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New Hope Keeps On Giving

Housing gala honors Mondloch family.

Twenty five years ago New Hope Housing opened Mondloch House I, the first homeless shelter in Fairfax County. That event was honored last Friday night at the organization's 2003 anniversary gala titled "Silver Linings of Hope."

Held at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, it featured a tribute to New Hope Housing founder Eleanor U. Kennedy and awarded the 2003 Good Neighbor Award to the Mondloch Family. As the annual fund-raiser, guests also participated in both a live and silent auction.

In her tribute to Kennedy, state Del. Kristen J. Amundson (D-44), noted that in 1975 Kennedy was named the first chair of the newly formed Housing Subcommittee of the Route 1 Task Force for Human Services. In 1976-1977 Kennedy obtained a $10,000 grant for a shelter from the Fairfax County Redevelopment Housing Authority.

Under Kennedy's leadership, a new non-profit agency, Route One Corridor Housing, was incorporated with the primary responsibility of locating a shelter facility. That occurred when an old farmhouse on Lockheed Boulevard was purchased with an $8,000 gift from a young woman in Kennedy's church who insisted on remaining anonymous.

DEDICATED IN 1978, the four bedroom farmhouse was later renamed for Robert Mondloch, a founding board member and treasurer of what is now New Hope Housing who died shortly after the purchase of the original shelter in 1979. Staffed by volunteers, it had room for eight adults.

Since that initial shelter both homelessness and New Hope Housing's capabilities have risen sharply. The organization can now serve nearly 130 adults and children in four shelters on any given night, making it the largest homeless shelter provider in Northern Virginia. Last year it provided shelter and services for 815 adults and children combined.

In 1986, Kennedy took the lead in establishing the South County Community Shelter for single adults on the grounds of Fort Belvoir in response to the Moveable Feast shelter program in local churches. The building she found was a former water treatment plant.

When Kennedy first saw the old plant she recalled, "It was nothing but a shell with much water standing in the basement. I was a dreamer, but stretch as I might, I could not see this building as a comfortable shelter for anyone."

But, she later admitted, "I had not counted on a joint venture between the county and the Army. A miracle was brought about on December 14, 1986, when the South County Community Shelter opened its doors to 50 homeless men and women."

THE NAME OF the new shelter was changed to the Eleanor U. Kennedy Shelter in 1989. A winter overflow program began in 1991 as a trailer park behind the newly named shelter. With 16 beds, its purpose is "to ensure that no resident of the county will freeze to death" for lack of a sheltered space.

In naming the Mondloch family as the 2003 recipients of the Good Neighbor Award, Pamela L. Mitchell, executive director, New Hope Housing, stated, "We cannot imagine this place without the Mondloch family. Their commitment to the mission of the agency is unequalled, and the plight of the homeless individuals in Fairfax County would have been much worse if it hadn't been for the Mondlochs."

The original Mondloch House was joined by Mondloch II in 1983 "in response to the growing need for family shelter." Today it has 45 beds plus cribs and houses an average of 15 families per night. The original Mondloch House was replaced in 2000 with a state-of-the-art facility now known as Mondloch I.

New Hope Housing Good Neighbor Award is presented annually to honor individuals or organizations whose contributions "have made a real difference" in the lives of the County's homeless population. The Mondloch family has been a part of that effort for 25 years.

The family donates 100 hours of professional painting services to the Gala's fund raising auction. It regularly yields the largest single contribution to the event.

Last Friday night's live auction item number three - "House Painting - Your Home Deserves It!" by Mondloch Brothers and Friends - drew a winning bid of $ 5,500. The only stipulation was that the winner had to live in the Greater Washington Area. The winner was William Swedish, a resident of Arlington. Mondloch's firm name is Mondo Improvements. They are based in Fairfax.

Each year the house painting is auctioned off by U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8). He also served as master of ceremonies for the 2003 event.

Overall, this year's Gala raised approximately $65,000 from the 260 in attendance, according to Mitchell. "However, we haven't finished totalling everything at this point," she specified. "All the other live auction items were handled by a professional auctioneer, Orville B. Lynn, who volunteered his time."

IN ADDITION TO the silent and live auctions, this year's celebration featured a raffle jointly sponsored with the Mount Vernon Kiwanis Club. The grand prize was $10,000. "This was the first time we have done this, but I believe it will become an annual drawing," Kiwanis project coordinator, said Elliott Tepper.

There were 301 tickets sold at $100 each. The primary winner received $10,000 with five second-prize winners each garnering $500. Carol Parker, wife of former Kiwanis president Gayle Parker and herself a Kiwanis member for the last two years, was the lucky recipient of the grand prize. They reside in Riverside Estates.

"I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. It took several minutes for it to sink in," she said. "I plan to put the money in a fund to help educate our grandchildren. We have three."

The raffle raised $30,100. New Hope Housing retained $17,500 after the prizes were awarded. "We intend to make a formal presentation once all the bookkeeping is finished," Tepper said.