The official announcement of the annual Best of Reston honorees last Thursday was no staid affair. Gleeful shouts of appreciation and rambunctious applause greeted the disclosure of each honoree’s name.
Eight have been added to the list of Restonians who have received the community’s most distinguished honor—five individuals, one civic/community organization, one small business leader and one large business leader.
The jubilant mood of the crowd, crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in Google’s Reston Town Center offices, was heightened by the special significance of 2014 for Reston. In addition to celebrating more of Reston’s “Best,” the planned community is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding and the 100th birthday of its founder, Robert E. Simon, whose birthday, April 10, is the same day as this year’s Best of Reston Gala at the Hyatt Regency Reston.
In honor of the convergence of all these historic occasions, a theme of the 2014 Best of Reston gala--co-sponsored by Cornerstones (formerly Reston Interfaith) and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce--is “Stand With Bob.” The goal is to raise $1 million to be used to double the amount of affordable and transitional housing that Cornerstones now owns. Currently Cornerstones owns and manages about 50 townhouses in Reston, Herndon and northwest Fairfax County
The money raised by gala also will go toward supporting Cornerstone’s Embry Rucker Community Shelter and Laurel Learning Center as well as its other social services programs.
Last year’s gala raised a record-breaking $466,293 for the work of Cornerstones. Casey Veatch, one of the co-chairs of this year’s gala, reported that through “partners” and other sponsors, “Stand With Bob” already has reached 75 percent of its fund-raising goal.
“Honorees are a big part of fundraising,” he said. “The stronger the honorees, the stronger the fundraising.”
Best of Reston honorees represent a spectrum of Reston’s community life, and all are role models in different ways of giving back to the community.
“This is no easy task with so many extraordinary members in this community,” said Judy Redpath, a certified financial planner and chair of Best of Reston Selection Committee.
“It’s a wonderful sensation to be in a room full of good guys. … It’s wonderful to be part of this,” added Simon, who is the honorary chair of this year’s specially timed gala.
The 2014 Best of Reston honorees include:
Carol Ann Bradley, Individual Community Leader, “inspiring potential and promise”—Described as a “quiet, consistent presence” who always looks for the best in people and finds it,” Bradley, former Terraset Elementary School principal, is honored for serving Reston as a leader, educator, mentor, and volunteer. Specifically cited was her work with Global Camps Africa, Friends of the Reston Regional Library, on the boards of Reston Community Center and the American Association of University Women. Also recognized was her volunteer work assisting the residents in the Embry Rucker Community Shelter, bringing neighbors together in Reston’s Southgate Community Center, and establishing the mentoring organizations The Links, Inc. and Educators Then, Now and Forever.
Jerry Ferguson, Individual Community Leader, “shining the spotlight on community”—Ferguson, director of development and outreach at Fairfax Public Access, is recognized for using his talents as a filmmaker and resources to bring “alive the stories of how nonprofits serve [the] community. He also was cited for donating “countless hours of his personal time” filming and producing videos to be used in their public relations and fundraising efforts. His video storytelling has supported such organizations as FACETS, Leadership Fairfax, Vienna/Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce, Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and Cornerstones.
Cate Fulkerson, Individual Community Leader, “Reston through and through”--Fulkerson was described as someone who “grew up steeped in Reston’s founding values,” which are “fully expressed in everything [she] undertakes.” Reston Association’s new CEO, whose first job at RA was in its tennis program, Fulkerson also serves as chairman of the board for the Reston CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, chairs the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Ethics Day Event for the South Lakes High School, and is an Emerging Leaders Institute mentor. In addition, she has chaired various committees for the Community Associations Institute and Reston Community Center.
Bonnie Haukness, Individual Community Leader, “promoting and preserving Reston’s culture”—Haukness was lauded for “wholeheartedly” giving back to the Reston community for almost 40 years. She serves on the Board of the Reston Museum and Historic Trust and is longtime chair of its annual fundraiser, the Reston Homes Tour, which “has become a tangible showcase for Reston’s diverse lifestyles, environmentally creative homes, and community generosity.” She also co-chairs the Annual Capitol Steps Performance that benefits Cornerstones and plays a major role in the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival benefiting the Greater Reston Arts Center. In addition, while serving on the board of Friends of Reston, Haukness also led its scholarship fundraiser so any Reston child may enjoy Reston Association’s summer day camp.
Davida Luehrs, Individual Community Leader, “vision from the heart”--Luehrs was recognized for using her life experiences, including vision impairment, to serve others. She has been a leader with the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the Sterling Lions, the American Council of the Blind, and the Visually Impaired People of Reston. Working with 14 Lions Clubs and their PediaVision Screening program, free hearing and vision screening has been provided for pre-school children. She established VisionWalk, a grassroots effort that has raised more than $1 million since 2007 and chaired the Dining in the Dark Dinner, raising awareness in the business community of the challenges faced by those with low vision. She also volunteers with the Boy and Girl Scouts, Herndon Middle and High School band boards, the Reston Swim Team Association, the PTA, local blood drives and the Caring Committee, a meal delivery service for those in the community in need.
HomeAid Northern Virginia, Civic/Community Organization, “building a community for all”--HomeAid Northern Virginia, founded in 2001 by members of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, is honored for contributing resources to build and renovate homeless shelters, transitional and affordable housing. Its 30-member, volunteer board and two paid staff bring together the builders and trade partners who support the involved nonprofit organizations. Since its founding, HANV has completed more than 70 projects and served more than 10,000 people.
Brennan & Waite, PLC, Small Business Leader, “exemplifying leadership through involvement”--The founding members of this law firm, husband and wife Matthew Brennan and Carol Waite, always believed “community service is as important as the business of providing legal services.” The firm has supported the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity, Let’s Help Kids, the Mosaic Harmony Choir, FACETS and Cornerstones. After Waite lost her battle to ALS at the age of 40, she was honored by the Optimist Club with a Youth Award that is presented in her name even today. Brennan has served as GRCC’s chairman and led its Public Policy, Taste of Reston, and Ethics Day committees. He also has recruited strong candidates for Leadership Fairfax and funded scholarships so nonprofit leaders could participate. He developed “On the Boardwalk,” a training program for citizens interested in serving on nonprofit and county boards.
Cooley, LLP, Corporate Business Leaders, “moving community partners forward”--Cooley, LLC, which represents clients in a wide range of industries, is honored for a corporate culture that “cultivates commitment to giving back and to investing in the local community.” In addition to giving employees paid leave to volunteer, Cooley matches funds raised by its employees. Last year the firm cumulatively contributed more than $1 million in charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations around the United States. More than 466 Cooley attorneys contributed more than 33,000 hours on 687 pro bono matters.
It was decided this year not to present the Vade Bolton-Ann Rodriguez Young Leaders – Entrusting Our Community’s Future Award or the special Robert E. Simon award.
According to Kerrie Wilson, Cornerstones executive director, it was decided to instead shine the spotlight on the special anniversaries of Reston and its founder on the evening of the awards gala.