WINCHESTER — The Winchester Rescue Mission on Wednesday showed off the results of a 10-month renovation and improvement project made possible by corporate donations.
The endeavor was spearheaded by HomeAid Northern Virginia, a Chantilly-based nonprofit that’s in the business of helping other nonprofits, particularly those that provide emergency shelter and services to the homeless, abused and disadvantaged.
HomeAid CEO and Executive Director Kristyn R. Burr said on Wednesday she called Winchester Rescue Mission last winter to see if it would be interested in a free, no-strings-attached renovation of its homeless shelter at 435 N. Cameron St.
“When she offered it, I laughed,” admitted the mission’s executive director, Brandan Thomas. “It’s not true and I don’t have time to talk to somebody selling fairy dust.”
Burr said her only option was to drive to the mission and speak with Thomas in person.
“Once I got over the, ‘I swear this is real, I swear we’ll do what we say we’ll do,’ we got to where we are now,” Burr said on Wednesday.
HomeAid Northern Virginia, which was created in 2001 by the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association and is one of 20 chapters in the national HomeAid America organization, partners with builders and product suppliers to assist nonprofits in their communities.
The lead contractor for the Winchester Rescue Mission project was Dan Ryan Builders, which reached out to several subcontractors to ask for their time, talents and materials. Worth Jenkins, president of Dan Ryan Builders’ Northern Virginia Division, said on Wednesday that every company he approached said yes.
Starting in March and continuing into December, the 91-year-old, two-story mission building on North Cameron Street received long-overdue upgrades including new flooring and cabinets, fresh paint, a new storage shed, outdoor benches, improved bathrooms for staff and residents, a new security system and more.
Burr said the project’s total price was $105,000, but she referred to that as the “Dan Ryan cost” because the contractor arranged discounts on materials and labor from its subcontractors.
“It would have been far more than that” had Winchester Rescue Mission attempted to fund the renovations itself, Burr said.
Of course, there was virtually no chance of the mission being able to pay for its own improvements. Thomas said the nonprofit operates on an annual budget of $350,000 and routinely feeds and houses up to 50 people per day.
“Winchester Rescue Mission needs the funds they bring in to help humans, to help people get back on their feet,” Burr said.
It’s also important for the mission to restore dignity to guests who have hit rock bottom and are struggling to regain their independence. Living in a nice facility, Burr said, will help them know there are people who genuinely care about their well-being.
Thomas was eager to show off the mission’s improvements on Wednesday, starting in a front room that once was a chapel but now serves as a dayroom with cabinets where guests can safely store their personal belongings.
Other improvements on the building’s ground floor include new flooring, freshly painted walls, a revamped entertainment area for TV viewing, reconfigured offices and a refreshed dining area.
In the residential area upstairs is a new quarantine room reserved for guests who may have come in contact with COVID-19, a lounge for relaxing and socializing, and new metal bunk beds for residents.
Burr said the previous bunk beds were actually designed for children and were too small for full-grown adults. To improve sleeping conditions for the guests, HomeAid spent $15,000 of its own money to replace the old bunk beds with new, larger ones.
“They deserve it,” Burr said.
Thomas couldn’t say enough about the work of HomeAid, Dan Ryan Builders and the numerous other subcontractors who transformed Winchester Rescue Mission from a warehouse for the homeless to a place that people are proud to call home.
“I’m completely overwhelmed that you would come in and do what you guys did for us,” Thomas said. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for everything. This has been life-changing and game-changing.”