Every day, The Lamb Center makes a positive impact on the lives of poor and homeless people in Fairfax. And on Oct. 10, this nonprofit held its annual celebration banquet at the Waterford in Fair Oaks.
This faith-based, daytime, drop-in shelter has much to celebrate. In 2017, it served an average of 102 guests/day with: 46,123 meals, 15,143 showers and more than 10,000 group and individual counseling sessions, plus dental services, AA meetings, clothing, haircuts, Bible studies, relationship-building, and job and housing searches.
The vast majority of its financial support comes from contributions from its more than 100 partner churches, 1,200 individual donors and dozens of local businesses. Carrying out the day-to-day work are the center’s volunteers who, last year, gave nearly 26,000 hours of their time.
Now, there’s even more to cheer. At the banquet, Lamb Center Board Chairman Tara Ruszkowski announced the creation of Jobs for Life, a jobs partnership with the City of Fairfax. “It’s a four-month, pilot program to offer part-time, day work to Lamb Center guests,” she said. “There’s dignity in work; and if you give a homeless person a job, you build them up and make them a part of the community.”
It’ll be managed by Lamb Center staff and Fairfax’s Parks and Recreation Department and will run for 16 weeks. Via this innovative initiative, these guests will be employed cleaning and beautifying City parks and doing public-works tasks. Modeled after a successful program in Albuquerque, N.M., this one is funded by a $15,000 grant from the City to the center.
EIGHT TO 10 PEOPLE will work two days a week in four-hour shifts. The Lamb Center will register participants, provide transportation, supervise job sites and pay workers in cash ($10/hour) at the end of each shift. Fairfax City will provide the learning opportunities and a pathway back into the workforce.
“We’re extremely proud to offer a program like this in Fairfax City,” said Mayor David Meyer. “It’s an approach that not only assists those who need help, but also benefits the City and its residents by providing valuable services that we need every day. It’s truly community in action.”
Calling this collaboration a “powerful partnership” between The Lamb Center and the City, and a win for both, he added, “Most especially, it’s a win for The Lamb Center guests who are transforming their lives for a future that includes the dignity of work. We’re proud to be taking this next step to help the homeless in our City.”
Thanking him and the City Council, Ruszkowski said the pilot will begin the end of this month. “For some, it’ll be a stepping stone on to more permanent work with the City’s Public Works Department,” she said. “And for others, it’ll be an entrée into our jobs program.”
Furthermore, she said, “We’re cautiously exploring the possibility of joining with partners to build housing. And we’re asking if we should have a second location to expand our reach. These are bold questions, and we continue to ask for [our supporters’] prayers and guidance.”
Sharon Hoover, Missions Director at Centreville Presbyterian Church, is the Jobs for Life coordinator. “I did some research and discovered there’s a gap between employment services and potential employers,” she explained. My search to bridge the gap brought me to Jobs for Life.”
“It focused on strength of character and God’s work, so I hosted a class about it at the church,” she continued. “But transportation for people to get there was difficult. Then Dave Larrabee [the center’s operations director] suggested we hold classes at The Lamb Center.”
Now, volunteers from 20 churches are helping with the 16-session class, teaching Lamb Center guests about various jobs. They also recruit and train mentors for the students. And besides the jobs with Fairfax, they’re seeking additional work opportunities for the class’s graduates.
“We need people willing to consider hiring an at-risk person with an unusual work history,” said Hoover. “Think how much we could reduce poverty in Northern Virginia through this program. And I can tell you, if you get involved in Jobs for Life, it will change you for the better.”
Then four people who’ve been helped by The Lamb Center shared their stories. Afterward, Board of Directors member Dee Ann Jeremiah said, “God says to love your neighbor, and these people are our neighbors. Before getting involved with The Lamb Center, I had no idea there were homeless people a stone’s throw from my home. But our guests teach me with their passion and faith. As a business owner, helping individuals is common sense. It’s a win for businesses, the community and our guests.”
THANKING EVERYONE for attending the banquet, Larrabee said, “Everything we do wouldn’t be possible without your support.” He then prayed, saying, “God, we’re so grateful for the many ways You’ve grown our ministry so we’re able to help the poor in our community and transform lives. Bless us as we travel home tonight, and especially bless and keep safe those who have no place to lay their heads.”
The Lamb Center is at 3160 Campbell Drive in Fairfax. For more information, to contribute or to volunteer, go to www.thelambcenter.org or call 703-691-3178.