The Madison House Alumni Council (MHAC) will welcome eight new members this autumn. 
The incoming 2014-2015 MHAC cohort includes Sruti Balakrishnan, Juliana Bush, Ellie Canter, Ashley Chappo, David Gogal, Brendan Hesselbein, Alison Lawrence, and Lauren Prial. 

MHAC is a dedicated group of Madison House alumni whose purpose is to support and strengthen the tradition of service at Madison House and in their own communities. Formed in 2002, MHAC seeks to build a dynamic and responsive alumni organization that focuses on education, fundraising and networking. 

Congratulations to our newest MHAC members and thank you for your support of Madison House!

(Photo: Sanjay Suchak for UVAToday)

(Photo: Sanjay Suchak for UVAToday)

Congratulations to Michael Bugas, a Madison House volunteer with the Big Siblings Program, for receiving the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the 2014 Valedictory Exercises at the University of Virginia!

Since 1890, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation has presented annual awards to graduating seniors, faculty, alumni and community members of 61 universities and colleges in the American South who are determined to have demonstrated notable character, integrity and service.

The awards are presented each year to two distinguished U.Va. fourth-year students – one male and one female – and a member of the University community in memory of the awards’ namesake, a New York lawyer, businessman and philanthropist.

One of the student recipients was Michael, who participated in the Big Siblings Program at Madison House. Michael became involved in every aspect of the life of his “little brother,” a Charlottesville elementary school student, going so far as to attend a parent-teacher conference “in order to ensure he was supporting his development in the most thorough and effective way possible.” Michael said he was “honored and humbled” to be selected.

Learn more about the 2014 Valedictory Exercises at the University of Virginia and Michael’s accomplishments here via UVAToday.

The Madison House Alumni Council has recognized Geoff Johnson as the 2014 Alumni of the Year. Geoff’s dedication to Madison House and its mission since graduating from UVA in 2010 has been extraordinary.

At Madison House, Geoff served as a Program Director for Latino and Migrant Aid and volunteer for Big Siblings. In 2012, he contacted Madison House and said that he wanted to run the New York City Marathon and fundraise on its behalf. Sadly, the race was cancelled due to the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Sandy. But in the truest spirit of service and community, Geoff traveled to New York City that weekend and gave his time to help with the clean-up work for residents hit by the storm. He then chose to run the Richmond Marathon two weeks later to fulfill his racing and fundraising goals.

Undeterred by 2012’s cancellation, Geoff chose to raise the stakes in 2013 and run the New York City Marathon for Madison House and a sustainability project in the Badlands, South Dakota. He completed the race and was able to raise over $3,500 for Madison House.

Geoff currently works as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State. He is also an active member of the MH Alumni Network of DC and has volunteered at recent events with Turning the Page, DC Central Kitchen, and Lost Dog and Cat Rescue. His passion for Madison House has inspired the entire MH family and helped MH receive more media attention. If you don’t believe us, just check out this video on what energized him to run for Madison House!


On April 3, in conjunction with the Virginia Club of New York, the Madison House Alumni Council held a fundraising event at the 40/40 Club in New York City. University alumni came together to catch up and reminisce about their days in Charlottesville. The venue generously donated the tab for the event, meaning that all proceeds from admission fees and donations went directly to support Madison House.

Additionally, attendees purchased raffle tickets to win fantastic prizes ranging from designer accessories to U.S. Open tickets. We thank the Alumni Council and the Virginia Club of New York for this fun and successful event!

Geoff Johnson’s story began last year and we’re excited to see the next chapter unfold on November 3rd. He has chosen to combine his two loves of running and community service to make a difference in the world around him.

