Loudoun County has a lot of everyday heroes.
There’s a man who has dedicated his creativity to helping kids with disabilities find their voice. There’s a teacher who took in her student in need and made her part of her family. There’s a woman who spends her weekends and evenings raising money for victims of natural disasters. And there’s a photographer who’s using her talents to capture and celebrate their stories.
Aliyah Dastour, owner of headshot and videography studio Alimond Studio in Leesburg, said she continually runs across people in Loudoun—men, women and young people of all backgrounds—who do amazing things for others without any fanfare. She wanted to put a spotlight on those people and celebrate all they do. So, she launched Loudoun 100, a first-of-its-kind initiative that will recognize 100 of the county’s lesser-known, everyday heroes.
She invited nominations of individuals who are doing incredible things for the betterment of the community but rarely get kudos. Over a 12-week stretch, she received 600 nominations through an anonymous online platform. Each candidate was screened and selected based on their empowering stories and their strong attributes in differing industries.
Dastour invited each of the members of the Loudoun 100 to come to her studio for an interview and photo shoot. When almost every one of them walked in they said, “I don’t know why I’m here.”
“That’s exactly why I’m doing this,” she said. To celebrate those people who quietly give back and don’t ask for the kudos.
“There’s a lot of celebrities and that’s just fine and dandy, but I also want to give an alternative of who we look up to,” Dastour said. “We can say mom, dad, the person working at the local shop, are actually changing our community and our life for the better.”
Jason Matchett, CEO of Partnered Group, asked that same question when he was invited to step in front of Dastour’s camera as a Loudoun 100 honoree. He had heard about the project when it was first announced. “I loved the idea, so I nominated somebody,” he said.
But, turns out, somebody nominated him, too.
Matchett has an inkling of why he may have been selected, and this reporter forced it out of him. Last summer, Mara Bauserman, also a Loudoun 100 honoree, had been helping victims of the floods that wiped out entire communities in the Elkview, WV, area. She came across a mother who had two children of her own and, because her house hadn’t flooded, she took in 13 other children. The mother was unemployed and using an aging minivan to shuttle them to school, taking three trips each morning and each evening.
When Matchett heard about the need, he talked with his fellow members at the Ashburn-Sterling Masonic Lodge. They bought a used 15-passenger van, fixed it up and delivered it to the mother in Elkview, WV.
“Then she could get a job, she could provide for them. It became a whole cycle of good,” Matchett said. “It just takes one person to do something good, like dropping a pebble into a pond causes a ripple effect. You can do something simple and small and that gets somebody else to do something good.”
Although Matchett prefers to be out of the spotlight, he loves the idea of Loudoun 100. He said Dastour has a special talent for capturing people’s character in her photos. “It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “Hopefully this project gets people to recognize that there’s so much that one person can do here locally, and that can inspire other people to do things.”
Dastour offers a little nudge to others to do something big or small to improve their little corner of the world. “If a local photographer can do this, how can you make a difference?”
The 100 individuals who were selected for the honor will be unveiled at a Loudoun 100 launch party from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, at ProJet Aviation in Leesburg. General admission is $25. Loudoun 100 honorees and children 16 years and younger are free. The event is open to the public and is expected to draw 500 attendees. The Loudoun 100 book—that tells the stories of the 100 honorees—will be released and a video featuring the Loudoun 100 will be shown.
Dastour put the final touches on the video last week. After she watched the full video the first time she said, “I was crying. It’s not sad, it’s just so inspiring to hear these people in our community talking about what’s important to them,” she said. “It’s great to see what we’re really about as Loudoun County.”
Find more information about Loudoun 100 at Loudoun100.com.