Recently I and their passion to serve the Centreville area. One of New Life's members, Karen Furgerson, was just recognized for her commitment to volunteerism, along with other "community celebrities" by Cabot Creamery Cooperative— with a five-day Caribbean Cruise.
Furgerson was shocked when she found out that she had won. Extremely excited and a bit credulous, she and her husband of course cleared their schedules for the cruise. I recently interviewed Karen via e-mail, and I'm sure you will be as encouraged as I to read how her desire to give to others has been fueled by her heart of thankfulness.
How did you find out that you had won? How did you react?
A gentleman from the local radio station called to tell me I was the runner up, but the first place winner could not accept the prize (go on the cruise), so he was offering it to me. I was in shock. When he asked if I could go on the cruise, I first asked what the catch was, then I told him I thought we could go, but would have to talk to my husband first. My husband and I agreed that we would make it work out; after all, how could we turn down a cruise?
As the reality started to sink in, I felt like I was walking on cloud 9 and thought, “Is this really happening? Pinch me!” I also marvel that I won the prize, as I know countless people who volunteer just as much or more than I do. It truly is an honor.
What are some of your favorite ways to volunteer?
I love people and have a passion for showing people God’s love through kind acts and helping in practical ways. I enjoy working with children, teens, and women by teaching, encouraging, and helping to lead activities at church and in the community. In addition, I know people struggle with hardships, so I readily share lessons I’ve learned through my own hardships to give people hope and strength to persevere. I am especially passionate about helping young people make wise decisions and develop a long-term perspective that will get them through seasons of difficulty.
How has volunteering changed you or your values or how has it brought you more in line with values you already held?
I don’t think volunteering has changed my values, but my values have definitely shaped my volunteerism. I strongly believe in giving back and paying it forward. I have been richly blessed and want to share those blessings with others, whether it is through monetary donations, physical goods, time, or talents.
For example, when I was a kid, my mom didn’t have money to send me to summer camp and I really wanted to go. I did go, every year. Later, when I was a young adult, my mom told me that one of my Sunday School teachers paid for me to go. I was determined to do that for someone else down the line, and am grateful that I have been able to do so.
Do your family members share your passion for volunteering?
Yes, they do! My whole family is involved in church. My husband plays guitar and our daughter sings in one of the bands, our son helps out in a preschool class and does audiovisual support in the student ministry, in addition to our helping out in many other ways.
My husband is a sworn auxiliary police officer, supplementing the paid police force with a minimum of 24 hours per month. Our son has recently gotten involved in a Law Enforcement Explorer’s troop, which does a lot of volunteer work for the local police department. Our extended family is dedicated to volunteering as well.
Do you have any advice for encouraging children to be active in their communities?
First, adults should lead by example. In my family, it’s natural for the kids to want to volunteer because they see the adults doing it and enjoying it. Secondly, I recommend enthusiastically talking to children about volunteering, helping them visualize the impact they can make, and getting them plugged in to an area where they can apply their skills and passions.
What do you hope, if anything, to change about Centreville?
One change I am involved in, through New Life Christian Church, is the construction of the nZone, a huge community center that’s actually in Chantilly, but will also benefit people in Centreville and surrounding communities.
New Life recently purchased a 83,000-square-foot former beer distribution facility and is converting it into a community center with indoor soccer fields, basketball courts, a gym, a café, and gathering space, not only for the church, but also for the broader community. The nZone will supply much-needed additional space for sports activities and after-school activities, plus provide meeting space for parenting classes, English classes, recovery groups, etc.
Is there anything else you would like the community to know about you?
Yes, I want people to know where I get my joy, peace, hope, and drive to volunteer: my relationship with Jesus Christ. I have experienced grief, struggled with an illness that caused complete hair loss, and have had other challenges. These hardships have strengthened me and put things into proper perspective. I continually count my blessings.
In addition, I want to mention that the first-place winner of this prize, Linda Ryan, from Maryland, deserves recognition. Bravely battling cancer for several years, Linda encouraged other patients and was quick to give them a copy of her favorite book, When God and Cancer Meet, to help them through difficult days. She and her family also actively volunteered at church. Sadly, I learned that she recently lost her earthly battle with cancer. I pray that God will comfort her family and friends with happy memories.
Finally, I express deep gratitude to the Cabot Cheese Coop, their dairy farmers, and all the other people who made the Community Celebrity cruise possible. They are very genuine, down-to-earth people with positive family and community values.
Have you and your husband been on a cruise before? What are you most excited about?
No, we have never been on a cruise. We are both very excited to get away from the cold for a while! I am also excited about getting the chance to go snorkeling, which I absolutely love to do!