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Loudoun Cares Recognizes Outstanding Volunteers

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Melinda Gipson

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

This year’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards from Loudoun Cares ( was uplifting for many reasons, but this year held an aura of passing the torch and paying it forward. Monti Mercer, immediate past chair of Loudoun Cares, related how, in 2012 he met Gabriella Miller “a beautiful, passionate, firecracker of a young lady” who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Monti was Gabriella’s Make-a-Wish Foundation counselor, and witnessed how the young girl’s passion for helping others generated more than 250,000 fundraising letters to Santa during Macy’s annual letter-writing campaign. Those letters generated 36 wishes for children besides herself. But, far beyond that, legislation in her name has caused $126 million in kids’ cancer research funding to be authorized for the National Institutes of Health, an authorization currently the subject of reauthorization efforts by Virginia’s Congressional delegation.

Gabriella’s story remains relevant today because, since 2012, Loudoun Cares’ OVA award to an outstanding youth volunteer in the community has also borne her name. This year, as Monti and Ellyn Miller, Gabriella’s mom, handed out the award, Monti quoted Gabriella as saying, “You may have a bad day today, but there’s always a bright, shining start to look forward to.” Ellyn added, “what Loudoun Cares does is literally bring our community together. What every one of you are doing makes our community better and stronger and helps those in need.”

Besides spotlighting local volunteers, the organization annually connects more than 2,000 volunteers with more than 260 non-profits through its online Volunteer Center: volunteer.loudouncares.or.

This year’s youth “star” was Mahsa Riar, a high-school sophomore who has worked closely with the Loudoun Coalition of Women and Girls (, developing and managing the Girl emPower Summit, a leadership development event hosted by girls for girls. With Mahsa’s leadership, the event has drawn girls from every district in Loudoun, and expanded to surrounding counties. She’s also founder of Create for a Cause and Limitless Limb, a company that designs 3D assistive devices for children who have suffered limb loss.

Bookending young givers, the Judy Hines Service of a Lifetime Award went to Brenda MacEoin, currently vice-chair for LAWS, Loudoun’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services ( She also actively volunteers with Loudoun Hunger Relief, Dulles Area Association of Realtors and Keep Loudoun Beautiful Roadside Project.

Other awardees included: Harriet "Doode" Summers who works closely with youth at risk. Harriet started the Young Kings Movement in November of 2020 with a mandate to mentor and help empower young men ages 13-18. Young Kings provides a safe place for these young men to come and be themselves. Dulles District’s award winner Chuck Glass has driven for Dulles South Food Pantry since 2018. In 2022 Chuck’s impact included more than 155 hours of service, picking up 60,000 pounds of food from Walmart alone, not including the other stores on his route. The food he picked up last year was valued at $118,000, all of it saved from the trash and used to feed some of DSFP’s more than 2,000 clients.

Ashburn’s Senior Center’s 200 volunteers are essential to the facility’s operations – the backbone of daily programs and services provided to older adults in the Ashburn area. During 2022, volunteers provided 16,785 hours of vital services in home delivery meals, onsite lunch service, front desk assistance, wellness and fitness instruction, and educational and social program instruction.

Didem Maurice and Patti Painton both were recognized for their service to LAWS. Ann Doss, a U.S. Army veteran is Vice Commander for Leesburg’s American Legion Post 34, where she was recognized for leading fundraising to assist Loudoun’s veterans. Una Giachinta received a nod from Loudoun Cares Executive Dir. Valerie Pisierra for her work first as an employee, then as a community partner with Catholic Charities, and most recently as an irreplaceable volunteer during COVID on the Loudoun Cares’ ConnectLine.

Outstanding Adult Volunteer Amy Ulland volunteers with Loudoun Wildlife and is instrumental in all its efforts to test, maintain or improve the waterways of Loudoun. In 2022 Amy worked to implement and execute a grant to secure clean drinking water for the Lucketts community dependent on the wells that are stream fed.

Loudoun County Sheriff's Office Auxiliary was recognized for its tireless work providing traffic assistance and in emergency response for the county. The Resourceful Woman Thrift Store team of 35 adults have volunteered more than 3,000 hours to manage and run the store, an extension program of LAWS. Outstanding Senior Volunteer Cynthia Colbert Cynthia is an invaluable member of the Loudoun Hunger Relief Team. Outstanding Senior Team Volunteers John and Robin Peterson volunteer twice a week at the Habitat ReStore where they price donated items, then clean and display them for sale.

Among teams: The Outstanding Team Volunteers of Travelers Aid at Dulles Airport helps travelers track down a friend, assist those wandering in search of terminal transport or lost luggage and offer general support for the thousands of people who make their way through Dulles daily. In 2022 alone the 275 volunteers of Travelers Aid assisted over 1 million passengers and visitors and logged over 30,000 hours of service. You've Got Maids NOVA’s corporate team was recognized for working together to serve with Loudoun Hunger Relief, A Farm Less Ordinary and INMED and hosted 5 in-kind collection drives. The Outstanding Community/ Civic Org Volunteer award went to Loudoun County Social Collective, which began as a social network, and last year rolled up its sleeves to raise $60,000 to donate to ECHO and Tree of Life.

Honored for 2022’s Outstanding Volunteer Project was the Park View Redo Crew. Recognized as Outstanding Volunteer Project Leader was Rich Ruckman VP of HITT Contracting who stepped up to bring a client’s home up to code for Habitat for Humanity. Outstanding Veteran Volunteer Gloria Martin volunteers for Loudoun Literacy. Claude Moore’s Community Builders’ youth volunteers volunteer at special events held by non-profits throughout the county. And, finally, Ashburn’s Youth Men’s Service League pairs young men and their moms on projects for All Ages Read Together.

  • You've Got Maids - NOVA
  • Sponsors Northwest Federal Credit Union, Denise Kitchen and President / CEO Jeff Bentley
  • Loudoun County Social Collective
  • Ellyn Miller and Mahsa Riar
  • Una and Tony Giachinta