Marian Homes: A community project

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Many Catholics and especially children may be familiar with the Knights of Columbus post-Mass Tootsie Roll fundraiser, but they may not realize the money raised goes to programs for the intellectually disabled in Virginia. The Knights' commitment to helping local people with intellectual disabilities inspired the St. Mary of Sorrows Knights of Columbus to start Marian Homes Inc., a nonprofit that enables intellectually disabled people to live in group homes.

In 1998, Marian Homes opened their first house and have opened two more homes since then. An international nonprofit organization called CHIMES operates the group homes. This January, the Knights began work on their fourth home, Mother of Mercy in Fairfax. Recently some 58 Knights during the span of three days tore out walls and flooring to prepare the house for the five female residents set to arrive in May.

"Watching the faces of the people who can call this their home, and watching their parents, knowing their children will have a place they'll be able to live is worth every dime and every second of effort we put into this," said Jim McHugh, Grand Knight of the St. Mary of Sorrows Council.

Just as important as finding and building these homes is involving the community in the process, said McHugh and Bill Crowder, president of Marian Home, Inc. The Knights of Columbus Council at St. John Neumann Church in Reston helped with the interior demolition. St. Veronica's Council is helping St. Mary of Sorrow s Council host a casino night fundraiser. A construction company provided the wheelchair ramp at one home, and a group of retired flight attendants called Clipped Wings raised money for a fountain outside another.

"We're trying to make this as inclusive as we can," said Crowder.

"And when we get ready to do the landscaping, we'll have an Eagle Scout come in," he said. "So you find a way to let everybody be part of it and let everybody feel like they're contributing in whatever way they can, which is, quite frankly, what I think our faith teaches us."

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016