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First Lady Abbott, OneStar Foundation: 40th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards Recipients

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 First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Honorary Chair of the Governor's Volunteer Awards, today announced the recipients of the 40th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards. These awards, presented in conjunction with OneStar Foundation, honor the exemplary service of individuals, groups, and organizations that have made a significant contribution to Texas communities through service and volunteering in the past year. Images for illustration purposes
 First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Honorary Chair of the Governor’s Volunteer Awards, today announced the recipients of the 40th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards. These awards, presented in conjunction with OneStar Foundation, honor the exemplary service of individuals, groups, and organizations that have made a significant contribution to Texas communities through service and volunteering in the past year. Images for illustration purposes
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AUSTIN, Texas – First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Honorary Chair of the Governor’s Volunteer Awards, today announced the recipients of the 40th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards. These awards, presented in conjunction with OneStar Foundation, honor the exemplary service of individuals, groups, and organizations that have made a significant contribution to Texas communities through service and volunteering in the past year.

“It is with great excitement that I recognize 15 exceptional awardees of this year’s Governor’s Volunteer Awards, commemorating 40 years of honoring outstanding volunteers,” said First Lady Abbott. “These awardees—and those honored over the past four decades—are a testament to the true strength and selfless leadership embedded in the spirit of Texas.” 

“We are thrilled to shine a spotlight on the remarkable volunteer work of this year’s award recipients, all while celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Governor’s Volunteer Awards,” said OneStar President and CEO Chris Bugbee. “The recipients of this year’s awards embody the strength and resilience ingrained in the Texan spirit of service, inspiring future generations to create profound impacts within their communities.”

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Awardees will be honored during National Volunteer Month in April at a reception hosted at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.
 
The recipients of the 40th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards are:

Ann Hammond (Houston): Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award  

Ann Hammond has been a dedicated advocate for Clear Creek Independent School District for over 35 years. A founding member of the Board of Directors for the Bay Area Alliance for Youth and Families, Ann orchestrates impactful initiatives. Since 2003, Ann has been devoted to Bay Area Turning Point, offering crucial support to families affected by domestic violence or sexual assault. As a committee member of Communities in Schools – Bay Area since 2008, Ann has helped to spearhead the annual Keep Kids in School Golf Tournament and Wine Event, which raises funding to support student support personnel across CCISD campuses. She also plays a pivotal role as the Project Graduation Chair for Clear View High School, ensuring memorable and safe environments for graduating seniors. Ann has spent more than 30 years as an active PTA member/officer and received National recognition.

Kent and Priscilla Pate (Midway): Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award

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Kent and Priscilla Pate embody a remarkable legacy of selfless service, dedicating over 28 years to volunteering and uplifting the community. Their extensive efforts include orchestrating volunteer teams to provide essential resources to communities experiencing high levels of poverty, addressing homelessness in Fort Worth, and serving veterans in Texas prisons. As founders of the KPM Leadership Academy, they have supported and graduated 1,457 students through transformational leadership programs, contributing significantly to developing future community leaders. Their vision for 2024 includes expanding the academy’s impact by launching programs in eight Texas prisons, furthering their dedication to transformative rehabilitation and societal reintegration.

Wayne Rhoden (Georgetown): Posthumous Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Wayne Rhoden dedicated over 25 years to nature and gardening with a lasting impact on environmental stewardship in Williamson County. A key chapter of Wayne’s volunteer legacy unfolded at Berry Springs Park & Preserve, where he applied his extensive gardening expertise to design and install over 30 flower beds, transforming the park’s landscape. Wayne’s 13-year commitment to Berry Springs included co-captaining seasonal clean-up events, leading nature walks, and advising on flower bed maintenance. Wayne’s passion for education extended to the Williamson County Master Gardener and Naturalist Volunteer programs, where he served as the founding president and enriched the community through informative presentations. His impactful leadership reached committees, boards, and advisory roles, demonstrating his ability to engage cross-sector partners for broader community impact.

Rizwan Khan (Plano): First Lady’s Rising Star Award

Throughout high school, Rizwan has demonstrated exceptional leadership and community service commitment. Over four years, he amassed more than 4,000 hours, packaging 120,000 meals for lower-income families, and organizing a clothing drive for Turkey-Syria earthquake victims. As founder of Politics For Teens, Rizwan initiated civil unity discussions, expanding globally with more than 150 chapters and over 15,000+ students, hosting influential figures and gaining media recognition. A founding member of Hoops Reboot, he raised more than $3,000 for equal opportunities on the basketball court. In academics, Rizwan leads clubs like UNICEF and Key Club, distributing 80,000 pounds of food and raising over $2,000 for global child development. Currently, as president of the Plano West CASH Club Corp., he oversees more than 50 chapters, imparting financial literacy to students.

