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New Family Shelter: What's in a Name

Speaking at Saturday's ribbon-cutting, Kate Hanley was delighted about each word in the Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter's name.

"What I am really happy about are the words 'family' and 'shelter,'" she said. "[These] words represent two things so basic to the well-being of people in our community."

HANLEY THEN related the story of the woman who, in spring 2002, reminded the members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors how lucky they were to live in homes.

"Housing — a roof over our heads and a place to lay them — is the most basic of needs," said Hanley. "And in this county, we ought to be able to see that this need is met. Here, almost everyone who wants a job can find one. But the cost of housing is so high that many of those family providers have jobs, but no homes."

In spring 2002, she said, it was time to take the community's advice and build a family shelter for the still-unserved, western part of the county. With money from the county's Housing Trust Fund — which was prosperous then because of all the contributions from home-building developers — plus a $1 million proffer from the Providence District, then represented by Supervisor Gerry Connolly, there were enough funds to get this shelter underway.

"Family — thankfully, families come in a variety of configurations," said Hanley. "We know our children benefit in so many ways when they grow up in stable surroundings with someone who cares for and about them, in places where they feel safe."

She said such children grow up to be productive, contributing members of society. And, she added, "We know that when our children thrive, our entire community thrives. There is no doubt in my mind that this beautiful facility will have an enormous, positive impact."

NOT ONLY will it benefit those coming here in need "and leaving in a position to be self-sufficient and feel optimistic about their futures," said Hanley, it will benefit the entire community. Then, she said, the community will be able to say it understands how important family and shelter are for everyone.

"As a community, we believe that our success and quality of life for all of us depends on the success and quality of life of each of us," said Hanley. "And so we believe providing this shelter is important to all of us, not just those who seek shelter here. As a community, we did something about it; we invested in our future."

As for the "Katherine K. Hanley" part of the shelter's title, she called it "an incredible honor to have the Board include my name on [it]. When I think of Embrey Rucker, Eleanor Kennedy and Robert Mondloch — community builders for whom [the county's] three other shelters are named — I realize I have lots of community building yet to do to even come close to being their equal."

Hanley then thanked the Supervisors, not just for naming the shelter for in her honor, but also for building it. She also thanked everyone else who played a role leading up to Saturday's ribbon-cutting. Said Hanley: "Today, Fairfax County should be proud."

Giving the benediction at the end of the ceremony was the Rev. Mary Katherine Morn of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax.

"Thanks be for vision that inspires action, for compassion that cultivates generosity, for love and service that transforms a community," she said. "And now may the seeds of hope planted here today find fertile ground in our hearts and in the heart of this community so that we may grow in our ability to be shelter for each other."

Next, Supervisors Chairman Gerry and Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins presented Hanley with a framed photo of the new shelter. And then everyone went outside to cut the ribbon. "It really is incredibly moving," said Hanley afterward. "But truly this is a community effort."