Stories of Service

Story 28: 50+? What's Next?


Chuck ToftoyMeeting senior Chuck Toftoy is an experience…you don’t know what to talk about first!  He has been there…done that…and got the t-shirt. The t-shirt he is wearing today at the Pickleball court is from the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics (NVSO). This year, 2017, marks the 35th presentation of the NVSO scheduled for September 9-20. Chuck Toftoy is an enthusiastic committee member and an athlete.  “I know some people see old folks as frail or weak or finished. Come out to The Games, my friend!”

NVSO, is a multi-sport annual event for participants 50 years or better.  Each state hosts its own regional games—usually during their best weather -- with competitors meeting every two years in the National Senior Olympics. NVSO is an all-volunteer effort started by a handful of women and men who believed in living healthy longer.

For Chuck--a lifelong athlete and over-achiever with a What’s Next? attitude--becoming involved with NVSO was a natural progression. As a West Point cadet, he was a sprinter, a wrestler,Chuck Airborne and played baseball.  In the Army, Lt. Col Toftoy, was an Airborne-Ranger, did two tours of Vietnam (wounded twice) and two tours at the Pentagon. Following his 20-year service, he entered business filling several high-profile positions including General Manager for Raytheon. What came next was a distinguished career teaching business. He is now Professor Emeritus of George Washington University. Upon retirement from academia, Dr. Toftoy, now a business consultant and mentor, turned author and has a 5th book due out soon! All of this activity did not stop Chuck on the fitness front. He ran the Boston Marathon, became a Mid-Atlantic Triathlete (Swim, Bike, Run) for 9 years, and with the NVSO, he achieved a 400-Meter Racewalk record in 2016.  “Having a goal is necessary for training. The goal is always the event that is coming,” says Chuck.

In 2015, RSVP-NV accepted the goal of raising the dozens of volunteers needed to support the NVSO games.  It is a partnership that has strengthened both organizations.  RSVP-NV, a program of Volunteer Fairfax is designed to engage folks 55+ in meaningful service, a mission that aligns perfectly with the living healthy longer mission of NVSO.

In his 15-year association with The Games, Chuck, an inductee into the Who’s Who of the National Senior Games Association,Chucktorch has seen much growth and change.  “The Board meets once-a-month, year-round. We are now 30 members. People are from such diverse backgrounds and they are soooo nice! Competitive…but nice…” Chuck says with a smile.  He adds that the events have also changed.  “The Games have evolved from a Track & Field focus to now having something for everyone! We have field events, but also Scrabble, Bunco, and this year’s “something new” is Rapid Chess.”

This September, more than 60 events will be held at locations NVSOmedalsthroughout Northern Virginia. Volunteer power is needed! Call 703-403-5360 or email rsvp@volunteerfairfax.org. Everyone 16 years or older can volunteer. Parents and grandparents are encouraged to sign up with your sports-mad teens.  “It’s great for young kids to see what seniors can do,” says Chuck.

Indeed! What seniors can do!  So, what’s next?

Opening ceremonies are Saturday, September 9, beginning 9 am at Thomas Jefferson Community Center. More info at www.nvso.us. Participant registration is available online or by mail. All events are free and open to the public. For information on volunteer opportunities at 55 years young and beyond, contact RSVP at 703-403-5360 or email rsvp@volunteerfairfax.org
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Story 27: VolunTOLD…  The Art of Getting Friends and Family to Volunteer

VolunTOLDThere’s a tradition amongst staff at Volunteer Fairfax…maybe at other volunteer operations also...it is commonly known as VolunTOLD.  When staff recruits the help of family and friends to assist with volunteer projects, you’ve been VolunTOLD!

