Community service

Northam Honors 2021 Volunteer and Community Service Award Recipients

Political virginia
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Governor Ralph Northam announced the winners of the 2021 Governor’s Awards for Volunteerism and Community Service. The annual awards program recognizes the outstanding contributions of individual volunteers and organizations on behalf of people across the Commonwealth.

“The challenges of the past year have made it more important than ever to honor the incredible volunteers who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in their communities,” said Northam. “These awards recognize the selfless work and meaningful contributions of these remarkable individuals and groups, as well as the ingenuity and determination they faced in serving their community during the pandemic. It is my privilege to recognize the incredible laureates for their positive impact on our Commonwealth and in the lives of our fellow citizens of Virginia. “

“The past year has illustrated what we already knew – that there is a great need and a great impact in having comprehensive supportive community efforts,” said Virginia Department of Social Services Commissioner S. Duke. Storen. “Commonwealth volunteers make a real difference in the lives of others, and these exceptional award recipients are proof of that. “

“It is a great honor to recognize these ten individuals and organizations for their efforts this year,” said Julie Strandlie, chair of the Virginia Governor’s Advisory Council on Service and Volunteering. “They encompass the incredible service of over two million volunteers who donate their time and talents each year to help their communities. “

The awards are organized by the Virginia Service Commission, in partnership with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Service and Volunteering, and the Virginia Service Foundation. These organizations are charged by the Governor to recognize Virginians who have made a significant contribution to the life and well-being of the Commonwealth and its citizens.

The recipients of the 2021 Governor’s Awards for Volunteerism and Community Service include:

EXCEPTIONAL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION | Department of Health CrossOver (Richmond)

The CrossOver Department of Health stepped up during the COVID-19 crisis to not only provide exceptional medical care, but also to go above and beyond by offering COVID testing and vaccinations for the uninsured. During the pandemic, CrossOver’s two clinics remained open, not closing for a single day. They continued to operate with a 15 percent reduction in volunteer capacity, vaccinating over 1,000 patients. CrossOver relies heavily on its more than 300 active volunteers who serve as clinicians, nurses, interpreters, front office and administrative support, volunteering more than 22,000 hours last year.

EXCEPTIONAL FAITH ORGANIZATION | First African Baptist Church of Mount Zion and Church of the Incarnation (Charlottesville)

Since May 2020, Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church and Church of the Incarnation have offered free COVID-19 testing events hosted by more than 300 volunteers. Located in densely populated neighborhoods, the majority of those tested were members of the most vulnerable populations in the community who would otherwise not be able to receive free, consistent and timely testing. The weekly community testing events produced over 8,000 individual tests and offered a place where individuals and families could receive financial support to pay for rent, medication, food and personal protective equipment (PPE) , as well as connect to resources such as mental health counseling or tutoring for students struggling with virtual learning.


The lack of representation of women in technology fields and the scarcity of computer programming classes in their own schools have inspired a determined group of students in Northern Virginia to take action. The students created Codefy, an organization offering free computer programming lessons to middle and high school students. In just two years, the organization has grown to include over 600 volunteers and over 10 courses reflecting a variety of programming languages. A completely volunteer-run organization run by students outside of their traditional school hours and during the summer, the program currently has 600 students taking classes throughout Virginia and across the country.

EXCEPTIONAL SMALL COMPANY | Doswell Limited Partnership (Ashland)

Doswell Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of LS Power and owner of the Doswell natural gas power generation facility, employs 32 people and is able to supply power to meet the needs of over 1.2 million people. homes in the Virginia area. The company is committed to supporting services that have a lasting impact, whether it’s lives brightened up with fundraising, home delivered meals, or toy drives for the holiday season. One of their most important long-term commitments has been to provide volunteer assistance to the County Day Health Program and Raft House (facilities for people with mental and developmental disabilities). They also provided assistance to Hanover Parks and Recreation, Hanover Safe Place, Hanover Schools for STEM and Music programs, Hanover Sheriff’s Office toys for toddlers and Special Olympics, for to name a few.

