There are thousands of individuals and many organizations that volunteer each year in local parks and support the many programs and initiatives of the Fairfax County Park Authority. In fact, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to operate our park system without volunteers. Making sure that their service is recognized is very important.
The Annual Elly Doyle Park Services Awards, established in 1988, recognize those who have made outstanding contributions over the last year. These are individuals and/or groups who have given of their time or expertise to the Fairfax County Park Authority for the advancement of recreational and/or educational opportunities for the protection of natural, cultural or historic resources in Fairfax County.
We are pleased to introduce the host of the 2023 Elly Doyle Park Service Awards:
Jummy co-anchors News4 Today, the #1 morning news in Washington D.C. She has been honored for her work with two national Edward R. Murrow Awards for breaking news anchor coverage, two Virginia Associated Press Awards and eight EMMY Awards.
A native of Fairfax County and graduate of Westfield High School, Olabanji has spent most of her life in Virginia.
The Fairfax County Park Authority Board established the Chairman’s Choice Award in 2019 to recognize outstanding long-term service to and advocacy on behalf of the Park Authority. This award honors those whose efforts have provided a critical contribution to the agency and helped sustain and expand its nationally accredited facilities and programs. The recipients of this award must support the One Fairfax policy and demonstrate significant contributions to the Park Authority over a period of five years or more. The award recognizes outstanding, tangible support in areas such as land growth, facility development, fiscal management, financial support, legislation, or a combination of such factors.
This year’s Chairman’s Choice Awards Recipients are:
Member of the Fairfax County Park Authority Board
After 14 years of distinguished leadership as Chair of the Park Authority Board, Bill Bouie stepped aside, making way for new voices and ideas, different approaches to challenges and changing visions and most, importantly, facilitating a smooth leadership transition. Bill has returned to his initial role as Park Board representative for the Hunter Mill District.
We honor his service as Chair, and the legacy he created. He was elected Chair in 2009. Since then, the Park Authority has earned two of its four National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence. FCPA also achieved Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies, referred to as CAPRA accreditation, earning perfect scores during three successive assessments.
Bill envisions a park system that serves the needs of the present and the future. Thus, he led the agency to acquire more than 10,000 acres during his years of leadership. Today, the Park Authority remains one of the largest landholders in Northern Virginia.
A growing population and park system expansion increased the need for capital project funding. To that end, during Bill’s chairmanship, voters approved three park bonds worth nearly half a billion dollars in capital financing. This funding provides for the creation of new facilities, renovations and expansions, land acquisition and generally, the creation of a more equitable and accessible park system.
The pandemic required difficult decision making. Bill rose to the task as a strong, deliberative leader when the agency struggled to provide safe places for people to recreate.
Bill has been a steadfast champion for social and racial equity in all park programs, services, policies, and the workforce. He ensured that the Park Authority was among the first agencies to adopt One Fairfax.
He has always been generous in his praise of staff and celebrated the many awards and accolades received by the agency. He also earned prestigious awards locally and nationally for his leadership.
Supervisor Penny Gross
Mason District, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross was first elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, representing the Mason District, in November 1995. She was re-elected to her seventh term in November 2019. She serves as vice-chair of the County Board.
Over the past 27 years, Penny built a reputation for responsive constituent services, and effective leadership at all levels of government. She is adept at building partnerships, routinely facing diverse opinions, and seeking middle ground. She can often be found in the community and parks openings, throughout her district.
Her approach to governance is hands-on, a skill that translates into new recreational opportunity. From dog parks to farmer’s markets, community gardens to playground improvements, new trails to pickleball courts, synthetic turf fields to invasive plants management, Penny has shaped the discussion and made these endeavors happen.
She has concentrated on underserved areas, ensuring a more equitable distribution of recreational amenities throughout Fairfax County, particularly in areas where economic challenges exist, and diverse populations live. The annual Culmore Days celebration as well as renovations at Ossian Hall Park and its multicultural performance series are examples of that focus in action. Penny’s use of discretionary funding and economic development grants created the Annandale Civic Space and Crossroads Interim Park, turning under-utilized land parcels into new recreational opportunity.
