Fauquier Community Coalition is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving living conditions for the poor in Fauquier County, Virginia. Consisting largely of local churches and other non-profit groups, we bring together people and resources in the community to provide firewood and critical home repairs to those in need. We also produce a periodic Poverty Report based on extensive research that is used to both educate the community and to inspire positive changes in the future. The organization was started by Mr. Lynn Ward, a retired local educator with a passion for helping the poor.
Over the years, Mr. Ward has tirelessly spoken with local church congregations, garnering their help in numerous home renovation projects. Since forming in November of 2014, our organization now has a 6+ year history of meeting the basic needs of Fauquier’s most vulnerable citizens through direct and collaborative assistance.
Success Stories: Our Impact
As Journaled by FCC Founder Lynn Ward
I don't know how old the house was, but the single mother that owned it showed me a 35 foot+ hand dug well that supplied lots of water. The price was $100 and 4 pigs. 25% of the house was under a pitched roof which leaked a little. 75% of the slightly pitched roof leaked a lot. You could walk back there and see a lot of sky. Not only was the plywood rotted, but some of the rafters were also bad. We had a feeling that this was beyond us. But somehow this job got a buzz. People were showing up that I had never seen before, and some of them actually knew what they were doing.
Ripping off an entire roof creates both tons of trash and lots of work.
Someone gave us a sizable donation which hadn't ever happened before. Because of the low slope, we had to put rolls of rubber roofing on the roof, and if the sticky sides happened to fold together, two elephants couldn't pull them apart. But in a month plus of Saturday work, we got it done.
One of our biggest jobs was a house built in 1890 and added on until it had 9 rooms, only 5 habitable. It had 6 children and 2 adults. A tree had knocked down their chimney so they used kerosene heaters which were so old the fumes would not allow a smoke detector. My wife lasted five minutes and had to run outside. If someone knocks over a heater during the night, there will probably be 8 dead people. The fuse box electricity was 85% shot. In the kitchen there was no counter, no sink and no cabinets. The residents said, "Masters gave us this land" so there were several owners. There were at least 25 pickup loads of trash because the many owners left their stuff there.
Each child received an individually decorated room in their chosen colors with numerous decorations. Some church ladies helped with this. A Kettle Run student called me (their student volunteer club worked on this) to tell me he had slept too late to help that day. He said his father (in honor of his own father who was extremely poor) would redo the electricity in the house for free. We were shopping at Home Depot for a 20 ft. long counter which had a right angle turn and trying to figure out how to do that. A man was listening and said, "What are you guys doing?" We told him and he said, "This is on me" and paid.
An 80+ year old man was living in a small mule barn that was about 125 years old. According to him, his grandfather had bought the land where he was located for one dollar an acre. The dwelling was 12 ft. x 24 ft. He had divided it into a bedroom and a multipurpose room. He had wood heat, but because of COPD, he couldn't use it. About 80 years ago a kitchen and dining room was added to one side. Both the roof and floor of this addition had partially collapsed.
Two of our board members are Methodists. They formed a group of churches called MOM, Methodist Outreach Mission. They removed the ruined rooms, put insulated siding on the outside, put insulated wallboard on the inside, provided electric heat, and furnishings. They also provided a water system that would catch and purify water from his roof, and built him a fancy outhouse and a deck. They keep in touch with him if needs arise.
A woman had lost her job and was living in a pickup truck. She had a flat and no spare. She left her truck to see if she could get a spare. The police didn't like where she had parked it, so they had it towed. Someone provided a couple of nights in a motel. As she was being evicted, she started calling for help. At that time, we had just started FCC. My wife was going to St. Patrick's Orthodox in Opel. The priest got a call and asked her to check into it. When my wife got to the motel the woman had crossed through over 75 phone numbers that she had tried without success. St Patrick's started paying for the motel. In three days, they had gotten her a job. With a job and transportation, she could get into a shelter. I became her transportation. In about a week she was admitted to the Warrenton Shelter.
Now, I had to find her towed truck. It was in a lot a ways from town. The owner of the lot had his assistant meet me in town and take me to the lot. It was going to take $1800 in towing and impoundment fees to get the truck and it would go to the lot owner in a few more days. After a heated argument about what he was doing to a homeless woman, he made a good reduction in the fee.
After leaving the lot, we found the truck had mechanical problems. I called a young Church of Christ mechanic and he came, diagnosed the problem and fixed the truck the next day. A Baptist member bought her 4 new tires. In a while the woman was able to leave the shelter and live independently.
A Baptist woman lived in a subdivision a ways from Warrenton. People there noticed that children were walking out of the woods to get on the school bus. They talked to the bus driver who told them the children lived in the woods. This was in the middle of November and they were living under tarps. The woman asked me if we could help. I said we could. Meanwhile the subdivision got together to see what they could do. My wife met with the mother several times. They were a family of 6. The subdivision quickly got them shelter and the father a good job. FCC had done considerable rehab work at the shelter apartments at Vint Hill and they had some openings. But!!
