Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced the recipients of the 2022 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards, honoring the outstanding efforts of individual volunteers and organizations contributed on behalf of citizens throughout the Commonwealth.
Since 1984, Virginia governors have celebrated the impact of volunteers, and honored the significant contributions of Virginians across the state with the annual Governor's Awards on Volunteerism and Community Service. The efforts recognized this year include increasing access to STEM programming, improving public parks and recreation resources, supporting youth and families affected by the foster care system, and much more.
“Healthier communities rely on the power of community service to create and support places for all to thrive," said Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) Commissioner Danny Avula. "The volunteers recognized this year, along with all who are called to serve their communities in this capacity, are a critical part of meeting the diverse needs across the state that are the foundation for a stronger Virginia.”
“It is a great privilege to recognize these nine individuals and groups for their efforts this year,” added Cliff Yee, Chairman of the Virginia Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism. “They represent the incredible commitment of the more than 2 million volunteers that give their time and talents each year to help their communities.”
The program from the awards event is available here.
Read more about the honorees below by scrolling down or clicking on an honoree:
OUTSTANDING YOUTH VOLUNTEER
His lifelong passion for STEM and robotics inspired Jay to increase opportunities for other students to fall in love with engineering. By taking a leadership role in Funbotics, a nonprofit organization, he dedicated his time, talent, and energy to making sure every student had the option to participate.
Jay Rachakonda has always loved building things, from robots to community partnerships. Jay fell in love with robotics and engineering from a young age, and wanted to make sure his peers had the chance to see the fun in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as well. When Jay learned about the barriers that kept his friends and classmates from participating in STEM activities, including required programs costs and COVID protocols, Jay became committed to finding ways to overcome challenges and inspire others to give STEM activities a try.
Jay built on his long standing passion for STEM and robotics by taking a leadership role in Funbotics. He saw ways the program could be made more available for underserved and marginalized students, and dedicated his time, talent, and energy to making sure every student had the option to participate. “Jay’s passion for community impact drives his continuous desire to take Northern Virginia Funbotics to new heights,” describes Pranav Avasarala, the founder of Funbotics. When Jay joined Funbotics, there were less than 5 active volunteers and looming funding challenges. With a spirit of dedication, determination, and creativity, Jay secured new funding, connected with community partners, and inspired others to join as co-leaders and volunteers to expand availability of summer camp and regular school year programming. The Northern VA chapter of Funbotics is proud to now have over 50 active volunteers and an annual budget that supports program growth, due in great part to Jay’s contributions and service.
He continues to stretch beyond the school walls to make sure programming is widely available virtually and through local libraries, as well as garnering support from local companies and grant programs. Notably, the expansion and development of Funbotics programs is only part of what makes Jay such an asset to his community. Jay has also maintained a focus throughout his service to his school and his community on encouraging and inspiring students as the especially those hesitant about their STEM abilities. Numerous partners describe the influence Jay has on students, getting younger participants excited about STEM and encouraging them to find their passion. “Although small in the grand scheme of Jay’s work with Funbotics, [seeing the impact he had on a disinterested student] was one of the incidents that brought me to respect him as a volunteer at heart, working through Funbotics because of a true desire for community impact and the smiles on kids’ faces,” says Tonya Kirkland, a community partner that worked with Jay to host a summer camp program. “As part of Funbotics, outside his organizational and leadership duties, Jay has influenced numerous students as an outstanding teacher.”
Seeing the challenges facing middle school students today, Justin knew there was an opportunity to make a difference and give back to students in his hometown. Bringing together students from the Hampden Sydney community and Cycling Club, his fraternity, and the Cumberland County School District, he organized a program to inspire Cumberland Middle School students to be their best selves.
Justin Stimpson knows the difference a bike can make to a middle school student in Cumberland County; it wasn’t so long ago that he was in their shoes. Now a member of the Hampden Sydney College class of 2023, he continued a lifelong passion for helping his community even after he left for college. As a dedicated member of the Cycling Club and Omicron Delta Kappa honor fraternity, he led the "Cares for Kids Taking Flight" program to give back to students in his hometown.
Seeing the challenges facing middle school students today, Justin saw an opportunity for the program to empower middle school students and promote positive behaviors. From pitching the idea to school leadership to gathering support from the Hampden Sydney community, he organized the program to reward Cumberland Middle School students for their hard work with tickets to win a bicycle during an end-of-year raffle. The impact of the program extended beyond the donated bicycles, however. “During the time of running the program, we saw a drop in discipline and uptick in positive behaviors,” said Cumberland Middle School Principal Andrew Hoyt. “Justin timed the program to lead up to SOLs to help students’ focus and to get in the right mindsets to finish out the year.” The end of year pep rally and bike raffle recharged and inspired all students, whether or not they won.
