Opinion: Commentary: ‘A Huge Philanthropic Celebration’

Opinion: Commentary: ‘A Huge Philanthropic Celebration’

United Community. Yes, stop right there, you read it correctly. No longer United Community Ministries or UCM, it is now simply, United Community. This is a powerful new name to reflect “that only a united community can empower our neighbors in need to transform their lives and end multigenerational poverty” as was so compellingly stated by Executive Director Alison DeCourcey who unveiled the new name, logo, and focus, last Friday night during their 50th-year Anniversary gala.

Commemorating 50 years of neighbors helping neighbors here in the Mount Vernon and Lee communities, well over a hundred people witnessed a huge philanthropic celebration of United Community at the Belle Haven Country Club. For me, it was especially poignant as my 86 year-old mother, Addy Krizek, was recognized, along with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, as recipients of the Hyland Humanitarian Award. Former Supervisor Hyland was on hand to present each award and provided, along with some of his humorous patented puns, some fresh eggs and homemade wine from his farm on the Eastern Shore. It was a lovely gesture and underscored the homey, small-town feel of the event and our community. Many clergy, small businesses, and long-time friends and neighbors were in attendance. It was quite a glorious evening, full of generous donors and volunteers acting as a community united for an important cause.

My mother goes back a long time with the organization, and it has always been first and foremost in her heart and pocketbook. She was one of the original staff members, hired by the second executive director, Eleanor Kennedy, and worked for the third, Sharon Kelso, who she said was “... the most wonderful boss to work for in her career.” Later, my mother joined the Board of Directors and now continues to serve on its Emeritus Board. She, along with my Dad, taught me the importance of service to the community, and in my youth, I spent many hours supporting her efforts at UCM.

Since 1969, UCM, now United Community, has served thousands of people, starting with a small food pantry and clothes closet at the intersection of Fordson and Sherwood Hall where Bethlehem Baptist Church now stands. The neighborhood women, led by Pat Berg, members of Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, initiated what is now a legacy of caring with a clothing drive to help families in Gum Springs. Today, the charity is a critical component to the provision of human services in southeast Fairfax County. Indeed, it has five decades of humanitarian service in addressing the basic needs of impoverished families and individuals.

As my mom said, “This award is not just mine but is a tribute to all the people here, the community, the staff, the Board and volunteers, for the work they do.”

Now, with the new brand and looking ahead to the next 50 years, United Community envisions a bright future where everyone thrives and we see the end of multigenerational poverty along the Richmond Highway corridor powered by the community united to create systemic change.