River Valley.
Ms. Penny Franklin, Montgomery County School Board, was the recipient of the Champion of the Valley award. This award is given to an appointed or elected official within, or representing, the New River Valley who has greatly assisted communities and residents during their service to the public. Ms. Franklin co-founded the Community Group of Montgomery County, an inclusive, African American, civil society organization. The Community Group established two key programs. First, The Dialogue on Race, which fosters a network of relationships across many sectors leading to a more just community for greater equity of opportunity and achievement and, second, the New Mountain Climbers, a fund of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley that became the first giving circle and the first African American philanthropy in southwest Virginia.
The New River Conservancy received the Friend of the Valley award. This award is given to an individual or organization outside of the New River Valley that has made significant contributions to the betterment of the region. The New River Conservancy has long been a partner assisting communities and nonprofits with water quality initiatives in the New River watershed. They bring a high-level of technical capacity to projects including their Water Watchers water quality monitoring program and stream restoration efforts such as those in partnership with Friends of Peak Creek in Pulaski. Their technical expertise and passion for water quality is truly making a difference in the watershed.
Each award recipient was provided a framed print by the local artist Matt Gentry featuring landscapes from the New River Valley.