When a half-dozen or so of Reston’s leading citizens bounded onto the stage at that community’s April 10 Best of Reston Gala and kicked off festivities with a super-exuberant, recording-backed rendition of Kool and the Gang’s 1980 hit “Celebration,” their high spirits sprang from multiple joyful sources.
Reston is in the midst of celebrating its 50th anniversary; its founder Robert E. Simon Jr. turned 100 years old that same night. The gala, Reston’s most prestigious event -- co-sponsored by Cornerstones (formerly Reston Interfaith) and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce -- honored eight others for their singular contributions to the community.
Also adding greatly to the celebratory mood was the success of the gala’s “Stand With Bob” campaign, whose goal was to raise $1 million for Cornerstones. The gala exceeded that goal, raising $1,178,000, more than twice as much as last year’s record-breaking amount of $466,293.
The money raised will be used to double the amount of Cornerstones’ affordable and transitional housing. Currently Cornerstones owns and manages about 50 townhouses in Reston, Herndon and northwest Fairfax County.
It also will go toward supporting Cornerstone’s Embry Rucker Community Shelter and Laurel Learning Center as well as its other social services programs.
Describing it as an “audacious goal,” an emotional Kerrie Wilson, Cornerstones CEO, told the sold-out crowd of almost 900 packed into a Hyatt Regency Reston ballroom that an agreement had just been signed to add 48 more housing units to Cornerstones inventory.
“And we’re not done,” Wilson pledged, noting that in the future Cornerstones intends to tear down the current shelter and built affordable apartments on the site, adjacent to Reston Town Center.
While the goal of the annual gala is to raise funds to support Cornerstones work, its heart is always to shine a spotlight on the honorees who mirror Reston as a community.
“I loved the idea of creating a community that loves everybody,” said state Sen. Janet Howell, applauding her longtime hometown’s history of inclusivity. “We are recognizing the people making [Reston’s] vision work.”
Reston, Rep. Gerry Connolly posited, is the epitome of “the power of an idea.” The ideas undergirding the community created by Robert Simon, including inclusivity, “has really taken hold,” Connolly said. “This is a community that cares. … Reston is a model not only for Fairfax but also for the country.”
Echoing Connolly’s sentiments, Jerry Ferguson, one of the honorees, also thanked Simon for “for being nuts enough to come up with a place where people actually care about each other.”
The 2014 Best of Reston honorees included five individuals, one civic/community organization, one small business leader and one large business leader.
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, was 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, was 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 the late 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.