CEO Spotlight: Kerrie Wilson, Reston Interfaith
Impacting the lives of others is something that Kerrie Wilson is known for. In this post, we interviewed Reston Interfaith's CEO, Kerrie Wilson whose organization has impacted the lives of over 250,000 people in the neighborhood it serves.
Helios: Can you tell us about Reston Interfaith? How does your organization make an impact in our community?
Kerrie Wilson: Reston Interfaith has been working in the greater Reston and Dulles corridor region for more than 40 years, providing affordable housing and other services for our neighbors who struggle in this high cost of living community. We own and maintain rental housing for 50 families and provide emergency shelter, transitional and supportive housing and assistance for homeless individuals and families and those who are at risk of losing their housing. Reston Interfaith also provides affordable, quality childcare, food and financial assistance, counseling, job development and other neighborhood based services to help people get back on their feet and stay there. What makes Reston Interfaith unique is our ability to connect our neighbors to provide comprehensive programs that address their urgent and on-going needs for assistance – over the years that has meant real answers for more than 250,000 men, women and children in need.
Helios: Given the economic climate, how has that changed how you operate?
Kerrie Wilson: With the collapse of the housing market and resulting economic crisis in our region, we knew our services would be more critical than ever. Requests to Reston Interfaith for help with rent and utilities, avoiding foreclosure, food, job training and childcare have more than doubled since 2007. Reston Interfaith was ready to meet those needs, drawing on our reserves – both human and financial – and our partner network of nonprofits, government agencies and faith, community and business groups. We collaborated with nonprofit and county agencies to open Connections for HOPE, a neighborhood center where people can access a wide range of services in one location and where providers save money on administrative costs by sharing services. We provided leadership in the design of a county-wide partnership to prevent and end homelessness that has been responsible for a reduction in overall homelessness and keeping more than 2,000 people in their homes even in this horrible economic climate!
Helios: What is your top challenge today and how do you address it?
Kerrie Wilson: The most difficult issue for us right now is to look in the faces of those we serve and realize that collectively their needs are greater, the barriers they face are more complex and multi-layered than ever before. Even as there are hopeful signs for our local economic recovery, our most vulnerable neighbors – those who don’t have the skills to compete for jobs, or whose savings, assets and credit worthiness were damaged – will find healing to take much longer than expected. As an agency, that means we need to sustain and grow the resources from government, foundations, businesses and individuals who have seen their “care” budgets slashed. As an employer I am concerned that our staff and volunteers take time to step back and refresh after stretching themselves to serve more people without new resources. I know that many of our employee families have also struggled during these hard time, and I wonder that is taking care of the caregivers? The solution to this challenge requires us to do more than just provide direct service; we have joined with our partners to ensure that policies and investments recognize the need to invest in long-term solutions – making homes affordable, shoring up the safety net, and prioritizing core services that get people back to work and build strong communities.
Helios: If someone wanted to support the programs of your organization, how would they do so?
Kerrie Wilson: Our work changes lives and sustains our community every day, but we don’t do it alone. More than 2,700 volunteers give more than 27,000 hours of service each year by collecting and distributing more than 10,000 bags of groceries, greeting and assisting guests and drop-ins at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter, volunteering to mentor adult jobseekers, conducting financial literacy and other skills building classes, and tutoring children. Donations of food, school supplies, cars and other items help us support families and stretch their household budgets. To get started volunteering, please email email@example.com or call 571-323-9568 and ask for our Volunteer Manager. If you would like to donate physical resources please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 571-323-9555. You can also visit www.restoninterfaith to learn more about our current opportunities and needs.