The Rewards of Community Service
Timothy G. Shea, Technology Fellow Emeritus – WDC/2003 to 2013
As age creeps up on us, we have more time for reflection, and certainly to participate in opportunities to be of service to our communities. The return from such activity can be a continued feeling of belonging to a group of “Movers and Shakers” as were so characteristic of my colleagues at CH2M.
I am involved in a unique volunteer organization that I wish to share with you, as it deals with a problem in society that few venture to address, namely housing for intellectually disabled persons. The State of Virginia has domiciled its population of intellectually disabled (ID) persons, numbering over 1,100 in my home county (Fairfax) in institutions called “training centers.” The institutional life there has not been beneficial, to say the least, but at minimum has relieved aging parents of the burden of sustaining their grown children. A few years ago, a consent decree from a Federal Court put the State Government on notice to close these institutions and provide alternative housing. Very little has happened to meet the housing need, other than sending many ID persons home, to the streets, or to only God knows where.
I belong to a very active council of the Knights of Columbus (#8600, in Fairfax Station), a commitment that started with my membership in this organization from college days over 50 years ago. In my present council, the leadership took action in 1994 by founding Marian Homes, Inc., a separate nonprofit 501(c) 3 charity for the express purpose of buying, converting to American Disability Act standards, and renting group homes for ID men or women. It took 16 years to open the first two homes, raising money $25 at a time. Then, in 2015, our County Government issued a request for proposals to organizations like Marian Homes for Block Grant Development Funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to cover 75 percent of the cost of a group home, leaving the burden to each competing organization to raise the rest as its equity share.
Marian Homes, Inc. is an all-volunteer, 15-member Board of Directors (I have served on the Board for the last 3 years), having on its Board men of many diverse and complementary talents. We jumped at the opportunity to submit a first proposal in 2015, and again in 2016. We were successful in both of these competitions; and, as a result, we were able to open a third home in 2015 and a fourth home in 2016. In each case, our proposals made a compelling case to the County for grants that amounted to $500,000 to $600,000 for each home. The key to this success was delivering on the promises made in our proposals of delivery within our promised budget and time to bring the new homes to operational status. Each home serves five men or women, and we are soon to compete again for what will hopefully be our fifth home. Our operating partner provides the staff for 24/7 services to the residents, and provides the rental income to Marian Homes to cover the cost of the home.
My duties at CH2M and earlier were excellent training for the responsibilities required in this endeavor. My current involvement as a Board member of Marian Homes, Inc. has been fundraising to develop the equity dollars needed to complete the proposal offers, in each case from $150,000 to 200,000 in Fairfax County. This journey has been most satisfying for me. And it has led to working with the pastors of many of the nearly 70 parishes in the Diocese of Arlington, as well as several other councils of the Knights of Columbus, the home building firms in Northern Virginia, the community banks, and others.
Personally, this experience has been a later-in-life fulfillment of what the lessons from my career in consulting engineering at CH2M and earlier taught me. It has been very rewarding to see what can be accomplished in a new area, volunteerism to help people in need, and using skills long in hand.
There is much more to this story that I can share for anyone interested. Just send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.