And the Winner Is… The Giving Back Award

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By Dawn Klavon

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the United States. Prince William has a multitude of not-for-profit groups that reach out to every segment of the population, extending support, education, and life-giving resources. Prince William Living recognizes the extraordinary efforts of these unsung heroes of our community. Their commitment to service and desire to support our neighbors make us all stronger and thrive as a whole.

Kudos to this year’s winner and two runners-up; it’s just the tip of the iceberg of passionate, talented people and organizations who make Prince William great.

WINNER: The Prince William Community Foundation

C.H.O.W. wagon

The C.H.O.W. Wagon

The Giving Back Award for 2022 goes to the Prince William County Community Foundation.

The Prince William County Community Foundation, Inc. is committed to building philanthropic resources to sustain healthy and vital Prince William County communities now and into the future. By helping to improve the community residents’ quality of life, the organization promotes community solutions through research and actions that will advance the common good.

“Exciting things are happening at the Prince William County Community Foundation,” said Vanessa Gattis, the organization’s president. “We have had our most successful year-to-date by bringing our total impact level to more than 650,000 meals served to area individuals in need of food resources through our Combating Hunger on Wheels Wagon Initiative.”

This past year also marked the launch of many new partnerships for the Woodbridge-based PWCCF, such as new opportunities with the Potomac Health Foundation, allowing PWCCF to conduct targeted outreach to active-duty military and veterans. The 4-year-old non-profit also launched a new program; the Backpack Buddy Box distributes directly to children on-site at Prince William County Public Schools. Their operations
expanded to tackle health and wellness – another basic skills gap adversely impacting the service population.

Scholarships

The PWCCF has a broad reach, with a mission to equip students with education. In 2022, the group distributed $10,000 to high school seniors through a scholarship initiative to promote pathways to college for students as another means to secure positive post-secondary pathways.

“We have also provided aid to the community as they continue to combat the ongoing pandemic through the distribution of personal protection equipment and care packages to residents continuing to battle against COVID-19,” Gattis said. “Over the past few years, the Prince William County Community Foundation has solidified its role as a regional leader in recognizing the need for and providing resources to eradicate
food insecurity.”

PWCCF also uses its platform through monthly Community Conversations to introduce nonprofits and small businesses to the community by engaging in thought-provoking conversations. Through its annual PWC Gives! virtual fundraising event in 2021, the foundation helped 20 nonprofit organizations raise over $40,000 and gain new donors to help fulfill their mission within our community.

Back to school is a busy (and expensive) time for many families, and the PWCCF aims to ease the financial burden. The foundation held its annual Back-to-School Community Event in August, where over 1,000 backpacks were distributed to students going back to school. The event, which had over 40 sponsors,
had free food, and distributed food boxes, games, and resources that drew over 2,500 people.

Support Makes the Difference

Prince William County Community Foundation“Behind our success are our supporters: the generous local businesses, individuals, and corporations who recognize that addressing food insecurity and health and wellness, especially among youth audiences and in low-income communities, benefits us all,” Gattis said.

Ensuring that all individuals have their basic skills met contributes to a more resilient economy and an improved quality of life for individuals and families throughout Prince William County. In fact, the foundation has garnered attention for its outstanding service, winning several awards in 2021, including
Nonprofit of the Year from the Town of Dumfries and a service award from the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.

With the goal of helping improve the quality of life for our residents, the PWCCF continues to be a staple in Prince William County and to its residents. Gattis said community support has made the difference.

“Without their dedicated volunteers, PWC residents, and supporters, there would be no Prince William County Community Foundation,” she said.

RUNNER UP: Agape Love In Action in Manassas

ALIA logo

Agape Love in Action’s mission is simple: it’s to help those in need. Motivated by deep faith, its members serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love.

The nonprofit’s founder, Corliss Udoema, is a true hero in the City of Manassas. As president and founder of Contract Solutions Inc., she started ALIA to positively impact the community.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Udoema and her non-profit rose to meet the needs of community challenges by supporting COVID-19 frontline health workers,” said Kisha Wilson-Sogunro, from the City of Manassas. “Udoema and her organization donated over 12,600 Hero Bags to area hospitals and medical facilities.”

Why Prince William? Corliss Udoema

Corliss Udoema

As a successful business owner, Udoema understands the importance of maintaining morale that ensures employees feel valued and remain committed to excellence. Each Hero Bag delivered included drawings and personal notes of appreciation to the healthcare workers. Over a seven-month period, ALIA donated Hero Bags to Prince William healthcare facilities including Novant Health, Sentara, and Kaiser Permanente.

