A Restonian since 1974 and member of the Cornerstones Board of Directors from 1984-1993 and again since 2008, Dr. Stuart Rakoff is a great example of skill-based volunteering. As a Human Capital Strategist, working with government and private firms to improve their HR systems Stu has brought the talents he uses on the job to his role volunteering on the board.
Now the board President, he has led the organization to develop and implement strategic planning programs that have resulted in improved performance and accountability across the agency. Most recently Stu has taken a lead role on updating Cornerstones’ branding and marketing; working with staff and a team of professionals volunteering through a Taproot Foundation grant.
Stu was recently recognized at the Fairfax County Volunteer Awards as the Hunter Mill District Community Champion for his tireless work at Cornerstones and other local non-profit and civic organizations.
To quote Stu, “If I seek out every opportunity to enjoy life and serve, then I will chalk up a long string of successful days – one at a time.”
For the agents of Keller Williams Realty community service is as much a part of their jobs as is connecting people with homes. Nationwide, Keller Williams offices set aside work for one day each year and serve the local community on “Red Day” which falls near the birthday of their founder.
For the past three years the staff of Keller Williams Reston has come together to serve at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter. Rather than simply showing up with their considerable manpower, representatives from Keller Williams meet with shelter staff months in advance to make certain their project will have a maximum impact, and they can provide whatever material resources are needed to accomplish it. Twice now the agents have painted the shelter’s interior from top to bottom, a considerable project for which they not only brought 50 agents but also leveraged their relationships with professional painters and handymen to guide them in making certain everything was done to the highest standard.
In order to raise the needed funds for all the supplies (brushes, tape, and over 30 gallons of paint) agents have held large scale fundraisers including silent auctions and a fashion show. Not only did these fundraisers accomplish the primary goal of funding, they also were a fantastic way to introduce Keller Williams’ various business partners to the work of Cornerstones. With their red shirts and jovial laughter the agents made quick work of the huge job and left the residents not only with freshly painted walls but a fresh knowledge that others truly cared about them.
Founded in 1978 by several Reston families, Heritage Fellowship Church (HFC) has grown tremendously over the past 35 years and has served as an integral member of the greater Reston-Herndon community every step of the way.
In 2012, Heritage Fellowship Church’s outreach efforts directly impacted over 400 homeless children, parents and single adults residing in Fairfax County who enjoyed home-cooked meals each month. Additionally over 7,000 members of working families, disabled adults and seniors on a fixed income in the greater Reston and Herndon received groceries and other emergency services because of the volunteer’s service. Their holiday toy drive resulted in gifts for over 800 local children who were facing December with limited resources or a parent in prison.
These numbers provide just a glimpse the total impact that Heritage Fellowship Church has on our neighbors in need. The most important results of the congregation’s work are evident in the smiling faces, warm hearts and satisfied stomachs of those who benefit from HFC’s generosity and as a result, are able to work toward new goals and greater self-sufficiency each day.
For 16 years Emily Ward has literally and figuratively been there for the students and staff of Laurel Learning Center.
Emily doesn’t merely show up at the pre-school to volunteer, she infuses it with a special spark all her own the moment she walks through the doors. Between the two days a week she officially is scheduled and the numerous other times she pops in to help out, that spark is never too far away. Her official title is “teacher’s aide” and as such Emily is there to assist a classroom teacher with 15 3-5 year olds—helping them out by taking on a small group, working with kids one on one, supervising at the playground and pool, and keeping the classroom clean and stimulating. But Emily can be relied on to go above and beyond consistently. She schedules special guest speakers and performers from among her friends, sets up and often fully funds field trips, and goes on shopping expeditions if she notices a child is lacking school supplies or other essentials.
With over 250 little ones having passed through her class over the years Emily is a shining example of friendly self-less support to families who are often struggling to make ends meet.
As a front desk volunteer the past 16 years Ruth Schrott is on the front lines at the shelter answering phones, finding needed items for folks coming in off the street, and assisting donors as they drop off everything from deodorant to bunk beds. Whether coming in as a person in need, or someone who wants to help out, Ruth is the first person to greet you, and it is her special way of putting everyone at ease that makes all the difference.
