Good Samaritan Award recipient earns praise for acts of kindness
by Preston Knight, Contributing Writer
Holly Roberts takes the stage for a photo, but before her camera-ready smiles come the cheerful greetings of another woman.
She wants Roberts to know how much she loves the new pair of tennis shoes just presented to her. They feel great, she reports, and to the untrained fashion eye, one could surmise she probably digs the green soles, too.
When Roberts later explains how her healing process is made easier because of what she learns from those she helps, it’s apparent the stage chat was more than a tiny interaction in passing.
“[They teach me] happiness, joy, satisfaction, just love and care, and to know there is good in the community, good in people. It’s not all bad,” she says. “Just helping them a little, they’re very appreciative for something we take for granted. It’s so rewarding. Some of these people, this will be the new pair of shoes they get for the year.”
Roberts, whose nonprofit organization, Love to NIC, provides meals and clothing — most notably, shoes — to homeless populations in Winchester and around the country, is the recipient of the 2023 Good Samaritan Award from the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives. Her home co-op, Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, nominated her for the honor, which is described as recognizing someone’s contributions as being a “gold standard” example of philanthropic community service.
Co-op officials surprised Roberts with the award in July as she was handing out food, socks and shoes at WATTS, the Winchester Area Temporary Transitional Shelter.
“This is amazing,” she said among happy tears at the presentation. “This is absolutely perfect.
‘ANGEL’ AMONG US
Love to NIC stands for nurture, inspire and comfort, but also refers to Roberts’ son, Nic, who died in a car crash in 2015. Nic suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Roberts says the overwhelming number of homeless residents in Winchester with some form of mental illness led her to support this demographic through a nonprofit organization. It’s always doubled as a way for her to heal from the loss of her son and carry on his spirit.
“She’s the angel I never knew I needed,” WATTS Executive Director Robyn Miller says.
Love to NIC’s impact reaches beyond the Shenandoah Valley. Each year, Roberts and a small team of volunteers travel to a new major city to help homeless organizations, with food, new clothing and, of course, shoes in tow.
Roberts selects a city in conjunction with the Minnesota Vikings’ away schedule around the time of Nic’s birthday on Dec. 6. Nic was a diehard Vikings fan, a trait passed down from his mother. This year, Love to NIC will head to Las Vegas.
At WATTS, Roberts says providing meals, socks and shoes is “the least we can do to help them.” Her attention goes to one man nearby who she says approached her last year, saying he thought of her and her son. Once again, it quickly became clear this was no small, forgettable interaction.
This sounded like a moment fitting of an award-worthy Good Samaritan. “He wanted me to know, ‘I walk across the field and my feet are dry because I got winter boots that are waterproof,’” Roberts says. “It’s the little things that make such a big impact on them. It doesn’t take much to be kind to them.”
For more information, visit lovetonic.org.