The Arc of Loudoun in the News


Parents Share Stories of Isolation for Special Needs Children, 27 February 2018 

Arc of Loudoun: What Is It? 22 February 2018 

My Bloody Valentine: February Haunted House Experience Aids Arc of Loudoun Programs, 5 February 2018 

Love is Always in the Air in Loudoun , January 2018 


New Ability Fitness Center Serves Loudoun’s Physically Challenged, 20 November 2017

Paxton Breaks Ground on Aurora Behavior Clinic, 11 October 2017

Advocates Say Disability Forgotten in Nonprofit Assessment 9 October 2017

At Shocktober, Scaring Is Caring 4 October 2017

Extraordinary Collaborations 25 May 2017

Arc of Loudoun Paxton Campus Announces New Executive Director 25 May 2017

Arc of Loudoun holds first Pathways to Justice training 24 May 2017

Loudoun Criminal Justice System Receives Disability Training, 23 May 2017

Easy on the Senses: Inova Loudoun Rolls Out Specialized Approach for Autisic Patients, 14 May 2017

Autism-friendly pediatric E.R. unveiled at Inova Loudoun Hospital, 12 May 2017

Loudoun Volunteerism Celebrated with Awards Ceremony, 28 April 2017

Ability Fitness Plans Paxton Service Center, Readies for Golf Fundraiser, 14 April 2017

School Funding, Employment Services Take Center Stage at Budget Public Hearings, by Renss Greene, 06 March 2017 

New Pilot Program Helps Individuals With Special Needs, by Sierra Fox, 23 Feb 2017

The Arc of Loudoun Executive Director Lassiter Resigns, by Danielle Nadler, Loudoun Now, 12 Jan 2017

Old Barn Gets New Life Helping Children with Disabilities, by Renss Greene, Loudoun Now, 12 Jan 2017



VIDEO – Paxton Campus strengthening the community, interview with Eileen Whelan on GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON, WJLA7, 15 Nov 2016

VIDEO – Paxton Campus helps disabled give back to community, interview with Eileen Whelan on GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON, WJLA7, 15 Nov 2016

Deputies Train to Spot Mental Illness and Avoid Tragediesby Renss Greene, Loudoun Now, 20 Oct 2016

Loudoun deputies learn how to identify, respond to people with autism, by Jim Barnes, Washington Post – Loudoun Local Section, 10 Oct 2016

Sheriff’s Office and Paxton Campus Push New Program to Help People with Disabilities, by Veronike Collazo of The Loudoun Tribune, 5 Oct 2016

(Shocktober) There’s A Haunted House In Virginia That’s So Terrifying You Have To Sign A Waiver To Enter, Beth Wellford, 18 Aug 2016

Old Ox Brews the Flavor of Shocktober, by Renss Greene, Loudoun Now,  12 Aug 2016

Jamming for a cause in Leesburg, by Alison Cuevas, Loudoun Times-Mirror on 4 Aug 2016

Community Action Results in New Home for Leesburg Mother, Son, Loudoun Now, 2 Aug 2016

(Shocktober) My Bloody Valentine offers fear, romance in Leesburg, by Tiffany Arnold, 12 February 2016.

(Shocktober) VIDEOS: Shocktober’s ‘My Bloody Valentine’ Feb. 12-14, with Eileen Whelan of WJLA News Channel 7. 11 February 2016

(Shocktober) Dare to scare for a unique Valentine’s Day, by Adrienne West, Northern Virginia Magazine. 9 February 2016.

(Shocktober) A bloody Valentine’s Day adventure at Paxton Campus, by Hannah Dellinger, Loudoun Times-Mirror. 29 January 2016

PRESS RELEASE: Shocktober Opens its Doors for Three Nights in February and One Night in March!




Young People With Disabilities Thriving In Job Opportunitiesby Mike Stancik of Leesburg Today on 3 Nov 2015.




(Shocktober) BLOG: Halloween haunt review: Shocktober (Paxton Manor): Warning:  Just reading this post may scare you!  Read at your own risk! by Patricia Hall, 17 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) D-Line, Linebackers Reflect On Getting Super Scared This Week At ‘Shocktober’Jake Kring-Schreifels, Associate Writer,, 16 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) VIDEO: Shocktober’s Paxton Manor in Leesburg, Va., By Meaghan Mooney at WUSA9’s Great Day Washington, 16 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) Redskins linebackers tackle haunted house in Va., By Michelle Basch | WTOP 16 

How I … Give people the creeps for a good cause: Leesburg’s The Aurora School turns into haunted house to raise wicked amounts of money, by Chase Cabot of Washington Business Journal on 16 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) Redskins’ Linebackers Get Spooked In Leesburg, by Danielle Nadler, Leesburg Today, 15 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) Redskins defensive line got very scared at a haunted house, by Extra Mustard |Sports Illustrated, 14 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) Redskins’ defensive line visits haunted house, gets scared, Scott Allen, Washington Post, 13 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) Redskins’ D-Line Gets A Good Scare At ‘Shocktober’, Stephen Czarda,, 13 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) Even Redskins D-linemen get scared at haunted houses, CSN Mid-Atlantic, 13 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) BLOG: Shocktober is a Spooktacular Haunt Supporting a Great Cause! Amy Pope Fitzgerald of Twingles Mom Blog, 10 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) Halloween 2015: Shocktober’s Paxton Manor haunted house in Leesburg, Virginia,, 9 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) These 12 Haunted Houses In Virginia Will Terrify You In The Best Way (Paxton Manor #4), Only In Your State, 9 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) Shocktober Aims To Scare For A Good Cause, by Mike Stancik, Leesburg Today, 7 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) VIDEO: Haunting Season Begins at Virginia Estate: Paxton Mansion Begins New Season, by NBC4 News. 2 Oct 2015

(Shocktober) VIDEO: DIY Zombie Makeup on Let’s Talk Live on Channel 8 News. 2 Oct 2015 (Minute 19:25)


Stolen Paxton Campus Golf Cart Back In Serviceby Mike Stancik of Leesburg Today on September 15, 2015


VIDEO: Community Rallies to Help Paxton Campus, by NBC4 on September 15, 2015


Leesburg Thrift Shop Donates To Nonprofits, by Mike Stancik of Leesburg Today on August 15, 2015


4 NBC WASHINGTON: Vandals Strike the Heart of a Leesburg Non-Profit
Click for Video
Click for Story 

Community Rallies to Aid Paxton after Golf Cart is Stolen

Melissa Heifetz named Director of Advocacy at ALLY Advocacy Center (page 31)

Adults with Autism May Be Loudoun’s Next Agribusiness Workforce

Visit Loudoun celebrates its 20th anniversary at annual awards ceremony

Loudoun’s tourism champions honored at Visit Loudoun awards

Paxton Campus Launches May Concert Series With Voodoo Blues

Area Dancers Donate $12,000 to Local Charities

Paxton Campus Holds Annual Celebration Monday



Paxton Campus Dedicates School To Longtime Supporter

Constructing a legacy: The Aurora School in Loudoun dedicated to “Butch” Miller

Open Door Learning Center at Paxton Campus

A Running Start For 2014



Radio-Thon Ready to ‘Ring In’ the 28th Annual Chain of Checks!

Maggie’s Closet in Leesburg turns 2

Maggie’s Closet Marks Two Years Of Service

This Holiday Season, Gift For Good

Remember Gifts for Good this holiday

Willowsfordramblings: Paxton Manor Experience

Paxton Mansion in Leesburg will squeeze one more Halloween fright from you this weekend

Haunted Paxton Manor’s Shocktober Scaring Up A Crowd

28th Annual Chain of Checks beneficiaries announced

Paxton Campus Joins Monarch Butterfly Initiative

Aurora School celebrates 10-year anniversary

Paxton Campus Won the 2013 Leesburg Patriot Cup

The Battle to Educate the Autistic

100 Women Strong Announces 2013 Grant Recipients

2013 Leesburg Business Award Nominees Announced

The Arc of Loudoun Raises Autism Awareness

Autism awareness walk set for April 7 in Leesburg

Claude Moore Charitable Foundation awards $889k to Loudoun charities




UPDATE: Paxton Manor Transforms into Haunted Attraction

Students, Staff Celebrate Grand Opening of Paxton Attraction

Art Exhibit and Live Auction to Benefit Paxton Manor

Paranormal Sleepover to Take Place at Paxton Manor

Run for Independence 8K to Benefit Arc of Loudoun

Sterling Women Hosts The Arc of Loudoun Director

Autism Bill Unanimously Approved



Interview with Jennifer Lassiter, Executive Director of Paxton Campus

Maggie’s Closet Holds Open House

Maggie’s Closet Prepares For Those in Need

Governor appoints Loudoun residents to boards

Paxton Manor Prepares for Halloween

Non-Profit Boot Camp Offers Networking, Learning Opportunities




Paxton haunt a success

Paxton Manor in Leesburg turned into haunted house for Halloween




Aurora School Targets 2009 Opening At Carlheim

Mansion to Again Serve Needy

Aurora School To Move To Paxton In Leesburg

Aurora School Inks Deal For Paxton Center; $9M Renovation Planned



New lease on life

Aurora School Plans Expansion


Full Articles ———————————————————————–


Young People With Disabilities Thriving In Job Opportunitiesby Mike Stancik of Leesburg Today on 3 Nov 2015.

When 23-year-old Kelly Erikson, who has Down syndrome, interviewed with Cava Grill in Ashburn ahead of its opening in September she was hired on the spot as a customer representative.

She is taking the challenge of her first paid job head on.

Erikson is among scores of residents with disabilities who find opportunities for greater independence working with area companies.

“She absolutely loves it,” Joan Erikson, her mother, said. “She loves the people that she works with and loves interacting with people that come in. Everyone has been kind and she gets a lot of energy from being there.”

The Sterling resident is responsible for cleaning the seating and drink area, restocking all the dispensers and menus, and greeting customers one day a week.

“I was very excited about [getting the job],” said Kelly Erikson, a Potomac Falls High School graduate who also volunteers at Sugarland Elementary. “I love to talk to people a lot. … I love the food.”

Joan Erikson said the mother of a community manager for Cava Grill posted on a Facebook page for parents who have children with Down syndrome, and the relationship between the family and Cava Grill has grown quickly ever since.

“We have nothing but admiration for this organization,” she said. “They create a family feel among the employees. Kelly feels very valued there and feels part of the community.”

Cava Grill People and Culture Director Dave McKlveen said Erikson “has been a great addition to our team.”

Pittsburgh Rick’s in Leesburg hired 19-year-old Josh Lubitz last year. Lubitz, who has autism, graduated from Tuscarora High School in May. Lubitz, with a passion for baking, made fries, sandwiches and desserts at the restaurant and also cleaned tables two days a week.

“He was not only learning new skills, but also built relationships with co-workers, the manager and owner,” Kathy Lubitz, Josh Lubitz’s mother, said. “They would also help him with any problems he had outside of work.”

Rick Allison, owner of Pittsburgh Rick’s, also helped Lubitz get another part-time job at the Layered Cake Bakery in Leesburg this past summer. He’s now studying to be a baking and pastry chef at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, NC, and Allison checks in on him regularly.

“I’m really enthusiastic that these businesses are leading the way,” Paxton Campus Communications Coordinator Rachel Roseberry said.

Paxton Campus in Leesburg has developed a new program within the past year named STEP Up (Supported Training and Employment Program). The goal is to provide adults with disabilities with training and meaningful employment opportunities both on campus and in the community.

Program Director Katie Wilcox has made connections with area businesses that hire Paxton STEP Up employees to clean their respective studios or buildings. STEP Up also has an online art business in which handmade works are sold online at

“The STEP Up crew that works here is always very happy and excited to be working,” Roseberry said. “We’re really happy to have created the STEP Up program because we’re trying to fill the gaps in the community. … They’re always loyal to the business they work for.”

Businesses that employ people with disabilities also receive three tax incentives: an architectural/transportation tax deduction up to $15,000, a small business tax credit up to $5,000, and a work opportunity tax credit up to $2,400.

Loudoun also has nonprofit organizations that help youth and adults with disabilities garner employment opportunities, including Loudoun ENDependence and ECHOworks.

Loudoun ENDependence’s services encompass a wide range of help, including transportation, health care, and job training for those with disabilities.

“We take care of the whole person,” Outreach Coordinator Tracee Garner said. “We want them to survive and thrive in a workplace setting, that’s our goal.”

ECHO partners with area businesses for a variety of work, including running mailrooms, product assembly and filling orders. Businesses that ECHO works with include K2M, the Federal Aviation Administration, REHAU, and Inova hospitals.

“If you hire a person with a disability, you’re not only getting your work completed, but you’re hiring a person who is dedicated and motivated,” ECHO Marketing Manager Karen Russell said. “It makes a positive difference in workplace morale.”

Those interested in advocating for people with disabilities can also join the Loudoun County Disability Services Board, which is an at-large advisory body appointed by the Board of Supervisors. It serves as a resource to the board by identifying and advising on issues of importance to people with disabilities, their families and caregivers living in Loudoun. There are currently four openings on the panel.

For more information, go to


Shocktober Aims To Scare For A Good Cause, by Mike Stancik of Leesburg Today on 7 Oct 2015.

As attendees were about to enter the Shocktober haunted house at Paxton Campus in Leesburg on Saturday night, Crystal Mills gave them one last warning.

“If you get scared … sorry,” Mills, who was covered in fake blood and wielding a big plastic knife, said in a deep and foreshadowing tone.

Shocktober’s Paxton Manor opened for its sixth season last weekend, with the goal of raising money to pay for services at the nonprofit’s campus, which assists youth and young adults with disabilities. Last year, the event raised more than $200,000, made possible by more than 5,000 hours of volunteer work.

Mills, who plays Janice Carver, is one of more than 150 volunteers who transform Paxton Manor, a 140-year-old mansion, into a haunted house that’s full of scares around every corner.

Her 17-year-old daughter, Autumn, plays Jolly Polly Carver.

“This is our bonding time,” Crystal Mills said, noting the two have volunteered for three years. “We like to call it our scare therapy. These are great memories to share and it’s for a great cause.”

The storyline of the haunt begins a century ago, when the Carvers were banished from Leesburg and forced to move to the underground caverns beneath the Paxton Manor. The zombie cave-dwellers were tired of living underground so they have taken over the 32-room mansion that was built above an underground lake and immense limestone caverns.

