In a yearly rite of spring, preservation advocates recently honored the entrepreneurs and volunteers who make downtown Culpeper a sought-after, talked-about destination.

Culpeper Renaissance Inc. recognized such people for their work and dedication to the community during its annual Volunteer Appreciation event at Piedmont Steakhouse on March 20.

The tax-deductible nonprofit group carries out Culpeper’s Main Street program, which blends business development, tourism promotion and historic preservation to enliven the center of the historic county seat.

Established 31 years ago, CRI annually selects a Champion of the Year, a Volunteer of the Year and a Partner of the Year to celebrate those efforts.

In 2018, volunteers donated 3,613 hours to CRI projects to enhance the vitality of Culpeper’s historic district.

Since 1997, volunteers have contributed 50,508 hours through CRI special activities, adding up to $1.35 million worth of volunteer time invested in the community

“As we see the promotion of downtown Culpeper grow through CRI, we know that we can only be successful through our wonderful volunteers,” CRI Board President Tish Smyth said in a statement. “Thank you to each and every one that has given time, talent and monetarily to CRI.”

Downtown Culpeper is a designated Virginia Main Street Community, and won a national award for that work in 2012.

For 2018, CRI recognized Susan Bernhardt, owner of The Cameleer, a specialty shop on East Davis Street, as its Champion of the Year. This award recognizes the efforts of a volunteer who has supported and worked to promote CRI’s efforts in making downtown a destination for locals and visitors alike.

Champion of the Year

Bernhardt began working with CRI even before opening her brick-and-mortar location in Culpeper in 1993. She is a past CRI board member and board president.

She developed the “Be A Culpeper Local” campaign to educated residents and visitors on the importance of keeping tax dollars local, and has served on CRI’s economic vitality committee.

Bernhardt credits CRI for its many Main Street efforts in comments to news outlets and letters of support to businesses and government leaders, telling them of the value of being involved with CRI activities.

“She spreads the word about the work CRI and its volunteers do for the community,” CRI said. “Bernhardt’s entrepreneurial and customer service spirit have been an example to other Culpeper business leaders.”

Volunteer of the Year

Aaron Martinak, who chaired CRI’s Third Thursday Concert Committee in 2016, 2017 and 2018, was presented with the Volunteer of the Year award. The award recognizes an individual for selfless commitment to outstanding volunteerism.

To ensure Third Thursday succeeded, Martinak helped plan its events and conducted early-morning conference calls to make rain-date decisions. Martinak worked from start to finish of Third Thursday, well into the night, to ensure proper cleanup.

He also volunteered for the Gnarly Hops & Barley Fest event, helped organize other volunteers and, with his wife, Kim Martinak, managed the games of the inaugural Hop & Hog Community Block Party.

Partner of the Year

Culpeper’s UVA Community Credit Union was recognized as CRI’s Partner of the Year for its exemplary commitment and accomplishments as community partners.

After opening last June, the credit union has strongly supported CRI through its Stage Sponsorship of the Third Thursday Concert Series. This year, the credit union has been involved in the Grand Sponsorship of CRI’s calendar of community events, and will be a Stage Sponsor for the 2019 Third Thursday Summer Concert Series.

Appreciation Award

Jonathan Krawchuk received an Appreciation Award, which CRI bestows on a volunteer who has made an extra effort to be involved in the nonprofit.

Krawchuk volunteers for nearly every CRI event, manages special projects, makes speeches on behalf of CRI, and attends many Virginia Main Street training seminars. He has chaired CRI’s Third Thursday Committee and the first Hop & Hog Community Block Party.

Having served as a CRI board member, a vice president and 2017-18 board president, Krawchuk still serves as an advisor on the CRI board, and chairs its Design and Hop & Hog Community Block Party committees. Krawchuk is known for making radio-like announcements for events, and for contributing his services from setup to cleanup.

The Town

At its March 20 event, CRI also honored the Town of Culpeper, which has supported the organization since 1987, with many town departments contributing to Main Street efforts.

That collaboration paved the way for Culpeper’s success at revitalizing its downtown, CRI said.

“CRI is proud to acknowledge and show our appreciation for our amazing volunteers and partners, whose selfless commitment and dedication is a testament to our community’s spirit,” CRI Executive Director Jessica Jenkins said.

“The most vibrant and resilient organizations are made up of individuals, coming together and sharing their unique strengths,” Jenkins added. “I thank our volunteers and partners for giving of themselves for the benefit of our community.”

For details, call 540/825-4416, email, or visit

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