Birdsong honored, gives money to Salvation Army

Published 10:14 pm Friday, November 4, 2011

George Birdsong has done plenty of fundraising and philanthropy in the past, but this time he has combined the two.

Birdsong was the winner of Bank of America’s Neighborhood Excellence Initiative because of his “extraordinary philanthropic efforts” that have made a “significant impact in education and health and human services in and around Suffolk,” according to a press release from the bank.

Charles Henderson, left, Bank of America Hampton Roads market president, presents a check to George Birdsong that he then donated to the Salvation Army.

He was honored with the award at a Thursday ceremony at Mariner’s Museum in Newport News. As part of the award, he was able to direct $5,000 to a favorite charity.

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As one of the honorary chairmen of the fundraising for the Salvation Army’s community building capital campaign, he knew immediately where the money would go.

“I think I’d be shot if I didn’t donate it to the Salvation Army,” he said. “That was a foregone conclusion.”

The campaign for the building is at about 92 percent of its goal, said Bobby Harrell, campaign chairman.

The new building will be located next to the organization’s headquarters at 400 Bank St. The community center is planned to have basketball courts, a computer room, three classrooms and a wellness center. The Salvation Army envisions it as a place for community programs, after-school resources and programs to promote physical and spiritual health.

The goal is $1.95 million. That includes enough money for construction as well as two years of operating expenses.

“The only thing we’re waiting on for now is the architect to finish,” Harrell said. “Once the architect finishes his work, we’ll go to bids fairly quickly.”

In addition to Birdsong, the program also recognized Suffolk student Sarah Peelen for her volunteer work, as well as other students and adults from throughout the region.

Peelen completed a paid internship at the James L. Camp Jr. YMCA in Franklin this summer as part of the Student Leaders award from the bank.

In addition, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and Arc of the Virginia Peninsula were honored at Thursday’s event and presented with $200,000 each.