Executive Director’s Corner
For some, this really is the most wonderful time of year, with family, parties, festive meals, and beautifully packaged gifts part of the everyday. But for others, it’s a season of stress, guilt, and worry over how to make the holiday feel special for a child when money is tight. And for many others, it’s just another day on the streets, with the fight to stay warm and fed taking precedence over all else. In mid-December, HomeAid joined with our partner, SevaTruck, at a tent city in Woodbridge, where we together provided hot meals and distributed blankets, warm socks, and other winter essentials to the individuals and families who live in tents year-round – many of whom work full-time jobs. It was a day full of feel-good moments, and what I’ll remember most isn’t so much the level of need out there – which of course is enormous – but instead the smiles and hugs from people who have a seemingly endless supply of gratitude. It was a reminder that while we all have different paths, we’re all human. And while everyone has a unique story, we all respond to kindness – one man even tried to give me some hand warmers, when he noticed that I was cold. It’s a moment I’ve carried with me into the New Year, as well as a reminder to always take a moment to acknowledge the people we meet along the way – even the shortest of exchanges can change someone’s day. I look forward to applying that same spirit of outreach in everything we do as an organization this year, whether through our tried and true events or through new opportunities and new partnerships. I hope you’ll join me with a similar resolution. Happy New Year!
|HomeAid and SevaTruck Deliver Food, Winter Essentials to Homeless|
The first snowy winter weather of the season hit on Saturday, December 9, and HomeAid Northern Virginia and partner SevaTruck were out in force to greet it! With Board members and other volunteers in tow, the two organizations met in the parking lot of the Prince William County Drop-In Center, where they provided hot meals, backpacks, blankets, hats, socks, toilet paper, insulated sleeping mats, and other essentials to homeless men and women who live in the surrounding “tent city” in Woodbridge.
The residents, many of whom work full-time or attend school, are living in the tent city for a variety of reasons—but very few are there by choice; in a report by CBS-TV, Resident Dwyane Green explained, “It is like the safety net of life was snatched from under me, and that drop is a long drop.”
“I was a homeowner all my life, lost my home to foreclosure, my second husband quit his job and was unemployed for a couple months, and that was the catalyst,” another resident shared.
“It’s a common theme,” said HomeAid Northern Virginia Executive Director Kristyn Burr. “Very few people choose to be homeless, but for a variety of reasons, their life circumstances worked out that way. Not everyone has a safety net to fall back on, so when they hit hard times, they don’t have much choice. They’re still working, still going to school … but they don’t earn what it takes to maintain a home and keep up with commuting costs in this region. It’s a difficult story, and we see it every day.”
“As volunteers, it’s always rewarding to see a smile when someone tastes our meals,” added Sonny Kakar, SevaTruck Foundations’ founder. “We served veggie burritos with salad, cookies, juice, water, and coffee, and on a snowy and freezing cold day, we made all of our clients smile. This event really expressed the true meaning of the ‘Seva,’ a Punjabi word that means ‘inspired to serve,’ and that we must express our love for the Almighty through service to all of humanity without judgment or discrimination. Witnessing firsthand the incredible work HomeAid does for the most unfortunate members of our community was an experience that our organization will never forget, and we look forward to partnering with HomeAid again to make the present and future a little bit brighter for those in need in Prince William County.”
HomeAid and Van Metre Homes Nearing Completion of Women’s Empowerment Center Renovation
HomeAid Northern Virginia, Builder Captain Van Metre Homes, and 14 trade partners are putting the finishing touches on a $35,000 renovation project for ACTS’ Women’s Empowerment Center, so that the organization can serve a broader population of women and families in the Prince William County community. Currently, the Center provides the “Empowering Women in Transition” residential program for women and families, as well as the ACTS Rapid Re-Housing Program, which is focused on getting homeless individuals and families into permanent housing.
