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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Community & Human Services
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Page updated Mar 25, 2014 2:42 PM

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             The Susan Lowell Butler Lifetime Achievement Award - Vola Lawson 

The late Vola Lawson was a lifelong advocate. She joined the Urban League in 1965 and participated in civil rights demonstrations throughout the City. In 1971, she began her career with the City as the assistant director for the Economic Opportunities Commission.  She also advocated for people living in low-income neighborhoods and assisted in relief efforts during the Arlandria floods.  A champion for women’s rights, she was appointed to chair the ad-hoc Commission on the Status of Women. The group created a report in 1974 which led the City Council to establish the Alexandria Commission for Women, the Office on Women and the Executive Director position.  Later, Vola served as the City of Alexandria’s first female City Manager for 15 years from 1985 to 2000. During her tenure as City Manager, Vola worked tirelessly to create an inclusive environment and diverse workforce within the City. She also founded the City's Walk to Fight Breast Cancer in 1994 while she was undergoing breast cancer treatment. The Walk raised funds to provide mammograms for lower-income, uninsured and underinsured women living in the City of Alexandria. A lifelong animal lover, Lawson worked to build a new animal shelter in the City and served for many years on the board of directors for Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. In 1999, City Council surprised Lawson by naming the shelter in her honor.

The Marguerite Payez Leadership Award - Jen Walker 

Jen Walker is a successful Realtor, philanthropist and volunteer.  Jen produced over $73 million in sales in 2013 and has won numerous awards. In 2006 the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors ranked her 14th in its list of top 20 Northern Virginia Realtors.  Jen received the Heart of Del Ray award by the Del Ray Business Association, an honor given to a business that serves as the heart and soul of Del Ray.  In 2006 she created Cinema Del Ray, a free outdoor movie summer series for Alexandria families.  As a philanthropist, she supports many community non-profit organizations and local schools to raise funds for important causes including the Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services, Inc., T.C. Williams High School’s All Night Graduation Party, First Night Alexandria, and Northern Virginia Aids Ministries (NOVAM).  An active volunteer, she shoveled snow for Alexandria Snow Buddies, served coffee during the Turkey Trot and filled goodie bags for the Halloween Parade.  She also served on numerous Alexandria boards and commissions including the Board of Zoning and Appeals, the Commission for the Arts, First Night, Senior Services and the Alexandria Police Association.  Through her leadership, volunteerism and philanthropic work she had a positive impact on the lives of girls and young women within the Del Ray community. 

Youth Community Services Award (Adult) - Joyce Rawlings 

Joyce Rawlings has an extensive background of professional and volunteer service to children, youth and parents within Alexandria.  She was the Program Coordinator for the Family Resource Learning Center with Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA), a Family Service Supervisor of the Alexandria Head Start and at an after school program. Joyce also worked as a counselor and program coordinator at Residential Youth Services and was a program aide to young mothers at Resource Mothers, a parent educator workshop facilitator in a transitional housing program, a parent support group facilitator for SCAN of Northern Virginia and she was a licensed foster mother to eight children.   In her volunteer work, Joyce was a member of the Alexandria City Schools Strategic Planning Committee, Concerned Alexandria Parents, We Care Organization and served on the White House Blueprint Committee for a Drug-Free America.  She is currently a current member of Cora Kelly Parent Advisory Group.   She was also a 4-H Youth Leader and a past PTA president of two schools. She is a role model, mentor and mother figure to the girls and young women that she has encountered in her professional and volunteer work.

