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In darkness, there is hope

photoTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Local artist Dave White painted a series of murals for the Mobile Hope Donation Center, which will soon be opened at the Village of Leesburg and will accept donations for underprivileged children.

As a child growing up in Indiana, Dave White had little hope his natural artistic talents could earn him a living.

Now the 28-year-old Leesburg resident’s art will bring hope to hundreds of Loudoun County’s homeless and underprivileged children.

His mural “I’m Here, Loudoun” will be the centerpiece of the soon-to-open Inova Mobile Hope Donation Center in the Village of Leesburg.

The mural, which took White about 100 hours to create, is a metaphor for the early difficulties homeless children face in the county, according to White.
It features a lotus flower growing out of concrete with the impression of a city, designed to represent Leesburg, in the background, and a small child holding the hand of a supportive adult.

“A lotus flower typically grows out of muddy, dark water and grows to be this beautiful, vibrant flower from the darkness,” White said. “If you’re a homeless child in Loudoun County, that’s a pretty dark situation, but I wanted it to be more inspirational to show what can happen like this beautiful flower growing out of the crack in the concrete.”
“… It shows that even with the proper support they [children] can grow to thrive,” the artist continued.

Inscribed in the mural is a poem by White: “An unopened bud, A hidden soul, miserable misfortune, Does anyone know? See my light, See me grow, Out of the dark, A blooming soul.”

Last year, a study by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act identified nearly 700 children in Loudoun County that are homeless or are near homeless, meaning they’re couch surfing, living sporadically with distant relatives and friends or in tents in the woods, according to Donna Fortier, Inova Loudoun’s community affairs executive and director of Mobile Hope.

The statistic appalled Fortier, especially in an affluent area such as Loudoun, and inspired her to start Mobile Hope in May 2010.

“I was shocked, just like the rest of Loudoun County. It [number of homeless] continues to grow as is expected with the economy. Next year it’s estimated to be over 1,000,” she said.

However White, who spent two years in the Peace Corps Costa Rica, where he established a community micro-credit bank and worked to strengthen local small businesses, while taken aback by the homeless statistic, wasn’t as surprised.

He’s seen firsthand how wealth can lead to problems through his work in portraying social issues in South American countries, such as the drug trade, through his art. In college, he taught in inner city schools in Indianapolis.

“It’s almost like the more wealth you have, the more despair you have,” White said. “There’s extreme wealth and extreme poverty, too.”

White, a self-taught artist, actually began his career in finance. He’s got a bachelor’s degree in accounting and Spanish and worked in Washington, D.C. in domestic micro-finance, small business development and nonprofit accounting.

But his true love was always in the brush. He gave up finance about two years ago and began earning a living through his art.

“I never thought I could do art as a career until I saw other people doing it and it encouraged me,” he said. “I thought ‘I love doing this so much I should pursue it’ and that’s what I’m doing now.”

White draws inspiration from the social issues he sees facing the country and the world.

And White’s powerful mural for Mobile Hope is certainly a piece that will make passersby stop and think.

It’s here that he focuses his goals as an artist, he said.

“Though I’d like to become more widely known for my painting of cultures, what’s more important to me as a goal is to continue to touch others with my art,” White said. “There have been several times where I’ve seen people be brought to tears upon me handing them a commissioned piece that is meaningful to them, and I want to continue to be able to do that. Being able to touch another person in a meaningful way with artwork that will last them a lifetime is very important to me.”

The space for the Mobile Hope Donation Center, located next to Travinia Italian Kitchen, was donated to Inova by Village of Leesburg General Manager Scott McCarthy, Fortier said.

She anticipates the center to open within the next 45 to 60 days.

Once open, the public can drop off toiletries, food and clothing that can be given to Loudoun’s homeless children.

Now Mobile Hope has a bus that goes out two to three times a week to areas identified where needy children can be found and offers its services.

In the last year, the Mobile Hope bus has served 500 children, sometimes offering help to the same child a few times a year.

Like White, Fortier’s work is about selflessness. She sees the smiles of the children she helps each week and knows she’s doing all she can to give them a better future.

“They leave with this big smile on their face,” Fortier said.

You can help

To learn more about Mobile Hope or request services go to http://www.inova.org or call 703-753-8801. To purchase a limited edition of White’s “I’m Here, Loudoun” mural from a set of 100, go to http://www.davewhitepaintings.com. Ten percent of the proceeds will go toward Mobile Hope.

Comments


Last year, a study by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act identified nearly 700 children in Loudoun County that are homeless or are near homeless, meaning they’re couch surfing, living sporadically with distant relatives and friends or in tents in the woods, according to Donna Fortier, Inova Loudoun’s community affairs executive and director of Mobile Hope.

Also included are:

Children and youth who are:
- sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as doubled-up);
- living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
- living in emergency or transitional shelters;
- abandoned in hospitals; or
- awaiting foster care placement

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