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Annual Awards Honor Local Volunteers

Volunteer Fairfax presents service awards to Fairfax County volunteers, April 20.

Hurricane Katrina may have devastated a coast more than 1,000 miles away, but that didn’t stop Burke resident Bart Tucker from personally traveling to Mississippi to help residents rebuild their homes and their lives.

Since the hurricane, Tucker has continued to visit the region frequently as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia. He’s been a board member there since 1998, and has worked both physically and strategically to build affordable housing and help families. From fund raising to nail hammering, Tucker has his hands in it all, said his friend and colleague Karen Cleveland, who recently nominated him for a Fairfax County Volunteer Service Award.

“He’s so deserving,” said Cleveland. “He has just gone so far beyond what anyone else has done.”

In recognition of his home-building efforts, Tucker received the award in the Human Service Category, at Volunteer Fairfax’s 14th annual breakfast award ceremony, April 20.

“I’m humbled and a little embarrassed,” said Tucker. “It’s not about me.”

NewsChannel 8 anchor Dave Lucas presented the awards in 11 categories, on behalf of Volunteer Fairfax. Seventy individual and group nominees gathered for the 8 a.m. breakfast.

“Is this fabulous?” asked Elaine Rodgers, keynote speaker and president of the United Service Organization (USO) of Washington, D.C. “I love my job more today than I did yesterday, because of all the volunteers I get to work with.”

Rodgers went on to share stories of various celebrities who have put in countless hours of volunteer work with her organization. Her voice cracked as she fought back tears at the end of her speech, when she thanked all of the volunteers for their time and hard work.

IN ADDITION to the individual and group service awards, Volunteer Fairfax presented a Community Champion award to the “Ready … Pack … Go” Campaign Steering Committee, for its collaborative service addressing needs and issues in Fairfax. The group was recognized for providing faith-based services, teaching and preparing the community with plans and kits for emergency and disaster situations.

Volunteer Fairfax presented the Corporate Volunteers award to Cox Communications of Northern Virginia for its contributions to different Fairfax County agencies that support children and families. The company partners with the Boys and Girls Club of America to provide mentors for children.

Volunteer Fairfax, a private nonprofit corporation established in 1975, helps organize volunteers throughout the community with more than 700 organizations in the Fairfax area. Spokesperson Cori Bassett said the awards have recognized more than 1,200 individuals for their service, since the corporation began presenting them in 1993.

<sh>Flint Hill School

<bt>Flint Hill School students and teachers won the Fairfax County Volunteer Service Award in the Youth Group category for their dedication to helping those in need in their local community.

Students from all class levels participate in a number of service opportunities with Reston Interfaith, a nonprofit organization that promotes self-sufficiency through support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, and other services. The students put together holiday food baskets, organized school supply drives for deserving children, helped landscape the Embry Rucker Community Shelter and held food drives.

It was not only Reston Interfaith that benefited from the students' volunteer efforts. Flint Hill students have volunteered at Martha's Table in Washington, D.C., and in Fairfax at Yesterday's Rose and Food for Others. Many of the teachers and students who were to be honored could not come because they were participating in a school-wide sandwich-making project that will benefit homeless clients at Food for Others.

"This award encourages our efforts and inspires us to do more as a school," said Suzanne Pidgeon, community service coordinator for Flint Hill School.

The volunteer manager at Reston Interfaith Susan Stolpe and the staff who nominated the school, say that the students' volunteer service has helped them become an effective voice for educating others on homelessness and poverty in their community.

<sh>Julie and Sally Yannuzzi

<bt>Julie and Sally Yannuzzi of Oakton won the Fairfax County Volunteer Service Award in the Family Volunteers category for their work assisting individuals with disabilities in therapeutic horseback riding at Simple Changes.

Sixteen year-old Julie and 13-year-old Sally walk beside the horse and rider offering support and help. Their mother encourages their volunteering by driving them 45 minutes each week to the riding center, and waiting three hours for the girls to complete their volunteer duties.

The Yannuzzi sisters’ nominator Jenny Spain with Simple Changes was impressed with the girls’ maturity and courage in working with their clients.

<sh>Marian Chirichella

<bt>Vienna resident Marian Chirichella won a Fairfax County Volunteer Service Award in the Senior category for her work as president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 in McLean and "Angels in Iraq."

Chirichella was elected president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 in 2004. In 2005, when she and her husband heard that wounded soldiers in hospitals in Iraq needed health and comfort items, she launched "Angels in Iraq," a nationwide American Legion campaign to let legionnaires and auxiliary members know how to support the troops in Iraq.

She sent emails to hospitals in Baghdad and Fallujah asking for a "wish list" of items the patients needed. The lists that came back included t-shirts, magazines, flip-flops, and back scratchers for patients wearing casts, but unable to reach their itch.

Under Chirichella's leadership, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 has supported a number of local nonprofits including SHARE, Inc., a nonprofit all-volunteer organization that helps meet the emergency needs of deserving families and individuals. The unit collected non-perishable items year-round for SHARE. During the holidays, they collected items to stock the "Holiday Gift Shopping Spree," a way for those less fortunate to select gifts for immediate family members.

"If I can bring a smile to the face of one of our wounded heroes — even for a split second, I have achieved something that day," said Chirichella.

Chirichella's nominator Jay Edwards of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 notes that Marian was named the American Legion Auxiliary Member of the Year for the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2004-2005.

<sh>John Mooney

<bt>Oakton resident John Mooney, a junior at Flint Hill School won one of the two awards in the Youth category for his work as a volunteer firefighter in the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department.

The first aid classes and the volunteer work Mooney did with the Boy Scouts and the American Red Cross sparked his interest in emergency care. He has been spending his teenage years riding along in either a "medic," a vehicle equipped to provide advanced life support systems, or a volunteer ambulance.

He spends many weekends at the fire department, sleeping and doing his homework there so he can always be on call. By working 24-hour shifts on the weekends, he has logged more than 640 volunteer hours.

He is starting to explore colleges and is hoping to go into the medical field.

"My volunteer work has helped me find a career path that I will find to be both fulfilling and enjoyable," said Mooney, 18.

His nominator was the community service coordinator for Flint Hill School, Susan Pidgeon, and other school faculty who are impressed with his commitment and work ethic.