Cleveland Dixon said his involvement in events for the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia opened his eyes to the needs in his local community.

As president of Holiday Termite & Pest Control in Springfield, Va., Cleveland Dixon has been providing customers in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., with residential and commercial pest management services for more than 25 years. Last winter, however, Dixon was given a chance to help those around him in a new way. He was chosen to be on the 2018 grant selection committee for the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.

Each year, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia opens applications for the Community Investment Funds Grant Cycle. This signature grant cycle awards money to various nonprofit organizations that better the public by providing educational or charitable services to the northern Virginia community.

“It’s truly an honor that they value my input enough to include me in the process of supporting the local community,” Dixon said.

Dixon became involved in the foundation when a friend — Bernard Mustafa, a board member of the foundation — invited him to the end-of-the-year gala, which is attended by about 600 local northern Virginia community members. Mustafa and Dixon were introduced by a mutual friend and client, Wendy Levy.

“To have that many people focused on a common goal of giving back at one place at one time, it really piqued my interest,” said Dixon. “After having that experience, it opened my eyes to making sure that I could give more locally with my efforts personally.”

At the gala, Dixon learned that in addition to distributing grants, the foundation also vets companies to help match them with other entities with similar interests, teaches nonprofits how they can apply for future grants and offers multiple scholarship funds for local students.

“They’re really focused on their local community and uplifting the region,” Dixon said.

Sari Raskin, director of grants and community leadership for the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, asked Dixon to be a part of the 2018 grant cycle committee, which opened from January to mid-February. It focused its funds on four areas of service: child and youth development, education, poverty and aging. Dixon, along with nine other people, was on the committee devoted to poverty relief.

The poverty relief grant committee received 36 applications but, due to limited funding, could only award eight grants, each worth $10,000.

“The grant writing was kind of heartbreaking,” said Dixon. “The most difficult part was not being able to award everyone. Everybody was doing great work in the community, and, of course, you want to fund everyone.”

However, Dixon said he enjoyed going through the grant process as it gave him a deeper understanding of his local community and why the foundation is so important.

One group applying for funding in particular showed Dixon how one person can make a difference in his community. It was a team of lawyers working to support victims of sex trafficking. “I personally read their application, which was not the best,” Dixon said. “During the process of deciding who we were going to fund, they didn’t make the initial cut.”

However, Dixon said he found himself passionate about their cause and believed they deserved funding for their efforts. As a part of the grant committee, he was able to voice this opinion and champion the group.

“They ended up getting funded. They didn’t make the first round, but I was passionate about what they were doing,” he said. “And because I was in the room when decisions were being made, I was able to fight for them and their cause.”

Dixon added that being in numerous leadership roles for local, state and national pest management associations prepared him in many ways for being a part of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s grant selection committee.

“Through that, giving back has been a part of me,” Dixon said. “I learned how to be smart and effective with my time and energy when it came to giving back.”

Overall, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia distributed $260,000 in grants to 26 local nonprofits.

The author is an Ohio-based writer.