It is a real thing.  The Urban Dictionary lists volunTOLD as “mandatory volunteering.”  The VF definition would read more like “heart volunteering.”    Here are just a few VolunTOLD stories from VF…

NadiaVolunTOLDNadia Hoonan, RSVP Manager:  With a big Rebuilding Together project looming, Nadia was concerned about having enough hands to complete all the tasks.  So, she recruited extra hands from her family…naturally!  Her husband Kevin and sister-in-law, Maia donned a Rebuilding Together shirt and grabbed paint brushes.  It was great day! Spirits were high and many hands made light work.  But being volunTOLD doesn’t stop there. Kevin has also cut fleece for doggie chew toys. “We sat on the floor, watched movies, and cut fleece.”  Maia has donated her graphic design skills for several important projects. Both Kevin and Maia have officially joined Volunteers for Change with just a bit of encouragement from Nadia.  “All in all, it’s just great having family supporting the cause. They are always willing to lend a hand.”

SwensonVolunTOLDEmily Swenson, COO:  As a veteran of 17 years with VF, Emily has endlessly volunTOLD her family members.  Her children, Charlotte 10, Aubrey 8 and Garrett 4, are always present at our family-friendly service days.  They rake if raking is needed; they create if artistic cards are needed. And, they are ready models posing in event t-shirts. Emily’s parents have lent their electronic equipment so an event could have sound, and dad helped pack up a UHaul for a 9/11 project. Brother Todd, a talented photographer, has been recruited to capture beautiful photos at special events.  Husband Chris is the support for all of Emily’s long days of creating better community through service.  Service is truly a Swenson family affair!

Angela Starling, Communications Manager:  Friends are also great targets for voluntold projects! In her VF office, Angela sits at a desk built by a family friend with a tool box.  And, a neighbor with a truck is always a handy volunTOLD partner!  Additionally, Angela’s family has grown up being volunTOLD. They would blow balloons. Decorate and undecorate.  Hold banners in a parade. Work an information booth.  Apply labels. Stuff envelopes.  Etc.  Etc. One Thanksgiving, son Micah was scheduled to come home from his out-of-state university.  Here comes the volunTOLD:  “Need your help at the holiday train rides, please.”  “Sure!” said the mid-term weary college guy. AngelaVolunTOLDHe didn’t sleep in. Or party. He stood with mama on a very cold day helping families enjoy their rides.  Daughter Leanna has logged hundreds of hours volunteering and volunTOLDING.  One morning during high school Spirit Week, she came out of her room wearing her VF VolUnteer t-shirt, not her usual for school. Why? She said, “Today is Super Power Day.”

Family members and friends of VF staff are accustomed to a steady whirlwind of activity, discussion of project plans, supplies in the car, events coming and going, and calls for help.  They also gain a satisfaction of knowing that, through these volunTOLD assignments, they too are building a better community through service.  BUT, the best part, no doubt, are the wonderful memories being made through heart volunteering, memories that will far outlast the raking and the envelope stuffing.

At Volunteer Fairfax, we encourage family and friend volunteering and volunTOLDing! It’s great way to enjoy quality time with loved ones while serving the community. Check out VolunteerNow or the Just for Youth Service Directory for opportunities.

Story 26: Play On!

VCOIt’s springtime and there’s music in the air! At Volunteer Fairfax, we are happy to support activities that combine music and volunteerism! Our partnership with the Virginia Chamber Orchestra (VCO) presents us with this opportunity. 

The VCO was founded in 1971 with a mission to perform fine music with the highest artistic integrity for the broadest possible audience.  The history of the VCO is filled with examples of their outreach.  In their founding years, the musicians traveled by bus to areas of Virginia where live orchestral performance were not being offered.  Their outreach included concerts at the State School for the Deaf and Blind. Eventually the orchestra established a home base in Northern Virginia where they reached millions through educational television broadcasts yet remained devoted to growing local audiences in all socioeconomic groups.  Through affordable ticket prices and free admission for students, Bach for everyone became a reality!

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In the 1980’s, in addition to regular season performances, the Virginia Chamber debuted the Special Audience Outreach program, an idea born out of those early performances for the Deaf and Blind.  At designated performances, the VCO committed to inviting special guests from underserved populations. These guests may not otherwise have had the opportunity to experience the VCO caliber of musical performance. These guests include Foster Care kids, immigrant families, single parents and their children, or at-risk teens.  In recent years, Special Audience guests have expanded to include Wounded Warriors and Our Military Kids.  

