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County honors 78 ‘Covid heroes’ for service to the community

Arlington’s “Covid heroes” (screenshot via Youtube/Arlington County)

Seventy-eight local individuals, businesses and organizations were recognized as “Covid Heroes” at yesterday’s County Board meeting.

More than six dozen locals were honored for having “demonstrated exceptional service throughout the pandemic” in three categories: community resilience, outstanding community service and individual service.

The presentation included a short video with all the honorees’ names, photos and upbeat music. It was followed by comments and thanks from the County Board members.

In all, more than 160 were nominated for the honor, so about half were chosen for recognition.

Chairperson Katie Cristol acknowledged that, under normal circumstances, there would have been an in-person gathering, but even with Covid cases falling, honorees were asked to watch the presentation at home.

Honorees for community resilience include ICU nurse Lee Harper Chen, Rosa Dunkley of the NAACP Arlington Branch and community activist Janeth Valenzuela, who has helped local immigrant communities sign up to get the Covid vaccine and played a part in exposing the unacceptable living conditions at Serrano apartments.

“I’m humbled for this nomination, but it wasn’t only me who worked hard, this was made possible [by] the committed residents who helped me and we worked together as a team,” Valenzuela tells ARLnow. “I am not sure if I will be able to give everything that this community has given me, but I will always do everything that I can to represent them with pride and respect.”

Also recognized was chef David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse, for his “Chefs Feeding Families” program. He also provided meals to security personnel at the Capitol last January after the insurrection.

“I am humbly honored to be the recipient of the Arlington COVID-19 Hero Award. I accept this accolade not only for myself, but also on behalf of all those who dedicated their time and efforts to the Chefs Feeding Families initiative, including my team at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery and our chef partners,” he writes to ARLnow. “Together we found a way to restore hope and foster a commitment and connection to the community, one meal at a time.”

More than 30 individuals were given accolades for their service, including Jennifer Toussaint of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Susan Thompson-Gaines who ran a “kindness yard sale,” county public health director Reuben Varghese, and Arlington Parents for Education (APE) founder Chris Myers. APE is a bipartisan community group that has advocated for more transparency from Arlington schools.

“The award is quite an honor, but the recognition should not be mine. It goes to all the parents and teachers of Arlington Parents for Education that helped create a unique collaboration that crossed political and social divides to advocate for the needs of our children,” Myers told ARLnow.

Thirty-three local organizations were honored, including the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (now, the Columbia Pike Partnership), Arlington Free Clinic, Macedonia Baptist Church in Green Valley, Arlington Food Assistance Center and Freddie’s Beach Bar.

“The superpower of these people and organizations… is to engage the entire community and all of Arlington,” County Board member Takis Karantonis said at the meeting about the Covid heroes. “Their work actually saved lives.”

Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey noted that this probably won’t be the last time the board will be honoring those who served the community during the pandemic. He also said that there are plenty of other heroes out there who deserve recognition as well.

“Within our community, there are untold stories of heroism that occur every single day with neighbors checking in on neighbors [and] parents attending to the emotional well-being of their children,” Dorsey said. “We know that the stories of heroism from the pandemic will be a rich tapestry… we can look at this period as not just as a crisis we endured, but a demonstration of the resilience we all showed.”

The full listing of all the honorees is below.

Community Resilience Award
Acknowledging those supporting those residents disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

  • Antonio Solis De Paz
  • David Guas
  • David Keppner
  • Gabriela Uro
  • Janeth Valenzuela
  • Lee Harper Chen
  • Rosa Dunkley
  • Rosalia Fajardo
  • Sue Mosher
  • Taishay Jones

Outstanding Individual Service Award
Acknowledging individuals who have supported others through the difficulties of the pandemic.

  • Alana McBride
  • Andrew Schneider
  • Angeline Barnes
  • Anna Weber
  • Anne Vor der Bruegge
  • Bob Risney
  • Carlos Velazquez
  • Chanda Choun
  • Cherie Harris
  • Christina Headrick
  • Chris Myers
  • Deborah Hartman
  • Debra Kirzner
  • Dennis Shannon
  • Frank Mirack
  • Jennifer Toussaint
  • Jill Jacobs
  • Julia Young
  • Les Garrison
  • Mariflor Ventura
  • Martha Casey
  • Martin Suydam
  • Melody Kisor
  • Michael Silverman
  • Mindy Klasky
  • Myra Ragan
  • Natalie Roy
  • Nidhi Reva
  • Paul Showalter
  • Reuben Varghese
  • Susan Thompson Gaines
  • Vanessa Fulton
  • Will Le

Outstanding Community Service Award (businesses and community groups)
Acknowledging businesses, groups, and organizations who have supported the community through the difficulties of the pandemic.

  • AHC Resident Services
  • APS School Food Service Employees and Managers
  • Arlington CERT
  • Arlington County Public Health
  • Arlington County Parks and Recreation – Youth & Family Programs
  • Arlington Democrats Latino Caucus
  • Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC)
  • Arlington Free Clinic
  • Arlington Neighborhood Village
  • Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH)
  • BU-GATA
  • Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO)
  • Complete Vaccination Committee (CVC)
  • Culpepper Gardens
  • ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia
  • Freddie’s Beach Bar
  • Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe
  • Harris Teeter Express Lane Team at Lee Harrison
  • Kenmore Wednesday Parent’s Group
  • Macedonia Baptist Church
  • Mega Mart Supermarket
  • Million Mask Challenge
  • Neighborhood Health
  • Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church
  • PathForward (formerly A-SPAN)
  • Regional Committee – Eviction Prevention and Community Stability
  • Safeway Pharmacy
  • Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub
  • Sloppy Mama’s BBQ
  • Sprout Kitchen Gardens
  • Virginia Medical Reserve Corps
  • Wesley Housing

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