Since 1969, UCM has been dedicated to empowering, educating and uplifting people in need by connecting them with people who can help – that’s what the Heart of Community is all about. We empower people both by providing our direct services to people who need them, and just as important, by providing people with an opportunity to help their neighbors who are struggling.
All of us at UCM are tremendously grateful to have the support of so many caring community members who make our work possible. We could not do what we do or help so many thousands of vulnerable individuals, families, children and youth without them.
Two families were welcomed into the UCM Heritage Circle on June 5, 2016 at our Mount Vernon Kids event that celebrated the 30th anniversary of the UCM Early Learning Center:
We welcomed first generation Addy and Gene Krizek, with their sons Paul (at the event), and their wives and children. Addy and Gene lived here in Mount Vernon in the Hollin Hills neighborhood raising their family and now reside at Montebello.
After a career of distinguished military and government service in Washington and abroad – including the Foreign Service -- Gene co-founded the charity Christian Relief Services Charities (CRS), based here in Alexandria, with his wife Addy in 1985. Their compassion for the disadvantaged and their zest for philanthropy extended to United Community Ministries. By that time in the 1980s Addy was working at UCM as Director of Development – including at the time the UCM Early Learning Center was founded in 1986. Addy served on UCM’s Board of Directors in the mid 1990s through 2000. And she continues to share her compassion and expertise with us as an active member of our UCM Emeritus Board of Directors.
The second generation of Krizeks have continued their parents’ legacy of service and compassion. For example, Paul Krizek – elected last year to the Virginia State House as Delegate for the 44th District – defines himself on twitter as “Passionate about helping people and advocating for those that are less able to advocate for themselves.” He is an advocate for all of us in Richmond, including our most vulnerable community members, to improve the quality of life for us all.
And the third generation of Krizeks – including Paul and Tracey’s daughter Khloe, now a freshman at West Potomac High – is continuing the family tradition of service by, for example, volunteering for the annual Mount Vernon “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” Food Drive for UCM.
The Bill and Zelda Shute Family are all active members at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where they first became more involved with UCM when their children were young via what was then called “Share the Joy” (our annual UCM Holiday Gift Room). And via volunteering with various Girl and Boy Scout projects.
The Shute family has volunteered with and supported UCM’s youth education and community development initiatives for many years. Through friends at church, they became involved with the parents and children at our Creekside Village Community Center, helping with enrichment and tutoring activities. From 5th grade through her senior year of high school, daughter Nina has volunteered after school there, interacting with and helping our children with homework and other learning activities. For her Gold Scout Gold Award project in 2013, Nina created and taught our Creekside youth a special “Environmental Awareness” project.
For more than 6 years, Zelda has served on St. Luke’s Outreach Committee to advocate for and support vulnerable families and children. This has included coordinating the annual community Spaghetti Dinner and Rock Against Hunger events, which generate significant proceeds for charities including UCM.
In 2010, seeing the need in our Mount Vernon community – especially families struggling to feed their hungry children – Zelda initiated the “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” Mount Vernon Food Drive. This now annual spring collection drive has evolved today to be coordinated by teens at the church with scores of volunteers and thousands of pounds of food and critical funds to stock our Food Pantry. Right now, Will Shute is leading the effort, and he is also planning his Eagle Scout project, which is going to be a book and literacy project here at our Early Learning Center, including building and installing a Little Free Library.
All of us at United Community Ministries are grateful to all the Krizeks and the Shutes for their dedication and compassion to help neighbors in need -- and to be an inspiration to other families. To learn how you and your family can get involved to volunteer with UCM, visit our Volunteer webpage.