‘We Want to Go Far, Serve More People’

‘We Want to Go Far, Serve More People’

Britepaths honors supporters, volunteers in its new home.

(Back row, from left) Dave Sands and Mark Lipari, and (front row, from left) Pamela Davis, Catherine Read, Lisa Whetzel and D’Ivonne Holman.

(Back row, from left) Dave Sands and Mark Lipari, and (front row, from left) Pamela Davis, Catherine Read, Lisa Whetzel and D’Ivonne Holman. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

Britepaths provides food, financial education and workforce skills to Fairfax County residents struggling to make ends meet. And on Feb. 28, this nonprofit honored its supporters and volunteers with a special event showing its appreciation for all they do.

It also enabled attendees who hadn’t been there previously to see Britepaths’ new home. On Oct. 1, the organization moved from its old location near the county courthouse to 3959 Pender Drive, Suite 200, in Fairfax. Office hours and food pantry are Monday-Friday, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., or by appointment – 703-273-8829.

When Executive Director Lisa Whetzel first joined this nonprofit 14 years ago in 2005, it was called Our Daily Bread and had just three staff members, including her. Britepaths now has a staff of 21 and had clearly outgrown its previous office.

“Our old space was 1,200 square feet, with one office for one person, another room for three people, an open area with cubicles and a multipurpose room,” said Whetzel. “The new location is 3,900 square feet. It has six offices, and two of them are spacious enough for two or three people.”

It also contains a multipurpose room for social events, community gatherings, board meetings and client classes. There’s a room for small, staff meetings and client counseling, which the old building didn’t have. In addition, there’s a large, office space with cubicles, plus a countertop area with multiple workstations for volunteers and interns to use.

“All the furniture is donated,” said Whetzel. “And all the people who used to work from home now have a place to be, if they want to. Or, if it’s better for their schedules, they can come here and get some work done between their meetings. And our food pantry is four times the size of our old one.”

ADDRESSING THE EVENT ATTENDEES, Whetzel quoted an old, African proverb saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” She then illustrated it by relating that, in 2018, Britepaths’ 934 volunteers put in 10,410 hours of work valued at a total of $329,126.

“Together, we put food on people’s tables, keep a roof over their heads and keep their electricity on so they can stay warm and their children will have lights on so they can do their homework,” she said. “We also empower people with the skills to better manage their money and to get higher-paying jobs. And we empower them to believe in their future.

“We believe in the work we do here at Britepaths because we see the impact it has,” continued Whetzel. “Eighty percent of the people in our one-on-one programs achieve their goals. We believe that everyone wants to live a useful and fulfilling life where they can work and raise their kids in a safe environment. Our programs – with the help of our donors and volunteers – set them up for long-lasting self-sufficiency.”

Thanking all of Britepaths’ staff and board members, volunteers, financial supporters and those who give in-kind services, such as computer help, she encouraged them to keep contributing in whatever way they can. “We want to go far; we want to serve more people,” said Whetzel. “The need is growing in Northern Virginia. Help us go far together.”

Agreeing, Britepaths Board of Directors President Dave Sands said, “We have the energy to keep moving forward and see what we can do for our community. Look around this building and see the smiling faces in the portraits on the walls. They’re our clients.” Also thanking the donors, staff and volunteers, he told them, “None of this would be possible without you.”

Next to speak was Britepaths instructor Mark Lipari. “There, but for the Grace of God, go I,” he said. “There’s not much difference between our clients and us. And after a hard day’s work, seeing them smile puts a smile on my own face.”

Originally with Volunteer Fairfax, Pamela Davis has volunteered with Britepaths since 2017 and is a financial mentor. What pleases her the most, she said, is that “I’m actually helping people; they’re getting something out of what I’m telling them. And whenever my clients have a big win, I feel like I won, too.”

Also speaking was Britepaths Director of Development D’Ivonne Holman. “We’re celebrating 35 years, this year, and we could not have done this without your support, work, time, classes, mentoring and donations. And you’ll hear from some of the clients you’ve impacted at our Artful Living event in May.”

IT’S SET for May 2, from 7-10 p.m., at Country Club of Fairfax. The festivities will include an art sale and juried art show, live music, food and drink and a live auction. For more information, go to https://britepaths.org/.

“We really feel like, in our new space, we’re at a juncture where we can take this organization to the next level, able to serve even more people,” said Whetzel. “We have financial stability, an amazing staff and dedicated volunteers, so we’re thinking about how else we can help. We’ll hold a visioning retreat this year to contemplate our next steps toward an even brighter path.”

Also there was Natalia Ermicioi, a college student and part-time administrative assistant with Britepaths. “It’s such a positive environment,” she said. “We give free services, from the bottom of our hearts, because we know they’ll help change people’s lives.

“I know the clients’ names and stories,” she continued. “When they go from not being able to cover their expenses to telling me, ‘I saved $40 this month,’ that’s a huge step for them. And it’s our pleasure to help them.”