By Marion Brunken
On October 26th, 230 volunteers and community members gathered to celebrate volunteerism at Volunteers are the Heart of Alexandria. The event, held to thank volunteers for their commitment to service, is an annual celebration hosted by Volunteer Alexandria, a non-profit whose mission is to build a stronger community by inspiring and mobilizing people to volunteer. The event featured a cocktail reception, silent auction and food from local restaurants; Alexandria Cupcakes, Carluccio’s, Chickpea Mediterranean Grill, Dishes of India and Pork Barrel BBQ. The evening was concluded by an awards program recognizing dedicated volunteers for their exceptional service and philanthropic spirit. NBC4’s Julie Carey, an active volunteer in Alexandria Public Schools and her church, served as the moderator.
Among the awardees was Kerry Donley, Senior Vice President, John Marshall Bank and former Alexandria city council member and Vice Mayor. Donley, who received the Marian Van Landingham Lifetime Achievement Award, has served Alexandria for 20+ years. In addition to his time as an elected official, Donley has volunteered his leadership for initiatives supporting transportation, education and the arts. He also serves on various non-profit boards. Donley is an invaluable mentor to those fortunate to know him.
Day’Quon Henderson, recipient of the Youth Volunteer Service Award, created an App – Word Education- to support students in Alexandria with learning disabilities. After overcoming challenges associated with his own learning disability, Henderson is committed to helping all children with similar challenges.
Ray Gingrich and Maria Cabrera received the Grassroots Volunteer Service award. Gingrich has dedicated 12,000 hours of service to Inova Alexandria Hospital. His compassion and sense of humor is infectious. Cabrera, who volunteers for Casa Chirilagua, lends her time and talents to organize events, prepare food and care for children. She volunteers to set a positive example for her daughters, who, like Henderson, are the future generation of volunteers.
The Emergency Preparedness Award was given to The Alexandria American Legion Post 24 and Marco Johnson. Post 24 served 400+ hours over 18 months, while Johnson has served a critical role in thirty-one community health outreach activities as a member of the Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps.
During Donley’s acceptance speech, he encouraged the audience to recommit themselves to volunteerism. “What does it mean to be a volunteer?” Donley asked. “When you volunteer, it means you have made a commitment to leave your community a better place than how you found it.”
For more information, and to connect with volunteer opportunities in your area, please call 703.836.2176 or visit www.volunteeralexandria.org.