On Tuesday morning Juan Pacheco was in a conference room at the Reston Hyatt Hotel, getting hugs from people he had never met before.
"All these people are talking about me," Pacheco said. "It's weird. I'm just doing my part to help kids, whether they live in Reston, Falls Church or whatever."
Pacheco, a student at George Mason University, volunteers with Barrios Unidos, a metropolitan area organization that provides outreach for gang members. Pacheco, a former gang member himself, works primarily with teens in the Reston-Herndon area. Last year, he was instrumental in easing tensions between two rival gangs at South Lakes High School. On Tuesday, he was named one of the Best of Reston.
For the past 11 years, Reston Interfaith and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce have been working together to honor outstanding volunteers with the Best of Reston Awards. This year the two organizations recognized a total of seven Reston businesses and individuals who have demonstrated significant volunteer efforts. The Best of Reston winners were nominated by friends in the community, and weren't notified they had won until around a week ago. Pacheco was surprised when he found out about the award.
"They sent me a letter and I was like, 'Who nominated me for this thing?' I had never heard of it before," Pacheco said.
On April 25, the award winners will return to the Hyatt for the Best of Reston Awards Dinner. Tickets to the dinner will be sold for $125 each, and 10-seat tables will cost between $2,000 and $5,000.
Money from the dinner goes to Reston Interfaith, which provides a range of assistance services to needy residents in the Reston area. Reston Hospital Center president Bill Adams, who is supervising the donation effort, hopes to net $120,000 at the dinner. Last year's dinner generated $113,000.
"We're going to see all of us pulling together to show those people who can't make ends meet that the community is what makes this a special place to be," said Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) during Tuesday's breakfast meeting. Most of those in attendance on Tuesday represented local businesses.
The Best of Reston winners, along with Pacheco, are Janice Arnold, a local urologist who has helped develop prostate cancer awareness and a screening program; Booz Allen Hamilton, an area consulting firm that has, among other initiatives, helped out with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life fund-raiser; Myers Public Relations, a Reston company that has worked on several pro bono projects; William Nicoson, a long-time Restonian who helped found the Reston Historic Trust; Ann Rodriguez, a member of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, Leadership Fairfax and the Board of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; and Washington Gas, which helped create an energy and environmental collection at the Reston Regional Library.
For more ticket information on the Best of Reston dinner, call Reston Interfaith at 703-787-3126. In the coming weeks, The Connection will run a series of articles profiling the Best of Reston winners.