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Local Volunteers Honored

Two Alexandria residents were honored recently by Volunteer Fairfax for their personal contributions to the community by helping others.

Firefighter Willie Bailey, a member of the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department, won an award in the Community Leadership category for his work organizing and managing a major toy drive benefiting children throughout southeastern Fairfax County.

Jesse Geneson, a student at Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology in Falls Church, won one of two awards in the Youth category for his work as a math tutor at West Potomac and Mount Vernon high schools as part of the Fairfax County Summer School Program.

"What makes our community work is our citizens' willingness to give of their time and efforts," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Connolly as he addressed hundreds of volunteers being honored at the 14th Annual Fairfax County Volunteer Awards ceremony last Thursday morning. Thirteen individuals and groups were recognized at the event.

Bailey initiated the toy drive several years ago to aid children who would not otherwise receive any gifts at Christmas. Since then it has grown into one of the largest efforts in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Over 3,000 items were collected and distributed during the 2005 holiday season from Bailey's Woodlawn Station 24 base.

"All it takes is one person to speak out and others will follow and want to make a difference also. This award makes me feel great because the whole fire department helped make this happen," Bailey said.

He originally started the holiday effort by mobilizing local businesses, residents and members of the sixth battalion where he was first assigned. As the project grew, Bailey enlisted the aid of the entire department, the International Association of Firefighters, and Paramedics Local 2068.

In 2005 he initiated a partnership with the Marine Corps and its "Toys for Tots" program. That combination filled a couple of tractor trailers with gifts.

"Bailey serves as a positive role model not only for youth, but also for the Fire Department and the entire community," said his nominator Floyd Ellmore, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department.

GENESON has spent his last three summers helping students understand mathematical topics in algebra and geometry. He began his volunteer work in 2003.

The following year he returned to help students prepare for the Virginia State Standards of Learning Algebra exams. For the past two years, every student in the classes he helped teach passed. A few received perfect scores.

"It's worth while to give your time to other people doing something that you enjoy," Geneson said. His nominator, Antoinette Kidwell, believes Geneson is a "born teacher."

This year eight individuals and five groups were recognized with a 2006 Service Award. The categories for individual awards, such as those presented to Bailey and Geneson, are community leadership, arts and humanities, education, human services, seniors and youth.

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 parters with the Boys and Girls Club of America to provide mentors for

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.