Governor’s volunteer awards honor the exemplary service & volunteerism of individuals and organizations making a significant impact in communities across Texas
The 39th annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards, which celebrate the efforts of civic-minded Texans, were given to 14 people, teams, and organizations, including two Indian Americans, Vedha Vaddaraju and Samiksha Deme. They received the awards from Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott at a reception hosted at the Texas Governor’s Mansion on April 20, 2023.
Vaddaraju received the First Lady’s Rising Star Award. She is the co-founder of Letters of Gold, a Texas nonprofit, with the mission of uplifting residents and individuals around the world with letters of light in times of darkness. The nonprofit delivers more than 3,000 letters to different groups in need every month, primarily in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
“As a rising senior in high school, Vedha leads a team of almost 100 youth volunteers throughout Texas and has chapters of her organization in nearly 10 schools in the DFW area. Having had the opportunity to speak at global conferences for the past two years and being featured on various news sources in Texas, Vedha uses her skills to empower those around her to write letters and offers monthly training sessions for youth to encourage them to act in their community,” the press release stated.
A Sewa Volunteer, Deme received the National Service “Make a Difference” Award. She joined Sewa International’s Disaster Preparedness Group as an AmeriCorps Outreach Specialist and has been transforming critically needed disaster preparedness training for underserved and often marginalized communities. Deme’s preparedness training is centered on environmental justice, healthcare equity, and the crossroads between natural and human-made disasters. She also takes on volunteer projects outside her service responsibilities—from vaccine clinics to clothing drives for Afghan refugees to personal essentials for the homeless.