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Finding Your Community with Loudoun Cares

Finding Your Community with Loudoun Cares

If you are one of the 400,000+ residents living in Loudoun County, Virginia, how do you start to find your support network? Loudoun Cares makes it simple.

For everyone who needs some help, you can call the Loudoun Cares ConnectLine to be directed to the resources you need. As a hub that can refer individuals, businesses, and nonprofits to nearly 500 local programs, the ConnectLine has helped residents access basic necessities like clothing and rental assistance, as well as more specialized support like home repairs, job coaching, and holiday toy drives.

Photo of three Loudoun Cares staff and volunteers giving bread and pastries spread out over a large table.

This July, Loudoun Cares celebrated 20 years of caring for and connecting residents — responding to between 2,000 and 2,500 ConnectLine callers each year and having helped distribute more than $1.78 million in rent and utility assistance to families since 2020.

“When I was a single mom of two children at 19 years old, it was very difficult to have to choose between things like, do I feed my children or do I pay my electric or water bill,” resident Amber Valentine shared. “It would have been amazing to have a resource like Loudoun Cares to help take part of that confusion out and send me in the right direction.”

Dozens of clear glass trophies lined up on a table, each recognizing a 2022 Loudoun Cares volunteer

Founded in 2003 to provide affordable office space for small nonprofits across the county, Loudoun Cares continues to strengthen the critical operations of local organizations. Beyond providing rent-stable physical space, we connect over 260 local nonprofits with local volunteers, onboarding and managing them through the Loudoun Cares Volunteer Center. An average of 80-100 new volunteers access the Volunteer Center each month looking for opportunities. Since 2020, Loudoun Cares has seen residents volunteer an impressive 34,000 hours of their time by participating in service opportunities with nonprofits in their neighborhoods.

Loudoun Cares Executive Director Valerie Pisierra, wearing a pair of glasses, black blazer, and red top, speaking in front of a crowd“Our volunteers are a driving force in our community supporting our nonprofits and the populations they serve. This support allows our nonprofits to serve more people and stretch the funding they have, which we all know never seems to be enough,” said Valerie Pisierra, Executive Director of Loudoun Cares.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, roughly 30% of nonprofits cease to exist after a decade. As Valerie told Loudoun Now, “Given these statistics and the significant changes in Loudoun’s landscape in the last 20 years, we really do have reason to celebrate this milestone anniversary.”

Graphic with a purple background that highlights some impact statistics from Loudoun Cares' ConnectLine efforts in the last three years. Key stats include: over 9,470 unduplicated calls fielded, over 11,300 residents impacted, and $1.85 million total given in emergency financial assistance to families.

Want to plug in and help your neighbors? Visit Loudoun Cares’ website — they’ll give you a great place to start.

You can also support their work at the 5th Annual Loudoun Cares Art Auction on October 14, their largest annual fundraising event that features the work of local artists in the Virginia, West Virginia, DC, and Maryland regions.

A Place of Belonging with BroadFutures

A Place of Belonging

Written by BroadFutures

Since 2013, BroadFutures has worked to transform the workforce into a more equitable space for neurodivergent young people. We believe that young neurodivergent people have limitless potential and represent a significant untapped labor source for employers. By connecting young people to internships across different fields and utilizing our innovative support model, we help unlock that potential.

Photo of Christian Souvenir, a young Black man who is neurodivergent and participated in BroadFutures' internship program. He is wearing glasses, a suit and tie with a purple shirt, and is speaking into a microphone at a podium.

BroadFutures alum Christian Souvenir’s journey with us is an incredible testimony to the transformational power of our programs. Christian has ADHD and is autistic. Growing up, he also experienced other learning difficulties, including a speech delay and challenges interpreting social cues. Christian went on to earn a degree in Information Technology from Lawrence Technological University. Despite being highly qualified for a number of positions, Christian found himself unemployed after searching the job market for months. Eager to utilize the skills he cultivated during his undergraduate experience, Christian turned to BroadFutures, where he took the first step down a path towards great success.

With BroadFutures’ support, Christian was able to complete two internships. One was with American Institutes of Research (AIR) where he assisted in upgrading technology, managing systems and processes, and logging inventory. Impressed by his work ethic and adaptability, AIR offered Christian a full-time position as Management Assistant. He has now been happily employed at AIR for almost three years.

When asked about his time with BroadFutures, Christian shared, “Before I came to BroadFutures, I didn’t know about neurodiversity. As I learned more, I realized that Autism, ADHD, ADD, and others all count as neurodiversity. BroadFutures gave me a place where I belonged.”

