Story 1: Meet Brianna Kennedy
Story 2: Family Bonds despite Separation
Story 3: The Games of Heroes
Story 4: A Family in Action
Story 5: Community Ambassador Cares
Story 6: Be Prepared!
Story 7: Help and Hope for the Homeless Story 8: Booing, it's a Tradition
Story 9: Service While in the Service
Story 10: Serving Those Who Served
Story 11: Not too young to give
Story 12: A Busy Retirement
Story 13: Legacy of Appreciation
Story 14: Family Tradition
Story 15: Sharing the Love
Story 16: Committed to Community
Story 17: Follow your Heart
Story 18: Help in the Storm
Story 19: Volunteer Fairfax House
Story 20: Partner in Youth Volunteerism
Story 21: Volunteering in America
Story 22: You've Got to Have Friends
Story 23: So Grateful Helpful Friends
Story 24: Secret Santa
Story 25: Internship to Career
Curious about other ways to volunteer with Pathway Homes?
1) Event Support – Set up, clean up, etc., as well as helping clients enjoy the event.
2) Quality of Life/Companionship - Teaching computer, language, reading, writing skills as well as serving as buddies for residents.
3) Administrative Support – Manning the front desk and using professional skills in distributing and tracking medications, manning the front desk, etc.
Visit www.pathwayhomes.org/volunteer to learn more.
Fantasy Lunch: Oprah Winfrey-I admire her business acumen and how she lifts people up.
Guilty Pleasure: A nice glass of wine.
Carina's To-Do List: Taste sea urchin, stay in a log cabin, write a short story, get a bicycle, run another 10-miler. (Previously ran the Cherry Blossom.)
Free time: Cook Cuban chicken with beans; go to a winery with Mark; book club friends
“I just love this!” Judy adds, “It gives the three of us a chance to work as a family on something truly positive. What’s also important to me is that Audra and Emmalyn get the opportunity to interact with a really diverse group of people. Rather than merely delivery food donation to a distribution center, we get to see and talk with the actual recipients. It’s an amazing person-to-person experience.”
Wymore-Kirkland says, “David is an outstanding example of the commitment and compassion that Fairfax County employees have for the community they serve both personally and professionally. The work that he’s done in the Visitation Center serves as a constant inspiration to staff and other volunteers.”
“There are certain things you cannot learn from a text book. Through my CSJP internship with PRS, not only did I learn real- world skills, eventually I got a real-world job.”
Childhood: I was a sports kid! Soccer!
Influenced by: Professor Daniel Walsh at George Mason. He said, “Tell your story and make people believe it.”
Leisure time: Hiking. I would hike everyday if I could.
Cat or dog: Dog! Cooper.
Fantasy lunch: The producers of The Walking Dead.
Internships! They are part of the collegiate experience for many students. Often you hear stories about internships being a semester of coffee making and envelope stuffing. But at VF, internships are a real pathway to career!
In August of 1999, a Public Administration student from James Madison University arrived to intern at VF and she never left! Emily Swenson began her tenure at the volunteer center as an administrative intern. She was dedicated and succeeded at progressively responsible duties. Following graduation, she stayed on, and during her 17-year career with VF, both she and the center have grown. From intern to Chief Operating Officer, Emily is a guiding hand and walking history book. On any given day, she might be supervising staff, wrestling the budget, fixing a computer hookup, or volunteering in the community with her young family. Recently, as a tribute to our former intern, a very thoughtful donation was received at Volunteer Fairfax: $10 for every year of Emily’s service.
Just about Thanksgiving time, the Secret Santamystery begins anew!First, every VF staffer’s name goes into a hat. Next, each staff member draws the name of a colleague. Then…the secret-keeping begins!
If you have drawn the name of your lunch partner, your Santa job is easy because you probably know your giftee’sfavorite music or candle scent. But if you have drawn the new kid on the block, you may have to get intel from office elves.
The gift drop location is identified and stealthy Santas deposit wrapped presents to the agreed-upon location. Only the name of the recipient is listed. Some deep-cover Santas use technology to print out the recipient’s name so as to avoid handwriting detection.
The big day arrives and the staff gathers…no phones…Santa rule. One person is the gift elf and each staff member —who have ALL been good ALL year—receives a much anticipated present. It is a great time of laughs, surprises, inside jokes, and sometimes tears.
When every present is open, the fun really begins because it is time to guess who your Secret Santa is! Santa Rule…you get three chances. Solving your Secret Santa’s identity is just too much fun.
After all the Santas have been revealed, everyone is starving and ready for a Santa-size lunch. Secret Santa Day is one of the most-anticipated traditions at the volunteer center; a festive way for us to appreciate each and every staff person for year-round good works and good cheer.
Happy Holidays to Us, Everyone!
Here at the volunteer center, we are always in need of the tools and materials that help us accomplish fix-up, spruce up, clean-up projects we perform for neighborhood nonprofits. Recently, a VF staff member approached Twins Ace Hardware for a financial contribution to support these important community tasks. They had an even better idea!
Kim Luckabaugh contacted Craig Smith of Twins Ace Hardware to request sponsorship of the 22nd presentation of VolunteerFest, our region-wide day of service. Jeff shared that he gets several similar requests per week and he wishes he could fulfill each and every one. Based upon his high regard for Kim and that fact that they “hate to say no,” brothers offered an in-kind donation option. “What do you need?” Need? Volunteer Fairfax has a never-ending need for hardware items for community projects. A call was made back to the Volunteer Fairfax office and a hardware store Wish List was quickly presented. It included paint brushes and rollers, drop cloths and work gloves, and a Shop Vac!
It was like Christmas in October the day that several Ace Hardware bags—and one really big box--arrived in the office. Staff gathered round to share the excitement. Jessica Warren was especially pleased because as Corporate Services and Event Coordinator, she will be able to put these items to immediate good use on business to charity (B2C) projects, what we call BusinessLink at Volunteer Fairfax.
Craig and his brother Jeff are the owners of Twins Ace Hardware founded in 2011. Located in Fairfax, they have a new location opening in Arlington. As mentioned, these businessmen receive a fair number of donation requests. For Craig it is important if a request fulfills a need for a local project that can benefit directly from what Ace Hardware can offer. “We are an independent, local business. We should be supporting the community. They support us.”
At this time of year, as the Giving Season nears and our thoughts turn to gratitude, we know we could not accomplish our mission of creating a better community through service without you. Whether you have given your valuable time, your professional talents, or your hard-earned treasure, we are so grateful for your support of volunteerism. We thank Craig and Jeff Smith for their creative solution to our request for support, and we wish Twins Hardware the best as they open doors of their new store in Arlington.
