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Volunteer Work Pays Off for NIMH Diversity Chief

By Sophia Glezos Voit

The phone rang, displaying an unfamiliar Virginia number on the caller ID. The NIMH diversity director, whose office walls are already heavily laden with awards, plaques and photos, picked up the receiver. "John Miers," he answered.

"I'm calling from the Washington Redskins," the woman said. Miers was thrilled, thinking he won free tickets to a football game. But, as it turns out, he won $3,500 instead, as one of two runners-up for the Redskins Community Quarterback Award.

While the money won't fill his own wallet, Miers, who heads the NIMH Office of Diversity and Employee Advocacy Programs, was happy to learn that St. Luke's House, located in Bethesda, will benefit directly. In 1971, Miers helped found the nonprofit mental health organization — which provides housing, psychiatric rehabilitation, and other support services — and he has volunteered for them ever since.

John Miers (l) accepts check for St. Luke's House from Redskins backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

Pam Cudahy, president and CEO of St. Luke's House, said they nominated Miers because of his "longstanding commitment and leadership," and for the countless hours he has given them over the past 30 years (and mounting) as a volunteer leader, board member, staunch supporter and advocate. "But more than anything," she added, "he's compassionate and courageous." Miers stood behind the creation of St. Luke's House, she said, when such homes didn't exist. "And John continues to be a mainstay to help us grow and diversify. He understands the population's needs and the rights of people with disabilities."

After getting the Redskins call, Miers said he was stunned. "I'd never even heard of the Redskins award, so I figured someone was definitely playing a joke. St. Luke's House pulled a fast one on me."

Miers visits the locker room at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va.

Miers was chosen from a pool of nearly 70 people in the Washington area nominated for the Redskins award, for which 10 finalists were selected who "exemplify leadership, dedication, and a commitment to improving the community they live in through volunteerism," said Regan Campbell, community relations specialist for the football team. Along with his runner-up counterpart, the eight other finalists, and the grand-prize winner, Miers was invited to Redskins Park, in Ashburn, Va., for a tour and recognition luncheon in early December, with backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels bestowing the $25,000 worth of honors.

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