Geoff and his little sib, while a student at the University of Virginia

A 2010 graduate of UVA, he served as a Madison House Program Director for Latino and Migrant Aid and volunteer for Big Siblings. Geoff contacted our staff last summer and said that he wanted to run the New York City Marathon and fundraise in honor of Madison House. Sadly, because of the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, the race was canceled. But in the truest spirit of service and community, Geoff gave his time to help with the clean-up work for residents of New York City hit by the storm. He then chose to run the Richmond marathon 2 weeks later.

This tenacious young alumnus was undeterred by last year’s race cancellation and instead has chosen to raise the stakes this year and run the New York City Marathon for Madison House and the Badlands Sustainability project. He has shared entertaining updates of his training runs along the way with us ranging from running in St. Petersburg, Russia to running 16 miles from his D.C. apartment to his parent’s home in Maryland.

In addition to Madison House, Geoff is raising money for the Badland Sustainability Project.

Geoff’s final challenge to us is that we have: One Week to Choose Your Own Adventure!

“Thank you to everyone who has shown such tremendous support for my running and fundraising these past months. I am sincerely and deeply grateful, and know that Madison House and the Badlands Natural History Association are, as well! For those who would still like to share the love, don’t forget that there’s still time to choose your own adventure and support one of their three amazing causes!

Madison House Friends and Alumni, let’s gather around one of our own and help Geoff write the last chapter of his story and support his run this week! No matter where we are in the world, let’s cheer Geoff on as he runs on Saturday.


by Stephanie Passman ’09

The Madison House Alumni Council has recognized Colleen Laurence with the 2013 Alumni of the Year Award. Her devotion to helping others, be they people or animals, has continued well past her 2007 graduation from U.Va.

A Foreign Affairs and Studies of Women and Gender double major, Colleen was devoted to service activities during her undergraduate years at U.Va. She was a dedicated Madison House volunteer and a Pet Pals Program Director. According to Colleen, “I really loved the responsibility that Madison House entrusted in us as program directors – from recruitment and volunteer training to cultivating new volunteer opportunities and meeting with community partners. I don’t think I fully appreciated that facet of the program till I started working with other organizations and realized the liberty that we had. That freedom, or emphasis on student self-governance, cultivated a unique sense of responsibility and made both the programs and volunteers themselves stronger and more intrepid.” In addition to being a Madison House leader, Colleen led trips through Alternative Spring Break and was also involved with the Young Women Leaders Program.

Upon graduating, Colleen was a field organizer for the Global AIDS Alliance. After that, she joined the Peace Corps, first serving as a Health Education Volunteer in Mauritania, and then as a Public Health Volunteer in Rwanda. During her first assignment, Colleen worked with local secondary school students to create a peer health education group and with local healthcare providers to organize in-service trainings to advance their professional needs. In Rwanda, she switched her focus to work on improving data management and analysis practices and water and sanitation infrastructure in her district’s clinics. Colleen recently returned to Charlottesville and now volunteers at the Charlottesville Free Health Clinic, reinforcing her desire to work with low resource populations when she finishes medical school.

Of course, Colleen has not forgotten her Madison House roots. Just recently, she fostered a cat from the same SPCA where her Pet Pals volunteering began!

Supporters of five Madison House programs are competing to see, who can raise the most money to further the Madison House mission. Big Siblings, Bridging the Gap, CASH, HELP Line, and Holiday Sharing alumni and students are spreading the word about the work each of their programs do. Organizers hope to raise $2,500 in honor of each program for the volunteer center.

Crowd-funding sites by program:

Big Siblings Page

Bridging the Gap

Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope


Holiday Sharing

Madison House currently has more than 20,000 alumni around the world. That is a massive alumni presence and a force for good, dedicated to the principle of lifelong volunteering and community service. Lifelong service has been at the core of the Madison House mission since its inauguration in 1970, but as yet, Madison House only exists in Charlottesville, VA. We think that should change.