“I don’t know how we would have met otherwise.” Sue Dussinger says speaking about her good friend Shelley Brosnan. “Now we follow each other to volunteer projects.”
Volunteering has many, many personal benefits. But friendships made during volunteer activities are one of the greatest benefits…just ask Sue.
On the last Saturday of each month, these volunteers and friends gather at Ladrey Senior Residence in Alexandria where they help distribute groceries to low-income families. The project, ALIVE! (Alexandrians Involved Ecumenically) is part of VF’s Volunteers for Change calendar. Besides Sue and Shelley, there are other VFCers, Jane Foster, Barbara Gartley, Pat Klenow and Michelle Shea.
These ladies obviously enjoy serving together. They are a good team, smiling and conversing while their hands are busy performing tasks and helping clients. Later after the work is done, the friends jump in their vehicles and head for The Sugar Shack for a well-deserved coffee and donut. There they chat about their weekend plans and upcoming volunteer activities.
Each woman has a different life story. There’s Jane from Indiana, Pat from Michigan and Michelle from Pennsylvania. They have led busy lives: Like Barbara caring for her parents and Jane working with the NFL. Some of the ladies have children and others have pets. But at point—in their very unique paths--each was inspired to get involved in volunteering. Their reasons for volunteering were also varied: “Seeking something different.” “Keep me from shopping.” And, “Access to opportunities.”
What they found was a world of opportunity…the opportunity to have an impact on meaningful projects like supporting women in developing nations and making lunches for the hungry; the opportunity to attend events and see shows while volunteering at Wolf Trap, Ford’s Theater and at the Library of Congress; and the opportunity to exercise leadership skills as team captain on service projects.
As they got involved in these community projects another wonderful opportunity occurred…friendships developed among these women who -- though different in experience—are like-minded in their commitment to volunteerism and now to each other. “Who else is going?” they ask when discussing an activity. And, Shelley stated, “Now that we’ve made such good friendships, there is a personal commitment to each other, not just the project, because you don’t want to let each other down.”
Barbara added, “My discovery of VFC has been wonderful and the friendships made are a bonus!”
Well, the donuts are finished now and these busy volunteers and friends are off to more Saturday activities. There’s lots of research about how volunteering helps the community. But on this morning in the donut shop, the research doesn’t matter. The friendships matter.
You’ve Got to Have Friends by Bette Midler
At 18 years, Joseph is already a veteran traveler. Born in Korea, Joseph has crossed the globe several times. With family in Ilsan, Korea and in Annandale, Virginia, Joseph grew up bi-culturally. “I attended second grade here. That’s where I learned English.” By 5th grade, Joseph was back in Korea (this time in Seoul) and he returned again to the States as a teen. Although his residence changed several times, there was a constant in his heart…the desire to help people.
“As a child I had no thing I could offer…but I could listen. And, people often shared their hearts with me.”
Residing with his uncle in Annandale, 16-year-old Joseph, decided to stay and explore his passion for helping “in this country called America.” Joseph has a mentor who helped homeschool Joseph and has worked to “draw out my flavor.”
Joseph’s “flavor” continued to be one of wanting to help people. Last year he enrolled in classes at Northern Virginia Community College to study social sciences. One day, this past July, Joseph (now 18) saw a Meet Up post for a Volunteers For Change orientation. In an attempt to explore how his desire to help could work in the “real world” he took the bus to the meeting.
Joseph has hit the ground running! In his first month as a member of VFC, he has already volunteered at Food for All packing and delivering food, at Shelter House Kids’ Night and at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm Book Sale. In just a few weeks, Joseph has already made an impact! “I was nervous at first (walking in to the volunteer site) but quickly I became comfortable with the people. They were very open with me.”
Joseph does not have a car. So how does he get to all of these activities? “I ride my brother’s bike. Or I take the bus.” “How long does that take, on the bus?” “It can take 2 - 3 hours…”
Volunteering, it has become a part of Joseph’s American Life. It helps him feel connected to his adopted country. “And, I want to do what I can do.” One day Joseph hopes to run a nonprofit organization. More helping in America!
Working with youth to engage them in service is a high priority at Volunteer Fairfax. To achieve this mission, Volunteer Fairfax partners with equally committed key leaders in the youth community. Ramona Morrow is one such partner and friend. Through the PTA, Mona has devoted nearly 30 years of service to Fairfax County Public Schools. What began as classroom support grew into leadership positions on the local and state levels.
Mona was born in South Hill (VA) and on her 7th birthday she got a present…a baby sister. She was raised in Chesterfield and met her Air Force Captain husband while working for the Defense General Supply Center. Their duty stations included Norton Air Force Base, Wright Patterson AFB, Andrews and the Pentagon. With their children thriving in Fairfax County Public Schools, they decided to put down roots.
A proposed school boundary change launched Mona into activism. She was determined that her community would be part of the decision process. Mona attended school and county meetings where she met other engaged parents.
“Because of the enthusiasm of great PTA leaders I met, including Cathy Belter (former FCPS School Board member), Mary Gormley, Jan McKeever and Rosemary Angel, I quickly became involved. They encouraged me and the end result--serving with fantastic volunteers and other leaders--has been most rewarding.”
Volunteer Fairfax is grateful to Mona. When we reached out to her—in her role as president of Fairfax County Council PTA--to discuss youth volunteerism and asked for her help in reaching families, she threw the doors open! She took our meeting, offered her support, distributed our information materials, and invited us to FCCPTA activities where we could network with PTA leadership.
In 2014, Ramona Morrow Watson was nominated for a Fairfax County Volunteer Service Award by Karen Garza, FCPS Superintendent. Through an independent panel of judges, Mona received the award for Lifetime Achievement having dedicated more than 45,000 hours to advocating for children.
Since completing her term with the FCCPTA, Mona has gone on to serve at the state level currently as Family Engagement Committee Chair. She continues her focus on empowering families and community members to advocate for all children. Thank you, Mona! Our children are fortunate to have such an outstanding champion!
If you have ever driven by the Fairfax County Courthouse, you may have seen our office. But, maybe not… The location is a frenzied pocket of cars and official vehicles, high rises and concrete, one-way streets and parking-space seekers. In the midst of this busyness, there’s a small grey house with red shutters. If you missed the sign, you may wonder, “What is that little house?” That is the home of Volunteer Fairfax, which we affectionately refer to as “The Bungalow.”
The Bungalow, located at 10530 Page Avenue, is a Cape Cod style house, one of the few still remaining from back in the day when it was built, in the late 1930’s. We have learned that it was built by Miss Mary Orrell Ambler. Mary was born in Fredericksburg, VA, on December 25, 1885. She became an English teacher here in Fairfax County, ending her long career at Fairfax High School.
