HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Governor Ralph Northam has announced the winners of the 2021 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards, which includes winners from Hampton Roads.
The annual awards program recognizes the outstanding contributions in Virginia of volunteers and organizations.
“The challenges of the past year have made it more important than ever to honor the incredible volunteers who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in their communities,” said Governor Northam. “These awards highlight the selfless work and meaningful contributions of these remarkable individuals and groups, as well as the ingenuity and determination they faced by serving their community during the pandemic. It is my privilege to recognize the incredible awardees for their positive impact on our Commonwealth and in the lives of fellow Virginians.”
The awards are organized by the Virginia Service Commission, in partnership with the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism, and the Virginia Service Foundation.
Winners this year included Virginians from Richmond, Charlottesville, McLean, and Hampton Roads.
Mechele Hairston, a woman from Chesapeake, was honored in this year's awards for her role in providing food for thousands.
Two local neighborhoods lost their last remaining grocery store, a largely minority population of nearly 18,000 residents that faced dire food scarcity challenges.
Hairston led a free food distribution of more than 25,000 pounds of food over a two-weekend period. In 2020, she and 400 volunteers distributed more than 766,000 pounds of food, which provided enough food for 1.6 million meals.
The owners of Premier Millwork, George and Kim Melnyk, Jr., of Virginia Beach, were also announced as winners.
For local low-income students in Hampton Roads, having a desk for virtual classes and homework during the pandemic was a major issue for many families.
George and Kim Melnyk, Jr., were contacted by CHIP (Children’s Health Investment Program) of South Hampton Roads. They began producing collapsible desks for kids in need, launching the Desk for Success program.
After receiving local media coverage, requests for desks skyrocketed and George and Kim recruited fellow members of the Virginia Beach School Board and others to volunteer on Saturdays to help sand and wrap desks.
More than 2,100 children have assisted to date and the impact of the Desk for Success program can truly be seen in the eyes of the children receiving their desks.
The Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards are presented by the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and Virginia Department of Social Services’ Office on Volunteerism and Community Services (Virginia Service Commission) on behalf of the Office of the Governor.
For more information, here.