Inside the FBI: 2016 Director’s Community Leadership Awards

April 28, 2017

The FBI is honored to recognize each of the 58 recipients of the 2016 Director’s Community Leadership Award, including Jim Shubert and Ginger Passarelli, who share their stories here.

Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: For business owner Jim Shubert, inspiration came when listening to the radio.

Jim Shubert: I listened to a radio interview with Gary Sinise that compelled me to want to get into action.

Halpern: For restaurant owner and chef Ginger Passarelli, a penchant for cooking and a phone call prompted her into action.

Ginger Passarelli: It was the first of many, many, many calls over the years that I got, and there was a natural progression. Our growth was just a progression of seeing needs and taking care of them.

Halpern: I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau with Inside the FBI. Coming up, learn why the FBI is honoring Jim, Ginger, and nearly 60 others. You never know, their stories may motivate you to get involved in community service.

See, Jim and Ginger are just two recipients of the 2016 FBI’s Director’s Community Leadership Award. The annual awards are bestowed upon individuals and organizations from across the country for outstanding contributions to their local communities through service. The service can involve extraordinary efforts to prevent crime and violence or support others—like law enforcement—who do so for a living.

FBI Director James Comey will officially present the awards during a ceremony at FBI Headquarters on April 28, which falls during National Volunteer Week—a time to recognize our country’s volunteers.

Jim Shubert had always wanted to volunteer in one way or another to make a difference in the lives of others.

Shubert: When I was a young man, I served in the military, the United States Army, and I saw things—this is back during the Vietnam Era—that were horrific. And also, when we came back—we transitioned to civilian life—we weren't treated with the greatest respect and dignity. So I told myself that if I ever was in the position to help give back in one way or the other, I would.

Halpern: Jim eventually became the owner of a successful interior design and furniture company in St. Louis. When Jim heard actor Gary Sinise on the radio talking about how his foundation was building a smart home for a veteran who had lost his limbs in war, Jim knew he was in a unique position to contribute.

Shubert: I talked about it with my wife, and we got a hold of the foundation the next day and said, "We want to furnish that house."

Halpern: Since then, Jim has joined the Gary Sinise Foundation as a member of the board. He has helped furnish one-of-a-kind smart homes through the foundation’s Restoring Independence and Supporting Empowerment program, known as R.I.S.E.

Just imagine how difficult basic tasks—like opening or closing a door—can be for someone who is paralyzed or has lost their limbs.

Shubert: These homes have to be built in a certain way with smart technology to help make that person—the soldier or the first responder—independent. We call it independence with dignity.

Halpern: The smart homes not only help make the nation’s most severely wounded heroes self-sufficient again, they provide relief and comfort to their caregivers and family members.

Over the years, R.I.S.E. has built dozens of smart homes, and more are under construction. Electricians, plumbers, and roofers donate their time to help build the homes.

Shubert: It’s what gives me, really, my main purpose. I get more out of it than what I'm giving. I really love the fact that we're able to help, in a small way, make some changes in people's lives for the good. It's very gratifying. I wish I would have found it sooner.

That sentiment is shared by Shubert’s fellow award winner, Ginger Passarelli.

Ginger Passarelli: I feel honored, I feel humbled that we are able to do this.

Halpern: On an especially hot day nearly a decade ago, Ginger—a well-known restaurant owner in Black Diamond, Washington—received a request to provide food and water for her local firefighters while they were on-scene.

Passarelli: …and then I asked afterward, “Well, who takes care of you guys when you’re out here?” And they said, “Well, usually nobody.” And I said, “Oh, that is just so wrong! Somebody needs to take care of you guys.” And that’s kind of how it started.

Halpern: Ginger founded The Soup Ladies—a non-profit organization of about 40 volunteers who serve fresh meals to first responders during emergencies and natural disasters.

Passarelli: When we pull up, they know that they’re going to have a hot meal, safe food—and I get lots of hugs. Lots and lots of hugs from people. And I love them so much.

Halpern: Ginger and The Soup Ladies deploy whenever and wherever they are needed.

The Soup Ladies provided meals in Dallas last summer when a heavily armed sniper gunned down five police officers.

The Soup Ladies served meals in Oso, Washington, where first responders searched for survivors—and later, the remains—of the dozens of people killed in a mudslide.

The Soup Ladies prepared meals for first responders after a gunman opened fire at an Oregon community college, claiming nine lives and then his own.

Passarelli: When I look at a police officer, I know that that man would take a bullet for me, or that woman. I know that that firefighter would run into a burning building and they do not know my name. That makes me honored and humbled.

Halpern: The FBI is honored and humbled to recognize each of the Director’s Community Leadership Award recipients for their volunteerism.

We are grateful and hope these honorees inspire others who listen to their stories. Their actions embody a quote prominently displayed inside FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C. that says, “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation. The efforts of all law enforcement agencies with the support and understanding of the American people.”

To learn more about the FBI’s community outreach programs, visit Thanks for listening to Inside the FBI. I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau.

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