Loudoun Interfaith Relief, the county’s largest food pantry, announced last week that a new executive director will soon guide the organization in its mission to provide food and support to those who struggle with hunger in Loudoun County.
Jennifer Montgomery, a veteran of Loudoun nonprofit organizations who most recently was director of operations for Loudoun Cares, a nonprofit group that encourages collaboration among local charity groups, will assume the top leadership role at Loudoun Interfaith Relief next month.
Montgomery told The Washington Post that she has long admired Loudoun Interfaith Relief and that she is eager to get started in her new role.
“I am a Loudoun native, and I’m just so thrilled for the opportunity to lead [Loudoun Interfaith Relief], because it is truly one of the leading nonprofits in the county, and the work that they do is just amazing,” she said. “When I saw the opportunity come up, I knew it was something I wanted to go for.”
Lisa Karl, president of the food pantry’s board of directors, said in a statement that Montgomery was “an exciting choice” to lead the organization, which provides free meals to thousands of families each month.
“She’ll be an excellent leader, focused on serving the needs of the hungry and helping to take steps in educating the public and eradicating hunger in our great county,” Karl said.
The number of residents who seek support from Loudoun Interfaith has soared in the past decade, the organization said. Last year, it offered support to about 7,000 people each month, providing families with enough food for three days’ worth of meals.
Montgomery has also served as executive director of the Loudoun Community Free Clinic, where, she said, she encountered many Loudoun residents who suffer from poor nutrition and hunger.
“A lot of the same people who were there, getting checked for diabetes and hypertension, are the same people who are getting food from food pantries, where there tends to be a lot of processed stuff,” Montgomery said. “There are folks who don’t have access to quality foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, and that’s one thing I’d like to look at a bit further. . . . Maybe we can offer some classes about nutrition, or cooking [and] how to make the most of what you get.”
Maristeve Bradley, a member of the organization’s board of directors, has been the interim executive director since the resignation of executive director Bonnie Inman this summer. Bradley will return to the board after Montgomery assumes leadership Sept. 8.
“Bonnie left that organization in fantastic shape,” Montgomery said of her predecessor. “She was a fantastic leader, and she has positioned them so well to move forward and take the next step, so I feel really fortunate to be going into such a well-
established and well-organized place.”
As the organization continues its work and aims to expand its reach, Montgomery said, she expects that fundraising and receiving food donations “will always be the biggest challenge,” along with educating the public about the level of need in Loudoun, even though it is regularly ranked among the most affluent jurisdictions in the nation.
“It is a challenge when people say, ‘We’re the wealthiest county in the nation.’ We hear it all the time: ‘We don’t have poor people; we don’t have homeless people here,’ ” Montgomery said. “Yes, we do. . . . People are making hard choices between paying their electric bill and buying groceries, and there are a lot of people in Loudoun who are in that situation.”
Among her top priorities, Montgomery said, will be to increase communication and collaboration among all local charitable organizations that provide a safety net to Loudoun’s most vulnerable residents.
“I want us to strengthen that net, to make sure that we’re not missing anyone, that everyone is getting what they need,” she said.
For information about donations and volunteering opportunities, go to Loudoun Interfaith Relief’s Web site, www.interfaithrelief.org.