2016 Governor’s Volunteerism Award Winners
Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recipients of the 2016 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards today during an awards ceremony held at the Governor’s Mansion on April 18th. These awards spotlight the outstanding efforts individual and organization volunteers make on behalf of citizens throughout the Commonwealth.
“I am proud and honored to celebrate Virginia’s outstanding volunteers who have made such enormous contributions to those in need throughout the Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “These individuals, organizations and companies set an example for us all to give back to our communities and embody the spirit of service which makes Virginia a special place to live and work.”
“I congratulate all of the award recipients for the selfless work they do on behalf of Virginia’s citizens,” said Virginia Department of Social Services Commissioner Margaret Schultze. “Individuals, who give unto others through service, deliver critical services to those in need, which measurably strengthens our entire Commonwealth.”
Gail P. Harris, Director of the Virginia Department of Social Services’ Office on Volunteerism and Community Service added, “As we honor these nine outstanding award winners, we also recognize and thank the 2 million Virginians who volunteered in communities across the state last year. Adding essential support to schools, food pantries, disaster recovery and much more, their collective impact resulted in more than 300 million hours of service that can be valued at almost $8 billion.”
The awards ceremony was organized by the Office on Volunteerism and Community Services, in partnership with the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and the Virginia Service Foundation. These organizations are charged by the Governor with saluting Virginians who have significantly contributed to the life and welfare of the Commonwealth and its citizens.
Pictured Above: 2016 Governor’s Award Winners with Governor McAuliffe.
Adult Volunteer: Walter Hussey (Fluvanna County)
John Muir once said “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” Thanks to Walter Hussey, there is one more beautiful place in Virginia to do just that. Walter’s passion and excitement for nature led him to plan, map out and implement the 70-acre Meadow Management Program space at Pleasant Grove Park in Fluvanna County. He was instrumental in developing partnerships with six state agencies and a long list of other organizations to get the project off the ground. Collaborating with state agencies enabled Walter to obtain grants for the project, as well as assist in implementing an Earth Day event centered around nature education.
Walter worked to connect with, recruit, and organize Fluvanna Volunteer Citizens, Virginia Master Naturalists and Fluvanna Gardeners to plant thousands of wildflowers and install countless bird house and tree kits. Additionally, Walter developed numerous marketing and informational publications to support the area, including a “Back to Nature” brochure and a booklet of wildlife information, photos, and educational tidbits on what to look for when visiting the park. Nothing stopped Walter from finding solutions to lead to the success of this re-naturalization project. He took a public park, with nothing but abandoned hayfields and nothing to offer residents or visitors, and turned it into something special – a place for residents and visitors to enjoy and a haven for native wildlife. His efforts are something truly beautiful to behold.
Community Organization: Change the World RVA (Richmond)
For many kids, high school and college is an exciting and memorable time in their lives. But imagine what it would be like to go through this challenging and important phase without family support, without the tools to learn, and without a place to sleep at night. Change the World RVA is the only organization in Central Virginia specifically addressing the needs of high school and college students who face homelessness. An all-volunteer organization, Change the World saw an overwhelming need in the community – with nearly 1,800 homeless students in Richmond Public Schools alone. Teams of caring adults provide help to these students with housing, school supplies, transportation, positive encouragement, and more. These adults and young people have become a strong family unit, supporting one another, having fun together, and planning their lives together.
Students receive assistance beyond high school into their college careers – a time when they need stability and support even more. Change the World RVA teaches students to network, to form relationships with adults and peers, and encourages them to “pay it forward.” The students run a food pantry and clothing closet with very little assistance from adults, and volunteer with various organizations. Many of these students have gone on to college receiving scholarships and accolades at their universities. They have also become powerful advocates working to shift stereotypes about the homeless and strive to shed light on systemic issues that need to change in order to solve this problem. Change the World RVA is special because it recognizes each student as having unique gifts and talents and encourages them to take it upon themselves to help those qualities grow and transform lives.
Corporation: Genworth (Richmond and Lynchburg)
Genworth is committed to empowering their employees to do what they like to do best—help people. They’re just as passionate about helping those in need in their local communities as they are about helping their policyholders around the world. The Genworth Foundation provides financial support to local non-profit partners focused on affordable housing and senior stability – including nearly $2 million in contributions in the Richmond and Lynchburg areas in 2015. Genworth’s employees enhance this giving with personal donations – contributing over $600,000 to United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg and United Way of Central Virginia in 2015.
