By Krasi Henkel
Saturday, March 11 South Hughes Street, Hamilton, Virginia – Loudoun Habitat for Humanity Executive Director, Teresa Cashen, welcomed public servants, volunteers, friends, and the recipients of the new home to be built. The chilly wind and low temperatures did not discourage warm fellowship as all gathered around the refreshments table for hot coffee and pastries.
This was a long awaited answer to prayer for recipient, Danni Keith, and her two daughters, Alexandra and Samantha, ages 15 and 12, respectively. “We don’t look like we should be eligible for this tremendous opportunity,” says Danni; but continues, “Our lives took a very different turn after I was diagnosed with MS and became unable to work enough to afford decent housing in Loudoun County,” she explained. “Our rented housing increased from $1800 to $2200 over four years, and priced us out of the community; forcing us to move in with a friend,” continued Danni.
A professional fundraiser for the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department, Danni works on a part time basis as much as her health permits. While representing the VFD at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, Danni learned about Loudoun Habitat for Humanity from the guest speaker. The more she heard, the more she realized that she fit within the parameters of their program. She completed the comprehensive application and the wait began. Approximately seven months later, Danni’s application was approved.
Among the criteria for approval, applicants must provide “sweat equity” by physically working on the contraction project. Due to Danni’s physical limitations, she provided sweat equity by working at the ReStore and helping with the annual Gala. “My retail management and fundraising experience were perfect for those tasks,” says Danni. As the house nears completion, Danni says that her daughters will be eager to grab paintbrushes and rollers and “get to work.”
LHFH Board President, Jim Wehr reiterated the Habitat vision and mission, “With your help, we are giving families a hand-up, not a hand-out to a future that is full of hope and happiness. Thank you for joining us as we work to give everyone a place to call home. Volunteers are the heart and soul of what we do at Habitat. The key is ‘giving a hand up,’ to Loudoun families in need of adequate housing. In return, the families partner with LHFH to “build and improved a place that they can call home. The partnership involves the families, LHFH, and volunteers. At the end of the project, the families have a home of their own with an affordable mortgage. “Providing homeownership opportunities to these families helps them achieve the strength, stability, and self-reliance needed to build better lives for themselves,” said Wehr.
LHFH Construction Manager, Bud Green, introduced Danni Keith saying, “I am thrilled to death to introduce Danni Keith. She’s going to be great, great homeowners!” He went on to explain that the house will be, “very much like the homes across the street, 48 feet by 28 feet with a front porch. It will be a four bedroom home on a crawl space and we build them very, very energy efficient. It will be a beautiful home for a beautiful homeowner on this 18,000 square foot lot. It is the first of two homes on these two adjacent lots.”
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair At-Large, Phyllis Randall addressed Danni, “Your story is so inspiring and I thank you for your honesty. I am thrilled for you and I cannot wait to be here for the ribbon cutting.” Randall said, “Every family and every child deserves a place to live and call home -some place that is safe and warm.” Ms. Randall recalled a 2008 study of children with difficulty in schools, “The children with the greatest challenges lacked safe stable permanent housing. “You’re not going to study for your algebra test if you’re not sure where you’re going to lay your head that night. Habitat for Humanity, Bud, you guys do God’s work out here. You do it every day and you do it without fanfare and sometimes without notice. It is amazing work that you do for the community. Thank you for your mission, thank you for your vision, thank you for your goal. This is the only reason I would have gotten up on a cold Saturday morning,” she said.
Geary Higgins thanked everyone for including him and admired the LHFH mission, which includes God’s love. Higgins said, “What you folks are doing is laying down your lives and your time, and your sweat, and your treasure to do something for others. That’s a great commitment of a great organization.”
Hamilton Town Council members, Craig Green and John Unger expressed enthusiasm for the project and their new neighbor, “Having worked with Bud Green to build other houses, this will be a top notch house. Anyone who wants to have some fun and volunteer, this is a great project. We are thrilled to have a new neighbor in the town. Affordable housing is a big problem in all of Loudoun and we are thrilled that LHFH and Hamilton can help to try to solve this problem.”
