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AARP Virginia Presents First-Ever Shawna Newcombe Award for Fighting Hunger

Posted on 11/13/19

AARP Virginia presented the inaugural Shawna Newcombe Award for Fighting Hunger to Wahed Hossaini of Springfield to showcase his exceptional efforts to combat hunger in his community.

AARP Virginia created the Shawna Newcombe Award for Fighting Hunger this year to recognize the extraordinary service of an individual or group in the fight against older adult hunger on behalf of AARP Virginia. This award honors and memorializes Shawna Newcombe’s commitment to both empowering volunteers and putting food on the table for those who need it most. Newcombe, 46, of Sandston, an AARP Virginia staff member, died suddenly early this year.

“Her life reminds us what is truly important and lasting—not only what we advocate for, but also how we act, how we treat one another,” said Bob Blancato, AARP national board member who worked with Newcombe when he served as the AARP Virginia State President. “In her, AARP’s mission and her regard for people were perfectly aligned.”

Hossaini has worked tirelessly to help feed hungry families in his community by spearheading food collection and fundraising efforts for food charities, particularly the End of Ramadan Food Drive initiative, which began in 2011. In conjunction with the Bangladesh Association of America, Inc., Hossaini was instrumental in the group’s efforts. Earlier this year, the group collected over $7,000.00 and more than 150 pounds of canned and dry food, which was donate to The Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO).


“The more I think of Shawna, the more the word ‘help’ becomes brighter,” Hossaini said. “Look around, someone needs you.”

Blancato said that after Newcombe passed away, one volunteer said you could feel Shawna’s smile, and another said she exuded sunshine—all from the other end of the phone.

“With this award, we can still feel that sunshine,” Blancato said. “This issue was extremely important to Shawna. Perhaps her favorite part of her work was her leadership of, and support for, volunteers and chapters in statewide food drives.”

In addition to her daily work with AARP volunteers, Newcombe volunteered with the Feeding Ministry at Belmont United Methodist Church in Richmond, where she and her husband, Mike Newcombe, were members.

Blancato pointed out that more than 10 million people 50 and older in the United States are at risk of hunger every day.

“That is a challenge to our conscience,” he said. “It is a policy challenge and for so many of us it is also a personal challenge—a challenge to volunteer our time so that vulnerable older adults will have enough food—nutritious food—to eat.”

Newcombe was very proud of Hossaini for his work fighting hunger.

“I am delighted that our first recipient of the Shawna Newcombe Award for Fighting Older Adult Hunger is someone who has met that challenge in such an effective and thoughtful way,” Blancato said. “Since 2011, Wahed Hossaini has led the drive to collect food from the Bangladeshi community in the greater Washington, DC area. This annual effort grew out of AARP’s Create the Good program, which asked volunteers to serve their communities. Wahed answered that call, and he hasn’t stopped since.”

Blancato praised Hossaini’s innovation.

“With this award, we recognize the creativity and commitment Wahed has shown,” he said. “Making Ramadan—a month of fasting—an occasion for this food drive—was innovative and effective.”

To learn more about what AARP Virginia is doing in the community, visit our website, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

This story is provided by AARP Virginia. Visit the AARP Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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