Youth Community Services Award (Youth) - Nancy Martinez 

Nancy Martinez is a senior at T.C. Williams High School. For the past four years she has served on the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria (SAPCA) board. She played an integral role in the creation and implementation of their annual plans, strategies and initiatives to prevent substance abuse by Alexandria youth. Annually Nancy serves as an emcee for Project Sticker Shock, a program where teams of teens and adults go to alcohol retailers and put “STOP” stickers on multi-packs of alcohol to remind adults that it’s illegal to purchase alcohol for minors.  She also serves as a facilitator for an Alexandria summer camp – Kids are Terrific (KAT) Camp, where she teaches them about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.  Her volunteer work on the SAPCA board has helped to reduce substance abuse among middle school and high school girls.  As a result of her work on the board, the girls have a greater opportunity for a more promising future. Nancy serves as a Counselor Aide at Charles Houston Recreation Center where she tutors and mentors younger children. She is the President of the Latina Youth for Excellence Club at T.C. Williams High School that promotes volunteerism among Latina Youth.  She also serves as both a linguistic and cultural interpreter for her family, friends and organizations seeking to reach Spanish speakers.  Nancy is a role model to her peers and the youth that she mentors and she is an inspiration to everyone around her. 

Leadership in Business and Career Development - Joan Renner 

Joan Renner is a lifelong resident of Alexandria and a shareholder at Renner and Company, CPA PC.  She is a CPA with over 30 years of experience in public accounting. Joan’s professional memberships include the American Institute of CPAs, Virginia Society of CPAs, Greater Washington Society of CPAs and the Virginia Society of CPA/Virginia Tech Accounting and Auditing Conference committee.  She has held several leadership roles in community organizations including service as the past chair of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, the chair of the Rotary Club’s Taste for Giving and Treasurer of the Goodwin House Foundation.  She is currently the President-Elect of the Alexandria Rotary Club.  Joan shares her talents and her mentorship with female staff members at her company and with the young girls in the community.  Through her community work to further early childhood education by helping pre-schools become fiscally sound, on the board of the Scholarship Fund she helped high school graduates to find money for college and by using her professional expertise with the Goodwin Foundation she helps the senior members of our community (who are disproportionately female) maintain housing in their later years.

The Marian Van Landingham Legislative and Public Policy Award - Jean Kelleher 

Jean Kelleher is Director of the City of Alexandria’s Office of Human Rights since May 2000 and a long time City of Alexandria resident. As the Director of the Office of Human Rights, Ms. Kelleher is responsible for ensuring that Alexandria is an inclusive and diverse City. Ms. Kelleher is the liaison for the Human Rights Commission and works with the Commission to identify systemic concerns that threaten a diverse community. Ms. Kelleher’s work in the Office of Human Rights directly affects and improves the status women in the community by educating employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities under law regarding equal pay, discrimination in hiring firing and terms and conditions, and sexual harassment. In this role, she has also worked to give voice to the concerns of female City employees, for example, clarifying the City’s maternity leave policy and proposing strategies, since implemented, for more effective communication with employees about family policies. Ms. Kelleher’s commitment to public service and leadership in the community are inspirational. She has continually sought leadership roles in City government and her previous work, as well as on the numerous boards and committees on which she has served. She has also been a mentor to City employees. Her mentorship and guidance has been critical to helping them to succeed and encourages them to take on new challenges. 

Making A Difference Award - Amy Creed   

Amy Creed taught in the Alexandria Public Schools since 2003 and has specialized in working with children who have emotional and behavioral disabilities, learning disabilities and autism.  She is currently a teacher in the AVID program at T.C. Williams, a college readiness program that helps to close the achievement gap to make the college dream accessible to all.  Amy began volunteering with a Space of Her Own (SOHO) in 2004 as a mentor and now serves as the board president. The mission of SOHO is to provide disadvantaged girls social, emotional, academic and creative enrichment through mentorship and arts instruction. At the conclusion of the school year, using the works of art created at SOHO, each girl helps to renovate a bedroom of another girl, creating a "space of her own" with adequate lighting and study space. During her time as a volunteer she mentored two girls, renovated three bedrooms, started a sisterhood club for SOHO graduates, and lastly, founded and directed a SOHO chapter. She expanded the reach of the initial Old Town Alexandria SOHO by opening the West End SOHO program at Hammond, eliciting school administrators' support and recruiting two Hammond teachers as volunteer art and woodworking instructors. Under Amy’s direction, representatives of various City of Alexandria agencies conducted weekly life-skills sessions.  She is passionate about making a difference in the lives of girls in need. 

