Volunteerism hailed

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Thrilled was the word Vola Lawson used to explain how she felt after being named the winner of the 2007 Burke Award last week. The Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross presented the award to Lawson, recognizing her for many years of work as a volunteer. The award is named in honor of the chapters founder, Esther Dashille Taylor Burke.

I was thrilled to receive this award, Lawson said. The third act of my life is just what I expected it would be, filled with volunteer commitments.

Lawson, a long-time city manager of the city, is a member of The Campagna Centers Executive Committee, chairs fundraising efforts for the annual Walk to Fight Breast Cancer, is a member of the vestry of Grace Episcopal Church and raises money for the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter. She also spends time with her three, soon to be four, grandchildren and her dog, Jack.

My life is very full, Lawson said. Probably the volunteer work that is nearest and dearest to my heart is my fundraising efforts on behalf of our Walk to Fight Breast Cancer, which I began in 1994, just five months after my own double mastectomy. Since then, we have helped over 4,000 women who might not have been able to afford a mammogram to have one. A mammogram saved my life so I recognize its importance.

Lawson had lobular breast cancer, which cannot be detected through self examination. It is very aggressive and within two weeks of its discovery through a mammogram, I lost both of my breasts, but I have my life, she said.

Volunteering is not new to Lawson, who remembers handing out political literature at the polls when she was eight. I grew up with my grandparents and my grandfather was well known in Atlanta for his volunteer efforts, she said. As a matter of fact, Atlantas public service magnet high school is named for him, Therrell High School. I am very proud of that.

Lawson lives in ParkFairfax now, where she lived with her husband and three sons in the 1960s. Things have changed since we came here but it is still a wonderful, affordable place to live. Im just sorry there arent more children as there were when we lived here before, she said.

According to Paul Smedberg, a member of the Board of Directors of the Red Cross, We could not have picked a more deserving recipient for this years Burke award, he said. Vola epitomizes what the award is all about service to the community. She has been dedicated to helping all Alexandrians for many years and retirement has only allowed her to become involved in the nonprofit sector. We are proud to recognize her efforts.

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