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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.”

That’s the attitude Tucker has maintained throughout the hurricane’s aftermath. Following Hurricane Katrina, he gathered volunteers to travel to the unknown disaster area.

“He just wouldn’t take no for an answer,” said Cleveland. “

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.

The volunteer program at Greenspring Village Retirement Community, in Springfield, won the Volunteer Program category. More than 370 volunteers worked thousands of hours in 2005 under the program’s guidance.

“Like everyone else, seniors want to have purpose and be involved in meaningful work,” said Elke Martin, volunteer programs coordinator at Greenspring Village Retirement Community. “So the job is to find the task to match.”

Jesse Genneson, 18, was recognized in the Youth Volunteer category for his tutoring work in the Mount Vernon area. He spent the last three summers volunteering at local high schools as a math tutor. Genneson said he started the work mainly out of boredom, but has found it rewarding and wants to continue volunteering while he attends Harvard University in the fall.

Jenny Spain nominated sisters Julie and Sally Yannuzzi for their work with disabled children and horses. Spain, founder and director of Simple Changes, a program in which disabled children get to ride, exercise and interact with horses, said the sisters stood out more than any of her other volunteers.

“They always impressed me,” said Spain. “They both ride [horses], which is really nice to have. They’re kind of like a mega-volunteer.”

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 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.