They call Brenda Cousar, “The Mayor of the Building,” referencing her tireless efforts when it comes to the J. Van Story Branch Apartments. But on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, she was the ‘Santa Claus of the Building,’ making it possible for residents to receive Christmas gifts.
Located at 11 W. 20th Street in the Charles North Neighborhood, the J. Van Story Branch Apartments offers affordable rental apartments for senior and non-elderly disabled residents.
Cousar serves as Tenant Council Board President of the J. Van Story Branch Apartments, where she has lived for 23 years. She coordinated the event, which also included music and other festivities. The residents received Christmas stockings hats, bags with assorted items, cookies, hot chocolate, and other treats. The items were made possible by donations from Mike Shecter owner of the North Avenue Market and Positive IMPAC, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.
“Mike Schecter does so much for us,” said Cousar. “Anytime I pick up the phone, he asks what I need and provides it. He is such a great supporter to this entire building. With the holidays and with COVID-19 impacting so many things, we wanted to do something nice for the residents of the building. People really enjoyed themselves.”
Schecter attended the Christmas event.
“I can talk for hours about Miss Brenda,” said Schecter. “She is tireless in all of the things that she’s trying to do, and her commitment to the building and its residents is overwhelming. She’s always done massive, huge amounts of work for the residents. I met her15 years ago. We hit the ground running and never slowed down. We always try to help because she devotes so much of her time and energy to the building and its residents. It’s impossible to say ‘no’ to Miss Brenda. I am so happy to be invited and to help the residents in any way.
“With the holidays, anything we can do to bring the residents and community together is important. Just getting into the spirit of the holidays and giving is wonderful. It’s incredible to see everybody back together.”
Cousar has organized several events at the 350-unit building for the residents including a Pre-Memorial Day lunch in May.
“Miss Brenda also works with the Charles North Community Association as a community representative for the neighborhood association,” said Schecter. “She is really a great liaison for the residents and has also gotten grants for the building.”
Schecter who is a developer, also talked about the efforts of Kim James, who serves as the building’s Senior Property Manager.
“Kim really did a ton of work,” said Schecter. “She was great.”
James felt the event made the holidays merrier for the building’s residents.
“Miss Brenda wanted to give back to the residents in some kind of way,” said James. “It was hard to do because of COVID, but we wanted to do something, and do something safely. It was all hands-on deck. We were planning this for a while, and it all came together. It was great because everybody got a Christmas gift.
“It’s important to do events like this for our residents. It lets them know someone is thinking about them and that we care. Some of them don’t have visitors to come see them, so events like this help a lot. The gifts they received today may be the only gifts they get for Christmas. It’s important to let them know they are being thought of during this time.”
David Hamilton is one of the building’s maintenance techs.
“The event turned out really nice,” said Hamilton. “What everyone involved did for the residents was such a great thing to do.”