Mayor Lisa Merkel greeted each Herndon volunteer individually as they entered Herndon's 31st Annual Mayor's Volunteer Appreciation Awards.
"Everyone of us has a role to play in making our community and our town stronger," said Merkel.
The receiving line, which included Supervisor John Foust and most of the Herndon Town Council, took nearly 30 minutes to traverse for the last to enter.
About 371 people were nominated by 30 different groups as outstanding volunteers of the year.
"For 4.2 miles, that's not too shabby," said Merkel, of Herndon's density of volunteers per square mile.
"The more volunteers you have, the more success you have as a community," said Tooran Shadmand, who volunteers with numerous organizations and in numerous ways in Herndon, including at the Herndon Community Television and with the Fairfax Medical Reserve Corps.
All volunteers were honored at the celebration Sunday night, April 12, at the Herndon Community Center.
"It's nice to see so many people give back to the community," said Barbara Welsh, who volunteers as Herndon's Environmental Network's vice president. Herndon's Environmental Network was founded in December of 2011 by a small group who work to improve awareness about environmental issues through education, projects and activities in and around Herndon. See www.herndonenvironment.org.
Since 1985, Herndon has celebrated the accomplishments of more than 10,000 Outstanding and 100 Distinguished volunteers.
"I've always been a person that gets involved," said Eleanor Benedict, who helps at the Herndon Senior Center and organized a donation drive for Cornerstones from residents at Harbor House. She wore a T-shirt that said, "I love Herndon."
Nancy Rose, executive with Herndon Community Television, helps volunteers get involved with television programming. Her station, celebrating its 25th anniversary, has 19 volunteers, several new shows, and has experienced healthy growth from its beginnings in 1985.
"It shows how much the community gives to each other and how connected they all are through volunteering," said Rose.
"It is about taking action," said Merkel.
CAROLINA CALDERON walks two miles each way, every day, to get to her volunteer jobs at the Neighborhood Resource Center and the Cornerstones food pantry; she also helps facilitate English classes and helps individuals new to the country.
“There was a time when I needed help when I got here, so I give back to others who need help today,” she said through a translator, after the ceremony.
Jeff Goldberg grew up in Potomac, Md., and is in charge of the Northern Virginia Bureau for ABC7/WJLA news and News Channel 8. He was Sunday night's guest speaker.
"It was so clear to me how strong and positive this community is coming here today. You could really feel that," he said.
Goldberg recounted how one of his friends who was involved in the Big Brother/Big Sister program recruited him when he worked in Minneapolis six years ago. "He didn't take no for an answer."
It was a one year commitment; at the end of a year, some people end their volunteering. "That thought didn't cross my mind," he said, of his "little" brother. "We're family."
"Volunteering not only makes the community stronger, it makes people better. No matter what you put in, you're going to get it back and then some," Goldberg said.
DISTINGUISHED AWARD winners included Amy Peterson and former Mayor Mike O'Reilly. Kathy Patullo and her business Polycom won the Distinguished Corporate Service Award.
Merkel began the evening describing the origins of Volunteer Week, and the origins of the Mayor's Volunteer Awards celebration. "National Volunteer week embodies the energy and power volunteers evoke on a daily basis as they lead by example," said Merkel, "not only encouraging the people they help but motivating others to serve as well."
Kay Walter and Diane Mandel sat together, volunteer together, and enjoyed the celebratory night together.
They both volunteer with Reston-Herndon FISH (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help), which helps people meet immediate and short-term needs, such as preventing an eviction, keeping utilities from being turned off, or helping people pay one time for prescriptions.
If Herndon residents reach a crisis in life, FISH could help.
"If they live here and need help..." said Kay Walter
"We help," said Mandel.