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Harrisonburg: Berry family among those recognized by governor for volunteerism

Crystal Graham
Bucky Pamela Brent Berry
Image courtesy servevirginia.org

The Berry family of Harrisonburg was a recipient of the 2023 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service annual awards.

Bucky and Pamela Berry have been working to fight food insecurity in the area for 15 years as part of the “Brent Berry Food Drive” named in honor of their son, Brent.

In 2022, they collected $65,000 in food an personal hygiene items for community members in need. The family donates the collected items to the Salvation Army. The food collected through this drive serves approximately 300 families.

The drive is held annually from late November through Jan. 2. The primary collection location is Bridgewater Foods.

“The entire Berry family has relentless energy when it comes to getting community involvement,” said Clerk of Court Chaz Haywood.

The annual awards program spotlights the outstanding efforts of individual volunteers, organizations and their contributions on behalf of citizens throughout the Commonwealth.

“The resilience, generosity, and commitment of these volunteers exemplify the best of Virginia,” said Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. “It is my pleasure to recognize these honorees for the positive impact they have had in our Commonwealth and in the lives of their fellow Virginians. Each honoree has made an impressive impact in their community and made life better for Virginians.”

The awards ceremony was held at the Executive Mansion on Nov. 13. Leaders from across Virginia gathered to recognize the contributions of these volunteers and celebrate the impact of their service. The efforts recognized this year have made a tangible impact in advancing the individual and collective well-being of Virginians.

For more information about the honorees and volunteerism in Virginia, click here.

Outstanding youth volunteer: Evan Nied

Evan Nied is the founder of Planting Shade, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has planted more than 13,000 trees through 10 local chapters in seven states. In addition, he successfully lobbied to change admission policies for Virginia Beach’s annual Neptune Festival business networking “Royal Court” in order to remove gender restrictions.

Outstanding young adult volunteer: Meghan McLees

Meghan McLees has always been involved in service and was an active student leader during her time at University of Mary Washington, serving with Circle-K and Alternative Service Breaks. She also co-led and prepared educational materials for elementary school children in the Stafford Junction “Brain Builders” program, volunteering more than 60 hours last year.

Outstanding adult volunteer: Nancy Feldner

Nancy Feldner is a volunteer with the Columbia Baptist Church’s Spend Yourself Food Pantry ministry in Bailey’s Crossroads, providing cooking and nutrition presentations. She assists hundreds of families each year, volunteering more than 100 hours each month to help meet the needs of low-income families and personally assisting more than 600 families.

Outstanding senior volunteer: Robert Schnapp

Robert Schnapp is the founder and leader of A Simple Gesture Reston, an effort that inspires and enables his community to help neighbors overcome the growing threat of hunger and food insecurity. In the past year, the program reached 1,500 donor households and united approximately 700 volunteers to stock the shelves of four emergency food pantries in Reston and Herndon, donating 162,000 pounds of groceries.

Outstanding family volunteers: Frank and Mae Antkievicz

For more than 20 years, Frank and Mae Antkievicz have volunteered with the English as a Second Language program at Walnut Grove Baptist Church in Hanover County. During their thousands of hours of service, they have taught more than 420 students and helped prepare 30 individuals to receive their U.S. Citizenship.

Outstanding family volunteers: The Berry Family

The Berry Family of Harrisonburg, founded the “Brent Berry Food Drive” 15 years ago, with the 2022 drive being the largest ever, collecting an estimated $65,000 in food and personal hygiene items for community members in need. They donate the collected items to the local Salvation Army, serving 300 families.

Outstanding community organization: Virginia Beach Medical Reserve Corps

Comprised of 1,817 medical and public health professionals serving alongside interested non-medical community members, the Virginia Beach Medical Reserve Corps shares skills, expertise, and time to support public health initiatives and respond to health emergencies. In the past year, VBMRC volunteers contributed a total of 4,477 service hours during 321 different events, from vaccine clinics to back-to-school events to offer children physicals and vaccines.

Outstanding educational organization: Louisa County Public Schools

Louisa County Public Schools’ commitment to academic excellence extends to include volunteerism and community service, positively impacting the lives of people across the county. LCPS has fostered a culture of giving back, encouraging others to join in and strengthening bonds between residents, schools, and local organizations, creating a more connected and supportive community.

Outstanding faith-based organization: Salem Area Ecumenical Ministries

With the support of more than 300 volunteers, Salem Area Ecumenical Ministries offers elementary and middle school meal programs and school gardens as well as Mrs. Dorsey’s Clothes Closet. Working with more than 3,000 partners, SAEM is recognized as the lead ministry partner in providing food, clothes, books and school supplies to the local community.

Outstanding small business: Blazer Heating, Air, & Plumbing

In Hanover and King William counties, Blazer Heating, Air, & Plumbing has become a champion for Habitat for Humanity. For more than two years, the local business has worked to share their unique skills and expertise to directly change the lives of community members, providing no-cost HVAC replacement or repair for low-income homeowners who cannot afford to fix their units and donating new materials and equipment to Habitat ReStores, among other forms of service.

Outstanding corporation: McKesson Medical-Surgical

A committed volunteer with Feed More’s Meals on Wheels program in Richmond over the past two decades, McKesson Medical-Surgical is an invaluable corporate partner in the effort to collect, prepare, and distribute food to neighbors in need across Central Virginia. Since 2004, their employees have volunteered nearly 10,000 hours of time with Feed More, mobilizing hundreds of their employees to get involved.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.