With Covid-19 ever present, our team was faced with the question “How do we do this safely?” Vaccinations, masks, and social distancing for sure. Reducing the number of volunteers (and expectations!). Scouts clearing the Centrum and marking sleeping areas for social distancing.  Changing the way we prepare and serve meals; Put meals into clamshell containers and into the warming oven or serve from the kitchen. Microwave-warmed breakfast burritos instead of casseroles. Hourly fire watches only. No mingling with guests…..OK, we’re ready.    

We were the Green church.  We started out with only 15 guests overnight, and were surprised at the low number.  We learned that many unsheltered are now sheltered under Fairfax County programs ramped up during Covid. So, maybe the numbers would stay low. Then we had 24 guests. Then the Centrum was too cold. Then the chapel was too hot. Oh, my. Then Phil figured out how to get it just right. Then we had 34 guests! 

To accommodate our new guests, we added sleeping areas in the Fellowship Hall, transferred leftovers night to night, and did extra food and blanket shopping. Daily shoppers bought laptop bags, wheeled backpacks, coats, jeans, socks, work boots, and snow boots for guests as needs were noticed by our socially distant, yet ever observant, volunteers. Pastor Tony baptized a young believer. Blankets forgotten in the back room on laundry day were washed and dried at a local laundromat. Oh, and Joe Fey, FACETS Executive Director, and a reporter from Inside NoVa, stopped by to chat about what the Hypo program means to the community and the churches.   

By Sunday, guests were set to leave at 7:00 AM, prior to our online morning church service. Of course, plans changed again! A snowy weather forecast meant guests needed to be housed all day. The Red churches couldn’t change their schedules, so Emmanuel became the staging ground for guests in transit until 2:30 PM. An Emmanuel volunteer drove the FACETS van to shuttle guests between churches and we provided extra breakfasts. Emmanuel guests were invited to attend our 9:00 AM worship service and we had a heart-warming, interactive experience with people of various faith backgrounds enjoying Revelation and Pastor Tony’s sermon. Emergency casseroles were thawed and lunch was served. Guests departed in good spirits and tired volunteers made it home safely. AND so far, no one has reported being sick!   

We were so fortunate to have had the full support of Council and ELC staff leading up to and all during our busy week. All Hypothermia Teams weren’t as blessed nor congregations as generous. Thank you!  

Your Hypothermia Prevention Team, 

Paula McGinnis, Deb Gugel, David Tyson and Jane Holtorf

To view photos of the event – click here.