SBA Finalist Spotlight 2021: Loudoun Cares
Thank you to Valerie Pisierra, Executive Director at Loudoun Cares, for answering our questions! Congratulations to Loudoun Cares for being a finalist in the Nonprofit Org category. View all of the finalists here.
Join us for the 27th Annual Loudoun Small Business Awards on Friday, October 29, 2021 at The National Conference Center. Ticket information here.
Tell us your story of how your nonprofit evolved into what it is today?
Loudoun Cares (LC) was established in late 2002 to create a nonprofit center that would support local nonprofits with secure rent, collaboration, and shared resources. As the needs of the county began to become clearer, LC was asked to open the ConnectLine, an information and referral helpline, in 2004 to assist residents in finding health and human services in the county. During this time we began to work with faith organizations to provide financial assistance for some of these families.
In 2007, the Claude Moore Community Builders, now run by Loudoun Youth, was created to teach youth about civic participation and professional development. As the needs of the county continued to change and evolve we knew we needed to find more ways to connect people. In 2014, LC began carrying out Volunteer Loudoun’s programs and began using the online Volunteer Center to connect individual and corporate volunteers with local nonprofits that could use their support.
What are you most proud of about your team?
There are many nonprofits that struggle at one point or another in their history. Loudoun Cares is no exception. We went through a big transition in late 2017 that left us wondering about our future. As we moved through the next couple of years, we began to rebuild a stronger foundation, recruited amazing and dedicated board members once again, and continued to live our mission of connecting those who serve with those in need.
When COVID hit, it was clear that it would be all hands on deck. As we began to serve our community in new ways, our board stepped in to lend a hand so I could focus on the crisis and how LC would play a part in assisting our residents. We partnered with Catholic Charities to distribute funding to some of our most vulnerable residents. To date through this partnership and our collaboration with our Faith Network, the effort has helped over 770 families with more than $1.38 million in rent and utility assistance. This alone makes me extremely proud. However, it is because of our board of directors that this was even possible. It is their belief in what LC is about and what it means to truly be an organization that is there to support our nonprofits and our residents. Without their willingness to take over many duties so myself and my small staff could focus on the crisis at hand, I do not believe we could have made the impact that we have.
So in the end, it just proves that organizations are only as good as the people behind them. I am most proud of these volunteers, the Loudoun Cares board of directors, and our hardworking resource specialists for all they have done to ensure that we continue to make a difference everyday.
In what ways does your give back to the community?
As a nonprofit, we work hard everyday to see a shift for those we serve. Beyond our everyday activities, we encourage our staff and board of directors to find other ways to give back. We find ways that we can volunteer ourselves at special events and encourage our board members to also find other organizations they can volunteer at. For example, board members and staff have recently volunteered at the Medical Reserve Corp COVID vaccination site and Mobile Hope; we have also volunteered at the Loudoun Arts Film Festival. We all enjoy volunteering and giving back outside of our normal LC activities.
What would it mean to you and your nonprofit to win a Small Business Award?
As I mentioned earlier, Loudoun Cares has had its share of ups and downs. We have all worked extremely hard over the past four years to build a strong nonprofit that serves our community. Words don’t really express what winning this award would mean. It would mean that everything we have gone through, the decisions we made, and long hours were noticed and appreciated. It isn’t about the award necessarily but more about the awareness that has been given to the work that we do. With this awareness comes recognition of what we have to contribute to our community which in turn provides a motivation for people to support our efforts. The real winners are those that we are honored to continue to help. Those that need help and those that want to help.
What is the smallest thing that has made the largest impact on your business?
One two minute phone call changed the trajectory of our organization. We were asked at the onset of the pandemic if we had the capacity to distribute funding directly to residents that would need help due to the two week shut down. This started a conversation with Catholic Charities and a partnership that resulted in hundreds of families being served with rent and utility assistance since April of 2020. The work we have done with all our community partners over the past 18 months has opened doors to new opportunities and solidified our place here in Loudoun County.
Who is the one person that has influenced you the most in your career?
I can honestly say it has not been just one person. I believe our paths are influenced by all of the experiences and relationships in our lives whether positive or negative. I have been blessed to always be surrounded by supportive individuals that often believed in my capabilities more than I did. These include family members, teachers, mentors, peers, and even those we oversee in our jobs. Everyone has something to offer and I try to learn from them all.
What is your favorite thing about running a nonprofit in Loudoun County?
We are such a unique organization. We serve not only our residents but all our nonprofits. So I would say the best part of running Loudoun Cares is I don’t have to choose. I enjoy working with all the causes and services that the county has to offer.
What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?
Besides a princess? It would be either an ice skater or someone that traveled around the world.
What is one book that changed your life and why?
“The Phantom Tollbooth” written by Norton Juster. It always reminds me that there is more than one way to look at the world. What may seem obvious to one person is seen in a completely different way by someone else. A major play on words, the book resonates with me because I always see things from both sides of the fence that I am usually sitting on.
If you’re not in the office where can we find you/what is another passion you have?
I work for a nonprofit. Even when I am not “in the office,” I am always looking to make connections and raise awareness about what Loudoun Cares does. But if not there then at happy hour or finding new places to travel (or dreaming about traveling after COVID).
How do you see the nonprofit evolving in the next 5 years?
Loudoun Cares has always been a small but mighty nonprofit with a far reach in the county through our networks. We see LC becoming a household name in the county for those that want to help and those that need help. Over the next five years, we will continue to build more structure and work on establishing an endowment. This will allow us to increase our capacity to serve and ensure a stable foundation to continue our work. We are finding new ways to serve both our nonprofits and residents while remaining true to our mission and being the true connector in Loudoun County.
To learn more about Loudoun Cares, visit their website.