Throughout Mason District, parks reflect Penny’s determination; acquisition of Margaret White Gardens, the creation of Hogge Park, securing Monk Park, supporting the renaming of Justice Park, renovating Glasgow Park playground and Providence Rec Center racquetball courts as well as support of dog parks when the concept was still untested. Supervisor Gross created the Friends of Mason District Park more than 20 years ago, an organization which supports this park and the popular Spotlight by Starlight summer concert series.
It is that vision that has made all the difference. Green Spring Gardens thrives. This beautiful property boasts one of the most active and largest friends’ groups in the park system. So too, Hidden Oaks Nature Center with its wonderful expansion, its outreach to the Hispanic Community and its wealth of environmental programming.
Penny’s legacy is rich in achievement and promise for the future.
Supervisor John Foust
Dranesville District, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has been a champion of parks since he was elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in November 2007 and re-elected in 2011, 2015 and 2019. His district includes McLean, Great Falls, Herndon and portions of the Vienna and Falls Church areas sections of Fairfax County.
He has always prioritized the park system. When the county executive, constrained financially by the recession labeled parks and libraries non-essential, non-necessary budget items, John rejected the notion and won the day with Park Authority funding fully restored. Later he championed a significant increase in park bond allocations, fought hard for a gym and renovation/expansion at Spring Hill Recreation Center and for needed improvements at McLean Central Park.
He selected resolute and capable Park Authority Board members Tim Hackman and Kevin Faye. These selectees, supported by the Supervisor and his staff, helped him forge strong bonds with the community, businesses, and youth sports organizations. Successful partnerships became the norm. In fact, collaborations resulted in construction of 16 synthetic turf fields throughout the Dranesville District. John supported the Tysons Plans and is considered a tough negotiator for much-needed development-related proffers.
With a park system as diverse as FCPA, the issues and challenges were numerous and often complex. To preserve historic properties without public funding Supervisor Foust instigated legislation for the Resident Curator Program. For many years, he pushed to complete a land swap at Langley Fork Park between Fairfax and the National Park Service, finally getting it over the finish line.
He is an advocate for all constituents supporting creation of pickleball courts and new trails, as well as improvements at Arrowbrook Park and other Herndon locations. His high regard and appreciation for Clemyjontri Park, the Grange, Riverbend Park, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, Colvin Run Mill and the roll-top Observatory and equestrian facilities at Turner Farm helped protect these sites and allowed him to deliver extensive capital investments.
He leaves a legacy of preservation, accomplishment, and world class facilities.
The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award was approved by the Park Authority Board on March 23, 2022. This award recognizes significant, tangible contributions made by individuals, organizations or businesses that help accomplish the Park Authority’s strategic priority to enhance diversity systemwide and foster a culture of inclusion in parks and/or within the surrounding community.
This year’s award recipients are:
Colleen Cannon is an Adapted Aquatics volunteer who epitomizes the tenets and objectives of this award. Since 2016, Colleen contributed over 400 service hours at Audrey Moore and Providence Rec Centers. Twice a week Colleen gives selflessly, working closely with adults with physical disabilities on Friday mornings and again on Sunday mornings with children with intellectual disabilities. The goal is straightforward: teach them to swim, to push past obstacles and most importantly, provide a new sense of confidence and inclusion to those impacted by disabilities or other potential limitations.
Colleen is amazing, developing repore with her students and their families, as well as fellow volunteers and site staff. Every weekend with few exceptions, Colleen touches the lives of disabled individuals who want to learn to swim or regain strength and mobility after an injury or illness. She believes that everyone should and can learn to swim and she has personally made that a reality for countless individuals, stroke by stroke, day by day, week by week for many years.
Larry Newman, Youth Coordinator for the Phillips School, makes inclusion and new opportunity look easy as he supports a strong partnership between the Phillps organization and Providence Rec Center. His efforts and that of this non-profit entity provide a means for youth left behind in traditional settings to get educational and supportive services they need to become successful. Their philosophy is that any young person can overcome adversity given the right tools. FCPA is pleased to be a community partner.
Larry is a hands-on mentor and talented, effective group leader. Participants have the chance to learn critical life skills at the Rec Center where they assist with cleaning and sanitizing the fitness center each week. Participants keep the equipment spotless, wipe down windows and sanitize surfaces. It’s a popular program with participation increasing and the effort expanding beyond the school year, into the summer months. Via Larry, Phillips and the Park Authority kids get real world work experience.