The Alumni Network Project is a project of the Madison House Alumni Council

Last September, at the annual meeting of the Madison House Alumni Council, council members, seeking to extend Madison House’s great work and give back to our generous alumni, created the idea of a Madison House presence outside of Charlottesville. After a year of thought and research, the Council decided to establish a network that would allow Madison House alumni to easily continue the mission of the House in their own cities. We’ve called it the Madison House Alumni Network.

The Network’s mission is to bring the life and resources of Madison House that our alumni cherished at U.Va. to other cities outside Charlottesville. We also hope to draw alumni attention to the current status, successes and needs at Madison House in Charlottesville.  The Network was created as a response to the realization that Madison House has done relatively little in the past to engage and give back to its alumni that have given so much during their time at U.Va.

The Network will seek to provide alumni credible local volunteer opportunities, as Madison House does in Charlottesville, and encourage social interaction and conversation among alumni volunteers and Madison House. While still in its pre-launch phase, the Council has built a vision and plan of action. To get this right and provide the resources most needed by our alumni, the Network will initially launch as a pilot program in the Washington, DC metropolitan area in early January 2013. With success, measured by feedback from the alumni involved, the Network will be rolled out to other cities gradually.

The Network will stand on two pillars: 1) an online (or e-) community that provides alumni local service opportunities, relevant to their interests, and related to the current program of the House; and 2) local organizations made up of local leadership that organizes both service and social events for alumni of all ages. We are working with the U.Va. Alumni Association to establish the Madison House Alumni Regional Group of DC. With their help and support, the Network will be able to leverage resources and funds that will allow the Network to host meaningful, fun events in DC, without using any funds used to support Madison House at the University. The Network will also offer an online resource of local opportunities for volunteers in their cities through the current Madison House website. Local volunteer organizations will be sourced and vetted so that alumni know where to find the most Madison House-esque experiences around town and can be connected to current Madison House alumni volunteering with these organizations.

Membership will be free, and enrollment in the Network will be as easy as entering your personal information on the current website. And perhaps the best part: membership is extended to any and all alumni of U.Va., regardless of their involvement with Madison House on grounds. Madison House believes in lifelong volunteering, not just for its House alumni, but for all U.Va. alumni.

So, DC alumni, keep an eye out for updates over the coming months and a big launch after the New Year.  Alumni outside of DC – you too will be able to share in the incredible resources that the Network will offer.  We are looking forward to seeing you all in the Network!

This time of year always makes me nostalgic for my own college days. Maybe it’s the crisp fall weather and changing colors of the trees on Grounds. Perhaps it’s football season and the anticipation of trick or treaters on the Lawn. But it also might be the fact that I am two months in to my 10th year on staff at Madison House, and there seem to be daily opportunities for reflection and nostalgia.

To honor my 10th year as a part of the Madison House team, I have committed to sharing these reflections on our blog and in our newsletters throughout the year. During both my time as a student at Madison House beginning in the fall of 1995, and during my tenure on staff, I have learned so much. Those lessons seem like a good place to start…

Five things I learned from Madison House as a student that are still true today:

1.      Volunteering is good for you.

When I signed up to be a Day Care volunteer through Madison House the fall of my 1st year, I am sure my motivations ranged from the social to the altruistic. That is probably true for most students. But I don’t think I realized until I had been volunteering for awhile just how good it can feel. Taking a break from the busy days and weeks, focusing on the volunteer experience and not just yourself—it’s refreshing, and grounding. As a student, I needed that. And as an adult, I still do. Taking time out to volunteer—and encouraging others to do the same—is a good thing.


Me in my favorite ‘90s rainbow sweater with my fellow Day Care PDs and our staff advisor

 2.      You can learn just as much outside of the classroom as you can inside.

I used to fret that I was spending too much time in meetings and activities, and not enough time in the library. By about my 3rd year, I stopped worrying about that.  While I might not have graduated with the absolute highest GPA, I got an excellent education inside U.Va. classrooms. But outside of the classroom, out in the University and local communities, I learned incredibly valuable lessons as well. I got hands-on experience, and developed real relationships with people in the community. I could apply what I was reading in books and articles out in the ‘real world’ context of my internships, volunteer shifts, and group meetings. Not only has this fact remained true for me throughout graduate school and my professional career thus far, but I believe it to be true for the students we work with today at Madison House and U.Va.

