Highlighting our transformational impact on the lives of our neighbors and community
On Friday, May 11, Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) gathered with friends, community supporters, corporate sponsors and volunteers to celebrate our collective success and community impact at the annual Road to Independence Gala.
The evening kicked off with a silent auction and happy hour as more than 500 attendees quickly filled the lobby at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner, bustling with the anticipation of the evening’s events and the evening’s Legend of Northern Virginia honoree, Dr. William A. Hazel, Jr.
Emcee and NVFS board member Casey Veatch kicked off the evening with a warm opening speech, welcoming the guests in attendance as well as highlighting the impact of NVFS over the past year.
“NVFS has undoubtedly had a large impact on the community,” Veatch stated. “But I’m not sure how many people in this room realize the full depth, breadth and scope of the work this organization accomplishes every year.”
To begin bracing the audience for what he had up his sleeve, Veatch explained why he chooses to support the organization and the impact he feels it has on the community.
“I can tell you why I’m here,” Veatch began. “I’ve been involved with Northern Virginia Family Service for more than 20 years, not only because of my desire to support our community but because of the transformational impact the organization has on the lives of thousands of families all throughout our region.”
Veatch then switched hats to host a game show-inspired round of trivia, the “NVFS Impact Show,” to quiz four contestants, as well as the audience, on NVFS’ services and impact.
“NVFS is near and dear to my heart not only for the organization that it is, but the organization it is able to become,” one contestant, NVFS Executive VP of Programs Andrea Eck, shared before successfully answering a trivia question.
Additional participants — NVFS Board Chair Barbara Rudin, Co-Founder and CEO of Custom Ink Marc Katz, and NVFS client Cesar Molina — all took turns pinpointing the myriad ways in which NVFS impacts the lives of those in need. The sounds of bells and buzzers, and cheering tables radiated throughout the ballroom as audience members were called upon to confirm whether or not the contestants’ responses were correct.
Guests settled into their seats when President and CEO Stephanie Berkowitz took the stage to share the importance of this monumental evening and its impact on the organization. She introduced client stories, and how they’ve not only impacted her personally but reflect importance to Northern Virginia as a whole. These stories help further ignite her dedication to serving those in need in our community.
“I am so proud to serve as the CEO of this incredible organization,” Berkowitz began. “We are giving families the tools they need to not only meet their most basic needs, but to thrive in all aspects of their lives. And we know our community is stronger when we all thrive.”
Vice President of Programs Lorena McDowell then welcomed 16-year-old Cesar Molina back to the stage to share his own story.
“Cesar is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when you allow your determination to outweigh your current situation and when you find the right support system to help you along the way,” said McDowell. “His path to success is a great example of the transformational effect that this agency – and all of our supporters – each one of you – have on the lives of the people that we serve together daily. Together, we help more than 35,000 people each year regain hope, confidence and stability.”
Cesar came to the United States looking for greater opportunities than his home country of El Salvador could provide. The reality of coming to a new country, however, was not easy. NVFS’ Family Reunification program helped him overcome those challenges so he could start to build the brighter future he had dreamt for himself and his family.
“The program has been so helpful to me by helping me build confidence and setting goals for myself,” Molina concluded. “I am very happy now and have adjusted to living in this country with my family. I enjoy going to school, meeting new people and preparing for the future and it would not have been easy for me to adjust to my new life in the United States without having the support of NVFS’ Family Reunification program.”
Cesar’s journey was complemented with a video showcasing the transformation NVFS has made in the lives of three additional clients — Naima, Courtney and Malik — and how NVFS, through the help of its supporters, is able to make Northern Virginia a better place.
“I felt defeated and struggled to find my footing,” Naima noted. “I now have endless opportunities in front of me.”
NVFS’ services also directly parallel to the work of the evening’s honoree, Dr. William A. Hazel, Jr., and his dedication to the health and well-being of everyone in Northern Virginia and across the state. In his speech, he shared the importance of providing opportunities to those in need in our community.
“There are things that determine how we succeed in life based on where we start,” said Dr. Hazel. “But what Northern Virginia Family Service does is level the playing field and gives people a real chance. And in this age, in this country, where we need those opportunities, it’s really the key thing.”
Because of people like you, Northern Virginia Family Service is able to offer opportunities to individuals and families in our community who need assistance. Together, we raised more than $643,000 for our organization and are eager to continue uplifting our neighbors to reach new heights and build brighter futures for themselves and their families.
Because of people like you, Northern Virginia is a better place.
For pictures from our Road to Independence Gala, please view our Google album. To read Cesar Molina’s complete success story, please see our website. To view our impact video “Making Northern Virginia a Better Place,” please see our YouTube channel. To learn more about our Road to Independence Gala, our Honoree Dr. William A. Hazel, Jr., sponsors or auction donors, please see our website.