The full renovation of the 2,452 square-foot basement into classrooms and offices will enable the Center to offer all programming downstairs, while allowing the first and second floors of the Center to retain a true “home” feeling. Five chronically homeless women and their children, many with physical and mental disabilities, will each have their own one- or two-room units with private baths, sharing a spacious kitchen, living room, children’s room, and yard with a deck and new playset. Downstairs, women will receive diverse training provided by ACTS and community partners, as well as comprehensive case management. The vision for the Center is to become a central location for women to find all they need to live on their own and maximize their own potential.
“As a core part of our mission, we at ACTS are here to offer a hand when the community reaches out to us, and we reach out to our local communities whenever we can be of service. The renovation of our Women’s Empowerment Center will give us greater ability to do both, and to forward our work to change lives and create safe and welcoming communities for vulnerable individuals and families in Prince William County and its surrounding areas,” said Steven Liga, chief executive officer of ACTS. “We thank HomeAid Northern Virginia and Van Metre Homes for taking on this project and bringing it to life for ACTS and for the communities we serve.”
“This project has been a long journey, but will be so worthwhile once it’s completed,” said Mike Sandkuhler, vice president of building operations for Van Metre Homes. “The property was zoned as residential but changed to commercial, which required a host of changes in the permitting and codes process. It’s been another illustration of the value of having HomeAid at the table, helping the shelters through what can be an incredibly difficult process, but we’re now underway, and we are looking forward to providing additional space and comfort to women who would not otherwise have this option.”
|Thank you, Van Metre Homes and the following trade partners, for giving women the gift of greater economic independence and self-sufficiency.|
Alliance Contracting Group LLC
Miller & Associates
Sight and Sound Systems, Inc.
Van Metre B.A.S.E
|Mike Sandkuhler Elected 2018 HomeAid Northern Virginia President|
Mike Sandkuhler, vice president of building operations for Van Metre Homes, was recently elected the 2018 president of HomeAid Northern Virginia, following three years of service on HomeAid Northern Virginia’s Board of Directors and after having served several years leading the Prince William chapter of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association (NVBIA) and serving as NVBIA’s president in 2016. Sandkuhler has also served as a Builder Captain multiple times for HomeAid, first with The Christopher Companies and more recently with Van Metre Homes.
“I’ve enjoyed every single thing about working with HomeAid and the other board members during my tenure, and I’m honored to help lead the organization in 2018,” Sandkuhler said. “As a builder, I’d be hard pressed to think of a better way to give back to those who need our help, and I’m looking forward to continuing to strengthen the bond and partnership between HomeAid and NVBIA. In particular, I would like to see more builders get involved by taking on projects as Builder Captains—it’s an incredible experience, and I understand the hesitancy in taking on a project when life feels so busy and time-crunched. But seeing for ourselves the people who need help makes a real impact; I think so many of us are pretty far removed from stories like that in our daily lives, but they are all around us in Northern Virginia. It’s extremely rewarding to be part of an organization that’s helping transform and potentially save people’s lives.”
Joining Sandkuhler on the HomeAid Northern Virginia 2018 executive committee are Jerry Berman (M/I Homes), immediate past president; Gary Chandler (K. Hovnanian Homes), vice president/president-elect; Rick Cole (The Long Companies), treasurer; and Jason McDonough (United Bank), secretary.
In addition, four new members were elected to the 2018 Board of Directors: Scott Canan (Toll Brothers, Inc.), Alison Lee, Deepak (Dee) Kakar (M&T Bank), and Soledad Portilla (Stanley Martin Homes).
Many thanks to departing Board Members Jon Adler and Katherine K. Hanley; we appreciate your many years of service!
Donations Make Huge Impact for Shelter Clients, Homeless
It’s a season for goodwill and giving, and HomeAid Northern Virginia was blessed with a lot of donations to our Helping Hands program, which encourages grocery gift card and household essential donations for individuals and families moving into recently completed HomeAid projects. At the start of December, Intercoastal Mortgage Company collected diapers and blankets at their Christmas party, and Frontpoint Security dedicated a staff Happy Hour to us — meaning that we received 20% of all proceeds and a collection of household essentials for our Welcome Home baskets. Next, NVBIA Custom Builder’s Council collected blankets and warm socks at their holiday mixer.
