Agnes L. Colgan Legacy Lives on With Community Service Award

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By Helena Tavares Kennedy

No doubt you have heard of Senator Charles J. Colgan, for whom the new high school in Prince William is named, but have you heard of Agnes Colgan, his late wife of more than 52 years She’s quite an important figure for the Prince William region and there is an award given out to local not-for-profit organizations every year in her honor, called the Agnes L. Colgan Community Service Awards.

“The awards were named for her because she was a well-known philanthropist in Prince William County,” said Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Marketing and Communications Andrea Short. “She was known to have instilled community involvement and volunteerism in her children.”

One of Colgan’s daughters, Mary Finnigan, is now Chief Operating Officer at Benedictine Sisters of VA, continuing her mother’s tradition of service. Finnigan said that Agnes Colgan was an active supporter of Transitional Housing BARN from its beginning and was known for holding a birthday party for herself each year and the only thing required was for attendees to bring canned goods that would be donated. “She served as honorary chair of the American Red Cross, Operation Turkey,” said Finnigan. “But rather than being ‘honorary’ she worked diligently at the Armory every day helping. She worked to raise money for numerous organizations, mostly local but also national including American Red Cross and American Cancer society.”

“Even in her death she was helping others,” Finnigan said. “As she was getting ready to go into surgery for the third time, she told us that if she didn’t make it, she wanted donations to go to SERVE and BARN.”

Colgan had a loving heart full of service to others. “She treated everyone the same – from a janitor to the governor,” said Finnigan. “She loved people and respected them no matter what their station in life. She always looked out for the underdog. As a child, I can remember her telling my Dad they needed to pay a friend’s electric bill and buy groceries for them because they had fallen on hard times.”

Prince William Chamber of Commerce Supports Award

Prince William Chamber has over 100 member not-for-profit organizations and they enjoy using the Agnes Colgan awards to recognize those members and help support the work they do.

“Quality of Life is one of our five areas of vision,” said Short. The Chamber sees these important nonprofits as directly improving and impacting the quality of life of those in the Prince William region which is why the Chamber is honored and excited to support the award every year.

“The Agnes L. Colgan Community  Service Award began in 2010 and replaced the Shelley Krasnow Community Service Awards, which were retired in 2009,” said Short. “The awards honor not-for-profit organizations for the work they do in providing essential services to those in our community. Awards are given in the categories of Arts and Education and Health and Human Services.”

In order to qualify and be nominated for the award, the not-for-profit organizations must make a demonstrable positive contribution to the quality of life in the Greater Prince William region, and not have already won in the last two years. A selection committee comprised of Chamber members review each nomination and make the decision on the winners for both categories. Each award is accompanied by a check for $1,000 to continue the winners work.

Recent Winners

In 2016, the winner for the Arts and Education category was Christ Chapel Academy, which encourages and challenges students to become leaders and give back to the community. Students have raised money for St. Jude’s research, helped the homeless and elderly, conducted cleanups through Keep Prince William Beautiful, and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. They won the award for “For their commitment to educating students on how to be engaged and concerned citizens,” said Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s press release.

2016 winner in the category of Arts & Education: Christ Chapel Academy, represented by Brian Citizen. The late Senator Charles Colgan (m) and Mary Finnigan (r)

The winner for the 2016 Health and Human Services category was Habitat for Humanity of Prince William County, which is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing in the Prince William, greater Manassas community. According to the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s press release, “In the last year alone, they completed 25 projects that led to safe structures for 15 local families and beautiful and functional neighborhood common areas to improve the local quality of life. In their last fiscal year alone, $81,762 was invested in construction materials and 12,600 volunteer hours were served. It’s been an exciting winter for Habitat as they closed their Manassas Re-Store and opened a new one in a much larger facility. Later this year, they will open a brand new Re-Store in Woodbridge. In addition, they look forward to finishing rehab work on a home in Woodbridge and placing their 16th family partner.”

2016 Winners: Habitat for Humanity Prince William County. Todd Hewitt with Cardinal Bank (the 2016 Award sponsor) is second from left; Traci DeGroat, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity is at the far right. Habitat won in the category of Health & Human Services.


2017 Winners Coming Soon!

While the Agnes L. Colgan Community Services Awards nomination deadline has already closed (it closed December 21, 2016), stay tuned to hear who the winners will be. The awards will be presented at the Tuesday, February 28 Prince William Chamber of Commerce Business Awards Ceremony.  The winners will also be recognized at their own special event “Powerful Partnerships” on April 4th. This event focuses on business philanthropy, and the signup link for the event is here.


Helena Tavares Kennedy (, a longtime Prince William County resident, is a freelance writer and communications consultant and can also be reached at and


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