Part of a series of profiles of Volunteer Fairfax award winners and nominees from the Reston area.
Rev. Debra Peevey came a long way when she moved from Seattle to Reston nine years ago.
It’s easy to tell, though, she’s never traveled off course from her life-long commitment to help others.
Two weeks ago, Peevey received the award for Community Leadership from Volunteer Fairfax, an organization dedicated to facilitating community volunteerism in the county.
“I was completely astonished when I won,” Peevey said.
Many in the community, who have been touched by her work, aren’t surprised at all.
A pastor for 10 years, Peevey’s made it her occupation enriching human life and potential.
“We’re so fortunate to have her in our community,” said Kerrie Wilson, CEO of Reston Interfaith. “Everybody should have a Deb Peevey to work with them.”
PRIOR TO ARRIVING in Reston, Peevey worked in Seattle as a hospice chaplain for four years, serving about 1,000 patients during that time. Before that, she studied spiritual direction at Seattle University. And before that, she went to seminary school at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, working on the side as a freelance photographer to help put herself through school.
When she moved to Reston, she used her skill as a photographer to help others. She volunteered with Reston Interfaith, taking pictures of children at Embry Rucker Shelter and Laurel Learning Center.
“I’d go to take photos of the kids because they often don’t have pictures of themselves,” Peevey said.
Wilson said that Peevey’s photographs helped many people recreate a sense of history for their families. “What better gift could you give anybody, for mothers and children who’ve lost some of those memories over time?” said Wilson, who nominated Peevey for the award and said that all of her dedicated work made her an obvious choice.
For Peevey, who also serves as director of the Journey of the Heart Ministries, faith and service go hand in hand.
“I really think we’re here to serve, and faith has at its heart the care of neighbor and that care of neighbor includes all people,” said Peevey, who also convenes an interfaith roundtable in Reston. “One mountain, many paths, that’s what I believe.”
In her ‘care of neighbor’ belief, Peevey includes the environment. “I think stewards of the Earth means not subduing the Earth, but living in accord with it.”
ANOTHER MAJOR FOCUS of Peevey’s work has been in the area of HIV-AIDS. In 2004, Peevey was asked to serve on the board of the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry (NOVAM), where she now serves as president.
“I’ve been interested in the issue of HIV-AIDS ever since it’s been around,” she said.
NOVAM’s programs and projects are at the heart of Peevey’s service. “What NOVAM does that I’m really excited about is ‘Face to Face,’ a peer education program,” Peevey said. “We train young people to talk to their peers.”
Focusing on young people, the program, which reaches 10,000 students annually, increases knowledge and awareness about HIV transmission and prevention. The abstinence-based program is the only program approved in the classrooms in much of Northern Virginia.
“The way I look at it, no matter what your position on abstinence, young people should not die because they’ve had sex one time, they just shouldn’t,” Peevey said. “We need to reach out to them and show them real alternatives for their lives, and administer compassion if they contract the virus.”
Peevey said that NOVAM just had their signature fundraising event, late last month, called Imagine. “As in ‘Imagine a world without AIDS,’” she said. Last year, the event raised $120,000, which went a long way to advance NOVAM’s programs. They’re hopeful that this year’s event exceeded last year’s total.
“One of the things about Deb is that she’s always willing to share her gifts,” said Wilson. “I’ve never known her to say no to anything.”