Graffiti, Silk, and Season’s Greetings

The inside of Graffiti and Silk. Photo taken by
The inside of Graffiti and Silk. Photo taken by
Sophie Mason

As the holidays approach, many people are preparing for the biggest gift-giving season of the year. Some, however, spend the winter cold, hungry, or homeless, even within Loudoun County. Mobile Hope, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 2011 to address and provide for the needs of the homeless and at-risk youth population in Loudoun County. “Truly there were no programs that were dedicated to homeless youth that were exclusive to helping them move forward and to empower them,” said Donna Fortier, Founder and CEO of Mobile Hope. Seeing this need in the community, she set out to start one herself. 

The organization does more than just house, feed, and clothe, they also provide mentorship, transportation, and a road to self-sufficiency. Fortier explained, “It’s more of a collaborative partnership to see how best to serve [the youth] to help them reach the goals that they have.” Since its creation, Mobile Hope has expanded its services outside of everyday life into the realms of thrift and holiday cheer.

We do see a lot of sad stories, but we also have a front row seat to some of the most beautiful moments that you can imagine.”

— Allyson Ruscitella

One of Mobile Hope’s several programs is Graffiti and Silk, a recently established thrift store in Purcellville. The store acts as an additional funding stream for Mobile Hope, selling some donations to make a profit to further support youth in need. “Not all of the [clothing] donations are appropriate to give our kids in crisis, so we needed to include an additional revenue stream to help us meet our financial need based on the continuing growth,” explained Fortier.

Mobile Hope’s Director of Development, Allyson Ruscitella, states that Graffiti and Silk was founded not only to support the nonprofit’s finances, but also connection in the community, “It was [started] right after COVID and everyone felt very disconnected, and really needed a sense of community.” This vision also extends to the youth supported by the nonprofit. “When they come to us and they’re homeless, they’re very disconnected from any sense of community,” explained Ruscitella. Expressing Mobile Hope’s attention to building community for the youth they support she stated, “Everything that we do as an organization, we like to involve our Mobile Hope kids in.” Ruscitella also explained that it’s more than just teaching the kids, “It’s not only about learning marketable skills, like with retail, but also it’s about the connections that are formed during the time we spend together.” 

One of the outreach programs within Mobile Hope, Listen for the Honk, provides produce for families who can’t afford both groceries and rent. Seeing that many of these same families also couldn’t afford to buy their children Christmas presents, the Mobile Hope Christmas Village was started to provide toys, coats, gloves, food, and winter essentials for children like this with the help of local corporations and families. “Last year we served 2500 kids and we gave out more than 10,000 presents,” Ruscitella said. For the children, however, it’s not just about the gifts.

A team of volunteers dress up in Christmas costumes, and the campus is turned into a “winter wonderland.” According to Ruscitella, “We bus them in from a place in Leesburg, and the kids get off the bus and their eyes are as big as saucers.” Similarly to Graffiti and Silk, some of the youth supported by Mobile Hope participate in the event, “They get really into the costumes and it becomes so important for them to put a smile on these kids’ faces. It’s really one of the most beautiful parts of our Christmas Village, seeing our Mobile Hope kids so invested in giving back to our community.”

In the work they do, Mobile Hope’s staff and volunteers are constant witnesses to many traumatic stories. However, through their sacrifice, the lives they touch are changed forever, explained Ruscitella, “We do see a lot of sad stories, but we also have a front row seat to some of the most beautiful moments that you can imagine.” Fortier expressed the ways she is personally impacted by the way her work has helped others,“That helps our mental health in recognizing that we need to provide them an environment that they didn’t grow up in. There really are a lot of ups and downs with this population, and a lot of traumas and working to help them get through their traumas, so we really celebrate the successes.”

Be sure to visit Graffiti and Silk, the Mobile Hope Christmas Village, or any other MH event to support their truly inspiring holiday message. Mobile Hope’s dedication to the care of homeless and at-risk youth in life and thrift demonstrates a business that is committed to serving their community during the holiday season and beyond. 

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