The program’s influence continues beyond rewarding positive behaviors. Students also saw a Cumberland County Public Schools alumni at the head of an exciting, inspiring program and giving back to his community. Justin’s relatability and shared experience of growing up in this rural community demonstrated to the students what strong citizenship and civic engagement can look like after graduation. Justin has always been involved in community service, described as having a persistent “heart and mind towards helping his community.” Through his service, Justin not only makes a difference but also inspires others to find their difference to make as well.
Walter’s vast legacy in Virginia Beach illustrates his commitment, from hours spent on the ground with other volunteers to leading new efforts through city coalitions and taskforces. His contributions through hours of volunteerism and his approach of serving alongside and recognizing the efforts of others makes Walter an invaluable member of his community.
Descriptions like “tireless” and “dedicated” are often applied to volunteer efforts, but Walter Camp’s commitment to service gives these expressions a new level of meaning. Those who work alongside Walter know that when he serves a cause, he doesn’t just talk about it. He is known for putting in the hard work to make things happen no matter the task at hand. As Secretary of the Virginia Beach Clean Community Commission, he went above and beyond his normal role to join other volunteers in the 2021 Great American Cleanup, helping scoop debris from the Virginia Beach shorelines in his kayak to collect over 6,000 pounds of litter in three hours! It wasn’t required, but it speaks volumes about his commitment. Walter leads a busy professional life as an attorney but finds time to devote to improving the quality of life in Virginia Beach, providing more than 1,000 hours of volunteer service in 2021-22, with various boards, commissions, and initiatives.
Walter has been dedicated to community service all his life. His vast legacy in Virginia Beach illustrates this commitment, including hours spent on the ground, stepping up to lead new efforts, and often chipping away at the less visible parts of the work to give others the opportunity to shine. In describing his service, his colleagues say: “He educates and connects people with influence with what needs to happen, and generates results that may never be attributed to him. He uses his intellect to find creative solutions and works persistently through any and all challenges that get in the way.” His contributions through hours of volunteerism are only part of the legacy; Walter is also known for being extremely generous with his appreciation for others, making folks feel as though their contributions helped him personally, when, in fact, it was for the good of the community. His nominator warns, “Though Walter is overwhelmingly deserving of this recognition, he will be humbled should he receive it and will likely try to share the credit.”
Walter Camp’s service to the community knows no bounds. From earning his Eagle Scout award as a young adult to completing a volunteer training with the FBI, he never ceases to find ways to nurture the good and bring new life. Walter is a result and people-oriented leader with a passion for historic preservation, environmental conservation, transportation alternatives for bicyclists and pedestrians, and community engagement. His volunteer contributions go back decades and have a lasting impact on the people they have touched. His contributions further efforts that continue to pay dividends for years to come in creating successful partnerships among the community.
Those who know Karen are quick to clarify that what makes her so special is her dedication to serving others with compassion, not just the impressive quantity of her service activities. “Anybody can give out food. The difference is Karen’s belief that her life’s work is to serve people with dignity and respect. Her steadfast energy is inspiring,” says Sue Murdock, a fellow volunteer.
Karen Cullen has served Virginians for many years, professionally through her career in social services and by her prolific lifelong community service efforts. Since 2014, Karen can most often be found serving alongside other volunteers as the Food Pantry Director at Three Chopt Presbyterian Church. Under her leadership, the food pantry has gone from serving 25 families to 3,055 individuals each month. This dramatic increase is a direct result of Karen’s hard work, both in building capacity despite shrinking budgets and increasing need, as well as her commitment to inspire, mobilize, and support an entire community of volunteers.
Karen’s innovative spirit is also credited for the pantry’s growth during the pandemic. “Through this entire process [of the pandemic], Karen has taken charge and changed the distribution to a much more efficient drive-through distribution process,” says church elder Milton Pritchett. “Karen has mobilized volunteers from the church, local neighborhoods, and other churches to help unload a USDA truck, gather food from several other sources, and prepare the pantry for guests the next day.”
The magnitude of Karen’s impact cannot be overstated. Many volunteers that work with Karen use words like transformative, significant, selfless, devoted, and heartfelt to describe their interactions with her. Others reiterate that they would not have volunteered or found community in the same way were it not for Karen’s leadership. “I am not prone to volunteering, but I’m inspired by the love Karen shows to the people the food pantry serves,” says one regular volunteer. “Because of Karen, every week we provided food to more than 160 households in a little over two hours. And because of Karen we do it with joy.”
The Fullers’ volunteer service reaches virtually every corner of Hanover County, serving residents and visitors alike. Their enduring commitment to their neighbors exemplifies Dave and Judy's belief in the power of community and the importance of serving others.
