The 2021 Powering Communities Employee Volunteer Award Winners
Volunteering virtually or in pandemic conditions is not as easy — or fun — as volunteering in-person with colleagues, friends and family. Still, 24 Exelon employees spent quite a bit of time and energy supporting their local communities or special causes last year, securing recognition as this year’s Powering Communities Employee Volunteer Award winners.
From helping the homeless and advocating for victims of child abuse to preventing human trafficking and fighting literal fires, our coworkers are powering a cleaner and brighter future. And, the Exelon Foundation is bolstering their efforts by awarding grants totaling $200,000 to the awardees’ nonprofit organizations. Meet our winners and learn more about their causes.
MEET THE WINNERS
EXCELLENCE AWARD – $20,000 AWARD TO MONTGOMERY CHILD ADVOCACY PROJECT (MCAP)
ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – $10,000 AWARD TO VOLUNTEER’S CHARITY
- Karen Adam -- Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore
- Karen Adam helps little girls grow into confident young women. Guiding them to become young ladies who are aware of themselves and their impact on their communities is a heart-warming experience. Karen has volunteered for seven years with Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, which serves over 10,000 girls in Ocean and Monmouth counties. She leads two troops – second-grade Brownies and sixth grade Cadettes – and encourages the girls to expand their horizons by providing them with opportunities and giving them confidence to explore new things. Karen helps girls pursue badges and structures meetings and excursions to be fun and informative while helping the girls stand on their own, become self-led, and support and empower each other. She has been recognized for her leadership and last year was honored with three Girl Scout awards. Karen has guided her troops in collecting winter coats for homeless veterans, laying wreaths on veterans’ graves, shipping cookies to service members overseas, cleaning our beaches and donating baby necessities to homeless families.
- Gwendolyn Arrington -- FABRIC, Inc.
- Gwen Arrington is a volunteer leader because of her aunt’s example. Jimmie Nell Perkins was a rural Mississippi educator; a strong African American woman who taught Black children math and science when those subjects weren’t strongly encouraged for children of color, especially young girls. Inspired by her aunt, Gwen now serves as President of the Board of Directors of FABRIC, Inc., a Mississippi Delta non-profit that specializes in combating food insecurity, promoting women’s empowerment and providing sexual literacy programs and services to community residents. FABRIC, where Gwen has volunteered since its 2012 inception, strengthens the “threads” of society to weave a better community. Gwen is proud of FABRIC’s new InHER-Strength program -- monthly meetings where high schoolers and young women discuss women’s topics in a safe space. The most impactful FABRIC program to Gwen is the JNP Scholarship, named after her aunt and awarded to young Black women pursuing a college degree in a STEM discipline – just as Gwen once was.
- Karen Barbera -- Loaves & Fishes Community Services
- Every Saturday morning, you can find Karen at Loaves & Fishes in west suburban Chicago, filling grocery carts with pre-selected dairy, frozen meat, produce and personal care items for other volunteers to load into 350 clients’ cars. Now in her third year assisting Loaves & Fishes, Karen also has taken on the task of updating the organization’s orientation and handbook for its 650 different volunteers each month, as well as enhancing the orientation, training and engagement of its 36 volunteer leaders. Karen also has made this a family affair, having recruited her son to volunteer with her once or twice a month to learn the value of community of service. Founded in 1984, Loaves & Fishes pantry is now the largest in Illinois, providing 4.2 million pounds of food to more than 5,000 families last year.
- Erica Borggren -- Illinois Joining Forces Foundation
- From her time as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs – and as a veteran herself – Erica Borggren knows how confusing the “sea of goodwill” available to service members, veterans and their families (and survivors and caregivers) can be. Too often, they find themselves overwhelmed, trying to navigate a fractured system of benefits and resources, unable to find the right assistance at the right time. So, in 2012, Erica created Illinois Joining Forces as a program of the State – now a legislatively commissioned non-profit called the Illinois Joining Forces Foundation – to help navigate the resources available from the hundreds of non-profit organizations and businesses trying to support veterans. Currently serving as chair of the Board of Directors, Erica provides everything from organizational strategy development and tactical fundraising to raising awareness for women veterans. She has planned for and moderated a first-ever, statewide, live-streamed “IJF Salute to Women Veterans” event, held partnership meetings with potential donors, and has written policies and procedure documents.
