Casey Veatch roused 750 people to a standing ovation near the end of the Best of Reston Awards for Community Service ceremony Thursday Night at the Reston Hyatt.
"I prefer honoring other people, but I learned from others along the way that you give praise for those who thank you and thank those who praise you," he said. "I'm especially proud to accept this in my hometown."
Veatch called himself a child of Robert E. Simon's vision. "I'm continuously grateful to my friend," he said, looking to Reston's founder dressed to the tilt like most in attendance Thursday.
The Best of Reston, a joint venture of the Reston Chamber of Commerce and Reston's Cornerstones program, gave Veatch the Vade Bolton-Ann Rodriguez Legacy — Entrusting Our Community's Future Award.
Introduced in 2013, the award is named for two past Best of Reston honorees who played a special role in the development, growth and work of Cornerstones and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce. "Ann Rodriguez and Vade Bolton believed strongly in developing and mentoring future leaders and the importance of giving back to our community. This prestigious award has only been presented to two honorees: Amanda Misiko Andere (2013) and now Veatch," according to Best of Reston organizers.
DURING THE CEREMONY, the 750 attendees got a glimpse of Veatch in action via a documentary short about him as a coach and mentor; the audience heard from the people, youth and adults, that he inspires day after day.
"One of the gifts God gave me is to see potential in people," he told Best of Reston organizers.
"’Love your neighbor as yourself,’ and I try to live up to that," he said Thursday night.
The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce partnered with Cornerstones 24 years ago to create the annual Best of Reston: Awards for Community Service. Cornerstones promotes self-sufficiency by providing support and advocacy for people in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, quality childcare, and other human services.
The event has raised more than $1.7 million the previous two years, and another $540,000 last Thursday night.
"When you raise a half million dollars, it's a good night," said Chamber of Commerce President Mark Ingrao. 'We are overwhelmed by the generosity of this community."
"I hope it inspires everyone else because so many of you do such great work," Veatch said.
"Congratulations, you're all the best," said Del. Ken Plum.
"I feel a lot of friendship in this room tonight. I think that makes this special night very special indeed. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you," said Fran Steinbauer.
"What you all do is so inspirational, no one can do what you all do," said Mike Collins, outreach director for U.S. Rep. Gerald Gerry Connolly.
"We're here to celebrate the people of Reston," said Troy and Lois Hughes, of His Hidden Treasures which works in partnership with organizations dedicated to ending homelessness and transforms transitional rental housing into homes for families, personalized with lovingly restored furniture and donated store floor samples and new housewares, according to Best of Reston nominations.
"There's so much more to do and so much more we can do," Hughes said.
"Is this not the Best Night Out in Reston?" said Ingrao.
"I so look forward to the future," said Kerrie Wilson of Cornerstones.
ALL PROCEEDS from Best of Reston support the programs and services of Cornerstones.
Since 1970, Cornerstones has helped 250,000 people in need overcome tough economic times in an already high cost-of-living region. Through advocacy and support services, the agency connects clients to the resources they need to help build more stable families and self-sufficient lives. Cornerstones provides an array of programs that solve requirements for housing, childcare, food or financial assistance.
"I'm really proud that businesses come year after year after year to support this," said Ingrao. "We are overwhelmed by the generosity of this community."
"When Reston was first created, the citizens asked the Board of Supervisors to build a homeless shelter in this community. That tells you the kind of people that are here, that people want to help people less fortunate," he said. "You see the results all the time."
"Absolutely, it's the best night out in Reston," he said.
The Chamber and Cornerstones surprised Lynn Lilienthal with the final award of the evening — the Robert E. Simon Lifetime Achievement Award given to honor a previous Best of Reston award winner whose vision, spirit, compassion and belief in community has made Reston the great place that it is, and who serves as a model of continued engagement and ongoing service.
Lilienthal joins these extraordinary lifetime contributor and Robert E. Simon award recipients:
Joe Ritchey (2009); Charles A. “Chuck” Veatch (2010); Priscilla Ames (2011); Jim Cleveland and Karen Connell Cleveland (2011); William “Bill” Bouie (2013).
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And the Winners Are ...
Outdoors: The In Place
Larry Butler grew up in Vienna and he said he first learned to love Reston's outdoor spaces when he rode his dirt bike around Lake Audubon when the area was under construction.
"I was a dirt bike rider," he said.
When he first got a job with the Reston Association, he was asked, "If you see someone on a minibike, get him off," Butler said.
"Three decades later, I understand why they want to protect open space," said Butler.
Reston Association's Senior Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources, Butler was honored for making Reston's natural outdoor spaces, "part of the soul of Reston," an essential part of his work and personal life.
Butler was "instrumental in the success" of the Reston Triathlon, Reston Sprint Triathlon and the "Kids Tri," according to those who nominated him. Butler raised funds and developed partnerships to get 50 bikes donated to children who didn’t have bikes to compete in the kids-tri and then keep the bikes in order to keep on biking and triathloning.
"I've been blessed to work with a huge group of dedicated people and all these organizations that get people outside moving," he said Thursday night.
Working with the Initiative for Public Art-Reston, Butler helped guide the construction of an interactive, mosaic-clad fountain at the renovated Dogwood Pool and the “Pyramid of Light” at Lake Thoreau, a temporary sculpture beautifying the lake’s spillway that involved a team of South Lakes High School students.
"The payoff is getting people out and involved. People see their community in another way. Places and events define a community and bring people together," Butler said.
His Hidden Treasures
Lois and Troy Hughes founded the nonprofit, His Hidden Treasures.
