SSA Gala Celebrates 56 Years in Alexandria

Collins, Wintermute and Elliotts honored for service.

A veritable who’s who filled the ballroom at the Westin Hotel Old Town March 16 to celebrate 56 years of Senior Services of Alexandria and to recognize honorees who have gone above and beyond in serving the community.

“This year’s gala was bigger and better than ever,” said SSA executive director Mary Lee Anderson. “More than 350 people came out to support SSA’s programs and celebrate the great work of our honorees.”

This year’s honorees included former Deputy City Manager Debra Collins who was recognized with the Community Leadership award; Brenda and Lucky Elliott and Donnan “Donnie” Wintermute, each honored with the Community Service award.

“We are so fortunate to have such a formidable organization.”

— SSA board chair Christopher Wright

The evening highlighted SSA’s work in the community through programs such as Meals On Wheels, Groceries-to-Go, Friendly Visitor, Caring Connection and Senior Speaker Series among others.

“We are so fortunate to have such a formidable organization,” said SSA board chair Christopher Wright. “The Gala provides a forum for all of our community to come together.”

Collins is the former Deputy City Manager who was responsible for the oversight of several crucial city departments, including the Race and Social Equity Officer, the Police and Fire Departments, the Departments of Emergency Communications, Community and Human Services, Human Resources, and Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities.

Her significant accomplishments include consolidating the Departments of Human Services, Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Substance Abuse and the Office on Women into the Department of Community and Human Services and the reconstitution of the City Schools Staff Group. Collins created the Center for Alexandria’s Children (Alexandria’s child advocacy center), the Alexandria Council of Human Service Organizations, and Spring for Alexandria in partnership with ACT for Alexandria.

Brenda Levere Elliott and Lawrence “Lucky” Elliott both grew up in Alexandria. Lucky is best known as a youth sports coach, activist, and advocate for teens and young adults in the metro area. He coached youth football and basketball for close to 20 years.

Lucky dedicated himself to fighting alcohol abuse among young teens as co-founder of the We Care Organization, a group formed to combat alcohol and substance abuse. He continued his work as an advocate as a certified clinician, teaching youth in the Get Away Clean program.

Lucky also formed the Bulldog Connection, which hosted a program called Champions of Equality and Justice. The annual event was held during Black History Month to recognize and honor individuals who made outstanding contributions that improved the quality of life for City residents. Today, he organizes social gatherings of men that meet once a month for lunch. Some of this group of seniors, The Old Dogs, have met for nearly 20 years.

During Brenda’s career, she was for a time assigned the position of Loaned Executive to the United Way, where she tackled challenges while working with private, public, and nonprofit partners. A member of the last graduating class of Parker-Gray High School, she was pivotal in obtaining a Historical Street Marker Sign at the site of the school.  She has acted as the chairperson for her last three milestone class reunions. Brenda created a Birthday Luncheon three years ago to “widen the net” and capture more seniors. The group meets on the third Saturday of every month to celebrate birthdays of that month, with over 50 seniors on the roster.

Wintermute, a lifelong Alexandrian and graduate of Saint Agnes Episcopal School, received a degree in political science from The College of William and Mary. During her 35-year career in real estate, she made over $1 billion in career sales and was named the Realtor of the Year, the highest honor bestowed by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

Wintermute was named a Living Legend of Alexandria in 2014 and was honored as the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year. She was President of Wintermute, Jackson and Donatelli Realtors (WJD Associates). She sold the 100-agent firm in 1996 to a Washington-based firm, Pardoe and Graham (now Coldwell Banker Realty), where Wintermute is Vice President.

For the last 14 summers, Wintermute has traveled on a mission trip to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to volunteer in an orphanage for 72 needy young girls. The mission team takes the children clothing, books, games, and health supplies.

“We have such a caring community,” Wright said. “We just want to thank everyone who supported the gala and our older adults in our community. Alexandria is a special place.”

Kate Garvey, director of Alexandria Human Services, won the coveted raffle prize of a concert package for two to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Nationals Park in September. 

Music for the evening was provided by Bruthers Plus One and Benchmark at Alexandria was presenting sponsor for the event.

Said Benchmark at Alexandria senior executive director Douglas Buttner, “It was truly an honor to be the presenting sponsor for such a remarkable organization and celebrate all they do to impact the lives of our seniors in the Alexandria area.”