- Antonios Boulos -- Fame Fire Company of West Chester
- Being in the fire and emergency services has been a passion for Tony Boulos since he was a child, watching the fire department where he grew up serve and protect his community. At 18, he jumped at the opportunity to join the ranks of the emergency services and it has been a part of his life since. He has been a part of the Fame Fire Company No. 3 since 2011. In 2020, Tony responded to over half of the nearly 500 emergency calls and was named the company’s Firefighter of the Year. But it wasn’t until his missing dog, Fox, was found stuck in a storm drain that he experienced being on the receiving end of his fellow firefighters’ selfless contributions. That emotional rescue confirmed for Tony that service brings out the good that lives in every person. As a firefighter for the past 21 years, he has responded to various emergency calls involving building fires, vehicle fires, accidents, rescues and public assistance calls in his community of six towns and 55,000 residents. He personifies the 183-year-old company’s motto: “With willing hearts, we hasten to assist.”
- Robert Bugdon -- Laureldale Volunteer Fire Rescue
- While other kids idolized superheroes or athletes or entertainers, Robert Bugdon knew who the real heroes of his community were. To him, it was always the firefighters. Since 1997, Robert has served as a volunteer firefighter with Laureldale Volunteer Fire Rescue in western New Jersey. Now serving as a captain, he is primarily responsible for keeping his crew safe on response calls. He leads a truck and its crew, training other volunteers on each piece of equipment. He also leads training drills throughout the year and heads a driving training program for the department, which protects 16 square miles with 27 volunteers and four vehicles, all operating from a single station and responding to an average of 310 calls a year. Robert also has re-established the Explorers program, introducing 14- to 18-year-olds to firefighting and instilling community service values and skills – just as he learned from firefighters when he was young.
- Christopher Cornett -- Darlington Volunteer Fire Company
- When the pandemic prevented the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company from bringing Santa Claus to visit area children last year, Christopher Cornett had an idea. He led the design, construction and installation of Santa’s sled atop a pickup truck bed. Then he devised a Facebook campaign so local children could sign up for a drive-by visit. But Christopher’s duties aren’t always as pleasant. He has pulled friends from flood waters that destroyed their homes and has helped extricate neighbors from vehicle accidents. During the past 12 years, he has served numerous roles, including assistant chief, for one of the county’s volunteer fire departments. Currently a sergeant, he is an appointed officer, senior engine driver, swift water rescue technician and firefighter/EMT who trains incoming volunteers with little to no experience. For Christopher, it’s all about ensuring that his friends and neighbors can safely return to their loved ones at the end of the day.
- Brian Joaquin -- Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial
- As a U.S. Navy veteran with 15 years of service, Brian Joaquin is passionate about ensuring Americans appreciate the sacrifices made by the nation’s military community. He’s so committed that he serves on the Board of Trustees of the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial. Moored in the Delaware River, the New Jersey is America’s most decorated battleship, serving from World War II through the 1980s. She now hosts Memorial Day and Veterans Day events, July 4 naturalization ceremonies and children’s STEM programs. As chair of the Resource and Development Committee, Brian has personally raised more than $50,000 through two major events. He has hosted upkeep days for 300 volunteers. He was instrumental in creating a Battleship-branded cigar and an annual onboard cigar festival. Now he’s planning a national telethon and working with local wineries to establish a Battleship wine and a local brewery to develop a Battleship beer.
- Jennedy Johnson -- Homeless Advocacy Project
- At her first volunteer event at the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) in 2017, Jennedy Johnson met with a client who was so appreciative of her help that it inspired her to take on a more active role with the organization. Since then, Jennedy has volunteered with HAP in a variety of roles and tasks. She is currently serving on the Board of Directors as both the Secretary of its Executive Committee and a member of the Fundraising Committee. HAP provides free civil legal services and advocacy to the homeless in Philadelphia. Jennedy and other volunteer attorneys, legal assistants and law students help with services like obtaining a birth certificate, which is often the first step to accessing resources, benefits and state identification. Annually, HAP holds over 100 legal clinics at 25 sites and helps more than 3,200 clients. Jennedy also staffs four HAP clinics a year at the Woodstock Family Center, which provides emergency shelter for homeless single parents and their children.