Danni Keith addressed the group, “I can’t put to words what this means for me and my girls. We have had a long journey. My girls mean the world to me. I cannot express my gratitude to Habitat for providing us this opportunity. I can’t think of a better place to call home than this amazing community of Hamilton. Thank you all for giving me this opportunity to buy this house.”
LHFH Board member and Pastor of Leesburg Baptist Church, Barney Schwanke, gave the blessing dedicating the ground to God and reminding all of a verse in the Bible, “Except if the Lord build the house, they labor in vain.” Schwanke prayed, “…We want you, Lord, to build this house and that we see your fingerprints all over this house. We ask your blessing upon this property.”
With shovel and hardhat in hand, Danni was first to step up after giving hats to her girls. “We’re a good team,” proclaimed Terese Cashen, as shovels sliced through the soft earth and the first clumps of dirt were moved. The temperature warmed and everyone enjoyed one more cup of coffee in celebration.
To learn more about Loudoun Habitat for Humanity, visit their website at loudounhabitat.org.
By Krasi Henkel
Saturday, March 11 at the Lansdowne Resort and Spa, the annual Loudoun Symphony Chef’s Tasting Gala brought together patrons of the orchestra, musical performances by orchestra members, and exceptional and varied tasting options presented by distinguished Loudoun chefs. Guests dressed in cocktail attire enjoyed an absolute feast for the senses.
The evening’s festivities to benefit the Loudoun Symphony and Loudoun Symphony Youth Orchestra were projected to earn $40,000, according to Executive Director, Karen Knobloch. “The mission of the Loudoun Symphony is to enrich our community through music. Our vision is to become a premier regional symphony through artistic excellence,” said Knobloch.
The Symphony is composed of about 60 musicians who are selected by audition. The season includes concerts and special performances. The next concert will be on April 29 at Stone Bridge High School. The program will include works by Mozart and Tchaikovsky, featuring David Searle, Guest Conductor and Donna Lee, piano.
Music during the reception and Chef’s tasting dinner was provided by Tia Wood, pianist; Clara Salazar, harpist; and Two Rivers Chamber Music, featuring Teresa Gordon on violin – the Symphony’s Concertmaster.
The future of the organization depends on the passion and development of young artists and performers. The Loudoun Symphony Youth Orchestra, directed by Matthew Brown, provides an educational program for musicians between the ages of 12 and 18. Admission is by audition. They present two full concert programs per year and also offer master classes and coaching sessions by professional musicians. In addition, special “recital” programs are also presented at local libraries to give musicians experience performing solos and duets.
It was an evening of gratitude and generosity. Lansdowne Resort and Spa was the Gold Event Sponsor. Eight chefs and restaurants/food establishments provided exceptionally prepared and displayed tasting treasures, and guests cheerfully bid on live auction items including trips and services along with a silent “mystery wine” auction. Board of Directors member, Anne Nouri, benefit auction specialist at Sorelle Auctions for a Cause, provided MC and auction services.
A treasure of Loudoun County, the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra and Loudoun Youth Symphony provide musical enrichment to our community.
To learn more about the Symphony, visit their website: www.loudounsymphony.org.
By Jon Henkel
Purcellville’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations opened with bagpipes at Franklin Park Arts Center on Saturday, Mar. 11 while renowned Irish Tenor Mark Forrest serenaded the Arts Center fans with songs of Ireland and America. They included Danny Boy, the Fields of Athenry, The Impossible Dream, and Irish Blessing. Mark finished with the first song taught by his father - his version of Frank Sinatra’s My Way - “God’s Way”. Pianist John Paul Kaplin and the Seasons, a Celtic and American folk band, accompanied Mark.
