Arlington volunteers lauded for service to community

Betty Ahern, foreground, was honored with the Lifetime of Service Award at the 2019 “Arlington Cares” celebration, held July 23 at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association conference center in Ballston. Besider he is Kimberly Roberts, one of the recipients of the Distinguished County Service Award.

When a local senior citizen needs a ride to a medical check-up or other appointment, they often will place a call to the Shepherd’s Center of McLean-Arlington-Falls Church. And if they’re lucky, they’ll find Mark Turco behind the wheel, ready to drive them to and from their destination.

Last year, Turco logged more than 2,115 miles in support of the program, making him the most engaged of local Shepherd’s Center volunteer drivers. This year, he’s on track to equal that mileage.

For his service to the community, Turco was among those honored July 23 at Volunteer Arlington’s “Arlington Cares” celebration of volunteerism.

More than 250 people packed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association conference center in Ballston for the third annual event.

“There’s power in giving to others – our lives are enriched and our community is enriched,” said Lisa Fikes, executive director of Volunteer Arlington, a collaborative effort between the Leadership Center for Excellence and the county government.

Volunteers “understand the meaning of joy,” Fikes said. “We share their stories in the hope they will inspire us all – ask them what they do, why they do it and how you can get engaged.”

For Turco, serving as a volunteer driver is a chance to “get out of the house and get to meet very interesting people.”

“It’s always a pleasure,” he said.

County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey, who presented the awards, marveled at the “incredible, incredible showing” for the event. He saluted volunteers’ focus on “joy through service.”

Volunteerism in Arlington comes in all age groups. The youngest honoree of the evening was rising Yorktown High School senior Galilee Ambellu, who was lauded for a host of efforts in and out of school.

Among her activities, Ambellu volunteers at Virginia Hospital Center, as her ambition is to be an obstetrician.

“Being with babies all day is really uplifting,” she said, drawing chuckles as she acknowledged that “spending time with adults isn’t as amazing” as with newborns.

On the other end of the experience spectrum was Betty Ahern, lauded with the Lifetime of Service Award for several decades of work in support of the Arlington County Detention Facility, run by the Arlington Sheriff’s Office.

Also honored at the event:

• The Fagerstrom family – six members in all – were saluted for their efforts in support of Encore Stage & Studio.

• Kathryn Martin and Kimberly Roberts were honored for their service to the county government.

• Eagle Hill Consulting was honored for its support of Offender Aid and Restoration.

• Laura Jackson was honored for work as volunteer coordinator first for the Arlington Food Assistance Center and more recently for AHC Inc.

“I feel incredibly privileged,” Jackson said, reporting she had the best job in the world.

“Every day, I am inspired,” Jackson said.

Volunteer Arlington connects the community with more than 200 non-profit organizations in need of support. At the July 23 event, nearly 500 individuals who had given more than 100 hours of volunteer service to a participating organization were noted.

Those volunteers are making “a true difference in our community,” said Leadership Center for Excellence CEO Karen Coltrane.

“Volunteering feeds the soul,” said Coltrane, adding that Volunteer Arlington seeks “to deepen the breadth and depth of the volunteer spirit here in Arlington.”

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