- Joseph Portz -- Cocoa Packs, Inc.
- When Joe Portz was young, his father died, and his mother suffered from significant health challenges. But Joe remembers fondly the role models and community leaders who helped him early in life. So, for three years, he has “paid it forward” by volunteering with Cocoa Packs, which provides food and additional support to over 1,000 food-insecure children in central Pennsylvania each week. The group also offers a clothing closet, health and safety education, hygiene supplies, back-to-school supplies and services (including haircuts), emotional support and advocacy. Now serving on the Board of Directors, Joe researched refrigeration systems and found an affordable unit that allows Cocoa Packs to get children more fresh fruits and vegetables (for which he shops weekly). He was instrumental in Cocoa Packs becoming a distribution site for the USDA Food to Family Boxes program. His fellow volunteers describe Joe as committed, energetic, flexible, determined, compassionate, selfless and a team player.
- Kristin Seifarth -- UEmpower of Maryland
- When the studio where Kristin Seifarth taught yoga closed due to the pandemic, she began offering free outdoor classes to small groups in the Ridgely’s Delight neighborhood. Her yoga students insisted on paying her. Kristin combined that money with her own contribution and a matching gift from Exelon and made a $3,000 donation to The Food Project. The flagship program of UEmpower of Maryland, The Food Project brings restaurant skills, sustainable food sources and mentorship to the young people of Southwest Baltimore by teaching them about healthy eating, cooking and urban farming. It also prepares, packages and distributes over 500 meals weekly and provides job opportunities to at-risk youth. Kristin’s gift came at a critical time when the Project desperately needed to hire another cook — an unemployed person who happened to be a recent victim of a drive-by shooting. Her gift further helped the organization meet its goal of improving food security during the holiday season in Maryland’s poorest zip code.
- Michael Van Horn -- The Media Theatre for The Performing Arts
- As a former athlete and a coach’s son, Michael Van Horn had no interest in theatre. In fact, he’d never seen a live stage production. But then his daughter expressed a desire to perform. Now Michael is a board member of The Media Theatre for The Performing Arts in southeastern Pennsylvania. Since 2019, he has led rebuilding of the theatre’s parapet wall (which had collapsed the previous year), an HVAC system upgrade and a PECO audit, seeking to reduce the 1927 building’s $100,000 annual energy cost. He’s also chaired the committee for the theatre’s annual fundraising event. But his proudest achievement has been partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of Chester, PA. Six disadvantaged teenagers wrote and performed a show about their life experiences – the first such opportunity in the Club’s 100-year history. Two of the teens went on to study at the theatre’s New School for Advanced Studies.
- Michael Winkler -- Newtown Fire Association
- On a Tuesday morning nearly 20 years ago, Mike Winkler exited the train station in Jersey City, New Jersey. Looking across the Hudson River, he saw an airplane crash into the World Trade Center’s South Tower. He continued watching as both towers eventually collapsed. Only later did he learn that his cousin, a bond trader, had been killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. To honor his cousin, Mike became a local volunteer firefighter. Now living in northeastern Pennsylvania, he’s served with the Newtown Fire Association for nearly three years. He has responded to home, business, dumpster, yard and structure fires, carbon monoxide and gas leaks, fire investigations, downed power lines, auto accidents and medical calls. In 2020 alone, Mike has performed CPR on six patients and responded to 40 percent of the department’s 367 calls; the average response rate per volunteer is 25 percent. He also is in charge of the recruitment/retention committee and attends membership meetings, training sessions and community events.
