By Bill Hale and Jeff Jardine
Falls Church is recognized across the region and even nationally as a compassionate, empathetic, welcoming community. Recent examples abound: t-shirt sales raised thousands of dollars to support local small businesses, grocery store gift-card drives have helped teachers, children, and families — our neighbors in various school districts, donated school supplies have been provided en masse to children in need, and neighborhood food drives have restocked the shelves of several local food pantries. Caring about, helping, and supporting those in need is ingrained in our heritage. We owe much of this legacy to the ecumenical work of the Falls Church Community Service Council (“FCS”). Today, FCS needs our help too.
FCS began as a vision of Orville Splitt, a layman at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and his Pastor, Bill Nies, who were aware of the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in the Falls Church area. They believed that churches, working together, could provide services that otherwise would not be available. In June of 1969, eleven churches responded to create this Council, which first offered emergency transportation and housing assistance. A few years later, FCS added Meals on Wheels, the emergency food assistance food pantry at Knox Presbyterian Church, and clothing and furniture ministries to meet additional needs.
After more than 51 years of service to the community, the FCS has additionally spawned and hosted a myriad of programs and services with unique individual missions that have strengthened our community in diverse, measurable ways. For example, many are familiar with the exceptional work of the Seven Corners Children’s Center, Homestretch, and the Falls Church Winter Homeless Shelter; all of these organizations originated as programs under the corporate direction of FCS before eventually graduating to become separate entities. They each individually merit our support for the good they do in Falls Church region.
The FCS regularly receives some financial assistance from Fairfax County and Falls Church City, as well as ecumenical support and volunteers from a group of faith communities that has grown since 1969. Recent significant support has come from the Falls Church Anglican, Falls Church Presbyterian, Temple Rodef Shalom, Holy Trinity Lutheran, Falls Church Episcopal, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These churches and many other member churches give of means and time to affirm special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all, regardless of religious belief, race, gender, orientation, or nationality, knowing that we are all truly brothers and sisters because each person is a child of God.
Even in our privileged corner of Northern Virginia, great needs persist, and this is especially true because of recent Covid19-induced economic challenges that have impacted our most vulnerable neighbors. Whereas in previous months, the FCS emergency food assistance supply could be stretched out over several weeks, the pantry has nearly been cleaned out on a regular basis during these pandemic conditions.
We all have a duty to assist others as we are able — in good and bad times. The scriptures tell us that “now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8:14); this is true now more than ever. This process of sharing with one other promotes greater equality and brings us closer to a spirit of reconciliation that is so needed.
As we embrace the responsibility to care for others around us, supporting FCS provides an opportunity to do this, lifting our Falls Church friends and neighbors facing needs. Donations to coalition churches or directly to FCS are always welcomed, as are direct food donations as described on the FCS website (www.fcswecare.org). Further, in September we mark the 9th annual regional “Day to Serve” (www.daytoserve.org), an effort sponsored by governors from Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and the mayor of Washington DC. In past years, food drives in association with Day to Serve have restocked FCS food pantry shelves; other projects have helped clean local parks and take care of yard work for elderly shut-ins. All are encouraged to log in to www.JustServe.org and find local projects that will contribute to our greater Falls Church community in September.
As we donate, serve, and lift our neighbors in need, we will strengthen this community, and more fully recognize that “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.”
Reverend William Hale is the Executive Director of the FCS and Pastor of the Knox Presbyterian Church; Bishop Jeff Jardine leads the Falls Church Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.