Mazda North American Operations is recognizing 50 individuals throughout the month of December for their dedication to their communities in 2020.
The Mazda Heroes: Honoring The Human Spirit program spotlights individuals throughout the country who have gone above and beyond their normal job duties in support of their communities. Each hero is presented a Mazda MX-5 Miata 100th Anniversary Special Edition as part of this recognition.
For our publication, we have focused on those individuals honored as Mazda Heroes who are in the Southern states. These individuals are: Triana Davis of Byram, Mississippi; Christie Purviance of The Woodlands, Texas; Celestine Foreman of Tyler, Texas; Miguel Guerrero of Austin, Texas; Michael Starr Thompson of Georgetown, Kentucky; Patty Stewart of Abilene, Texas; Matthew Elieson of Sanger, Texas; Carolyn Dodson, of Huntsville, Alabama; Ashley Dobbs of Orange Beach, Alabama; Misty Colmery of Abilene, Texas; Quiana Shamsid-Deen of Decatur, Georgia; Dr. Muhammad Bashir Hood of Bogart, Georgia; Dr. Margaret Lamkin, of Montgomery, Alabama; and Nahshon Yisrael of Hampton, Georgia.
Davis is a teacher and recognized early on that learning online can be especially challenging for some of her students. At the height of the pandemic, she created and personally delivered custom curriculum to her students who were challenged by either lack of a home computer or without access to the internet. In addition, she created special commemorative t-shirts, goodie bags and custom-engraved medals for her students when they missed out on the traditional graduation ceremony. She was nominated for the award by her wife.
Purviance is accustomed to working long hours as an ICU nurse. During the pandemic, she went above and beyond to comfort patients during their darkest and sometimes final hours. She would often bring in photos of their families and helped patients video chat with loved ones when possible. She was nominated for the Mazda Hero award by her sister.
Foreman is a food bank volunteer, who when the pandemic hit, turned her pantry into a drive-thru model in order to still be able to help those in need during COVID-19 while keeping vulnerable members of her community safe. She leads an army of volunteers in packing and distributing food and supplies, as well as personally delivering homemade meals to those in need. She was nominated for the award by her son.
Guerrero has worked at the Boys & Girls Club for 12 years. When his organization shifted from providing in-person services to handing out food, Guerrero shifted, too. Not wanting the children to miss out on the support of the club, he got creative and filmed more than 40 educational videos with topics ranging from cooking and crafts to skateboarding and sports. He was nominated by his fiancé.
Last year, Thompson organized a first of its kind children’s football camp at his alma mater — entirely focused on teaching both the game and how to be a good leader. Proceeds from the camp were donated to the Ed David Learning Center, which shares in teaching leadership skills to local kids. When the pandemic prevented Thompson from hosting the camp this year, he met with children he had previously coached and trained them one-on-one. In addition, Thompson also volunteers at a local homeless shelter weekly, where he cleans and runs a bible study.
Stewart is a good samaritan who drives her old pickup around town to deliver food. She also has created a makeshift food pantry in her front yard, to make lunches and snacks for students to pick up on their way to and from a nearby school. Not even the pandemic could stop her from making her deliveries. She was nominated by her sister.
Keen to the needs of frontline and essential workers, Elieson turned his 3-D printing hobby into PPE development, working on hard-to-design, job-specific PPE materials to ensure his face shield designs could be continuously and hygienically reused with readily available plastic sheets. To meet the continuous need, he bought two more printers to keep his home production humming along. He was nominated by his wife.
Dodson is a mom who regularly goes out of her way to help those in need. She often purchases groceries and delivers them to others within her community. During 2020, she also created care packages to cheer up children in the local hospital and started cooking and serving breakfast for the elderly members of her church. She was presented with the Mazda Heroes award by Hiley Mazda in Huntsville and presented the keys to her new Miata by Matt Meyer of the dealership.
Dobbs is also an ICU nurse, so it is no surprise that she spent much of 2020 caring for COVID-19 patients. However, when storms devastated Louisiana, she traveled to the hard-hit region with crowdsourced money and resources to help. She set up outdoor hot kitchens to feed her adopted neighbors. Then, when Hurricane Sally visited her hometown in Alabama, she recreated the kitchen despite suffering damage to her own home. On top of it all, she also battled COVID herself. She was nominated by a friend.
Colmery is a single mom and pediatric nurse who found numerous ways to care for her community during the pandemic. She delivered face masks to her local police department, as well as her daughter’s daycare, put together and delivered food boxes for people in need, made goodie baskets for firefighters and nurses and helped organize two Abilene Good Neighbor Days, where members of the community served those in need.
Shamsid-Deen and her husband, Waleed, spent $100,000 to supply senior citizens with food for five weeks during the pandemic. Additionally, the couple trained and mobilized volunteers to safely serve those meals to 200 people for the entire 30 days of Ramadan. Their efforts are now part of a larger initiative, which has served 10,000 meals to 800 senior citizens in Georgia. She was nominated by a friend.
Working in a medically underserved area, Hood drove long distances, typically several hours a day, to meet with patients who otherwise would not have reliable access to necessary care. Not even the initial lack of PPE slowed his dedication to providing quality and accessible care. Hood was nominated by his wife.
Lamkin was nominated for her efforts in caring for COVID-19 patients in not one but two hard-hit areas. As cases surged across Alabama, Lamkin made her way from her typical work in rural Alabama to the World Congress Center at a hospital set aside specifically for COVID-19 patients. She then joined the Poarch Creek Indian Health Department to help them develop best practices and protocols to care for those in their community who had contracted the virus. Lamkin was presented the Mazda Heroes award and the keys to her Miata by Med Center Mazda of Pelham.
When the pandemic first hit, Yisrael and her 73-year-old father started a weekly neighborhood food bank by collecting and distributing donated groceries and helping to feed their community free of charge. When her father became ill, she carried on with their good deeds, something she continues to do today to ensure her at-risk neighborhood is cared for with love and compassion. She was nominated by her father.