MERIT AWARD – $5,000 AWARD TO VOLUNTEER’S CHARITY
- Courtney Allen -- Young Men & Women in Charge (YMWIC)
- When Courtney Allen sees the economically disadvantaged and historically underrepresented youngsters at the science fairs he attends, he sees younger versions of himself. And he knows first-hand what a career in science, technology, engineering and math can provide. That’s why Courtney has volunteered since 2017 for Young Men & Women in Charge (YMWIC), which helps youth become leaders in STEM careers through academic tutoring, mentoring and financial assistance programs. Courtney has volunteered at science fairs, career workshops, and interview skills and life skills workshops. He has recruited volunteers to support the program and has encouraged students to enroll. Currently he serves as vice president of the Board and chair of the Facilities Planning Committee, crafting and implementing the organization’s strategic plan while identifying potential partner organizations. Courtney also hosted 40 youngsters, including YMWIC participants, on a tour of PECO’s Coatesville site so they could see how practitioners apply STEM in the workforce.
- Jacqueline Geary -- Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
- Courage takes many forms, and Jacqueline Geary sees it every week – in the faces of children. As a patient care volunteer for the past six years at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, she watches children and their families bravely battle adversity. For Jacqueline, putting a smile on a frightened child’s face or listening to a worried mother is all part of her normal day (or two) every week at Illinois’ top pediatric hospital, where over 1,800 physicians across 70 specialties cared for more than 221,000 young patients last year. Jacqueline gives parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers a chance to take a breath, collect their thoughts and enjoy a moment of respite away from their child’s bedside. Each shift she visits as many rooms as possible and plays with children, keeps them company, holds the hands of unresponsive patients and cuddles babies who need human contact.
- Anuradha Gwal -- North American South Asian Bar Association
- Anne Gwal still remembers her first experience with discrimination. She was four years old and had recently arrived in the U.S. from India with her parents. She was teased for speaking accented English and told to “go back home.” That early pain of racism led her to fight for the freedom her parents dreamed of when they came to America. Now an Exelon assistant general counsel, Anne has volunteered with the South Asian Bar Association Foundation (SABA) since 2006, currently as a trustee and formerly as president of SABA North America. The SABA Foundation raises funds that directly benefit marginalized members of the Asian and South Asian communities, LGBTQ South Asians, undocumented immigrants and families from varied socio-economic backgrounds. Focusing on domestic violence, immigration rights, community access to justice, and hate crimes and discrimination, the foundation contributes to organizations that help thousands of individuals obtain safe shelter, food, housing, employment and immigration/legal assistance.
- Rudolph Johnson -- Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Company
- For Rudy Johnson, it all started when he was 15 years old. That’s when his next-door neighbor’s house caught fire. He watched in awe as firefighters jumped off their trucks – some running into the house, others scaling a ladder to the roof – and extinguished the blaze. As the crew was cleaning up, Rudy excitedly asked how he could become a firefighter. The next year, he joined the Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Company near Baltimore. Thirty-five years later, Rudy has responded to car accidents and train collisions. He has delivered babies and saved people from burning buildings. One particular winter night stands out. The station responded to a first-floor apartment’s large fire. Rudy immediately grabbed a hose line and quickly knocked down the raging fire. Then he climbed through a window and found a victim, pulling them to safety. He performed CPR, restored their pulse … and likely saved their life.
- Armanda Killingham -- Dorcas Community Outreach Foundation
- For Amanda Killingham, it’s all about the smiles. And the tears. And especially the hugs. That’s how she knows she’s made a difference helping the homeless population on Chicago’s West Side and beyond. After a decade of volunteering for four organizations, Amanda founded Dorcas Community Outreach Foundation in 2019. She drafted all the founding documents, recruited board members, held an initial fundraiser, created a website and still maintains the financial records. Since then, she has been involved in case management, shopping, street outreach to establish trust among the homeless population and more: defining the scope of outreach, anticipating the actual need, soliciting community partners, recruiting and training volunteers, fundraising and evaluating effectiveness. Last year she helped purchase and distribute 100 new winter coats. She also prepared supplies, including toiletries, blankets, card games and PPE, for shelter guests quarantined during the pandemic.
