Eight have been added to the list of Restonians who have received that community’s most distinguished honor, the annual Best of Reston Awards. 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.
Annually produced by Cornerstones and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, a partnership which began 25 years ago, the honorees include two individuals, two small business leaders, one civic/community organization, two corporate business leaders and a Vade Bolton-Ann Rodriguez Legacy Award recipient.
The honorees announcement, was made at a location that exemplifies Reston’s growing and changing future, a huge, unfinished space at the still developing Silver Line Metro station in Reston.
The chairs of the 2016 Best of Reston Awards Gala are Ellen Graves, president of the Reston Association Board of Directors; Judy Redpath, a certified financial planner and founder of Vista Wealth Strategies; and Cardinal Bank, represented by Monica Tressler, vice president and commercial services.
The 2016 Best of Reston honorees include:
Amy’s Amigos (Kacey Hirshfeld, Olivia Wolfe, and Hannah Becker), Vade Bolton-Ann Rodriguez Legacy Award, “Channeling grief into action”— This special award is given in honor of two past Best of Reston honorees, the late Vade Bolton and late Ann Rodriguez. They both played pivotal roles at Cornerstones and the Greater Reston Chamber. It is given to an honoree in the greater Reston/Dulles community “whose acts of volunteerism, leadership, and/or workplace philanthropy serve to motivate and inspire a new generation of leaders.” Now in college, Kacey Hirshfeld, Olivia Wolfe, and Hannah Becker formed Amy’s Amigo’s in 2006 as part of a group of Hunters Woods elementary school students who watched their friend suffer the ravages of brain cancer. They started a Relay for Life team to support the American Cancer Society, and then, with the help of adult supporters, like the Reston-based CORE Foundation, they established the Reston Youth Triathlon, which is now the largest youth triathlon in Virginia. That event offers a triad of impacts: benefiting childhood cancer research, building the confidence and health of the youth participants, and giving teens a hands-on leadership experience.
Leila Gordon, Individual Community Leader, “Putting community at the center of the Reston experience”—For the past three decades, Leila Gordon has been one of the most well known, involved and effective people in Reston. Her contributions go beyond the scope of her day job as executive director of the Reston Community Center, which provides a stage for doing ongoing community building. A keen strategic thinker, she “continually demonstrates the art of meeting challenges with creativity.” Her many contributions include: shepherding a multi-year, multi-partner effort to underwrite a legacy project for Reston; chairing a county-wide task force to guide a Master Arts Plan for arts venues and public art; convening and chairing partners to “Serve Reston’s Youth;” launching a Summer Camp Expo to send every child to camp; and co-chairing a task force of neighborhood and business stakeholders to tackle growing concerns about public safety in Hunters Woods Plaza.
Jim Elder, Individual Community Leader, “A champion of sportsmanship for all seasons”— Jim Elder is an athlete who competed at the highest levels of his sport and is nationally certified to teach and coach. Channeling his own competitive spirit and love of the game into instilling those qualities in others, for more than 35 years, he has been active in Reston’s youth baseball, tennis and basketball programs as a coach, official, trainer, league president and booster. When the World Police and Fire Games came to Reston, Elder stepped in as the tennis director for 211 participants in 25 different events from several dozen countries.
Friends of Reston for Community Projects, Civic-Community Organization, “The nature of Reston has giving at its heart”—With no paid staff, these “Friends” answer the needs they see for “keeping Reston’s environmental promise alive for all to enjoy.” The civic group’s signature undertaking was to mount a successful fundraising campaign and then build the Nature House at Reston’s Walker Nature Center. A gold-certified “Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design” (LEED) building, in its first five years of operation, Nature House has exceeded 100,000 visitors. It also raised funds and sought partnerships to provide camp and tennis scholarships for 200 children. It has planted trees, installed benches and bike racks in Reston’s recreation areas, and designed and built traveling Nature Trunks, which are loaned to local schools.
Beloved Yoga (Maryam Ovissi), Small Business Leader, “Inviting everyone to enjoy wellbeing”—Maryam Ovissi, through Beloved Yoga, couples the tools for self-empowerment, self-healing and self-realization with the belief that giving is powerful and community is the most important tool for success. Beloved Yoga—whose classes and clients include major corporations and individuals throughout the Dulles corridor—also provides free classes to all segments of the Reston community, including the Embry Rucker Community Shelter and other Cornerstones clients, Southgate Community Center, and the Herndon Resource Center.
Wiygul Automotive Clinic, Small Business Leader, “Jump-starting hope for families and children”—The Wiygul family’s approach to life and business is defined by a simple philosophy: “Never lie, cheat or steal—ever.” Those values have paid off for the successful 60-year-old family business, and they’ve added another core value: Give back to the community. Because The Wiyguls know firsthand that securing and maintaining solid employment depends on reliable transportation options, they provide an average of $1,000 in parts and labor to fix a car for any client Cornerstones’ refers. Their small business also participates in Cornerstones’ “Closing the Skills Gap” employer advisory board to provide the skills, training and opportunities that put people to work. Quietly and humbly, Wiygul is changing lives.
Google, Corporate Business Leader, “Search for “positive impact: Find Google in our community”—While its influence is felt around the world every day, Google also is firmly committed to local philanthropy. Its GooglersGive program empowers employees to use their skills and resources to positively impact their communities and the charitable and other nonprofit organizations where they live and work. In addition to people resources, Google also is generous with grants and its technology. Some of the many local places, programs and groups that have benefited by Google’s community involvement are: Reston-based Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Foundation; Wolf Trap’s STEM program; Google Earth training for Fairfax County Public Schools; Northern Virginia Family Service Futures training.
Bechtel, Corporate Business Leader, “Engineering the future with service to others”—Bechtel goes big when it comes to promoting community engagement. It created an “Employees Club” to give staff a place to bring their purposed-driven volunteer interests and passions. Among the beneficiaries of Bechtel’s community involvement is Reston’s Lake Anne Elementary school, which it adopted. Students, parents and teachers alike benefit from Bechtel’s contributions of employee time and resources, which include the delivery of holiday gifts, visits from the “book fairy,” summer camp scholarships, a STEM Club, and enriching field trips. They support various reading and back-to-school initiatives like “Reads Across America.” Headquartered in Reston, its professional work has had another major impact on Reston and the Dulles Corridor. It constructed Phase I of the Silver Line Metro.