Gov. Larry Hogan visited Montgomery County on Monday to tour a nonprofit that distributes furniture, home goods and clothing free of charge to families and others struggling with poverty.
The governor toured A Wider Circle’s warehouses on Brookville Road in the Lyttonsville area of Silver Spring and spoke with Mark Bergel, the nonprofit’s founder and executive director.
Hogan strolled through the warehouses and examined dozens of couches arranged in one room and then was taken into another room that housed hundreds of old wooden furniture pieces and televisions. At one point A Wider Circle employee explained to the governor how the nonprofit repairs donated furniture in its wood shop before giving it to families in need.
About 55 percent of the families and individuals that receive donations from the nonprofit are Maryland residents—and the majority is from Montgomery County, Bergel said. A Wider Cricle serves about 21,000 people per year and takes in donations from local residents and others daily at its 9159 Brookville Road facility.
“I’m really impressed by their reach,” Hogan said after the tour. “I just wanted to take my hat off. It’s a wonderful program.”
The nonprofit also offers a workforce training boot camp. Bergel said about 83 percent of the people who complete that program land a job after a year. Hogan and Bergel discussed ways for the state to assist and grow the programs offered by the nonprofit.
“The more we can cross-collaborate to get the private sector, the nonprofit sector and government all working together, I think that’s in our interest,” Bergel said. “If you’re born into poverty, there’s an extremely high likelihood you’ll die in poverty. So why shouldn’t we do more to interrupt that cycle? That’s really what A Wider Circle is about.”
The nonprofit was founded in 2001 in Bergel’s living room and served about 200 people in the first year.
“We have about 30,000 volunteers per year,” Bergel said. “People come here to help out for a number of reasons, but whenever their entry point, we want to keep them. Thirty thousand volunteers is the only way we can serve 20,000 people.”
Monday marked the governor’s first visit to the Silver Spring nonprofit and he came after being invited to tour the facility, according to nonprofit staff members.
Image left: Gov. Larry Hogan and Mark Bergel meet outside of A Wider Circle.
— Larry Hogan (@LarryHogan) July 10, 2017
A Wider Circle volunteers help load a mattress onto a minivan. Credit: Andrew Metcalf