It’s a scary tale that works.

Paxton Campus receptionist and advocacy public speaker Jennifer Alves said she’s gone through the haunted house before, and “once was enough.”

“But if you’re scared, just think about the kids you’re helping,” she said.

That makes each loud scream even more worthwhile, a formula that the campus hopes to continue for many more years.

“’We scare because we care’ is our motto,” Executive Director of Paxton Campus Jennifer Lassiter said. “Each volunteer contributes so much to the entire production.”

Paxton Campus Facilities Director Matt Smith spends the off-season tinkering with the mansion’s features and scare tactics for the zombies, so the dynamics of the house change every year and keep returning customers surprised.

“It’s fun getting to know the house each year,” said Renee Roverge, a 15-year-old volunteer whose face was covered with spooky, white makeup. “And all of the people are really great. It’s almost like a family.”

Since Shocktober’s inception, the proceeds have helped Paxton Campus create two new programs: “A Life Like Yours,” an advocacy center that provides information, support and services to people with disabilities; and the Supported Training and Employment Program, a job skills and training program for adults with disabilities.

It also has won a Humanitarian Award from Visit Loudoun.

There are two attractions at the mansion, the main Paxton Manor haunted house, and its basement, named the Haunted Well of Souls. It’s $35 ($30 for tickets purchased online) to go through both, and the tours are offered on Fridays and Saturdays 7-10 p.m. and Sundays 7-9 p.m. through the month of October. There will be a special “black out” on Halloween night, when all of the lights in the mansion will be turned off, making for an even spookier experience.

“My favorite part is hearing people scream and they do scream loud,” Paxton Campus board member Mike Kosin said. “We try to make this top notch to give people the best bang for their buck.”

For more information, go to or contact Rachel Roseberry at or 703-431-4279.


Leesburg Thrift Shop Donates To Nonprofits

by Mike Stancik of Leesburg Today on August 15, 2015

Blossom and Bloom Thrift Shop in Leesburg recently awarded grants totaling $45,000 to area nonprofits.

This year’s donations include grants of $20,000 each to Every Citizen Has Opportunities and The Arc of Loudoun and $5,000 spread among other services supporting people with disabilities including Very Special Arts, A Place To Be, the Frederick Mission, Maggie’s Closet, and The Homeless Trailer Campaign through The Arc of Loudoun.

“These special organizations serve people in our local communities in a variety of ways and we are happy to be able to support their ongoing efforts,” Blossom and Bloom Board President Victoria Daly said.

ECHO provides jobs to people with disabilities, helping them to realize their potential and achieve their goals. The organization provides ransportation to job sites around the region and contracts with businesses to provide services such as product assembly, order fulfillment, mail preparations, grounds-keeping, paper shredding, administrative assistance, retail assistance and document scanning.

The Arc of Loudoun provides individual support to disabled residents and promotes participation with their non-disabled peers in all aspects of community life, including education, residence, vocation and health care..

Founded in 1976, Bloosom and Bloom is Loudoun’s oldest thrift shop and was established with the sole purpose of benefitting those with disabilities. The organization has contributed well over $100,000 over the past three years.

“We would like to thank our generous donors, loyal customers and dedicated volunteers who make this possible year after year,” said Blossom and Bloom Board Vice President Shelley Martin.

Blossom and Bloom, located 110 W. Market St., accepts donations Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, and is looking for local business partners to join its effort through donations and participation in special projects. Call 703-777-3286 for more information.

Visit Loudoun celebrates its 20th anniversary at annual awards ceremony

By Caitlin Gibson, Washington Post, Monday, May 11, 2015

When the Loudoun Tourism Council opened its doors in 1995, its goal was to boost the profile of one of Washington’s sleepier suburbs — a largely rural community dotted with farms and quaint historic towns, home to about 115,000 residents.

In the two decades since, Loudoun County’s tourism association, which was later re-branded as Visit Loudoun, has helped shape the profound transformation of one of the nation’s fastest-growing jurisdictions.

Dozens of wineriesbreweries and tasting rooms have appeared throughout the county’s western region and downtown streets. A wealth of local farms and fine restaurants have fueled a soaring culinary tourism industry. Hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to Loudoun to eat, drink, shop — and live, as evidenced by a population that has more than tripled in 20 years, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Visit Loudoun commemorated the tourism industry’s role in Loudoun’s evolution with a 20th anniversary celebration and annual tourism awards ceremony Monday at Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg, where Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones hailed the state’s abundance of tourist attractions as a critical backbone of its economy.

In Loudoun, the tourism industry has grown exponentially in recent years. In 1998, the county was home to seven hotels, one brewery and five wineries. Now there are more than 35 hotels and 40 wineries, and nearly a dozen breweries, with several more expected to open in the coming months, tourism officials said.


The amount of traveler spending in the county surged from $618 million in 1997 to about $1.5 billion in 2013. As of that same year, there were more than 15,800 tourism-related jobs in Loudoun, officials said.

As the county’s tourism industry has evolved, so has the association at its helm. In its earliest years, Visit Loudoun received less than $155,000 in annual county funding. In the last fiscal year, that number was close to $2.5 million, funding that reflects rising revenue from hotel taxes, a portion of which is annually allocated to the organization.

Monday’s celebration was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Visit Loudoun’s new headquarters in downtown Leesburg. The office is on the ground floor of the same building it previously occupied on South Street SE.

The first-floor location will make it easier for the agency to attract and guide visitors, Visit Loudoun President Beth Erickson said. The larger space will host a gallery in which the works of local artists will be displayed, she said. As one of the “officially designated” visitor centers for the commonwealth, it will also promote attractions across the state.

“It’s important for us to guide visitors and provide services beyond Loudoun County,” she said.

The office will also showcase the county’s latest initiatives, including a forthcoming “Ale Trail,” which will offer visitors a brewery alternative to the county’s popular wine tours. Visit Loudoun is working with the county’s breweries to finalize plans, officials said. The Ale Trail is expected to debut in the coming weeks.

The association is also preparing for the third annual Epicurience Virginia food and wine festival over Labor Day weekend. Last year, the upscale, three-day event drew more than 2,000 visitors to its slate of activities, nearly doubling attendance over its inaugural year.


“Culinary tourism is huge,” Erickson said. “The commonwealth as a whole is being recognized for its culinary strength, and Loudoun is right up there as one of the leaders, so we’re excited to continue to foster and continue on that promise.”

A big step toward that goal is coming in November, with the arrival of the national Wine Tourism Conference in Leesburg, she said. Following previous events in California’s wine country and in Portland, Ore., the conference will make its East Coast debut in Loudoun — an achievement that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and local tourism officials have hailed as a testament to the rising prominence of Virginia’s wine industry.

Despite the runaway success of Loudoun’s wine and culinary industries, Erickson said, the county’s greatest asset is its diverse tourism options. For example, there’s “Shocktober,” an annual haunted mansion hosted at historic Paxton Manor, but there’s also the Middleburg Film Festival, a high-end event created by Sheila Johnson, billionaire co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and owner of the Salamander Resort and Spa.

“We have a range of key events, and they’re all really fun and really different.. . . You need to have a diverse event base to attract your largest audience,” Erickson said. “We’re going to keep doing everything we can to raise awareness of all aspects of Loudoun County.”

Loudoun’s tourism champions honored at Visit Loudoun awards

By Trevor Baratko, Loudoun Times Mirror, Monday, May. 4, 2015

Photo Credit: Trevor Baratko

Photo Credit: Trevor Baratko

Long-time Loudoun advocates Genie Ford and Childs Burden and the Purcellville Food and Wine Festival came away with three of the county’s top tourism honors at Monday’s Visit Loudoun Awards at Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg.

Ford, the founder of Shakespeare in the ‘Burg, was honored with the 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award, while Burden, the president of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, was given the Judy Patterson Tourism Award, Visit Loudoun’s highest honor.

The Purcellville Wine and Food Festival, an annual fête that continues to boom year after year, was named the event of the year. More than 3,000 people attended last July’s festival.

Here is a full list of the 2014 Visit Loudoun Tourism Award Winners:

2014 Tourism Event of the Year — Purcellville Food & Wine Festival

2014 Tourism Marketing and Promotion Campaign — Middleburg Film Festival

2014 Tourism Volunteers of the Year — Genie Ford, Founder of Shakespeare in the ‘Burg and co-founder of the Hunt Country Writer’s Annual Retreat; Civil War Sesquicentennial Steering Committee

2014 Tourism Front-Line Employee of the Year — Amy Thunell, Event Producer and Day Coordinator at The Stable at Bluemont Vineyard

2014 Tourism Management — Gemma Brown, director of rooms at Salamander Resort and Spa

2014 Humanitarian Award — Shocktober, Paxton Campus

2014 Steve Hines Partner of the Year — Comfort Suites Leesburg

2014 Judy Patterson Tourism Award — Childs Burden, President, Mosby Heritage Area Association

2014 Distinguished Service — Riley McGovern, Front Desk, Hampton Inn & Suites Leesburg

Industry personnel were asked to nominate staff, programs, and events that best demonstrated exceptional work for promoting the county for the 19th annual awards.

Visit Loudoun this year renamed the Partner of the Year award in honor of Steve Hines, a founding member of Visit Loudoun’s board and local tourism advocate, who passed away in January.

Virginia Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones served as the event’s keynote speaker, touting tourism as an industry that’s prime for growth in the commonwealth.

Area Dancers Donate $12,000 to Local Charities

By C. EST (Star Patcher) February 24, 2015

302 dancers, 20 staff members and 51 parent volunteers from Creative Dance Center collaborate to raise $12,000.00 funds for local charities

302 dancers, 20 staff members and 51 parent volunteers from Creative Dance Center’s 6-time World Championship Competition Team, CDC Performing Troupe and CDC Stars donated their time to produce and present the 2015 Winter Benefit Performance. Dancers from all over Northern Virginia train at the Creative Dance Center studios in Chantilly, Ashburn and South Riding. The collaborative event, held on Friday, February 6th at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, raised $12,000.00, funds that will provide much needed support to Northern Virginia community programs.

The old barns on the Paxton Campus in Leesburg are bound for new life. $4,000.00 of the funds raised will help in the building of the new Barns of Paxton Performing Arts Center. The original barns are being deconstructed and rebuilt into a fully accessible updated design for people with disabilities to utilize. “The donation from the local dancers’ Winter Benefit means SO much to the families at Paxton Campus. We look forward to sharing their love of dance with our families in the new theater,” says Meredith Lefforge, Director of Development at Paxton Campus. Paxton provides programming for individuals and families with disabilities.

Another $4,000.00 was donated to the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS). Says Nicole Acosta, Executive Director at LAWS, “The dancers have helped hundreds of local families to get back on their feet. We are grateful for the Winter Benefit donations.”

The remaining $4,000.00 was donated to the Malone Foundation scholarship, which honors exceptional eighth grade students.

Due to the growing success of the Winter Benefit Performance, the Institute of Performing Arts for Youth at Creative Dance Center will present the 6th Annual Winter Benefit in 2016. For information on corporate or individual donations, please contact

20150254ec97e38f31cPhoto 1 Caption:

On the site of the Barns at Paxton Performing Arts Center project, Brianna Crump and Brooke Weismiller, the 2014 Malone Foundation Award Recipients for Dance, help Creative Dance Center Owner, Ramona Batchelder, present donation checks totaling $12,000 to the three beneficiaries of CDC’s Winter Benefit Performance: the Malone Foundation, LAWS and Paxton.


54e7b6029ef6d.imagePaxton Campus Holds Annual Celebration Monday

Posted: Friday, February 20, 2015 5:12 pm | Leesburg Today

The Arc of Loudoun at Paxton Campus will hold its Annual Meeting and Celebration of Friends of Paxton Monday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. with the spotlight on recently renovated Davis Cottage.

A ribbon cutting at the cottage will occur, which was repurposed to expand the Aurora School’s Launch Program and house “STEP Up,” a vocational training program for adults with disabilities.

The event also will include a special service award recognition and a reception with food and drinks, as well as the annual business meeting and elections.

For those interested, RSVP directly to Rachel Roseberry at or 703-777-1939, ext. 106.

The mission statement at Paxton is to maximize the potential of children while supporting families and individuals with disabilities so they may thrive in the community.

For more information on the campus, located at 601 Catoctin Circle NE, go to



Paxton Campus Dedicates School To Longtime Supporter

James E. “Butch” Miller was known as a loyal friend and adviser to The Arc of Loudoun, an affiliate of the national organization The Arc of the United States that supports children with disabilities and their families, at the Paxton Campus in Leesburg.

On July 11, the same day the organization dedicated the campus’ Aurora School to Miller, who helped build and design the facility, the 76-year old man died from esophageal cancer.

Miller was brought to Paxton by Bill Hanes, a trustee for the Margaret Paxton Memorial that owns the property, as a representative for the trust. His task was to oversee the organization’s finances to find ways to cut costs. But he soon became involved in the day-to-day operations and, as a retired contractor, began spearheading renovations to the five buildings on the campus.

“He became passionate about helping needy children,” Jennifer Lassiter, executive director for the Arc of Loudoun, said. “Without Butch we wouldn’t be able to do anything we do here.”

Miller transformed the Aurora School that before it opened in 2009 was a gymnasium, into a modern facility specially designed for students with special needs. The school has a user-friendly kitchen, designated study areas and observation rooms, where teachers can monitor individual students’ behavior. While the organization was making plans to host a dedication celebration in Miller’s honor they received the news that just two months ago Miller was diagnosed with stage IV of the disease. The news shocked family and friends, Lassiter said.

At Miller’s request Lassiter traveled to his home in Burgess, in the Northern Neck region, just two days before he died. Until then, she had not realized it was a more than three-hour drive that Miller had been making to Paxton at least twice a week since 2008. This week she said she is happy to have those final moments with the man she called her “guiding star.”

A plaque displayed at the school reads, “Beloved friend of Paxton whose expertise, hard work, and generous spirit brought the dream of this building to life for the children.”

“He made such a difference in the lives of the children here I had to make that known,” Lassiter said. “I never imagined he wouldn’t be here to see it.”