Team photo of Christian Souvenir with his coworkers, all of whom are smiling at the camera.

Vicky Geis, Senior Human Capital Partner at AIR shared her perspective as an employer partner. “There are organizations that want to participate but don’t know how… Once you experience these young people, your company benefits. There’s no reason you wouldn’t. BroadFutures provides the entire template and schema.”

“In a world where there is a labor shortage, there is such benefit to having the perspective (…) these individuals can bring to an organization,” Geis added. Without BroadFutures, Christian said, “I would still be looking for a job and wouldn’t have the community that I do now.”

Christian and AIR’s story of convergence is a testament to the exceptional outcomes of BroadFutures’ programs for hundreds of participants. As we reflect on ten years of programming, we remain committed to our mission of ensuring accessibility and sharing stories like Christian’s.

Learn more about BroadFutures by visiting their website, where you can find information about their programs for neurodivergent young people and for employers looking to partner with them. You can also support their mission and work by joining them for their 10th Anniversary Celebration on October 21.

Quality, Accessible Health Care for the Whole Family with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC

Quality, Accessible Health Care for the Whole Family

An interview with Craig Rice, VP of Community Engagement at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC (RMHCDC)

Q: What led you to get involved with RMHCDC?

CR: As a former elected official, this truly is a full circle moment, as one of the reasons I ran for office was my family’s personal experience with long-term hospitalization and specialized treatment.

My cousin Trevor was born prematurely and received in-patient treatment at Children’s National Hospital for a year while he grew strong enough to go home. Fortunately, my family and Trevor’s mom, my Aunt Millie, lived locally. Everyone helped by taking turns staying with Trevor at the hospital, giving my aunt the time she needed to work and care for my other cousins. If my family had not been close by, the year-long treatment could have had devastating financial and psychological impacts.

A desire to ensure everyone has access to quality health care drove my role in local government and continues to fuel my passion for the mission of RMHCDC.

Q: Are there myths or narratives around care and health equity that RMHCDC is working to change? If so, what are they and how are you working to change them?

CR: There is a myth that treatment starts and ends at the hospital and only involves the patient. At RMHCDC, we know that treatment includes the whole family and ongoing support is needed where our families live and work. RMHCDC enables and facilitates family-centered care by ensuring a diverse population of familes with ill or injured children are fully supported throughout their health care journey.

“The support we received went beyond a warm meal, or a comfortable bed. Everyone saw us as the Bailey Family, not just a family with a critically ill child. Staff, families, and volunteers got to know us as individual people, not just a cancer family. It provided a sense of normalcy and strength that we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.” — Alia Bailey

Our core programs help meet a family’s psychosocial and basic daily needs, so they can focus more fully on their hospitalized child and be actively involved in their child’s care. Through our Ronald McDonald House programs, we make it possible for families to be near their hospitalized child and the care they need, without the financial burden that’s often associated with traveling to be near an ill or injured child.

In line with our commitment to achieving health equity, our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs provide underserved communities with access to healthcare at no cost to the families. We work closely with families, ensuring that they have access to ongoing treatment as needed.

Photo of a mother posing with her three young children by the Ronald McDonald House Charities Greater Washington, DC sign, all of whom are smiling at the camera

Q: How does RMHCDC define family-centered care and why does it use this framework to approach its work?

CR: Family-centered care is an approach to healthcare where the entire family is supported, engaged, and involved in the care and support services provided to their child. Families with access to Ronald McDonald House Charities programs can better participate in their child’s care and have a better hospital experience.

Q: How have things changed since RMHCDC was founded in 1980?

CR: Starting with one 16-bedroom house in 1980, we have since expanded our services to include two Ronald McDonald House programs with a total of 56 bedrooms, two Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs serving underinsured and vulnerable children in the District, and our Hospitality Cart, “Cart with a Heart,” operating at Children’s National Medical Center and Inova Children’s Hospital, providing bedside amenities and comfort to parents and other caregivers while they remain with their hospitalized child.

In recent years, we have also removed the mileage requirement, allowing more families in our community access to our programs. Newly opened oncology treatment units and the creation of specialized disease centers at two major area hospitals have increased the number of families in need of our services annually, as well as diversifying the population we serve.

Q: How does RMHCDC collaborate with other stakeholders — individuals, organizations, etc. — to better serve its community?