The Vola Lawson Award - Wendy Webb 

Chief Webb joined the Alexandria Sheriff's Office in 1986 as a Deputy Sheriff.  She rose through the ranks to become a Sergeant, serving in one of the night teams of the Alexandria Detention Center. Chief Webb later left sworn ranks to serve as a civilian in the Sheriff's Office's Administrative Services Division, rising to level of Division Chief. In that capacity, she was responsible for the Human Resources and Training functions. She returned to sworn service as a Captain in 2009 and in 2012 was promoted to Chief Deputy. Chief Webb has served the City with excellence for 27.5 years. She is known for her expertise in human resource management, policy development; budget and finance management and jail operations. In addition, her diplomacy and willingness to help others has resulted in other City agencies requesting her assistance. She has been a great ambassador for the Sheriff's Office. As Chief Deputy of Administrative Services Bureau, she serves with excellence and has earned the deep devotion and respect of her staff. She is an example to all women on how to serve with strength and courage, yet with empathy and a genuine concern for others. Chief Webb has dedicated herself to the success of the women she touches professionally and personally, and each day serves as a walking example for women to emulate. Chief Deputy Webb has demonstrated a long term commitment to improving the status of women. Throughout her many years as a supervisor in the Alexandria Sheriff's Office, she has mentored, encouraged and promoted women at all levels of our organization.

Rising Star Award - Cynthia Skinner 

Cynthia Skinner began her career in education as a Teach for America member and elementary school teacher in District of Columbia public schools.  She served as the Managing Director of Research at Teach for America, overseeing external research and evaluation efforts and providing guidance on issues related to research and evaluation, including survey research and development. Most recently she worked on a multi-year evaluation of a Pennsylvania school district School Improvement Grant as well as a summative evaluation of a federal higher education program improvement grant.  Cynthia, has been a member of the Children, Youth & Families Collaborative Commission (CYFCC) established by the City Council since its inception in 2011.  The CYFCC advises the City Council, the School Board, and City/school staff on policies and best practices that promote youth well-being.  She is the chair of the Research and Data Committee, which is charged with collecting and distributing outcome data on youth master plan initiatives; reviewing research data and recommending procedures and processes for the sharing of data across the City and between programs; and monitoring partnerships and collaborations throughout the nation and youth programs in the City of Alexandria to identify best practices. The chairmanship led to her service as Co-Chair of the Design Team, a diverse task force of community leaders, elected officials, subject experts, youth, and youth-serving staff that guided the youth master plan process. The Children and Youth Master Plan will be a roadmap for making the most of the City’s sizeable investment in the children. The accomplishment of both of those objectives can be attributed in large part to the leadership of Ms. Skinner.

Donna Bergheim Cultural Affairs Award - Ruthanne Lodato        

The late Ruthanne Lodato was a beloved music teacher for more than 30 years and a Founder and Center Director of Music Together® Alexandria, a music program for toddlers and preschoolers.  Music played a major role in her life she used her musical gifts to inspire girls and young women in the Alexandria community. A lifelong Alexandria resident, Ruthanne taught piano to hundreds of students of all ages and she brought the gift and joy of music to many Alexandria families.  She played the organ and piano at her church, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, and other churches in the area. Ruthanne was an inspiration and role model for young girls many of whom learned valuable life lessons through her musical instruction.  One her students noted that Ruthanne taught her the importance of facing life’s challenges and the lesson that you’ll never reach new levels when you resort to only doing what comes easy. She learned this while learning to play a difficult piece of music on the piano successfully.  Ruthanne, in her firm, dedicated and loving way pushed the girls she taught to be their best and she helped them to have confidence in themselves as serious musicians. She fostered creativity, confidence and personal growth for her students, many of whom continue to develop and grow musically because of Ruthanne’s passion and dedication as a music educator, mentor and friend.


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