Ex-homeless woman leads Coalition Against Hunger

Because she herself was left homeless and lived in a local shelter for months, the new Director of Operations of the Coalition Against Hunger knows first-hand what it’s like to be hungry and without a roof over her head.

“Going through what I did, I believe I can better understand what our clients are faced with and how important our work with them is,” said Priscilla Delean who recently became the director of the Coalition, a nonprofit food bank in Haymarket which serves an average of 2,400 needy residents of Prince William County each year.

In March 2001, Delean’s trailer was almost destroyed in a house fire and not having fire insurance, she was left homeless and lived in a local shelter for months as she canvassed local organizations for help with the cost of repairing her home.

The Prince William Chapter of the American Cross, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at All Saints Catholic Church and Project Mend-A-House were the primary groups that got the repairs done.

When she was able to inhabit the trailer again, Delean joined All Saints Catholic Church and became a member of St. Vincent de Paul, trained as a volunteer for the Red Cross and volunteered in the office when she could for Project Mend-A-House.

Now Delean is putting her efforts into rebuilding the Coalition, which had been without a director for months after Kelly Rodgers who had run it for 12 years left for personal reasons early in the year.

It was through Jim Kappus, director of Project Mend-A-House, that she landed the Coalition job three months ago.

“He told me that Wayne Rodgers, who founded the Coalition, was looking for a new director to run the day-to-day operation of the organization. It was a good match for both of us,” said Delean.

Delean has reorganized how the Coalition is run, making it more like a successful business operation.

“When I took over, the Coalition was running on nothing but the grace of God. Food supplies were very low and monetary contributions had almost stopped,” she said.

While Gainesville United Methodist Church has been donating food items each month, the organization has little money to purchase fresh food, including meats and vegetables, from the National Capital Area Food Bank to give to clients.

To make matters worse, Wayne Rodgers, who somehow has always been able to raise enough money to pay the bills, recently broke his leg in three places and will be in a hard cast for six weeks.

Delean, who lives in Manassas, said donations from private sources vary yearly between $57,000 and $70,000 and out of that some of the major monthly expenses include $800 to the Food Bank, $400 rent, $200 electric and $200 telephone and salary for a director, which runs between $20,000 – $30,000 a year.

After the tragedy of Sept. 11, Delean said there was a noticeable drop in donations but in recent months, “I’ve noticed a steady increase and I hope it continues but we still need a lot of help.”

Money as well as donation of canned goods, clothing and household items to give free to the needy are urgently needed. The organization also accepts vehicle donations, which it provides to clients in need or resells to raise needed funding.

Volunteers help staff the Coalition on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the last Saturday of the month, at the same times. It is located at 15000 Washington St. For more information, call (703) 754-1355 or (703) 393-2200.

“We are on the upswing again toward our goal of feeding all those that are hungry, plus providing the basics so they can go on from there,” said Delean.

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