This partnership benefits the participants as well as the Park Authority, patrons, and staff. Whether it’s skill building, enhanced socialization, development of a strong work ethic plus a cleaner, healthier fitness facility, there are only winners with this program.
The Fairfax County Park Authority Board established the Harold L. Strickland Partnership and Collaboration Award in 2015 in honor of the retired Park Board member’s long service and significant contributions to the Park Authority.
In the spirit of Strickland’s accomplishments, this award recognizes the value and importance of teamwork and cooperation necessary to provide residents with state-of-the-art facilities in Fairfax County Parks, often at limited, reduced or no capital expense to the taxpayer.
Harold L. Strickland Partnership and Collaboration Award nominees demonstrate significant long-term accomplishments that provide the residents of Fairfax County with tangible examples of the benefits of partnerships and collaborations that help to sustain or grow service to the community, while reducing the need for Fairfax County Park Authority financial resources to accomplish the service delivery.
We are pleased to honor:
The Park Authority celebrates a unique collaboration between the Analemma Society and the Park Authority, as well as staff members from Riverbend Park and the Natural Resources Division. These Analemma volunteers donate nearly 1,800 service hours annually bringing the wonders of the universe to Fairfax County residents. It is with immense pleasure that the Park Authority Board proudly presents the 2023 Harold L. Strickland Partnership and Collaboration Award to the Analemma Society.
For more than 20 years, Analemma Society volunteers have made astronomy exciting, bringing the heavens closer to earth, and providing science education through night-sky and astronomical events. Friday nights often find families gathered to observe the planets or unusual celestial events. In fact, it’s estimated that over the past five years, nearly 18,000 visitors have come to the site. Visitors enjoy the observatory, which first opened in 2016. They come for camps or on school trips, for classes and for festivals. It's simple: people love to look at the stars, they are eager to see the sundial garden and learn about our moon, they view the planets and meteorites and learn about our galaxy.
As our ability to understand space and to see wonderful never seen images, interest in the site has grown. Over the years, private donations, grants, and capital improvement funds have provided maintenance, purchased telescopes, and made technological improvements. The remote access telescope observatory features a16-inch telescope which amplifies the night-sky experience, seeing even deeper into space.
There is a thirst for family-centric educational engagement. Analemma Society volunteers, many with backgrounds in science, physics, and astronomy, network with other scientists and specialists to create engaging content. Imagine watching a meteor shower, understanding the importance of Dark Skies initiatives, seeing the rings of Saturn, or measuring planetary signatures.
Members of the Analemma Society are hands-on, guiding budding astronomers in the field, at camps and festivals and getting the word out about activities via social media, traditional news outlets and other forums and platforms frequented by those who love to learn about our universe.
The Park Authority Board honors Charles Olin, founding president of the Analemma Society who passed away March 28, 2023. Without his vision there would be no Observatory Park. Charles and Jacque Olin were a powerful team that repeatedly accomplished things that seemed impossible. From a field of grass on the old Defense Mapping Agency and Nike site at Turner Farm, the concrete brick tower has become the Remote Astronomical Telescope Observatory (RATO). We’ve seen the dedication of a sundial garden, and through the Fairfax County Park Authority and generous grant donors, residents now enjoy the Roll-Top Observatory and educational center.
Charles Olin was blessed with a life well-lived, willing to explore his passions professionally and personally. He was a renaissance man by all accounts with enormous energy and diverse interests. Charles was a West Point graduate, a United States Marine, he was widely traveled, he was a scholar, an accomplished sailor, an expert in Fine Arts conservation who knew a forgery when he saw one, and a husband, father, and grandfather. But his passion for astronomy that appeared first in his youth, is what most of us knew about him, and is at the core of tonight’ tribute.
As noted previously, Charles with the support of his wife Jacqueline, was the founding president of the Analemma Society, a group that operates exclusively for educational and scientific purposes. As envisioned by Charles and his fellow members, the Society seeks to develop awareness, appreciation and understanding of science through astronomy for children and adults.
To reach that goal he foresaw development of programs of observation, measurement, calculation, and interpretation of astronomy. His vision included facilities and programs at Observatory Park that would detect the motion of the Earth, moon, planets, and stars.
He was a powerful and accomplished advocate. That skill helped Charles’ vision become both a reality and an evolving legacy for generations to come.
