The setting was the quiet, country atmosphere of the English Tea Room Restaurant in Woodward and Lothrop's Washington store. A former governor, corporate executives of a national cosmetic firm, the executive management of Woodie's and a bevy of Washingtonians turned out for a dinner Monday evening to salute members of Washington's volunteer corps.

"Professionals may have more experience and bureaucrats may have more money, but they don't have the love you need to get things done," guest speaker George Romney, former governor of Michigan and now chairman of the National Center for Voluntary Action, told the gathering.

The 1978 Volunteer Activist Awards were presented to five women and six metropolitan area service organizations. The winners was chosen from 150 nominees in the second annual Washington ceremony sponsored by Woodward and Lothrop and the Germaine Monteil cosmetic firm.

Individual recipients of silver trays were Washingtonians Elizabeth Cantarow and Evelyn S. Nef; Garde Chessnoe, of Annandale, Va.; Bobbi E. Piper, of Bowie, Md., and Sol delAnde Eaton, of Lanham, Md.

Representatives accepting the awards for the six service organizations were: Ann Warhauser, founder and program coordinator the Alexandria Rape Victim Companion Program; Mona Asiner, director of Project Transition, a conseling service for ex-offenders and their families; Horace Saunders, founder of the Metro Maryland Ostomy Association and Youth Group; Kathy Stief, president of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, a 200-member civic association representing the residents of south-west Washington; Dr. Margaret Rockwell, founder of The Washington Ear, a closed-circuit radio news broadcast for the blind, and Jo Ann Cubbage, chairman of Amen Inc., and Arlington service agency which provided $23,000 in grants last year to people in financial crises.

Sol delAnde Eaton, 41, a native of Venezuela and a resident of Lanham, is a cancer researcher at the National Institutes of Health. But she spends much of her outside time working in the Hispanic community and with volunteer organizations in Prince George's County.

Eaton's volunteer work has include setting up special workshops to help non-English speaking persons get community services and to improve their job-finding techniques. She also serves as a translator for Spanish-speaking hospital patients.

In addition, Eaton has provided emergency shelter to abused women, needy students and children of working mothers and is working to establish a halfway house for the mentally ill.

Eaton said her volunteer work, which also includes membership on the board of the Hispanic Association of Maryland, vice chairmanship of the Prince George's Commission for Women and the presidency of the Prince George's Mental Health Association, is part of a debt she owes to American women.

"I got all of my education in this country thanks to women's groups doing things for women 20 years ago," said Eaton, who did undergraduate and graduate work in chemistry at New Mexico State University through scholarships provided by women's groups.

Eleven years ago Bobbi E. Piper was told she had cancer. "I prayed if I didn't have cancer, I'd do something really important for people," she recalled. As it turned out, the diagnosis was wrong; Piper's prayers were answered.

Because of that experience and at the urging of her minister, Piper has mobilized community forces to established an activity center for senior citizens, has started a special bus service for senior citizens, and has set up her house phone as a hotline for elderly persons who need assistance or just need to talk to someone.

She is now working on a project to renovate an old Bowie building that will become a housing facility for senior citizens, and she is organizing a community food cooperative in the Huntington section of Bowie, where ther are no grocery stores, she said.

Piper, who is 58, spends part of her time running a catering business.