Rahul Vijayan (Pearland): First Lady’s Rising Star Award 

In his sophomore year of high school, Rahul Vijayan founded the nonprofit Farm to Tray to introduce hydroponics at Shadow Creek High School, promoting sustainable nutrition and STEM education. Collaborating with Moonflower Farms, Rahul implemented a hydroponic garden on campus, yielding seven harvests and serving as an educational tool for AP Environmental Science curriculum. Expanding awareness, Rahul organized a hydroponics symposium where he distributed 100 free Microgreen kits to 15 schools across his district, Alvin ISD. Since then, he has introduced microgreen kits to 55 schools across five states, impacting 33,0000 students nationwide with plans for continued expansion.

Jana Anderson (San Angelo): Volunteer of the Year Award

Jana Anderson, a compassionate leader in Tom Green County, emerged as a beacon of hope after losing her son Christopher to suicide in 2001. Partnering with West Texas Counseling & Guidance in 2016, she founded the Survivors of Suicide support group and the Tom Green County Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors Team in 2017, offering unique postvention support. Jana’s unparalleled commitment includes responding to 19 scenes, volunteering 1,644 hours in 137 on-call shifts, and leading a minimum of 12 shifts monthly. Her impact is immeasurable, providing strength to countless survivors in Tom Green County. Jana’s dedication extends beyond immediate response, co-leading SOS group meetings, facilitating LOSS Team training, engaging in fundraising, and promoting suicide prevention awareness.

Joan Ulsher (Helotes): Volunteer of the Year Award

Joan Ulsher transitioned her two decades of military service to dedicated community engagement in Bexar County. Since 2018, she has been a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Child Advocates (CASA) of San Antonio, leveraging her foster care experience to advocate for the best interests of children and teens in conservatorship. Joan, with one of the largest caseloads, logged 681 volunteer hours this year, totaling 4,369 hours in under five years. Beyond advocacy, she crafts custom-painted furniture for foster children and leads legislative advocacy, fostering relationships with 14 local legislators since 2020. Joan’s impactful story serves as a call to action to raise awareness about foster care challenges, inspiring CASA recruitment and retention efforts. Her unwavering goal is to ensure every child in foster care has a dedicated CASA advocate.

Cheng Family (Allen): Volunteer Family of the Year Award

LiMei, Christina, Ishaan, and Avi Cheng drive Under My Umbrella (UMU), a woman- and youth-founded and led community service organization passionately committed to addressing homelessness and community outreach. Avi initiated the unsheltered outreach program, serving 50-125 unhoused individuals weekly for the last four years. His grandmother, LiMei, contributes by organizing donations and providing protein-rich meals weekly. Ishaan established UMU Youth Academy, a program that aims to provide access to sports, arts, and music, such as free youth basketball camps, and has organized an annual holiday shelter event for eight years. Christina initiated the Rainy Day program which aims to bridge small gaps and encourage community engagement. With each family member averaging 3-12 hours of service weekly, they inspire a balance between home, work, school, and selfless contributions to their community.

McCoy’s Building Supply (San Marcos): Corporate Champion Award

McCoy’s Building Supply fosters a culture deeply rooted in community care since its founding in 1927. In the aftermath of Hurricane Carla in 1961, their principled stance against opportunistic pricing earned them a reputation for fairness. In the 1980s, McCoy’s elevated community support to a guiding priority, creating a statewide culture of giving. Actively engaged in local communities, every store collaborates at the statewide level, impacting numerous lives through nonprofits like Operation Finally Home, Austin Habitat for Humanity, and Head Start. In recent years, McCoy’s Building Supply has supported over 500 local organizations throughout store communities in Texas. Beyond material and financial support, McCoy’s 3,000+ employees contribute time and effort voluntarily, translating trust into individual volunteerism, constructing a compassionate and thriving community.