The Sally Ormsby Environmental Stewardship Award was established by the Park Authority Board on November 14, 2007, in recognition of Sally B. Ormsby’s many years of service as a citizen steward. Her actions promoted the responsible and sustainable management of natural resources. These precious assets are entrusted to the Park Authority’s care by the residents of this community. Through stewardship we protect these treasures now and for generations to come.
This award recognizes individuals and organizations whose actions embody the spirit and values of stewardship and result in tangible environmental benefits. We are proud to recognize this year’s recipients:
The Fairfax Parks Coalition and the Fair Parks Initiative are recipients of the 2023 Sally Ormsby Environmental Stewardship Award.
This is a story about two unique and individual groups working collegially to spread the word about at-risk natural resources, the need for a more equitable park system and the impacts of inadequate funding despite the best of intentions. Quite simply, it was one message, many voices.
They provided leadership and vision, creating a grassroots movement, convincing people to testify, write letters and advocate. The results were stellar with two million dollars in increased support from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in the first year. FY 2024 brought continued success with funding increases in general operations, forestry operations, bamboo mitigation, capital projects, equity projects, confederate name changes, staff salary support, and invasive plant management efforts.
This was much more than talking the talk. It was about empowering county residents to write or speak to their local leaders through comment parties, action alerts and advocacy coaching. Through ongoing advocacy, the coalition helped increase awareness of the importance of equitable access to parks and the role that parks can play in preventing climate change.
We honor the work of Lydia Lawrence and Todi Carnes as well as Renee Grebe of Nature Forward, Zander Pelligrino of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Carolyn Gamble, Cindy Speas, Whitney Redding, Jo Doumbia, Johna Ohtagaki-Toomey, Elaine Kolish, and Andreana Lin.
Clearly, this was about bringing new voices to the table, but just as important, it was about enabling our old friends, those friends’ groups we depend on, to join in the conversation collectively.
Representatives from our many friends’ groups came forward including the Friends of Accotink Creek, the Friends of Colvin Run Mill, Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Friends, Friends of Fairfax County Archaeology and Cultural Resources, the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park and Green Spring Gardens, Historic Huntley, Holmes Run, Huntley Meadows Park and Pimmit Barn.
The Eakin Philanthropy Awards, established in 2009 by the Fairfax County Park Foundation, is named in honor of the Eakin family, donors of the first parcels of parkland to the park Authority over 50 years ago.
The annual award recognizes individuals and organizations financial or in-kind contributions which have significantly enhanced Fairfax County parks through the Foundation. The impact of Eakin awardee-supported projects has long-term benefit to the community; and visionary contributions create innovative programs or facilities and provide a creative approach to addressing community needs.
We are pleased to recognize this year’s recipients.
Arlene Evans and Barry Dewberry are appreciated as Signature Benefactors for generously funding the Moon Gate structure and hardscape at Green Spring Gardens. These individuals are long-term donors making a significant investment in our community. This will be a stunning addition to a beautiful park!
Over the years, Arlene and Barry have also supported the Open Space Land Preservation Fund. Each of us appreciates open space as a buffer to development, as vital corridors for wildlife or beautiful places for passive recreation along trails or expanses of woodlands and meadow.
Arlene and Barry also supported creation of celebration shelters at Burke Lake Park. Since their completion in May 2021 these attractive shelters have hosted countless family gatherings and community events.
The Moon Gate at Green Spring Gardens is an incredibly special contribution and will provide sanctuary and inspiration for 200,000 annual visitors. It will be a stunning backdrop for photography and events and will serve as a symbolic connection between the past and the future.
Green Spring celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020. The construction of a Moon Gate Garden is a fitting way to celebrate Green Spring’s milestone 50th anniversary and to look ahead to the next 50 years.
Moon gates originated in ancient Asian gardens. Guests who passed through them were symbolically granted an auspicious welcome and good fortune. In garden design, they provide enticing passageways or window views from one space into another, piquing curiosity about what lies beyond. At Green Spring Gardens, a moon gate feature will be situated at the apex of a site line established by trailblazing garden designer Beatrix Farrand, with views to the ponds below. Farrand created an iconic moon gate feature for Abbie Rockefeller’s Garden in Maine. Inspired by her work there, we are creating this feature to honor her and complement her boxwood design at Green Spring.
