Volunteer Fairfax was not able to hold an in-person breakfast this year to honor Fairfax County’s top volunteers, so the organization instead held its 29th annual Volunteer Service Awards in a “virtual” environment.
“We witnessed time and time again how our neighbors show up to make a difference in moments of crisis,” said Emily Swenson, Volunteer Fairfax’s chief operating officer, who served as the event’s master of ceremonies.
“Today, we’re celebrating the giving spirit of volunteerism,” said Steve Mutty, CEO of Volunteer Fairfax.
Volunteer Fairfax received 180 nominations in competitive categories. Ceremony attendees received a special message from actor Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in two “Star Wars” movies.
“From a galaxy far, far away, I’m here to thank each and every one of you for being the greatest volunteers in the galaxy,” Williams said. “Not all superheroes wear capes, but you guys definitely should. This year has been very challenging, but even in the midst of that challenge, you were a force to be reckoned with and carbon-froze the competition with your selflessness, hard work and dedication.”
Even during the pandemic, Volunteer Fairfax mobilized 14,000 people who contributed more than 41,000 hours to meet regional and community needs, said U.S. Gerald Connolly (D-11th). This service was worth more than $1 million, he said.
“These volunteers have shown a willingness to give back, to help others and to improve our communities,” Connolly said.
Ginger Bristow of Leidos, who serves as Volunteer Fairfax’s board president, congratulated the honorees for their service.
“Your commitment to supporting this community is more crucial now than ever,” she said. “You found ways to go virtual, maintain distance, stay safe and make sure that truly, good connects us in times of need.”
Volunteer Fairfax leaders created new, mission-focused categories this year for the Volunteer Service Awards to reflect especially relevant work during the pandemic-altered past year, Bristow said.
This year’s honorees were:
• Ana Perez, who works for the emergency-food-distribution group Comunidad, won the Hunger Hero Award
• The Neighbor-to-Neighbor program of the Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) received the Hunger Heroes Group Award.
• Mike Mulreany, who volunteers with the Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia’s Adventures in Learning program, received the Education and Literacy Award.
• GrandInvolve, which supports childhood education by working with Title I elementary schools in Fairfax County, won the Education and Literacy Group Award.
• Sara Holtz, who removes invasive plants in Oakton, labels storm drains and teaches people how to limit and recycle waste items, won the Environmental Sustainability Award.
“I do strongly encourage everybody to volunteer in the outdoors, for the benefit of nature,” Holtz said.
• The South Run Park landscape team, led by Sally Berman, received the Environmental Sustainability Group Award.
• Leslie Ann Wertz, who works as an operator for Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia, received the Quality of Life Award.
• Fairfax County Animal Shelter’s custody fosters received the Quality of Life Group Award.
• Nancy Jesurun-Clements, who since 2018 has worked with the Volunteer Interpreter Program at the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, won the Social Advocacy Award.
“The work I do brings me great satisfaction because I witness the immense love parents have for their kids and their eagerness to look for options to help them,” she said.
• Express-team leaders of Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church Inc., who install safety, energy and ventilation improvements for seniors, received the Social Advocacy Group Award.
• Northwest Federal Credit Union, which has been supporting local food pantries and social-service organizations during the pandemic, received the Corporate Volunteer Program Award.
• Mary Beth Cockerham, who volunteers for myriad local groups, won the RSVP Volunteer Award.
• Sophia Brown, who fostered a partnership between Wheels to Africa and the Girl Scouts of America to send bicycles and books to Africa, won the Youth Leadership Award.
• Gerald Kirwin of the Fairfax County Court Service Unit won the Fairfax County Volunteer Award.
• The Fairfax County CERT Program, which provided emergency food distribution and other services to residents during the pandemic, won Fairfax County Volunteer Program Award.
• Doug Davidson, a lawyer who volunteers for Capital Caring Health, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Volunteer Fairfax also honored Community Champions chosen by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:
• Diane Watson, who was chosen by Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D).
• Elizabeth “Betsy” Clevenger (Braddock District).
• Fanny Salazer-Laske (Dranesville District).
• Lydia Russo (Hunter Mill District).
• Michelle Menapace (Lee District).
• Bob Kahane (Mason District).
• Rev. Dr. Brian Brown (Mount Vernon District).
• Judith Schneider-Fletcher (Providence District).
• Stacey Brumbaugh (Springfield District).
• Rev. Dr. Brenda McBorrough (Sully District).
To watch the ceremony, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=huigtluoVBY.