Special Audience Events, include the musical performance and a post-concert dinner. To accomplish these activities, the VCO reaches out to the community for helping hands and hearts.  For several years now, VF’s Volunteers for Change members have answered the call!  Along with other area volunteers, Volunteers for Change members perform buffet set up and tear down, but more importantly, they engage them Special Audience guests in conversation.

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(from left-to-right) Bob Staiman, Fran Staiman and Ivana Lee, VFC Members


VF received this email from Ann Sica, VCO Board member, Last Sunday, five Volunteer Fairfax volunteers provided major assistance at a post-concert dinner hosted by the VCO as part of a Special Audience Outreach event. The volunteers not only set up the dinner, but conversed with the special guests, making them feel truly welcome in the larger community.  These guests come from a wide-variety of facilities for the underserved. The VCO would like to give rave reviews to Volunteer Fairfax for a great boost to our outreach efforts.  They are a splendid asset to the county.”

In addition, VF volunteers have lent a helping hand at other Virginia Chamber Orchestra events, serving refreshments at Musicales or assisting with the silent auction at the Annual VCO Gala.  Beyond these activities, a Volunteers for Change member, Ivana Lee (pictured above) has joined the VCO board lending expertise at the governance level.  Truly the partnership between the VCO and Volunteer Fairfax has been one of mutual admiration and appreciation:  talented musicians and dedicated volunteers. Play on! 

Through our network of community partnerships, volunteer opportunities exist that support the Arts. Or education.  Or sports. Or children.  What is your passion?  Visit www.volunteerfairfax and check out the opportunities on VolunteerNow, or join a volunteer program like Volunteers for Change. If your organization is looking to connect to volunteers, contact our Membership manager about joining our network through VF Membership.   Visit the Virginia Chamber Orchestra for upcoming concerts and ticket information.

Treasure5Story 25: Treasure Trove, a partner in
Alternative Service

Volunteer Fairfax’s Alternative Community Service is dedicated to helping people. This program places court-ordered persons, with minor offenses, at an agency where they can positively work off charges.

Each new ACS client meets with the program coordinator who matches the client with the appropriate agency. Location and mission are two important considerations.

One of our long-time partners in this endeavor to help court-ordered clients is Inova Treasure Trove of Springfield. Treasure Trove is a retail consignment and donation center that supports Inova Fairfax Medical Campus. Sarah Ide is the Store Manager. Meeting her is like encountering the Captain of a well-run ship.

Treasure6In her “lived-in” office, Sarah explains her duties in-between cashiers needing change, phones ringing, and jumping up to inspect a loud thump from the back room. “We have 2 paid staff and 65 volunteers… and we could not run this place without them.” With regard to the Alternative Community Service, Sarah confirms that the store has been an active agency for years.  “And we’ve never had a bad experience. They come here and work very hard.” She recalls ACS client, “Corey.” Corey would do anything you asked him and he made useful suggestions. “Corey completely revamped the shoe section giving us much more space than we had before.” Sarah explained that they often will get direct calls from court-ordered persons asking to volunteer. She does not accept them directly.  Instead, she refers them to Volunteer Fairfax because she trusts the screening process that VF performs.

“Besides ACS clients, a lot of our volunteers are former nurses and teens needing service hours.  Additionally, we have volunteers who are here because of the medical help they received at Inova. These are some very moving stories.”

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Sarah hails from South Carolina. She has had a varied career… working on The Hill for Senator Strom Thurmond, running a day care out of her home, working retail in antiques, and, for the past five years, she has been a staff member at Treasure Trove. She is happy to be here! She walks and talks and gives help as she moves through the store. All the while, Sarah explains the store consignment operation and shares about its volunteer appreciation program.

SarahThe store is filled to the gills with treasure; every inch of space begs you to come inspect its displays and racks. Workers are helping customers at the register, straightening askew items, or are behind the scenes getting more treasures ready for the main floor. That’s where we meet “Henry.” Henry is an ACS client.

