The 2013 Best of Reston Awards Gala on April 11 at the Hyatt Regency Reston made a bit of history this year on three counts.
Most immediately, the gala, Reston’s most prestigious event, raised a record-breaking $466,293 for the work of Reston Interfaith—more than $60,000 over last year’s $405,000 total.
The money raised by gala, co-sponsored by Interfaith and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce annually for 22 years, goes toward supporting Interfaith’s transitional housing, Embry Rucker Community Shelter and Laurel Learning Center.
Founded in 1970 by area religious organizations, Interfaith also encourages the development of affordable housing, offers parent education and provides food and financial assistance.
The second history-making moment came when Karen Cleveland—a former Robert E. Simon Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, president of the Reston chamber when Best of Reston was initiated and now president of The Cleveland Coaching Group, a leadership training company—announced a major two-year initiative, “Stand by Robert E. Simon,” to raise $1 million for Interfaith.
Currently, Interfaith owns and manages 50 townhouses in Reston, Herndon and northwest Fairfax County that provide transitional housing. The $1 million would be used to double that number by 2015.
Simon, Reston’s founder who turned 99 on April 10, will be the linchpin of a number of special events and initiatives between now and his 100th birthday in 2014.
In the gala program, Simon, who served as this year’s honorary chairman of Best of Reston and will do so again in 2014, said, “As I approach my 100th birthday and the 50th year of the founding of Reston, my message is that even during this time of vibrant growth, we must continue to provide affordable housing options and support community members who need it.”
Ardently promoting this new initiative, too, Kerrie Wilson, executive director of Interfaith, said, “In every corner of this room, I see people who will stand with us to make a difference.”
Thirdly, this year’s gala inaugurated the Vade Bolton-Ann Rodriguez Young Leaders-Entrusting Our Community’s Future Award. The first recipient is Amanda Andere, executive director of FACETS, which “helps people meet emergency shelter, food, and medical needs, helps them gain safe, sustainable and permanent housing and works with them to end the cycle of poverty.”
In announcing this new award, the Interfaith website stated: “The [late] Ann Rodriguez and Vade Bolton shared a special passion and gift for mentoring and inspiring young people and future leaders.”
Andere, a graduate of Herndon High School who once worked as Interfaith’s development manager, received the award from Janet Bolton, Vade Bolton’s widow and Paco Rodriguez, the late Anne Rodriguez son.
Bolton said, “[Vade] loved his work with Interfaith; he loved his work with the shelter. … He adored Reston Interfaith’s staff. He most of all adored the younger staff, their energy and creativity. He was the big daddy of them all.”
Paco Rodriguez said of his mother, the former president of the Arts Council of Fairfax Council, “My mother was the ultimate people person. … She was so busy because she was genuinely engaged.”
Andere recalled how encouraging Rodriguez was to her when she first became FACETS executive director. Bolton, she said, was a beloved friend and mentor, and she promised, “Vade I will honor your life with change not just charity.” She added, “We should all wake up each morning and think how can we change the life of one person.”
The evening also was notable for the presentation of the Robert E. Simon Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes a past Best of Reston honoree who continues to substantially serve the community. The 2013 honoree is longtime Reston resident and civic activist William Bouie. A telecommunications professional, he presently serves as chairman of the Fairfax County Park Authority Board of Trustees and a member of the Reston Community Center Board of Governors as well as a member of the boards of Reston Hospital Center, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the Initiative for Public Art-Reston.
On receiving the award, Bouie, obviously moved, promised to continue his community services “as long as I can,” and he advised, “If someone gives you an opportunity, say ‘yes.’”
Best of Reston honorees are selected from those with long histories of saying “yes.”
The 2013 Honorees are:
• Amanda Andere, Vade Bolton-Ann Rodriguez Young Leaders – Entrusting Our Community’s Future Award — Andere, currently executive director of FACETS and a graduate of Leadership Fairfax, is a nonprofit leader and tireless community volunteer. She is a mentor “for those whose voices are not always heard” and a “fierce advocate” for poverty reduction and ending homelessness. Also a member of the Reston Association Board of Directors, Andere serves as its Apartment Owners’ Representative. Previously,the development manager for Reston Interfaith, she helped Interfaith create an important advocacy program while there. She shares her belief that the nonprofit sector has the ability to affect change as an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s nonprofit management program. At Martin Luther King Jr. Christian Church in Reston, where she is a member, Andere is a deacon, is active in the Young Adult Ministry, teaches Sunday school, and co-chairs its Evangelism Ministry. Her other numerous volunteer activities include chairing Nonprofit NoVA, an affiliate of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, of which she is a director.
• Doug Bushee, individual—Former Reston Association (RA) board member between 2000-2006 and its vice-president, Bushee is the founder of the CORE Foundation. CORE guides community volunteers in providing charitable services and raising money as 501c3 nonprofits. It connects organizations with professional volunteers. For example, CORE made it possible for wounded veterans to fish on Lake Anne twice a year through a partnership with Artel, a satellite communications company, and the Reston Small Mouth Bass Fishing Club. It connected South Lakes High School students with the Reston Youth Triathlon, a CORE event, raising $15,000 for the Childhood Brian Tumor Foundation. In addition, Bushee started the Reston Sprint Triathlon in 2007 to raise money for Interfaith, attracting more than 1,000 athletes and volunteers annually. In 2012, this event raised more than $130,000 for Interfaith. As a RA member, he contributed to updating the association’s governing documents for the 21st century, improving parkland and facilities, and building Reston’s Nature House.
