Marian Homes opens third residence

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Marian Homes, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that provides homes for people with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, officially opened its third home June 25 at a ceremony at the Gresham Street location in north Springfield.

The new home, Queen of Peace, will house five men. Four are in residence now, and the fifth will be joining soon.

Marian Homes was founded in 1994 by a group of Knights of Columbus from Council No. 8600 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Fairfax. The men had a vision of a network of homes created to assist persons with intellectual and physical disabilities to lead a normal life in their own home.

"It's their home," said Bill Crowder, president of Marian Homes. "Marian Homes owns the house, but it's the residents' home."

The corporation bought and renovated their first residence, Marian House, in 1997, and the original building continues to house five women. A second home for five men, Regina House, soon followed in 2009.

Marian Homes partnered with Fairfax County's Department of Housing and Community Development (DCHD) for financial assistance in purchasing the newest home.

"This was made possible by the Community Development Block Grant program of the (U.S.) Department of Housing and Urban Development," said Beverly Moses, DCHD Housing and Community Developer.

Marian Homes took possession of the newest home Feb. 26. Almost immediately, three teams of Knights spent three days demolishing the inside walls in preparation for extensive renovation, many mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those mandates include wider hallways, wider doors and special bathroom facilities. Renovations also included a wheelchair ramp to the front door donated by the Hensel Phelps Construction Company.

Total renovation cost $105,000, and the construction was completed earlier than planned.

All Marian Homes are operated in partnership with Chimes, Inc., a nonprofit organization serving the disabled.

There were many guests on hand for the grand opening and blessing, including Father James S. Barkett, pastor of St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, Virginia State Deputy Stephen A. Burnley, Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook and Virginia Delegate Tim Hugo.

Father Barkett said a prayer and blessed the house, sprinkling holy water at the rear of the residence. People then moved to the front where Cook and Crowder cut a ceremonial ribbon.

Steve Smith, a Knight from Woodbridge, has established Able Charities to provide a similar service in the Woodbridge area. He's been working with Marian Homes' directors to study their approach to group homes.

"They're trying to get others to copy what they do," said Smith.

County officials praised the work of the Knights in making these homes available. There is a continuing need for these kinds of services. "It's a great cause. People should be very proud," said George Wassif, a director of Marian Homes.

It took nearly 20 years for Marian Homes to get three residences operational. But things are moving faster now. The Fairfax County is scheduled to close the Northern Virginia Training Center by March 2016, a facility that currently houses people with intellectual disabilities. The organization is looking to add a fourth home to its system to serve some of the people who will be displaced by the closing.

Borowski can be reached at dborowski@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @DBorowskiACH.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015