The Friends of Hidden Oaks Nature Center have partnered with the Park Authority over the years to secure contributions that fund many projects such as the Tree Snag Chainsaw Animal Sculpture and Bench; Hidden Oaks Nature Center Camp Scholarships; Microscope and support for the Meaningful Watershed Education Experience program.
The Friends of Hidden Oaks Nature Center (FOHONC) are dedicated to supporting natural resource education and habitat protection. They encourage visitation to Hidden Oaks Nature Center, support all types of projects at the facility and encourage families to get outside and play!
In 2019, Andrew Mallon was at the Hidden Oaks Nature Center carving raccoons, squirrels, and other woodland creatures into what’s left of a tulip poplar – a 10-foot stump – after it was struck by lightning and the rest of the tree had to be taken down. The Friends of Hidden Oaks Nature Center contributed to this project.
They have also supported scholarships for summer camp sessions at the site, ensuring as many children as possible can participate and providing more equitable access to formative programs that let kids understand the natural world.
From a powerful microscope that opens new doors for exploration of the environment and the creatures who inhabit it, to support for Meaningful Watershed Education Experience program that creates citizen stewards, the Friends continue to play a significant role in the success of this newly renovated and expanded site.
Members of the Morrisette Family and Interstate Moving, Relocation and Logistics are honored for sponsoring the popular FCPA Summer Entertainment Series including Springfield Nights, Braddock Nights and county-wide concerts and movies throughout Fairfax County; the Combo Classic Golf Tournament in addition to pro-bono services to relocate numerous steel benches to FCPA Golf Courses.
In 2014, Interstate provided in-kind moving services to pick up, wrap, transport and deliver new, heavy duty steel benches that were donated by Fair Oaks Mall. The benches were later located at FCPA golf courses and continue to serve golfers and visitors today.
The Combo Classic Golf Tournament, which enables golfers of all abilities to participate and compete was reborn because of Interstate’s generosity and willingness to step forward as a sponsor. The popular tournament draws dozens of competitors from across the nation and sets a standard for inclusion nationwide.
Interstate also brought topflight family entertainment to residents of Fairfax County through their sponsorship of the popular Summer Entertainment Series. This series is a family tradition in our community that draws tens of thousands of residents to our parks for music and entertainment under the stars. Their contributions helped to ensure dozens of performances at Springfield Nights, Braddock Nights and countywide concerts and movies throughout Fairfax County.
More than 9,645 volunteers powered our parks in Fiscal Year 2023. They contributed 112,000 hours of volunteer service, taking on tasks FCPA staff is not staffed to do. They are a critical component in the success of the park system. Based on national statistics and measures, the tangible value of this manpower service is $3.5 million. The Park Authority could not function without them.
Starter at Greendale Golf Course
3 Years of Service
Harold Adams it the Thursday morning Starter at Greendale Golf Course. It’s a position he has perfected over the past three years and there is no doubt that Harold has things under control. You can find him greeting customers, providing needed guidance, managing the tee sheet, the release of golfer and the pace if play. Things run very smoothly due to his expertise and experience.
He easily manages league play as well, makes folks feel comfortable and welcome and takes on extra tasks such as cleaning carts, dealing with late golfers, and setting up tournaments. His can do, get the job done attitude is refreshing and appreciated.
Charles “Chuck” Basham
Fitness Department Assistant at Spring Hill Rec Center
18 Years of Service
Charles “Chuck” Basham is a fixture at Spring Hill Rec Center where he serves as the Fitness Department Assistant, a post he has held for the past 18 years. His domain is the Fitness Room where he ensures things are clean and ready for use. One key component of his work is making certain that all safety protocols are adhered to.
He is there to instruct customers on basic equipment usage and safety. Chuck takes the assignment seriously and has made a significant difference in the smooth and safe operation of the fitness room. He has dedicated thousands of volunteer service hours and really puts his heart into the work, offering sound advice and guidance, sending smiles to customers, and excelling in customer service.
Touring Docent, Special Events Assistant and Scout Coordinator at Sully Historic Site
7 Years of Service
Sully Historic Site Benefits from the volunteer service of Diane Bierwirth who has served as a touring docent, special events assistant, and scout coordinator for over seven years. Diane is passionate, knowledgeable, and energetic. Her tours leave an indelible mark impression on those interesting in the past. They are impressed by her engaging personality, attention to historic detail and understanding of life at Sully during the Federal period.
