RADFORD — In 1997, Dr. Nelda Pearson and a small group of her students at Radford University launched Beans and Rice, Inc., a nonprofit organization to help children in need.
The undertaking began as an after-school program at a few of Radford’s housing complexes, providing activities, homework help and meals to hungry kids.
Pearson served as an unpaid executive director for the next 14 years as the organization grew and began serving more and more people, focused on relieving hunger, after-school enrichment for children, savings programs, adult-education programs and more, primarily in Radford and later adding Pulaski County to the service area.
Today, Beans and Rice is flourishing, leveraging grant funds and keeping a strong partnership with AmeriCorps, along with other funding streams, to provide a comprehensive after school program at McHarg School, as well as the Weekend Backpack Project (hunger relief), weekly food distribution, micro business loans, business training and counseling, community learning centers and individual development accounts in both Radford and Pulaski.
Pearson was honored by Radford City Council on March 9 with the Robert Allen Hall Humanitarian Service Above Self Citizenship Award for her work with Beans and Rice and beyond.
“This lady has left a number of footprints on the community,” said Mayor Dr. Bruce Brown. “What she’s done has tentacles that go on and on. What she’s created with her compassion and care just keeps on growing.”
Councilman Robert Nicholson presented Pearson with her award, and read a resolution honoring her.
“Nelda is known throughout Radford for her vision to improve the economic well-being of low-to-moderate income families and children,” he read.
Pearson has earned several regional and state awards for her work, including the 2000 Virginia Governor’s Community Service and Volunteerism Award, the 2006 Excellence in Virginia Government Community Enhancement Award and the 2010 New River Valley Leading Lights Award. She retired from Radford University in 2006 as a sociology and anthropology professor and Chair of the Race, Class and Gender Studies program and is a Professor Emeritus. She has also volunteered on several boards, commissions and committees.
The Robert Allen Hall Humanitarian Service Above Self Citizenship Award citizenship award is named in honor of “Big Al” Hall and was founded in 2011 shortly after his death.
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