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Women Veterans from Chesapeake and Portsmouth Honored During 2020 Virginia Women Veterans Virtual Summit

Mallenia Renee Foster of Portsmouth (right), an advisor for The Mission Continues Women Veterans Program, has been named the 2020 Virginia Women Veterans Change Maker of the Year, and Taniki Richard (left), founder and owner of JT Inspire LLC, has been named Virginia Women Veterans Trailblazer of the Year.

The awards were announced June 19 during the 2020 Virginia Women Veterans Virtual Summit hosted by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) in collaboration with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).

The Virginia Women Veterans Change Maker of the Year Award recognizes exceptional commitment to the advancement of Virginia women veterans through the establishment of innovative programs or nurturing networks.  The 2020 winner, Renee Foster, a US Navy veteran, has acted as an advisor and motivational coach for her fellow women veterans in the Commonwealth and throughout the United States for more than five years.  In March 2020, she helped launch a five-month program designed to build skills around five leadership focus areas to assist women veterans to strive for leadership positions in the civilian world.

The Virginia Women Veterans Trailblazer Award recognizes creativity, vision, courage, commitment and tenacity in advocating for and creating changes to improve the quality of life for Virginia’s women veterans.  The 2020 winner, Taniki Richard, was cited for her combination of creativity, military background, and love of community and for her work as an inspirational speaker, podcast host and author. Richard served in the US Marine Corps for eleven years and along with her husband Brandon, also a Marine veteran, founded JT Inspire LLC, an entertainment and media company that provides speakers, public speaking workshops, and hosts community events.

“We are pleased to recognize Renee Foster and Taniki Richard for their exceptional contributions in assisting and motivating their fellow women veterans,” said Beverly VanTull, Women Veterans Program Manager at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. We congratulate them and thank them for their continued commitment to women veterans here in the Commonwealth and throughout the United States.”

The theme of the seventh annual Virginia Women Veterans Summit was Empowered: Collaborating and Creating Champions of Change. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this was the first Summit to be held as a virtual online event. More than 2,000 women veterans and others participated in the Summit June 17-19, 2020. The two-and-a-half day event included more than fifty speakers and panel presentations on topics of importance to women veterans in Virginia and throughout the United States.

Other participating Summit partners included the StreetShares Foundation, COMCAST, Dominion Energy, Navy Federal Credit Union, PenFed Credit Union, Employee Support of Guard and Reserves (ESGR) and more.

All of the Summit speakers and presentations were recorded and will available to view free of charge in the future. For more information, please visit


About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services

The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia.  VDVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans.  Today, VDVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates two long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; and provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit


About The Virginia Employment Commission

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is the is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s principle public employment service established to assist employers in finding qualified workers and to assist workers in finding suitable jobs. The VEC in partnership with the Virginia Workforce Network promotes economic growth and stability by delivering and coordinating workforce services. The VEC offers career assistance for job seekers, employment services for veterans, and employer services for businesses of all sizes, as well as unemployment benefits and other programs designed to assist with employment. To learn more, go to or contact us at