Program Assistant, Roving Naturalist and Vernal Pool Surveyor at Huntley Meadows Park
7 Years of Service
Celia Bortlein is an essential volunteer member of the team at Huntley Meadows Park where she serves as the Program Assistant, Roving Naturalist and Vernal Pool Surveyor. It’s a big job for a long-term volunteer with seven years of experience. Celia can be found at scientific, educational and outreach activities of all sorts. She is a keen observer and researcher. Park visitors benefit from her wealth of knowledge about the natural world as well as her strong interpretive skills.
Front Desk Assistant at Cub Run Rec Center
2 Years of Service
Carol Burns is reliable, dedicated and an endlessly optimistic volunteer Front Desk Assistant at Cub Run Rec Center. Over the past two years, Carol has welcomed customers in person and on the phone, provided facility tours and filled any holes needed to support the staff. She radiates positivity and excellent customer service.
Tour Docent, Board Member of Friends of Colvin Run Mill and SPOOM representative at Colvin Run Mill
6 Years of Service
Colvin Run Mill appreciates the work of Robert Coblenz, who over the past six years has served as a Tour Docent, a Board Member of the Friends of Colvin Run Mill as well as a regional SPOOM representative. Most recently, Bob began reenacting history, effectively portraying the assistant to an 18th century engineer for visitors eager to learn how the mill works. Ultimately, he is making Colvin Run Mill a better place for visitors.
Josefina “Jo” Doumbia
Volunteer on Duty at Hidden Oaks Nature Center
18 Years of Service
Josefina “Jo” Doumbia is the Volunteer on Duty at Hidden Oaks Nature Center, a post held for 18 months. She interacts with students, interprets elements of the natural world such as Monarch butterfly migration, hosts outdoor activities and STEM workshops, and in general, introduces the natural world to diverse, often low-income audiences. Jo is dedicated, warm and incredibly effective. Her hard work and dedication over the past year and a half has made a significant difference to her colleagues as well as the many residents and visitors she interacts with on a regular basis.
Kitisia “Kit” Grandin-Parker
Customer Support and Clean up Assistant at Oak Marr Rec Center
2.5 Years Service
For the past two and a half years, Kitisia “Kit” Grandin-Parker has served as the Customer Support and Clean Up Assistant at Oak Marr Rec Center. Kit works hard to keep the place in tiptop shape and welcoming. She puts out catalogs and brochures, interacts with customers as well as caring for indoor plants. She tackles any kind of dirt or debris, ensuring the facility sparkles, and she does this with goodwill and a positive attitude.
IMA Site Leader at Idlywood Park
2 Years of Service
For the past two years, Laura Handley has served as IMA Site Leader at Idylwood Park, a site ranked high on the vulnerability index. Laura hosted 13 workdays last year, supervising removal of invasive species by numerous volunteer groups. She gets her hands dirty, educates citizen stewards and replaces invasives with native plants.
One hundred plantings were made by 168 volunteers who gave 407 service hours to the community.
Junko “JK” Klimek
Pottery Monitor at Audrey Moore Rec Center
18 Years of Service
Junko “JK” Klimek has a unique role at Audrey Moore Rec Center; serving as the Pottery Monitor for the past 18 years and assisting with pottery program tasks to ensure efficient operation of the popular and highly successful Pottery Lab. She unloads the kiln, assists the instructor, and offers students tips on technique. Experienced, creative, and fun to work with, JK has made an indelible mark on the pottery lab and its participants.
Fitness Room Monitor at South Run Rec Center
18 Months of Service
There is nothing quite as pleasant as an organized, clean, and safe fitness room. Erick Lermo volunteers as the Fitness Room Monitor at South Run Rec Center and he has done an outstanding job since he began 18 months ago. Erick is first to recognize and address any safety issues, maintains a flexible schedule to help with events and remains committed to maintaining the Rec Center’s excellent customer service.
Front Desk Associate at Providence Rec Center
18 Months of Service
The Providence Rec Center community depends on Front Desk Associate Eva Novak to help things run smoothly, to remain calm even on busy registration days and to foster a can-do, friendly attitude that results in excellent customer service. For the past 18 months, Eva has excelled in her volunteer service checking in patrons, answering the phones, researching classes, and doing whatever it takes to be the best at what she does!
