(From left) Jason R. McDonough, HomeAid Board President; Jack Gallagher, Regional President for Richmond American Homes; Gene Wiley, President of The Closet of The Greater Herndon Area, Inc.; Kristyn Burr, Executive Director & CEO HomeAid Northern Virginia; Sam Harahan, Board Member of The Closet of The Greater Herndon Area, Inc.; Brooke Robinson, Owner Principal at David Robinson Architectural Workshop (DRAW); Pat Rhoads, Manager at The Closet of The Greater Herndon Area, Inc.; Diameng Pa, Mid-Atlantic Vice President for Purchasing, Richmond American Homes and Chris Edgecomb, Vice President of Operations for Richmond American Homes celebrate the Dedication of the new shelter addition at The Closet of Greater Herndon.
Photo by Mercia Hobson.
In reality, the project Chantilly-based non-profit organization HomeAid Northern Virginia recently completed for The Closet of Greater Herndon proved different from its typical work, but was a game-changer for the nonprofit thrift shop located in a 100-year-old building in the heart of the town’s historic downtown district.
HomeAid is best known for its collaborative construction and upgrade projects serving the regional homeless populations. HomeAid connects its non-profit partners with its vetted “Builder Captains” and housing industry trade partners who donate their time and resources at reduced costs. One example is the full renovation of a townhome owned by Cornerstones Housing Corporation, part of its 60-home scattered-site program which provides housing for very low-income individuals and families in Reston, Herndon and Centreville.
For The Closet’s project, HomeAid and Builder Captain Richmond American Homes kicked off the construction of a climate-controlled structure for the thrift shop’s donation intake and processing area and an ADA access ramp in the winter of 2019.
On Oct. 28, 2020, HomeAid, Richmond American Homes and 23 trade partners, celebrated their completion of the 600-square-foot structure with a Dedication Ceremony. “The new addition has been a godsend for sheltering our staff and volunteers as they accept and process the many donations we receive," said Gene Wiley, President of The Closet of The Greater Herndon Area, Inc.
FOR YEARS, staff and volunteers worked outdoors at the rear of the building where they accepted donations from the public then sorted, tagged and processed them before bringing them in the shop. Pat Rhoads, manager at The Closet called work conditions in the rain, ice, heat and bitter cold, “deplorable.” With the pandemic’s great decluttering, an average of 60 cars drop off items each day from 8 a.m. through noon. Work conditions changed with the new donation intake shelter equipped with overhead heaters, ceiling fans and custom fabricated doors to help regulate the temperature. “We are very appreciative of HomeAid Northern Virginia for assembling the construction crew led by Richmond American Homes,” said Wiley.
Jack Gallagher, Regional President for Richmond American Homes, said, "By providing the enhanced shelter to the rear of The Closet's facility, we're ensuring that donations from the greater community are being preserved." Previously items risked ruin from rain and snow. Richmond American Homes also replaced a stairwell and added a handicapped ramp, so the retail area is now ADA compliant.
Patrons visiting adjacent businesses and the Herndon Municipal Center located in the sightline of The Closet’s new shelter also benefit. Piles of donations are out of sight and the simple structure pays homage to historic references purposefully configured in its facade. The shelter evokes the industrial and commercial buildings that rose up in the town after the Great Fire of 1917 ravaged most of the downtown’s wooden buildings. Architect Brooke Robinson, owner and principal at DRAW, David Robinson Architectural Workshop, pulled inspiration for the industrial boxcar-red structure with corrugated siding from the town's iconic little red caboose on Lynn Street. The Closet's addition is a nod to the town's roots, a symbol of the railroad history that was its heart from the 1850s to 1968.
KRISTYN BURR, Executive Director & CEO of HomeAid Northern Virginia, saw the structure's build as supporting its mission. While housing is a critical element to help the homeless, beds alone are not the magic bullet. "Support services such as mental health, counseling, and job training are also needed to help people rebuild their lives and move forward to healing and self-sufficiency. The Closet of the Greater Herndon Area's support of housing organizations, food banks, health clinics and more supports our mission, impacts lives and improves our local communities." She added: “By building The Closet's structure using professional builders and trade partners, not only did it make sure the project was done correctly and timely but also saved 60 percent of the project's retail cost. The full retail cost would have been $120K, but thanks to the generosity of all participants, final expenses for The Closet were significantly reduced."