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Wingler House Residents Deepen Their Faith

During retirement one may be active, deepen their faith and have fun, say residents of a local senior citizen apartment house made possible by a clergy-founded corporation. Wingler House in Ashburn, an independent living community for those over age 55 with low to moderate incomes, is the corporation’s latest project. It is named for the late Msgr. Joseph Wingler of the Arlington Diocese who founded St. Mary’s Housing Corporation in the early 1970s to provide residences for homeless people and specifically for senior citizens. At the time, he was pastor of St. Mary Parish in Alexandria and former director of Catholic Charities. He died in 1981. Late last year Father Franklyn McAfee, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Great Falls and president of St. Mary’s Housing Corporation, blessed and dedicated Wingler House. Msgr. James W. McMurtrie, pastor of St. Theresa Parish in Ashburn, spoke of his longtime friend Msgr. Wingler at the ceremony. Living at Wingler House is wonderful, say two residents who arrived last summer and are members of nearby Catholic parishes. Several of the senior citizens attend daily and Sunday Mass locally. In addition, on First Fridays, Msgr. McMurtrie celebrates Mass in Wingler House’s non-denominational chapel. A recently formed group of residents also pray the rosary there on Wednesday afternoons. "We’re trying to keep moving forward in our faith at the residence and are hoping to get more going on here," said one of the women, 74, who wished to remain unidentified. In February, she joined others from St. Theresa Parish for a Jubilee pilgrimage to Mary, Mother of the Church (Poor Clare) Monastery in Alexandria, she said. "The residents here care about each other and do a lot of sharing," she said. "I recommend it highly because we’re really having a lot of fun." An array of activities is available, including arts and crafts, bingo, card-playing, contributing to the monthly newsletter, dining out, a monthly birthday party, pot luck lunches, sewing, a weekly movie, walking on the covered-roof terrace and being part of a welcoming committee for new residents. Wingler House occupants have individual apartments, do their own cooking and are allowed to own small pets. It is not an assisted living facility, the resident said, "but if something happens, you can always call a family member." The facility, she said, has many safety features and is close to Loudoun Hospital. "I can speak for me and a lot of the residents when I say we all have sons, daughters or relatives in this area and when you get to our age you need some extra support from families." As a result of Msgr. Wingler’s work, Evergreen House in Annandale, a 224-unit apartment community, was built in 1978. The following year, Second St. Mary’s Housing Corporation built Marywood Apartments in Manassas, a 129-unit complex. Both provide housing for low-income residents. Father McAfee said he became involved in St. Mary’s Housing Corporation in the late 1980s. "Msgr. (Frank) Hendrick was the president of the corporation and asked me to be on the board because my mother lives in Evergreen House," Father McAfee said. Since 1991, he has been elected president and treasurer of the St. Mary’s Housing Corporations under the original affiliate corporation. St. Mary’s Development Corporation and Third St. Mary’s Housing Corporation, both of which Father McAfee was instrumental in forming, jointly opened Madonna House at Belmont in Fredericksburg in 1998 and Wingler House in 1999. The latter project was developed by Third St. Mary’s Housing Corporation and Boston Financial Group, and financed by the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA). The two residences receive no federal subsidy through HUD (Housing and Urban Development), and still have several units available for occupancy. "Our plan," said Father McAfee, "is to make these last two properties viable. They’re still becoming occupied." For those who meet the income qualifier requirements, the two houses offer "below market rents for low-to-mid-income seniors," said Pat Bessette. The reduced fees are available "through the Internal Revenue Service’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program." Bessette is president of Quantum Property Management, which handles both residences. "I love it here (at Wingler House)," said Doris Lawrence, 85. "I had no idea it would be like this, so much to do. You should never be lonesome here. There’s something going on all the time." She also belongs to the senior group of Christ the Redeemer Parish in Sterling, where she was a member prior to her Ashburn move. The group gathers at least every Friday and has discussions, dining out, potluck meals and local pilgrimages, such as the one late last month to the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Md. In addition, Lawrence is part of the Loudoun County Senior Group, comprised of 70-75 members, with whom she meets with two or three times weekly at the Cascades Senior Center. The group often engages members in card playing, lunches, a fashion show, guest speakers, aerobics, Sunday tea and pool activities. She said she enjoys being involved and socializing. The Wingler House office staff, who are there six days a week, "are always open to putting things on the (events) calendar," said Lawrence. The residence also has a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the top-floor terrace, a beauty shop, community rooms, exercise facilities, a library and resident gardening areas. A customized van is available to transport residents to shopping, medical appointments and social events. "The people" is her favorite thing about Wingler House, Lawrence said. "Everybody is so friendly. And the apartment itself is beautiful. It’s the kind of place where you can participate or you can be by yourself." For information on qualifying to live at Madonna House or Wingler House, call Quantum Property Management Corporation at 800/847-0901, 800/735-2258 TDD.

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