United Way NSV thanks donors, honors volunteers at annual banquet | Winchester Star

CENTRAL CITY — The United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley (NSV) raised $1.3 million in corporate and individual donations last year during its annual fundraising campaign.

The announcement from United Way NSV President and CEO Kaycee Childress was made Thursday night at the Winchester-based nonprofit’s 77th Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet, held at Laurel Ridge Community College in Middletown.

The banquet was the first in-person annual gathering for United Way NSV in three years. Gatherings in 2021 and ’22 were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s great to see people and bread breaking together, fellowshiping together,” Damon DeArment, who chaired the nonprofit’s board of directors last year, told the more than 100 supporters who attended. “You truly care about our most vulnerable communities and neighbors.”

United Way NSV’s board of directors change annually, so Thursday’s meeting is DeArment’s swan song as chairman of the board. This year’s board will be chaired by Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum, who is chairman of the nonprofit’s 2022 fundraising campaign.

Van Heukelum and this year’s campaign leader, Yolanda Barbier Gibson, commended the volunteers, supporters, businesses and organizations that combined forces last year to raise $1.3 million, 88.5% of which will fund the United Way NSV charity program and grants issued to other community organizations. (The remaining 11.5% will cover administrative costs and fundraising costs this year.)

A highlight of Thursday’s gathering was the presentation of the award for the United Way NSV volunteer of the year for 2022. Susan Brooks, a human resources professional who retired in January after a 30-year career with the Navy Federal Credit Union, was named Volunteer of the Year. and Handley Sarina Parikh and Nickel Shyamsunder High School Seniors were voted Youth Volunteers of the Year.

“Giving is about the time and effort it takes to make a difference in someone’s life, and that is true volunteerism,” Brooks said after being introduced by 2021 Volunteer of the Year 2021 Jay Rudolph. “It embodies what the United Way stands for.”

Rudolph said the selection committee for the 2022 Youth Volunteer of the Year award could not select a winner from the top two contenders so decided to honor both.

Sarina, who plans to major in public health when she enrolls at the University of Virginia this fall, is the vice president of Handley’s Interact Club, an organization she joined in ninth grade. Since entering high school, Winchester residents have contributed a total of 400 hours to community activities and projects.

“Four incredible years,” he said. “Completing service through Interact has helped me learn to adapt to various situations, meet so many amazing people, solve problems and become more confident.”

Nikil, who will study computer science and the environment when he attends Cornell University this fall, has been a member of Handley’s Interact Club for four years and is currently its president. He uses his technological skills, especially those involving artificial intelligence, to help the world become a better place through endeavors such as building high-tech sea buoys that he tracks to monitor illegal fishing activity in protected waters.

“I’m a bit of a nerd so please forgive me,” said Nikil as the audience roared with laughter. “I can’t thank you enough for this recognition and I look forward to continuing to serve my community, whether in the North Shenandoah Valley, my college town, my state, my country or even the world.”

Also lauded Thursday was Jennifer Hall, senior director of community investment at United Way NSV who was instrumental in launching the non-profit Valley Assistance Network in 2017. VAN helps residents of areas experiencing financial or housing crises to get back on their feet and regain their independence.

“Anyone who knows him knows he wears his heart on his sleeve,” DeArment said of Hall, who still leads VAN. “He is very passionate about the clients he serves.”

In addition to VAN turning 5 years old, United Way NSV marks two other milestones in 2022. The first is the hiring of Childress, who joined on April 25 to replace Nadine Pottinga, the nonprofit’s president and CEO for seven years who stepped down in December. 31, 2021. The second is United Way NSV’s October 1 merger with United Way of Front Royal/Warren County, which is now fully integrated with the Winchester-based agency.

“Looking ahead, we call to come together and create solutions to our region’s most pressing challenges,” Childress said. “We have hope that together, we can bring about more positive changes in our communities and by coming together, we will all rise in 2023.”

United Way NSV, located at 329 N. Cameron St., Winchester, was formed in 1946 and serves Winchester and the counties of Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah and Page. To learn more, visit unitedwaysv.org.

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