The woman's previous husband had beaten her, and she was told she could no longer have children. However, she found out she was pregnant. That counted as a fifth child which is over the limit at Vint Hill. The subdivision took care of them until they found living conditions that they could afford in another county.
A man was living in a small car repair garage, probably from the 40's. He had a small thin metal stove and a bed and some clothes, that was pretty much it. We hauled away trash from inside and out. We got him furniture and a log burning stove. He could have had electricity, but the man who let him live there for free did not approve our request.
There was a woman living with her granddaughter in the woods in a shack. She had no address. She had no running water, very little furniture and no curtains. Some men lived in the woods and sometimes walked by her house. The first thing she wanted was curtains for privacy. We quickly got her curtains and nice furniture. We got her granddaughter a set of Sponge Bob Square Pants bedroom furniture. Her son lived several hundred feet away through a thick jungle. We brought above ground water from his house to hers. He knew how to flush the line in frigid weather. We got her a donated washer and dryer and a small water heater. An amusing story was that she set off some fireworks with her son. The men came by and said, "What was that noise?" She said "I was practicing my shooting." They gave her a wide berth.
I have worked with the Fauquier Community Coalition for four years. In my mind the mission is to alert caring people and organizations that we have deep poverty in the county, which is being helped, but could be helped much more. With sweat equity, focus, coordination, creativity, and yes, some money we can make dramatic differences in these people’s lives. FCC board members have missions that will lead to a county wide forum on more effective ways to serve those in need. One of my missions is to relate some of my experiences.
First I respect and care for the 100's of people we have helped and have found that many negative stereotypes about the poor that I have heard haven't been the case in my experience. Example: I occasionally get a call saying "I don't need anything; I just want to be sure you are OK."
A woman and her granddaughter live in a poor three-room house back in the woods and have a request for wood. They have practically nothing. What can we get you? "Curtains" There are men living in the woods and we are uncomfortable undressing" We get them curtains, furniture, household decorations, every SpongeBob toy or article that we can find. The 4-yr. old is crazy for him.
She is a very devout woman, looking after other people in the woods. Her church has put a sink and cabinets in her kitchen. She has no running water and collects water off the roof. We bushwhack a couple hundreds through a jungle and run a black pipe to her house (above ground), hook it up, get her a small water heater. Then someone donated an over and under washer dryer for her. She knows how to handle the winter water situation.
There was a man living in a small barn with two small rooms. The barn was built in the 1800s. A kitchen/dining/room/chicken coop was added on, but the roof and floor were falling apart. It had huge oak beams and was difficult to dismantle and haul away. The man had breathing problems and could no longer use his wood stove.
We put new insulated siding on the outside and insulation and wallboard on the inside. We added electric heating, and I don't remember what other appliances and furniture were bought. We built him an outhouse and a deck. A water purification system was put in to collect water for him from his roof. MOM did most of the work.
We received a request to fix up a house for a disabled woman and her handicapped brother a year and a half ago. Things were pretty rough. We painted the outside of the house. A family called me and said for Christmas they would like to help us with the inside of the house. The mother was a skilled painter, so things went well. The inside of the house was in rough shape. The kitchen counter had missing doors and lots of damage.
I got a call from the helping family that they and another family had decided not to give each other any gifts, but to go together on buying the woman and her brother a new kitchen, which they installed. Earl and I went there a couple of weeks ago for a minor bathroom repair. The kitchen looked beautiful. I called one of the families and told them that I wished our kitchen looked that good!
A mother overdosed and her children were taken from her. Her sister wanted to take them, but her house was not in good shape and had a lot of clutter. We agreed to fix up the house but told her that some of the junk had to go. She said, "You can take everything in the house out if you want to, but I want those kids." I asked her to select things she no longer wanted or had use for. She did a great job and got the children.
An elderly lady in the trailer park needed some painting and some minor things done. I called a woman volunteer from that area to help. We finished the work, and as we were leaving, the volunteer told me, "She really didn't need most of what we did to be done. She is just lonely. I am going to start coming by to have coffee with her."
A woman from the trailer park called us. Her husband had left and torn up things as he left. The pipes had frozen underneath the trailer and sprayed water on parts of the pressed flooring which was disintegrating. We fixed up the pipes and insulated them, plus did a lot of work inside and out. Everything was fine when we were done.
We had become friends with a large family we had helped. Their great aunt was dying, and they went in shifts to see her one last time. She rallied and had a recovery but needed a place to stay. Her son in Turnbull wanted to take her, but she couldn't be released without a handicapped ramp. A woman had called about a week earlier whose husband had died and wanted to donate his ramp. We were quickly able to adapt it to the son's house.
We got a call from an elderly lady in Rectortown. When there was wind with rain, the water came into her house and ran down the walls. The gutters had probably never been cleaned and the rotted material had gotten so heavy that they drooped down, 2 or 3 feet in places. Some of the exposed wood around them had rotted through. We replaced all that and put vinyl siding on the upper part of her house. A family member worked in a nursery and her yard was filled with beautiful bushes and flowers. As we left, I said "This looks like a picture postcard place."