Valerie Guste Johnson ’76 to receive volunteer award for her work with the homeless
BETHESDA, Md. – Valerie Guste Johnson, a 1976 Spring Hill College alumna, will be honored by St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families on May 7 at their spring fundraising event, Hope Blossoms. Johnson, president and founding director of KEYS for the Homeless Foundation in Washington, D.C., will be presented with the Michele Heidenberger Volunteer Award for her work with the homeless in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
“It is our honor to recognize Valerie for her tremendous service to our community’s homeless, poor and vulnerable populations. Under her leadership, KEYS for the Homeless Foundation has helped to create warm, comfortable and loving homes for St. Ann’s young families, and for countless homeless individuals and families throughout our region,” said Beth Fromm, development director for St. Ann’s. “I don’t think there is a room in our building that does not have something that was donated through her efforts.”
KEYS started as an outcome of a youth service initiative of Johnson’s parish, Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown. In order to fill and package needed supplies of personal care items for the homeless, Johnson reached out to members of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., to help support the project.
In 2005 KEYS was established as a nonprofit foundation, and in 2013 it procured $264,500 of in-kind donations for those living in poverty in the greater D.C. area. Everyday, basic household items such as linens, home furnishings, kitchenware appliances from many from high-end hotels, vendors and concerned businesses help families transition from homelessness and poverty to self-sufficiency. Today the foundation serves more than 60 nonprofits providing homeless services. Since 2005, KEYS has successfully contributed an estimated fair market value of $1.5 million (in-kind goods) to help support homeless services.
Johnson said, “The mission of St. Ann's touches my heart deeply, knowing that young mothers, children and families are in special hands. It is always a joy to visit and be a part of their good works. I am looking forward to a wonderful evening with St. Ann's and very touched by this honor!”
St. Ann’s has a 153-year history of working with vulnerable, abused and neglected children and young women. The center continues its work with pregnant and parenting youth and homeless women with children, providing comprehensive services that give them hope for a brighter future.
The Michele Heidenberger Volunteer Award is named after long-serving and devoted volunteer Michele Heidenberger, an American Airlines flight attendant who was killed in the crash at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. It is awarded to a volunteer or group in the community that provides a significant impact to the programs of St. Ann’s.