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.
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!