Henry needed to do 24 hours in a hurry. He was placed with Treasure Trove who was able to accommodate his need because of their store schedule (open 7 days) and because “there’s always something to do.” Henry smiles. He is happy he was placed at Treasure Trove. “I live near here, Sarah is nice, and I am not bored. I would like to keep volunteering at Treasure Trove.” 

Alternative Community Service is a viable and positive option in an otherwise challenging event. If you are court-ordered or court-referred for minor offenses, Volunteer Fairfax can help. For more information, www.volunteerfairfax.org/ACS or call 703-246-3893.


Story 24: VF Internships…a real pathway to career

Intern

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!

Emily Swenson

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.

Audrey

Yes, internships are for real pathway to career at Volunteer Fairfax.   Staff is dedicated to ensuring that interns get real-world experience that will serve them well and turn into a real-world job… maybe even at Volunteer Fairfax.

Meet Audrey Wilson. Audrey came to Volunteer Fairfax in September 2015 as a student/intern with the Michigan State University Study Away Program in Washington DC.  As a Criminal Justice major, interning for the Alternative Community Service program was a perfect match.  After graduation in Spring 2016, Audrey returned to VF as full-time staff to manage the ACS and Volunteers for Change programs.

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Jessica

Samantha


Wait, wait, there’s more! Jessica Warren, Elaine Lydick, and Samantha Watson, are all former VF interns who began their careers by joining regular staff after graduation. Their dedication to volunteerism and building better community through service has been long appreciated.

We thank all of our interns who become part of the VF family for a time…and a special thank you to those who stayed.  Volunteer Fairfax could not accomplish the sheer volume of work at the center without the help of dedicated and talented interns. 

This semester, we welcome our Spring 2017 interns Malika and Julia!  We look forward to working with them and helping them achieve real-world experience, while they help us build better communities through service! It’s a win/win!

For information on internships at Volunteer Fairfax, visit www.volunteerfairfax.org/jobsboard or call 703-246-3460.

Story 23: VF…Where Secret Santa Means Secret

Just about Thanksgiving time, the Secret Santa mystery 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!

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If you have drawn the name of your lunch partner, your Santa job is easy because you probably know your giftee’s favorite 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.

GiftThe 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. 

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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!

During this season of giving, Volunteer Fairfax shares many opportunities to give back to our community through our Holiday Heroes Handbook. And, if you are Santa to someone who has everything, please consider a gift to support volunteerism in honor of your special someone. Visit Donations.   

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Story 22: So Grateful for a Helpful Hardware Friend

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. Ace 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 the fact that they “hate to say no,” the 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 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.”

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Grateful too

Text Box: Elise Neil Bengtson said, “In-kind donations are a huge help to VF in terms of budget.  It means that our project budget goes further to help and we can do even more good.”


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.

If your small business is looking to give back, think in-kind donations. Your donation of services or products could be the best solution to fulfill need in the community. Contact Elise Neil Bengtson to discuss your charitable potential.


Story 21: You've Got to Have Friends

“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.

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Text Box:  L-r Jane, Barbara, Pat, Sue, Shelley, Michelle


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 some 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 is alot 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

Inspired to find service? Opportunities? Maybe your new best buddy? Check out all the opportunities at www.volunteerfairfax.org/individuals.


Story 20: Joseph Jinwoo Kim—Volunteering in America

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. 

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“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.” 

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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! 

Volunteers for Change is the flexible volunteer program for busy adults that offers opportunities for service, connections and possibly fulfillment of your personal mission.  Orientations are held every month.  Go to www.volunteerfairfax.org and click Community Calendar to find the next meeting.


Story 19: Ramona Morrow, a valued partner in youth volunteerism

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.

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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. Text Box: Dr. Garza:  “I have met few people in life more dedicated to serving young people, and willing to devote a lifetime to doing so.  But passion and commitment are limiting if there is a lack of smarts, skill or tact.  Thankfully for each organization that Ramona has served, they have benefited from her intelligence, ability and maneuverability, and witnessed a person so committed to accomplishing goals that collaboration was merely a natural extension in all that she does.”

