Erika Rizkallah from Centreville’s New Life Christian Church was only expecting a grocery bag full of linens when she first got the call from Holly Browder, a member of her church.
HOWEVER, as the vice president of operations of Axar Hotels, Browder had much more than one grocery bag in mind. The Staybridge Suites in Chantilly had changed its designs in December and needed all-white sheets instead of beige. This meant that the hotel needed to purchase brand new linens and get rid of the 2-year-old versions, which were in great condition.
So when Browder told Rizkallah that she wanted to donate linens from 116 suites, including towels, blankets, comforters, pillow cases, and sheets, Rizkallah momentarily fell silent and then said, “Wait, can you repeat that?”
“Hey, I have a lot of towels and sheets,” Browder said.
Although the sheer numbers were overwhelming, Rizkallah and Browder recruited help and got the project started. The goal was to distribute the linens before the cold weather set in before Christmas, and this was accomplished in three weeks.
The housekeeping team at Staybridge Suites washed everything, folded it, and packed it into boxes. In addition, there were also 30 volunteers from New Life and Passion for Community (New Life Christian Church’s community impact non-profit), several parents from the Boyd School in Chantilly, and volunteers from various shelters and organizations where the linens were distributed.
Ultimately, “more than 250 families were affected in the Northern Virginia area because of Staybridge Suites,” Rizkallah said.
SOME 75 SETS of linens were distributed to SERVE, a 60-bed homeless shelter that assists individuals and families and promotes economic independence.
“It was the best thing because we were in need at the time," said Matthew Burrell, director of SERVE. "Because Staybridge Suites gave so much, we were able to give some linens away to people who were starting out on their own.” Organizations like SERVE need people helping and donating things to succeed. “To see people dedicate their time to helping us with such lovely smiles was great,” said Burrell.
Linens also went to the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter. “We put the towels given into circulation and sent the sheets to a local thrift shop because they were for full-sized beds and we only have twins, said manager Aliya Razvi. "The thrift shop really appreciated it.”
Browder believes the best part of giving away the linens was knowing that many people weren’t cold on Christmas because of the effort of everyone involved in the project. “It was so exciting to help. We hope that other hotels will do the same thing in the future,” says Browder. “We were able to help so many people in our local area, but there was so much that it went even further from there. Some linens went as far as West Virginia.”
As for Rizkallah, she also hopes that other hotels and businesses will donate in the future. If people and companies don’t know where to donate their things, Rizkallah has an answer. “Call us,” she says. “I’m hoping that people will see New Life as a place where stuff like this can happen, and I hope that they’ll call.”