Life in Hanover County is better as a result of Dave and Judy Fuller. Known for their passionate and enthusiastic community volunteerism, the impact of their service can be found in virtually every corner of the county. Their enduring commitment to Hanover neighbors through numerous volunteer positions exemplifies Dave and Judy's belief in the power of community and the importance of serving others.
Dave and Judy are familiar faces around Hanover, both as individuals and as a family. In addition to their careers in local economic development and public service, they are respected for their commitment to serving others through volunteering. Currently, Dave and Judy are most known for their service as passionate supporters and leaders in the successes of the Project Lifesaver and Motorist Assist programs in Hanover County. “During years of volunteering the Fullers have developed many strong bonds with members of the community,” says Captain J.S. Sizemore with the Hanover Sheriff’s Office. “Both Dave and Judy Fuller represent what it means to be a true Hanoverian.” Additionally, they serve on numerous boards, foundations, and with an array of nonprofit and government groups that make life better for residents and visitors alike.
The Fullers’ energy, focus on volunteerism, and selfless attitudes directly impact and influence those they partner with and those they serve. The breadth of their volunteer efforts is complemented by the deep commitment they make to impacting life in the county. They go above and beyond to serve Hanover residents with special needs, cognitive conditions, and memory challenges through the Project Lifesaver program. “Understanding the unique needs of many of these individuals and families, David and Judy have also taken an active role in assuring the families are included in their work while volunteering with the Motorist Assist program as well,” contributes Sargent Tim Sutton with the Hanover Sheriff’s Office. “The caring nature of the relationships they have forged is priceless. David and Judy truly understand what it is to be a part of the community that the Hanover Sheriff's Office serves.”
OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION VOLUNTEER GROUP
Kids Give Back
Established as a nonprofit in 2019, Kids Give Back grew out of an afterschool club and a realization that there were not enough opportunities for children between 6 and 12 years old to volunteer. Since then, over 300 volunteers have completed over 3,000 volunteer hours, contributing over 2,000 in-kind donations.
Established as a nonprofit in 2019, Kids Give Back grew out of an afterschool club and a realization that there were not enough opportunities for children between 6 and 12 years old to volunteer. Since then, over 300 volunteers have completed over 3,000 volunteer hours, contributing over 2,000 in-kind donations in 2022. Youth are engaged in virtual volunteer events, Family Volunteer Days, Summer Volunteer Camps and more. Every project completed meets an identified need in the community, while inspiring the next generation of volunteers. Volunteer leaders and board ensure that students are actively engaged in projects that make a difference in their community and feel relevant to young volunteers. One partner organization said, "Kids Give Back does a wonderful job connecting our local youth to service opportunities while educating them on any nonprofits doing important work in our communities. This year students provided 100 summer supply bags for our students to use in Aspire!'s six-week summer learning camp. The supplies were a tremendous help to our organization, especially at a time we saw record enrollment and need."
These project activities are designed to be meaningful experiences for youth to become more civically minded, even at such a young age. Nonprofit leaders are invited to come and talk to the children about the impact of the work, and help the participants see the role they play in making the world a better place. Students also engage in reflection during each project, thinking about the activity before it starts, and then sharing and journaling after the project about what they did, how they feel, and what they might do in the future. This reflection helps them process their actions and gain a better understanding of the volunteer activity.
The impact of Kids Give Back is seen not only through the number of hours committed or donations made, but also through the improved confidence and wellbeing of the students involved. Students are able to develop leadership skills, practice fine motor and basic academic skills, and cultivate a passion for helping others at the same time. Founder Denise Gavilan shares that some youth participants report never being asked to help before, and that students feel so proud of their accomplishments when they are able to share the impact of their contribution.
Patriot Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Club
The impact of the club and the projects they undertake both create a tangible impact for their local and foster a spirit of service in middle and high school students that continues to inspire them to volunteer for years to come. By developing skills and gaining hands-on experience through the FCCLA club projects, students are primed to make a difference as they continue their contributions to society.
Each year, the students engaged in the Patriot FCCLA Club come together to contribute their time and talent to support the local community. By hosting events and service projects, club members seek to make a difference and leave a legacy that contributes to the common good. In addition to hosting local events and serving local families throughout the year, the FCCLA club designed a service project called "No More Trashbags.” The students identified a need to support children in foster care both locally and across the US. They partnered with Comfort Cases, an organization that serves youth in foster care, to organize a supply drive and donate backpacks filled with items to be distributed to youth in need. Students were not only active in service, but also empowered to educate others and advocate for youth in care. Their accomplishments were recognized by the national FCCLA organization, and awarded grant funding as a result of the students’ hard work.