Miller was also involved in the organization’s plans to convert the property’s old barns into an arts, fitness and wellness facility. The new Barns of Paxton will feature a therapy pool, a recreational pool, a gym, a fitness center with specialized equipment, a pottery room, a medical clinic and café. The $7 million project will be divided into three phases. Phase I will include two new buildings that will house the fitness and performing arts centers. During Phase II, the former dairy barn will be restored to accommodate an extensive art space with several rooms and a gallery. The stone barn will be reconstructed into a music recording studio, behavior clinic and administrative offices during Phase III.

Plans have been drawn up but construction isn’t expected to begin until fall 2016. Lassiter said the Barns would offer children with disabilities the same opportunities that any other child is afforded in a non-threatening environment, touting the organization’s motto, “A life like yours.”

Next month the campus will open STEP Up, a vocational school designed to give job training to young adults with disabilities who are transitioning out of high school or for adults who need help finding a job.

For more information on the program, or to make a donation, go to



Constructing a legacy: The Aurora School in Loudoun dedicated to “Butch” Miller

Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2014 by Anna Harris, Loudoun Times-Mirror Staff Writer

On July 11, The Aurora School dedicated its main building to James E. “Butch” Miller, who was instrumental in the renovations of Paxton Campus in Leesburg for The Arc of Loudoun, an advocacy program for people with disabilities and their families.

Miller succumbed to esophageal cancer the morning that the building was renamed in his honor. Jennifer Lassiter, executive director of The Arc of Loudoun, said they learned of the diagnosis two months earlier, which prompted them to memorialize Miller’s legacy.

“[The Aurora School building] is a very unique design,” said Lassiter. “It’s specifically designed for students with autism, and Butch made that happen.”

The Arc of Loudoun created The Aurora School, which moved onto the Paxton Campus in 2009. The land is part of the Paxton Memorial for Convalascent Children created in 1921 by Rachel Paxton as a memorial to her daughter, Margaret A. Paxton.

Miller and Lassiter teamed up for the land’s first renovation. An old gym was stripped to its bones and rebuilt as The Aurora School with the needs of the students in mind.

“Butch was hired to work with me in renovating the property,” said Lassiter. “Kind of like a checks and balances situation. I had the vision of what needed to be done for the kids with disabilities. Butch was in charge of making sure we were getting the best value.”

The Arc of Loudoun signed a lease with Paxton Campus in February 2008. Bill Hanes, trustee for the Margaret Paxton Memorial and good friend of Miller, said he received a surplus of contractor bids with a large price variance before renovation began. At a loss for which to pick, he called up Miller.

“The first name that came to mind was my best buddy [Miller], because he was in construction,” said Hanes. “He was the quintessential expert in all areas of construction. I called him up and said, ‘can you come up here and help me decide what the variance is and where to go from here?’ And he did.”

After some time, he convinced Miller to come on board with the project as the Owner’s Representative for the Trust. He oversaw all aspects of Aurora’s construction from financing to finishing touches.

“He became motivated by the Paxton Trust,” said Hanes. “Butch took on the real spirit of Rachel Paxton’s creation of a trust for needy children … And he became an enthusiastic supporter of Aurora School and everything that it stood for.”

After that, Miller worked with Lassiter on the renovation of more buildings for The Arc of Loudoun’s other services on Paxton Campus, like Maggie’s Closet, a clothing store run by volunteers and people with disabilities.

After graduating from Virginia Tech, Miller went on to work his way up in various construction companies. He finally retired in 2002 and lived with his wife, Marlene, in Northern Virginia.

“He was an all around good guy,” said Hanes. “And he was widely loved. His funeral will be Saturday, and I’m expecting it to be the biggest they’ve ever had.”


Open Door Learning Center at Paxton Campus


A Running Start For 2014

Leesburg Today, Thursday, January 2, 2014 9:00 am 

The Rotary Club of Leesburg made sure 2014 got off to an energetic start with the 17th annual REHAU Rotary Resolution Race New Year’s morning at Ida Lee Park.

More than 500 participants got up early to run 10K and 5K courses over the rolling countryside at Ida Lee Park and Morven Park.

In the 10K race, Paul Schoney set the pace, completing the course in 36:28. Ana Valdez was the top finisher in the women’s division, crossing the line at 43:14.

It was the first year that the event featured a 5K race and 16-year-old Ihab Benjamkaddem led the pack, finishing with a time of 18:35. The top female finishers was close behind, crossing the line at 20:13.

The event benefits several area charities and graduates of Leesburg’s high schools. This year, proceeds will be distributed to The ARC of Loudoun, ECHOworks, the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter and Loudoun Interfaith, as well as the Rotary Club of Leesburg Perry Winston Scholarship Fund.

Radio-Thon Ready to ‘Ring In’ the 28th Annual Chain of Checks!

Press Release from Barry Lee at 92.5 WINC FM

On Thursday, December 12th and Friday, December 13th, 92.5 WINC-FM will open up the studio phone lines for the Chain of Checks Radio-Thon to benefit The Arc of Northern Shenandoah Valley and The Arc of Loudoun.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, a caring community will phone in their pledges to help children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live “a life like yours”.   Volunteer operators will be taking the calls at 540-662-9462 and 1-800-662-9462.  During those same hours, individuals, school groups, businesses and clubs can bring in their fundraising gifts to the WINC-FM studios at 520 North Pleasant Valley Road in Winchester and 1089 Edwards Ferry Road Northeast in Leesburg.  Donations can also be made on-line at through December 31st.

Chain of Checks image

Due to the generous support of numerous businesses and Chain of Checks partners, the first $1,000 in pledges of each hour will be matched dollar for dollar!  With these gifts The Arc can provide a wide range of recreational and social opportunities to children and adults with disabilities, including i-pads for children with autism enabling them to better communicate with their families.  The ultimate goal is to fulfill their desire to simply live “a life like yours”.

Recipient of the 2012 Virginia Association of Broadcasting’s “Best Public Service/Community Event”, the Chain of Checks has raised over $1,200,000 for local charities since 1986.  The Chain of Checks is a non-profit partner of The Community Foundation of Northern Shenandoah Valley.

For additional information or questions, contact Felicia Hart, Director of Marketing/Development for The Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley at 540-533-5561.


Maggie’s Closet in Leesburg turns 2

Posted by Jana Wagoner in Loudoun Times Mirror on December 5, 2013

Loudoun’s only free clothing store, Maggie’s Closet, will turn 2 Dec. 5.

The store, which has a boutique-like setting, is on the Paxton Campus in Leesburg and provides quality clothing to families and individuals in need with no questions asked.

More than 900 families have been served since it opened.

Maggie’s Closet is a job training facility for autistic students at The Aurora School and provides employment for others in Loudoun with disabilities.


Maggie’s Closet Marks Two Years Of Service

Posted by Leesburg Today, December 4, 2013

Maggie’s Closet, Loudoun’s only free clothing store on the Paxton Campus in Leesburg, is celebrating its second anniversary this week.

The store provides clothing to families and individuals in need at no cost and with no questions asked. Since its opening, Maggie’s Closet has served more than 900 families and has given away more than 30,000 items of clothing.

The store operates as a job training facility for students with autism at The Aurora School, also located on the campus, and provides employment for adults with disabilities as well as volunteer opportunities for high school students.

Maggie’s Closet accepts donations of seasonally appropriate new and gently used clothing throughout the year. The store is open by appointment only. For more information or to make an appointment, call 703-777-1939 ext. 200


This Holiday Season, Gift For Good

From Leesburg Today, November 19, 2013

Loudoun Gifts for Good is ramping up for holiday season giving with meaning. Through the website area residents can holiday shop by donating to local charities in honor of family, friends and colleagues.

“Each year, we are faced with the dilemma of giving holiday gifts for people who are already so blessed with more than they need. Loudoun Gifts for Good offers an alternative for those of us who seek to give more meaningful gifts that will also help build community,” Susan Mandel Giblin, Executive Director of Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers, said in a statement.

A number of Loudoun-based nonprofits are participating this year. These include:

All Ages Read Together
Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice/LAWS
American Red Cross
Loudoun ENDependence
Blue Ridge Speech & Hearing
Loudoun Families for Children
Crossroads Jobs
Loudoun Interfaith Relief
Friends of Loudoun Mental Health
Loudoun Literacy Council
HealthWorks of Northern Virginia
Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers
Help for Others
INMED Partnerships For Children
La Voz of Loudoun
Paxton Campus
Loudoun Cares

Participating charities will each post gift ideas such as:

– $10 provides cab fare to get an elderly resident to her medical appointment

– $25 helps buy bed linens for a shelter serving a homeless family

– $50 provides a one hour therapeutic horseback riding lesson for a wounded warrior

– Any amount can be donated to help the agency cover overhead costs and more

Sponsors and community supporters are needed to help make Loudoun Gifts for Good successful this year. Past supporters include: Loudoun Interfaith Bridges, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, Backflow Technology, Inc., Middleburg Bank, Inova Loudoun Hospital, Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, Rehau, Cardinal Bank, Browning Equipment, Dr. Gordon Culp, Dr. Michael Kavanaugh, Burnett & Williams and Elaine Nunnally (artwork).

Loudoun Gifts for Good invites participation from faith communities, businesses, civic groups and others.

Call 703-669-2351 or email for more information

Remember Gifts for Good this holiday

From Loudoun Times Mirror, November 17, 2013

Several health organizations will be benefiting from the Loudoun Gifts for Good program. Visiting allows shoppers to donate to local charities in honor of family, friends and colleagues.

“Loudoun Gifts for Good offers an alternative for those of us who seek to give more meaningful gifts that will also help build community,” said Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers Executive Director Mandel Giblin.

The following organizations are participating: All Ages Read Together, American Red Cross, Blue Ridge Speech & Hearing, Brain Injury Services, Crossroads Jobs, Friends of Loudoun Mental Health, HealthWorks of Northern Virginia, Help for Others, Loudoun Cares, Loudoun Literacy Council, Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice, Loudoun ENDependence, Loudoun Families for Children, Loudoun Interfaith Relief, Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers, INMED Partnership for Children and Paxton Campus.

Gift ideas include offerings like: $10 provides cab fare for elderly resident going to a medical appointment, $25 helps buy bed linens for a shelter and $50 provides one hour of therapeutic horseback riding for a wounded warrior.

For more information, visit

Willowsfordramblings: Paxton Manor Experience

November 6, 2013

Ghouls. Goblins. Haunted elevators. Haunted basements. Creepy clowns….

These are just a few of the fun Halloween scares you’ll find at Paxton Manor in Leesburg during the haunting season at their signature event (and quite scary I might add) – Shocktober. For the truly brave, Paxton Manor also hosts a Friday the 13th “sleep”over for those with enough gusto to spend the night in an eerie old house (rules include no crying, no whining and no pleading for your life)!

Ripe with some cool technology and impressive ghoulish actors (we hope) this haunted experience is one of the best in the area!

But after a trip to the Manor for some good old fashioned scare tactics, you’ll be just as curious about the history as you are about how in the world they put this amazing Halloween spectacle together. Turns out you may have reason to fear!

Paxton Manor was built literally next door to famous Ball’s Bluff Battlefield, a battle that killed over 1,100 men. So if you’re the superstitious type, you know exactly what that means! It was built in 1872 by industrialist Charles Paxton and his wife Rachel, who later had a daughter named Margaret. After Margaret died in 1900 at age 50, Rachel dedicated the house in her memory as the Margaret Paxton Memorial for Convalescent Children – providing hospice for mentally and physically ill and disabled children, who lived and died in the home.

After Rachel – who outlived her husband, daughter and grandson – died in 1921, the property was only known as the Paxton Home for Children – which later became an orphanage in the 1950s and then child care center in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 2004 that the mansion itself was abandoned and later turned into the haunt-fest it is today.

The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2004 it became part of the Leesburg Historic District. Other on-campus buildings currently serve as a non-profit advocacy center for disabled and developing children, and the grounds are host to annual events including a charity road race and music festival.

So although you may let your imagination wander when visiting this historical gem in the night – it is definitely worth a second look under the light of day! If you’d like to learn more about the amazing things happening at Paxton Campus – visit their website at Or, if you just want a good old-fashioned scare next year – We promise, either way, it won’t disappoint!

– See more at:


Paxton Mansion in Leesburg will squeeze one more Halloween fright from you this weekend

By Brandon Payton of Northern Virginia Magazine / Friday, November 1st, 2013

The Paxton Manor mansion is nothing less than creepy from the outside at night. It’s whats on the inside that matters though, right? This weekend, the last weekend of the event, the renowned Paxton Campus is open to visitors who dare enter and experience a paranormal recreation of what has been deemed by many, paranormal investigators included, to be truly haunted by spirits. The house is built on top of an underground lake full of unexplored caverns. With more than 32 rooms inside the mansion there’s plenty of mystery and more than enough room for your imagination to wander as you walk past dead nurses, zombies and ghouls who are waiting for you around most every corner and crevice the house holds. It’s bad enough that it’s dark inside the entire house, but it gets worse when the occasional strobe will show the face of an undead actor who is closer to you than you thought.

Apart from the thrills of the haunted Paxton mansion there’s a clown fun house right across the campus that might be more than you can handle. You’ll walk through mazes of mirrors and misleading hallways running in to the occasional clown that will make your heart skip a beat.

Among these great scares on the Paxton Campus there is a simulated coffin ride in which guests, who dare, lie down in a replicated coffin with the door closed and are shaken around to simulate the feeling of being buried alive. Underneath the Paxton mansion is the “Well of Souls” where guests take a journey to the basement of the mansion, guests are closest now to the underground lake, where they encounter other ghouls, including a mad doctor and his patient.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Paxton Campus, an organization dedicated to serving people with disabilities and their families, as well as helping children with all abilities thrive in our community.

Open 7 – 10pm
Friday & Saturday (Nov 1 & 2)

Paxton Manor $20
Fun Clown House $5
Haunted Well of Souls $5

Haunted Paxton Manor’s Shocktober Scaring Up A Crowd

For a fourth year, the historic home attempts to scare the pants of Leesburg, Loudoun residents.

Posted by Dusty Smith (Editor) , 


Paxton Manor’s fourth annual Shocktober event is in full swing, with just two weekends left to get your scream on.

The event offers guests four chilling attractions across the property’s 17 acres – including The Paxton Manor, The Haunted Well of Souls, The Funhouse and The Last Ride, each with its own frightening twist.

Built above a massive underground lake full of unexplored caverns in the 1870s, Paxton Manor, 601 Catoctin Circle NE in Leesburg, is the source of some mysterious local folklore and, many say, paranormal activity. Paxton Manor regularly receives requests from paranormal investigators to explore the mansion’s 32 rooms in an attempt to prove what others have already stated: that the Manor is a real haunted house.