CR: In pursuit of our mission to ease the hardship of children’s illness on families, community, individual, and corporate partnerships are critical to meeting the unique needs of the population we serve. From clinical service providers that deliver care in our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs and hospital partners that welcome our Cart with a Heart on their pediatric units, to the thousands of donors that give their time, talent, and treasure, we are truly Built by Love.

Parents posing next to their daughter by the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC sign. The daughter, Natalia, is sitting in a wheelchair and holding a chalkboard sign that reads "Natalia is going home after 83 nights."

Q: What makes you feel optimistic about your work and/or this sector?

CR: Seeing the impact that our work has made on the families we support makes all the difference to me. I’m humbled by the many individuals and organizations that come together to allow us to support these families.

Q: Is there anything you aren’t often asked about your work that you’d like to share?

CR: A question many have is about our relationship with McDonald’s. We are grateful to call McDonald’s Family Restaurants our Founding & Forever partner since 1974. The generosity of time, funds, and in-kind services provided by the entire McDonald’s community have positively impacted millions of children and their families.

Although McDonald’s is our largest corporate partner, no single individual or partner can fully support RMHCDC as a nonprofit serving thousands. We rely on the support of our entire community to help deliver our mission. Donations from individuals and other corporate partners are critical to providing the services our families need.

Q: What can interested readers do to support RMHCDC’s work?

CR: Everyone has something to offer and we have a place for you. There are numerous ways to get involved and we encourage you to visit our website to get started!

For our upcoming 13th Annual Red Shoe 5k at National Harbor on October 8th, we encourage folks to register and create a team, fundraise, sponsor, or simply help us to spread the word to friends and family. Join us to Raise Your Feet To Raise Hope For Families and help us raise critical funding that will support our mission and the families we serve.

Photo of the Ronald McDonald House building

Creating Connections and Careers through VisArts’ Center for Craft Studies

Creating Connections and Careers through VisArts’ Center for Craft Studies

Written by VisArts

At VisArts’ Center for Craft Studies, students experience the joy of creating, the thrill of discovery, and the transformative power of artistic expression — while forging meaningful connections within our artistic community and preparing themselves for careers in craft.

Since our founding in 1987, VisArts has supported craft education and craft artists as a vibrant hub for the visual arts in Rockville Town Square. We recently launched our new Center for Craft Studies, an extensive initiative that will allow us to build on our longstanding commitment to ceramics, embrace new media, cultivate the next generation of craft artists, and connect with communities throughout the region.

Designed to help fill the void left by the closure of the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s School of Art and Design, which offered professional studies in the craft arts, the Center for Craft Studies includes a craft advisory council, ceramic artist residencies, master craft workshops and lectures, a craft teacher training program, and a unique certificate program that will mine the rich treasures of the Smithsonian, Renwick Gallery, Library of Congress, private craft collections, and more to survey the historical and cultural significance of craft.

A man wearing glasses and a green polo shirt is cutting out a complex geometric paper design in one of VisArts' paper-cutting workshops.

One of the Center’s most remarkable features is its broad range of offerings for students of all levels, from beginners to seasoned practitioners. Whether they’re captivated by the delicate artistry of paper crafts, the versatility of mixed media, the tactile beauty of fiber crafts, the timeless allure of book arts, the sculptural possibilities of ceramics, the mesmerizing world of glass, the intrigue of academia, or the challenge of business pursuits, there’s a creative path to explore.

Two participants at an artist work table crafting their ceramic sculptures in a VisArts workshop.The immersive experiences offered by the Center allow students to develop their skills, ignite their imagination, and tap into their creative potential. They provide a solid foundation in craft media and the creative industries, fostering a deep appreciation for the rich cultural heritage and contemporary practices within these art forms and fields.

The Center is more than just a place of artistic exploration — it’s a launchpad for careers in craft. Our programs are designed to equip students with the knowledge, proficiency, and confidence to succeed in their chosen field, whether they aspire to be a studio artist, instructor, curator, scholar, arts administrator, or industry leader. Graduates of the program are empowered to make their mark, bridging the tradition of craft with the evolving demands of the creative world.

A man wearing glasses and a striped blue shirt working on his ceramic sculpture during a VisArts workshop.

VisArts is passionate about fostering an inclusive community. We believe the arts should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or experience. Students will join a diverse network of individuals who share their love for craft and creative expression — and an environment that encourages collaboration, celebrates diversity, and nurtures artistic growth.

VisArts’ Center for Craft Studies is partially funded by Windgate Foundation, which provided a generous grant to launch the initiative. Visit our website to begin your creative journey with us — and learn about how you can help support the Center.