The impact of the club and the projects they undertake both create a tangible impact for their local community and Americans across the US, but also foster a spirit of service in middle and high school students that continues to inspire them to volunteer for years to come. By developing skills and gaining hands-on experience through the FCCLA club projects, students are primed to make a difference as they continue their contributions to society.
Recognizing an unmet need for foster care, adoption, and kinship care resources, Highlands Fellowship stepped up to support children, families, and service providers. Over 2,500 individuals across three campuses have been mobilized and empowered to act. The ways they have supported families and youth across Southwest Virginia has led to creative and innovative partnerships in support of the foster care, adoption, and kinship care communities.
Respected throughout the community for their holistic and deep commitment to making a difference, the impact of Highlands Fellowship can be felt through their fierce love for those most vulnerable in Southwest Virginia. Over 2,500 individuals have been mobilized to act as catalysts throughout the community, partnering to expand the breadth and depth of available resources to serve youth and families in foster care and kinship care networks. Their continually evolving wraparound approach has made a far-reaching and long-lasting impact by building relationships, strengthening systems, and inspiring others in the community to take action.
Highlands Fellowship is recognized as an essential community resource, seen as eager to help or provide in any way they can to support community initiatives. From donating their space for community programs to committing time and energy to hosting service events, the leadership and community at Highlands Fellowship are regarded as consistent and responsive partners by service providers in the community. “Any time I have contacted them with a need or opportunity to help with any endeavor, they responded immediately and went into action,” shares Jeffrey Justice, Director of the Bristol Department of Social Services.
The ways they have supported families and youth across Southwest Virginia has led to creative and innovative partnerships in support of the foster care, adoption, and kinship care communities. Highlands Fellowship recognized an unmet need to support the children, families, and service providers while expanding the availability of local resources. In response, they not only set out to raise awareness, provide programmatic and service support, and leverage their resources across their three campuses, but also made deep and lasting relationships between families to strengthen the social fabric of the community. “Highlands Fellowship takes their role of serving the community and promoting the needs of foster families and child caregivers very seriously, and has taken crucial steps forward to support Virginia's foster care and adoptive families,” says Kathy Johnson, Director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.
Commitment to community has been embedded as a core value for OrthoVirginia even before its formal founding as a practice. Through their dedication to local sports leagues and school systems, they single handedly support a variety of public and private school athletic programs in a multitude of different ways, benefiting schools, students, and athletics programs many times over.
Commitment to community has been embedded as a core value for OrthoVirginia, even before its formal founding as a practice. At any given time, over a third of the physicians at OrthoVirginia volunteer as athletic trainers and team physicians, primarily in the Northern Virginia region. As a result of their priority to support the local sports leagues and school systems, they serve as team physicians to 18 public high schools as well as a number of private schools, taking time to answer questions, provide guidance and help in the care of the students.
In addition to providing a crucial service for students actively playing a sport, OrthoVirginia provides support to many student-athletes that may not have ready access to health care, and services from the OrthoVirginia physicians can prevent the need for unnecessary emergency room, office and physical therapy visits. Many schools rely on community medical providers to provide pre-participation physical examinations through school-based screenings each spring. School districts say they know they can count on OrthoVirginia employees to donate admirable amounts of their time to support these initiatives, at no charge to the student or the school, and utilizing their staff resources. For more severe injuries, these physicians can help streamline the care for these students who would otherwise encounter barriers due to their insurance status or language ability. In addition to health services, physicians have provided educational seminars, assisted with developing safety protocols, provided pre-participation physicals, and helped raise funds for school athletic programs.
School leadership readily identify the positive impact of the partnerships with OrthoVirginia, and the support to school systems as a result. “These relationships are critically important to the operation of our school-based athletic programs,” says John Ellenberger, Director of Student Activities at Annandale High School. “It's safe to say our Athletic Trainers would not be able to do their jobs without the vital support provided by OrthoVirginia volunteer team physicians.”
OrthoVirginia has always been motivated by a desire to help athletic trainers to perform an often time thankless job. Additionally, they are inspired by the need to provide quality and timely care to athletes. The impact of the partnerships between schools and OrthoVirginia, and specifically the legacy of service by many of their physicians, have demonstrated a strong commitment over several decades to supporting athletic programs statewide.
Is there a volunteer that you want to recognize? Someone known throughout your community for always being willing to show up and lend a hand? Consider nominating them next year for an award!
Virginia Governor's Volunteerism and Community Service Awards: These awards annually recognize the significant contributions of Virginia citizens to the life and welfare of the Commonwealth and its people. These outstanding award winners represent the millions of generous Virginians who offer their time and talents to others each year. The nominations are open from April through June annually. Find more details here.