Academy 4 (Fort Worth): Community Champion Award

Academy 4’s innovative programs have profoundly impacted Tarrant County communities, fostering mentorship and leadership development in schools serving high-poverty populations. Originating at Daggett Elementary School in 2012, it has expanded to 45 schools across 15 districts in Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin. Engaging over 900 volunteers in mentorship, its 11th year witnessed impactful expansions, including Leaders 5 and 4Families, to address broader family needs. The Full Circle Scholars program exemplifies a commitment to full-circle impact, with high school seniors returning to serve in elementary schools. Diverse volunteers, aged 16 to over 90, underscore the community’s collective commitment to nurturing the next generation.

City of Longview Partners in Prevention (Longview): Community Champion Award

Partners in Prevention, a catalyst for positive change in Longview, tackles community challenges through youth development, poverty alleviation, unity, diversity, and substance use prevention. At its core is the Aspire Mentoring Program (AMP), which engages 86 adult volunteers investing an average of four hours monthly to build impactful one-to-one relationships with children from low-income households. With 85% of beneficiaries relying on free or reduced lunch, AMP plays a vital role in supporting vulnerable youth. Initiatives like Longview Bridges Out of Poverty, Unity and Diversity Committee, and Coalition for Drug-Free Youth address barriers through community mobilization. Volunteers logged 5,363 hours last year, with significant dedication to AMP.

Arlington Classics Academy (Arlington): Education Champion Award

Arlington Classics Academy has embedded volunteerism and fostered empathy and responsibility in its community culture for 25 years. The Griffin Goodfellows program, a core initiative, engages students in diverse community service projects, volunteer activities, and fundraisers. Collaborations with Mission Arlington and the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Mayoral Challenge result in significant contributions, with students collecting more than 27,000 canned food items and donating an average of $624 annually. The program goes beyond traditional philanthropy, including initiatives like Rucks for Trucks, Toys for Tots, and support for organizations such as Patriot Paws. Approximately 100 students receive the Griffin Goodfellow Award annually, fostering a sense of accomplishment and shaping socially responsible, empathetic leaders for over two decades.

Orange County Disaster Rebuild (Orange): Rebuild Texas Disaster Impact Award

Established in May 2018, Orange County Disaster Rebuild (OCDR) is a formidable force in disaster response, addressing eight significant events, including Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Laura. Their impactful service transcends challenges, raising over $3.2 million in critical unmet needs assistance in Orange County, Texas. OCDR repaired over 300 homes, built 16 new homes, and replaced 11 destroyed mobile homes/RVs, allocating $420,000 for furniture and appliances. Engaging more than 2,500 out-of-area volunteers, they foster strong relationships with local, state, and federal entities, nonprofits, churches, businesses, and communities. OCDR’s robust community programs partnerships with local government, and commitment to securing funds and resources underscore their positive impact and stellar reputation.

Joe Carreon (Dallas): AmeriCorps Legacy of Service Award

In 2010, Joe Carreon served as an AmeriCorps member with Food On The Move, a hunger relief program providing summer meals for over 10,000 kids. Since then, he has remained dedicated to the Bachman Lake community of Dallas, currently serving as President of the Bachman-Northwest Highway Community Association, a founding member of the Friends of Bachman Lake, and board member for Equal Heart, a national model for anti-hunger efforts. His insight and commitment to addressing food insecurity is enhanced through his experiences within the Dallas Mayor’s Office, The Office of the Colorado Governor, and the White House. Currently, Joe is a member of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees. He regularly leads community initiatives like clean-up days, workshops, public-private partnerships, and mentoring programs, showcasing exceptional leadership and unwavering dedication to community service.

Katrina Huffman (Brady): AmeriCorps Legacy of Service Award

In her AmeriCorps VISTA tenure from 2021 to 2023 and beyond, Katrina Huffman has profoundly impacted the Brady community, addressing hunger-related issues through visionary leadership. Hailing from an area where food pantries serve over a quarter of the population, Katrina’s VISTA actions stemmed from deep conviction and unwavering passion. As part of her VISTA service, she established the Hunger Coalition, uniting nonprofits and other community stakeholders to eradicate hunger. Katrina’s strategic thinking and organizational prowess elevated the coalition to a recognized 501(c)(3) organization. She organized fundraisers, hosted local food drives, and initiated a client-choice food pantry. Even after VISTA, as a dedicated volunteer, Katrina continues the relentless pursuit of a hunger-free future, marking her as a catalyst for change in Brady.


For more information, visit onestarfoundation.org/governors-volunteer-awards.
 
Learn more about OneStar. 

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