Shocktober began on Friday, Oct. 4. It runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October and continues the Friday and Saturday after Halloween, Nov. 1-2. Check out the full calendar of events at

Outside of its use to scare Loudoun residents with its PG-13 presentation, the doors of Paxton Manor, were opened to raise awareness for the Paxton Campus, an organization dedicated to serving people with disabilities and their families, as well as helping children of all abilities thrive in our community. All proceeds from Shocktober benefit the Paxton Campus. Located in Leesburg, Virginia, the historic Paxton Campus has been serving children and families for 90 years. In 1967, a group of parents whose children had special needs, formed The Arc of Loudoun, a 501(c)(3) organization, to start a preschool for their children when no one else would. Since then, the Paxton Campus has grown into a full-service organization with multiple programs that together provide an integrated and innovative learning environment for children of all ages and abilities.  

28th Annual Chain of Checks beneficiaries announced

92.5 WINC-FM in partnership with the Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, is proud to announce that The Arc of Northern Shenandoah Valley and The Arc of Loudoun are the beneficiaries of the 2013 Chain of Checks campaign!

These organizations serve children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.  The Arc works year-round to secure the full range of human and civil rights and community inclusion for all, provides recreational and social opportunities, conducts parent and caregiver workshops, and strives to help children of all abilities to thrive in our community. The Arc reminds us that special needs individuals are people first, with all the needs, desires and feelings of individuals without disabilities….all they ask for is…”a life like yours”.

“A Life Like Yours” is the Chain of Checks campaign theme. The first fundraiser was the 22nd Annual Chain of Checks Golf Tournament at Rock Harbor Golf Course in Winchester.  Details and a registration form are at (keyword is ‘golf’).   The Chain of Checks Radio-Thon broadcast is scheduled for December 12th and 13th from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. where listeners can call in their pledges to WINC-FM or bring their gifts to the studio at 520 North Pleasant Valley Road in Winchester.

Barry Lee, founder of the Chain of Checks said,  “We are looking for Chain of Checks ‘champions’ to head up collections or fundraisers at work, school and civic clubs and then bring those collections to our studio during the Radio-Thon on December 12th and 13th.”  The “A Life Like Yours” campaign runs through December 31st with on-line donations.  For additional information or questions, contact Barry Lee at 540-667-2224, ext. 230, or email him at

Paxton Campus Joins Monarch Butterfly Initiative

LT article

June 22, students, faculty and volunteers at Paxton Campus took time to lend a hand to struggling monarch butterfly populations traveling through our area.

Participants spent the day creating a butterfly-shaped monarch waystation, where the insects could rest, eat and lay their eggs on healthy milkweed plants. Earth Sangha and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy donated a variety of native plants to stock the garden, and LWC’s Ann Garvey stopped by to provide valuable tips about how to keep them healthy.

Not only will the new garden serve as a welcome resting spot for monarch butterflies, it also offers ongoing educational opportunities for Paxton students. The campus’ Open Door Learning Center and Aurora School both will make use of the whimsical garden, allowing children to observe the butterflies and care for the plants.

More information about Paxton Campus and its variety of educational programs is available at


Aurora School celebrates 10-year anniversary

Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2013 by Alanna Dvorak, Times-Mirror Staff Writer

Ethan, a student at the Aurora School in Leesburg for children with autism, climbs up the inflatable cake that was part of the school’s 10th anniversary celebration July 12. Former Washington Redskins player Marcus Washington was a special guest and signed autographs. —Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny

Former Washington Redskins player Marcus Washington, left, signs his autograph for a 12-year-old student at the Aurora School in Leesburg for children with autism along with her teacher, applied behavior analysis therapist Hillary Mazur, during the school’s 10th anniversary celebration July 12. –Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny


A multitiered inflatable cake sat in the center of the room. In the corner, Washington Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington signed miniature football as people nearby flashed photographs. Kids piled into the room, licking snow cones, while awaiting the cake cutting to celebrate the Aurora School’s anniversary.

Students, parents and staff gathered July 13 to celebrate the Leesburg school, which for the past 10 years has served students with intellectual disabilities.

Since 2009, Aurora has been on the Paxton Campus off of Catoctin Circle. Formally a sprawling residence for the Paxton family, the nearly 17 acres now boast a myriad of groups to serve Loudoun’s disabled population.

While the students enjoyed sweetened goodies and the mini footballs, the staff marveled at the progress made by a school that 10 years ago had just three students.

A beginning

Services for children with autism aren’t abundant and a decade ago were more limited than they are now.

Jennifer Lassiter, executive director of Paxton Campus, discovered that herself after she had her daughter, Katelyn, who is now 16.

“The public school had recommended a private placement for my daughter, Katelyn,” Lassiter said. “I looked at the private schools in the area and there were not any in Loudoun County, first of all, and none of them met her needs.”

With support from the Arc of Loudoun, a board that helps serve those with disabilities, Lassiter and two other parents started the Aurora School in a small facility in Purcellville. Lassiter acted as the director of the school, though for a while solely on a volunteer basis.

For some parents, the effect the school had on its families was immeasurable.

“My son said his first words here, at age 10,” said Chuck Allen, whose son Kyle was one of the first three children in the program.

As students from Maryland, West Virginia, Washington D.C. and Virginia flocked to the campus, Aurora quickly blossomed. By the end of 2004, with more than 15 students, Aurora outgrew its Purcellville home.

A dream fulfilled

Paxton Manor originally was a vacation home for the wealthy Paxton family and then became a primary residence. The manor itself is on the registry of National Historic Places and is in fact a non-contiguous part of the Leesburg Historic District.

But Rachel Paxton, the family matriarch, above all, had a passion for children. From her death in 1921 up until the 1950s, the manor was utilized as a summer home for convalescent children. From 1954 to 1980 it was an orphanage and from 1980 to 2004 it was a childcare center.

The trustees were pondering what to do with the property when Lassiter came in contact with St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg, where the late Paxton used to attend. In 2005, Lassiter looked at the site and immediately saw a fit.

“I could see the school being here but it was a long process of getting everything ADA accessible and all of that.” Lassiter said. “The trustees of the property have been wonderful.”

In December of 2009, the Aurora School moved into its new home.
With the move, the school now serves 30 children and in December will bring in five more.

Much like the autism spectrum itself, the capabilities of the children vary greatly. Aurora utilizes a small student to teacher ratio and are able to provide one-on-one teaching for all students.

“All of the curriculum for our students is individualized to their needs,” explained Courtney Vaughan, director of administration at the school. “So we have some students that are academically at their grade level and then we have other students who are learning basic communication, tell us what they want and what they need.”

Some students stay at Aurora for only a year or two before returning to public school while others stay longer. But the campus is available to those who need it, as school districts pay the fees for the students who are unable to function in a normal public school to attend.

Aurora isn’t the only thing that’s grown; Paxton Campus itself has expanded to include not just Aurora, but the Open Door Learning Center, which serves children 2-6, the A Life Like Yours Advocacy Center and the Arc of Loudoun. There’s also Maggie’s Closet, a free thrift store, and a Paxton Campus store. Aurora students work at both stores to help in their vocational skills.

Leaders at Paxton also hope to expand the campus to include services for those who age out of Aurora at age 22.

“The waiting list for kids on this severe side of the spectrum is years long,” said Allen. “There’s obviously a need for the kids once they become 22.”

But as all of the parents and staff looked forward at ways they could continue to help more people, it was nice for all of them to pause during the anniversary and look at how far they’d come.


Paxton Campus Won the 2013 Leesburg Patriot Cup

Leesburg Patch, Posted by Dusty Smith (Editor), 
Paxton float

Paxton Campus won Leesburg’s 2013 Patriot Cup July 4. Credit: Town of Leesburg

The Town of Leesburg announced Monday that the Paxton Campus won the 2013 Independence Day Parade Patriot Cup July 4.

Paxton Campus is home to a range of advocacy groups that support individuals with disabilities and their families. The Patriot Cup goes to the top patriotic parade entry. The Paxton Campus name will be engraved on the Cup and displayed at the Town Hall.


The Battle to Educate the Autistic

 NBC Washington News | By Tisha Thompson | Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 | Updated 8:01 PM EDT


View more videos at:


Excerpt from story: “The District of Columbia’s Public School [DCPS] told the News 4 I-Team there are currently 676 autistic students taught by 46 special ed teachers. Those teachers receive help from nine ABA trained “coaches.”

Dr. Beers explained, “I think we’re a program that is growing and improving and that’s hard as a parent to watch that happen with your child in the system.”

But Kathleen Jackson disagrees. “Training is not a half day in-service. Training is a certificate program. You go to school for it.”

Kathleen said DCPS failed her son Sam, too. “He hit, he kicked, scratched, punched, just would up end furniture.  He threw me down a flight of stairs once. He would go after his brothers, when he was in school he went after other students.”

When DCPS passed him on to first grade, Kathleen said Sam couldn’t speak, count or say his alphabet.  He wasn’t even toilet trained.

Kathleen went to court and forced the school system to place her son at The Aurora School in Leesburg, Va. – a small private school for special needs kids.

Federal law requires public schools to send students elsewhere if they can’t provide for them.

But DCPS estimated it costs nearly seven times more, or $73,000, to educate a special ed student in one of these private schools.

Five years ago, DCPS had more than 2,500 special ed students in private school. Under Mayor Vincent Gray’s orders, it has now slashed that number almost in half to 1,290.

But Kathleen said with just two years of one-on-one ABA therapy at The Aurora School, Sam can now read, count money and no longer tries to hurt others.

She worries the better Sam does, the more at risk he is for being pulled back into public school. “I don’t want my kid to be a guinea pig. I know there are lots of parents with kids with autism battling D.C. right now because they don’t want their kid to be a guinea pig.”

Neither do the Masuccis. They’re in a legal battle, trying to get DCPS to pay for Max to attend a specialized private school in Rockville, Md.

But Dr. Beers said he will never pull a child out of private school if it hurts the student.

If parents give him a chance, he said he will prove DCPS can now educate their autistic children. “Families have to be ready to have the conversation about when it’s time to return, which is a very hard conversation to have, particularly for those families who have gotten out because we did something wrong.”

100 Women Strong Announces 2013 Grant Recipients

From Leesburg Today, Monday, May 13, 2013

Loudoun-based philanthropic group 100 Women Strong has announced the recipients of its latest round of grants, totaling more than $134,000. In its almost five years of existence, 100 Women Strong has donated more than $500,000 to Loudoun-based charities.

This year seven groups were chosen to receive grant funding for programs that will address physical and mental health care, arts education, reading, early childhood education and hunger. They were announced during the May 3 Blue Jeans and Bling gala, held at Leesburg’s Tally Ho Theatre.

Recipients are as follows:

A Place to Be – $25,000

This funding will benefit production of the “Same Sky Project,” a musical theater program that gives students with physical, developmental, social and life disabilities the tools to thrive.

All Ages Read Together – $12,600

Moneys allocated to All Ages Read Together will facilitate the implementation of AART-in-a-Cart, a mobile reading program designed to reach children who may be unable to attend the program at one of its eight locations. AART-in-a-Cart takes the form of the site program model to bring interactive reading activities and exposure into the home.

Healthworks – $25,000

This grant is targeted to support increased community collaborations and outreach programs, such as Healthworks’ breastfeeding consultation and education and prevention programs.

Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter – $10,500

This funding will be used to purchase and install an emergency generator system to be located at the LAWS Shelter 12-bed facility.

Northern Virginia Family Service LAMP Program – $15,972

This grant will help provide free or reduced-cost prescription medications to Loudoun County residents of all ages who are considered low-income, do not have health insurance, and who require medication for an ongoing chronic illness.

Paxton Campus ALLY Program – $3,000

Paxton grant moneys are earmarked for The Next Chapter Book Club, allowing adults with disabilities to take part in a book club that provides hi-lo—high interest-low reading—literature.

LINK – $2,280

This grant allows for the purchase of frozen meat from the Capital Area Food Bank at a significantly discounted rate of 19 cents per pound. The additional product will enhance current food deliveries to families requesting food assistance.

Loudoun Free Clinic – $25,000

These funds are earmarked to support the implementation of Electronic Medical Records that will offer the ability to create evidence-based treatment protocols, increase workflow efficiency, cost savings, and enhance data collection for improved reporting.

Northern Virginia Family Service Infant Mental Health Project – $15,000

This funding will allow for the hiring of a Child Mental Health Clinical Consultant for 10 hours per month to provide family and group counseling for families assessed to be at high risk for child abuse/neglect, or who suffer from mental health issues or other serious problems that are negatively affecting their parenting skills.

“When you look at the drop in giving that our county—and country—has experienced since the economic downturn began in 2008, it makes us even prouder to say we’ve been able to fill some of Loudoun County’s greatest needs,” 100 Women Strong President and Founder Karen Schaufeld said in a statement.

“We continue to look at area non-profits that are diligently working to create programs that are sustainable, long term and solve problems. This year, we are thrilled to be able to support a wide variety of programs that will benefit infants, children, adults and families,” she continued.

To learn more about 100 Women Strong and how to become involved in the nonprofit’s continued charitable efforts, contact Kara Vaughan at or go


2013 Leesburg Business Award Nominees Announced

Press Release adapted from The Town of Leesburg’s Press Release on 5/2/2013

The Town of Leesburg is pleased to announce the nominees for the 12th Annual Leesburg Business Awards.

Leesburg, VA (May 2, 2013) – The Town has received nominations for outstanding businesses and individuals in ten award categories. The annual Leesburg Business Awards Event is the premier business event in the community. It celebrates the Leesburg business community and specifically the independent business owners who are the backbone of our community and our nation’s economy.

Congratulations to all of the 2013 Nominees.


The George C. Marshall Award Nominees: 

• Grandmaster Eung Gil Choi

• Joanna Costin

• Tina Johnson

• Patrick Kaler

• Jennifer Lassiter

• Paul Reimers

• Robert White

To be eligible for nomination for a Leesburg Business Award, businesses and organizations must be primarily physically located within the corporate limits of the Town of Leesburg. Persons nominated for the George C. Marshall Award are not required to reside within the Town limits.

