Although the federal-government shutdown is over for now, Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM) is lending a hand to anyone in Fairfax County affected by it and still feeling the pain. And it’s even going beyond its normal, Western Fairfax County service area to do so.
“WFCM is here to help any Fairfax County resident needing food or emergency financial assistance,” said WFCM Community Outreach Manager Jennie Bush. “If you have been impacted by the partial federal-government shutdown, please don’t hesitate to use our services.”
The community-based nonprofit is at 4511 Daly Drive, Suite J, in Chantilly. And since it’ll be awhile before affected federal employees receive paychecks — and contractors may not receive any back pay, at all — on Wednesday, Jan. 30, and Feb. 6, from 5-7 p.m., WFCM’s food pantry will be open for any employee or contractor affected by the shutdown.
During that time, WFCM will distribute pre-bagged food for families. It will include shelf-stable items and – if possible, while supplies last – fresh meat, milk, cheese, produce, bread and toiletries will also be available, as will a limited amount of gasoline gift cards.
“When you come, you’ll be asked to show a photo ID and provide proof of Fairfax County residency for yourself and members of your household,” said Bush. “There’s some brief paperwork, as well.”
In addition, proof of financial impact is needed. “This can be your furlough notice or other documentation showing that your paycheck did not get deposited,” said Bush. “An appointment is not necessary; but if you have further questions, please call our office at 703-988-9656.”
Last Friday, after the end to the shutdown was announced, Bush said, “WFCM is grateful for the support we received from our community – businesses, churches, individuals – everyone working together to help those who were furloughed and not receiving a paycheck. Because of your support, we have been able to provide groceries and gas cards to those workers who needed help during this difficult time. Thank you for your care, your compassion and, mostly, for your generosity.”
But that’s not all. Also expressing his thoughts about the shutdown was Chris Granberg, who attends Centreville United Methodist Church and is active in WFCM’s holiday food and backpack programs. He emphasized how living without an income publicly exposed the fear and reality that many residents face.
“This was probably the most powerful reminder that anyone – regardless of how steady their job may seem – can be just one missed paycheck away from financial disaster,” he said. “This can be from foreclosure, from losing medical insurance or from not being able to provide food for their families. It put in stark relief the threat that confronts far too many hardworking folks in our own neighborhoods, cities and nation – and for much longer than five weeks.”
“So my hope – in addition to no more shutdowns – is that the generosity and hospitality shown to our feds put a less hazy face on what it means to be the ‘working poor,’” continued Granberg. “I hope the lessons we learned will translate into renewed support for community organizations working to lend a hand up to those in need, or to help a neighbor make it through a tough month. It really doesn't take much. And in so doing, it will hopefully lessen the space between ‘us’ and ‘them.’”
WFCM has been serving Western Fairfax County residents since 1987 to prevent hunger and homelessness. It’s able to give people in need emergency financial help so they can pay their rent and utilities and purchase their prescribed medications. Normal office hours are Monday-Friday, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 4:30-7 p.m.