- Donna Knight -- City Fare Meals on Wheels
- Donna Knight realizes that a short, friendly visit can make all the difference to a homebound senior – and that it might be the only daily contact that senior has with another person. That’s why for more than 20 years Donna has volunteered with City Fare’s Meals on Wheels program through St. Anthony's Community Center. She manages Delmarva Power’s volunteer route schedule for the program, which delivers about 2,000 meals per year and requires 40 volunteers. Delmarva Power employees have been volunteering to deliver meals to homebound seniors five days a week for the past 30 years. They have given over 15,000 hours of their time. Volunteers like Donna help older adults with physical limitations continue to live independently in their own homes by meeting the basic need of nutritious food … along with a human connection.
- Adriena Lane -- Rahab's Daughters
- When Adriena Lane went to the Super Bowl in 2020, it wasn’t to watch the year’s biggest football game. It was to help survivors of human trafficking. Adriena volunteers with Rahab’s Daughters, a non-profit that helps women who want to be rescued from the sex industry. The group spreads awareness, facilitates prevention and provides rehabilitation. Its mission trip to the Super Bowl in Miami and the Pro Bowl in Orlando assisted more than 50 survivors. For more than two years, Adriena has visited street locations where prostitution occurs, providing gifts to survivors and encouraging them to get out or to contact Rahab’s Daughters when they’re ready to leave. She also has visited brothels and strip clubs, handing out beauty bags and asking if the women needed assistance and prayers. Her experience has helped improve the volunteer outreach teams’ effectiveness and efficiency.
- Alan Pressman -- Jewish Volunteer Connection
- For Alan Pressman, Jewish Volunteer Connection is a family affair. It’s where he’s volunteered since 2004. It’s where he met his wife. And it’s where he’s teaching his sons about the importance of volunteering and the impact they can have on the world. Alan’s roles with JVC – which engages volunteers to meet vital community needs and live with purpose through meaningful service – have included everything from board member to direct service volunteer to pro bono data analytics consultant. He developed a software tool that reduced a staff member’s monthly task from 1.5 days to 1 hour, increasing accuracy while making it easier to manage financial and human resources. His hands-on volunteerism has included performing home renovations, calling bingo at a nursing home and, with his sons, visiting isolated seniors. Alan has been praised for his friendly and open demeanor, making those he serves feel special and comfortable.
- Angel Reyes -- The Nuclear Alternative Project
- When Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico in 2017, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, all 3.4 million residents lost electricity … and Angel Reyes Cruz lost contact with his family and friends for more than three nerve-wracking weeks. It was an experience he never wanted to repeat. The Category 5 hurricane, which destroyed the island’s power grid and caused a total of $90 billion in damage, is why Angel co-founded The Nuclear Alternative Project and has served as the Chief Technology Officer during the past five years. The Nuclear Alternative Project brings together Puerto Rican engineers and scientists from across the U.S. nuclear industry to study and advocate for advanced reactors for the island and the world. Angel has worked tirelessly in meeting with Puerto Rican local officials, legislative leaders, local leaders and industry executives. He has led webinars and recruited volunteers as he seeks to help his homeland prepare for the next natural disaster.
- Craig Smith -- Pine Street Presbyterian Church - Downtown Daily Bread
- For Craig Smith, helping the homeless and hungry is a matter of doing the simple things: offering a welcoming smile, a plate of food, a cup of coffee, some conversation. Those conversations have helped him build trusting relationships with clients and understanding of how they became homeless, increasing his compassion for their circumstances. For more than five years, Craig has volunteered at Pine Street Presbyterian Church’s Downtown Daily Bread, a Harrisburg, PA, soup kitchen and shelter. He sets up and serves breakfast or lunch to as many as 50 people per meal. He also raises thousands of dollars for the organization and shares its mission with others. For 38 years, Downtown Daily Bread has provided the community with bathrooms, showers, storage lockers, clothing, mail delivery, sleeping cots, food, computers, library books, telephones, e-charging stations and connections with community resources and staff. In 2020, its soup kitchen prepared and served 11,465 breakfasts and 34,218 lunches.
In 15 years, this awards program has recognized more than 250 employee volunteers and contributed more than $2 million to nonprofit partners.