Marian Homes, Inc. exists for the sole mission of owning and maintaining houses used as group homes for the intellectually disabled. The concept for the organization grew from initial planning of the leadership of St. Mary of Sorrows Knights of Columbus Council 8600 in 1994. Those gentlemen recognized the great need for additional community-based housing options for persons with intellectual disabilities. The Council established a non-profit corporate entity, named Marian Homes, to address the need for Group Homes in Fairfax County. The date of incorporation is February 22, 1996.
The guiding force behind the creation of Marian Homes was a gentlemen named Richard (Dick) LaFrance. Inspired by the need for housing of the intellectually disabled, Dick was passionate about getting the name and reputation of the Knights of Columbus connected to this cause. As a leader of the Council he persisted in overcoming the bureaucratic and administrative challenges associated with the startup of Marian Homes and clearly was the primary fund raiser. On January 26, 2012, Virginia and the Federal Government reached a settlement agreement to transition residents of the Virginia Training Centers. The Northern Virginia Training Center is slated to totally close by March 2016. This is just one segment of the intellectual disabled community that currently needs assistance. Even after the Training Centers close, we can’t forget about those individuals living at home with aging parents and others without adequate resources to care for their loved ones with intellectual disabilities. Who will step up?
The Bylaws of the new corporation describe a 15 member all-volunteer Board of Directors as the management. At each Board Meeting we open the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer and close our meeting with the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. All Directors are members of Council 8600, though financial and operational controls are separate from the Council leadership structure. Having created the organizational structure, fund raising began in earnest, with an IRS approval of 501(c)(3) status. The Board contacted Chimes Virginia, a not-for-profit human service provider and entered into a partnership with them, all under the supervision of the Fairfax County Community Service Board.
At Marian Homes, our Board of Directors is committed to operating with the highest standards of accountability, transparency and ethics. We realize that if we are to be successful in expanding philanthropy for all, then we must adhere every day to our mission, vision and core values. Governance and transparency are so important we have provided our By-Laws, Articles of Incorporation, and maintain our Independent Auditor’s Report of finances for full disclosure as well as other documents on our website.
First Purchase Marian Homes, Inc. purchased its first house, in the Brecon Ridge subdivision, a picturesque community of single family homes in Fairfax, in 1997. With a mortgage provided by our partner, Chimes Virginia, the Board took possession and renovated the house to accommodate wheelchairs. On August 10, 1998, an official ribbon cutting ceremony opened this first house, named Marian House, and it became the home for five intellectually disabled women. The residents had previously lived at home or in state supported facilities, such as the Northern Virginia Training Center. Our Partner Chimes Virginia became the care-provider and assists the residents of Regina House around the clock.
During the first decade of its existence, Marian Homes raised funds through a pledge drive to members of Council 8600 and through an annual gala to which members of the St. Mary of Sorrows parish were invited. These sources provided the funding to support operational expenses and allow for the modification of a back porch at Marian House into a year round, comfortable recreation room for the staff and residents.
Based on the success of the first home, and recognizing the continuing need for similar housing for the intellectually disabled, the Board of Directors decided in November of 2009 to begin the search for a second property. A suitable house was found in the Greenbriar subdivision of Fairfax and settlement occurred in April 2010. After some relatively minor modifications to the house, residents began moving into the house in September, 2010. A dedication ceremony, naming the house Regina House, was held in September 2010 and, by the end of 2010, it was the home for four intellectually disabled adult men. Our partner, Chimes, again provided the startup mortgage for Regina House and provides day-to-day care of the residents.
Having purchased Regina House with the goal of making it the home for five persons, the Board initiated a project to convert the garage of the property into a wheel chair accessible bedroom and bathroom. The conversion project was completed in August of 2011 and a fifth resident moved into the house the following month.