Mark and his wife, Muriel live at Wheatland Farm in Purcellville. They were high school sweethearts from Dublin, Ireland. They came to the US in 1990 to attend The Catholic University in DC. Mark attended university on a full music scholarship. After college, his exceptional talent took him world-wide where he has sung inspirational hymns for international dignitaries including Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, and for celebrities including Charlton Heston and Maureen O’Hara. Mark says that meeting Mother Theresa was most inspirational. The Forrests had eight sons of whom one, passed away shortly after birth and three have special needs.
It was the devastating death of baby Francesco that inspired them to establish The Faith and Family Foundation in 1999. Through that Foundation they support and encourage individuals and families with special needs. While Mark has performed for some of the leading dignitaries of our time, his hope is that his listeners will hear the deeper message.
Mark’s devotion could be felt throughout the crowded Arts Center. All proceeds from his performances and CD sales go toward funding the Foundation.
To find out more about the foundation and programs visit www.Wheatlandfarm.org.
The performance was accompanied by internationally recognized pianist, John Paul Kaplin. He contributed richly to the evening’s atmosphere.
Five Lee siblings – Peter, Mary-Grace, Mary-Clare, Mary-Teresa and Mary-Kate comprise the Seasons ensemble. The Lees pay homage to the rich tradition of Celtic and American folk music while treating it as a living, breathing entity. Their contribution was both fresh and familiar (Seasonsmusic.com).
If you missed their performance, you can see them again at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church - April 10 at 7:30pm.
As part of April's Keep Leesburg Beautiful Month, the Town of Leesburg is seeking volunteers to inspect and mark storm sewer inlets.
The Town maintains its own Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) under a permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The two primary goals of the Town's stormwater management program are to eliminate localized flooding caused by heavy rains and to reduce the introduction of pollutants into area streams which eventually flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
Storm sewer inlets, or storm drains, are the first line of defense in meeting both of these goals. If an inlet is blocked, either by debris or by vegetation, stormwater can back up into the street during a storm and cause localized flooding. Since most pollutants enter the storm sewer system through inlets, Betty Bass stickers remind people that whatever goes into the storm drain inlet eventually ends up in the Chesapeake Bay and only rain should go down the drain.
By doing something as simple as taking a walk through their neighborhood, residents can participate in Keep Leesburg Beautiful and help the Town maintain the storm sewer system, said Rene LaFollette, Leesburg's Director of Public Works and Capital Projects. We will provide a map of inlets in a specific neighborhood and a supply of Betty Bass stickers. All the volunteers need to do is mark which inlets need repair or attention from staff, place stickers on inlets without stickers, and return the map to us. It's a great way to be involved in your community and educate your children about the importance of environmental stewardship.
To participate in the storm drain marking program, visit the Town website at www.leesburgva.gov/klb, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-771-2790.
A dedicated group of students at Lucketts Elementary has created a small project that could have a big impact.
The 17-member Rudy Jr. Club, an offshoot of the Lucketts Ruritan Club, unveiled its Little Library on Tuesday, Mar. 15. The wooden-framed library box allows students to take and deposit books, free of charge. The Little Library has children's and adult shelves stocked with books the Rudy Jr. Club collected.
It was built and painted during the course of three months with the help of parents Jay Frankenfield and David Petruzzi.
The Rudy Jr. Club is one of only two such Ruritan-affiliated clubs in Virginia and has grown from only six members last year. It has undertaken service projects such as making blankets for cats and dogs, creating book marks and collecting shoes for people in the Dominican Republic and Soles4Souls.
By undertaking such charitable endeavors, Rudy Jr. Club members can begin logging volunteer hours that will follow them through their school career into college.
The Gingersnap Girls Equine Education & Rescue Foundation, a non-profit humane rescue, is holding their 9th Annual New Day for Horses Silent Auction & Benefit at the Hamilton Safety Center on Saturday, April 23 from 2pm to 6pm.
There will be a silent auction with artwork, Potomac River & Chesapeake Bay cruises, theatre tickets, gift baskets and gift certificates from local merchants, furniture, and beautiful crafts. The bidding ends at 5:15pm that day. There will also be raffles, door prizes and refreshments.
