Photos courtesy QBE Foundation
They say it’s the quiet ones you need to keep an eye on. And in the case of the QBE Foundation, operating behind the scenes, supporting nonprofits in and around the Haymarket area, you might want to do just that.
The QBE Foundation is a nonprofit that began in 2015 as the brainchild of QBE founder Shawn Landry, Ph.D., his wife Cheryl Landry, QBE employees Jen Loeffler and Keith Lowry and volunteer Amy Seitz. QBE is a management and technology consulting organization for the federal government and defense and intelligence communities. While they support thirty-two different countries, they have small town roots. Their headquarters is in the historic Gainesville School Building on Washington Street in Haymarket. All five founding members enjoyed working in the heart of a small town and connecting with other local organizations. Dr. Landry and his family are Haymarket residents and very tuned in to the community as they’ve raised two sons who have been active for years in local Boy Scout troops. You could say that community service is in their blood.
When the Foundation began, they sought to bring the community together by helping with local events. Their first event was the Annual Officer Down Memorial Ride which had been run solely by Meg Hawkins, a Fairfax County Police Officer. The Foundation collaborated with Meg and the Haymarket Police Department and donated the land for the event, sponsored the food and raffles and helped promote it. The event’s mission is to honor and remember fallen law enforcement officers and K9 officers, raise awareness of line of duty deaths and provide support to the Officer Down Memorial Fund. Through the Ride, they realized that by working together with others, they could connect and collaborate with more nonprofits to reach a larger audience and to have a greater impact on the community.
The Foundation has also supported other events such as National Night Out, which with their help was able to raise money to give the Haymarket Police department more life-saving defibrillators. They’ve also sponsored self-defense classes for community members and events for local Boy Scout Troops.
The Foundation’s most recent project is Old School Kitchen, which was borne out of the creativity of Foundation members and Miguel Pires, owner of Zandra’s Taqueria. When COVID-19 caused local businesses and restaurants to shutter, Miguel found himself in a difficult position of having servers and kitchen staff facing unemployment and a kitchen full of fresh food on a regular delivery schedule. As luck would have it, the commercial kitchen in the QBE building had recently become vacant and Miguel and the Foundation figured out a way to pull all the pieces together.
Old School Kitchen provides nutrition assistance to families and individuals who have been identified in need of food assistance through Prince William County, the town of Haymarket and surrounding jurisdictions. By literally using the old school kitchen (hence the name) Old School Kitchen works as “food heroes” cooking and delivering high-quality large meals to those in need.
“There are so many non-profits doing such great stuff in our backyards. It only makes sense to collaborate and make each of us stronger,” said Shawn Landry, founding member and current QBE Foundation officer. “Old School Kitchen is a project that we hope will never go away. There will always be a need.”
There are several remarkable things about Old School Kitchen. The first is its team who almost immediately realized that food was being delivered not only to Zandra’s but to other restaurants and places where it was just going to go to waste. Quickly they reached out to the Prince William County School System, Prince William Food Rescue, commercial distributors, local churches such as Park Valley Church, community centers and several restaurants and had their deliveries rerouted.
The second remarkable thing is that Old School Kitchen is run solely on donations and still has been able to provide jobs for the staff of Zandra’s. And what a great job they’re all doing. Since March, Old School Kitchen has provided approximately 20,000 meals to local community members.
“You can make a difference when you combine your strengths and qualities. When you put your heads together you can help so many people,” said Jen Loeffler, founding member and current QBE Foundation officer.
QBE Foundation might be the quiet partner behind the scenes, but they have been working tirelessly in the community and partnering with other local nonprofits to make a difference. You could say they are like the stagehands behind the curtain making sure everything runs smoothly, and they enjoy shining the spotlight on others.
However, no organization can do it alone. They welcome volunteers both for events and to deliver Old School Kitchen meals. COVID-19 may have been the catalyst for opening the kitchen, but they have no plans on stopping once life returns to normal. “COVID helped shine a light on the need for what we can do when we come together to help,” Jen added.