In this season of gratitude and celebration, is it my pleasure to announce and thank the winners of the LFSVA Hearts and Hands award. Our judges had a very difficult choice, which is reflected by the fact that we have expanded the awards to honor nine individuals!  The Rev. Jim Larsen, Robin Crowder and Robin Baliles did a thoughtful and perceptive job of judging – with an understandable bottleneck at the top! Many thanks, too, to all the nominators who made the Hearts and Hands project possible!

Here are the winners and why they were selected:

Tarsha Cooper, Administrative Assistant, Tidewater Region, for her extraordinary capabilities; her contribution to the efficient, supportive and loving environment of the Hampton office; her faith-filled, cheerful demeanor; and her joy in going the extra mile. Nominated by Michele Hudgins.

Christina Coleman, Manager, Therapeutic Day Treatment, Northern Shenandoah Valley Region, for her instrumental role in expanding the Therapeutic Day Treatment program in the Northern Shenandoah Valley; for her determination and compassion to improve the quality of care to clients; for her creativity and energy in developing programs and curricula that help children stay in school. Nominated by Cassie Phipps Purtlebaugh.

Maurice Gallimore, Resource Family Coordinator, Richmond Region, for bringing extraordinary energy, passion and enthusiasm to his work; for his commitment to new ideas and learning; for building strong and caring relationships with families and staff; for his hope and optimism that good things are in front of us; and for his humble, beautiful servant’s heart. Nominated by Nina Marino.

Jimmy Harrah, Maintenance Professional, Bedford, for his efficient, can-do attitude and strong work ethic; for his craftsmanship and attention to detail; and for his unwavering dedication to our many facilities and to the people who live and work in them. Nominated by Diane Exner.

Lori Long, Principal, Minnick School, Wise, for her passionate dedication to learning; for advocating for her students’ well-being; for modeling best practices for her staff; and for going the extra mile every day to make sure students and teachers are having the best classroom experience possible. Nominated by Roy Sanders.

Jeff Markel, Teaching Assistant, Minnick School, Harrisonburg, for his tireless and selfless efforts to create a caring, welcoming environment at the Harrisonburg Minnick School; for being the go-to person for everything; for his endless words of encouragement to students and staff; and for his inspirational, beautiful heart for children. Nominated by Heather Wilson.

Angela Quinn, Group Home Supervisor, Bedford, for her sensitive, capable and goal-oriented leadership; for using her management skills to create the highest level of independence for individuals in the Wheatland Group Home; and for her commitment to respectful communication and the art of listening. Nominated by Danielle Christophe.

Tony Stroman, Educational Aide, Starkey Station, Roanoke,  for the unwavering delight he finds in his work; for providing students respectful, unconditional, and positive reinforcement; for believing in them, gaining their trust, and helping them be successful; for his generosity of spirit; and for the joy he brings Starkey Station students and staff every day. Nominated by Kim Irvin.

Katrina Turner, Direct Support Professional, Charlottesville Region, for her outstanding skills as a direct support professional; for helping build a program from the bottom up for individuals with high-intensity support needs at the new Charlottesville Day Support; for her love and compassion for the individuals in the day support program. Nominated by Savannah Thompson.

Please take a moment and congratulate these individuals on their award, which recognizes the kind of service that will make Lutheran Family Services the best it can be.

Thank you for your perseverance, your dedication and the joy you bring to the people we serve. I hope that your holiday is filled with the love of family and friends.

Julie Swanson is President and CEO of Lutheran Family Services of Virginia