It was sad news that Loudoun Holiday Coalition Executive Director Gloria Mpofu imparted to donors, volunteers and supporters over the weekend.
In a letter expressing gratitude for their efforts over past two decades to brighten the holidays for thousands of people, Mpofu said the nonprofit would be significantly scaling back its annual “neighbors helping neighbors” endeavor to provide gifts to seniors, disabled individuals and children.
“While 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the holiday program, it’s with a heavy heart that I must share the news about the program going forward. We will not be able to do a distribution in 2016,” Mpofu wrote.
The problem is one familiar to many nonprofits: A lack of space.
Most nonprofits have scarce resources to put toward rent, and Help for Others, the organization that leads the Holiday Coalition, has tried for a few years to keep the program going without a budget for warehouse space. Lower donations in recent years have intensified the problem and made it difficult to meet a monthly rental fee of $5,000.
“We’ve been hopping from place to place. It’s hard to find enough money,” Mpofu said over the weekend, noting that area businesses and the United Way have been supportive.
The organization has done its utmost to raise money and find space in which to store and then distribute donated items, to no avail, according to Mpofu.
The current lease expires in June and Mpofu said the organization is unable to commit to a renewal because of the financial uncertainty. She hopes to do a smaller distribution using a storage unit in Sterling.
The holiday distribution of food, clothing and gifts previously had been coordinated by the Loudoun County Department of Family Services, but was turned over to nonprofits. “We didn’t have the manpower resources to do the program any more,” said Loudoun Family Services Department Deputy Director of Hope Stonerook.
The gift collection and distribution program was transferred to Help for Others, which received its nonprofit status in 2007, while Loudoun Interfaith Relief took over food distribution. “Now, it’s mainly gifts for adults with disabilities and seniors, and toys for kids. Toys for Tots, they collect and donate to us,” she said.
Under the agreement with the county, Help for Others ran the gifts distribution program, but the county continued to maintain the list of eligible recipients and paid rent for the first couple of years. In 2013, Help for Others took over the task of finding permanent space.
“It’s so sad, and the need is there. But we can only do so much. We’ve looked at all avenues.”
In her letter to donors, volunteers and supporters, Mpofu asked those who knew of property owners who might be able to provide a permanent home to let her know. Alternatively, if another nonprofit was willing to take over the program, “we’d love to hear from you,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, Mpofu is spreading the word among participants, parents, donors and supporters.
Stonerook said she has been talking with Mpofu to see if there was some sort of temporary arrangement that could be made.
“We really have not yet had the opportunity to see what, if any, role the county could play. We’d need to talk with other nonprofits to see what possibilities there might be,” she said.
“There could be ideas out there, but we need a lot more conversations. It’s March, so we still have some time.”