Nearly 2,300 Prince William Volunteers Receive Congressional Records
By Val Wallace
WOODBRIDGE, Va. – More than 350 people attended the Volunteer Recognition Event and picnic held Sunday (May 18, 2014) at Rippon Lodge Historic Site in Woodbridge, where nearly 2,300 volunteers and 29 nonprofit organizations from throughout Prince William were recognized for their contributions to the community.
“This is the largest group of volunteers we’ve ever recognized,” said Mary Foley, executive director of Volunteer Prince William, which she said has held the annual event for more than 30 years. The number of agencies recognized and the total number of people who attended are also records, she said.
“The purpose of this is to bring together diverse community organizations and to thank the volunteers,” she said. “This is the snapshot of Prince William. … [These volunteers] are the face of the community.”
Each volunteer recognized received a Congressional Record, presented by keynote speaker Mike May, vice chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and also supervisor of the Occoquan District.
“On the behalf of the entire board of county supervisors, I want to thank you for your efforts. I want to congratulate you … and encourage you to continue to give your time and talents to help make Prince William County and the Greater Manassas area such a special place, a place that we all love to call home,” he told the audience during his address.
“We have a really wonderful community and just the fact that we’re recognizing more volunteers today than we ever have … that they’re willing to give back, is one of the things that makes Prince William County not just a place on the map, but a community,” May told Prince William Living after his speech.
U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax), whose aide Collin Davenport, of Woodbridge, attended this year’s event on his behalf, will enter the records into Congress, Davenport said.
“A Congressional Record is called an extension of remarks that is entered into the Congressional Record by Congressman Connolly, and it is then included in the debates and proceedings of the 113th Congress, and that then goes into the national archives,” explained Davenport, who prepared the Congressional Records.
“I think we’ve almost doubled the number this year that we usually recognize,” he said.
Connolly has entered names of volunteers recognized at the annual event into the Congressional Record for about four years, said Davenport. The congressman usually attends, but this year was at his daughter Caitlin Connolly’s graduation at the University of Virginia, Davenport said.
Congressman Connolly represents Virginia’s 11th congressional district, which encompasses Fairfax and Prince William counties and the city of Fairfax.
Many volunteers invited to receive Congressional Records at this year’s event were not present, Foley said. “I only called out [the names of] the volunteers who were here. … But every single one of the volunteers’ [names] submitted were put into the Congressional Record,” she said. She’ll give the Congressional Records of volunteers who didn’t attend to the agencies where they volunteer to distribute to them, she said.
This was the first year that Rippon Lodge has hosted the event, held previously at the plaza of the county government administration center in Woodbridge. The Prince William County Department of Public Works, which oversees the county Historic Preservation Division, invited Volunteer Prince William to hold this year’s event at the site, Foley said.
The public works department is a partner of Volunteer Prince William, which collaborates with community agencies to mobilize volunteers and resources. It also promotes volunteer management best practices through training and consulting services.
Members of the informal group Ladies of the Blue and Grey, which includes members of Volunteer Prince William’s Board of Directors, also partnered with the organization during the event. They walked the grounds in 1861 period costumes, as attendees sat on folding chairs under and around a large tent on the historic site’s lawn during the sunny and pleasant day.
Attendees also received free guided tours of the lodge, while the Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra Trio played on the porch.
“We add a little ambiance to the house,” said costumed Manassas resident Nora Jewell, a board member and one of the Ladies of the Blue and Grey. “I find that people love it. … They’re so fascinated by the dresses. Everything we wear is 100 percent authentic. It’s made exactly the way it was back in the day … [when] there were no zippers, there was no Velcro, [and] they had things with eyehooks.”
The group’s primary purpose, however, is fundraising for “Untrim a Tree,” a project members work on and promote all year, Jewell said. The project provides Christmas gifts to children in need.
Others present enjoyed free hamburgers, hotdogs, cheeseburgers, chips and soft drinks supplied by Volunteer Prince William, whose staff grilled as attendees lined up with paper plates in hand. It was an opportunity for volunteers to talk to each other about their organizations and causes.
“Write by the Rails is an amazing organization of dedicated writers that have done so much for the literary and artistic community in Prince William County and Manassas and Manassas Park, and I’m really proud to be a member,” said Katherine Godtthardt, a co-founder of the local chapter of the Virginia Writers Club.
Nine members of the Manassas-based group, which includes more than 200 members, were present to receive Congressional Records. They were among more than 40 group volunteers invited, said Godtthardt, a published poet and author and a Bristow resident.
“It’s very exciting to be recognized and put into the Congressional Record. It makes you feel kind of official,” she said. “It’s [also] a beautiful day out here, and I’ve never actually been out to this area. It’s gorgeous.”
“It’s nice to meet fellow volunteers in whatever aspect of volunteering that they do,” said Katherine Blondin, of Manassas. She is the community outreach associate for Prince William Little Theatre, a 30-year-old, all-volunteer nonprofit group that has held performances at Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas for the past three years, she said. The group was among organizations whose volunteers were recognized during the event.
“We weren’t quite sure what … to expect, but it’s been, like, neat,” said Prince William Little Theatre volunteer Melissa Jo York-Tilley, also of Manassas. She described herself as the group’s artistic associate and its “Jane of all trades.”
Blondin said she has also worn many hats in volunteering for the group. “That’s the thing you’ll find about most community organizations; you can never just do one thing,” she said.
Some volunteers recognized at the event, though, do perform a single function.
Priscilla Jacobs, of Woodbridge, waited in line with her three young grandchildren in the parking lot of Porter Traditional School to board a shuttle bus that would take them up the hill on the short road to Rippon Lodge, where parking was limited for the event.
Her purpose for being there: “To support my fellow missionaries that are receiving an award. We’re from Ebenezer Baptist Church [of Woodbridge],” she said.
About a half-dozen of her fellow parishioners were receiving Congressional Records for providing hot meals twice a year to residents at The Hilda M. Barg Homeless Prevention Center in Woodbridge, Jacobs said.
“We need these volunteers in Prince William County,” Davenport said. “They play an especially valuable role in our community.”
Freelance writer and editor Val Wallace, of Manassas Park, is a regular contributor to Prince William Living and is also on the magazine’s editorial staff. She can be reached at [email protected].
Local Volunteer Organizations Recognized
- American Red Cross
- Beacon for Adult Literacy
- Birmingham Green
- Christian Cooperative Council of Ministries
- Center for the Arts (at the Candy Factory) of Greater Manassas/Prince William County
- Greater Prince William Medical Reserve Corps
- Green Community Awards
- Habitat for Humanity of Prince William County
- Independence Empowerment Center
- Keep Prince William Beautiful
- Manassas Museum
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving
- Patriot High School Key Club
- Prince William Area Agency on Aging
- Prince William Board of County Supervisors
- Prince William County Animal Control
- Prince William County Historic Preservation Division
- Prince William County Juvenile Detention Center
- Prince William County Neighborhood Services
- Prince William Forest Park, National Park Service
- Prince William Little Theatre
- Project Mend-A-House
- Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
- Saved Hands Foundation
- SERVE, Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Family Service
- Six Weeks to Make a Difference
- Transitional Housing BARN, Inc.
- Volunteer Prince William
- Write by the Rails
Gallery Photos by David Lane