November 24, 2014
DAI is delighted to announce three winners of this year’s David H. Gunning Award for Community Service: Christel Milazzo, who runs a food pantry in Montgomery County, Maryland; and Alia Afshar-Gandhi and Jessica Stretz, who work with My Brother’s Keeper Orphanage in Liberia.
The Gunning Award was created in May 2013, after DAI Board Director David Gunning’s retirement, to honor his extraordinary service to the firm. A continuous presence on DAI’s Board from its inception in 1970, Gunning was a steady advocate of the company’s social mission. In that spirit, the award was established to recognize DAI employee service in the community.
This year the Gunning Award received 13 applications representing 15 nominees. Each winner receives $5,000 for donation to the social service organization of his or her choice.
Christel (pictured at left) has served as the director of her church’s food pantry since July 2013. As a member of the church’s Social Justice and Community Concerns Committee, she was instrumental in moving the organization to focus on hunger issues in Montgomery County, where—despite the wealth of the county as a whole—poverty has risen disproportionately in recent years. Christel has led the development and driven the operation of a food service that now supports 100 families a month and has distributed more than 40,000 lbs. of food in the past year, much of it seasonal fresh produce. She will use the award first to expand the pantry’s capacity, by installing an industrial fridge/freezer, and then to institute job-readiness training to help families at the margin win more secure employment.
Jessica (pictured at left) and Alia have since 2012 been actively involved with My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), an orphanage just outside Monrovia, Liberia, where both staffers have worked on a DAI-led project, the Food and Enterprise Development Program (FED). Currently home to 38 children, MBK also serves as a school for the surrounding community. Alia and Jessica have recruited FED and visiting DAI employees to support the orphanage. In 2012, FED partnered with MBK to construct a vegetable garden. That year, Jessica helped to construct a library, raising $2,500 from friends and family and teaming with the Pakistani UN troop to begin construction; Alia then worked with Mike McGovern, a former DAI engineer and Chief of Party, to oversee the construction, and together they launched a campaign that raised $4,000 to finish the job.
Alia’s family and DAI staff continue to donate alongside Alia and Jessica. With the Ebola outbreak and associated disruptions, the limited government funding that is critical to MBK looks increasingly uncertain, while the orphanage itself needs supplies to combat the disease, such as disinfectant and cleaning supplies. With the help of the DAI Africa team and friends and family, Alia (pictured at left) and Jessica quickly raised $1,200 this summer, and the Gunning Award will go to support this and other crucial operating needs.
“These are wonderful projects to be honored and I am pleased to have my name associated with them,” says Gunning.