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Group behind George Washington’s Mount Vernon honored by governor, first lady

Virginia First Lady Suzanne Youngkin presents the Spirit of Virginia award to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (official photo by Shealah Craighead)

The nonprofit responsible for historic preservation at Mount Vernon collected a state-level honor last week.

The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association received the first of six 2024 Spirit of Virginia awards from Gov. Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin on Friday (March 15).

“It is fitting that during Women’s History Month we celebrate the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association’s centuries-old commitment to preserving one of our Commonwealth’s most historic homes,” Suzanne Youngkin said in a press release.

The Spirit of Virginia awards recognize people and organizations nominated by the governor’s cabinet secretaries and then selected by the first lady and governor. The criteria, per the first lady’s website, requires that honorees be service-oriented, pioneering, innovative and industrious, reinvigorating, imaginative, and transformative (in other words, have “spirit”).

The MVLA, which has owned the Mount Vernon estate since 1858, is a privately-funded organization that preserves, maintains and restores George Washington’s mansion, along with the surrounding grounds.

“We are honored to be the first recipient of the 2024 Spirit of Virginia Award,” Margaret Hartman Nichols, 23rd regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, said in the press release. “The Association’s legacy of stewardship began with our trailblazing founder, Ann Pamela Cunningham, and has continued for the last 166 years uninterrupted. It is fitting that the home of the man who was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen was rescued by the women who were first in preservation.”

The MVLA isn’t the first local organization to get this recognition from the governor’s mansion.

Last year, Fairfax City’s Cameron’s Coffee & Chocolates (9639 Fairfax Blvd) made the list for its work with young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One of 2022’s awards went to Vienna’s Jill’s House (9011 Leesburg Pike), a Christian non-profit that offers one-to-two day overnight respite care to kids, teens and young adults with intellectual disabilities.

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