|Jerry Berman initially heard about HomeAid through his involvement with NVBIA, and the more he heard, the more he began to think that becoming involved with HomeAid would not only be good for his company’s team members, but that it would also be a good way for his company to give back to the community. As builders, they were in a unique position to help.
“Eventually, one thing led to another, I ended up on the board, and I have loved it ever since,” he said. With his term as 2017 president winding down, he reflects on his year and looks forward to many additional years volunteering with HomeAid. “This year has been a tremendous honor,” he said. “I am really lucky to have had this opportunity, and I am thankful for it.”
Q: With your term as president of HomeAid’s Board coming to a close, what would you say has been your favorite thing about serving?
The way the HomeAid board is structured, every board member has an opportunity to contribute, and every member really does contribute. So, serving as president is really not that different than serving on the board. One thing that I really enjoyed as president, though, was the chance to work with other nonprofits and community organizations. HomeAid’s president and executive director typically attend fundraisers and award dinners for other local charitable organizations, and I enjoyed the chance to meet the wonderful people who are involved in these organizations and learn how they, like us, serve the community. And, of course, we always enjoyed and were honored to be recognized for the contributions that HomeAid makes to the community. Those are some of the special things that I will always remember.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges that HomeAid encountered during your tenure as president?
Finding new builders to get more involved – that’s consistently our biggest challenge. There are a fair number of builders who have been involved for a very long time and have remained committed and involved. As we continue to do more projects and renovations, we rely on builders to lead the way. Going back to the well as many times as we do with the same group is difficult. So, what we tell builders is just try it once, and we promise that you and your staff will really like it. The work that we do is very rewarding, and it is a welcome diversion from what builders do every day, when they are working to make a profit. This is a different kind of reward, and it is more than satisfying.
Q: What were some highlights of the past year with HomeAid?
Every project is special, but the opportunity to see the clients who are going to move into a renovated home continues to be the best part of HomeAid. To see the happiness and disbelief that they are going to have a comfortable home, and knowing that this will help them in their lives, makes it all worthwhile.
In terms of a particular project, Community Lodgings was very exciting. We completely gutted a seven-unit apartment building in Alexandria and rebuilt and redecorated it. There is a learning center there too. I single it out because we did the project in a different way than how we have typically done them: For this project, there was a consortium of builders, because it was an $775,000 project and we weren’t able to get a single builder to step up as Builder Captain. So, we put together a consortium of four Builder Captains who agreed to do it, and it worked really well. Typically, we all compete with each other in the industry, but in this case, everybody worked together very well, of course. It was a great project and probably the highlight of the work we did all year.
Another highlight was the Annual Gala. It’s always great, but as president, you get a lot more involved in the planning and the decisions that need to be made. You get to see behind the scenes how much effort goes into making the event happen, and it’s remarkable. There is a committee that has been doing it for a number of years that gets very little accolades for the amazing work that they do, and they create this great fundraising event every year. It was the best year ever, and the whole night is a lot to be proud of.
Q: What will you miss about serving as board president of HomeAid?
I’m going to stay very involved with HomeAid. I plan to remain on the board, and I don’t plan on missing anything. In addition, there are certain duties that the immediate past president has, so there won’t be a whole lot of change – I just won’t be signing the checks like I was before.
I will also be involved on some HomeAid committees. For example, the Shelter Projects Committee initially vets the new applications for work; we go out and visit the home or shelter and really assess whether it fits within our mission, and we meet with the organization. We are always interested in helping, but we want to work with organizations that we know are set up to successfully maintain a new or renovated property. I really enjoyed serving on that committee, and I will probably get back into that.
Q: What is it about HomeAid that makes it so valuable to the community?
There is not a lot of help available for people in need and for those who are struggling with homelessness. So many people, even in our wealthiest neighborhoods, do not have homes. In Loudoun County, the wealthiest county in the country, there are hundreds of people without a place to call home. It is a tough situation to climb out of without some help, and HomeAid is valuable because it provides housing that is dignified and similar to what others live in. The homes that HomeAid builds can provide a sense of pride and a ray of hope for people who move into them. That’s very special, and everyone benefits from that. HomeAid is a great organization, and we’re very lucky to have the best staff, board of directors, volunteers, builders, and trade partners of any other organization. Everyone is so involved, and they all make it special.
Q: Other than serving the building industry and HomeAid, what do you like to do in your free time?
Number one is family. I have a wife of 43 years, four great kids, and one grandchild. Family has always been number one for me. I also love to travel and do so as much as possible – one of my sons has lived in Japan and China, and my daughter is in Germany, and we have visited them both often. We would travel even if they weren’t there, but having them there is an extra benefit. Also, I love to play golf. I’m lousy at it, but I love it.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of HomeAid Northern Virginia?
Our vision as an organization has changed some in the past couple of years. Kristyn, our executive director, is so forward-thinking and willing to try new things, all with the same goal of helping people with housing needs. We are really moving in a direction of slightly expanding our mission, but not significantly outside of the housing umbrella. We have been exploring some new possibilities; for example, we are talking with a church in Fairfax that has some property, we are talking with a care provider organization, and with a group that does construction for the homeless, similar to what we do. We are looking into collaborating with them, and we have never done anything like that. We are working with a tent city in Prince William County where there are a lot of people struggling with homelessness, and we are exploring ways to help them. We are partnering with SEVA Truck, which provides hot meals. We are spreading our wings, and a lot of good things will be happening in the future.