Eva is greatly appreciated and considered a treasure.
Roving Naturalist and Trail Monitor at Riverbend Park
6 Years of Service
Chris Reynolds is a roving naturalist and trail monitor at Riverbend Park, where she has served as an unsung hero for the past six years. Chris, often the first person to interact with trail visitors, helps orient hikers, protects natural resources, and communicates emergent issues such as trail erosion, downed trees, significant trash, and debris to park staff. She leaves a lasting positive impression with those she interacts with.
Sharon Sellers and Jamie Ogden
Historic House Tea Hosts at Green Spring Gardens Historic House
18 Years of Service
Green Spring Gardens Historic House. The popular teas at Green Spring Gardens Historic House are well known for intriguing content, elegance, and outstanding service. In large measure this reflects the work of Sharon Sellers and Jamie Ogden, the Historic House Tea Hosts who over the past 18 years have provided unmatched service, often serving up to 40 guests from start to finish: assembling and decorating food trays, keeping teacups topped off, clearing tables, and handling substantial clean-up operations.
This pair make it look easy. Both Sharon and Jamie epitomize the best characteristics of volunteer service; dedication, preparation, anticipating challenges, reliability, and grace under pressure.
Trail and Property Beautification Volunteer at Franconia Rec Center
15 Months of Service
Franconia Rec Center is where Stephanie Smith has served as the Trail and Property Beautification Volunteer for the past 15 months. She is restoring the trail system, clearing, and opening over one mile of nearby trails this year and opening others via new or refreshed access points and added guiding hash marks and signage. She encourages partnerships to get the job done and hopes to bring long neglected trails back into use for neighboring communities. Her vision, ability, experience, and training in forestry make these goals realistic.
Volunteer Coordination at Oak Marr Golf Center
5 Years of Service
For the past five years, Oak Marr Golf Center has depended on Gene Sullivan, their Volunteer Coordinator who recruits, schedules and trains new starters and play assistants. The customers and staff love Gene. He is the definition of what makes a great volunteer: he is kind, helpful and willing to do anything that is needed.
General Support Assistant at Mount Vernon and George Washington Rec Centers
8 Years of Service
Bryan Tucillo volunteers at both Mount Vernon and George Washington Rec Centers, serving as a General Support Assistant. Bryan has been an operational asset for eight years, enhancing public awareness, supporting special events, creating bulletin board displays and interacting with customers regularly. Everyone knows Bryan and appreciates his dedication, hard work, and positive attitude.
Adapted Aquatics Assistant at Spring Hill Rec Center
18 Years of Service
If it’s Sunday, you will find Adapted Aquatics Assistant Margaret Turek at Spring Hill Rec Center. That is what she has done for the past 18 years, creating a comfortable learning environment for adults with physical disabilities, helping to set achievable goals and working closely with one or two individuals at each swim session. Over the years, that has added up to more than 1,500 volunteer hours as well as a reputation for spreading enthusiasm, knowledge, and a warm smile.
Animal Care Volunteer at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park
1 Year of Service
For the past year, Sophie Wehmueller has served as an animal care volunteer at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. Sophie requires little supervision as she lovingly cares for the animals, cleaning cages, feeding them, and adding to the visitor experience. She supports the park’s mission and is a wonderful steward.
Naturalist at Hidden Pond Nature Center
3 Years of Service
Multi-talented may best describe Volunteer Naturalist Henry Wells who has served in that role at Hidden Pond Nature Center for the past three years. exhibit care of the exhibit animals, helps with interpretive programs, and represents the best of the best as a youth mentor and all-around member of the Nature Center team. He is knowledgeable and caring and a site asset.
Volunteer on Duty at Observatory Park at Turner Farm
3 Years of Service
Christina Wenks, the Volunteer on Duty at Observatory Park at Turner Farm since 2021, brings her many talents to bear as she presents the Solar System walking tours and astronomy exercises to children. Christina helps design programs, greets the public and advises on educational aspects. She serves as a NASA/JPL solar ambassador and uses her extensive experience as a journalist to promote the site, its value to Fairfax County.