"We're here to celebrate the people of Reston, to give us the ability to offer his hidden treasures," said Troy Hughes.
He and his wife met in 2011 and both had lived separate lives with periods of wealth and success and periods of bankruptcy and near homelessness. When they met, Lois worked for a company that furnished executive apartments. Troy was the owner of a junk hauling business, Junk Be Gone, which he still owns.
When they came together, their partnership and faith steered their shared skills and experiences to the 2012 creation of their nonprofit ministry that helps people working their way out of homelessness to gain much-needed self-esteem in newly furnished homes.
“It’s a passion now not only a ministry,” said Troy Hughes.
"Working in partnership with organizations dedicated to ending homelessness, His Hidden Treasures transforms transitional rental housing into homes for families, personalized with lovingly restored furniture and donated store floor samples and new housewares," according to Best of Reston documents.
Selective about the furnishings they provide, Lois and Troy insist that every bedroom have brand new mattresses, pillows and fresh linens.
“Beds are paramount to me. I won’t work with an agency that doesn’t provide beds,” said Lois. "The body needs to restore itself before you’re mentally able to move on.”
Last year, the couple furnished 50 homes and sold $200,000 worth of restored items on Craigslist to support their nonprofit endeavors, according to those who nominated them.
“We consider it an honor to do this,” said Lois.
"Rebuilding that's no small task, it takes courage," she said on Thursday night, in front of 750 people at the Best of Reston ceremonies.
"Our mission is to help. There's so much more to do and so much more we can do."
Civilly Engineering Community Roots
Fran Steinbauer looked to all of the 750 people in attendance for the Cornerstones and the Reston Chamber of Commerce evening.
"I feel a lot of friendship in this room tonight. I think that's what makes this special night very special indeed," said Steinbauer. "Thank you for being my friends. Thank you."
Robert E. Simon, Reston's founder, lured Steinbauer away from his role as project manager for Dulles Airport to work on Simon's vision of Reston.
"Those principles are what draw you in," he said.
“We were experimenting,” he recalls. “The world around us thought we were nuts. We were selling townhouses in the woods. There was nothing else out here but dairy farms. The first pioneers, they put their money on a risky business and were proud of the fact that it was socially different.”
Steinbauer has involved himself in all of Reston for five decades, from his roles on the boards of Reston Association, Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and Reston Homeowners Association to coaching youth sports and to being a key architect of Cornerstones' affordable housing programs.
"For Fran it was always about making homes, neighborhoods, and places where people could thrive," according to the Best of Reston nomination. "He continues to work for the ideal that anyone — regardless of their means — can live in neighborhoods with everything from the most basic to the most elaborate housing options."
Sharing Success Like Family
Yusuf Mehmetoglu founded Maid Bright, a house-cleaning business, 10-years ago.
Maid Bright has provided free house cleaning services to women with cancer, catered dinners for the past two years for the hypothermia shelter and do “move-out” cleaning for Cornerstones’ transitional housing units so incoming residents find “a sparkling clean welcome.”
"There is always time to give back to your community," he said Thursday night, after receiving the Best of Reston's Small Business Leader award.
Zeynamp Mehmetoglu beamed as Yusuf spoke.
Maid Bright participated in the 2013 Love Your Body fundraiser for Cornerstones. They consistently offer discounts to seniors, veterans, firefighters and teachers; participate in the annual Reston Help the Homeless walk; and donate to the plight of Syrian refugees.
Being active, contributing members of the Northern Virginia community, they say, is is good for growing a business and a natural and inherited part of their culture, where sharing "the fruits of your success is expected," according to Best of Reston nomination.
"It allows us to set a good example to our children and future generations," he said. "The payback is that you experience a different kind of happiness that you can't get anywhere else."
New Neighbor, Fully Engaged
Leidos came to the Reston area less than two years ago, and employees have generated more than 32,000 volunteer hours.
"We have a thousand people who come to Reston," said Leidos CEO Roger Krone. "We wanted a place where people wanted to come to work, where they felt committed and thrilled to be here."
Leidos, a worldwide leader in science and technology, has helped with educational Science, Technology, Engineering and Math opportunities in 12 Reston schools, art experiences through the Greater Reston Arts Center, the Initiative for Public Art-Reston (IPAR), and the annual Ethics Day at South Lakes High School.
Leidos has lent its support and presence to meeting basic human needs through the American Cancer Society Relay for Life (Reston) and American Heart Association (Run Your Heart Out, Reston); has organized the “Inspired Living Day” walk at Reston Town Center; has become a Strategic Partner contributor for affordable housing and workforce development with Cornerstones; and has engaged in Habitat for Humanity construction projects.
Leidos’ employees have engaged with Paralyzed Veterans of America, Tragedy Assistance for Survivors, and the USO. In 2014, it also launched Operation MVP to hire, train and support returning veterans.
"It has been a terrific experience for us," said Krone. "I am so proud of what our employees have done."
Maximus and its employees have supported a wide-range of organizations who work locally to strengthen the safety net for homeless and at-risk families, or those with special needs, including Herndon-Reston FISH, Cornerstones, Jill’s House, FACETS, The Women’s Center, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, and the Kids on a Mission program of Touching
"We do this from our hearts to help those individuals who aren't as fortunate. We thank you for supporting this initiative this evening," said Maximus CEO Richard A. Montoni. "These folks are committed to making a better community. They take an incredible sense of pride in giving back to the community."
He called Reston a model. "What started here is being rolled out globally," he said.