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'Hero' Stacey Buckner finds out Sunday whether she's CNN's winner


Stacey Buckner has already been recognized both locally and nationally for her "Off-Road Outreach" service to homeless veterans. She was named one of CityView's Community Impact Award winners in November after having previously been named a top-10 finalist for CNN's Heroes award, a prize that focuses on service.

On Sunday night, Buckner will find out if she's the winner: CNN will broadcast a live tribute to the 10 finalists and name the top recipient, who gets $100,000 for their service program. Buckner's already there in New York, but before departing Fayetteville, she spoke with CityView's Bill Horner III about what's in store over the weekend.

You’re leaving for New York when?

CNN is flying me and my wife out [on Friday], and we are going to be there from Friday to Monday. And we have rehearsal on Saturday and then Sunday at 8 p.m., the results will be live on CNN. I will find out when everyone else finds out. 

So you’ve gotten no indication about whether you’ve won?

No indication at all. And I’ve got to tell you — and I know people say this all the time — but I feel like I have already won. Just being in the top 10 has brought so much exposure to our mission and the fact that we are the largest neighbor to the largest military base in the world. It's just crazy that we have homeless veterans here. 

How has being nominated for the CNN Heroes program changed you and your approach to the work that you do? 

Well, it's funny that you asked, because I live in Fayetteville. I work here. I work at the VA here. The Heroes award has opened up so many doors outside Fayetteville, into other communities which have homeless veterans and don't know how to serve that population. So it's changed our mission in that our reach is greater now and so are the resources. 

The announcement is Sunday, but what's going to happen between now and Sunday? 

On Friday evening, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the hotel where all of the heroes are staying, we’ll meet with the other nine heroes. We have a meet and greet, very casual, just to get to know the other heroes. Because I think that collaboration — even if I don't win — just having that collaboration with those other nine Heroes is going to be instrumental in helping our mission. 

And then on Saturday we will be rehearsing and going over our speeches and fine-tuning things. And then on Sunday is the actual day of the event, it's the All-Star Tribute. It'll be hosted by Anderson Cooper. There are a lot of celebrities that will be there, which I'm excited about, but I'm also like, I mean, what a change of dynamic. Usually at award shows, it's celebrities announcing other celebrities. But they’ll just be announcing everyday people, which I find just incredible. 

And then Monday morning, we have a class on what to do when we get back. It's kind of like a training session with the Elevate Prize Foundation [the organization that matched donations to the top 10 CNN Heroes for GivingTuesday]. They will teach us what to do and how to handle all of the media exposure and how to make the best of this platform for funding. 

The winner of the CNN Hero of the Year gets $100,000 donated to their organization. I think that's the best part — $100,000 could go a long way for what we do. [The other nine nominees each get $10,000.]

How do you think this exposure will change your work and your mission?

Oh, my gosh. I think it's just going to take us national, Bill, I do. Like I said, we're just here in Fayetteville. I think that it's going to spread us over into other states to become a national program. And a lot of people focus on the homeless veterans outreach program that we do because it tugs on folks' heartstrings. But we do a lot more than just that. We have our Veggies for Vets program. We're trying to put a Veggies for Vets garden in every VA across the nation. So I think that's going to help. If I win, that will help with this mission to do that. And we're trying to bring tiny homes, a tiny home community, with wraparound services, to Fayetteville as well.

You said that you feel like you've already won. But what would it mean to you to win? 

It would mean that I know that God has put me on the right path. I know that I'm on the right path. I already feel that way. But that would just validate it even more. And it would also mean just helping our veterans, which is my passion. 

stacey buckner, homeless population, military veterans, CNN heroes