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.”

Text Box: Something you don’t know about me: My sister and I both have 3 girls!     Childhood memory:  The 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Seeing the Unisphere.  It was tremendous.                       Guilty pleasure:  One  word… CHOCOLATE!     Bucket list:  Tour Alaska.


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!

Statistics from the *Journal of Research on Adolescence have confirmed that youth who volunteer benefit personally in a myriad of ways.  These benefits include “Higher educational aspirations, higher grade point averages, and higher academic self-esteem.”  Additionally, the journal states “Volunteering is found to strengthen intrinsic work values and the anticipated importance of community involvement.” To learn more about how youth can serve our community, visit here.

*Journal of Research on Adolescence, Vol 8, Issue 3, 1998


Story 18: The House That Miss Ambler Built

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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.   

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Text Box: Fairfax High School Yearbook 1937


House2She 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. 

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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.

House4The 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 Millennial, 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.  

House3In 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.  

House4On 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 reads, “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.

Mary Orrell Ambler died 26 May 1944 in Alexandria Hospital. She is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Fredericksburg. Her stone contains an error.  Can you find it? 


Story 17: Help in the Storm

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! 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.” 

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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 Network 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. 

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Governor Terry McAuliffe visits Fairfax County EOC during Winter Storm Jonas

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.)”
–Bobbi LongworthDonatetoday

With this message, came a generous donation from a grateful daughter. 

Volunteer Fairfax has been serving the community and impacting people’s lives for the past 40 years.  We are a 5013C a private nonprofit dependent upon the generous support of the county and people like you. Won’t you please make a gift to support volunteerism? Thank you! *In the event of immediate danger a life-threatening emergency, people are advised to call 911.


Story 16: Follow your Heart

At Volunteer Fairfax we often say that “You must follow your heart” when it comes to service.

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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.” 

Text Box: Evy Sheehan has this to say about her experience at NVTC:      To actually see what   our weekly visits accomplished, to watch people attain more and grow because of our visits, to see personalities emerge, to see the happiness and joy when our friends saw us coming, and to spend time with people who are so real, with no pretenses – no words can describe the warmness of our feelings and caring for these individuals. The range and scope of their disabilities is quite vast, and we too learned and grew from our association with them.

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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:

Doris Crawford 
Cheryl Vinci 
Karen Goon
Kevin Sanders
Andy Tompros
Leya Mundrake

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!

It takes a very special person, and compassionate heart, to work with individuals with special needs. If your heart is leading you to this very special activity, please visit VolunteerNow to search for like opportunities.


Story 15: iHeartMedia Committed to Community

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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. 

Bernie

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! 

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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. 

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We thank Bernie Lucas and iHeartMedia for their demonstrated commitment to public service. We HEART iHeart!  

To learn when Volunteer Fairfax will be featured on iHeart Community Radio follow us on Social Media - Facebook or Twitter.
To hear past radio programs visit iHeart Radio Community Public Affairs Program.


Story 14: Sharing the Love at VF’s Valentine’s Challenge

It is February, the month when we celebrate Love, and so it is love6appropriate 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!

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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!

The Valentine’s Challenge is just one example of the way Volunteer Fairfax partners with nonprofits and for profits to leverage resources to meet community needs in our region.  If your organization has a dream, like Mr. Rivers, to solve a community problem with LOVE, contact Volunteer Fairfax at 703-246-3460.


Story 13: A Family Tradition of Volunteering

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.

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2016

Family5
2015

Family4
2014

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2013

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2012 l-r: Eric, Sara w/Nicole, David


Here is what David 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.”  

Q&A with David:
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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.  

https://lnt.org/sites/default/files/7Principles.pngDavid’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.

Make volunteering a part of your family traditions! Your reward will be children who value service and a better community for all.  There are several ways to locate opportunities:  1) Visit the Directory of Youth Service Opportunities. 2) Sign up for a Family Friendly volunteer event such as Give Together. 3) Visit www.volunteerfairfax.org and click on VolunteerNow which is a fast and easy way to connect to service.

