Toni Winters McMahon's days are a flurry of phone calls, meetings, interviews, luncheons, banquets and fund-raisers. Her evenings are much the same.
Her friends and colleagues describe the 1984 Fairfax County Citizen of the Year as "a doer," "an invaluable resource" and "goal-oriented, a leader."
McMahon is the 35th recipient of the annual community service award sponsored by the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations. The award recognizes an individual's contributions and accomplishments that have affected the lives of Fairfax County residents.
And after 18 years and endless hours as a volunteer and leader on dozens of county committees and organizations, the amateur concert pianist and former model finds this latest laud "humbling."
McMahon, who was born Catherine Antoinette Winters, is executive director of the Fairfax County Council of the Arts. She began her full-time job there two years ago as development director of the then-unstructured nonprofit arts agency.
"The job dovetailed nicely with schools and a need for the community in Fairfax. I saw a great challenge here," said the Keene, N.H. native.
McMahon's influence in Fairfax County has been in on the organization of countless committees, education programs and human service projects.
She established the Fairfax-Falls Church United Way Human Service Project for Human Needs Committee, which encourages high school seniors to volunteer at the county's various human services agencies.
"This program allows children to understand that, even in a county that has a lot, there are still needs not being met," said McMahon. McMahon said the volunteer human service program currently is being studied by other United Way divisions and public school systems in the United States.
McMahon also raised more than $100,000 to save the Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run in 1981 when the National Park Service withdrew its funding from the historical park, which is located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway, near Langley.
McMahon's fund-raising successes stem from her political and business connections. "There are so many resources she can tap . . . from [developer] Til Hazel to [Congressman] Frank Wolf," said Eleanor M. Duffield, who wrote the nomination letter for McMahon's recent award. "She sees a need and she plugs it."
McMahon said she's been asked to run for public office several times.
"I've been approached to run for the Senate in Virginia and for Mount Vernon District Supervisor," she said. "But I'm pleased being where I am. Besides, I need to be pretty nonpolitical."
McMahon started volunteering in the public schools by joining Parent Teacher Associations in the elementary, intermediate and high schools around her Mount Vernon area home. She eventually served as president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs for an unprecedented five years and became a regular board watcher at all county School Board meetings.
"I took care of the [four] children until they went to school and then I started volunteering," said McMahon. Three of her four children, whose ages range from 19 to 26 years old, now live in Florida. Her son, Woody, is a local chiropractor. She is separated from her husband.
Other associates call McMahon the mainspring for the county's volunteer organizations and say she lends credibility and political clout to its citizen activist groups.
"You have to remember she's from New England stock -- determined and rock-ribbed . . . . She never fails," said Kevin Bell, who serves with McMahon on the Federation of Citizens Association, which is the central legislative body of neighborhood associations.
Included in her rigorous work schedule are at least nine dinner meetings a month. She often skips meals ("I actually feel better when I don't eat,") and ends her jam-packed days with late night workouts at a local exercise spa three times a week and early mornings on weekends.
Sally Ormsby, another local citizen activist in the citizens federation, said of her, "I don't know if I've ever heard her admit she was tired. Most mortals would be out totally, but Toni keeps plugging along."
McMahon will receive the federation's award, The Washington Post Cup, May 9 at Tysons Corner Holiday Inn. The Washington Post cosponsors the award; the recipient is selected by the federation. Citations of merit will go to Barbara J. Fried and Jean R. Packard.