By Emma Young
The Prince William Living Giving Back Awards celebrate the many outstanding nonprofit organizations in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park that contribute every day to making Prince William better. In every issue, Prince William Living spotlights organizations that give back through their mission and good works, creating greater awareness and support of their efforts.
The Prince William Living Giving Back Awards highlight those organizations whose exceptional accomplishments deserve special recognition. Nominated by readers, the public is invited to vote for the organization they feel best typifies “giving back.” In the final evaluation by Prince William Living judges, there was wide public support for the organizations selected.
2016 Prince William Living Giving Back Award Winner: Prince William SPCA
“We are the voice of the animals that never get the chance to reach the podium,” said Melissa Korzuch, president of the nonprofit Prince William SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). “Our work is with animals, so quite often we don’t receive verbal thanks like other organizations might receive through their work. This is fine because we see appreciation in other ways, such as through increased adoptions, fewer animals euthanized, more educated public/community leaders, and happier animals.”
“Winning this award publicly recognizes our work and shows others what we are doing in the community,” she continued.
And this all-volunteer organization is doing a lot. The Prince William SPCA volunteers have:
- Spearheaded the advocacy effort and won approval for the new Prince William County Animal Shelter. “This accomplishment will help thousands of animals live improved lives while they are at the shelter and have a better chance at getting adopted,” Korzuch said.
- Donated more than $40,000 in microchips to the county animal shelter.
- Taken an estimated 10,000 photos of animals to promote shelter pets.
- Sponsored one of the first spay/neuter transport vans, providing more than 1,800 reduced-cost surgeries in our community.
- Provided a spay/neuter coupon program providing $60,000 to spay/neuter 2,500 pets.
- Donated 42 pet oxygen masks, two for every county fire station.
- Created a pet food pantry supporting the pets of hundreds of needy families each year. It is “the only one of its kind in the area,” according to Korzuch.
- Taught more than 13,000 students in 500 classrooms in Manassas, Manassas Park, and Prince William County about pet adoption, pet care, and developing empathy and compassion for animals through donated books and reading materials.
- Wrote a $156,000 grant request, which was awarded by Petco, for the P.A.W. Express Mobile Pet Adoption Van showcasing pets from the shelter who might not otherwise receive any visibility. The van has traveled to more than 60 community events.
Remarkably, Prince William SPCA operates with administrative and overhead expenses that “are less than 1 percent,” according to Korzuch. “Volunteers with all levels of expertise donate their time and keep these expenses low, which means more of the donations we receive can be used directly for our programs,” she said.
The volunteers are crucial to their mission. “Our work is very rewarding as we see results in more adoptions, healthier animals, a more educated community, and better conditions at the local animal shelters. Our volunteers know that their skills and expertise are needed to tackle huge challenges relating to companion animals in our community. Improving animal welfare is very difficult and often comes with few viable options. Yet, we have accomplished amazing things thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers who care enough to give their time and expertise,” Korzuch said. “Our greatest strength is our volunteer base, which donates thousands of hours each year in the areas of animal welfare, marketing, grant writing, design, writing, photography, fundraising, event planning, and community relations,” she summed.
For more information, or to donate, volunteer, become a member or learn about pet adoption, visit pwspca.org.
2016 Giving Back Award First Runner-Up: Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc., Quantico
“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” wrote a [name withheld]veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after participating in an overnight trip with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc., Quantico (PHWFF-Q). “I’m relaxed and in a great mood this morning, and that’s a rare combination these days,” he noted. “The overnight trips get rave reviews,” said PHWFF-Q volunteer Dan Soper, “because it gives us time to sit around and spend quality time talking to each other. It gives veterans an opportunity to share difficult times with other veterans that have been there, and it allows that healing process and time to connect on a different level.”
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc. “is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities, including education and outings,” according to its official mission statement. The organization, volunteers and supportive businesses provide all equipment and training for fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building.
“Fly fishing gives an opportunity to slow down and take in the environment,” Soper said. “It makes you concentrate so much on a few things—the fish, the fly, the wind, your cast—it makes everything else fade away. It is meditation. It is focus. It helps participants get away. I’m just happy to be part of the organization because what I’ve seen it do with people’s lives is incredible,” he said.
Since January 2016 the organization has sponsored 18 day trips, five family trips (where veterans and their entire families can participate), and five overnight trips, all with the extensive help of volunteers. “Our volunteers are so dedicated because we have the heart for our veterans, and we want to give up our time because they gave up so much for us. It is important for us to show them in this way that we can provide an outlet for them, even one they might not have thought about,” Soper said.
One touching moment occurred after an overnight trip. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing participants from all over the country are invited on at least one trip sponsored each year by PHWFF-Q, and a soldier suffering from PTSD after multiple tours in Afghanistan came down from Ohio to participate. “His mom wrote a letter afterwards and said, ‘I didn’t get my son back until after he came back from that trip,’” Soper recounted.
As for being named 2016 Prince William Living Giving Back Award First Runner-Up, Soper said, “We’re very excited. It will help showcase us as one of the volunteer organizations embedded in Prince William County that is making a difference in the community and showcase the veterans who are deserving of a program such as this.”
2016 Giving Back Award Second Runner-Up: American Legion Post 1799, Haymarket
The American Legion is a nationwide service organization comprised of patriotic American veterans devoted to helping in their communities. The American Legion Post 1799’s (Haymarket) specific mission is to “support programs for veterans, young people, and the community, to advance the understanding of patriotism and responsibility of citizenship, and to promote individual integrity and family values,” according to Post 1799’s website.
“We volunteer from our sense of duty to our country and are devoted to supporting our military veterans and their families, sponsoring youth education programs in our community, and advocating for patriotism, a strong national defense, and service to our community,” said American Legion Post 1799 Legionnaire Tom Henning.
“We are honored to be a finalist for the Prince William Living Giving Back Award and thankful that others recognize the contributions of our American Legion Post 1799 members to our community,” Henning said.
Those volunteer contributions include regular community service projects, such as blood drives and adopt-a-highway clean-ups, along with fundraisers and support for special projects. The American Legion Post 1799 this year has:
- Provided $10,000 in funding to the Warrior Retreat at Bull Run to support wounded warriors and their families staying at the retreat;
- Sponsored Battlefield High School’s American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State youth program, which teaches how government works, knowledge of citizen rights, and skill, such as public speaking;
- Supported a Haymarket-based Boy Scout troop;
- Donated flags, blankets and other needed items to Support Our Willing Warriors; and
- Provided speakers for the Jr. Air Force ROTC program at Battlefield High School.
The group doesn’t serve for attention, fame or fortune though. The more than 100 Legionnaires in the post “are military veterans who know what it means to serve our country and our community. They volunteer from a sense of duty, not for public recognition,” Henning said.
Selecting Our Winners
A combination public vote and ratings by PWL judges is used in determining the winners. Why a public vote? At Prince William Living, we want to encourage volunteerism among our readers. By including a public vote, we hope to build awareness of the many nonprofit organizations working to enhance Prince William and introduce our readers to new opportunities to give back to the community. Follow our giving back initiative on Facebook at facebook.com/GiveBackPW.
Emma Young ([email protected]) is a freelance writer residing in Montclair. She’s thrilled with this year’s Prince William Living Giving Back Awards recipients and their generous work in our community.