She built a sturdy house. Three levels of compact, cozy rooms—no open concept here: floors and doors of solid wood, narrow closets, and two really steep staircases off the main floor. At the front entrance, there’s an original wooden screen door, the kind that slams behind you on a hot summer day.
After Miss Ambler’s passing, the house was bought by Mr. and Mrs. James Case who raised their three children here. Then, according to records, the entire property was deeded to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor on February 21, 1958. Growth and development has, as of today, spared The Bungalow and Volunteer Fairfax has occupied the house since October 1974. Originally, the volunteer center shared the space, but the center has grown to a staff of 12 and is now the sole happy and snug occupant.
You could say that Volunteer Fairfax staff has a mixed relationship with the house that Miss Ambler Built. We work three to four desks per “office.” Jeanne Sanders (executive director 2005-15) would occasionally ask if there was room for additional desks.
The staff has pet names for certain sections. There’s “the West Wing” and “the Jason closet” and the “Penthouse.” There are nooks and crannies everywhere, great for storage. There are hot spots and cold corners. And, everyone who enters the house is warned, “Be careful of the stairs!” They were built to be very steep.
Our Conference room is really the “Everything” room… The tables and chairs are opened or stacked depending on the function of the day. Sometimes it is the celebration room, the lunch room, the storage unit, project space, pre-event staging area and post-event dumping ground. Of course, we do have meetings and conferences there.
Standing outside of the house is a big oil drum. Nadia, one of our recent hires, a young Millennium, asked “What is that thing?” On occasion, that thing outside will run out of oil and you will find staff inside working in their parkas.
In the fall of 2015, it was announced that a new CEO, Elise Neil Bengtson, had been hired. VF staff asked the question, “Has she actually seen our offices?” Upon her arrival, Elise was charmed by her new surroundings and very impressed with all the good work that comes out of this little house.
Despite our challenges with space and stairs and room temps, there’s something comforting in this old house. It has character. What we do, supporting our community, is part of our character. Our community awards and county proclamations line the walls and fill the fireplace mantel. Our logo, Xman, is artistically tumbling his way throughout the building, in VF blue paint.
On any given day, you will find every bit of available floor space stacked with boxes of materials ready to go out to a community project; or project remnants that have returned from an event that did “good for the community.” These materials can include gardening equipment, emergency preparedness kits, supplies for packing projects, and paint paraphernalia. Thus, on our lunchroom refrigerator door, there is a sign that says, “No paint brushes.” That’s so Volunteer Fairfax!
Having learned that the builder of The Bungalow was a dedicated English teacher and educator, it feels appropriate that we are occupying her home. She worked to build a better community. It is a fitting legacy for Volunteer Fairfax to fulfill.
The weather over the December holidays was unseasonably mild. 2015 was going out like a lamb…the sun was shining and winter coats remained on hangers in the closet.
Then came January and suddenly it was winter! Storm Jonas was on the way. Fierce and cold and snowy white. Advance weather reports warned people to prepare and stay safe.
Big events—snowstorms, hurricanes, or other disasters-- are a time that call for a cohesive community plan to cope and recover. Emergency preparedness, while it may not be widely known, is a year-round concentration for Fairfax County. Keeping citizens safe and community services functioning is a high-priority for our officials. As the area volunteer center, our role during a declared county emergency is to manage volunteers and donations. As Winter Storm Jonas approached, Volunteer Fairfax received word from the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that we were being “activated.”
While planning and preparing is part of Volunteer Fairfax’s year-round mission, being activated is not something that happens often in our year. It means that a serious community event is expected and Volunteer Fairfax is needed to staff the EOC to field phone calls from citizens who are requesting help or offering help.
As the storm blanketed our region with a record amount of snow, streets disappeared, cars were buried and phone calls began coming in to the EOC from area citizens in need of assistance.* Many calls came from essential workers (like doctors and nurses) who needed a way to get to work and others with important transportation needs. At these times, Volunteer Fairfax will reach out to our networks and on Social Media for volunteers with 4-wheel drive vehicles to come forward.
One such call came in to the EOC with a very pressing need. A foot- and- a-half of snow had fallen and a woman said her mother was in the hospital. The end was very near and the caller had no way to get to the hospital during the height of the snow storm. VF staff immediately sprang into action and located a volunteer with a 4-wheel drive who was able to get a concerned and worried daughter to her mother’s side for the last hours of her life. It is indeed a gratifying experience for Volunteer Fairfax staff to be able to serve the community in this way, during such a stressful time.
Later, as the storm calmed and the shoveling began, the following message was received by Volunteer Fairfax:
“My Mother passed away last evening. Thanks to the VF Emergency Ride program, Craig and Lona McVeay drove me from my Centreville home to Inova Fairfax Hospital on that very snowy Saturday night. I treasure that precious time with her while she was rather coherent throughout that weekend. Unfortunately, she quickly declined thereafter. This gift of time allowed me to be with and reassure my Mom who had dementia. It also helped me to ensure that her end-of-life directives were followed. For this, I am forever grateful. Thank you for touching our lives! (Kindly share my appreciation for this with Craig and Lona.)”
With this message, came a generous donation from a grateful daughter.
At Volunteer Fairfax we often say that “You must follow your heart” when it comes to service. Evy Sheehan, a member of Volunteers for Change, has done just that for the past 20 years, dedicating her heart and hands to the important work at the Northern Virginia Training Center (NVTC).
The Northern Virginia Training Center opened its doors in April 1973 as a residential campus for people with intellectual and related disabilities. In addition to providing housing, the Center provided medical services, physical and occupational therapy, social work and psychological counseling. A key component in making this facility feel like home was regular social activities with the residents. Through the time and attention offered by Volunteers for Change members, residents became friends and the volunteers became the “Fun Bunch.”
Evy Sheehan, Team Captain of the Fun Bunch and the other volunteers would visit weekly at the facility, spending time with residents. Over the years, Evy has truly valued the relationships that were forged…while having fun! Fun Bunch activities included playing games, doing arts and crafts, or going on field trips to area attractions such as fall hayrides or a holiday visit with Santa. Volunteers were sure to include everyone in the activities, modifying when necessary. Musical chairs became musical wheelchairs! In addition to the regularly scheduled events, both residents and volunteers enjoyed just chatting and visiting with one another.
Over her 20 years of volunteering with NVTC, Evy saw how much the residents gained from these visits and how much they enjoyed seeing the Fun Bunch team each week. There were many dedicated members of the volunteer team. We’d like to thank and name just a few:
and of course Evy Sheehan!
A decision to close the Center has been made pursuant to Statutes that these residents could be better served in a more integrated way. As of January 22, 2016, the center discharged its last resident. Since 1973, it can be said that the NVTC truly benefited its residents and their families, but also the community and volunteers. The impact of the Fun Bunch volunteers had creating a homey environment and forming lasting friendships truly cannot be measured.