“The businesses and individuals nominated for the 2013 Leesburg Business Awards represent our community’s best loved, most innovative and exciting owners, operators and enterprises,” commented Jim Sisley, Chair of the Leesburg Economic Development Commission. “Beyond merely running or owning a business, these people have chosen to make a positive contribution to our quality of life in Leesburg.”

Nominees and award recipients will be recognized at the 12th Annual Business Awards Event on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at ProJet Aviation at the Leesburg Executive Airport. Please RSVP your attendance by contacting Tara Belote at or on our website at Businesses that have been operating for 25 years or more will also be recognized at the reception as Leesburg’s Legacy Businesses.


Doug Parsons
Business Development Manager

# # #



The Arc of Loudoun Raises Autism Awareness

Yoga stretch before the Walk

An event at Paxton Campus kicked off autism awareness month and included family fun and a performance at the Tally Ho Theater.

The Leesburg Patch, April 8, 2013, By Karen Graham

“Friendship” was the theme at the Paxton Campus Sunday as family and friends of the Arc School of Loudoun came out to support to autism awareness month.

“Most everyone knows someone who has autism, but what does that mean? How can they help? Well, everyone can be a friend and support the families,” said Jennifer Lassiter, Executive Director of The Arc of Loudoun, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides direct services to children and adults with disabilities and their families.

Lassiter said it is hard to define autism, but the more people talk about it, the more people will understand it. She added that one common factor with autism is that many people have trouble making friends.

“We want to encourage friendships,” she said.

The event – a collaboration between the Arc of Loudoun and Autism Speaks – started with an educational walk around the Paxton Campus led by Tammy Goddard, the campus support coordinator.

On the walk, Goddard emphasized facts about autism and led the group to see Puzzle Piece, a musical about autism, at the Tally Ho Theatre in Leesburg.

The day also included a visit from Loudoun Hounds mascot Fetch, McGruff Safety Dog, a moon bounce and more.


Autism awareness walk set for April 7 in Leesburg

Loudoun Times Mirror, Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013 by Crystal Owens, Times-Mirror Staff Writer

The Arc of Loudoun, an advocacy group dedicated to serving people with disabilities and their families will host an Autism Awareness Walk April 7 at The Paxton Campus, 601 Catoctin Circle NE, Leesburg.

The walk, to be held from noon to 3 p.m., will include free activities for all abilities, including a moon bounce, face painting, food, music, pony rides with the Golden Dream Therapeutic Riding Center, the Leesburg Police Department Barrel Train and ID kits for children.

At 3 p.m. there will be a showing of the musical “Puzzle Piece” presented by A Place To Be at the Tally Ho Theatre in Leesburg. The musical looks into the life of a family dealing with autism. There are a limited number of free tickets for those who RSVP by April 4 and discounted prices for those who register to participate in the walk on the day of the event.

For more information contact Tammy Goddard at or 703-777-1939, extension 200.

Claude Moore Charitable Foundation awards $889k to Loudoun charities

Loudoun Times Mirror, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 by Alanna Dvorak

The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation announced that it has concluded its grant cycle for 2013. This year, Loudoun-based charities and organizations will receive $889,000.

Local organizations that will receive funds include Loudoun Youth, Inc. ($10,000), the Loudoun Education Foundation ($38,000) and Claude Moore Healthcare Academies ($225,000).

The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation was founded by Dr. Claude Moore, a Loudoun resident, in 1987 to help provide and enhance educational opportunities for young people in Virginia. Since its inception, the Foundation has donated $47 million to various organizations, including $14 million to Loudoun-based groups.

“Dr. Moore spent most of his adult life in Loudoun County and was defined by his belief that education is the key, and that everyone deserved the opportunity to get a quality education,” deputy executive direct K. Lynn Tadlock said in a press release. “The trustees strive to fulfill his wishes by concentrating a large portion of the grant budget on educational organizations in and around the place he called home.”

A complete list of Loudoun grant recipients is below.
Loudoun Youth, Inc. – $10,000
Inova Nursing Scholarships – $150,000
Arc of Loudoun – $50,000
Loudoun Cares – $50,000
Every Citizen Has Opportunities (ECHO), Inc. – $26,000
Loudoun Education Foundation (High School Graduation Party Projects) – $38,000
Loudoun Education Foundation (Teachers Endorsement Scholarship Project) – $27,000
Loudoun Education Foundation (Future Leaders Scholarship Program) – $25,000
Loudoun Education Foundation (Reality Store) – $8,000
Loudoun Literacy Council – $50,000
Loudoun County General Distribution – $200,000
Claude Moore Healthcare Academies – $225,000
Community Foundation for Northern Virginia (Loudoun Impact Fund) – $30,000


UPDATE: Paxton Manor Transforms into Haunted Attraction

The third annual Shocktober event will feature three haunts in one – the Paxton house, Haunted Well of Souls and a fun house.

The Leesburg Patch, October 25, 2012, By Leah M. Kosin

It’s the final weekend to participate in this year’s Halloween attraction at the Paxton Campus, in Leesburg. According to Executive Director Jennifer Lassiter this year has seen record breaking numbers when it comes to the amount of tickets sold. 

For the third year, the house features over 30 rooms portraying a haunted hotel, she said. The Haunted Well of Souls, located inside a dark dirt basement, is also available to tour as well as a creepy funhouse filled with clowns and a number of spooky twists and turns.

“We’re the only professional haunt in our area,” said Lassiter, adding that this year’s setup is quite different from the way its been portrayed in the past. “Fans never get the same show and we’re never going to let you down.”

What makes the attraction even better, Lassiter said, is the fact that Paxton Manor is, “a real haunted house.”

Built in the late 1800s, Paxton Manor Inn is filled with large rooms and dark halls that were once run by the mysterious Mrs. Scarlet. Beneath it, is a large array of caverns and an underground lake. It’s the perfect setting for a haunted house, Lassiter said.

“We’ve had paranormal investigators that have done readings and they always come back with activity. Supposedly it’s the second most haunted place in all of Virginia,” Lassiter said. “The other thing is we have a scream team that is working on our haunt all year long. So the planning and the build for next year will start probably Nov. 1 of this year.”

Proceeds from the Halloween event will benefit the Paxton Campus, which includes the Aurora School, the Open Door Learning Center and the Advocacy Center. We scare because we care, Lassiter said, and that’s always a good thing to remember.

Shocktober will run every Friday through Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m. beginning this week through Oct. 28. Ticket prices are $30 per person. The event is not recommended for children under 13. Visit for ticket prices, hours and directions.

Note: This article was originally published Oct. 4, 2012.


Students, Staff Celebrate Grand Opening of Paxton Attraction

Ribbon cutting at Paxton Attraction

The self-supporting convenience store will help prepare disabled students and adults for actual employment while serving patrons who visit the Paxton campus.

The Leesburg Patch, October 23, 2012, By Leah M. Kosin

Students and staff from the Aurora School gathered around the Peacock House Monday afternoon to celebrate the grand opening of the Paxton Attraction.

Executive Director Jennifer Lassiter described it as a small, self-supporting convenience store, which offers sandwiches, snack and drinks for the campus’ patrons.

Adults with disabilities will run it, she said, as well as Aurora students who are learning vocational skills.

“They can practice their skills in the Paxton Attraction and then whenever we find them employment in the community they will have the skills they need to be successful,” Lassiter said, adding that the store will allow students to take inventory, work the register, prep meals and keep up with the building’s maintenance.

Administrative Director Courtney Deal Vaughan said she “loves” the idea.

“It’s so neat to see how independent [the students] have become in just a short period of time,” she said. “Now we have them coming and buying things like their out in the community all the time.”

One student said he thought it was a great idea to open the store. It has everything I love, he said, including apple sauce in a pouch.

Jaquan, 10, and Sam, 9, said they enjoyed the drinks, popsicles and carrots. They are too young to work in the store but would like to consider it in the future.

According to Lassiter, the Paxton Attraction is the fourth expansion at the campus within the past three years. It’s one more step in providing the services needed for people with disabilities in Loudoun County, she said, and it couldn’t have been done without the community’s support.

Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd, Council Member Katie Hammler and Loudoun Chamber of Commerce President Tony Howard were all in attendance during the ribbon-cutting event.

“It’s a beautiful place and it’s definitely a different way to spend their school day,” Lassiter said. “This is a real life, practical application of their education and they seem to really be blooming.”

The Paxton Attraction will have limited hours, Lassiter said. It is located in the Peacock House, adjacent to Maggie’s Closet.


Art Exhibit and Live Auction to Benefit Paxton Manor

art show

The two-day event will feature photographs and sculptures created by artists located in Maryland and Virginia. Proceeds will go to the non-profit.

The Leesburg Patch, September 28, 2012, By Leah M. Kosin

Art lovers are invited to attend a special exhibit at the Paxton Manor this Saturday and Sunday, which will feature photographs and assembled sculptures created by local artists.

Each piece will be available for purchase and proceeds from the entire event will be donated to the campus and its programs, which includes Maggie’s Closet, a nonprofit group that supplies new or gently used clothing to those who are in need.

“This is the first event of its kind to take place on the campus,” said Board Member Meredith Lefforge, adding that Vintage Press Photographer James Davis came up with the idea last year.

“[He] approached the board with a fantastic idea to use the historic mansion to showcase a collection of hauntingly beautiful photographs while raising much-needed funds for Paxton’s programs at the same time,” she said. “I see this as a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Davis described this weekend’s event as an art exhibit, reception and fundraiser all in one. Visitors can either enter the exhibit through the main entrance of the mansion, which is currently set up for the annual haunted house attraction, or through a “not so scary” entrance for those who’d prefer to skip the sneak peak.

Visitors will have the opportunity to purchase the displayed pieces on Saturday or Sunday prior to a live auction beginning at 4 p.m. Light refreshments will be served, a bake sale will take place and alive vintage DJ will be on hand.

“This is going to be an amazing event,” Davis said. “We are hoping to sell our art and get our name out there but it’s nice that we can include that with raising awareness of this property too.”

The art show will run from noon to 9 p.m. this Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. A $5 donation or clothing donation is being requested by anyone who attends the event. The Paxton Campus is located at 601 Catoctin Circle NE. Visit


Paranormal Sleepover to Take Place at Paxton Manor

The event will benefit the Open Door Learning Center, a preschool which serves kids with and without disabilities.

The Leesburg Patch, July 11, 2012, By Leah M. Kosin

It’s not often that you hear about people looking forward to Friday the 13th, a date considered to be bad luck in Western superstition. However, this Friday is the last “unlucky” day of 2012 and to celebrate, a sleepover is scheduled to take place at the Paxton Manor in Leesburg.

“Everybody knows Friday the 13th is notoriously an unlucky day and paranormal investigators say that it’s typically, along with a full moon, one of the most active paranormal times,” said Executive Director Jennifer Lassiter. “This is kind of a new concept for a fundraiser, allowing ghost hunters to monitor the paranormal activity in Paxton Manor on Friday the 13th. The last one was in April and we will not have another one again in the next 12 months so this is kind of people’s last chance for a while.”

Built in 1877 by wealthy industrialists Charles and Rachel Paxton, the manor is a 20,000 square-foot mansion, which has been abandoned for a number of years. According to stories, Charles Paxton had died at an early age, leaving his wife to manage the home, along with their only child, Margaret.

Mrs. Paxton endured additional loss when her only grandson died at age five. Soon after, his mother died causing Mrs. Paxton to outlive the entire family until she died in 1962.

Over the years, a number of strange occurrences have been reported at the home. It has also been turned into a Halloween attraction for the past three years.

“We’ve gotten repeated requests to allow paranormal investigators to come in on Friday the 13th,” Lassiter said. “We always have different people who want to try their luck so this time we’re kind of combining the two things.”

Berryville Investigator Stacey Graham will be on hand to instruct each guest on how to monitor the paranormal without having to use specialized equipment. Anyone is invited to attend, Lassiter said, but the group will remain small.

The event will kick off at 8 p.m. Friday prior to an actual paranormal investigation. Friday the 13thfilms will be played and there will be the opportunity to roam and sleep in the house until the next day.

The cost is $50 per person and all proceeds will benefit Open Door Learning Center, a preschool which serves kids with and without disabilities. For more information call 703-444-4695.


Run for Independence 8K to Benefit Arc of Loudoun

The second annual event will start and finish at the Paxton Campus, in Leesburg. Registration will be open through Saturday.

The Leesburg Patch, June 29, 2012, By Leah M. Kosin

An 8K Run for Independence race will take place this Saturday beginning at 7 a.m. The event, which is USATF certified, will start and finish at the Paxton Campus in Leesburg.

Runners will be taken through the historic downtown and near Tuscarora High School while being electronically timed using the ipico tag system.

Proceeds will benefit The Arc of Loudoun, a 501(c)3 organization, which provides direct services to children and adults with disabilities and their families.

“We took the theme of Independence Day and applied that to the adults that we serve on the campus that are trying very hard to have what we call ‘a life like yours’ by living and working independently,” said Executive Director Jennifer Lassiter. “It’s a unique distance in beautiful Leesburg and it takes place on the campus. More than that, I think with the spirit and independence, you can’t do any better than that. It’s for a good cause.”

Last year, approximately 330 runners participated in the event. As of Thursday morning, Lassiter said there were already 341 people registered. At least 400 runners are expected to attend.

Those who are interested in participating can register online or at the event. Pre-race registration will open at 6 a.m. Saturday.

A post race breakfast will be available as well as music, awards, and a Kids’ Fun Run. For more information or to register visit or call 703-777-1939, ext. 207.


Sterling Women Hosts The Arc of Loudoun Director

Jennifer at Sterling Women

Leesburg Today, April 20, 2012, by Therese Howe

Sterling Women, a monthly networking luncheon, commemorated April as Autism Awareness Month with a presentation by Jennifer Lassiter, executive director of The Arc of Loudoun at Paxton Campus.

When her 16-year-old daughter Katelyn was diagnosed with autism just shy of her third birthday, “I really had no idea what that meant,” Lassiter told attendees at the April 12 luncheon. She pointed out that today, that likely wouldn’t be the case. Noting a new CDC report that indicates 1 in 88 children in the United States has autism, she told the audience that “I would wager that, if you don’t know someone with autism, you know someone who does know someone, which is really unfortunate.”

Her daughter’s diagnosis marked the start of a personal and professional journey.

