GASTONIA, NC – Yesterday morning, Milinda Kirkpatrick, founder and Executive Director of Mount Holly and Charlotte based nonprofit Shining Hope Farms was awarded the Linda Wagner Slade Distinguished Service Award by the Community Foundation of Gaston County. The surprise award was announced at a breakfast ceremony that wrapped-up this year’s Community Foundation Run, an event which Kirkpatrick has played an integral role for over decade.

Milinda Kirkpatrick joined the Steering Committee for the Community Foundation Run in 2005, not long after getting her nonprofit, founded in 2002, off the ground. The Run, formerly known as Run for the Money, is put on by the Community Foundation of Gaston County, and takes place annually in April in downtown Gastonia. Since its inception in 2003 it has raised over $15 million for many of the nonprofits in Gaston County.

The award is named after Linda Slade Wagner, co-chair of the first ever Run for the Money, and is used to honor someone who:

Loves the Community Foundation Run and is willing to devote time and talent to making it successful
Is committed, responsible, loyal, enthusiastic, dependable, creative and willing to go beyond the call of duty
Cares enough to spend the time and energy it takes to make Gaston County a better place to call home
Knows it’s not just about money. It’s about bringing the Gaston County community together and having a good time while they do it.

As a member of the set-up/clean-up committee, a sub-committee of the Steering Committee, Kirkpatrick has worked behind the scenes over the years doing a lot of the heavy lifting. She starts her volunteer job months before the actual Run working with various city departments and private companies to line-up supplies and services. Then starting with the day before the Run and continuing until two days after, she handles the daunting amount of tasks that are necessary to set up and break down the event. This year, she and her son-in-law even acted as a delivery van to several nonprofits that had things stored downtown.

“Any task that is needed to be done, she is always up for the challenge,” says Daughtry Hopper, Director of Community Impact & Resource Development for United Way of Gaston County, Inc, of Kirkpatrick’s role in the event.

“Milinda is a team player who has a gift for seeing what needs to be done and taking delight in being part of the solution,” says Jean Penner, Development Director for Shining Hope Farms.

Pictured above from left to right: Jennie Carruth – Recording Secretary for MMAE, Jean Penner – Development Director for SHF, Milinda Kirkpatrick – Executive Director for SHF, Gina Clegg – Grants and Disbursements for MMAE, Mimi Compton – President of MMAE

About Shining Hope Farms

Shining Hope Farms is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to enable children and adults with disabilities to achieve functional goals through the use of equine assisted activities and Hippotherapy. Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention to achieve functional outcomes. They are a Premier Accredited Center of PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International) as well as the American Hippotherapy Association, and currently operate sites in Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties with 22 horses and ponies, 28 staff members consisting of occupational and physical therapists, speech language pathologists, and PATH Intl. certified riding instructors, as well as many wonderful volunteers, which help to make a well-rounded program. Shining Hope Farms is also a GuideStar Exchange Gold participant, a leading symbol of transparency and accountability among nonprofits. For more information, visit shininghopefarms.org.