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June 16, 2014

Fauquier Community Coalition will link helpers

SiteWhirks
The Fauquier Community Coalition website will launch soon.
Lynn and Karen Ward three years ago started working toward a solution that would address gaps among Fauquier’s charitable organizations and the people they seek to help.
We’ve taken the heart of what the coalition originally was – an idea to bring community needs and organizations with a means and a desire to help – and housed it in a web-based software solution. This will allow the churches and non-profits to have a place where community needs can be entered, shared, tracked, assigned and supported.
— Steve Sutherland, SiteWhirks co-owner
How To Help
Contact Lynn Ward at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-937-4628.

The Fauquier Community Coalition welcomes organizations to join the network. It seeks to connect service providers, tradesmen, grocers, businesses, churches and non-profits.
By Danica Low
Contributing Writer
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

After years of volunteering in Fauquier, the Jeffersonton couple perceived gaps among a host of community-minded organizations that help those in need.

Retired Fauquier High School Assistant Principal Lynn Ward and his wife Karen in 2011 launched an effort to improve communication and cooperation.

With monthly meetings, the Fauquier Community Coalition began to connect churches, food banks and others who serve. The members agreed to conduct an analysis of people in need and the organizations trying to help. Even among the many passionate volunteers in Fauquier, they recognized so many needs go unmet.

“To date, there has not been a collaborative effort in place to bring together resources willing to help the many requests organizations receive from the community,” Mr. Ward said

The Wards understand the limits of individual organizations. Most have a cap on what they can do for a person or family in a given period.

For example, St. Patrick’s Greek Orthodox Church received a plea to help with a car repair. But, a mechanic told Father Patrick Cardine that transmission and engine repairs, along with a new carburetor, would cost $3,000 — far more than the church could provide.

Father Cardine remained determined to help, however. He knew that with a working vehicle, its owner would be able to keep her job and her family’s home. Much rode on the car’s reliability.

After diligent research and networking, the priest and his parishioners, including Mrs. Ward, got other organizations to help.

Bringing together groups to foot the bill and a mechanic who did the work for parts-only cost, the vehicle got repaired. The woman kept her job and home.

“One person at a time. Help one person at a time and see where it goes,” Father Cardine said. “Some people just need a little extra help to get on their feet.”

Low-income residents’ needs vary. They can be many and complex. Some are immediate. Some require long-term solutions.

Shelter, bill-paying assistance, car repairs, baby formula, food and transportation rank among the most common. Others include help writing a resume, transportation, appropriate attire for job interviews and a phone to connect with an employer post-interview.

Some folks need rides to medical appointments, prescription drugs or help getting governmental assistance for which they qualify.

A home needs repair, which cost too much for one organization to fund.

What does a charitable group do if it lacks the resources to meet the need?

One church’s pantry may be out of food, even as the shelves at a nearby non-profit agency remain well-stocked.

Mr. and Mrs. Ward set out to share knowledge — who needs what; who can provide something, even if piecemealed. They decided a coalition could serve as the clearinghouse. Soon, a Web-based system would provide the collaboration, communication, directory and database of all needs and those willing to help.

With St. Patrick’s, the Warrenton Baptist Church and SiteWhirks cofounder Steve Southerland, the effort began to take shape. Over the last couple of years, it has grown to include St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, St. James Episcopal Church and others.

The Fauquier Community Coalition will officially launch this summer as a non-profit organization.

“A website was critical to get the word out about this coalition, so people could see what the coalition is doing,” Mr. Sutherland said.

But, he soon realized that the effort needed more than a static web presence.

“We’ve taken the heart of what the coalition originally was – an idea to bring community needs and organizations with a means and a desire to help – and housed it in a web-based software solution,” Mr. Sutherland explained. “This will allow the churches and non-profits to have a place where community needs can be entered, shared, tracked, assigned and supported.”

His Warrenton technology company has built “a place for this interactive process to live and breathe,” he said.

“SiteWhirks has been instrumental in creating this online environment, where requests for assistance can easily be networked and connected for a resolve,” Mr. Ward said.

The coalition wants to include as many interested organizations as possible, including trade or service providers whose contributions could help meet the needs. FCC seeks local dentists, doctors, grocery stores, carpenters, painters, plumbers, hotels, car mechanics and other service providers.

“What I’ve been finding over the years is that people in desperate need are going to churches and other charitable organizations and leaving disappointed,” Mrs. Ward said. “These organizations have different reasons for not being able to meet a need. This project will serve the community by bridging together those that need help and those that can help.”

St. Episcopal Rector Ben Maas said: “As a clergy person, it is heart breaking to have someone come to you with a need and be unable to meet that need or offer fruitful counsel. I can see this resource serving as an invaluable link between human need and a collective desire to effectively serve our brothers and sisters.”

Mr. Ward urged representatives of any organization interested in helping to contact him.

“Perhaps, local farmers who may have excess vegetables and fruits to contribute, a resume writer or a seamstress who can offer assistance, would be interested in being added to our directory,” he said. “The coalition database will include those who can help, as well as those who need help.”

Requests for assistance should continue to flow through local churches and non-profits.

“Whereas, everyone may not receive help, once this new project goes live this summer, there will be a broader audience to review and share specific needs,” Mr. Ward said. “The needs can be properly fitted for ‘adoption,’ and needs will be vetted through a more formal review process.

“Together, and with the help of this Web-based program, dozens of churches and assistance groups in our community can make a bigger difference in Fauquier. A collaborative, joint effort to address current and future challenges is really going to benefit the community as a whole.”

Good Work column
This is the first in a regular series of stories about people and organizations that do good things in Fauquier. To suggest a subject for this feature, email freelance writer Danica Low at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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nova_gjones · June 16, 2014 at 11:32 am
This is great. I can't wait to see this web site get started so that I can sign up.
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