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Firm Founded on Volunteerism

Marion Myers owns a public relations firm, but her college degree is in art history. When she went to school, students could not major in public relations.

She started in the field as a volunteer, donating her marketing skills at Reston businesses and nonprofit organizations. But eventually her volunteerism grew into a career.

It is fitting, then, that Myers Public Relations is now being honored with a Best of Reston Award. The annual awards are given to individuals and businesses which have made significant volunteer contributions to Reston.

Myers and her two employees — Carol Nahorniak and Mary Saunders — do a combined 500 hours of volunteer and pro bono work per year.

"I wouldn't take a volunteer position stuffing envelopes," Myers said. "I choose roles where I will be effective. That's what people ask us to do. It's what we're good at."

She said she doesn't actively pursue new volunteer opportunities, but simply learns about them through contacts in the community.

"One thing tends to lead to the next," Myers said. "People who do volunteer work tend to gravitate toward each other, and they introduce you to good programs."

She moved to Reston in 1982, and started volunteering shortly after at the Health Club of Reston, where she eventually became the marketing director. Through the health club she learned about the Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE), and started doing marketing for the nonprofit organization. At one of GRACE's annual Reston Arts Festivals, Myers was approached by Linda Miller, then marketing director for the Reston Town Center. At the festival, Miller asked Myers to start doing public relations for the Town Center. At the end of 1992, soon after she took the town center job, Myers started taking on other Reston clients.

"I found out that if you don't get volunteering in the community, you can't get connected," she said.

AND ALTHOUGH SHE admits it is a perk, Myers said she doesn't volunteer to make business contacts. She said she enjoys her pro bono work more than her paid work.

"You choose what you want to work on and you work with people you enjoy," she said. "You do it because you want to, not because you have to."

Saunders agreed with Myers. Saunders is active with the Girl Scouts, she helps out at local schools and she is a member of Reston Association's youth subcommittee.

"My motivation is the delight of the other people at the opposite end," Saunders said. "The Girl Scouts may do a challenge course and you get to see the girls get over their fear of the zip wire."

Nahorniak is helping Fairfax County Public Access Television in a public relations initiative. She also works closely with the Reston Historic Trust and is organizing this year's upcoming Reston House Tour.

"You enjoy the event, but you enjoy it so much more when you see so many people enjoying themselves and you know you had something to do with that," Nahorniak said.

Meyers said one of her most gratifying volunteer experiences has been with the Medical Care for Children Partnership (MCCP).

"Six or seven years ago it was the best kept secret in Fairfax," Myers said of MCCP. "They find doctors for children of the working poor. They were a great county agency. But nobody knew about them."

Myers started writing press releases about the agency and created a yearly MCCP benefit gala. The gala brings in donations to MCCP every year but even more importantly, according to Myers, the gala raises the agency's visibility.

"They're better able to attract doctors and donors now," Myers said. "I've also helped with the outreach piece, letting people know that just because you lost your job or you've become divorced doesn't mean you need to go to the emergency room."

OF ALL THE VOLUNTEER work her company has done, Myers said the most professionally valuable initiative has been working with the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce. She is a board member, she has chaired volunteer committees and, for the past 11 years, she has handled promotion for the annual Taste of the Town Festival.

"It shows people what the company does," Myers said of her involvement with the chamber. "That's not the reason it is done, but it makes good business sense. It's not only personally satisfying, but it is also good for business."

Miller runs Miller Marketing out of the same office suite as Myers Public Relations. The two decided to move into the space, located near the town center, around four years ago when both were working out of their homes.

"Part of the problem with working at home is that you are always by yourself," Miller said. "We are total extroverts."

Myers, said Miller, is one of the "most involved" people she knows.

"She tends to throw herself wholeheartedly into whatever she does, pro bono or paid," Miller said. "The neat thing about Marion is, she's nice. I know that sounds trite, but so many people you work with are not nice 100 percent of the time. She is."