RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam recognized the recipients of the 2019 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards during a special ceremony held at the Executive Mansion yesterday evening. The annual awards program spotlights the outstanding efforts that individual volunteers and organizations contribute on behalf of citizens throughout the Commonwealth.
“Each year these awards highlight the selfless work and meaningful contributions of the remarkable individuals, organizations, and companies that serve their communities,” said Governor Northam. “This year’s award recipients set a powerful example of how each of us can give back, and embody the values and spirit of service that make Virginia stronger, healthier, and an even better place to live. It is my honor to recognize these awardees for the positive impact they have had in our Commonwealth and in the lives of their fellow Virginians.”
“Volunteers build strong communities and have a lasting impact on the areas they serve,” said Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) Commissioner Duke Storen. “For the families and individuals in need of assistance and support, these individuals and organizations are changing their lives for the better.”
“These nine award winners encompass more than two million Virginians who freely give their time and talents each year through volunteerism and service,” added Gail P. Harris, VDSS director of the Office on Volunteerism and Community Services. “The civic fabric of our communities is stronger because of their generosity.”
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 recognizing Virginians who have significantly contributed to the life and welfare of the Commonwealth and its citizens.
The winners of the 2019 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards include:
OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION | Virginia Latino Higher Education Network (Weems)The Virginia Latino Higher Education Network is the only statewide, volunteer-driven, nonprofit which supports, promotes, and advocates for Latino success and advancement in higher education to ensure every Hispanic/Latino in Virginia is college- and career-ready. The organization hosts an intense five-day college prep event, provides in-school mentors, and provides students with support in searching for colleges and careers, completing their applications, and applying for financial aid.
OUTSTANDING FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATION | Health Wagon (Wise)For more than 25 years, The Health Wagon has provided compassionate, quality health care to the medically under-served individuals and families in the Appalachian Mountains. Last year, nearly 3,500 volunteers served at the free, mobile and stationary clinics delivering quality health care to more than 4,000 of the neediest individuals in the region. Volunteers provide primary and preventive care, dental, behavioral health, tele-health, specialty care, and are currently leading the charge to sign up patients who are eligible for Virginia’s newly expanded Medicaid program.
OUTSTANDING CORPORATION | Lowe’s Home Improvement (Glen Allen)Through the Lowe’s Heroes project, employees adopt a volunteer project with a local nonprofit organization or K–12 public school. Last year, 14 stores in the Richmond area teamed up to serve the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls (VHBG) by renovating kitchens in four group homes. The volunteers also painted common areas, cleaned carpets, assembled and moved furniture, power-washed the outside of the homes and walkways, and painted every wall in the elementary school.
OUTSTANDING EDUCATION ORGANIZATION | Averett University (Danville)The Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness at Averett University serves as an innovative program pairing volunteers from Averett, Danville Community College, and Piedmont Community College with local organizations such as God’s Storehouse, the Boys & Girls Club of the Dan River Region, and many others. Additionally, service opportunities offered through the Averett Athletics program, AmeriCorps, and AmeriCorps VISTA foster a culture of volunteerism as a model for other universities to create a common expectation and opportunities for more young Americans to serve their communities and country.
OUTSTANDING SMALL BUSINESS | Virginia Beach Schools Federal Credit Union (Virginia Beach)Virginia Beach Schools Federal Credit Union serves as a Partner in Education with Virginia Beach City Public Schools, volunteering annually in more than 30 schools. Each year, 18 volunteers deploy to the schools for 300 hours of service to enhance financial education through programs like Reality Store events; student-run, school-based credit unions; work and family studies; financial education; financial literacy through reading programs; and hands-on budgeting and financial management simulation.
OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER FAMILY | Denise and Michael Forgione (Chantilly)For many low-income adults with disabilities in Northern Virginia, Denise and Mike Forgione have provided the necessary support to live active and independent lives. The couple has volunteered nearly 400 hours this year through various organizations, including the Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers’ Money Management Program, which helps individuals manage their finances so that they can retain their independence. The couple also serves through the charity they founded, “A Child’s Joy,” in which they collect donated Christmas items for more than 1,000 children across Northern Virginia.
OUTSTANDING SENIOR VOLUNTEER | Dr. Lawrence Fleenor, Jr. (Big Stone Gap)Dr. Fleenor serves as a tireless advocate and volunteer for the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, where he led the work to create regional historical bus tours. Additionally, he volunteers as a historian at the Natural Tunnel State Park and Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association, and has worked vigorously to form public-private partnerships to enhance programming and preservation efforts.
OUTSTANDING ADULT VOLUNTEER | Kimberley L. Martin (Mechanicsville)Kimberley created the volunteer-run KLM Scholarship Foundation to provide much-needed funds for students to attend college and help pay for students’ costly textbooks through its Book Scholarship Program. Her volunteer efforts have resulted in more than $264,000 in scholarships, including a record $42,000 in book scholarships just last year.
OUTSTANDING YOUTH VOLUNTEER | Shreyaa Venkat (Ashburn)Shreyaa, a junior at Broad Run High School, started an organization called New Environment Starts Today (NEST4US) to increase awareness and action around food waste reduction, as well as rescue and redistribute edible foods to those in need. Through the NEST4US Sandwich Assembly Projects, over 250 volunteers have fed more than 2,000 homeless individuals. Shreyaa has also collected more than 1,000 books for the Books for Africa warehouse, and recently partnered with the ALIA Foundation to send more than 1,000 care packages to Hurricane Florence victims. This year, she launched “NEST Tutors,” which serves as a free tutoring program for children in more than 14 local schools.
The Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards are presented by the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and Virginia Department of Social Services’ Office on Volunteerism and Community Services on behalf of the Office of the Governor. These awards have recognized exceptional volunteer service in Virginia for more than 20 years. Additional information about the program and full bios on this year’s recipients can be found online here.
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