So where do all the donations to HomeAid end up, and what does it mean to those who receive them?
For starters, donations of diapers means relieving mothers of sometimes-impossible decisions:
“Diapers are so expensive, and if a mother is faced with spending limited resources on a prescription for her baby or diapers, they’ll often feel that the diapers are an immediate need and the prescription can be put off,” said Meghan Huebner, vice president of residential services for Second Story. “And no one can donate prescriptions … so getting a donation of diapers means that those moms can refocus their resources on what their baby also really needs. We also have families in our programs who are contributing to part of their rent … so when times are really tight, they can quite literally be faced with having to choose between paying rent or buying diapers. Getting donations takes that level of worry and difficult choices away.”
Huebner added that larger-sized diapers are always in particular need, as babies outgrow newborn and size 1s and 2s so quickly.
Donated blankets will be distributed during the January 25 “Point in Time” count, when volunteers measure the unsheltered homeless population over the course of one night. HomeAid will be donating blankets to both Streetlight and ACTS, as both organizations help with the Point in Time count every year.
“Throughout the year, Shelter House is also honored to receive support from the community — through donations and through partnerships such as the one we enjoy with HomeAid Northern Virginia, who put in countless hours helping our neighbors in need,” added Joe Meyer, executive director and CEO at Shelter House. “HomeAid goes beyond their immediate scope of renovation and construction work to provide essential items to people experiencing homelessness, and we are so thankful to HomeAid for ALWAYS doing more, embracing our community, and leading the way by bringing equitable services to our most vulnerable citizens.”
SevaTruck and HomeAid Team Up to Fight Homelessness and Hunger
For the second year, HomeAid Northern Virginia has teamed up with SevaTruck, a nonprofit food truck serving nutritious hot meals to those in need. HomeAid’s partnership with SevaTruck has directly impacted the lives of many who struggle with homelessness in Northern Virginia. Carol Barbosa Jeliazkov, of SevaTruck, talks about the origin of the organization and its relationship with HomeAid.
Q: How did SevaTruck come about, and what is its mission?
A: The SevaTruck Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, serves to combat the effects of poverty in major cities across the United States where there exists a vibrant and engaged Sikh Community. The first city identified to launch the SevaTruck initiative was in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Of the three essentials required by all of humanity — food, shelter, and security — hunger stands out as the most visible and the most debilitating, yet the easiest to address. Embarrassingly, it remains prevalent — even in the nation’s capital where one in seven families struggle with basic nutrition. Even more alarming is that Washington, D.C., has the highest rate of food insecurity among children.
SevaTruck, a mobile food truck equipped with a commercial full kitchen, aims to expand the reach and impact of the local area network of organizations addressing food insecurity and poverty in our community. While the D.C. metropolitan area sustains several food banks, shelters, and food assistance programs, to our knowledge there was no mobile food service solution.
We aim to provide healthy, vegetarian, nutritious meals to individuals and communities in need, where and when it is needed. Our primary focus groups include underprivileged children and veterans. Often, some individual shelters find themselves low on food, or the physical location of a shelter may be inconvenient for individuals or families to reach. In other cases, organizations are looking for partners to supplement and complement their services with meal services. In either case, offering a convenient, dignified opportunity for a nutritious meal through the “coolness” of a food truck concept can be an enjoyable experience. From this perspective, SevaTruck serves to supplement the local food banks by providing a new experience for those with food insecurity and helping the broader network of food banks, shelters, and food assistance programs helping eliminate hunger in our community.
