Giving of Themselves
Meet the 2011 United Way Service Award Winners

By Kim Connolly

Originally appeared in November 2011

Cody Burnley

For Cody Burnley, a 2011 Nelson County High School graduate, volunteering is a family affair and a way of life. With both parents involved with the Lovingston Fire Department, Burnley began helping around the firehouse at age 10, setting up and taking down for fundraising events. While in high school, Cody took the Firefighter 1 test, passing the practical portion and pursuing the written exam, which would allow him to become a full-fledged firefighter.

Burnley accumulated more than 700 hours in community service during high school, with an astounding 400 hours during his senior year. His example of service inspired fellow students to get involved, not only with the fire department, but also to purse their own volunteer interests in a meaningful way.

Scott Cho

When Scott Cho, a St. Annes Belfield School graduate, first started volunteering at Martha Jefferson Hospital, he was trying to advance his career goal of becoming a doctor. Although he soon learned that his help was needed with mundane tasks that were not cool or fun or medically related, he stuck with it and then added on a second volunteer position with Trinity Mission nursing home. There, he also realized that he would not be helping in any medical activities, but instead playing bingo and socializing with lonely residents.

Over time, Cho began to appreciate how his presence was making a difference in both facilities. At Martha Jefferson, his chores created a better working environment for the staff, and at Trinity Mission, he soon realized how the presence of a young person significantly brightened the day for the residents and also the staff. Instead of seeing community service as a means to a future career, Cho learned the simple fulfillment of helping improve others lives.

Josh Dick

Josh Dick, a Murray High School student, finds many ways to volunteer through his church and with his family. He has been on three mission trips to New Orleans to assist in the rebuilding efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Each trip provides an overview of the progress made in that city, and also a reminder of the work that remains years after the storm.

In addition to mission trips, Dick helps make Thanksgiving meals to give to those without food during the holiday season. He also spends time beautifying his own community by cleaning up litter; this may seem like a small thing, yet it contributes to improving the quality of life for the residents of that neighborhood.

Olivia Gathright

When Covenant School student Olivia Gathrights frail grandmother needed to move from her home into assisted living, her family learned a lot about the physical transition into a new setting for an elderly person. Gathright wanted to find a way to bring comfort to others like her grandmother, and she found inspiration in the smallest of details  a clean, new properly chosen bed pillow. And so began The Pillow Project.

Olivia and her brother organized bake sales before school and during lunch, as well as set up a Facebook page to promote the effort. The Pillow Project raises funds to donate to JABA to purchase appropriate pillows for the residents of Mountainside Senior Living in Crozet.

Andrew Haynes

Andrew Drew Haynes had a big impact on Charlottesville High Schools Key Club in his senior year. He was determined to recruit a record number of members to participate in the clubs volunteer activities, and started by coming to the freshman orientation a week before school started. Haynes kept up the pace throughout the school year, not only organizing projects for Charlottesville High school students, such as food drives and bake sales, but also projects in partnership with Key Clubs at other schools. I never knew how many things that could be done to help others, says Haynes. The projects that I have helped organize this year have been amazing, and the time I put into them has been so worth it.

Danielle Horridge

Danielle Horridge may have instituted a Random Acts of Kindness Day at Albemarle High School, but her personal determination to help others is far from random. This high-school junior has a soft spot for people who are lonely or struggling. On a weekly basis, she visits seniors at Rosewood Assisted Living, mentors and tutors other students, and volunteers at Martha Jefferson Hospital, where she feels that by performing some of the mundane chores for staff, she frees them up to spend more time with the patients who need them.

Everyone needs someone, says Horridge. Life without helping someone is a life I cant imagine anymore  sometimes when people thank me for what I have done, I think, Why are they thanking me? Ive had the best time helping them today, I should be thanking them!

Andrew Lee

The entire Miller School community has benefitted from the dedication and organizational skills of Andrew Lee, a 2011 graduate. He served as a resident advisor and was part of the schools athletic management team, managing a crew that handled event set-up and take-down, the scorers table and game clock, visiting team relations and concessions during each home game.

Lee also created an economics club at the school to consolidate the running of the schools three money-handling enterprises: the sports concession stand, the school store and the Bistro snack bar. The students learned how to handle inventories and schedules, create accounting systems, revamp physical facilities and manage employees. These efforts have created a lasting business model and a learning experience for future students.

