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Thrive Conference Held In Virginia City

7th Annual Thrive Conference Connects Service Providers With The Community

The Community Chest held its 7th annual Thrive Conference celebrating health and human service in Northern Nevada. The Community Chest hosts the Thrive Conference to discuss social service issues in Northern Nevada. Nearly a hundred people showed up to learn about how technology and social service in Northern Nevada is making our communities better.

The Conference held three focus panels focusing on technology, community, and individual leadership. These panels discussed how these areas help improve the health and wellbeing of Northern Nevada.

The Thrive Conference also recognizes people in our community whose actions help to enrich and improve the lives of others. This year, three people received the “Social Justice Superhero” award for their work in our communities.

Technology and Social Service

Thrive Conference
Eric Schoen looks on as Meg VanDeventer discusses the blockchain.

Meg VanDeventer and Sena Loyd conducted the first panel. Their employer, Blockchains, is the single largest landowner in Storey County and they came to explain how the blockchain technology can help improve the lives of people in need. Many people confuse Blockchains with Bitcoin because cryptocurrencies use blockchain technology to record transactions. However, blockchain technology is much more than that. Blockchain technology has the ability to change and improve the way many industries function. Banking, government, and healthcare industries are just a few sectors that will see the blockchain influence the way they do business.

Blockchains, LLC is working in Storey County to help foster the development of blockchain technology. They own the Painted Rock area in the northern-most tip of the county and are on the record as wanting to establish a “Smart City” and an “Innovation Campus” for all things blockchains. However, Blockchains, LLC operates out of the limelight and we don’t know much about the company and what their plans are. Hopefully, people like Meg and Sena are allowed into the wild more often so we can learn more about what this tech firm has in mind here in The Richest Place On Earth.

Connecting Community Partners With the Community

Thrive Conference
The panel discusses how to best get the word out to the people who need it.

The second panel discussed how to better integrate health and human services with community partners and groups. Panelists included Storey County Deputy Harry Schroder, Roasting House, and Electrical Engineering professional Eric Troska and Aria Overli from Actionn, as well as two high school students from Lyon County. They discussed how the community can work together to reach people in need.

Deputy Schroder talked about his work with kids in Storey County School District. By having positive relationships with middle schoolers, he is able to forge lasting, positive relationships with young people. Positive communication helps break down barriers as the kids grow up. Eric Troska talked about how business owners are looked to as leaders within their companies and can use this to help employees navigate the agencies and social service providers their employees may need.

The High School Students talked about how reaching out to them and talking about how things work and what is available is helpful. The best place to reach them can sometimes be at the different School events and activities like 4-H and Band. All of the panelists stressed the importance of communication. People who need these services may have barriers that prevent them from reaching out.

Super Hero Awards

The Community Chest selected three people as Social Justice Super Heroes.


Thrive Conference
Eric Aalgaard gives us his superhero pose. I call it the “To Infinity and Beyond” move.

Erik Aalgaard – Helping Save Lives

Erik Aalgaard from Douglas County went from homeless substance abuser to case manager at Douglas County Social Services working with people in need and folks in jail with getting skills to help them once they are released. The frank delivery of his story caused many eyes in the audience to mist up, including mine. “I was a miracle waiting to happen. The people in the Douglas County Social Services department saw that in me as a person needing their services and later as a coworker. With their help, I am now able to help other people who were exactly where I was just a few short years ago.”

Thrive Conference
“Power to the People” from David Fraizer.


David Fraizer – Homeless Advocate Superhero

David Fraizer was homeless and disabled for nearly 35 years. He described moving to Nevada and being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people when it came to housing. He met Aria Overli who recognized his passion and leadership. Aria was able to help him become a voice for other homeless and disadvantaged people in his community. David became a tireless advocate working with Washoe County Commissioners, Reno City Council member and Members of Nevada’s Legislature in the 80th legislative cycle.

Thrive Conference
Eileen “Don’t monkey around in my Courtroom” Herrington wearing the hero cape and giving us her hero pose.

Eileen Herrington – Justice Superhero

Storey County Justice of the Peace Eileen Herrington is a Super Hero for her tireless work for victims, witnesses and people who are down on their luck in her courtroom. “I want to make sure that my court is a place that serves everyone and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.” She recognized that the Hispanic community had a difficult time navigating the difficult landscape that is the justice system. She converted all her forms and paperwork into Spanish and has resources for people to help them with the system. She works with people to help them deal with the implications of their actions and works with them to help manage the consequences of their situation. Anyone who has had the opportunity to see Justice Herrington in action knows her approach is genuine and sincere. She is a blessing to our community.


Take Care of Your Community, Take Care of Yourself

Thrive Conference
Nick Lazzarino introduces Superhero Herrington and reminds us to take care of ourselves.

In his introduction of Justice of the Peace Herrington, Nick Lazzarino quoted several Super Heroes (and one of my favorite super-villains, Dr. Octopus) to describe Herrington’s approach to her job. His last quote was important to every person in the business of helping others; Don’t forget to take care of yourself. People in the superhero business of social services are exposed to a lot. Without self-inspection and care, sometimes the work can get to you. It was a message that I find myself needing from time to time.

Eric Schoen wrapped up the conference with the message of the power of the individual. He told a personal story of a person who was influenced by him as a kid here in Virginia City. It was Eric’s personal and direct actions that convinced him to enter Social Service and caused their paths to cross again 15 or so years later. “No one person can do this alone”, he said.  “Remember the value of what we do and use it to reach others.”

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Thrive Conference.

If you need help in Storey County or know someone who does, one of the best places to turn to is the Community Chest. You can reach them by clicking here or calling 775-847-9311.


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Elect Sam Toll For County Commissioner

About Sam Toll

Sam Toll is a native of Gold Hill and returned home in 2016 after 35 years in the Sacramento Valley. He enjoys old cars and loud music. And writing.

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