Mount Vernon Rotary Club Presents ‘You Make A Difference’ Award


May 2023 Award Presentation, Mount Vernon Rotary Michael Jones (center), President of the Mount Vernon Rotary, presents Laura Wainwright (center right) with the "You Make a Difference" award in recognition of her excellent volunteer work as the Fort Hunt area manager for Food For Neighbors. Also pictured are Rotarians Charles Court (far left) and Helen Walutes (second from left) as well as Food For Neighbors Founder and Executive Director Karen Joseph (far right).


On May 31, 2023 at Whitman Middle School, the Mount Vernon Rotary Club presented Laura Wainwright of Food For Neighbors with the 2023 “You Make A Difference” award. Given to one person each year, the award highlights volunteers that have had continuous, meaningful impact in the Mount Vernon area, and the recognition includes a $1,000 grant to continue their important work. Food For Neighbors will focus the funding on its steadfast support to partnering secondary schools in the Mount Vernon pyramid. 

“We Rotarians have been concerned with food insecurity in our local community and especially how it impacts young students,” said Michael Jones, President of the Mount Vernon Rotary Club. “When we read the nomination for Laura Wainwright to receive the ‘You Make a Difference’ award, it spoke to our concerns, and we felt that supporting her work would have the greatest community impact.” 

“I feel so fortunate to be a small part of the Food For Neighbors team,” shared Wainwright, who emphasized the nonprofit’s tireless efforts to help local middle and high school students who struggle with food insecurity. She furthered that, as Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, sometimes community members don’t always see the struggles that their neighbors are experiencing. There is great need and Food For Neighbors makes it so easy to be a part of making a big impact on the local student community, Wainwright said.

In 2019, Wainwright brought Food For Neighbors to the Fort Hunt Area, where she serves as the Area Manager. As Area Manager, she connects vital food resources to hungry students with the help of dedicated school staff at partnering schools, currently including Whitman and Sandburg Middle Schools as well as Bryant, Mount Vernon, Quander Road and West Potomac High Schools. Joining in her efforts are her enthusiastic area leadership team members — Vero Autophene, Siobhan Casey and Andrea Wilkinson — as well as the hundreds of community members they inspire to donate, collect, sort and deliver thousands of pounds of food and toiletries to the schools. Food For Neighbors also provides partnering schools with shelving, cabinets, and bins to store the donations in their pantries as well as holiday meals and grocery gift cards to distribute to the most vulnerable students. To date, Food For Neighbors has delivered over 36,000 pounds of food and toiletries to these schools and, as of the close of 2022, over $77,000 in grocery gift cards. 

Among others celebrating with Wainwright was Craig Herring, Principal of Whitman Middle School, which serves as the donation collection and sorting location for the area. Herring noted, “Food for Neighbors has been an outstanding partner to Whitman Middle School and the Mount Vernon District over the past four years to bring much needed food to our students. Even during the darkest hours of the pandemic, Laura Wainwright showed phenomenal leadership to keep the program going when food was at its scarcest.” 

Also attending was Karen Joseph, Founder and Executive Director of Food For Neighbors. Joseph expressed great appreciation for Wainwright and her team, Principal Herring, and other school leaders and staff who are connecting vital resources with students. She added that the support helps students grow and learn, and, among other things, positively impacts their focus, school attendance, and performance. She also thanked the Mount Vernon Rotary Club for raising awareness about community needs through the “You Make A Difference” award. 

“I greatly appreciate the special effort the Rotary is making to highlight those who serve the community,” shared Joseph. “Laura is one of our rockstars. She makes things happen. Even during the pandemic when students were learning remotely, she ensured students had continued access to food by setting up and running food distribution in the most vulnerable neighborhoods.” 

“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of Food For Neighbors,” said Wainwright. “We are a team — from the leadership to the community of donors who fill grocery bags with food and toiletries, the drivers who pick up the donations from donors’ doorsteps, and the volunteers who receive and sort the donations. No child should be hungry. Together we make a difference." 

The need remains great. Food For Neighbors welcomes additional community members to donate and sort food and toiletries as well as donations. To learn more, visit