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Model for Nonprofits

Reston Interfaith recognized for service to community.

Reston residents and business representatives recognized another year of Reston Interfaith’s work at the organization’s annual meeting on May 15. Those who spoke at the meeting expressed pride that they live, work and play in the same community as Reston Interfaith.

Del. Ken Plum (D-36) said he was proud to represent a community of people who care about others. Plum and Del. Tom Rust (R-86) presented Kerrie Wilson, Reston Interfaith executive director, a General Assembly resolution honoring her.

"You don’t know, well yes you do, how lucky you are to have Kerrie Wilson," said Rust, as he addressed the crowd at the Reston Interfaith Annual meeting on Tuesday, May 15, at St. Thomas à Becket Catholic Church. "Reston Interfaith is a shining example of how nonprofits help people in their communities," said Rust.

Wilson said many of her colleagues who work with nonprofits around the nation often have many difficulties to continue operations. She said they have problems hiring and recruiting adequate staff, receiving community support and getting their boards involved in their activities. "I don’t have any of those problems," said Wilson. She said the community shows overwhelming support for the organization and the board of directors is sometimes too involved. As far as her staff is concerned, Wilson said, "I get to work with some of the most knowledgeable professionals you will ever meet."

SUPERVISOR CATHERINE HUDGINS (D-Hunter Mill) swore in Reston Interfaith and Reston Interfaith Housing Corporation board officers. She said the community she represents on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is one that works for everyone and cares for everyone. Hudgins said the officers she swore in are community leaders who promote the culture of helping and caring for everyone in the community. "I know those efforts could not happen without the stellar efforts of organizations like Reston Interfaith," said Hudgins.

Wilson said Reston businesses, as well as residents, provide the necessary community support to the organization. "There is definitely a corporate culture of caring [in Reston]," said Wilson. She said the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce is among the most vocal advocates of one of Bob Simon’s original goals for the community, that those who work in Reston also live there.

"It’s a no-brainer that the business community stays active," said chamber chairman Marion Myers. Chamber president Penny Pompei said she is impressed with Reston residents’ sense of community. Pompei is a newcomer to Reston, having become the chamber president in January. "I have been here for almost five months, and it is the most incredible community I’ve been involved in," said Pompei.

The success Reston Interfaith enjoys in community outreach is due to the fact it is located in the community, said Wilson.

RESTON INTERFAITH BOARD chairman Dave Bolton said the organization’s finances are in order. "Reston Interfaith is financially healthy and prepared to carry on its mission," said Bolton.

As a part of that mission, Reston Interfaith is getting involved in a number of issues and projects this summer. Erika Austin, a full-time student at Northern Virginia Community College and a mother of three, testified to the audience about the need for preservation of childcare subsidies. "If lost, childcare subsidy is a resource that would be hard to bear," said Austin. Bolton urged those in the audience to speak up on the issue. "Join us in the summer and fall to protect our children and working families," said Bolton.

Wilson said the parents who are working on preserving the subsidy have impressed her. She said one of the biggest challenges for nonprofit organizations assisting people in this area with their everyday lives is the lack of evening childcare.

While childcare advocacy has gained prominence in the organization’s advocacy efforts, Reston Interfaith is gearing up for more projects in the next couple of months, including purchasing its 37th townhouse by the end of the month. Wilson said Reston Interfaith would also be teaming up with the county this year to help unite the Stonegate Apartments neighborhood near the Southgate Community Center.

THE MEETING WAS ALSO a stage for the official announcement of the formation of Friends of Reston Interfaith. Bolton said there are nearly 500 inaugural members of Friends of Reston Interfaith. The first member of the group, and founder of Reston, Bob Simon compared the time when Reston Interfaith first started in 1970 to today. "When Interfaith started up in Reston, Reston was already a community where many of its diverse citizens were caring people, people who volunteered their time to benefit others," said Simon. He said people who came to Reston early had similar attitudes, and they considered helping the less fortunate an important priority. Reston Interfaith, according to Simon, has been a leader in this movement. "Interfaith has done yeoman service in steering our community toward desirable, humane goals," said Simon.

However, things seem to be different today than in Reston’s early days, according to Simon. "Unfortunately, these days, and for some time back, Reston has been infested by a minority of naysayers," said Simon. "These people have voted for reduction of their tax burden and against any amenity that would benefit the community if it were to be paid for out of funds affecting their pocketbooks."

Simon said the "naysayers" have effectively paralyzed Reston’s two governing bodies, the Reston Association and the Reston Community Center. "The elected volunteers of these two organizations have failed to recognize that naysayers, though only a minority, by making the most noise can seem to constitute a majority," said Simon. He added that with the formation of Friends of Reston Interfaith, Reston could expect even more service from Reston Interfaith.