Fairfax County honors St. Timothy volunteers after Centreville fire

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When tragedy strikes, it takes a village to help make things right. When 137 residents of the Forest Glen Senior Apartments in Centreville were displaced after a May 2 fire caused more than $10 million in damages, several agencies from the American Red Cross to small nonprofits pitched in to help the seniors.

The agencies were recognized by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at the Fairfax Government Center in Fairfax July 31. The St. Vincent de Paul chapter at St. Timothy Church in Chantilly, and the parish Knights of Columbus were among those recognized.

They recognition was “a resolution to recognize the appropriate jurisdictions, agencies, organizations and entities for their service during and subsequent to the simultaneous fires on May 2 in Fairfax County.” The resolution was put forward by Chairman Sharon Bulova and Supervisor Kathy L. Smith.

“The community came together in such an incredible way on May 2,” said Smith. “We have an incredible spreadsheet of many of the people who donated. In addition to the county agencies that assisted, numerous nonprofits provided services to the residents. St. Vincent de Paul and Knights of Columbus from St. Timothy assisted in organizing donations.”

Since the fire, the groups have not stopped helping, according to Robert Iannotta, deputy grand knight. “The seniors have been dispersed all over the county,” said Iannotta. “It is a culture shock. There’s been a lot of hand-holding to get them settled.”

The Knights and St. Vincent de Paul chapter are providing furnishings, security deposits, rent, and other necessities. “We try to track them, do home visits and stay in touch with them on a personal level,” said Charlene Unterkofler, coordinator of senior relief services for St. Vincent de Paul.

She said there was an influx of people at the beginning who needed help. “They were in hotels and we helped them get into a new apartment,” she said. “The people we are hearing from now are the relatives to help choose the best place for the seniors.”

When asked what it meant to be recognized by the Board of Supervisors, both Unterkofler and Iannotta said they are doing what Jesus would do. 

“It was nice to be recognized and be one of the many people in the room,” said Unterkofler. “It’s humbling, not so much individual pride or glory but being part of this huge effort and touching lives; so it brought a lot of that back. It’s a beautiful feeling to be involved in this, especially for people in the Christian community. We feel called to this. It’s very rewarding.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

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