Last year at this time, Karen Velez scrambled to find a home for the Community Holiday Coalition. This year, she is doing the same thing.
"It’s an ongoing saga," Velez said. "We’re at a dead end. We don’t have anything. It’s time to put the message out to the community. We need some space."
For 10 years, the Community Holiday Coalition has provided Loudoun County families in need with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, decorations and gifts. Coalition coordinator Velez and her team work hard collecting cans, wrapping gifts and decorating Christmas trees to ensure Loudoun County families, especially children, have a memorable holiday season. In order to do that, the Coalition needs space to collect donations and store gifts.
Last year, the program helped 900 families at Thanksgiving and 1,200 families at Christmas time.
For the last four years, the Lerner Corporation, a leasing company, has donated approximately 20,000 square feet of space during the holiday season. But the Coalition has no place to call a permanent home.
"We would like to have a permanent home to collect donations all year long," Velez said. "If you don’t have storage, you can’t save a lot."
THE COMMUNITY Holiday Coalition coordinator would like to have a space secured by Sept. 1, for planning purposes.
"We need space to make the whole program happen," Velez said.
Even though she doesn’t have a space to call her own, Velez is busy making plans for the holiday season. On Nov. 11, Boy Scouts leader Brian Shiflett is expected to deliver 60,000 to 70,000 pounds of food to the coalition.
"I’m an optimist," she said.
In addition to thousands of pounds of food, the Coalition needs room to store clothing racks and decorated Christmas trees.
Leesburg resident Pat Wimmer created the Reindeer Express program. During the Christmas season Wimmer and other volunteers decorate donated Christmas trees and raffle them off to local families.
"We helped so many families last year, so many children," Wimmer said. "We worked with what we had to make sure people had trees on Christmas."
Wimmer said she needs about 5,000 square feet for the program to run at its best.
"Space is so much of an issue in the lives of low-income families," Velez said. "Whether it’s the cost of housing or, in this case, finding enough room for a program that distributes food and gifts to families during Thanksgiving and Christmas."