Emily Ludwick

Emily Ludwick, a junior at Monticello High School, is passionate about her varied volunteer commitments. Writing and theater are two interests, and she has volunteered at Live Arts as an assistant stage manager, working at least 15 hours a week preparing productions. At the high school, Ludwick provided technical direction for the student-run Shakespeare theater.

Through her church, Ludwick has also volunteered with PACEM, a seasonal homeless shelter, calling it one of the best experiences a young adult could have. When at PACEM, you realize that these people have been to hell, come back and dived back in again. They have lived a tougher life than probably I will ever know, and I have come to appreciate that greatly.

Nicole Muller

After reading an article in 2009 about how food bank donations were down while demand was up, Nicole Muller, then a student at Western Albemarle High School, decided to hold a food drive within her small neighborhood. The success of that endeavor inspired Nicole to expand her efforts and Neighbors-4-Neighbors was born, first locally, then regionally and eventually across the nation.

In states where Muller knew no one personally, she contacted the Governors offices and asked that they and their staff donate nonperishable food items to their local food bank. What started with her neighbors eventually expanded to Alaska and Montana, among other states. According to Larry Zippin, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Nicole is the most prolific individual campaigner in the 30-year history of our food bank and in the entire state of Virginia.

Kate Moody

As co-founder of Tandem Friends Schools Habitat for Humanity Youth United chapter, Kate Moody has poured her energies into creating awareness of the needs in the community for her fellow students. Her work with the organization has opened her eyes to the poverty in the community that most private school students dont see. Her passion for sharing what she has learned has helped her inspire her peers into joining the cause.

Moody represents her school on the local Youth United board, whose goal is to raise enough money to completely fund the construction of an entire home for a local family. She has led fundraising events at the school and recruits fellow students to join in building projects.

Nikki Ross

Nikki Ross is a senior enrolled in Albemarle Countys Math, Engineering and Science Academy. She has participated in several mission trips through her church and also volunteered through a leadership class. A mission trip to help build a home in Mandeville, Jamaica, after her sophomore year made her appreciate many things she had taken for granted in her own life. After seeing recipients cry tears of joy over a gift of a simple, handmade necklace made of colored string and a small charm, Ross says, I become hesitant when buying material goods now, knowing that every penny I spend could help someone else.

Ross embraces volunteering because I do not have enough money to give; giving time is what I do best. Knowing that I have helped someone is fulfilling, and seeing their reaction fills me with joy.

Benjamin Scott

Benjamin Scott, a recent Fluvanna High School graduate, knows that his will be a life of service. For the past five years, he has volunteered each summer with his church youth group on mission trips providing home repairs throughout the state. As a team leader, Scott didnt feel that he was the one providing help to others; he felt that he was often the one to be blessed.

Through his volunteer work with the Palmyra Volunteer Fire Department, Benjamin found a way to serve others through a future profession. Benjamin feels very strongly about his volunteer activities, stating, We are given a call to do something for somebody other than ourselves and, even though we are young, we can make an impact on our world.

Adrienne Smith

Many public high schools only require a total of 10 hours of community service over four years as a graduation requirement. Adrienne Smith accumulated more than 700 hours during her fours years at William Monroe High School in Greene County. Helping others is a passion for Smith; she has been on mission trips to Philadelphia, Chesapeake and Nashville. Locally, her involvement includes being a junior volunteer at UVA Hospital, teaching at a vacation Bible school, tutoring low-income elementary students, volunteering for Special Olympics and a special needs retreat and also serving as a member of her church praise band.

Smith is majoring in Special Education at Liberty University this year, hoping to channel her compassionate spirit into a career of helping others.

Maddy Wilson

While in tenth grade at the Renaissance School, Maddy Wilson founded a school chapter of KIVA, a nonprofit that leverages the internet to let individuals become directly involved in alleviating poverty by lending as little as $25 via a worldwide network of microfinance organizations. Wilsons enthusiasm for the mission and methods of KIVA soon spread to her follow students.

Wilson organized several fundraising events that have helped accumulate money to lend to people with business initiatives around the globe. Her efforts have empowered her fellow students in understanding cultural challenges in overcoming poverty around the world and in learning how individual efforts can make a difference through cooperation.

Kim is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area. To find out about volunteer opportunities, visit the United Ways Volunteer Center at

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