Josette Zahinda says that a brochure saved her life.
The Ashburn resident said her doctor had noticed, over the course of several visits, that she didn’t look well. The physician suspected Zahinda was a victim of domestic violence and, when she wasn’t looking, slipped a brochure into her purse. She found it later, at home.
“So I started reading — it’s like it’s talking about my story,” Zahinda said. It was a pamphlet for the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter, and it sparked an awakening for her.
“I was diagnosed,” she said. “Sometimes you have a physical issue, but you don’t know what it is until the doctor tells you what it is. It’s like they diagnosed my issue . . . but they told me there is a cure, and we’re here to help you.”
On March 1, Zahinda stood in a crowded meeting room at Northern Virginia Community College in Sterling and talked about the shelter.
“I realized, if I stayed [in the relationship], I would die,” she said. “If I leave, there’s a chance I will survive.”
Zahinda is one of a dozen local residents who have agreed to go public with their names, faces and stories through the Faces of Loudoun campaign, which the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties launched this month to spread awareness of the need for the services provided by local nonprofit organizations.
“We would like people to know that there are needs here, and that money can be put to good use,” said Amy Owen, executive director of the foundation, which raises money to build endowments that benefit local nonprofit organizations.
Although Loudoun is consistently listed among the counties with the highest incomes in the nation, the rate of charitable giving is “lackluster,” Owen said, adding that studies show that people with higher incomes tend to give a smaller percentage of that money to charity.
Loudoun ranks low even compared with neighboring counties, she said. The national average for charitable giving is about 3 percent of household income. The rate of giving in Montgomery County, Md., is 3.8 percent. In Fairfax County, it is 2.4 percent. It’s just 1.98 percent in Loudoun, she said.
“If . . . Loudoun can increase our charitable giving equal to that of [Fairfax], we would generate an additional $70 million a year,” Owen said.
Part of the problem is that people in more affluent neighborhoods often are not aware of the local needs, she said.
“If you and I live in well-to-do neighborhoods, with neighbors that look like us, drive cars like us, live in houses like us, we are less likely to give,” Owen said. “Why? We don’t see the need. We don’t come into direct contact with it. But it’s here.
“This is not a campaign about poverty,” she added. “It’s a campaign about our neighbors who need our support, and the nonprofits who are helping those individuals, who also need our support.”
Two other Loudoun residents also told their stories at the “Faces of Loudoun” launch event.
Connie Moore of Waterford described her battle with mental illness and the help she and family members received from Inova and other nonprofit groups.
Cesar Rodriguez of Leesburg said he had fled his native Venezuela after “a dictator took over” and 29 of his friends and associates had disappeared. He abandoned a thriving law practice to come to Virginia, where he took day jobs to support his family. He needed help learning English and adjusting to the culture, and then he had a heart attack that limited his ability to work.
The campaign also profiles local residents who have received help with autism, intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, homelessness and teen suicide. Their pictures and stories will be displayed in public places around the county and on the campaign’s website, Owen said.
Zahinda said she was grateful for the services she and her children received from the abused women’s shelter and other local nonprofits. Her daughter was born at the shelter, she said, and one of her children received mental health services after expressing suicidal thoughts while in fourth grade.
Her oldest son is in the Air Force now, and her other two children are in college, she said.
“If it wasn’t for the community here in Loudoun, I don’t think they would be where they are today,” she said. “It took the entire Loudoun County community to raise my children.”