Thursday night’s gala was more than just a party to recognize those people who have been honored by the community to be its best in the past year. It was a party to celebrate a local organization that works hard to make it possible for people of all incomes to live, work and play in Reston.
"Reston Interfaith makes a huge difference in our community every day," said chairman of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce Marion Myers. Apart from its advocacy efforts, Reston Interfaith also operates a number of programs and institutions, including the Embry Rucker Homeless Shelter and the Laurel Learning Center.
"We have one of the best staff in the country," said Vade Bolton, chair of the Reston Interfaith board.
This year’s fund-raising part of Best of Reston managed to raise $340,000 for Reston Interfaith, a record for the event. "It is truly an unprecedented amount," said Joe Ritchey, the co-chair of the fund-raising committee. He said the money is intended to help Reston Interfaith continue its important work in the Reston community.
"Thanks to all of you for believing in our mission," said Kerrie Wilson, Reston Interfaith CEO. "It’s people like you who make a difference," said Wilson. She added that Reston Interfaith would present a gift to one of its partners, the Herndon-Reston FISH (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help). Wilson said that the $340,000 presented to Reston Interfaith is coincidentally a price of a home for one family.
INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES who won the prestigious Best of Reston Award were honored during the gala. Mike Clarke, president and CEO of Access National Bank, received the award on behalf of Access. "I want to thank Reston Interfaith for all that they do," said Clarke.
Georgia Graves said her commitment is to give back to the community. "I never thought I’d be receiving such an incredible honor," she said. Graves also performed with the American Originals Fife and Drum Corps, of which she is a member since 1991, before the gala started.
Reston Association president Jennifer Blackwell recited a poem she wrote, because she said she was lost for words as to how to convey the honor and humility to receive the Best of Reston Award. "Yet in my fellow Restonians did I find true inspiration" was a line in the poem.
The only couple to receive the honor this year, Fran and John Lovaas, was humbled to be recognized with other honorees. "It is such amazing to be in such a group," said John Lovaas. "Wendell Byrd and Frank Bensinger truly are legends in this community." He also thanked his wife, Fran, because, "With her, all things are possible to me." Fran Lovaas said Reston is a great place for volunteers.
The Forest Edge Elementary School principal, Frank Bensinger, said Reston is a family-friendly place. "It’s a community where people like me can bring their children and say, ‘This is a great place,’" said Bensinger. He said there is room for improvement. Bensinger quoted Nikki Giovanni, a world-renowned poet and professor at Virginia Tech University. "We are better than we think we are and not quite where we want to be."
John McMahon accepted the award for NII Holdings, whose employees started a social responsibility committee through which they contribute to the community. "They’re not doing it for the accolades, they’re doing it because they know it’s the right thing to do," said McMahon.
Byrd rounded off the honorees, quoting legendary Boston Celtics coach and president, Red Auerbach: "Just do what you do best." Byrd said working with young children was the path he chose. He also praised the entire South Lakes High School family. "South Lakes is a reflection of our society," said Byrd. "Without the support of the South Lakes family I could not do my job."