Leaders at Herndon’s Epiphany Episcopal Church knew they would need help: they had committed to hosting a hypothermia shelter for the area’s homeless population Christmas week, but the number of people required to operate it outnumbered their entire congregation.
So they reached out for help, and neighboring faith and service communities responded.
One month before the shelter is scheduled to open its doors to as many as 49 homeless men and women, eight organizations have committed to contribute either volunteers or supplies needed to operate the shelter. They include FACETS, Epiphany Episcopal, St. Anne’s Episcopal, St. Francis Episcopal, New Hope Baptist, Unitarian Universalist of Sterling, Congregation Beth Emeth, and Boy Scout Troop 1257, with more expected to join.
Epiphany counts about 165 households in its membership but must fill 180 volunteer slots to operate the shelter, which will be open from the evening of Dec. 20 to the morning of Dec. 27 at the church on the corner of Fairfax County Parkway and Franklin Farm Road.
"We’re foolish enough to believe that we can make a difference in this world, welcoming our neighbors with open hearts and extended hands, offering a home to those in need this holiday,” Epiphany’s Rev. Hillary West said. “Our Christmas is made more holy through this opportunity to serve.”
The shelter will be open to homeless men and women 5 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. each day, except Christmas, when it will remain open all day. Operating these shelters is a volunteer-intensive effort, with about 25 volunteer slots of about three to four hours that must be filled every day the shelter operates. Volunteers will help transport guests to the shelter, set up the shelter, prepare and serve dinner, breakfast and a bagged lunch, provide entertainment and companionship, be on hand overnight, and close the shelter in the morning. On Christmas Day, the shelter will remain open to provide shelter, a holiday dinner, and church services for any who wish to attend and participate.
"Last year’s shelter experience left us all with wonderful memories," said Celeste Meyer, Epiphany co-lead organizer for the shelter. "We look forward again this year to providing a place that is warm and welcoming, where our guests can have a hot meal, experience some companionship, and be treated with dignity.”
While Epiphany is hosting the shelter, it is operated by FACETS, a Fairfax County-based poverty relief organization. FACETS organizes a series of hypothermia shelters at different faith-based institutions across Fairfax County from November to March, with each institution hosting and staffing the shelter for a week. Last year FACETS hypothermia shelters served 244 individuals.
For more information or to volunteer, visit http://www.coee.org/shelter. For more information about FACETS shelters, visit http://facetscares.org/programs/hypothermia-prevention-and-response-program/.