“I quickly learned … that is that you have to become an expert in a lot of things. You have to become an expert in autism itself, and what it means. … I had to become an expert in biomedical interventions and education—how she was going to learn and how we were going to teach her to talk, because it’s a whole different process. I had to become an expert in insurance, I had to become an expert in behavior modification.

“But the biggest thing I had to learn about was the law … because even though insurance companies and Congress and school systems all have goals and laws in place that mandate help for people with disabilities, oftentimes it’s the parents who have to teach teachers how to teach, they have to tell administrators the rights of people with disabilities and what they’re supposed to provide. I had to advocate with the insurance company every time a claim was filed.”

Faced with these challenges, Lassiter decided to create her own solutions. She successfully pursued a law degree. She joined The Arc of Loudoun, an advocacy group that helps people with disabilities and their families. As a board member in 2003, she established The Aurora School, a private school to serve students with autism, including her daughter.

By 2005, they were outgrowing the facility in Purcellville when the trustees of the Paxton property contacted them. “Mrs. (Rachel) Paxton in 1922 left her property in historic downtown Leesburg to needy children and the trustees of that property were trying to find someone to use it for that purpose,” Lassiter said.

Several years later, The Aurora School moved to what is now called the Paxton Campus. “With 17 acres and 11 buildings and a trust that said, ‘How can we make this property what you need it to be for people with disabilities?’ we just got rolling.

“In 2009 Aurora was there, in 2010 we opened a preschool for kids with and without disabilities because a phrase you may hear me say a lot is ‘A life like yours.’ That’s what we want people with disabilities to have – a life like yours. Would you want to live in an institution? Neither do they. Would you want a job? So do they.

Besides The Open Door Learning Center, the campus also houses Maggie’s Closet, which accepts clothing donations and allows needy families to shop for free.

Another program Lassiter founded was ALLY Advocacy Center, “a legal clinic that helps families that are walking that walk that I walked.

“Last year we made $750. So if you can’t pay, we don’t charge you. That’s my business model: ‘If it doesn’t make money, let’s do it!’”

While the comment earned laughter at the audience, she also noted that despite the economic climate, the group has been able to thrive through corporate partnerships and fundraising.

“We are growing more than ever. We have 48 employees now, and we’re serving more people than ever. When Aurora started in 2003, we had three kids. Now we have 30 kids in Aurora, we have the same amount in the preschool, we have after-school programs, social skills groups, Asperger’s groups, support groups – I can’t keep track of all the folks that are coming on and off the campus.”


Autism Bill Unanimously Approved

The Senate passed legislation that will allow for the full implementation of the bill, which would help pay for health services needed for autistic children in Virginia.

The Leesburg Patch, January 31, 2012, By Leah M. Kosin

“It’s a good day in Virginia for kids with autism.”

That was the response of local parent Jennifer Lassiter, in regards to a unanimous vote (40-0) by the Senate on Monday to pass a bill that would help parents of autistic children afford health care costs without having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Lassiter, an employee at The Arc of Loudoun at the Paxton Campus in Leesburg, which schools at least 24 autistic students, was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Council on the autism legislation last summer. Her 16-year-old daughter, Katelyn, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.

“It feels so good,” Lassiter said, who has worked closely with Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-Loudoun), an original sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Mark Herring to gain the general support that’s been  needed to get the bill amended.

“We advocate year after year after year,” she said. “This time it really happened and the legislators did the right thing. Now we just need the governor to do the right thing.”

Virginia Autism Project Founding Member Mark Llobell said Tuesday that this week’s news is “a big emotional lift.”

It’s going to help so many kids and their families, he said, who have done everything they can to afford the services themselves.

Llobell said his grandson was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Although the bill wouldn’t nessacarily help his grandson, since the bill is limited to ages two to six, Llobell said he hopes other families will be able to benefit as soon as it becomes available.

“When we got the diagnosis we were happy [to find out that] there was a service we could get for our grandson,” Llobell said, only to become appalled when his family found out that insurance providers in the state of Virginia would not cover those services.

As a result, Llobell said his family spent a lot of money to provide the services his grandson would need, something he wouldn’t want another family to face.

“I feel very ecstatic,” Llobell said, in regards to this week’s vote. “We know it’s going to help a lot of children, we know it’s going to help a lot of families that are blessed with a child that has autism. It’s going to help them to get their child the services they need and it’s going to help mom and dad to live more of a productive and normal life.”

Once Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signs the new bill, the next step is to give the Board of Medicine the authority to create the regulations and implement the law.

Llobell said once everything is approved he hopes someone will notice the value and benefit of the bill, which will hopefully become available for children of every age.


Interview with Jennifer Lassiter, Executive Director of Paxton Campus

December 21, 2011 at Comcast Newsmakers


Maggie’s Closet Holds Open House

The free boutique-style clothing store officially opened to the public on Saturday.

The Leesburg Patch, December 5, 2011, By Stacy Shaw

Maggie’s Closet looks like a cheerful boutique where anyone might want to shop; however it’s not a clothing store, but a free shop for people in need.

Maggie’s Closet held its open house on Sun., Dec 4. and is the newest addition to the Arc of Loudoun, a nonprofit group at the Paxton Campus in cooperation with the ALLY Advocacy Center.

“So far we’ve already had some shoppers,” said Tamara Goddard, who works for ALLY at Paxton.

Goddard said she was surprised by the amount of clothing Maggie’s accumulated from donations in only a few months. They received enough clothes to fill all their shelves with winter clothing, she said, while keeping off-season clothes in reserve.

The craft fair held on Sat., Dec 3 was also a success, Goddard said, raising $500 for Maggie’s Closet, which will go towards new socks and underwear as well as gift certificates for families in dire need.

Maggie’s Closet is currently seeking volunteers so it can stay open full time. Currently, shoppers will need to make an appointment before they visit.

Maggie’s Closet will continue to accept clothing and monetary donations. Visit Maggie’s Closet, call 703-777-1939, or write to



Non-Profit Boot Camp Offers Networking, Learning Opportunities

Loudoun Cares, in association with 100 Women Strong, held a NonProfit Boot Camp on Oct 11, allowing organizations to share ideas and promote future collaboration

The Leesburg Patch, October 13, 2011, By Stacy Shaw

It is difficult to drive through Leesburg without seeing signs of one nonprofit or another and on Oct. 11 nine of them met for a “NonProfit Boot Camp,” as an opportunity to meet and learn from one another.

The event was held at Loudoun Cares, in Leesburg. Tamar Datan of NonProfit Management and Governance Consultant, and Andy Jonston, of Loudoun Cares, led Tuesday’s seminar.

“So much about what we’re doing at Loudoun Cares is about collaboration, and we all talk about the need to strengthen our boards,” said Jonston, who believed it would be an ideal networking/learning opportunity.

The organization, 100 Women Strong, which contributes $10,000 annually to enrich the lives of Loudoun County citizenry, funded the event. Representative Karen Schaufeld was the guest speaker.

The Piedmont Community Foundation and the Loudoun Community of Congress also supported the event. Executive teams of board members and CEOs of the local organizations were encouraged to register for the event and bring one to four representatives.

The morning activities began with a statement of mission: who are we, and why are we here, and a review of the nonprofits strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths listed were love for the people we serve, knowledge of Loudoun County, creative ideas and intelligent people. Their weaknesses included their struggles to be more effective and a discomfort with soliciting donations.

In the afternoon session, Schaufeld addressed the different kinds of donors, those who are emotion, logical and a new kind of philanthropist, who is likely to be younger and more involved.

“People are getting more sophisticated about where they are giving their money,” said Schaufeld. “These people, who fund these types of things, are looking to be board members. They are going to be looking to see if you filed your (papers work), your mission statement, who gets paid and who doesn’t get paid.”

Schaufeld also said that most new philanthropists are coming from a “for-profit mindset,” meaning that they want to see business get done quickly. Schaufeld also recommended 100 Women Strong as a reliable intermediary between donors and organizations.

“They’re not going to get embarrassed. No one wants the money to go to the wrong things,” Schaufeld said. [With 100 Women Strong] it’s vetted.  We’ve done our homework.”

After lunch, Tamar Datan had organizations share experiences of success and failure in fundraising. They were able to determine that fundraisers sometimes are under publicized, do not stand out from the crowd or are not the right fit for the organization.

One nonprofit member from Feed Loudoun, Inc. suggested, “brag about yourself,” in the media and to others in the community. This strategy has led donors to contact her.

Datan agreed that organizations should be telling their stories, because people will be intrigued.

Jennifer Lassiter, executive director of The Arc of Loudoun, an umbrella group on the Paxton Campus, which helps children and adults with disabilities and runs a school and learning center, recommended having a fundraiser that will bring people in regardless of their interest or knowledge of the nonprofit.

For instance, Lassiter recounted how The Paxton Campus’ Haunted House has been tremendously successful, because people enjoy the experience.  Afterwards, they become interested in the cause.

Scott Billigmeier, board president at The Paxton Campus, said he attended the boot camp to, “Really to get a feeling of validation for the issues that I think we’re facing, and to hear from others, who may be facing similar issues.”

Tanya Bittendender, executive director of Loudoun County Literacy Council, said she came, “To support my board members, and to empower our own organization so we can empower those that we serve.”

Nonprofit board members said they were satisfied with the experience, and happy to network with other in their field. Moreover they began to discuss ways in which they could work together in the future.


Maggie’s Closet Prepares For Those in Need

Darcy and Tammy

Darcy Cunningham and Tamara Goddard expand the outreach initiative at the Paxton Campus, in Leesburg, to include a free clothing store

The Leesburg Patch, September 26, 2011, By Stacy Shaw

Darcy Cunningham and Tamara Goddard already work for a nonprofit service organization. Cunningham is the advocacy coordinator for ALLY, a division of Arc of Loudoun on the Paxton Campus, and Goddard is part of her team.

Their jobs are to advocate for special education students and people with disabilities. However, when a number of their assisted families came to them inquiring about clothing and school items for their children, both Cunningham and Goddard wanted to help.

Normally, ALLY employees would just have to make a few phone calls to local charities. However this year, Goddard said she found less and less help available. Most charities were just tapped out.

When a friend came to them needing clothing, the ALLY Community asked their network of friends for support, and through that approach were able to fill that need. This got the ladies thinking.

“I said to Darcy,” Cunningham said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we just had clothes in all sizes ready for free and available as soon as the need came in?”

That is how Maggie’s Closet was born. Named for Margaret Paxton of the Margaret Paxton Memorial Learning and Resource Campus, Maggie’s was created as a place where people can shop for clothing and necessary items without having to spend any money.

ALLY staff feels Maggie’s Closet fits perfectly with Paxton’s original intentions for the site. Having lost her only daughter, Margaret, to a childhood disease, Rachel Paxton donated the 16 acres historical site in 1922 to benefit convalescent and needy children.

Maggie’s Closet is set to open in late November of 2011. The women envision it as being a warm, inviting, family friendly place to shop while clothing and other necessary items remain free.

“The families know, ‘I’m getting charity,’ but we don’t want the kids to know,” Cunningham said.

Nor do they want Maggie’s Closet to be a nonprofit that spends more money on business than charity. Fortunately, they already have the space, employees and volunteers they need to run Maggie’s at minimal cost.

Both women also said that they would like Maggie’s Closet to be a place where people feel comfortable. They will not require customers to prove their need through documentation. Instead they will help all who show up.

Until then, Goddard said there has already been an outpour of donations.

“People with just show up with bags,” Goddard said. “Someone gave me her wedding dress last night. She wants to pay it forward.”

“We’re hoping it won’t be just an initial thing. We want to just keep it up,” added Cunningham, who wants her shoppers to have a selection to choose from in all different tastes and sizes.

Maggie’s Closet has also been raising funds for their start-up. Goddard’s Brownie Troop 3656 raised $250 selling lemon-aid, which the women used to purchase racks and hangars.

The women will continue to accept these items as donations as well as clothing and monetary donations, all of which is tax deductible. Right now they are especially in need of boys clothing.

While new or lightly worn items are preferred, both Cunningham and Goddard said they promise not to throw anything away, but pass it on to other charities.

While the women are grateful for the donations they’ve received, they were especially touched by the amount of people who donated even though they were in need themselves.

“We have enough people who are happy with what we do, so they want to give back,” Goddard said.

Most of the client donations were clothes that their children had outgrown. Cunningham and Goddard said they realize this is something most parents can donate and they hope to run a clothing drive through the schools sometime within the near future.

Meanwhile the women are really excited about their new endeavor.

“We’re happy to be here and we’re excited,” Cunningham said. “I think it’s going to be an amazing opening. Please keep us in mind.”

To make a donation or volunteer with Maggie’s Corner, contact Darcy Cunningham at 703-777-1939 ext 207 or by email at or Tammy Goddard at


Governor appoints Loudoun residents to boards

Loudoun Times Mirror, September 21, 2011, By Crystal Owens

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Sept. 16 appointed two Loudoun County residents to boards.

Jennifer Lassiter of Round Hill, Executive Director of Paxton Campus, was appointed to the Autism Advisory Council.

John T. Kenney of Sterling, the vice president of Corporate Development and General Manager Lynchburg Operations for TRAX International, was appointed to the Modeling and Simulation Advisory Council.

More announcements regarding additional appointments in the McDonnell administration will continue to be made in the months ahead, according to a statement from his office.


Paxton Manor Prepares for Halloween

More than 40 actors are needed for this year’s second annual haunted house attraction

The Leesburg Patch, posted by Leah M. Kosin


It takes time, commitment and patience to become really good at something, which is exactly why auditions were held Friday night for the upcoming Paxton Manor haunted house.

Event Organizer Jennifer Lassiter said that although Halloween is still three months away it’s never too soon to prepare. This year’s event is going to be bigger than last year’s, she said, and will feature a fun house, a casket burial simulator, as well as 40 frightening rooms inside the manor, including the dirt basement.

“When people think of haunted houses they think of a zombie chasing you with a chainsaw,” Lassiter said. “Paxton Manor is a lot more than that. We have an entire production that I wish I could tell you.”

Last year, the event attracted thousands of people who were looking for a good scare. Twenty rooms were available and featured a variety of phobias such as spiders, clowns, snakes and claustrophobia.

Although the event was a great success, Lassiter said volunteers are doing everything they can to make this year’s event even better.

“We thought we could provide an even better show if we auditioned for particular parts instead of just using volunteers who wanted to help out,” Lassiter said. “If we use volunteers who have a dramatic background we could really maximize what we’re doing in the mansion.”

