Youth Volunteers: Emily Claire Lodge (Herndon)
When Emily Lodge was nine years old, she heard Sister Genevieve of the Little Sisters of the Poor speak at church about caring for the elderly poor and how they relied on charitable donations to carry out that mission. Emily told her parents that she wanted to help, but didn’t know how she could since she lived two hours away and had no money to send. After returning from a soccer camp that year, she told her parents that she would like to start a soccer camp and send any money she raised to the Little Sisters. She recruited her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and although the first year her campers were mainly a few cousins, she started “Score for the Poor,” and was able to send $100 to the Little Sisters. Emily still works tirelessly through the year to manage and promote the camp, which now, seven years later has about 30 campers annually and generates approximately $1,500 for the Little Sisters. She is now 15 years old, and as she says on the website that she created and maintains, “Score for the Poor is an example of how children can make a difference.”
Senior Volunteer: Maria Santos (Virginia Beach)
Maria Santos is the founder, director and heart of Love and Caring for the Homeless, a place of refuge for disenfranchised women and children of Virginia Beach. This shelter has housed up to 19 residents almost continuously for the past 16 years, and almost 2,000 women and their families have left the shelter with savings, an affordable place to live, and lives that have been changed forever. Maria has no paid staff, including herself, but her example of servant leadership has attracted volunteers of all ages, genders and stations in life who maintain the shelter and help in the mission of improving the physical, mental and spiritual health of those entrusted to her care. Maria, now 62 years old, is a Portuguese immigrant still struggling with English and taking daily ESL classes. She maintains the shelter, her own home, while assisting her retired Navy-chief husband who suffers from multiple sclerosis. The experience of giving and serving changes the lives of those who serve. Maria’s example of servant leadership and the labor of love she created and nurtured has forever changed Virginia Beach for the better.
Faith-Based Organization: Hanover Interfaith Free Clinics (Hanover)
The Hanover Interfaith Free Clinics is a network of clinics based in five sites, each housed in churches of various denominations. The clinics are staffed by approximately 200 health professional and non-health professional volunteers who serve an average of three to 15 hours per month. The Hanover Interfaith Free Clinics provide medical, dental, eye care, podiatry and mental health care and serve a serious unmet need for Hanover County’s uninsured citizens.
Volunteer Family: Jessica S. and Raymond F. Burmester (Fairfax)
Between the two of them, Jessica and Raymond Burmester are recognized for nearly 45 years of advocacy work on behalf of Virginians with mental health issues, intellectual disabilities and substance abuse disorders. Through their involvement with the Coalition for Virginians with Mental Disabilities, they have helped educate state and local government leaders and elected officials and the public about the vulnerability and service needs of people with mental illness, intellectual disability and substance abuse disorders. By way of their relentless advocacy for necessary budget measures, they are responsible for many of the measurable outcomes of the Community Service Boards and the Department of Behavioral Health and Rehabilitative Services. Despite health issues of their own and of their son Randy, who currently resides in a group home, the Burmesters continue to serve as models of persistence, patience and optimism that inspires their fellow advocates.
Educational Institution: The Coalition for Refugee Resettlement (Roanoke)
Launched in 2006, The Coalition for Refugee Resettlement (formerly called the Pilot Street Project), provides outreach to families that have resettled in Roanoke County on refugee status. The Coalition is a signature project of the Virginia Tech Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships, in collaboration with Refugee and Immigration Services and the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The project assists refugee families in achieving self-sufficiency through numerous educational programs and cultural mediation support. Since 2006, the project has served more than 250 children and adults from Somalia, Burundi, Sudan, Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Albania. The Coalition provides students with an international experience in their local region and raises awareness of the changing demographics of North American communities. As one of the Virginia Tech students working with the project observed, “These children had no choice but to end up where they are now, but I have a choice of whether I choose to help them or not. For me, it’s an easy choice.”
Community Organization: The Joe 15 Team, Inc. (Manassas)
The Joe 15 Team, Inc. was founded by Debbie Page Maples whose 20-year old son was murdered in 2008. The organization is based in Manassas, Prince William County and Manassas Park public high schools and middle schools and encourages young people to become involved in the community. Each school “team” chooses and sponsors a charity for which they contribute volunteer hours and raise money. Some Joe 15 Team projects have included Red Cross blood drives, collecting food and money for local food banks, making school kits for the Haiti earthquake survivors and working with a local senior center. In less than three years, the organization has faced the unique challenge of turning a tragedy into an opportunity to educate youth by bringing awareness to the needs of their community.
Corporation: SUPERVALU Eastern Region (Mechanicsville)
SUPERVALU Eastern Region is recognized for their support of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia, an organization dedicated to providing economic and financial literacy to children. SUPERVALU’s investment of 58 volunteer employees and a contribution of $37,500 has allowed more than 1,500 students to benefit from this program and will sustain it for years to come. “Members of the SUPERVALU team have generously donated school supplies, clothing and gift certificates to needy students and families,” says the assistant principal of Henry Clay Elementary School. Donations from SUPERVALU have increased student readiness for school and provided needed relief to grateful parents.
Adult Volunteer: Dr. Stephen Michaelski (Fairfax)
Two to three times a week for the last two years, Dr. Stephen Michaelski has volunteered more than 500 hours at the Mott Computer Clubhouse, one of Fairfax County’s after-school programs, which provides a creative and safe out of school learning environment for elementary to high school students. In 2007, Dr. Michaelski suffered a brain injury that dramatically changed his life. Although he had to give up his beloved occupation as a surgeon, he never lost his passion and hopes to redirect his life by continuing to teach and help others. He had to face many challenges in order to become a reliable math tutor; however he has developed the compensatory strategies that also help the students realize that it is possible to overcome barriers through patience, hope and perseverance. Dr. Michaelski’s success as a math tutor is reflected in the student’s changed fearful attitudes about mathematics and their grade improvement. As a fellow math tutor observed, “What makes Stephen a great tutor is his patience and ability to explain concepts clearly. This must come from his years of being a doctor with a good bedside manner before his brain injury.”
Published on Monday, March 24, 2014