 


Story 12: A Continuing Legacy and Appreciation of Service

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.

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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.

Know someone in Fairfax County whose awesome volunteer service has benefitted the community? Please nominate them for an award. Nominations open every January. The Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards Breakfast ceremony is held every April. Join us for this  celebration of service!


Story 11: A Busy Retirement

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.

Bing

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Bingside

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.

Don

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Don

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.

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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!”

We are so grateful to Bing and Don, and others like them, who continue to give -- long into their golden years -- when it could be said that they have given enough.  Don and Bing say volunteering keeps them young! To stay young in your golden years, contact Nadia with the RSVP the 55+ volunteer program at ntrznadel@volunteerfairfax.org.


Story 10: Not too young to give--Maddie Pelgrim founder of
Maddie’s Blankets

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.

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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.

In this season of giving, please consider a charitable gift to support volunteerism and celebrate Volunteer Fairfax’s four decades of service to the community.   


CACI

Story 9: Serving Those Who Served--CACI

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).

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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.

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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.”

Employee volunteering is good for business! Volunteer Fairfax works in our community to connect for-profit resources with nonprofit need.  To learn more about corporate social responsibility opportunities, contact Jessica Warren at jwarren@volunteerfairfax.org.


Story 8: Service While in the Service—The Joint Command Volunteers

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.”

We share this story in November, the month in which we recognize the service of our veterans, as well as give thanks for our blessings.  There are opportunities to put your gratitude into action by signing up to volunteer in our community. Check out Volunteers for Change. Just click here!


Story 7: Booing, it’s a Tradition!

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.

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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.

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Story 6: Pathways-Help and Hope for the Homeless

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.

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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.

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.

We are happy to share information about how you can support Pathways and join the movement to eradicate homeless.  Volunteer support is mission critical to this cause.

 


Story 5: A Community Ambassador who Cares

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

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.


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

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.

Would you be interested in serving the community in a leadership capacity as a Community Ambassador for Volunteer Fairfax? Please contact Angela Starling at asaizastarling @volunteerfairfax.org.


Story 4: A Family in Action 

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.

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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."

“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.”

Volunteer Fairfax salutes the Kim family for their community service and efforts to solve hunger.

To get involved with the Mobile Marketplace or another evening-and-weekend project like it, register for a Volunteers for Change orientation today.


Story 3: The Games of Heroes

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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!

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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.

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Carole

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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!

Be a hometown hero, a cheerleader, a super fan in your community –
VOLUNTEER
!


Story 2: Family Bonds despite Separation

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.   

David

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.”

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. 


Inspired?  Please join David in positively changing lives by volunteering where your heart leads you. Find an opportunity today at www.volunteerfairfax.org.


Story 1: Meet Brianna Kennedy

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. 

“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.


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. 

Brianna transitioned successfully from a college student to a working professional through her experience with CSJP.  She recognizes and is grateful for the impact ExxonMobil, Volunteer Fairfax and PRS has had on her life and career.  “My plan is to continue to grow and to make a difference!”

Story Archive


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: Help and Hope for the Homeless
Story 7: Booing, it's a Tradition
Story 8: Service While in the Service
Story 9: Serving Those Who Served
Story 10: Not too young to give
Story 11: A Busy Retirement
Story 12: Legacy of Appreciation
Story 13: Family Tradition
Story 14: Sharing the Love
Story 15: Committed to Community
Story 16: Follow your Heart
Story 17: Help in the Storm
Story 18: Volunteer Fairfax House
Story 19: Partner in Youth Volunteerism
Story 20: Volunteering in America
Story 21: You've Got to Have Friends
Story 22: So Grateful Helpful Friends
Story 23: Secret Santa
Story 24: Internship to Career
Story 25: Treasure Trove
Story 26: Play On!
Story 27: VolunTOLD!
Story 28: 50+? What's Next?