It didn’t stop there. Udoema rolled out the red carpet for front-line heroes by purchasing thousands of popular snacks from big box retailers. To calm anxiety, she made sure to bundle and seal the snacks in individual packages for sanitization purposes.

“She made sure the bags held a personal thought by placing a business card-size note with an inspiring message in each bag to let front line workers know that someone cares and that they are not expendable,” Wilson-Sogunro said. “Additionally, she acknowledges their work on her social media platform to sing
their praises.”

To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required

Udoema aligns her business gains with the biblical scripture (Luke 12:48) of “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Grateful for the sacrifices of front-line workers, she provides necessary resources through her nonprofit and business to help front-line workers and the greater community. Udoema’s ultimate intention is to help those whose lives have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ALIA’s Collaborations

“She keeps her finger on the pulse by corresponding with City of Manassas staff as well as leadership for updates on community needs,” Wilson-Sogunro said. “This allows staff to collaborate with her by providing resources.”

As a result, the city employees have assembled over 3,600 bags on their lunch breaks to give back to the community. The Manassas Boys and Girls Club is ALIA’s satellite location for storing the largest inventory of snacks, which allows for quick disbursement of snacks while keeping volunteers safe for social distancing.
ALIA is able to share this partnership immediately as a way of resolving hunger needs with club members.

ALIA’s founder thinks outside the box. The organization partnered with Retro Fitness in Manassas for logistical support to receive and deliver during the peak of the shutdown. When employees reported to work at an empty gym, the manager had the staff stuff and deliver bags.

ALIA, led by the unflappable Udoema, has earned great respect and credibility in Prince William and has honorably served the community in countless ways.

RUNNER UP: Future Kings

Future Kings

Future Kings students learn STEM concepts through hands-on
projects and working together.

The mission of Dumfries-based Future Kings is to use education, mentoring, training, practical experiences, and mastery of 21st-century technology to create a pipeline of young men from underserved communities to excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related careers and positively influence their communities.

Dr. Arik King, the organization’s leader, is committed to helping secondary school students master math and science in an applied learning environment. His doctoral research involved using computer games to improve math achievement in seventh-grade students.

King founded Future Kings in 2010 when he introduced students to lucrative STEM professions to break the cycle of poverty in African American and Hispanic communities. Since its inception, Future Kings has served more than 1,000 students and delivered STEM majors to universities including Yale, Johns Hopkins, George Mason, University of West Virginia, University of Virginia, Norfolk State, Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia
State, Old Dominion University, and Morehouse College.

Through grants and/or contributions and numerous volunteers serving as mentors and instructors, Future Kings has built a firm foundation.

Summer STEM Camps

Future Kings is making a true difference in Prince William communities. For the second year in a row, King reached out to the leadership of the Georgetown South community in Manassas — an underserved community — to extend the offer of scholarships to STEM camps this past summer, a DRONE Engineering camp, and a Biomedical Research camp. Sixteen youth attended these camps free of charge while the camps normally cost $300 per participant.

“These camps were similar in that they allowed the kids to experience math and science outside of a classroom setting,” King said. “They put the fun into math and science and allowed our kids to experience biomedical research and drone engineering.”

Engineer Great Futures

Future Kings endeavors to expose underserved youth to STEM programs and educate them on potential careers in science, technology, and engineering. The nonprofit organization hopes to “Engineer Great Futures” by teaching advanced engineering concepts to young men to develop a cadre of culturally
responsible professionals and entrepreneurs who positively influence their community through academic success, economic achievement, and job creation.

By offering valuable programs in cybersecurity, biomedical sciences, custom engineering, computer game design, and 21st-century skills, Future Kings is equipping the next generation for successful careers in STEM fields.

The Future Kings cybersecurity program, a collaborative effort with Northern Virginia Community College, is designed for middle and high school students interested in protecting and defending against cybercrime. The program instills responsibility, ethical decision-making, confidence, emotional intelligence, and
practical knowledge.

The biomedical science track is designed to help students acquire an understanding of life science concepts and develop skills in planning and executing scientific experiments. In the custom engineering program, students get hands-on experience with computer-aided design software and devices used in computer-aided manufacturing.

The Future Kings computer game design concentration helps students learn many of the core concepts and principles for creating computer games. Students learn to create working game characters that can move and interact.

Together, Future Kings uses these programs to offer excellent educational opportunities for Prince William’s underserved youth.

Dawn Klavon is a regular contributing writer for Prince William Living and can be reached at dklavon@princewilliamliving.com.

 

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