Beyond providing for the shelter client’s physical needs Ruth comes alongside them and through listening and asking questions takes care of emotional needs as well. She knows everyone by name and asks about their recent job hunts, children’s new schools, or if there are any items she should be on the lookout for. Her kindness and patience bring special warmth to the shelter that wouldn’t exist in her absence. Ruth has been such a long standing volunteer that she is consistently looked to for guidance from clients, other volunteers and even staff. Her wisdom is sought out not only because of the depth of her knowledge but also because others know that in Ruth they’ll find someone who will patiently answer their questions and encourage them while she’s at it.
Jordan found the most difficult piece of the drive was recruiting and organizing all the volunteers to man tables at the various stores which participated; each drive took well over 30 volunteers and one involved over 100. That said, Jordan believes the most rewarding part of his volunteering was passing on his excitement to help those in need to his friends and giving them the opportunity to serve. He would tell his recruits, “getting involved in any way is important, and making sure that people can have a meal is one of the best things you can do.” He also has truly enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment that came from taking on such a big responsibility and being successful.
Now a freshman at Christopher Newport University, Jordan reported reports that he’s already contacted some food banks near his school so he can continue the great work he started for Cornerstones. Jordan proves that a motivated volunteer can make a huge impact, no matter what their age, and no matter how busy their schedule.
Like many in our neighborhood, Mike Sneed originally knew about Cornerstones through a connection with his church and because he’d occasionally drop off donations at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter. Mike’s connection deepened tremendously when he responded to a flier asking for volunteer assistance at the shelter last year. Having recently retired from government service, Mike didn’t know what his role would look like, but approached the volunteer coordinator with an open mind and a willingness to help wherever needed.
Now fondly referred to as one of the shelter “elves,” Mike serves on an “on-call” basis helping with everything from picking up donated food from restaurants to organizing thousands of books donated through Barnes and Noble each winter. The work ebbs and flows, but Mike finds himself at the shelter at least twice a week helping out behind the scenes. Mike’s flexibility and can-do spirit are a perfect match for the often last-minute needs that arise.
For years Mike has been involved coordinating St. John Neumann’s participation in Hypothermia Prevention and Cornerstones’ Thanksgiving Drive, and he sees his work at Cornerstones as a continuation of that. Mike says working at the shelter has “made me aware of what’s happening out there and how fragile people’s situations really are.” He especially enjoyed getting to see the families receive the items donated during the Holidays after spending countless hours organizing all that the community had generously given.
Perhaps you have a schedule which changes often, but would be willing to like Mike be “on-call” for special needs as they come up. If so, we hope you’ll consider Mike’s words of wisdom, “Give it a try and you’ll be surprised at how much your work means to others and to you!”
Volunteer Fairfax recently recognized outstanding volunteers through their Service Awards program. In 2012 Cornerstones was honored to have four award winners, a few of the shining stars of our volunteer program.
Jean Pacelli has volunteered at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter since the fall of 2009. She has provided a peaceful and comforting presence at the front desk in the midst of various crises. This past holiday season Jean volunteered daily to help arrange holiday gifts and supplies for shelter clients. At the awards ceremony Jean humbly accepted the Rising Star Award. “Street people have a network, and the shelter is a community – a unique community, their community. In two years as a volunteer at Embry Rucker Community Shelter, Jean Pacelli has become a bulwark for that community,” said Susan Alger, Volunteer and Resource Manager.
For Dr. Richard “Nick” Brown and his wife Peg, volunteering is a way of life and a family affair. They are stalwart volunteers for Cornerstones, soliciting and delivering furnishings for transitional housing, hauling bins and boxes of donations to the Embry Rucker Community Shelter, making the weekly run to the jail to pick up clean sleeping bags for the Hypothermia Prevention Center, helping out as needed at the ESSP Food Pantry, and collecting Cornerstones’ recycling every week. To make sure this volunteer ethic is passed on to a new generation, they enlist their three grandchildren to help with the recycling and furniture delivery. Nick and Peg Brown received the Family Volunteer Award.
United Christian Parish (UCP) received the Adult Volunteer Group Award. UCP is a “small church with a big heart.” Its membership is 150 households. The UCP adults are deeply involved in a wide range of activities that supply food, clothing, shelter, health resources and education in the Reston/Herndon region. “The UCP congregation is a steadfast community partner that not only contributes time, energy, and compassion but even renowned culinary skills to our programs,” said Mandy Guernsey, Senior Volunteer Program Manager.