Bothell man among 2014 Washington State Jefferson award winners

Bothell resident Todd McNeal is among five people selected as a 2014 Washington State Jefferson Award winner announced by the SeattleCity Club.

The 2014 winners represent Washington's unsung heroes; those who are making a difference in their community, the nation and the world, through their jobs or volunteer service.

McNeal was nominated for his work with the foster care system. When McNeal and his wife began doing foster care ten years ago they saw a huge problem when children were initially picked up by Child Protective Services. Caseworkers would pick children up in emergency situations, often in the middle of the night or on weekends. Foster homes could be difficult or impossible to find. Seeing this flawed system compelled him to found Hand in Hand, a 72-hour emergency receiving center for children entering in to the foster care system. Caseworkers from Bellingham to Vancouver bring their kids to Safe Place, located in Everett.

In 1972, the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Senator Robert Taft Jr. founded the Jefferson Awards, the “Nobel Prize” for public service, a unique nationwide effort that recognizes the highest ideals and achievements of individuals in public service in the United States.

A public celebration for the winners will be held April 7 at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle from 7–8:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at or by calling 206-682-7395.

Other winners include:

Patt Copeland (Seattle) - After experiencing partial vision loss, Copeland started Vision Loss Connections, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable access to arts and cultural programs for people who are blind and low vision. Copeland formed partnerships with the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Public Library, The 5th Avenue Theatre and others facilities to expand access to artistic, cultural, recreational and sporting activities for individuals in the blind and vision loss community.

Kevin Mincio (Mercer Island) - Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Mincio left a Wall Street job to join the Army and served a tour of duty in Iraq where he met and became close friends with Jesse Williams, who later died while serving his country. In honor of Williams and other fallen soldiers, Mincio started The Team Jesse Foundation to assist in helping as many families of fallen soldiers as possible by raising money through awareness and events. His vision for the foundation is to offer education and support to these families to help ease their grief and to help memorialize their loved one so that their service and sacrifice are never forgotten.

Ramon Rivera (Malaga) – As the director of the renowned Mariachi Huenachi program, Rivera inspires kids to stay in school by creating opportunities for them to learn Mariachi, a form of folk music from Mexico, travel and perform regionally, while touring college campuses. He views it as a leadership program for students as a way to inspire their dreams and fuel their thirst for education. This past fall, eight of the students were accepted at Washington State University and for each one of them, they will become the first person in their family to attend college.

James Wilburn Jr. (Spokane) - Wilburn works to promote social justice in Spokane with his collaborations with the Mayor’s office, school districts, and local high schools to eliminate the achievement gap for minority students. He helped develop and expand an intervention specialist position for high schools that mentors and empowers students, and has seen an increase to a 74 percent on-time graduation rate for African-American students. As the volunteer president of the NAACP-Spokane, he has organized free community events to address inequities in the city and hosts a radio show to bring to light topics of race, education, cultural tolerance and civic engagement in the community.

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