On February 26, 2015, within minutes of signing the papers acquiring the house; Knights started the demolition to prepare the inside for renovations by a contractor and putting this house on the fast track. Knights from Council 8600 provided many hours and the muscle to begin the demolition under the watchful eyes of Bill Baker and John Germain. State Deputy Steve Burnley and Fairfax Board of Supervisor John Cook were two of the first official visitors to the house swinging a hammer and provide their support. Besides modifications needed for disabled residents a fifth bedroom was built as well as modifications to the hallways, 42 inch wide doors, and a bathroom to accommodate the residents.
Queen of Peace House
With the contractor’s modifications completed ahead of schedule invitations were sent out announcing the Grand Opening of the Queen of Peace House. On June 25, 2015, with numerous guests gathered a number of dignitaries including Virginia Representative Tim Hugo, and Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook addressed those gathered for the opening of our third home. Fr. James Barkett, Pastor of St. Mary of Sorrows blessed the house and offered a prayer for the residences before the ribbon cutting ceremony. Then Fr. Barkett offered members of Marian Homes and the Knights a challenge- “Could you get the next house even quicker?”
Fourth Purchase Much time and effort goes into finding a potential home that can be modified and work within our framework as well as being suitable with Fairfax County Community Board. Our team has recently identified a house that meets all the requirements. The house located on 3504 Wilson Street in Fairfax City will again need some modification in order to serve as a group home.
During the period of time when the Board was considering the purchase of a second house, Marian Homes applied for and received significant help from KOVAR, the state level organization of the Knights of Columbus focused on the needs of the intellectually disabled. KOVAR provided helping grants to facilitate the creation of the recreation room at Marian House and, eventually, the conversion of the garage at Regina House. KOVAR has also provided zero interest mortgages for both houses.
Between 2009 and 2013, Marian Homes sponsored three different group cruises, in partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Each of those cruises departed from Baltimore and provided special experiences for vacationer wanting to support a worthy cause while enjoying the pleasure of ocean cruising. In 2012 Marian Homes was admitted to the Combined Federal Campaign and assigned a CFC Number 16658, thus permitting government employees to direct payroll deductions to Marian Homes. Continuing support from Council 8600 and the St. Mary of Sorrows community allows the Board to consider further growth.
Continued fundraising efforts by Marian Homes and support from groups such as KOVAR, SAIC, LMI, Clipped Wings, Hensel Phelps, Knights of Columbus Council 8600, St John Neumann Parish and the St. Mary of Sorrows community allows the Board to consider further growth as well as the maintaining and caring for the houses we have.
Marian Homes was chosen as the 2013 Community Program of the Year by the Virginia State Council of the Knights of Columbus.
With the announcement by the Commonwealth of Virginia that the Northern Virginia Training Center will be closed by March 2016, the Board of Marian Homes has expressed a desire to purchase a fourth house, and provide a home for others in need. Our future requires us to grow our partnership for the Intellectually Disabled. This is an issue that is not going away. We need your prayers, help and assistance in continuing this important mission.
Pope Francis’ actions speak louder than words. After his First Easter Mass, Pope Francis stopped the Pope Mobile to reach out and embrace Dominic Gondreau , a disabled boy. In September 2014, Pope Francis’ prayer intention was “that the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.”
In Washington, D.C at the Fourth Annual White Mass, Washington Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl said that God “sees a reflection of himself” in all persons. So just as in the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord said “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” As Marian Homes seeks to continue to provide group homes for those individuals with intellectual disabilities we need to expand the base of financial support and assistance. In a recent article in Our Sunday Visitor, the largest Catholic weekly newspaper, Father Barkett, the Pastor of St Mary of Sorrow’s Church stated “Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and don’t be afraid to think big. The first Marian Home came about because the Knights saw a need, asked, what can we do, and tried something. Three houses later, they are already looking at opening another. It’s amazing what God can do with a willing heart.” Who will step up to assist us?
“Growing Our Partnership for the Intellectually Disabled One Home at a Time”