Genworth’s employee volunteer efforts are the backbone of their commitment to local communities. In 2015, Genworth employees volunteered a total of more than 22,000 hours globally – and more than 17,000 of those hours were with non-profit organizations in the Richmond and Lynchburg communities. To encourage employees to support the causes they care about most, Genworth offers paid time off for volunteer events, as well as volunteer rewards accounts that match employee volunteer hours with money that can be designated to a non-profit organization of the employees’ choice. While Genworth employees volunteer year-round, their best example of employees’ spirit of volunteerism is their annual Month of Service, which takes place each June. For 30 days, Genworth employees around the world band together to make a positive impact on their local communities through volunteerism. In 2015, Genworth employees participated in more than 300 volunteer projects benefitting more than 150 organizations around the world.
Small Business: Virginia Cancer Specialists of Arlington (Arlington)
In Arlington, when low-income uninsured patients need cancer care, they have a wonderful option: Virginia Cancer Specialists of Arlington (VCS). Without VCS, these patients would likely not receive the cancer treatment they need, which can often cost more than $50,000 a month. Fortunately superior care is provided because VCS believes that health care for all community members is a human right and that, as members of the community, VCS is responsible for helping anyone in need, regardless of that person’s ability to pay. VCS is an outstanding partner with the Arlington Free Clinic. In the past five years alone, VCS has provided pro bono care to 160 of the Clinic’s cancer patients with the cost of many patients’ care exceeding several hundred thousands of dollars.
VCS never puts caps on the number of Free Clinic patients they will see, the number of visits patients can make, or the amount of money they’ll spend on patients’ care. Many of the Clinic’s patients have required more than 30 visits to treat their cancer, and some patients will need to see their VCS oncologists for years to come. VCS physicians participate in community groups that conduct cancer screening outreach in low-income housing complexes and churches throughout Arlington and surrounding communities. VCS’ patient care philosophy is that health care for all community members is a human right and that, as members of the community, VCS truly values all people in their community and has been a lifesaver for hundreds of people who have nowhere else to turn. They have proven that it is possible to be deeply compassionate and simultaneously thrive as a business.
Educational Institution: Goochland County Public Schools (Goochland)
For Goochland County Public Schools, volunteerism and community service are an integral part of the school system’s instructional goals. For the past three years, the concept of “engagement in the schools” has become ingrained as a recurring theme. With daily engagement practiced throughout the schools, students are developing a lifelong commitment to community service with the added benefit of increased achievement in their academic life. Additionally, as a result of this commitment, students, teachers and others in the school system have become more engaged with the community as well.
More than 2,500 Goochland students are regularly serving in a variety of organizations and projects. From collecting clothing items and more than 25,000 pounds of food for Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services (GFCFS) to volunteering at clothing sites, food banks, and election polling locations – students are learning firsthand what it means to care about their community. Many of the food donations are collected through a remarkable “waste-free” lunch program in which non-perishable items not consumed during lunch are donated to the GFCFS food pantry. The schools have also implemented a Brown Bag program which recently fed 187 students on weekends and provided some students with Food Lion gift cards over school breaks ensuring they wouldn’t be hungry while out of school. These are just some of the ways that Goochland County Public Schools have made a long-term commitment to serve those less fortunate and directly impact the place they call “home.”
Faith-Based Volunteer Service: Virginia Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, (Arlington)
Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) is an outstanding example of collaboration and unity when sometimes it seems the world is so divided. VOICE is a truly unique non-partisan organization of nearly 50 faith congregations and institutions of higher education in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William. Driven by ordinary people who care about improving their communities, VOICE’s structure and methods ensure that its actions reflect the interests of a broad and diverse group of community members. This membership includes people of a variety of economic, political, religious and national backgrounds. The organization works to train community members in person-to-person organizing aimed at equipping them to effect change on critical issues such as affordable housing, access to health care, education, and immigration.