Volunteer Fairfax would like to express HEARTfelt thanks to each member of the Fun Bunch for following your heart into service and for your dedication to helping people with special needs in our community. Special thanks to Evy Sheehan, Team Captain extraordinaire!
If you are up early on a Sunday morning, you may just catch Volunteer Fairfax on iHeart Radio stations. About once per month Volunteer Fairfax staff and invited guests sit down in the booth with Bernie Lucas, iHeartMedia public affairs director, to chat about activities at the volunteer center. As you sip morning coffee, we share news about how volunteer service improves our community and how you can become involved.
Our partnership and friendship with iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) is a long one dating back more than 10 years. The media support from iHeartMedia is vital to helping VF achieve our mission of “mobilizing people and resources to meet regional community needs.” Reaching the radio and digital audience of iHeart’s family of channels (97.1 Wash, Big 100.3, Hot 99.5, WMZQ 97.7 and DC101) has a value that is virtually incalculable.
Public Affairs Director, Bernie Lucas is our booth buddy, engineer and sometimes interviewer. He welcomes slightly nervous participants to the booth with soothing messages of “just make it conversational.” We record straight for about 13 minutes. However, many times, when the tape goes off we continue the topical discussion with Bernie…often we think that is the best part!
Bernie has been with iHeart for more than 20 years having grown up in Louisiana and attended the University of New Orleans changing majors “many times.” Bernie says he eventually did go to broadcasting school but in the fullness of time has learned that the best education for his career was a study of “political science and history.” Bernie spent three years at Voice of America (Wash DC) mastering interview techniques and fielding music requests from, oh say, Bulgaria. He has worn many hats during his tenure at Clear Channel/iHeart…Disc Jockey, Creative Services Director, PSA Director, Public Affairs Director…but always with the intent of “wanting to do good.”
Bernie has indeed done “good” at the station. Working with nonprofits--all with a passionate mission--and giving them the opportunity to share that mission with the media giant’s audience can be critical to the success of the agency. As conductor of the Sunday morning interviews, Bernie says “I do this part from my heart.” As a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, Bernie happily shares that he continues to learn through the radio programs he hosts because of the variety of topics covered.
Another hat Bernie wears is member of iHeartMedia’s Local Advisory Board (LAB). Just about four years ago, iHeart upped their commitment to community by establishing the LAB under the direction of Meg Stevens, vice president of programming. The LAB meets quarterly at iHeart’s Rockville offices and is made up of representatives from key regional organizations whose mission is to inform iHeart about issues and concerns in the community and to help guide the media company’s outreach. Volunteer Fairfax is proud to be a part of this esteemed board and equally proud of our continued partnership steeped in our common purpose of “doing good” for our community.
It is February, the month when we celebrate Love, and so it is appropriate for us to share a story of a community partnership that has enabled Volunteer Fairfax to be a conduit for love. This partnership is with Foster Care to Success (FC2S), founded in 1981 by Mr. Joseph Rivers, himself a veteran of the New York orphanage system. Mr. Rivers knew firsthand, not only the experience of growing up in an orphanage, but also the reality of turning 18 and being expected to enter the adult world without family support. He started an outreach program, with other foster care alumni, to help youth successfully transition out of foster care and prepare for adulthood.
Every January, for the past 10 years, Volunteer Fairfax, through our Volunteers for Change program, has worked with FC2S to host the annual Valentine’s Challenge. The challenge and mission of this event is to create--in one day- over 2,000 hand-crafted Valentine’s that will be distributed to former foster care kids who are in college or attending technical school. Dozens of VFC volunteers, their friends, and family members gather at George Mason U to get creative! Each card is unique in its design and carries a message of caring and encouragement. The cards are included in Valentine’s Care Packages, with other donated items including hand-knitted scarfs, and delivered through FC2S.
“Around Valentine’s Day my friends were all getting care packages from their parents. I was kind of bummed out thinking I wouldn’t be getting anything, but then your package arrived in the mail. There were tons of useful items, a beautiful red scarf that was perfect for the winter, and a handwritten note telling me how much I was loved. I almost cried when I read the note. And of course, I showed off the package to all of my friends! ”
– Vanessa M
Every year the Valentine’s Challenge is a lovefest! Some volunteers come to the Challenge at George Mason University year after year. Others, as young as two years old, are creating Valentine’s for the first time. Volunteer Fairfax provides materials and a light lunch and the volunteers supply their creativity, inspirational messages, and sometimes bring their own special materials. The hall at GMU is awash with pink and red and everyone is smiling! Some attendees come as individuals, meeting new friends while crafting. Some come as a club or group as part of their civic engagement. And some come with family and friends, enjoying the quality time with loved ones while demonstrating to young children the importance of giving back to the community.
When youth age out of the foster care system at age 18, they face many challenges. Those who desire to continue their education will find help through FC2S, whose wider mission includes providing scholarships to community colleges, 4-year colleges and technical schools. For these former foster care kids, up to 2,500 students, FC2S mails a care package 3 times a year (Oct., Feb., and May). FC2S receives many emails of appreciation for the care packages, including messages to thank the person(s) who made the card or knitted the scarf. One young woman who graduated from college through a FC2S scholarship went to work for an organization that participated in putting the care packages together. When she saw the red scarf, she knew she was personally connected!
Volunteer Fairfax is grateful to the VFC members and everyone who comes out each year to the Valentine’s Challenge. The event is always fun, but also meaningful. And, we are grateful for the opportunity to support Mr. River’s dream of helping foster care youth. Since his passing in 1990, his foster sister, Eileen McCaffrey, as executive director, has grown FC2S into the largest provider of college funding and support services for foster youth in the nation. Learn more. Now that’s sharing the love!
Parents do not always know the influence they are having on young children. But Sara Holtz (an active Volunteers for Change member, a Volunteer Fairfax Community Ambassador, a member of Waples Mill Elementary School *STAMP program, and an alumna of the Peace Corps) discovered recently that her son David was indeed watching and learning.
Last year, David was a 4th grade student at Waples Mill Elementary. One day his teacher asked students to write about their favorite family traditions. To the delight and surprise of mom, Sara, David wrote about their family tradition of volunteering…specifically, their annual participation in Volunteer Fairfax’s Give Together event held each year on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service.
Here is what he wrote:
“For Martin Luther King Day my brother, my sister, my mom, Mr. Duffy, other Waples Mill students and families, and I volunteer. We go to the Jewish Community Center in Fairfax. We’ve been going for three years. 2015 will be our fourth year. My mom volunteers with Volunteer Fairfax and learned about it in 2012 so we participated. She is on the STAMP committee and now it is an annual STAMP event. Last year we made cards for soldiers and made snack bags for families at Ronald McDonald House.”