EXCEPTIONAL COMPANY | Capital One Coders (Richmond)

Capital One Coders inspires students from all walks of life to view IT as an achievable and exciting career path. The program helps middle school students cultivate a greater interest in computer science during a critical period of their development. In 2020, nearly 1,400 volunteers spent more than 24,000 hours with nearly 5,000 students. More than half of those volunteers were in Virginia alone, spending more than 10,000 hours mentoring and teaching students. Volunteers expose students to a world of technology career options while teaching them basic coding concepts, building mobile apps and websites, and different coding languages. Coders is also actively focused on increasing diversity in IT and has over 75 percent of participants being underrepresented minorities in tech and over half are girls. In response to the pandemic, the program quickly mobilized and provided laptops and internet access to more than 2,000 families and kept their student outreach centers virtually open when schools closed.

EXCEPTIONAL SENIOR VOLUNTEER | Betty L. Robinette (Wytheville)

When the local homeless shelter closed, Betty Robinette spent countless hours bringing together religious and civic leaders to serve hot meals to the homeless. A longtime volunteer in the community, she has stepped up her efforts to help create a sustainable and innovative organization – the Open Door Café. Today, the best-selling Give What You Can restaurant serves food insecure people in downtown Wytheville. A regular cafe volunteer as well, Betty has served six hours a week since her retirement. Today, the cafe serves an average of 91 meals a day, 85 percent of those meals being for food insecure people.

EXCEPTIONAL ADULT VOLUNTEER | Mechele Hairston (Chesapeake)

When two Hampton Roads neighborhoods lost their last grocery store, the largely minority population of nearly 18,000 faced serious food shortages. Mechele Hairston served as the driving force that led to the free distribution of over 25,000 pounds of food over a two-weekend period. In 2020, Mechelen and 400 volunteers distributed more than 766,000 pounds of food, which provided enough food for 1.6 million meals. By building partnerships and alliances for the planning and sustainability of food distribution and creating a Norfolk food ecosystem, she has put in place long-term solutions that will be felt for years to come.


Originally assigned the role of Patient Navigator to assist with Spanish Interpretation and Translation Services with The Health Brigade in Richmond, Lucy Cummins pivoted during the COVID-19 crisis to address and overcome a number of challenges presented by the pandemic. She quickly got to work helping to design a safe and efficient test system and then implementing the program by accumulating vital PPE, managing the physical set-up and teardown of tents, tables, chairs. , etc. Most importantly, Lucy ensured that the volunteers were safely and effectively prepared to work with the flow of people who came from across the community for services. Lucy also provided much-needed medical interpretation services following the sudden loss of the clinic’s old interpretation service and was not only able to comfort and reassure patients, but also took care developing a solid interpretation plan for future needs.

EXCEPTIONAL VOLUNTEER FAMILY | George and Kim Melnyk, Jr. (Virginia Beach)

For low-income students in Hampton Roads, having a desk for virtual lessons and homework during COVID was a major issue for many families. Premier Millwork owners George and Kim Melnyk, Jr. jumped at the opportunity to serve when contacted by South Hampton Roads Children’s Health Investment Program (CHIP). Premier Millwork immediately began producing foldable desks for children in need and the Desk for Success program was born. After some local media coverage, demands for desks skyrocketed and George and Kim recruited other Virginia Beach School Board members and many more to volunteer on Saturdays to help sand and pack the desks. . Over 2,100 children have attended to date and the impact of the Desk for Success program can truly be seen in the eyes of the children receiving their desks.


TJ Kim, an in-flight teenager, said his flight training became one of the only activities he could still enjoy when his school and lacrosse season were closed due to COVID-19. In order to help serve his community during this difficult time, he decided to combine his passion for flying with helping others and created Operation SOS (Supplies Over the Skies). TJ transported PPE to critical access, rural and community hospitals at a time when everyone was concentrating donations on hospitals in big cities. Operation SOS is now distributing supplies to critical access hospitals and other rural and community hospitals throughout Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. TJ coordinates every element of mission planning, including procurement of PPE, outreach to hospitals to assess needs, strategic flight planning and piloting the aircraft in dual instruction. To date, it has flown 22 missions and has purchased and delivered nearly 85,000 PPE and ventilator supplies to 21 sites.