SevaTruck serves an average of 200 meals per event. The meals consist of an entrée, a side dish, dessert, fruit, and water. Our partners are located around the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, and we also serve Jefferson County in West Virginia. In addition to HomeAid Northern Virginia, we partner with organizations such as the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), a multi-faceted organization that empowers a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address the specific social, academic, and career needs of today’s youth. Another one of our established partnerships is with The Christian Life Center, whose mission is to assist the residents of Prince George’s County. The center holds a bi-weekly produce distribution of more than 15,000 pounds of fresh produce to anyone who comes to the center. We also partner with many Title 1* schools in Fairfax, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties.
We are excited to have just expanded SevaTruck this past Thanksgiving by building a second truck in Michigan; that truck will operate in the Detroit area.
Q: What motivated Sonny Kakar, SevaTruck Foundations’ founder, to start SevaTruck?
A: Rooted deeply in the Sikh faith, preparing and serving food for anyone in need of a meal remains the cornerstone of the “Seva” performed by most Sikhs world-wide. To honor and continue with the Sikh heritage, initiated by Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, of combating food insecurity in local communities, Sonny decided to launch SevaTruck.
Q: How long has SevaTruck had a relationship with HomeAid?
A: Kristyn Burr, HomeAid Northern Virginia’s executive director, reached out to us and proposed a partnership to honor Homelessness Awareness Month in November 2016. Together, we hosted a unique event featuring SevaTruck serving burritos to the homeless and residents of the Woodbridge tent city, while HomeAid distributed backpacks with winter essentials.
Q: How does collaborating with HomeAid help SevaTruck serve its mission?
A: HomeAid’s mission of “building new lives for America’s homeless families and individuals through housing and community outreach” complements our mission of eliminating food insecurity and fulfilling a higher purpose of serving the genuine needs of our community.
By complementing each other’s mission with our strengths, we can enable our clients to look for opportunities to get them out of their current situation. Both organizations exist to help fight poverty. Shelters may not always have the financial resources to provide food daily, and our partnership is one that can help fulfill that mission.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of SevaTruck and HomeAid?
A: We will always welcome the opportunity to do events with HomeAid. This was the second year that we did the Homeless Awareness Month event, and we hope to extend our partnership to other occasions: Every time HomeAid reaches out to us, we will be there!
*Title I is a federal grant. The purpose of this legislation is “to provide all children significant opportunities to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.”
Title I elementary schools with the highest level of poverty receive funds that are used for staff and resources to meet the needs of their students and families. Schools are identified for Title I funds based on the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Thank you to our 2017 Gala Committee! Many members have volunteered for a decade or more, and we were glad to celebrate their incredible dedication to HomeAid with dinner in early December—and also to start discussing plans for our 2018 Gala.
Call for Builder Captains
We have several projects lined up for the year, of varying scope, in need of a Builder Captain! Will this be the year you say YES to an experience that 2017 President Jerry Berman calls “a reward for the soul and spirit”? Contact Kathryn Kovacs for more information.
NVBIA President’s Ball
We’re looking forward to NVBIA’s President’s Ball on January 27 at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner – there’s always time for networking with colleagues and local and state elected officials, and we’ll welcome their 2018 president, Matt Kroll from Willowsford LLC. Please join us!
Point in Time Count
The region’s annual Point in Time Count, which measures sheltered and unsheltered homeless population during one night, has been scheduled for January 25, 2018. This important count provides a snapshot of who is homeless on a given night, and the statistics can be used to plan local homeless assistance systems, tailor programs, and raise public awareness of homelessness.
Save the Date!
Housing Forum – April 19 (venue TBD) This event is geared towards those who work in the field; more information will be sent out soon.
9th Annual Builders and Friends BBQ – June 21, The Barn at One Loudoun
8th Annual Night at the Ballpark – August 3, Potomac Nationals Pfitzner Stadium, for families living in local shelters
4th Annual Golf Tournament – September 21, Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club
17th Annual Gala & Auction – November 3, Lansdowne Resort & Spa