David, now 10 years old, said “it wasn’t hard” to pick this volunteering as a family-favorite tradition. He recalls several Give Together activities that he and his family have done but his favorite was making the tissue paper flowers for the senior community “because the flowers were so colorful.”
The Holtz family is active in many civic activities. Boy Scouts. Girl Scouts. And, when the family goes on hikes, they take plastic bags for cleanup, part of the seven principles of Leave No Trace (LNT.org). They encourage others to do the same.
David’s family tradition goes beyond his mother’s example. When Sara was young, her parents were dedicated to service. Research supports findings that raising children who perform volunteer service will most often result in continued service as an adult.
It can be said that volunteers serve without expectation of reward. As the heart of volunteerism in the community for the past 40 years, at Volunteer Fairfax, we know this to be true. However, every year for 23 years, it has been our pleasure to publicly thank these selfless volunteers who make our community a vibrant and healthy place to live, work and play.
The Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards were launched in 1993 and are held each year in April--in conjunction with National Volunteer Week. The awards are co-presented with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors whose support helps make the awards possible. As an event, there are themes and table decorations; speakers and photographers. But, at its core, the Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards are about celebrating the stories of volunteerism and the impact it has on our community.
Each year, nominations open in January. There are 16 categories -- adults, youth, corporate, government, organizations, etc. The nomination process is open to all community members and begins with the completion of the online nomination form at www.volunteerfairfax.org. After the nominations are completed and submitted, a panel of esteemed judges spend countless hours examining the nominations and narrowing them down to the top one for each category. Not an easy task!
Since the launching of the FFX Volunteer Service Awards, more than 2,900 recipients and nominees have been recognized! Each year the event hosts over 400 attendees including dignitaries at state, local, and federal levels, and leaders of business, education, and civic organizations.
There have been so many memorable moments! We had a full house and a rapt audience the year General Colin Powell addressed the event. There was the high school student (an award winner) who--despite a full-court press by Volunteer Fairfax--declined to attend the event in favor of SAT pre-testing! One year our centerpieces were fish bowls with live betta fish that were sold to attendees. And, Congressman Gerry Connelly always jokes about finding a parking space! Conversely, there was not a dry eye in the house when an award was bestowed on a family who lost a child, and in his name they started an organization to ensure that children received a gift at Christmas. We have enjoyed the volunteer emcee services of Derek McGinty of WUSA, Doug McKelway and Jeff Goldberg of WJLA-TV.
And, the themes! Each year a theme is selected which guides the program, the script, and the room décor! Themes have included “A Time to Serve,” “Only in America,” Agents of Change,” “Take A Bow,” ”Superheroes: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Impact” and the Seussical “Oh, The Impact You Make!” But, it is really the volunteers and the volunteer stories that are the stars of the show. Volunteer Fairfax is in the unique position to be touched by THE STORIES each year as they arrive via nomination.
The Awards could not happen without the entire staff at Volunteer Fairfax. All staffers at the volunteer center and many dedicated volunteers are involved in this process which— like the painting of the San Francisco Bridge—is almost a year-round project. The awards require strategic planning, creative brainstorming, fierce timelines, targeted communications, and some elbow grease and –on event day—alarm clocks! All hands are on deck early on event day, making sure everything is sufficiently festive at 7:30 am when doors open and guests begin to arrive. And then, the best part -- the surprise, the joy, the pride, the hugs, and the handshakes of the presenters, nominators, nominees, and winners. Each and every year, those in attendance leave the ballroom completely touched and inspired by the community spirit and service citing that this event, the Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards, is not to be missed!
Volunteerism, however selfless, deserves to be celebrated and appreciated. We are so proud of our role in doing just that.
At Volunteer Fairfax we love all of our volunteers. But there is a special place in our hearts for these two gentlemen. Both are military veterans. Both are dedicated family men. Both are busy retirees. Both are looooong-time volunteers with Volunteer Fairfax.
Meet Bing Van Nuys: The son of a prominent lawyer, Francis Bingham Van Nuys grew up and attended Washington & Lee University as geology major. Two days before graduation, he enrolled in law school. As a rising senior, he went on a blind date and met his future bride, Betty…and proposed 5 weeks later! Post graduation and with the need to support a new wife, Bing enrolled in Naval Officer Candidate School in 1962. With candor, Bing says, “It (NOCS) was hell.” Many flunked out. But Bing said he “…had to succeed” and so he did, earning a Commission of Lt, jg. He requested assignment “anywhere out west” and was sent to USNS Kodiak, Alaska, where he served as base legal officer and where, during the Great Alaska Earthquake, he escaped death twice in one evening! Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Van Nuys welcomed a son and a daughter. Bing was discharged from active service in 1966 swearing never to darken the door of the government again but then took on a series of Federal Civil Servant positions AND remained in the Navy Reserves staying another 21 years! Commander Van Nuys fully in the early 90's. One day Bing walked into the VF bungalow looking for “something to do” and he has never left. That was 1993. There were 4 people on staff. Bing became our “computer guy” designing programs for VF and supporting the ACS (Alternative Community Service) program. Bing also volunteers at the National Archives, and is a Virginia certified mediator. He drives a super cool, fully-restored '73 VW bug and is a mad skier. Leisurely retirement? Not in Bing’s vocabulary.
Meet Don Brown: He was born in new London, Ct, but the Brown family home moved often. His father was a Naval submarine officer in the Pacific WWII and spent his career from 1934-68 serving his county. There were 3 boys and 1 girl in the family and “we were a handful.” Don went to Bowdoin College (ME) where he majored in economics. In 1963, he took a job as management trainee at Casco Bank. After a year at the bank, Don decided the military would be a “better fit” with “more meaning” but he didn’t want “to work for my father” (meaning Navy) so he joined the Army. He spent 1964 in Okinawa with Army Civil Affairs but it didn’t take long before he decided to get home and marry his high school prom date, Michael Ann. In 1965, while based in Okinawa, Don was sent to Vietnam where they showered when it rained, lived for months on rice and ketchup. In 1969, Don was again “in country” (Chu Lai, Vietnam) with tactical communications duties. Navy cruisers sometimes fired over their heads and one day the Navy drove into the phone lines knocking out communication. Don was called in front of the colonel. “You couldn’t tell him it wasn’t your fault…it was always your fault.” Don spent the rest of his military career in various locations including New Jersey, Hawaii, Korea, Norfolk, and Washington DC/Ft. Belvoir. They sent him to school to study engineering, computers and communications. When asked how he felt about the Vietnam War, with some tenseness in his jaw, he said he is “disturbed about the way it ended.” Don retired in 1992 and he and Michael Ann took up residence in the Falls Church house they had purchased some years before. He was immediately offered a civilian job. “No, thanks!” But, he was determined to do something when he saw a notice in the paper about Volunteer Fairfax. So he walked in one day and asked “What can I do?” Since then Don has diligently served the Alternative Community Service program, supported our events, and even opened his home hosting a VF holiday party.