Last year alone, VOICE trained 235 people who went on to leverage more than 100 volunteers in the community. In Prince William, VOICE organizers worked to stop predatory lending practices and expanded preschool opportunities for low-income children. In Fairfax, Arlington, and Reston, organizers pushed for affordable housing options. Also in Arlington, VOICE organized Latino parents, teachers, and residents to advocate for stronger schools and helped to increase voter turnout through the Mi Voz Cuenta (My Voice Counts) program. VOICE fosters a passion for service and leadership, drawing a strong effort and commitment from ordinary Virginians to realize extraordinary shared results.
Family Volunteer Service: The Potts Family (Goochland)
Dr. Meta and Mr. Earl Potts are not your usual retirees. The nearly 80-year-old couple not only volunteer more than 520 hours a year in the Goochland community, but they are the epitome of going above and beyond. When the couple moved to the area in 2000, it didn’t take them long to make an impact and become leaders in the community. Both Meta and Earl became heavily involved volunteering with several community organizations. At the Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services, Meta and Earl help provide healthcare, food, clothing and shelter to low-income individuals. The couple transformed both the organization’s Clothes Closet and Food Pantry by improving donation management and increasing storage space.
With Goochland Court Appointed Special Advocate, Meta and Earl advocated and provided support for seven at-risk children, working 25-75 hours a month – including attending treatment meetings out of state averaging 1,200-1,900 miles per month. When Meta was named Goochland Christmas Mother in 2014, she worked for six months to raise money and organize volunteers to purchase, wrap, and distribute gifts to those in need. As a direct result of their leadership, they have achieved much to improve the lives of the impoverished, disabled and needy in Goochland County. Meta and Earl have truly been inspired by the words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer who said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know, the only ones among you who will be really happy, are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Senior Volunteer: Fran Ricketts (Winchester)
For the families and individuals in the Winchester area who have fallen on hard times and face a struggle to even provide themselves with basic needs, Fran Ricketts is an angel of mercy providing hope during dark times. Fran has dedicated her life to helping others for more than 30 years. Her life’s work has been serving through the Congregational Community Action Project (CCAP), a council of 200 churches and synagogues dedicated to addressing the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in Winchester. Fran manages the entire program – from fundraising to recruiting volunteers to personally responding around the clock to the needs of the community.
Each year, Fran and the CCAP assist more than 34,000 families in the community. The vast majority of these families are in need of food support and Fran works hard to provide fresh foods and canned goods to keep her community fed. A great many of these families are homeless or at risk of being evicted. Fran annually assists nearly 300 of these families in the Winchester and Frederick County area finding them shelter and a place to store their personal items. When no shelter can be found, Fran even makes sure families have someplace to sleep providing tents, sleeping bags, and cooking supplies. She even goes above and beyond to help individuals plan for the future assisting them with paying for GED testing and helping find job interview clothing. In addition to her tireless work, she never misses an opportunity to educate and work to change the perceptions of poverty and homelessness. She sees the face of Christ in every person she deals with and understands how important compassion is to solving community problems.
Youth Volunteer: Isabella Lovain (Alexandria)
What do you get when you combine idealism with hard work and pragmatism? You get a high school student who is already changing the world and making a profound difference in her community. Alexandria’s Isabella Lovain is described as a bundle of energy – part super volunteer, part civic activist, and part community organizer. Volunteering at least 10 hours per week for various organizations, Isabella has the uncanny ability to appear wherever there is a need. She also stands out because of her vision and commitment to create change on a meaningful scale. Her role as a student liaison to the Alexandria City School Board has given a voice to the 13,000 students attending public schools in her community.
She is also an active member of Inspire Virginia and has independently developed a tool to improve voter registration at her high school with the goal of registering 85 percent of all eligible students. Isabella puts her desire to serve into action – volunteering to help students with scholarship applications, serving on mission trips, participating in river cleanups, providing pro bono photography to military families, and more. She is also actively involved in many school organizations and even utilized her social media expertise to generate support for a gender neutral bathroom at her school. Perhaps what makes Isabella even more special, is her ability to enthusiastically recruit others to participate in service. Her understanding that volunteering develops a powerful kinship of people who help people is why she has been recognized by her community as Youth Volunteer of the Year and by the Points of Light Foundation. For Isabella, to volunteer is to improve life itself.
The Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards are presented by the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and VDSS’ Office on Volunteerism and Community Service on behalf of the Office of the Governor. These awards have recognized exceptional volunteer service in Virginia for more than 20 years.