William “Bill” White
Trail Monitoring Team Leader at Twin Lakes Golf Course
11 Years of Service
William “Bill” White leads the trail monitoring team at Twin Lakes Golf Course, giving more than 100 hours of service annually. Bill has been an asset for over 11 years, building 36 bird houses on the course and monitoring them. As a result, local bluebird populations thrive. The course is renowned for its great golf as well as its commitment to providing a healthy environment for native wildlife.
Park Authority Board has established these award categories to exemplify the attributes and qualities of individuals and organizations that help the Fairfax County Park system thrive in more tangible or specific ways. Each award recognizes a distinct set of standards and characteristics vital to the health and well-being of the system and ultimately the residents who benefit from our park amenities and programs.
With 334 miles of trails in the Fairfax County Park system alone, it’s not hard to recognize their value as a primary means to access and enjoy our park system. Trails are used for a variety of recreational purposes and serve our community by providing connectivity as transportation corridors.
Since 2019, our trail system has had a special group of advocates and willing volunteers known as the Hiking Heroes. There are several chapters of this non-profit organization – all spearheaded by high school students. The local chapter began by hosting hikes, gatherings, and activities along the trail system. Next, they dedicated efforts to cleaning up countless trails and more recently by making organic bird feeders, helping to manage invasive species, and raising funds to help support trails.
They also sponsored the Hiking Heroes Trash Pick Up Challenge that encourages students to visit parks and pick up trash. To date, more than 400 students have joined in the Challenge. These volunteers are the vanguard of a new generation mindful of the pleasures and utility of trails and eager to make a difference.
Golfers at Twin Lakes Golf Course play about 80,000 rounds annually, enjoying this highly competitive, beautiful 36-hole facility. Between weekend mornings, when the course is busiest and weekday tournaments, volunteer starter Patrick Evans has his hands full. Evans has volunteered as Starter for the past four years. He is well-liked, professional, and apt to smile and greet players by their first names.
On any given Sunday, Pat will check in more than 200 golfers, greeting them, briefing them on course conditions, ensuring access to both the Oaks and Lake courses as needed, and fitting in walk-ins who want a tee time. He hasn’t missed a Sunday shift yet.
Pat also finds time to support the many tournaments held during the week. Tournaments are a key revenue source for the course and require specific attention to details such as golf merchandise, food, and beverage.
It’s clear that Pat has a real passion for Twin Lakes, believes in the importance of excellent customer service and knows the game of golf. Often, we call Pat “Mr. Twin Lakes”, a light-hearted salute to his dedication, collaboration with others, calm demeanor, and willingness to do what it takes to get it right. Every single time.
Invasive plant species are known for their stealth, quietly invading neighborhood parks, a meadow or woodlands area, overwhelming native plants and before you know it, taking the place over. To combat this aggressive behavior, the Early Detection Rapid Response Team was developed and is ready to go on short notice, leading surveys for the Park Authority’s Invasive Management Area program and determining the appropriate actions to take to protect and restore native habitat.
At the core of this innovative approach are three volunteers who have demonstrated their ability, knowledge of the environment and amazing dedication to the Park Authority. Betty Hoblitzell and Debbie Humphreys have worked with the Rapid Response Team for 13 years, attending some of the first organizational meetings in 2010. Heidi Allen has been with the team for six years and served as an IMA site leader for eight years.
The challenge to parkland is endemic and volunteers provide essential assistance as invasive plants are discovered. To quickly identify problem areas, Betty, Debbie, and Heidi are sent to parks throughout the 24,000-acre park system to survey specific plants for two to four hours each week. Post survey they report on invasive density, removal efforts, volunteer or contractor treatment options and create a rough map of the infested area.
In the past year, these three stalwart volunteers have given more than 225 hours to Rapid Response teamwork, covering more than 200 acres in a matter of months. Their work has curbed wavyleaf basket grass incursions, as well as multiflora rose, stopping the spread early to conserve time, money, and other resource management tools.
Through their volunteerism Betty, Debbie and Heidi have ensured the future health and biodiversity of our park system.
This event is sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Foundation.
The Fairfax County Park Foundation, a 501(c)(3), supports the Fairfax County Park Authority by raising private funds, obtaining grants, and creating partnerships that supplement tax dollars to meet our community’s needs for park land, facilities, and services. Visit the Park Foundation website or call them at 703-324-8582.