Portsmouth community program holds annual gala to give back to local youth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Big H.O.M.I.E.S, Heroes of Minority in Every Society, held their second annual Sneaker Gala Saturday.

The event was held in partnership with other community outreach programs in Hampton Roads. They sponsored kids from across the seven cities, giving them formal attire and new haircuts for the event.

Big H.O.M.I.E.S’ mission is to end youth gun violence through community events, after-school programs, youth employment support groups, and more.

President and co-founder of the group, Eugene Swinson said the gala was about showing the kids there that they can be and do anything they set their minds to.

“The influences inside of their neighborhoods only have you aspiring to be what you see. If I get them outside of the neighborhood and show them other things, then maybe they’ll aspire to be those things,” he said.

The event brought out many people from the community, including Desiree Finney, the mother of NBA player Dorian Finney Smith. She said Big H.O.M.I.E.S came to watch her son play basketball, so she wants to return the favor and support.

“Because we all need to support each other. Portsmouth – we always need to come together. Everything I have they always support so I’ve got to show support back,” she said.

Kids of all ages attended the gala and were decked out in suits and dresses – a fact that 10-year-old Trinity Johnson loved about the event. She said the event was possible because Big H.O.M.I.E.S makes a safe environment for all of their events.

“And I really thank them because I love to see everybody in their dresses and suits today,” she said.

But the dresses weren’t her favorite part of the gala, meeting new friends was.

“I’m a social person so I like to be social to everybody and I like to make new friends and I love to help and have people love me and love them.”

Swinson said with the continuing combined work of community groups in the area, he’s confident these kids have a bright future.

“With groups like mine and a bunch of other groups, Stop the Violence, Wreck League in Norfolk and also the city putting a big emphasis on trying to stop the violence in the neighborhood, I think we’ll be ok.”

The group will be heading to Richmond for Presidents Day on Feb, 20 to speak on the General Assembly floor. The group had previous experience with the Virginia Congress back in February 2022 when the Virginia General Assembly and House of Delegates commended them for their work in ending gun violence in Hampton Roads.