Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” And, that is just what four Fort Belvoir chapel communities did Sunday.
On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr., Day, about a dozen volunteers from the Fort Belvoir Jewish community; the 8 o’clock Protestant service; the Gospel service; and Chapel Next; gathered at the Eleanor U. Kennedy Shelter for the Homeless, to prepare and serve meals for more than 70 homeless men and women seeking refuge from a dangerously cold night.
Sara Astrow, coordinator, Fort Belvoir Jewish Community, said the time was right.
“Here it is, Martin Luther King weekend, and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have the Jewish community and the gospel community work together to serve the homeless at the shelter that’s on Fort Belvoir? What a great community – in time of strife in the country – to come together as these two groups,” Astrow said.
The group broke into teams to cook 30 pounds of meatloaf; prepare salads and roast 30 pounds of potatoes.
Astrow said the garrison commander pledged last fall to extend additional support to the shelter.
“Col. Greenberg looked at the property, and is trying to get the Army Corps of Engineers and DPW to help clean up some of the property out back, and to find ways they can improve the facility.”
Brandon Wright, a resident service specialist at the Kennedy Shelter, said they have to add additional staff during hypothermia season, when they take in anybody off the streets, to save lives.
Arlisa Moffatt-Scales, with the Belvoir Gospel service, smiled as she helped plate salads for the meal.
“Giving back to the community is great – it gives you a great feeling to help out.”
The shelter, sitting on Army land just outside Tulley Gate, has served the neediest in Fairfax County for 34 years. Eleanor Kennedy helped the local community create a permanent facility in the 80s. Back then, local churches rotated responsibility for sheltering the homeless each night, but, with churches lacking cooking facilities and showers for large groups, it eventually made the task impractical. In a 1999 interview, Kennedy said the Army was always there for them.
“Whenever I think about the Kennedy Shelter history, there is never a time that I don’t think of the Army. The Army has played an important part in sheltering the homeless from the very beginning,” said Kennedy, noting that even before Fort Belvoir offered the site, they regularly offered cots and blankets to help the churches each year.