Reston residents B.J. and Marilyn Silvey were shocked to find out they were 2006 Best of Reston award winners this past January.
“We were totally stunned,” said Marilyn Silvey. “I am rarely speechless, but boy I was then.”
The news, however, wasn’t surprising to anyone who knows them.
“It’s funny because they don’t even think twice about [volunteering]. It’s just what they do,” said Kerrie Wilson, CEO of Reston Interfaith, describing the couple’s commitment to helping the community. “I can’t think of anyone I’ve worked with that deserve this more than B.J. and Marilyn.”
THE SILVEYS, active members of the community for nearly 25 years, have donated countless hours to several different local causes, volunteering on everything from bike safety to gender equity issues.
The Best of Reston awards are given out each year by Reston Interfaith and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and presented to businesses, individuals and organizations that have gone above and beyond in their service to improving the quality of life of those in the Reston community. The Silveys and this year’s other award winners will be honored at the 15th Annual Best of Reston Gala on April 20.
Rev. M. Bruce Irwin of United Christian Parish, the Silveys' church, nominated the couple.
“There are so many well-qualified people in our community, but B.J. and Marilyn have stood out in my mind for doing so much and caring so much,” said Irwin.
Marilyn Silvey credits much of their volunteerism on her upbringing. “We both grew up with the ethic of helping other people,” she said. Besides, it’s fun, added B.J. Silvey.
“We’re not out there by ourselves," Marilyn Silvey said. "We’re part of a big community network trying to make this place better."
They each retired in the late 1990s. A Vietnam veteran, B.J. Silvey made a life in the Army. When he returned, he worked in the civil service on weapon systems logistics. Marilyn Silvey worked 31 years for Voice of America in various capacities. She managed an office in Africa, worked as a feature writer and as a standard broadcaster.
WITH A LONG history of service, the Silveys have had several opportunities to influence Reston for the better.
“B.J. has been instrumental in the development of Reston Interfaith,” said Irwin. “His heart, like Marilyn’s, is deeply concerned about the strength of our community.”
B.J. Silvey, a former president of RI who now sits on the board, has contributed to the organization on several levels, said Wilson.
“One minute he’s running a board meeting, and the next he’s putting together a bike for a child,” said Wilson. “What’s unique about [the couple] is how much they give.”
B.J. Silvey, who received his Eagle Badge in 1956, has also worked to help thousands of children by volunteering in various positions in the Boy Scouts, including cubmaster, assistant scoutmaster and scout commissioner.
“He just loves the scouts,” said Marilyn Silvey.
When B.J. Silvey is not working on RI issues or Boy Scouts, he’s been involved in all things bike related.
“If it’s got two wheels, chances are I’ve been a part of it,” he said, having been a member of the Reston Bike Club for about 20 years.
B.J. Silvey has volunteered at several bike rodeos in Reston, which help children learn riding skills and safety. Recently, he volunteered to help fix bikes donated to the Herndon Official Worker's Center to help day laborers get to work. “He’s already fixed about 15 bikes,” said Marilyn Silvey.
He’s also a member of the Friends of Washington & Old Dominion Trail, and he is one of the founders of the Trail Patrol for the W&OD, “It was just a way to help everybody enjoy the trail,” said B.J. Silvey. Since 1985, he has volunteered with the Reston Triathlon and now serves as the event’s co-director.
“I started on a corner waving a flag [for crowd control] and just stuck with it,” he said.
FOR MANY YEARS, Marilyn Silvey has helped run Works Sunday, an annual August tradition with more than 15 churches, synagogues and mosques participating in a weekend of projects to assist the less-fortunate residents of Reston and Herndon.
“She’s really been the brainchild of that,” said Wilson. “And we’ve been such a big beneficiary of the event.”
Works Sunday also helps people living in Gabriel Homes, which are group homes for those with mental retardation.
“A lot of these things are what faith communities normally do, but once a year we say let’s do it together and get to know one another,” said Marilyn Silvey.
She has been an active member of the local branch of the American Association of University Women, advocating for women’s rights. Marilyn Silvey, AAUW’s state vice president for public policy, spends Thursdays going to the Hill to lobby on behalf of AAUW.
“Our main issue is education and equity for girls,” she said.
On Tuesdays, Marilyn Silvey volunteers as a mentor for at-risk students at Forest Edge Elementary School.
“We’re trying to give them support, to show them we’re on their side, and give them a role model,” she said.
AS VOLUNTEERS, the Silveys feel right at home in Reston. “The people in Reston are very generous,” said Marilyn Silvey. “It’s one of the reasons we love it here. The people care and the people are active.
“We don’t feel that we do more than others in Reston. There are a lot of wonderful role models for us here,” she said.