A certain quote by the late Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress, has always rung true for Vicki McKenna.
“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth,” Chisholm was famously quoted as saying.
McKenna has taken it to heart.
In recognition of her extensive history of altruism, she has been named the 2020 Outstanding Citizen of the Year for Upper St. Clair by District Judge Ronald Arnoni.
During a series of ceremonies Nov. 19, Arnoni presented similar awards to Cyd West and Jim Gastgeb of Bethel Park, the judge’s fourth year of honoring residents of the two municipalities in his magisterial district.
He spoke about McKenna’s youth in Whitehall where she watched the good deeds of her father, the late Louis Anania.
“That’s kind of what got her going in the direction of all the kindness and all the things she does for so many people,” Arnoni said. “Hoping to continue his legacy, Vicki got involved in many organizations.”
In the 1980s, she started volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, for which her family has provided strong financial support, and for the Parent and Child Guidance Center, now FamilyLinks, babysitting youngsters while their parents were in counseling.
When her children, Andrew and Kylie, attended school in Upper St. Clair, McKenna served as PTA president at Baker Elementary and Boyce and Fort Couch middle schools, and then as president of the high school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Organization. In 2010, the Pennsylvania PTA honored her with an honorary life membership.
Also with regard to education, she was appointed to Upper St. Clair School Board in 2004 to fill a vacancy.
The same year, she helped raise money and collect donations for victims of Hurricane Ivan, and she and her husband, Mark, volunteered to help clean homes that were affected by flooding.
Vicki has served on the board of the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair, which provides financial support for special programs and projects that are not funded by tax dollars.
One of her most visible contributions to her hometown is as director of fundraising for Upper St. Clair Veterans Park Inc., the nonprofit that is responsible for constructing the expansive memorial next to the township municipal building.
From 2009-17, McKenna chaired the annual Summer Swing event to benefit St. Clair Hospital. And in 2017, she was honored as a Woman of Distinction by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
Richard Thomas, the Upper St. Clair recipient in 2017, nominated her for Arnoni’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year award.
“I’m very happy and proud to have you as a friend,” he said,” and you very much deserve the recognition that you received today.”
Andrew and Kylie McKenna were in attendance to congratulate their mother and express their pride.
“It’s been an honor to watch you all these years and seeing how you always went above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak, as a mom and then as a volunteer in the community,” Andrew said.
Representing the municipality, Upper St. Clair Commissioner Pam Enck offered further plaudits.
“I think the biggest compliment I can pay to you today, Vicki, is every time I’ve been involved in something where volunteers are needed, your name always comes up. It’s, ‘What about Vicki McKenna?’” Enck said. “This is richly deserved.”
Mark McKenna acknowledged his wife’s long list of efforts on behalf of others.
“Even I had forgot how much you have done, and I truly am proud of everything you’ve done. Your kindness to others is truly inspirational,” he said.“Both of our kids have volunteered and continue to volunteer, and it’s because of you.”
Next week: Outstanding Citizen of the Year honors for Bethel Park’s Cyd West