 3.      Even the strongest student leaders can benefit from staff advisors.

One of my favorite aspects about Madison House is the bond that is built between Program Directors and the staff. The staff that worked here in the late 90s (Cindy, Deb, Dave, Julie, etc.) became my friends, my mentors and my family away from home. I also valued their advice and perspective, and sought it regularly. While I have always been a believer in and proponent of student self-governance, I think it is a sign of a good leader to embrace support and guidance from time to time. When I look back at the almost 10 years of student interactions I have been lucky to have as a staff member, I have tried to maintain a balance between friend and advisor, and to support or challenge when appropriate. It’s also important to be real and authentic with students—they can learn just as much from me when I am stressed or having a bad day as they can when things are ‘sunshine and lollipops’ (our current favorite theme song for Madison House!) I will always treasure the student-staff relationships that I have developed over the years!

The current Madison House staff at our fundraiser last spring

4.      Relationships are at the heart of service.

You can find all different kinds of relationships in service: mutually beneficial, transactional, meaningful, and even challenging. But in all relationships, there is a connection that you make with others, and it is incredibly impactful. As a student volunteer, I built relationships with my PDs, my community partners, my peers, and especially the children at my sites. The connections began with listening, observing, and being present during our time together. Over time they grew deeper, and I understood the importance of consistency, accountability, and follow through in service. At Madison House today, developing positive relationships, maintaining good communication and accountability, and understanding the impact of their service are some of the most important lessons that we are still learning, as well as teaching to our students.

5.      Your community is more than just where you live.

I probably appreciate this lesson more today than when I was a student. We all define community in different ways, and for different reasons. But in terms of getting involved locally, I think that volunteerism is the ideal way to get to know a community. This summer I moved to Richmond, Virginia, and I commute to Charlottesville daily. What an opportunity that I have now to expand my community!  I will always credit my Madison House experiences with opening my eyes and my heart a little wider, and teaching me how to more fully engage.

When did you graduate UVa and what was your major?

I graduated UVa in 2010 with a double major in Foreign Affairs and Spanish.


What program did you do at Madison House and what was your favorite part about volunteering there?

I was involved in three programs at Madison House during my time at UVa: Latino and Migrant Aid (3 years); Big Siblings (3 years); and Abundant Life (1 year). My favorite part about volunteering in these programs was the relationships I established with everyone around me – with persons I tutored, my little sibling, fellow volunteers, program directors and members of the greater Charlottesville community. It was fantastic meeting, working with and learning from all of these wonderful people. It felt like an extension of the warm and welcoming UVa community.


Tell us a bit about your decision to run a marathon!

I was in New York City for last year’s marathon and was literally “moved” by it. The thousands of runners, the exciting atmosphere, and the movement of it all – it was something I knew I had to be a part of the following year. If you’re not up for running the NYC marathon, I highly recommend coming to see it!


What advice would you give to a 1st year volunteer?

As a 1st year volunteer, I remember feeling limited to the grounds and was excited to venture further into Albemarle County to volunteer each week. The greater Charlottesville community has so much to offer. To a 1st year volunteer, I would say reach out to Charlottesville! I can’t emphasize how rewarding it was to connect with the people and places I worked with through Madison House. One of my most memorable moments as a volunteer was attending barbecues at the homes of the people we were tutoring, having good food and drinks in great company.


What is a super fun fact about yourself?

Following some late night grocery shopping, I once drove from Charlottesville to New York City at 2 a.m. with two friends upon spontaneously deciding that the apples at Harris Teeter weren’t big enough. We had a blast in the city for the day, and drove back that same night (with loads of caffeine!).

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