Tickets are $5 at the door and children 12 and under are free. All of proceeds from the event will go toward the rescue and rehabilitation of abused, abandoned, sick, and slaughter bound equines, as well the organization's mission of educating against all animal abuses.
Contact 540-338-5218 for more information.
Morven Park will be the location of the Spring Native Plant Sale which is sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy on Saturday, Apr. 23, 9am to 3pm.
Three native plant nurseries will have a large selection of spring blooming flowers, shrubs, trees, vines and ferns for sale. There will also be bluebird nest boxes, green roof birdhouses and insect hotels, and monarch rearing cages and field guides for butterflies.
There will also be a used book sale with books on nature, wildlife, and gardening.
The annual Apprentice Night will be held at 7pm on Tuesday, April 5, at Heritage High School. During this event, students will be able to explore the apprenticeship route to well-paying jobs. All students and parents are welcome to this free event.
Hear from apprenticeship representatives including:
Sheet Metal Workers (including air pollution and solar energy systems workers)
General Construction Trades
Plumbers and Gasfitters
Going through an apprentice program does not mean foregoing college. Students can go through an apprenticeship program and, as part of the program, take additional courses to earn a bachelor's degree.
The kinds of trades in which students can apprentice are often in fields that translate into owning a business. Earnings are potentially significant even in those apprenticeships that pay less.
For additional information contact Bruce Holland at 571-252-2816, then press 6, or e-mail email@example.com.
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (VA-10) will be continuing the 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program this year. The 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program provides young women currently enrolled in middle school and high school with the opportunity to meet and interact with women who hold leadership roles and have built successful careers in government, business, medicine, media relations, and other professions.
Through this unique, bipartisan program participants can engage with their peers and special guests in candid, roundtable discussions while sharing insights, advice, and stories. Participants will also learn about career opportunities in various fields, the legislative process, develop their leadership skills, identify their strengths, and practice effective communication with others to inspire their educational and career goals.
A special guest or a panel of special guests will be invited to participate in each program. The program is scheduled to begin in June and will continue through the end of August. There will be periodic events, about two to four a month, throughout the 10th Congressional District and at the U.S. Capitol.
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock's office will review and consider applications from young women who are currently enrolled in middle school or high school (public, private or home schooled). Priority placement will be given to applicants who reside or attend school in the 10th District. Applicants will be selected on the quality of the application, their willingness to commit to this program, as well as their desire to build their own young professional network.
For more information on the program contact Congresswoman Comstock's office at 202-225-5136.
The 6th Annual Preakness Party, to benefit Loudoun Therapeutic Riding, will be held at the Middleburg Community Center on May 21 at 4:30pm. Ms. Sue Jones will chair the event. The Honorary Chair is Andy, one of the most honored therapy horses in the nation, and he will be in attendance weather permitting.
Jones stated, Loudoun Therapeutic Riding changes lives everyday with ground-breaking programs for those with special needs, including autism, physical and emotional disabilities, and catastrophic illness or injuries. It is my honor to chair this fun, festive event which helps to fund the great work done by LTR. The Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the storied Triple Crown of horse racing, will be telecast live at the event. There will be fabulous company, great food, themed beverages, silent and live auctions, horse sponsorship opportunities, a best hat contest, and a chance to meet, greet and take a selfie with Andy, one of Loudoun Therapeutic Riding's very special equine partners. Andy has recently been inducted into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame, and last year received the prestigious Klinger award. Both honors recognize his unique contributions to his community as a therapy pony.
Although it is unlikely that Andy will participate in the best hat contest, he has asked to be permitted to join in the judging. He thinks his taste is impeccable, and asks for only one nibble at each hat. The Preakness Party is a wonderful chance to enjoy the race without battling the crowds at the Pimlico Race Track, and while supporting the work of one of Loudoun's most impactful non-profit organizations. For tickets or to donate, visit www.ltrf.org.