Hats off to Kelly Lavin! Always giving of herself to others, this tireless Centreville resident was on the receiving end, Monday, when she was honored as one of seven extraordinary women in the Washington Metropolitan area.
Lavin, of the Hunt Chase community, was recognized by WJLA-TV (channel 7) and the Washington Area Toyota Dealers in their annual Tribute to Working Women, as a woman who makes a difference. She was chosen out of thousands nominated, and the ceremony was held Monday afternoon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
"I was honored and humbled totally to be nominated," she said. "And I was thrilled [to be a recipient] because I knew this would mean we'd have the opportunity to get more exposure for Our Neighbor's Child."
LAVIN IS THE founder and guiding force behind Our Neighbor's Child (ONC), a non-profit group of volunteers that provides new clothes and toys to some 500 needy families — including 1,500 children — in western Fairfax County. This holiday season marks its 14th year.
"Kelly's volunteer efforts are outstanding because they always produce extraordinary results," said Joayn Bahr, who nominated her for the award. Bahr co-chairs Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM) holiday food-basket program for needy families, working hand-in-hand with ONC. "She finds a need and creates a solution."
ONC was born when Lavin realized that many low-income parents couldn't afford Christmas gifts for their children and local churches were already struggling to help them with food and clothing. What's more, said Bahr, "Most people chair such an activity for a year or maybe two," but Lavin is still at the helm as ONC's executive director. She oversees 400 volunteers and makes sure no child is forgotten.
Besides providing gifts for children who otherwise would have none, said Bahr, "Kelly makes a difference because she brings together a wide variety of community volunteers from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. [And she's] introduced volunteerism to a large number of individuals [who've then become] involved with other volunteer organizations."
In 1998, Lavin organized Virginia Run Elementary's first walk to benefit the homeless, and this fund-raiser still continues. That same year, she founded SYA's wrestling program and served as its commissioner until 2000.
She also established the NOVA MatDog Travel Wrestling program in 2001, serving as commissioner until 2005. And she's editor of Westfield High's Athletic Boosters newsletter and is on its Athletic Boosters Board.
LAVIN ALSO chairs Virginia Run Elementary's Box Tops 4 Education Program. Under her leadership, Virginia Run is among the top 10 percent in earnings in the U.S. (Born and raised in Northern Virginia, she obtained a bachelors in English, with concentration in writing, from GMU).
At Monday's ceremony, she received an inscribed, crystal vase and $1,000 — which she's dividing between ONC and WFCM. Watching her proudly were her husband Chris; one of their three sons, Ross, 15 (the others are Ryan, 18, and Reid, 9); her mother, Sue Murray; sister, Casey Skillman; father-in-law, Robert Lavin; Bahr and the ONC project leaders.
Lavin credits her parents for inspiring her generous heart. Her mother was a teacher, counselor and coach at Fairfax High, recently retiring after serving 30 years with the county school system. Her father Rick — who died in 1989, right before Christmas — was a consultant for the National Automobile Dealers Association, and also loved children.
"They gave me so much self-esteem that I'm not afraid to try new things and fail," said Lavin. "I see a need and fill it. I felt like I had so much love given to me that I just couldn't feel good about myself unless I did the same for others."
She also praised her husband's and sons' support of and help in all her endeavors. But Monday's ceremony was also important to her for another reason.
"It's ONC's first award in 14 years," said Lavin. "But when you have a moment like that — and someone gives you that recognition — the best part was that my mom was there with me."