A life dedicated to "knitting" and "gardening," not of fabrics and plants, but of people and causes, was recognized and honored with the 25th presentation of the Burke Award. This year's recipient, Carter Dudley Flemming, epitomizes volunteerism.
Awarded annually to "a volunteer who has contributed outstanding philanthropic and humanitarian service to the Alexandria community," the award is named for Ether Dashiell Taylor Burke, founder of the Alexandria Chapter of The American Red Cross and its first chair. A brief history of the award was presented by E. Hunt Burke, president, Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust Company.
This year's recipient was nominated by Katherine Morrison, CEO, Campagna Center, where Flemming began her 20-plus year commitment to the well-being of Alexandria's more vulnerable residents. As stated in the announcement of her selection, "Carter has walked in step with those she serves."
More than 80 people packed Chapter headquarters, 123 N. Alfred St., last Sunday afternoon to participate in the celebration of a life that has "year after year knit people and organizations together and cultivates and waters and nurtures programs" to make Alexandria a better place for all its citizens, said Linsay Hutter, vice chair, Campagna Center.
HUTTER DREW the parallel between Flemming's love for gardening and her patience and dedication to improving life in Alexandria. "Think about gardeners ... aren't they the most patient people you have ever met? In a society that's obsessed with the immediate, gardeners understand that you have to plant months and years before you get the right blooms," she said.
"Gardeners are an amazing witness of hope and endurance," Hutter said. Here, "we're talking about the ultimate gardener of a community ... and Alexandria is so much better for it."
That tribute was echoed by Virginia Voght, chapter chair, who presented the award to Flemming. "You're not just an organization person. You're a hands-on person — touching and improving lives wherever you go. Alexandria is truly a much better place because of you and we thank you," Vought said.
Throughout the years Flemming has served in myriad volunteer roles that included the Board of Directors and chair of the Campagna Center and Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross; Alexandria United Way; Healthy Families Alexandria; CASA; Court appointed special advocate for foster children; and the Red Cross Friendly Visitor Program.
She presently serves as a member of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. In that capacity she has been particularly involved in bettering the lives of those that reside in the Ladrey Highrise, an ARHA property.
AS NOTED by Voght, "She knits and weaves the different factions so that they are together for a common goal." And using her extensive knowledge as an Alexandria native, "she is able to visualize opportunities" to improve the fabric of the city through a host of causes.
"She is a true role model and a model citizen, working hard to make a difference in the true spirit of Ether Burke," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.
"Alexandria is a caring community. But, we depend on volunteers such as Carter Flemming to enable our non-profit and faith based organizations to support our programs and citizens," Euille said.
Leading off her acceptance of the award, Flemming said, "What an amazing thing it is to be able to attend your own funeral and not have to die to do it. And then to be able to speak makes it more surreal."
She also paid tribute to her husband Mike whom she credited as "the one who has enabled me to do what I have done over the last 25 years. He is the one who goes off to a demanding job everyday and allows me the luxury of doing the things I have loved that don't pay a salary."
Flemming also paid tribute to Elizabeth Anne Campagna, the first winner of the Burke Award in 1981. "Elizabeth Anne was a powerfully charismatic woman who had a tremendous influence on the direction my life has taken," Flemming said.
SHE REITERATED how it was Campagna who got her into volunteerism when Flemming was "a young member of the Junior Friends of the Community Y," as the center was then known and Campagna was its director. Flemming's first communitywide volunteer role was as chair of the 1982 Scottish Christmas Walk.
"We are all lucky to live in a city like Alexandria that has a
government and elected officials who care about those in need. Non-profits ... do all they can to make life better for our citizens. But they need our help, both with our checkbooks and our gifts of time. Neither has to be large, but together we can make a real difference to our fellow citizens," Flemming said.
In closing her acceptance, she offered a quote: "To the world you might be only one person, but to one person, you might be the world."
She told the assembled crowd, "I plan to continue this journey with all of you for many years ahead. There is much work to be done and I urge you to find that one person and one cause that you can be the world to."