When asked separately why they stay with Volunteer Fairfax, Don and Bing’s answers were very similar…it’s the people! “Great people!” “All have been wonderful!” “People have come and gone but there hasn’t been a bad one!”
When Maddie was just 10 and a resident of Vienna, she became interested in volunteering. She credits her parents for inspiring her to volunteer through their own charitable work. But, young Maddie soon discovered she was not old enough to be a registered volunteer for most organizations she contacted. Then one day at a pet rescue event, she noticed that the dogs and kitties were lying on thin rags. Although she was a busy honor student, athlete and pageant participant, Maddie found time to launch Maddie’s Blankets, a nonprofit dedicated to making cozy, warm blankets for our four-legged friends. That was 2007.
Soon their blanket-making events were popping up all around the region. Events have been held at schools, libraries and churches. Volunteer blanket makers ranged from the very young to seniors. Each volunteer was invited to write his/her name on the tags of the blanket…a personal touch.
Maddie’s Blankets soon became part of Volunteer Fairfax’s Give Together event—a family-friendly volunteer event held every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Joining Give Together was ideal because very young children can tie a knot! Volunteer Fairfax was also pleased to feature Maddie’s Blankets in VF’s Youth Service Directory—again-- because it was a project in which very young volunteers could participate.
The mission of Maddie’s organization is “Making the world a better place, one blanket at a time.” And the world/community noticed! Support for Maddie’s Blankets came in the form of grants and gifts from individuals and organizations including the Vienna Rotary, McLean Community Foundation and Disney.
The other mission of Maddie’s Blankets is to teach children the value of community service and that even at a young age, they can make a difference.
In December 2012, Maddie’s Blankets reached a goal of making 10,000 blankets. The blanket program was eventually expanded to include making blankets for children in foster care or transitional housing. There is never a fee to receive a blanket.
Maddie states, “I found there were many young children in transitional housing and foster care that did not have the kind of comfy fuzzy blankets that bring the warmth and love they deserve."
Maddie Pelgrim graduated from Oakton High School, Class of 2015. Off to college, she had a difficult decision to make regarding Maddie’s Blankets. Maddie contacted Volunteer Fairfax to announce she was dissolving the organization. With the remaining funds on hand Maddie wanted to make a financial gift to the volunteer center.
Says Emily Swenson, chief operating officer at VF, “We are really proud of Maddie Pelgrim for being a shining example of the good that young people can do to make a difference. And, we are grateful to be selected as a steward of the funds raised by Maddie’s Blankets to continue engaging the youngest in our community in volunteer service.”
Best of luck, Maddie Pelgrim! We know you are going to do great things. We thank you for being a friend, partner and donor.
Look in Webster’s for a definition of philanthropy and volunteerism and you may find this organization among those listed. CACI is in its 54th year as a leading provider of information solutions and services to the federal government. But its corporate mission--to support government priorities--has led to a mission that has volunteerism tightly woven into its culture. Under the name CACI Cares, it includes employees supporting education, fostering community citizenship, and serving those who served (armed forces).
According to Meredith Gordon, Internal Communications Coordinator, “If you like to volunteer, CACI is your company! Volunteerism at CACI incorporates connection and camaraderie.”
The strong military focus of CACI Cares may be because of CACI’s commitment to veteran support–the company has a robust program of hiring, mentoring, and supporting veterans with an employee resource group, as well as promoting volunteerism and philanthropic initiatives for the troops. Or it may be because CACI employees, many of whom are veterans themselves, are deeply committed to supporting our active military and veterans.
In April 2015, CACI was nominated (and awarded) a Fairfax County Volunteer Service Award, in the Corporate Volunteer Program category. The judging panel was favorably impressed with reports that CACI employees have, over the past 10 years, logged more than 2,700 hours at USO-Metro (USO of Metropoitan Washington-Baltimore) initiatives, which translates to approximately $113,000 in value for USO-Metro. One of the largest of activities was the 2013 opening of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, VA.
Elaine Rogers, President of USO-Metro says, “It is thanks to dedicated employee volunteers from corporations like CACI that the USO Center at Ft. Belvoir is able to express the appreciation and support of the American people for those who sacrifice so much for our freedoms."
For the past three years CACI employees have supported the USO-Metro at Ft. Belvoir, where volunteers regularly conduct Bingo events, play Trivial Pursuit, serve dinner, host date nights, and socialize with the troops and their families. This year volunteers set up, served, and cleaned up a Thanksgiving Meal for 230 troops and their families to enjoy!
AND, the thanks and giving doesn’t stop with the USO-Metro. On Saturday, Dec. 12, CACI volunteers will join dozens of dedicated folks for Wreaths Across America, a national initiative to place wreaths in every military cemetery.
Visiting CACI’s website, you will be impressed with their long list of honors and awards as an employer and a corporate citizen. These accolades are earned in accordance with their philosophy of maintaining a character-based culture where “Good character defines who we are, how we act, and what we believe is the right way to do business.”
Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds. One day the phone rang at Volunteer Fairfax and it was the Joint Command, Office of Military Commissions (DOD). They were seeking volunteer opportunities. These are folks in uniform. They have already pledged to protect and defend the country and yet they still want to give.
On the phone was Petty Officer Chris Petrill, Sailor and Legalman 2nd class from Northport, NY. His day job is much more intense than most volunteer assignments will ever be! Perrty Officer Petrill is assigned to the Office of the Chief Prosecutor at the Office of Military Commissions. For those who may not be aware, a military commission is a military court of law. Petrill’s primary role is to assist in the prosecution of those individuals detained as enemy belligerents who are charged with violating the law of war. This is a joint command, employing military from the Navy, Marines, Army, and Air Force, as well as DOD and DOJ civilians.
In researching volunteer opportunities, Petrill found Volunteer Fairfax and contacted Volunteers for Change. He invited the VFC program manager to their facilities to conduct an orientation for the Joint Command group. Petrill explained they needed service options they can fit into their responsibilities and deployments. Through the VF/VFC monthly calendar and annual events, military personnel can plan their participation accordingly.
Says Petrill, “Volunteer Fairfax has provided service members with numerous rewarding volunteer opportunities despite our busy and unpredictable schedules. From my perspective, I am always heartened to know that despite my demanding schedule, Volunteer Fairfax always has a reliable monthly schedule with daily events. Thanks to your wonderful organization, I can schedule group events, allowing numerous active duty military personnel to serve the community in which they serve.”
