Whether working as firefighters, cleaning up local waterways, protecting homeless people from winter’s harshness or ensuring students are properly fed, volunteers make Fairfax County work better.
“In Fairfax County, we could not run this community without volunteers,” said U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-11th) at the 27th annual Volunteer Service Awards, held April 24 at the Waterford in Springfield. “Every aspect of life is undergirded by people willing to give of themselves.”
The event, led by master of ceremonies was Tisha Lewis of FOX5 DC, honored the nearly 13,400 volunteers who last year donated about 47,270 hours’ worth of time to aid the community.
Officials estimated that service was worth about $1.3 million, but Connolly said it was hard to put a price tag on volunteerism’s impacts. He quoted Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund: “Volunteerism is the rent we pay for the air we breathe.”
Volunteer Fairfax officials celebrated the achievements of 150 nominated people and groups and bestowed competitive awards in these categories: Adult Volunteer (Under 250 Hours), Danae Delman of Capital Caring; Adult Volunteer (Over 250 Hours), Julie Hill of Reading Together; Adult Volunteer Group, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; RSVP Northern Virginia, Shelley Brosnan; Senior Volunteer, Alcira Pernot; Volunteer Program, ECHO; Youth Volunteer, Carmela Dangale; and Youth Volunteer Group, Stoney Brook Junior Volunteers.
Officials also gave awards in these categories: Family Volunteer, Linda and Stefanie Kline; Fairfax County Government Volunteer, Steven Richardson; Fairfax County Government Volunteer Program, Fairfax County Public Library; Corporate Volunteer Program, Mount Vernon Center for Dentistry; Rising Star, Stephanie Bridgewater; and Lifetime Achievement, Kevin Holland.
As they do each year, Board of Supervisors members each honored people and groups as “Community Champions.”
Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) selected as his champion Allan Boswell Robertson, president of Save Lake Accotink, who has organized many community events to encourage neighbors to help preserve the lake.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) chose Homer Johns, who for more than 52 years held leadership roles in the Great Falls and McLean volunteer fire departments.
Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) chose as her champion St. John Neumann Catholic Church, which during a bitterly cold spell in January 2018 activated a Hypothermia Prevention Response Program that provided meals, clothing and a place to sleep for homeless people.
In Lee District, Supervisor Jeff McKay (D) selected Liz Murphy, president of People for Equity in Fairfax County Public Schools, for helping struggling students, children in need of Christmas gifts and community members who needed help from faith-based groups.
Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) picked as her champion Binod Gupta, whose efforts with county officials led to a refurbished Backlick Park.
In Mount Vernon District, Supervisor Daniel Storck (D) selected Jonathan Kiell of the Office of Emergency Management’s Volunteer Corps for his work at building disaster resiliency in Fairfax County.
Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) honored as her champion the Oakton Women’s Club for its efforts to ensure Fairfax County students, especially those attending Luther Jackson Middle School, get fed through the group’s partnership with No Kid Hungry.
In Springfield District, Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R) chose Jenni Cantwell of the Athletic Council, who advocates for women’s sports offerings in the county and tries to improve children’s developmental and educational opportunities.
Supervisor Kathy Smith (D-Sully) selected Carol Robinson, who volunteers with many organizations and donates clothing, books, food and school supplies to non-profits such as Western Fairfax Christian Ministries, Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter, Habitat for Humanity and BritePaths.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) picked as her champion John Pellegrin, who served for more than 10 years as her appointee to the Small Business Commission and regularly runs the annual Ethics and Leadership Day, where he presides over mock trials.
Bulova read a Volunteer Day proclamation issued by the Board of Supervisors.
“In Fairfax County, we really do have a special and unique culture for volunteerism,” she said. “There is nothing that happens in Fairfax County without volunteers being involved.”
Volunteers derive personal satisfaction while helping the community, said Volunteer Fairfax CEO Steve Mutty, who encouraged people to assist with activities that resonated with them.
“While the spark to volunteer might come from a person’s sense of duty to serve, what drives them to volunteer often, and makes them a great volunteer over time, is a personal connection they have to the work they are doing,” said Mutty, who unveiled a new campaign slogan for the group: “Volunteering: It’s personal.”