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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Meet Adriane Herbert

Although Adriane Layvonne Herbert does not have a regular church home, she religiously follows the biblical edict of God that His intent is for hungry people to be fed, knowing He calls His people to participate in providing the food.

Herbert works at the FurnishHopeDC non-profit as the Director of Community Outreach and Client Relations. She helps collect and distribute furniture and household goods to mostly older clients living East of the River in public housing. FurnishHopeDC was founded by Niki Mock to assist residents in Wards 7 and 8 transitioning from homelessness or escaping from domestic violence, or who simply need furniture.

Herbert has also started a non-profit, Village of H.O.P.E Inc., to provide food, toiletries, and other necessities that FurnishHopeDC (https://furnishhopedc.org/) did not supply.

“I feel like if we don’t [feed the hungry and love our neighbor], who else is going to do it? If we really love on each other, we can accomplish anything,” Herbert said, declaring her resolve to continue to make a positive difference in her community and beyond.

“I’m originally from Columbia Heights and used to volunteer and work with [the late] Councilmember Jim Graham. I’ve always been a person who helps people,” said Herbert.

Native Washingtonian
Herbert, 48, was born at Providence Hospital, the oldest child of Stanley and Judith Herbert. Her father was a career employee with Washington Gas Light who drove a backhoe while his wife was a stay-at-home housewife, taking of Herbert and her two sisters.

The family was a fixture in the middle-class society of DC until both parents became victims of the crack epidemic of the 1980s. They separated and her sisters went to live with other family members.

Ms. Herbert sets out her table and provides nutritious and healthy snacks to community residents in Wards 7 and 8 (2)

“I became the adult when it was just me and my mother,” Herbert stoically reflects. “This story is not hard to tell because it is a part of me. It has made me stronger and made me, me.”

The attractive child with a wide smile attended Takoma Educational Center (now Takoma Elementary School) through middle school and then briefly attended Calvin Coolidge High School where she dropped out in the ninth grade.

From Academy of Hope to Village of H.O.P.E Inc.
Always smart and resilient, Herbert returned to the Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School at 421 Alabama Ave. SE and acquired her GED in 2018. The adult public charter school, which opened in 1985, educates more than 600 adults annually and offers career tracks and hands-on training in healthcare, hospitality, and information technology. All services are free to District of Columbia residents while instruction is offered in the day or evening and available both in-person and online.

Herbert was inspired and motivated to start Village of H.O.P.E Inc. (https://villageofhopeinc.org/) while delivering furniture to a family. One of the children in the family inquired if food was also being brought because there was no food in the house, and he was hungry.

“The word “hope” stands for Helping Our People Evolve,” she explains. “There is no period after the letter ‘E’ because we are always evolving and that doesn’t end. I began to save up money and do research to find out how to start a non-profit. I have five children, receive TANF [the federal government’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program], and live in public housing,” said Herbert.

She says she can easily empathize with her clientele.

President George W. Bush promoted education by endorsing the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. Herbert promotes no child being left hungry in 2024. She distinctly remembers seeking assistance for her family and being treated inhumanely. “It wasn’t [always] a nice experience and I wanted to do better.”

To that effect, no matter how tired she may be raising three teenagers and two pre-teens, she delivers musch-needed packages of food, books, games, clothes, and toys free with a happy heart and sincerest humility.

“She is an amazing woman. I don’t know where to start. She’s got a fire in her belly,” beamed Terr Nussbaumer, a semi-retired hairstylist who has been “in charge of the financing” of Village of H.O.P.E Inc. since its inception two years ago.

What irks Nussbaumer, who has resided in a townhouse near Logan Circle “before gentrification” is the fact that sometimes people approach her thinking she is the boss simply because she is Caucasian. “[Herbert] doesn’t even get paid. I’ve seen her [spirit] get knocked down by people promising things and not delivering. I pray to God that this non-profit goes national. I will stay with her forever!”

The Connection Between Hunger and Violence
Herbert and her family had to move East of the River to a neighborhood she describes as “forgotten, underserved, and under-resourced” seven years ago after her son, then only 13 years old, was stabbed at his public charter school. DCHA had to conduct a public safety transfer for the entire family—Joshua, twins J’Adore and Jaden, J’Zelle, and Jaxton—that consisted of relocating them from northwest to southeast.

The six-member family now occupies a three-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment on Elvans Road. New sites are currently under construction in the area including a luxury apartment building. However, according to Herbert, meaningful adjustments are slow to trickle down to the benefit of the community at large.

“I don’t see major changes. The police are here sometimes and that’s when the violence calms down. As soon as they leave, it starts up again. More should be done,” said the financially-strapped philanthropist who says that she has contacted the mayor’s office for help as well as the Ward 8 councilmember.

“Hunger and violence go hand in hand. We have to go back to the height of COVID. We got the stimulus checks, and we got double the food stamps. Everybody was eating! When COVID was called off, everything went off. I was getting $2,025 a month for my family. Now I’m getting $437.”

For now, Herbert wants to continue her mission of providing for those in need of her aid and do so in a dignified manner. She currently serves about 200 people monthly. She would love to increase those numbers despite the challenges.

“If you’ve never been hungry, how can you tell me what hungry feels like?” she asks.

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