There is no requirement for service members to volunteer but Petrill explains that there are several reasons why they do: They feel good about doing it; They are gratified at the end of a volunteer job well done; Volunteering is an opportunity to interact with each other outside of their usual rank; and, they get to put service hours on their “Evals” (evaluations).
Upon deployment, the good works continue! Service members carry out volunteer projects in places around the world. Petrill shared that they built an orphanage in Panama City and performed maintenance on a boys and girls club in Costa Rica. In Hawaii, they gave tours on the USS Missouri and hosted an ice cream social with elder veterans.
“Service activities while deployed,” Petrill added, “help the military to build goodwill. In fact, sometimes we have so many members sign up to participate that we end up having to turn volunteers away!”
Job well done, Petty Officer Petrill, both at home and away! Volunteer Fairfax says, “Thank you and welcome aboard.”
Imagine you arrive to your office on a typical October morning and…
CAUTION tape crisscrosses your door. Your ceiling is dripping spider webs. Pumpkins of every shape and size are perched on files and computers. Skeletons and zombies have taken up residence. And, here’s the yummy part…your desk is covered with your favorite candy!
Guess what! You’ve been Boo-ed!
It’s a mystery how this tradition got started. It is also a mystery who the secret phantom ghost of VF is…which only adds to the Halloween suspense! Every year the phantom ghost visits VF and never fails to impress with her/his creativity and generosity and capacity for fun.
Boo-ing is just one of the many traditions enjoyed by Volunteer Fairfax staff, office volunteers and interns. Throughout the year, fun and meaningful traditions demonstrate Volunteer Fairfax’s appreciation for each person on the team and the work they do to make the community better.
Enjoy the photos from Boo-ing 2015.
It is impossible to listen to Abigail Denecke, Philanthropy and Volunteer Coordinator, and Anna Smith, Director of Development, talk about Pathway Homes without hearing the enthusiasm and pride in their voices. Started in 1980, Pathway Homes provides permanent homes for people with a history of homelessness and mental illness. Today there are 467 individuals, housed at scattered sites in Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William County, the majority of whom have a history of homelessness. In 2008, Pathway Homes along with many area nonprofits joined the Fairfax County’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness. Since that time, homelessness has dropped over 30%.
Volunteer Fairfax’s partnership with Pathways Homes is one of the ways Volunteer Fairfax help support nonprofits in our community. Volunteer Fairfax is committed to helping nonprofits build capacity and achieve their mission. For example, Pathways is a regular VolunteerFest participant. Each October on VolunteerFest, Pathways holds a Help the Homeless Walk. It is both a fundraiser and a joyful celebration of the accomplishments of Pathways in supporting adults with mental disabilities.
One of the reasons for Pathway Homes’ success is in their respect for the people they serve. They believe permanent housing is a right, not a privilege.
Meet Maria. Maria grew up in Pennsylvania with strong ties to The Big Easy. Her parents had lived in New Orleans –her mom was a professor at LSU and her dad worked at DuPont-- and so while growing up, Maria’s family often visited. That’s how this Penn native became a true Saints fan. Maria describes New Orleans as a place that grabs you by your heart strings and doesn’t let go.
When Hurricane Katrina hit their beloved New Orleans, the her family-- from their Pennsylvania home--were devastated. They could not reach their friends. They were heartbroken to see parts of the vibrant city transform into a disaster zone. Even at her young age Maria was glued to the news. It was then that the seeds were sown in Maria’s heart that she might one day help to make people safer.
She attended St. Johns University where she pursued a focus on Public Policy and Vulnerable Populations. In 2012, Maria had her second hurricane experience when Sandy blew into town. In an effort to provide immediate assistance, Maria and some friends began to knock on doors to see if their neighbors needed anything. Nearing graduation, Maria recognized she had a passion for dealing with emergency situations but was unclear how to turn this into a career.
Her father suggested a more intensive program involving emergency response. She enrolled in Tulane University’s graduate program in Public Health and Disaster Management. Maria also had a fellowship at New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness where she wrote their Mass Fatality Plan.
While completing her Master’s degree, Maria and a group of students spent a month in Haiti doing outreach in a nation still reeling from the devastating 2010 earthquake. Maria worked with community organizations to demonstrate how to purify water in addition to other low-cost measures that may help curb the spread of disease. It was an experience that served to further shape Maria’s commitment to protecting people through education and awareness.
In June 2015, Maria accepted the position of Emergency Response Program Manager at Volunteer Fairfax. Maria’s personal experience with disaster situations and her emergency response training have coalesced to bring her to the DC Metro region. Maria is well on her way to helping to make people safer. In the event of disaster, she plans to be ready and prepared for the challenge.
Carina May believes in giving back to her community and that belief is summed up in one simple statement: "Don't live in a bubble."
Carina grew up in Alexandriaand first became involved in volunteering with local community groups during her youth. Volunteering, she admits, took a backseat while a Merchandising Management major at Virginia Tech and during her early career in retail buying. Doing some soul searching, Carina knew she wanted to stay close to home and be part of her community. She turned to the field of communications and founded C. May & Associates, a digital marketing and strategic communications firm, in the heart of Alexandria.
After some years of focusing on work, Carina began to feel that familiar yearning to give back to her community. This led her to Volunteer Fairfax in 2012. She became an active member of Volunteers for Change, the service program specially designed for busy, busy adults like Carina. Through VFC, Carina became part of the volunteer staff at Shelter House which combined her love of service with a love for children. She worked with a team to host weekly Kids Nights providing activities for children whose families were going through challenging times. Her support helped to ease some of the burden for the families. One of the little girls drew Carina a picture which still has special meaning for Carina today.
True to her spirit for civic engagement, Carina has taken volunteering to a leadership level by becoming a Community Ambassador for Volunteer Fairfax. As such, she represents Volunteer Fairfax at community events to promote volutneering. Additionally, Carina is committed to other community initiatives. She is co-founder of Sweethearts and Patriots, an annual gala benefiting local veterans organizations. She also holds a Young Ambassadors Council position with The Children's Inn at the National Institutes of Health.
Carina feels strongly that "Volunteering can widen your horizons and expose you to experiences you might not otherwise have in your everyday life. Helping others takes the focus off yourself and it’s great to see your efforts benefit the local community.”
In 2013, Carina earned the President's Volunteer Service Award Bronze Level in recognition for having served over 100 hours in the calendar year.