• Ed Robichaud, individual — Working without a lot of fanfare, Robichaud is a longtime, omnipresent Reston volunteer who “goes about volunteering wherever needed … without recognition … but with a passionate desire to make [Reston] a better community.” His diverse volunteerism includes: tutoring homeless children and assisting adults with income tax returns at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter; teaching computer classes at the Reston Community Center; working as a docent and webmaster at the Reston Museum and as a member of the Reston Historic Trust board; serving as an active and founding member of the Washington and Old Dominion Regional Park Trail Patrol, for which he serves as volunteer trainer and data coordinator; and representing the Reston Bicycle Club at Reston Town Center’s annual Bike-to-Work Day events, assisting with the club’s annual Century Ride, whose proceeds go to local charities, and with the Reston Association’s Bike Rodeo for children, where he serves as a mechanic, ensuring that every bike is safe and helmets secure. In addition, he plays second violin in the Reston Community Orchestra, is a member of the service organization Giving Circle of Hope and is vice chair of the RA’s Elections Committee, which vets board candidates and organizes forums.
• Fairfax County YMCA in Reston, civic/community organization — The YMCA in Reston was cited for consistently going above and beyond its mission, through leveraging “creative partnerships” with community organizations and private sector groups. Two such partnerships are with Dogwood Elementary School and the Reston Kids Triathlon. Immediately after Dogwood was destroyed by fire, the YMCA offered its building as an alternative site as no cost. This offer evolved into an ongoing and multi-faceted enrichment program for Dogwood students. As part of this program, Dogwood students may attend YMCA summer camps and after-school programming for free. In addition, the YMCA instituted English as a asecond language programs and monthly dinners with activities for Dogwood parents. In 2010, the YMCA partnered with the Reston Association to create the Kids Triathlon, with a goal of including any interested child, regardless of economic circumstances, and finding the funding to support their full participation. These and other programs have allowed more than 300 children to attend summer camp who otherwise could not, more than 1,100 to have quality childcare and a head start for school, more than 200 at-risk adolescents in an after-school program to become computer proficient, and 15,000 families to have full use YMCA facilities at no or reduced cost.
• Friends of the Reston Regional Library, civic/community organization—A volunteer organization with about 250 members, Friends supplements Reston library’s programs, services and materials. The Reston Regional Library has the highest walk-in traffic of all Fairfax County libraries. Raising funds and awareness of the library since 1972, with greatly decreased funding from Fairfax County for library services, the Friends’ contributions are even more vital. Among its contributions are: conducting book and other sales that annually raise $100,000 that is used to provide books, e-books, books on tape, materials for those with low vision, and other materials for all age groups; assisting with literacy programs, including Headstart; supporting ESL programs with conversational groups and citizenship classes; and upgrading furnishings and technology resources.
• May Bernhardt and Mayflowers, small business leader—Since 1987, Bernhardt, working quietly through her business Mayflowers, now in Reston Town Center, has supported a wide range of local causes and organizations with in-kind donations of her professional goods and services. Valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, they include her distinctive and elegant floral creations. Kerrie Wilson, executive director of Interfaith, has said of Mayflowers’ giving: Pro bono contributions from small businesses like Bernhardt’s “are the lifeblood of what we do.” Going further with her philanthropic activities in 2012, Bernhardt organized a Reston Town Center Walk to End Homelessness with 100 percent of the money going to Reston Interfaith. This inaugural event raised $6,000 and engaged 120 people. She and her staff also regularly conduct floral design demonstrations for seniors at Herndon Harbor House and Lake Anne Fellowship House.
• John Marshall Bank, large business leader—A “community” bank, it takes pride in directly giving back with employee talent and financial resources. Throughout 2012, the bank donated $40,000 to worthy area causes, including $1,000 to a charity in whatever community it opens a new branch. Bank officers engaged in more than 140,000 volunteer hours in 2012. It annually holds a golf tournament that benefits the regions it services. In 2012, $30,000 was raised and parceled out to charities, each receiving $5,000. The bank also is actively involved with supporting the Latino Student Fund by mentoring Hispanic children, and officers raised funds for the Fairfax County Educational Foundation, which is used to assist K-12 public schools. In addition, bank officers serve as volunteer instructors in marketing and finance at Strayer University and conduct free educational seminars, assisting start-up businesses. Other contributions include: the establishment in 2012 of a motorcycle ride event benefiting Wounded Warriors; partnering in 2012 with the Prison Fellowship in the Angel Tree Christmas Project, which provided gifts for children whose parents are in prison; and bank officers served on the boards and otherwise supported the Fellowship Square Foundation Housing for the Elderly, the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Foundation and the Herndon Elderly Housing Commission, among others.