Pat Gauthier is quick to turn any accolades that come her way to the 375 volunteers that give their time to ECHO.
“It’s the volunteers that deserve the credit, they make me look good,” said Gauthier.
On Thursday, Sept. 21, Gauthier received a “Nice Guys” award from Acacia Bank, during a ceremony in which one business and one organization were recognized for their contributions to the community.
For the past 38 years, Gauthier has served as the executive director for ECHO, Ecumenical Community Helping Others, a Springfield-based organization that provides emergency financial aid, counseling, food and clothing to families in need. An all-volunteer operation, Gauthier insists it’s her volunteers that should be honored.
“I’m very pleased and very flattered they chose me,” said Gauthier, who also received a check for $3,000 as part of her award. “I’m really surprised they chose me.”
The recognition comes as a major renovation project is nearly completed at ECHO, which will double the size of the building at 7205 Old Keene Mill Road, Gauthier said. Now clients will be able to meet with counselors in partitioned-off rooms, to give them more privacy.
“I think this will expand our opportunities to help more people, but it also means we’ll need more volunteers,” she said.
Gauthier said the $3,000 will be used to pay for the addition to the building, which will officially be re-dedicated on Sunday, Oct. 15.
WHEN PRESENTING Gauthier's award, Acacia Bank senior vice president Nancy Davis said more than 90 nominations were submitted for the individual Nice Guys category, some of whom received multiple nominations.
With nominations coming from Gaithersburg, Md. to Stafford County, Davis said it was “good to know that nice guys are all around the Beltway.”
Davis said she was impressed by Gauthier's poise and demeanor.
"We were really surprised to find out she's 75 years old," Davis laughed, something Gauthier revealed when she accepted her award. "She's a great lady."
Established in 2005, the Nice Guys Awards were developed as a way to celebrate Acacia’s 20th anniversary and, in turn, draw attention to the people who make a difference in their communities through volunteer work and contributions to the greater good, said Acacia’s chairman, president and C.E.O., F. Weller Meyer.
“Imagine a world in which every person did one good deed,” Meyer said. “As long as we have people like the ones we recognize today, we should feel blessed. We are gathered here to recognize the unsung heroes in our community who change the world daily.”
Meyer applauded the winners, who perform countless hours of work without pay in addition to their regular full-time jobs and duties to their families.
The winner of last year’s individual Nice Guys award, Barry Beyer, said the key to successful volunteer work is “finding something you like. Reaching out to others is really worthwhile, and if you enjoy the work, you’ll want to find time to do it.”
Beyer, a doctor with Virgnia Hospital Center and creator of Crosslink International, organizes yearly trips to Honduras with other doctors to provide medical aid and perform surgeries for five days. In 2004, Beyers and his team treated over 8,000 patients and distributed more than $600,000 worth of medical supplies to hopsitals in Honduras.
In addition to Gauthier, the runners up in the individual Nice Guys Award category were Emily Decicco, a campaign volunteer for Adrien Fenty in Washington and cancer fighter; and James Frank, who volunteers with multiple aid organizations.
Three organizations were also recognized for their contributions: The Naomi Project, which provides classes and counseling for new mothers from the birth of their child until the child’s third birthday; Community Partners for Children, an Alexandria-based organization that provides school supplies and clothing for school-aged children, and Northern Virginia Dental Society, a group of dentists that provide free dental care to low-income families.
Miniatures from the Attic, a Falls Church company, and ezAuctioning of Arlington, received Nice Guys awards in the business category.