After all the accolades, the tribute films and honoree speeches, the 2016 Best of Reston Gala, held at the Hyatt Regency Reston, concluded with its always much anticipated bottom line announcement.
Reston’s most prestigious annual event and a major part of this year’s Reston Founder’s Week honoring the late Robert E. Simon Jr., the gala, celebrating its 25th year, raised $483,258 for the work of Cornerstones in the Dulles Corridor.
Cheering the announcement at the gala, which honors individuals, civic groups and businesses for their exceptional community service, was an exuberant crowd of approximately 700 that packed every corner of the Hyatt’s largest ballroom.
This year’s eight honorees included: Amy’s Amigos (Kacey Hirshfeld, Olivia Wolfe, and Hannah Becker), recipient of the Vade Bolton-Ann Rodriguez Legacy Award; Leila Gordon and Jim Elder, recipients of the Individual Community Leaders Award; Friends of Reston for Community Projects, recipient of the Civic-Community Organization Award; Beloved Yoga (Maryam Ovissi) and Wiygul Automotive Clinic, recipients of the Small Business Leader Award; and Google and Bechtel, recipients of the Corporate Business Leader Award.
The money raised by the gala, co-sponsored by Cornerstones and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, goes toward supporting Cornerstones’ transitional housing, the Embry Rucker Community Shelter and Laurel Learning Center.
Founded in 1970 by area religious organizations, Cornerstones also encourages the development of affordable housing, offers parent education and provides food and financial assistance.
In 2015, Cornerstones served 15,502 individuals, including 4,506 families and 8,163 children.
Thanking the honorees and the gala’s guests, Mark Ingrao, president and CEO of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, said, “I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of this community.”
Kerri Wilson, Cornerstones executive director, added, “I’m passionate about the work of Cornerstones, what you enable us to do. It’s going to have a great impact … I imagine a place where every child will succeed. It’s what Bob imagined. Bob left the blueprints for us in our hands.”
Speaking at the gala, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th), also invoked Simon’s memory and vision. He said, “I can’t come to Reston anymore and not miss him. … Bob believed that community involvement was foundational. … Reston is an inclusive place, a welcoming place in a state with a troubled history. The people we are honoring tonight are the legatees of Bob Simon’s legacy.”
Ellen Graves, one of the gala’s three co-chairs, recalled a comment made at the first Best of Reston Gala 25 years ago by Don Beyer, who now represents the 8th District in the U.S. Congress as a Democrat. “Only in Reston would fuzzy-headed do-gooders come together with hard-headed businessmen.”