To help make the process go smoother Sterling Playmakers Director Jim Whitmore offered to lend a hand. A number of scripts were made available to actors who wished to participate this year. Monologues were the first step, followed by a two person scene.

“We’d like to have some trained actors in places that are the key positions. They should be good story tellers, be able to not only tell the story but be able to really become the tale through actions, through movements,” Whitmore described. “On the inside we’ll have a number of key roles. We’re going to have people in key places to keep the lines moving, to keep the story fresh and to really enhance the tour. We’re trying to get about forty actors in here. We have about 40 rooms. If we get more that would be great but we’ll see how it works out as far as auditions.”

At least twenty male and female leads are available including storytellers and fun house volunteers. Help is also needed for costumes, makeup, and set designs, among other things.

Actors must have the ability to dialogue with a live audience and be available for a number of shows. The event will run for five weekends beginning the last weekend in September, however, actors are not required to attend every show.

“October is a very busy time for many, many people. So we try to get it in early to make sure that we have quality actors,” Whitmore said. “Now people can set their schedules. Now we can get the people who are interested in it and we can still have time for call backs and to fill in spots. The lead actors will have some lines to memorize. They are going to carry their elements through their posture, through their delivery and that’s important to see who we have, lock them into place, and get them trained.”

A second audition is scheduled to take place this Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm inside the Paxton Manor home. Anyone who is interested in attending should be prepared to perform a simple monologue and scene.

There will also be an opportunity to work with professional fight choreographer, Terry Smith, who is looking for a few good leads when it comes to sword fighting.

“All of the fights will be choreographed. The fights will be crisp and clean and they’ll look real,” Smith said. “[The actors] will actually fight and if they miss they could actually get hurt. The idea though is to make it safe and as real as possible.”

Similar to last year, proceeds will benefit The Paxton Campus, which include the Aurora School, the Open Door Learning Center and the Advocacy Center. Ticket prices have yet to be determined but will be worth the price that’s paid.

“The entire purpose of Shocktober and Paxton Manor is to raise money for the campus. That’s really why we’re trying to make it even bigger and better than ever,” Lassiter said. “We want everyone not only to come and have fun but to raise money for this excellent cause.

“This is a PG-13 haunted house. It’s not for little kids. Not because of language but because of the gore value or gore factor,” Whitmore added. “I’m really looking for the reaction of people coming through to see if they got their scare for their money and that they enjoyed it enough to tell their friends and come back again. As long as they are scared when they walk out I think we’ve done our job.”



Paxton haunt a success

Letters in Loudoun Times Mirror, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010

On behalf of the staff and the Board of Directors for The Arc of Loudoun, I would like to thank the local community and visiting patrons for their support of our recent Paxton Haunted Mansion fundraiser.

We are especially grateful to the staff of Virginina Scaregrounds (, which staged the event at the historic property in Leesburg.

In keeping with the wishes of Rachel Paxton, who left her estate to be used to help children in need, this event raised much needed funds to support the programs on The Paxton Campus.

The Aurora School, the Open Door Learning Center and the Ally (A Life Like Yours) Advocacy Center will continue to benefit children and families affected by intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.

The ghost of Rachel Paxton may or may not have been present at the haunted house, but her spirit of generosity and compassion were evident by the many people who helped make this fundraiser a huge success.

Mary Pellicano


Paxton Manor in Leesburg turned into haunted house for Halloween

The Washington Post, October 31, 2010, By Caitlin Gibson

On a brisk October afternoon, a small gathering occupied the grand entryway to historic Paxton Manor in Leesburg: several members of a paranormal investigation squad; a crew that had worked for months to transform the mansion into a high-end Halloween haunted house; the executive director of the Arc of Loudoun, a nonprofit organization located on the property; and a local professional psychic named Sherry Sherry (her real name, she said with a smile.)

They were there to observe Sherry’s psychic reading of the 20,000-square-foot mansion, which will be open to haunted house visitors from 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday. It has long been rumored that the mansion is haunted by the spirit of the lady of the house.

The manor — also known as Carlheim Mansion — was built in 1877 by Charles and Rachel Paxton, wealthy industrialists from Pennsylvania who had one daughter, Margaret. Rachel Paxton, having outlived her husband, daughter and grandson, lived alone in the mansion until her death at age 95 in 1921.

Sherry was summoned because strange things had occurred during the staging of the Halloween attraction, said John Lombardi, president of haunted house producer Virginia Scaregrounds and master architect of the mansion’s elaborately spooky interior.

Lombardi said the unexplained occurrences included a pair of red-handled scissors that disappeared while Lombardi was setting up one of the ghastly clowns that hang from an upstairs room’s ceiling. He had turned his back for just a minute and never left the room, he said, and no one came in. Still, the scissors disappeared.

Then there was the wallboard that crashed onto Lombardi’s head as he worked with a saw to reopen an old entryway between rooms.

“There’s no way it could have done that without being pushed,” he said, but no one else was around.

Lombardi has been working on the haunted house since February on a volunteer basis, he said. After he was hired to build a playground on the property, he took one look at the looming mansion and knew he wanted to haunt it, he said. All profits from the Halloween haunted house will benefit the Arc of Loudoun, which serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Shortly after the tour began, Sherry said she detected a strong energy in one of the rooms, energy indicated by a purple crystal dangling from a silver chain, swinging in rapid circles as she held it between two fingers. But the vibe was a pleasant one, she said.

“I keep feeling like this was a room where the lady of the house would sit here at the window and look out,” she said.

Jennifer Lassiter, executive director of the Arc of Loudoun, told Sherry the house had once been used as a care facility for ailing children, who often staged performances on the front lawn. The children who weren’t well enough to go outside would watch from the windows.

The next room, where the mansion’s locked safe is stored, didn’t give Sherry the same good feeling.

“If I was going to spend the night, I wouldn’t hang out here,” Sherry said.

A few days later, a haunted house volunteer actor stationed in the room said that she felt she was pushed; distraught, she fled the mansion and refused to go back inside, Lassiter said.

The tour continued, circulating through cobweb-lined hallways and room after room in the massive house, including the one with the creepy clowns (“good room, good energy,” Sherry said), a room with a giant animated spider and dangling bodies encased in silk (“I get a sense of someone dying in this room . . . nothing scary, just an end,” Sherry said) and the claustrophobia room (“positive energy,” Sherry said).

Sherry said she was picking up on energy left by visiting spirits. “They are traces that are left behind that are perpetuated through visitation,” she said. “When spirits like a place, they’ll come back regularly.” Similar to the way we might visit the same grocery store, she said.

She concluded that the mansion was definitely being visited by Rachel Paxton and the spirits of some of the children who had been cared for in the house.

Paxton’s will stated that the mansion and surrounding property should be used to provide free care for needy children in Loudoun County. The request was honored for many years: The property served in turn as a care facility for ailing children, an orphanage, a day-care center and a preschool. It was closed in 2004 because of high maintenance costs and stayed closed for several years, until the trustees of the estate found a tenant to fulfill Paxton’s wish. A lease agreement with the Arc of Loudoun was signed in 2008, and the organization moved onto the Margaret Paxton Memorial Learning and Resource Campus last year, Lassiter said.

The organization serves about 2,000 families each year through training, programs and other services, and operates a preschool and a school for children with disabilities. The mansion will ultimately be restored and serve as a family resource center, housing administrative offices for the Arc and related organizations, Lassiter said.

More than 1,100 tickets were sold at the door during the first weekend the haunted mansion was open, bringing in close to $15,000 in profits, said Lassiter, who sold tickets at the door and used the opportunity to talk to people waiting in line about the Arc’s services. Lassiter anticipated that the second weekend — Halloween weekend — will draw an even larger crowd. The money raised will be used to support programming and scholarships for the Arc’s preschool students.

Lassiter said she prefers to focus on the organization’s work rather than spooky stories, but that’s not to say that she hasn’t noticed the occasional odd occurrence. There is an old faded photograph of Rachel Paxton, she said, that appeared to move from room to room in the mansion. The small number of people who had access to the building swore they hadn’t touched it.

If Rachel Paxton’s spirit does visit, Lassiter said, she thinks that Paxton must be happy, because the property is being used as she had hoped it would be, by an organization that regards her final act of compassion with great respect.

“I have a good feeling in the house,” Lassiter said. “I think we do our level best to do just what she wanted.”

Paxton Haunted Manor, at 601 Catoctin Cir. NE in Leesburg, will be open from 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $20 per person. 


Aurora School Targets 2009 Opening At Carlheim

Posted: in Leesburg Today on Wednesday, October 8, 2008

By Margaret Morton

A small band of dedicated supporters of the Arc of Loudoun and Aurora School gathered in front of the historic Carlheim mansion in Leesburg this morning to celebrate the next step in the mission to establish the school for kids with disabilities at the 16-acre estate.

It was a happy occasion and Arc of Loudoun Executive Director Eleanor Voldish was joined by Jennifer Lassiter, director of Aurora School, Arc supporters and a handful of elected representatives, including Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA-10), Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) and Leesburg Councilman Ken Reid. Representatives of William H. Gordon Associates Inc., who are shepherding the Arc of Loudoun’s special exception permit application through the town’s regulatory process, were also on hand.

In step with the start of the first phase of the enterprise to transfer 25 to 30 children from Aurora School’s current premises in Purcellville, Lassiter announced the coming educational center has a new name: The Margaret Paxton Memorial Learning & Resource Campus.

Lassiter said she and Voldish were setting “an ambitious, but not impossible” goal of moving in next fall. To reach that goal, some of the various buildings on the property will have to be brought up to code, a screened parking lot adapted for those with special needs, the school building renovated and adapted for special needs students, including more bathrooms. ADA accessible pedestrian pathways will be built from the gate to the buildings along widened roadways to accommodate buses.

During the first phase of the work, the three cottages on the property will be converted for child care services to accommodate disabled and low-income children. “We’re going to try to help all those in need,” Lassiter said. After the first five-year period, an arts center and park for disabled children could be on the plan for the 16-acre property, she said.

William H. Gordon Associates representative Andrea Warrick Agee said the firm wanted to preserve the lay of the land and its old trees as is as much as possible. The new sidewalk, for example, would weave around the trees to protect them and maintain the tree canopy.

Today’s kick-off marks the start of a new partnership that five years ago seemed impossible.

Margaret Paxton was a wealthy widow, living in the house named Carlheim that she and her husband had built in 1872 on the northern edge of Leesburg. And it was she who decided that upon her death the property should be used for the care of convalescent children, and become a home that would take in orphans and afflicted children free of charge. Under the terms of her 1922 will, a board of trustees was set up with an advisory board of visitors.

Paxton’s generosity and foresight were cited by the Rev. John Ohmer, who praised her choice all those years ago to leave her property and her money for the benefit of others, “not just others, but children, and not just children, but disadvantaged children.” It is only now as people walk around the property that “you can see the wonderful potential,” Ohmer said, noting that “not long ago we were seriously faced with a wrecking ball,” referring to the distinct possibility at one time the historic building would be razed and homes erected in its place.

Ohmer thanked the trustees for abandoning their original intent to sell the property to a developer. It was at Ohmer’s insistence that the board of visitors had a role in the fate of the building and that the building should continue to be used in the manner Paxton had dictated in her will. The board’s willingness to sue the board of trustees, along with some quiet persuasion from the sidelines, that eventually resulted in an out-of-court settlement and agreement to allow the building to be used.

Lassiter said there were many people and organizations that pitched in to help. Among them, she cited all those who had played a significant role in the road to the present spirit of cooperation: Arc of Loudoun for the “faith to take the big step” of coming forward and suggesting the Aurora School when the board of visitors was looking for a suitable charitable organization in 2005, and the board of visitors for its constant support and neighbors of Carlheim for their willingness to save the building.

The trustees are key to the effort, Lassiter noted. The trustees have agreed to bring the property up to code, a significant undertaking that could cost from $1.3 to $1.5 million.

Loudoun Restoration and Preservation Society will help fundraise and oversee the restoration of Carlheim for use as a resource center for families and organizations working for disabled children.

“We’re going to keep the history, but we’re going to take it to an eco-friendly, a disabled-friendly and a kid-friendly place,” Lassister said, thanking the engineers for their work.

She also thanked Wolf for his support in securing a $250,000 grant from the Small Business Administration, which will be used for the initial renovations. After the ceremony, Wolf said “it is really an important place,” and pledged to keep helping.

State Sen. Mark Herring (D-33), an attorney by trade who gave three years of pro bono legal aid handling three years of lease negotiations with the trustees, also came in for plaudits. Attorney Randy Minchew also was recognized for his part in representing the board of visitors and for quietly working to achieve a settlement, as did the Town of Leesburg, which Lassiter said “has done nothing but work for us and been very helpful in trying to make it work.”

Reid cited the town’s key role in the dark days when it looked as if the building might be torn down in extending its H1 historic district to include Carlheim.

The initial 25 to 30 children to move in could ultimately swell to more than 250, Voldish said.

“It’s been slowly moving forward-but it’s well worth waiting for it,” she told the crowd.

Mansion to Again Serve Needy

The Washington Post, February 14, 2008, By Michael Alison Chandler

After sitting vacant for more than three years, the Paxton mansion in Leesburg was given new life last week with the signing of an agreement to reopen it as a school and resource center for people with disabilities.

The Arc of Loudoun, a 40-year-old nonprofit organization serving those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, signed a long-term lease on the historic 16-acre property, culminating about two years of negotiations.

The Aurora School, a facility for autistic children that the nonprofit group operates in Purcellville, will move into one of the stone buildings surrounding the manor house as early as September 2009.

The administrative offices of the Arc of Loudoun will move into the 32-room mansion after it is restored, a costly process that could take several years.

The extra space will be a tremendous help because the advocacy organization has outgrown its home, Arc of Loudoun officials said. About five people work out of a 12-by-20-foot office on the edge of Leesburg, providing referrals, support groups, advocacy and training for more than 2,500 people a year.

The five-year-old Purcellville school also is in cramped quarters, sharing a building with a day-care center, and has a waiting list. It serves 24 children.

With more room, school officials hope to double enrollment, serve students with other kinds of disabilities and offer after-school care and music and arts enrichment programs, said Jennifer Lassiter, the school’s director.

“This is just going to open a whole new world of opportunities, not just for our students but for other kids as well,” Lassiter said.

