Thursday, February 18, 2016
It was 19 degrees outside when about 100 people gathered Saturday afternoon at the site of the new Lamb Center for a beam-signing. But inside the building still under construction, it might as well have been 90 degrees – warmed by all the love and well wishes of those attending.
“This has been a long time coming, and now we finally have solid ground under our feet,” said Lamb Center operations director Dave Larrabee. “Every Saturday at 1:30 p.m., we met and prayed about this building and the future of the Lamb Center. And to see this here, right now, is absolutely incredible.”
Since 1992, The Lamb Center in Fairfax has served the poor and homeless. It is a daytime, drop-in shelter providing hot meals, showers and laundry services, plus recovery and employment counseling. Open six days a week, it receives about 150 people/day. In 2014, it had 31,103 guest visits and provided 44,567 meals, 12,033 showers, some 9,700 loads of laundry and more than 10,000 group and individual counseling sessions.
And as Fairfax County’s homeless population grew, so did the number of people flocking to the Lamb Center. More room was needed; so this spring, the Center will move from its current rented site off Old Lee Highway to its new home on more than one-third of an acre on Campbell Drive.
Having a larger, two-story building will enable The Lamb Center to provide more services. It will add a clothing closet and food pantry, as well as office space for its staff. Future plans include offering dental care and a nurse practitioner.
THE FACILITY will be open Monday-Saturday, with four full-time staff members and four volunteers there at all times. There will be a great room where meals are served, plus rooms for classes and social workers. And the kitchen, laundry and bathrooms will all increase in size.
Last Saturday, Feb. 13, people attending the 1:30 p.m. beam-signing ceremony at the construction site began by holding hands in a large circle and saying prayers. Among them were Lamb Center executive director John MacPherson, Fairfax City Mayor Scott Silverthorne and City Council members David Meyer, Ellie Schmidt and Michael DeMarco.
“Lord, we’re grateful for this moment and we owe it all to you,” said one woman. “God, this is Holy ground and we’re grateful that, in this place, your lambs will be tended,” said another.
“Lord, thank you for this day and bless everything that goes on in this place,” said Larrabee. Then a woman thanked God for “all the lives that will be healed here.” Also saying a prayer was Meyer, who said, “May these walls and this roof be a place of God’s love, peace and justice and a place of healing and wholeness.
Next, everyone sang “Amazing Grace.” Then they used markers to write Bible verses and the names of people they are praying for on the beams and floor of the new building, imbuing it with love, hope and blessings to carry it forward.
Meyer wrote, “In memory of James Conklin, Sr., a servant of God at The Lamb Center.” He was a retired, Fairfax County schoolteacher who lived in the City. “He was a friend of mine, went to Fairfax United Methodist Church and volunteered for many years at The Lamb Center,” said Meyer. “He helped by leading worship, making meals and being a friend to the homeless.”
Schmidt was pleased to be there, too. “I think this is an important day in the beginning of this new Lamb Center,” she said. “And it’s impressive to see as many friends and supporters here on this cold day to mark this milestone.”
One of the youngest participants was Bailey Libby, 7, who came with her brother Riggs, 9, and their parents, Roger and Lisa. Bailey attends Mantua Elementary and her message was straight to the point and heartfelt. She wrote, “To The Lamb Center, God Loves you, from Bailey.”
“The Lamb Center has been a part of our family for years,” explained her father. “We’ve donated items from dishwasher detergent to salt, food and paper towels. It’s those small things that bring us together, and we wanted to make sure our children got a chance to see our faith in action and to see people the way God sees them.”
Meanwhile, Belai English, 10, wrote “God is awesome.” He came with his mom and others who volunteer on Saturdays in The Lamb Center’s kitchen. “This is a new place for people who need it in the bitter-cold winter,” he said. “They can get clothes here, dine here and learn about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.”
HIS MENTOR, Fairfax’s Pamela Allen, is among the kitchen volunteers. “We wanted to come here today to show our love for people,” she said. “We’re also part of the Saturday praying crew. God is bringing this property to pass, and it’s going to be a beacon of light, a blessing and something good in the community.”
Also there was Peaches Pearson with daughter Valisha Jackson. Pearson’s volunteered with The Lamb Center for several years and, when her office was nearby, she collected items for it from her co-workers.
“I also did Thanksgiving baskets and Christmas stockings, and my daughter collected things for gift bags for the homeless,” said Pearson. “We’ve been homeless in the past, ourselves, so we wanted to help others.”
She is also excited about the Center’s new location. “I’m a member of Fairfax County’s advisory council to end homelessness in the county by 2018, and my daughter and I help the homeless any way we can,” said Pearson. She now has a good job and her own home but, she said, “I was homeless as a teen, sleeping in cars and laundromats, so I know how difficult it is.”
“I especially love The Lamb Center because it also incorporates religion and helps people find their strength and spirituality,” she continued. “I’ve been driving by, watching the building take shape, and am looking forward to it opening in the spring.”