Volunteer Fairfax salutes Carina May for her service. She has a full life with her business, friends and family and yet finds time to "not live in a bubble” not only finding time for involvement with the Community Ambassador Program and Volunteers for Change, but also with several other community initiatives. You go, Carina! We can't wait to see what else you accomplish for volunteering and our community.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, as the sun rises on yet another hot and muggy Virginia summer day, you’ll find Judy Kim and her daughters Audra (16) and Emmalyn (14) hard at work to get the
Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) Community Marketplace ready to open.
This is a farmers market, like many others you’ll find throughout the area, but one with a huge difference: the Community Marketplace provides fresh fruit and vegetables at no cost to financially-qualified families. Donations come from farmers, local grocery stores, local restaurants, and is organized by CAFB. Judy points out, “These aren’t seconds or leftovers, but fresh and wholesome goods.” Additional support for the Mobile Marketplace comes from the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services and Live Healthy. Volunteers come together in Reston, on the second Saturday of every month.
Judy and her daughters have volunteered their energies to the Community Marketplace for over a year. Judy serves as Team Captain, organizing the set up and assigning duties to corps of dedicated volunteers. Set-up time is short as families begin to queue up as early as eight o’clock. On a good day, more than 250 households may be served.
Audra and Emmalyn’s volunteering efforts have not gone unnoticed; both received the silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award each serving 75 hours or more.
Qualified customers for The Marketplace donations receive a grocery tag that allows them access. “A woman once actually came to me to return her card,” Judy said. “She realized she was over the income limit and no longer qualified. She took the time to come back to us to return her grocery tag. When you find someone that honest and genuine, it warms you."
Volunteer Fairfax salutes the Kim family for their community service and efforts to solve hunger.
The World Police & Fire Games--when it came to Fairfax and the National Capital Region—it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Volunteer Fairfax had a very big job assignment for The Games and that was to help raise the 4,000+ volunteers needed to support event. We are so proud of our community because nearly 6,000 volunteers came forward. Most were from our region, but there were also a number of international volunteers. We are happy to introduce to you just a few of the WPFG amazing folks who served and cheered for the Games of Heroes!
Doris Crawford, hometown hero
Meet Doris Crawford, a busy retiree and former employee of Lockheed-Martin. Doris has been an active volunteer with Volunteer Fairfax for many years. When the WPFG needed an army of helpers, Doris signed up and accepted the assignment of Greeter at Dulles Airport. She was the face of The Games at Dulles, the first person to welcome the arriving international and out-of-town athletes. She also helped at the WPFG volunteer center assembling athlete packets. Wonderful job by this wonderful great-grandmother! Watch commemorative video of The Games.
ServiceSource, cheering for heroes
Ken Crum is the Regional Executive Director for ServiceSource’s Virginia office, an organization providing services to clients with disabilities. When he learned about the opportunity to “Cheer for Heroes” at the WPFG, he was happy to accept. ServiceSource organized groups that came out to various events. They cheered, held signs and had a great time. Crum said, “Our participants enjoy being active and integral members of the community, and this event was a way for us to get out and support.” He added that athletes from other countries made a special effort to meet these happy fans.
Carole-Lynda, Oh, Canada!
She drove 9 hours each way from Montreal to be part of The Games! Carole-Lynda was not just a games volunteer, but she was also a super fan attending many events all around the region. And, she could translate! On her credentials she wore a sticker “parle francais.” Back at home, Carol-Linda Cote is a correctional officer at a men’s prison. The Games are slated for Montreal in 2017, so she won’t have to go far next time! Merci beaucoup, Carole-Lynda! The Games in ’17 will be fortunate to have you on board.
Caring Kids, welcoming crew
At the age of 3, Gabrielle Levy attended a Volunteer Fairfax/Volunteers for Change event that changed her young life. It was a card making event where the card creations were donated to a youth organization. Since then, Gabrielle (now 12) and her brother Aiden (10), have created their own organization called Caring Kids Cards. They have had quite an impact creating, distributing and managing the donation of over 10,000 cards worldwide. When they learned of the World Police & Fire Games, they decided to make cards for the athletes, welcoming them and thanking them for their service. “You are never too young or too old to make a difference…” We agree!
David Kline’s day job in our community is as a Traffic Engineer with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. But, he is so much more…he is a Doer! At the 2015 Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards, an event where over 400 people gathered to celebrate the Doers Who Do, David was recognized with the Fairfax County Volunteer Award for his impactful and dedicated work with the Juvenile Domestic Relations Court.
Since 2007, David has volunteered as a Visitation Monitor at the Stronger Together and Safe Haven Supervised Visitation and Supervised Exchange Program. What is supervised visitation and exchange? It is the county program that ensures the safety of family members during visitation and custodial changes where there has been a history or concern of domestic violence.
Volunteer Monitors are trained in basic tenants of the program, but David went above and beyond the basics. Demonstrating his commitment to healthy families, David participated in extra training and added hours to his volunteer schedule so he could become a mentor to a young father of a toddler who was court ordered into the program. David taught this 16-year-old dad many practical skills such as changing diapers and safety hazard awareness. He also emphasized the importance of reading and playing together. But most importantly, David has inspired the young man to take responsibility for his child.
Through his service, David has positively changed the dynamics of this family, he was commended by the judge, and he was nominated for the Fairfax County Volunteer Service Award by Lori Wymore-Kirkland with the Juvenile Domestic Relations Court.
David was surprised with an extra-special honor at the Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards. Upon being named the Fairfax County Volunteer Award winner, it was announced that David would receive a special prize of an all-expense paid Caribbean cruise for two on Cabot’s True Celebrities tour in November. This special award was made possible through a partnership between Fairfax County Office of Public Private Partnerships and Cabot Creamery/Samaritan Technologies.
Brianna Kennedy is a hometown girl. She grew up in Vienna and attended George Mason University. In college, she majored in Communications/Public Relations and minored in Nonprofit Management.
While a student at GMU, Brianna was introduced to the Community Summer Jobs Program (CSJP) – a program sponsored nationally by ExxonMobil and administered locally by Volunteer Fairfax. Through the generosity of ExxonMobil, undergraduate students who successfully complete the application and interview process, receive paid stipends to work summer jobs at local nonprofits. In the summer of 2013, Brianna was hired by PRS as their CSJP intern.
Brianna states that the internship helped her in several major ways: She gained experience in the nonprofit sector; she avoided post-graduation job-market blues since her internship had turned into a job offer; and, she escaped the possibility of landing an entry-level position only to then find out she didn’t like it. It happens!
Following her internship and graduation, Brianna accepted the position of Marketing and Communications Specialist at PRS, Inc. (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services) in McLean. Brianna spoke with enthusiasm about her tenure at PRS and about helping to transform the lives of people who are dealing with difficult challenges, including mental health and substance abuse issue.