The long-term goal is to create a resource center, or “one-stop shop,” for those with disabilities, Lassiter said. The estate could house occupational therapists, speech therapists and parent support groups, as well as a library well-stocked with the latest research.

Such a center would help parents who have just learned that their son or daughter has a disability and are seeking more information and help. Lassiter said that when her daughter, now 12, had a diagnosis of autism, she relied on the Internet and far-flung professionals. Lassiter hopes to make the process easier for other families.

The mansion, built in the 1870s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has a long history of serving those in need.

When owner Rachel Paxton died in 1921 at 95, she deeded the mansion — also known as Carlheim — to the Margaret Paxton Memorial for Convalescent Children, named for her only daughter. The terms of her will specified that the home be used to provide free care for needy children from Loudoun County.

Over the years, the property has served as a respite for ailing children, an orphanage, a preschool and a day-care center. It was closed in 2004, and the trustees of the estate said maintenance costs were prohibitive. After a thwarted attempt by the trustees to demolish the home, town officials added it to the Leesburg historic district. The trustees then set out to find a tenant who could meet Paxton’s dying wishes.

Restoring the mansion is expected to cost about $9 million. The trustees are to help bring the building up to code, and the Loudoun Restoration and Preservation Society is committed to raising the necessary funds to bring the home back to its former grandeur.

Although U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va) has helped the Arc of Loudoun apply for and secure some government funding, the organization has a long way to go before the doors to the mansion can reopen. But with a lease in hand, the group is ready to get started. “We are very excited,” Lassiter said.


Aurora School To Move To Paxton In Leesburg

in WTOP’s Local News, By SHANNON SOLLINGER, on Thursday – 2/14/2008

The Aurora School, which enrolls children with autism and other developmental disabilities, will be moving from Purcellville to larger quarters in Leesburg.

Before it can move to its new home at the old Paxton Child Development Center in northeast Leesburg, the Leesburg council must approve a special exception to allow a school in a residential neighborhood.

The trustees of the Margaret Paxton Memorial for Convalescent Children also must bring the 140-year-old mansion and five outbuildings up to today’s code requirements for health and safety.

At this moment, the trustees have said they will not move ahead with the $1 million remodeling until the Town of Leesburg has approved the special exception – a process that could take six months to a year. Mayor Kristen Umstattd asked the council at the Feb. 12 meeting to go on record approving use of the property for a school, even though the town has not yet received an application.

A collection of individual statements from council members, Umstattd wrote, “might budge the trustees to start the physical improvements immediately” rather than waiting for the ink to dry on the special exception.

If the council doesn’t act, or if the trustees are not impressed, Umstattd continued, then the council needs to accelerate the special exception process “so the improvements can begin sooner rather than later.”

Four years almost to the day since the trustees closed the Paxton Child Development Center, the Aurora School on Feb. 6 signed a 10-year lease with two five-year extensions to move the school to the property on 16 acres in Leesburg.

Jennifer Lassiter, director of the Aurora School and one of the parents who founded it in 2003, said the move will allow enrollment to double from its current 24.

While the trustees bring the buildings and grounds up to code, Lassiter said, she and the school’s parent organization, The Arc of Loudoun, with help from the Loudoun Restoration and Preservation Society, will go “the extra mile to make it completely accessible and green and historically respectful.”

That could cost an additional $9 million. The preservation society has started raising money for the project ( ).

Plans now, Lassiter said, are to open in Leesburg in 2009, using the outbuildings for the school and the mansion for administration and special events. The Paxton estate will offer 11,000 square feet for the school – up from 4,000 square feet in the school today in a storefront in Purcellville. Aurora will add preschool and day care for children of all abilities, and an after-school program for children with significant disabilities, Lassiter said.

“The biggest expansion will be for the older kids, ages 14 to 22,” Lassiter said. “We will be able to get them out in the community, and offer transition services.”

Lassiter said an exciting aspect will be the opportunity to “take kids with other disabilities, expand opportunities for our students, do other things with them out in the community, get peer buddies in with our kids.”

Larc executive director Eleanor Voldish said the lease is the “culmination of lengthy, discreet and meticulous negotiations between Larc and the board of trustees” of the memorial. State Sen. Mark Herring (D-eastern Loudoun) represented Larc at no cost in working out the lease.

Rachel Paxton’s 1911 will set up a trust, named for her daughter, Margaret, and stipulated that the 50-acre property known as “Carlheim” be used for a summer home for convalescent children. Paxton named the trust for her daughter, Margaret. A 1921 codicil removed “summer” from the terms and increased the endowment from $30,000 to $70,000. In the 1950s, facing a shortage of convalescent children, the then-trustees asked the Circuit Court for guidance. The court ruled that serving “needy” children would fulfill Paxton’s intent and that the board would have “broad discretion” in determining how to do that.

Today’s trustees, William Hanes, Mary Lou Raymond and Basil DeLashmutt, have decided that leasing the property to the Aurora School will fulfill Rachel Paxton’s intent.


Aurora School Inks Deal For Paxton Center; $9M Renovation Planned

in Leesburg Today By Margaret Morton | Posted: Friday, February 8, 2008 12:00 am 

After a year and a half of delicate negotiations, the hope that Aurora School can be relocated to the Paxton property in northeast Leesburg has come to a happy resolution.

The trustees of the Margaret Paxton Memorial For Convalescent Children this week signed a 10-year lease with and LARC, the Arc of Loudoun to let the historic Carlheim mansion become home to Aurora School, which currently serves children with disabilities in Purcellville.

The lease, which comes with two renewable five-year terms, and the subsequent relocation of the school will satisfy the terms of Rachel Paxton’s 1922 will, in which she stipulated her home was to be used for sick and needy children. She named the home in memory of her daughter, Margaret, who died earlier.

The property has not been occupied for the past three years, after trustees closed the Paxton Child Development Center that operated there. The possibility that the 16-acre property could be sold for development spurred efforts by neighbors and town leaders to preserve the home and its outbuildings.

After threat of legal action by the Paxton Board of Visitors, which has an advisory role to the trustees under Paxton’s will, both bodies worked to find a organization that would serve children in the way Rachel Paxton intended.

The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg, was a catalyst for the search for a suitable tenant. As a member of the board of visitors, Ohmer pressed the trustees to not close the school but find an organization that would serve many area children with special needs.

“The signing of this lease is a huge step toward honoring … Mrs. Paxton’s last wishes.”

State Senator Mark Herring (D-33), who acted as pro bono attorney for LARC, praised the trustees for their actions and for the generous terms of the lease, which he said would mean a “great use for the property” and would help many children in the area.

“It wasn’t easy, but we are thrilled with the result,” said LARC Executive Director Eleanor Voldish. The Aurora School, which was founded in Purcellville in 2003 to serve children with autism and other special needs, is a program of LARC. It has outgrown its current space. Currently, there are 25 children enrolled in the school.

“I can hardly believe it,” an ecstatic Jennifer Lassiter, director of the school, said yesterday. She noted the lengthy negotiations with the trustees. “But, the end result was the right thing,” she said, adding part of the long negotiations was to assure the board of trustees that Aurora was going to be the right candidate and to be able to fulfill the terms of the will.

It will be some time before the school can open at its new location. Lassiter said it would probably not be until the fall of 2009, because the building has suffered vandalism damage, water damage through broken pipes and in general needs considerable repair before it can be used again. Because the permit to operate a school on the property has lapsed, Aurora will have to go through the Town of Leesburg’s special application permit process.

The trustees have agreed that the building should be completely restored and brought up to code. A feasibility study estimated the total cost of restoration, repair and bringing the property to handicapped accessible status would come to approximately $9 million. The study was funded in part by Centex Homes, which gave $10,000 of the $19,000 cost, private donations and assistance from the board of the Loudoun Restoration and Preservation Society, which will work with LARC and Aurora to find the capital money required for the restoration.

“The exciting thing is that there will be a child care center there again,” Lassiter said. “The focus will be on children with disabilities and those currently not served. LARC hopes to expand the student body to 40 and to provide programs the school is currently not able to support-sports, arts, pre-and after-school care-and, most importantly, to serve as a resource center for parents and other nonprofits.

Lassiter said the 11,000-square-foot gymnasium would become home to the school itself, while the restored mansion will be used as the resource center, with a library and administrative offices for Aurora and other nonprofits. The four bungalows on the property will be renovated to meet handicapped accessibility requirements and will be used for preschool and day care children.

For Lassiter, the move to Paxton is the opportunity to give to other children what the school gave to her family with her autistic daughter Katelyn’s attendance and growth, socially and academically. The change for her daughter has been extraordinary, Lassiter said.

“It taught her how to communicate, and everything else came from that,” she said.

As part of the $9 million total, LARC and Aurora plan a $1.5 million capital campaign to provide disability access in all the buildings at Paxton, while retaining the historic integrity of the property. The fund already has its seed money-$250,000 obtained through the auspices of Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA-10).

“It will be our home, but we want it to be something the community will love, too,” she said.

For LPRS President Vernon Davis, the agreement came as a wonderful surprise. The society has been concerned about the fate of the 1872 mansion, which, he said, was unique in Loudoun, both in terms of design and in the fact that so many amenities were designed for it, including running water, electricity and a burglar alarm, at a time when Loudoun was still reeling from the devastation of the Civil War.

“I’m thrilled,” he said yesterday, noting the lease arrangement will ensure the preservation of the building and the ability to provide services to children, parents and to other nonprofits.

“It would be a fine example of what could be done,” he said.

Working with LARC and Aurora, Davis said the preservation society would set its sights on an initial chunk of $4 million or so. He plans to approach local businesses and national philanthropic organizations that support education for children, autism and historic preservation.

New lease on life

The Washington Business Journal, August 20, 2007

WBJ photo

The Carlheim mansion just north of Leesburg is moody. On a beautiful day, the old stone house stands grandly, ready to welcome visitors with a smile. Other times it seems old and fragile. On a stormy day, you’d swear you were staring at “The Addams Family” house, Lurch not included.

The 135-year-old mansion’s delicate disposition is understandable. Since its original owner died in 1922, it’s languished in one form or another as a home for children. Most recently it’s been caught in a custody battle of its own, with the home’s trustees facing off against preservationists. Now the property, also known as Paxton School, is on the verge of a third life. The Aurora School, a facility for children with autism now located in Purcellville, is in final negotiations to lease it.

How did the magnificent structure end up with boarded windows, virtually abandoned and subject to vandals?

When Rachel Paxton, who built the estate as a summer home with her husband, wealthy industrialist Charles Paxton, died in 1922, she stipulated that the property be used as a home for children in remembrance of her only daughter, Margaret. A board of trustees was established to oversee the house. A good idea in concept. Not ideal in practice. The home’s ever-changing uses — a convalescent center for children, orphanage and day-care center — took their toll, and the trustees said the property was losing money in 2004 when they shut down the day-care center.

They sold off nearly 40 acres, leaving 16, and applied to Leesburg for a demolition permit, rankling preservationists and sparking lawsuits. The town denied the permit, and the trustees agreed to work with the Loudoun Restoration and Preservation Society to find a solution.

We’ll never know whether the trustees truly intended to demolish Carlheim or were just drawing publicity to its plight, but the attention prompted Centex Homes to donate $10,000 so the preservation society could hire Fredericksburg-based Tidewater Preservation to assess the home. Structurally its in good shape, but there is plenty of work to be done: new HVAC and plumbing, millwork repairs, stone repointing, window reglazing, new roof and access for the disabled. The renovation could easily cost millions of dollars.

Built with sandstone from the Potomac, the home features a mansard roof, fourth-story lookout tower, 15-foot ceilings, white marble mantels, an attached ice house, vault, and 2,000-gallon water tank on the roof for fire protection.

“This is high, high style,” says Fred Ecker of Tidewater. “This is the sort of stuff you see on the Hudson River in New York.”

Carlheim Mansion

Original owners: Charles and Rachel Paxton

Name means: “Charles home” in German

Built: 1872

Architect: Henry C. Dudley

Style: Second Empire, Italian villa

Square feet: 14,000 not including basement

Listed: National Register of Historic Places

Amenities: Carriage house, smoke house, peacock house

Rooms: 32

Location: Leesburg


Aurora School Plans Expansion

Posted in Leesburg Today on Monday, February 19, 2007 12:00 am

By Margaret Morton 

The Aurora School of Purcellville is conducting a capital campaign to expand its service for autistic children.

Executive Director Jennifer Lassiter announced all grants made through March 31 would be fully matched. A silent auction fundraiser also is planned.

The Purcellville school is fast outgrowing its present quarters and needs more space than it has in shared premises with a day care center. Among the sites under consideration is the Paxton property in Leesburg, owned by the board of trustees of the Margaret Paxton Memorial Home For Convalescent Children. A representative of that organization confirmed talks are ongoing with the Aurora School, but said nothing concrete has yet been agreed.

The school is one of several programs of Larc, originally created as the Loudoun Association of Retarded Citizens but known more familiarly as The Arc of Loudoun.

Aurora School opened in 2003, as the result of a partnership between parents of children with autism and Larc. The parents had approached Larc Executive Director Eleanor Voldish to ask her help in educating their children, and so Aurora was born as a licensed facility to serve children with mental retardation and mental health impairment. The 19 students at Aurora also include children suffering from developmental delays, but most students are autistic, according to Lassiter. Helping those children reach their full potential is the aim of educators at the school, Lassiter said.

There are several programs at Aurora. On Saturdays, there is a leisure program for ages 13 and up. The school also performs case management for adults with mental retardation who are also parents.

“We help them be a parent, so they can keep their families together,” Lassiter said, citing the instance of a young woman with a 10-month-old baby, who is waiting for assisted housing.

She is proud to be part of the Larc operation, of which she says admiringly, “Larc changes the world in 400 square feet in Leesburg.”

The Paxton Board of Visitors, which acts in an advisory capacity to the Board of Trustees, identified Aurora School as a possible candidate to the trustees last year, particularly because its mission fit with that of Rachel Paxton’s desires to serve needy children.

The Reverend John Ohmer, Rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg, who is a member of the board of visitors, said his board respected the trustees’ right to continue to negotiate privately.

“We are encouraged by what we’ve been hearing about the conversations and the trustees’ efforts over the past several months to work with Aurora School on the possibility of opening Paxton for disadvantaged children. We have supported that all along,” he said, citing Rachel Paxton’s desires for her property after her death.