The winners of the 2021 Virginia National Service Awards were announced on Thursday, May 13th, at the Virginia Volunteerism and Service Conference! The winners of this year's awards were recognized by Kathy Spangler, Director of the Virginia Office on Volunteerism and Community Services, Julie Strandlie, Chair of the Virginia Governor's Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism; and Elizabeth Childress-Burneson, Chair of the Virginia Service Foundation. Winners received a trophy prior to the virtual ceremony. Congratulations to this year's winners!
2021 Virginia National Service Award Winners
AmeriCorps State - Erica Wood (Virginia College Advising Corps) - As Eastern View High School’s inaugural college adviser, Erica has made strides in pioneering the Virginia College Advising Corps program in Culpeper County. She has used her talents connecting with people to develop even deeper relationships with the students and the school community. From seeking out a coaching opportunity at the school to foster these connections to helping students consolidate their activities present themselves in the best way possible to colleges, Erica takes her role as adviser to heart. She has worked to advocate for the advising program by acting as co-chair for the program’s outreach and recruitment committee, developing social media content, and serving on the Virginia College Access Network conference planning committee. Erica has taken on additional responsibility and leadership roles with the same vigor she has for her core college advising work. She is ALWAYS thinking of how she can serve others and has made a huge difference to the lives of the students and staff at Eastern View High School.
AmeriCorps VISTA - Sophie Schectman (Maggie Walker Community Land Trust) - Sophie has served for two years as a VISTA and, during this time, has strived to orient the organization more firmly to its mission of racial equity through homeownership. Her courage and persistence in bringing challenging topics of conversation, and supporting her fellow staff members to do the same, has made a lasting and positive impact on the office culture which ultimately will help better serve their clients. She also researched, advised, and ultimately helped launch a pilot lease-to-own program which garnered positive media coverage and vastly increased awareness about the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust.
AmeriCorps Alum - Jordan O'Hanlon (Alexandria Housing Development Corporation) - Jordan began her role as a Resident Services Coordinator after her VISTA service was complete at the organization. In this role, she has coordinated the distribution of more than $700,000 in rent assistance, managed the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program, and assisted in raising more than $100,000 for the organization’s COVID Resident Assistance program. Her efforts have ensured that Virginia residents are able to remain in their homes, bringing some peace and security to hundreds of our residents that have suffered a number of losses due to the pandemic. Not only did she tackle these projects with success, she has also created multiple key partnerships. These partnerships have resulted in free child car seats, extensive food distribution, and a free bike share program in the community. Additionally, her involvement in the organization’s strategic plan, pushed them to go further in their racial equity goals and strategies. Through her tenure as VISTA, Jordan sharpened her professional skills but also learned how other organizations work and how we can improve and adapt so we can work more efficiently together.
AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP - Sandra Baron (RSVP of Northern Virginia) - As a RSVP volunteer, Sandra is a lifesaver to her clients connecting them to housing, childcare, food and financial assistance. But Sandra does so much more than that, working across multiple programs at the Cornerstones program in Fairfax. She uses her professional talents along with her creativity to make a real difference to so many. This past year, she has gone above and beyond helping with the collection and distribution of thousands of pounds of food on a weekly basis, as well as wearing many other hats from front desk at the shelter to food distribution assistant at the pantry and neighborhood sites. As one of her peers attests, “Sandra is a force of nature, not easily deterred, even by a worldwide pandemic. She switched to remote options when absolutely necessary but joined us for lower risk outdoor activities as soon as they became available. It was always a delight to see younger volunteers, a third her age, trying to up their game to keep pace with Sandra!”
AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparents - Patricia Hazel (Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia) - Especially during this past year, so many individuals were isolated and in need of human connection and assistance. Ms. Hazel has provided this vital service, connecting several times a week with her clients by phone and delivering hot meals to her client who lives alone. Throughout the pandemic, she has selflessly completed errands and dropped off essentials for those she serves -- all while maintaining safe social distancing practices. Ms. Hazel’s infinite patience, ongoing initiative, extraordinary creativity, and humble manner make a lasting impact on those she serves.