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Volvo Names America's Top Three Hometown Hero Finalists

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

VOLVO NAMES AMERICA’S THREE TOP HOMETOWN HEROES

 

 

Top Winners Announced in Second Annual Volvo for Life Awards;

 

Celebrity Judges to Present Winners at April 7 Volvo for Life Awards Ceremony in Times Square; One Hero Will Receive a Volvo Car for Life

NEW YORK CITY (March 29, 2004) - A native of New Jersey who for the past 10 years has overseen an orphanage for more than 100 children whose parents died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide; a New Yorker who for 20 years has run a youth center that has improved the lives of more than 3,000 children in a crime-ridden area of the northeast Bronx; and a teenager from Ohio who created a gardening project that teaches inmates in youth correctional facilities the value of growing food for the hungry are the top three winners named today in the second annual Volvo for Life Awards.

 

The Volvo for Life Awards is the largest-ever national search for and celebration of everyday heroes, with Volvo Cars of North America providing more than $1 million in awards and contributions.

 

The program, launched in September 2003, called for individuals nationwide to visit www.volvoforlifeawards.com and nominate an unsung hometown hero they know. Volvo received 2,768 nominations representing all 50 states.

 

A distinguished panel of judges –– including Hank Aaron, Paul Newman, Caroline Kennedy, Maya Lin, Bill Bradley, Dr. Sally Ride and Eunice Kennedy Shriver –– selected the three winners from nine finalists in the categories of safety, environment and quality of life.

 

Volvo will fly the three winners to New York to be honored at Times Square Studios, Ltd. at the Volvo for Life Awards Ceremony on April 7, 2004. At the event, Volvo and the program judges will present each winner with a $50,000 contribution to a charity of his or her choice. In addition, they will announce the program’s grand winner, who will receive a Volvo car for the rest of his or her life and the distinction of “America’s Greatest Hometown Hero.” The six remaining finalists each will receive a donation of $10,000 to the charities of their choice.

 

The winners are:

 

Rosamond Carr, 91, Gisenyi, Rwanda

 

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, where as many as 800,000 people were slaughtered within three months, Rosamond Carr, a native of New Jersey opened an orphanage to care for children whose parents were massacred. Shortly after the genocide began, Carr, who had been living in Rwanda since 1949, was forced by the American embassy to leave her farm, Mugongo. She returned to America for four months and watched the genocide unfold on television. Determined to help her adopted homeland recover from the tragedy, Carr, who was 82 years old at the time, returned to Rwanda to find Mugongo in ruins. She quickly turned an old building into the Imababazi Orphanage, which is currently home to 114 children. Due to continued outbreaks of violence, the orphanage moved to a small lake town, Gisenyi, in 1997. Today, a permanent location for the orphanage is being built at Mugongo to ensure the longevity of this safe haven.

 

Earnestine Russell, 54, Bronx, New York

 

Twenty years ago, a young man from the Bronx asked Earnestine Russell why he should work for minimum wage when he could make good money selling drugs. Realizing her community was in crisis, Russell left a job she had struggled to get and convinced the principal of her local middle school to donate space for an after-school program she called the Baychester Youth Council. The school sent Russell its toughest kids, and she set about to change their lives. She taught the classes without compensation, relying upon the odd gift, subsidized housing and a check from Social Security to pay her bills. What little money she did earn went back to her program, allowing her to purchase art supplies and sports equipment. Over the past two decades, more than 3,000 children have passed through her program at the Baychester Community Center and two local schools. Every child that has taken part in Earnestine’s program has graduating from high school, and there have been no unplanned pregnancies. Today, the young boy who inspired Russell is employed as a professional with a Fortune 500 company.

 

Kristen Stryker, 18, Canton, Ohio

 

At age 15, Kristen Stryker devised a way to tap her love of gardening and desire to do community service to teach inmates of youth correctional facilities a valuable lesson. Stryker developed “Help Others to Help Yourself,” a program that teaches inmates how to grow vegetables for needy people in their communities. Inspired by her brother, who spent years in and out of jail, Stryker spent most of the summer between her junior and senior years of high school visiting youth prisons to encourage cynical inmates to participate in her program. Her idea caught on. In 2002, facilities in Stryker’s program grew and donated more than 2,500 pounds of produce to local food shelves. Stryker’s program was so popular at the local level, that the state of Ohio instituted her program in the state’s 12 youth detention centers. And, President George Bush has encouraged Stryker, now 18, to attempt to get her program instituted in the other 49 states. So far, 23 states have shown interest in her plan. Finally, inmates consider the opportunity to garden and give food to others a privilege.

 

“We appreciate the difficult task set before our judges of choosing our top three winners from our pool of outstanding finalists, and we’re grateful for their time and effort,” said Vic Doolan, president and chief executive officer for Volvo Cars of North America. “We look forward to honoring Rosamond, Earnestine and Kristen at our awards ceremony and recognizing the work they’ve done to improve the quality of life, safety and environment of thousands of people. We also applaud the efforts of our six other finalists, as well as the efforts of the more than 2,700 heroes who were nominated for our program this year.”

 

The second annual Volvo for Life Awards will be hosted by actor Jim Belushi and will feature musical performances by Toots and the Maytals, Joss Stone and Jim Belushi and the Sacred Hearts.

 

Second Annual Volvo for Life Awards Finalists:

  • Juan Jimenez, 61, Los Angeles, a former gang member and victim of multiple illnesses who volunteers his time to ensure kids in his community avoid drugs and gangs.
  • Laura Moore, 42, Lilburn, Ga., a pediatric nurse who developed a program that provides transitional foster care for children with severe disabilities who are abandoned by their families.
  • Veronique Moore, 48, Kalamazoo, Mich., a popular radio host turned homeless woman who now serves as the program director for the shelter that helped save her life.
  • Ritu Primlani, 30, Oakland, Calif., who has taught almost 50 ethnic restaurant owners without fluent English-speaking skills and environmental knowledge how to run "green" enterprises.
  • John Rugge, 59, Glens Falls, N.Y., who created a network of 11 health care centers near the Adirondacks that treat residents who have little or no health insurance and charge fees based on a patient’s ability to pay.
  • Wilma Subra, 60, New Iberia, La., a chemist who has helped residents of more than 500 rural communities peacefully resolve environmental disputes with large companies — without costly legal intervention.

 

For more information on the Volvo for Life Awards and to view stories of dozens of this year’s nominees and finalists, visit www.volvoforlifeawards.com.

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Contact:

Claudine Galloway

Haberman & Associates

612-338-3900

claudine@habermaninc.com

Sören Johansson

Volvo Cars of North America

949-341-6719

sjohan44@volvocars.com

Media:

For photos and more information on the Volvo for Life Awards: www.volvocars-pr.com.

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