By Lynne Eisenberg
I worked with two organizations during this semester, however I will be focusing on the second one because it was more of a nonprofit focused organization. The organization was Britepaths in Fairfax, VA. This organization has been up and running for over 30 years. On their website they say they have been “a dedicated leader in developing sustainable solutions that stabilize low income working families, build resilience through financial literacy and mentoring, and provide seasonal supports”. Their main goal is to help families who are struggling to make ends meet and stabilize and guide them toward self-sufficiency. Their former name used to be Our Daily Bread, but they recently had a name change to indicate that they were not simply a soup kitchen but were there to provide many more resources as well.
During my time at Britepaths, I learned how uninformed I was about things happening even right inside my own neighborhood. Fairfax is in the top 3 wealthiest counties in the nation, and yet they have tens of thousands of individuals that are homeless and go without proper food and other basic needs. I’ve learned that there are things that I can do to help, even if it is the littlest things, however nothing will get better if the underlying cause is not addressed. It is great to continue to provide food for the hungry, but a better goal for the future would be to figure out why these people go hungry and how to have less and less individuals going without these basic needs. During my time there volunteering, I was able to help with mailing out letters to donors, organize “customer” files to make sure their contact information is correct, help prepare posters and setup of fundraiser, and help sort and organize food in the food pantry. One thing I think they could have been better at was being organized. It seemed whenever I went in to help, they were slightly disorganized. I think this was partly due to the cramped space that their facility is in. I know the organization is moving addresses in a few months, and hopefully the move will be to bigger space and will allow for more organization and efficiency.
Before I always wondered and even judged those who were homeless or without food, thinking that it was their fault and that they could get themselves out of the situation if they really wanted to. I now have a much better understanding of how some individuals get into these situations that can sometimes just spiral out of control. Britepaths is an organization that is there to offer that initial support to those in need, and then to make sure the individual puts forth their own effort to continue their progress. They are good at not just offering superficial or short term solutions, but looking at underlying problems and helping to make people self-sufficient so that they can continue to make a better life for themselves.