Volunteer group honors Birdsong

Published 10:27 pm Thursday, April 16, 2015

Suffolk’s George Birdsong was the humble recipient of the 2015 Lenora Matthew Lifetime Achievement Award during the 40th Annual Hampton Roads Volunteer Achievement Awards.

Birdsong, chief executive officer and general counsel of Birdsong Corporation, accepted the prestigious award from Lisa Grenier, of presenting sponsor Kraft-Planters, during an awards ceremony and dinner in Virginia Beach on Wednesday.

He spoke of his family’s company’s commitment to giving back and the benefit that has on society.

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He enthusiastically encouraged others to contribute what they can, making his point with quotes from President John F. Kennedy and Methodist Church co-founder John Wesley.

“For more than 100 years, Birdsong Corporation made its mark through shelling (peanuts), and for most of that time the Birdsong family has made its mark through giving,” Birdsong said in an interview aired during a video presentation.

The government can’t do everything, he said. “You need citizen input to help in ways government may not even be allowed to help.”

Birdsong supports many Suffolk organizations and causes, including the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Obici Healthcare Foundation, Suffolk Foundation, United Way, YMCA, Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

He also supports regional and state organizations, like the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance, Virginia Wesleyan College, Virginia Manufacturers Association, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Business Consortium for the Arts.

The award he received Wednesday is named after Volunteer Hampton Roads’ first executive director, who was also its first recipient.

Stepping behind the podium, Birdsong said he was “honored and surprised” by the award.

“I’m humbled to be with such a fine group of people who have received it previously,” he said.

“I must give credit to my corporate and personal family, because they deserve a large part of the honor.”

He thanked Sue Birdsong, his wife of 53 years. “She helped keep our household together raising three children,” he said.

Birdsong said volunteer service “for some reason” has always been in his DNA. His parents were active in civic and charitable endeavors and encouraged him to get involved, he said.

The concept of community service was perhaps best put by President Kennedy, Birdsong said, quoting his historic line, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

“Substitute country with words such as civic organization, neighborhood, school, hospital, church, family and you can name numerous more, and what you have is community volunteer service,” Birdsong said.

Quoting Wesley, Birdsong said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

That’s quite a challenge but a good one to attempt, Birdsong reflected.

“I’m really pleased that they call this a lifetime achievement award, because we all have a lifetime ahead of us,” he concluded.

“There’s much more to be done during the rest of our lives.”