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Shelter earns United Way affiliation

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

Kevin Gray relaxes in the House of Hope day room
Kevin Gray, a homeless man who has been at the House of Hope in Front Royal for a few days, relaxes in the day room at the facility. The House of Hope has become a United Way affiliate agency. Dennis Grundman/Daily

FRONT ROYAL -- The House of Hope's recent designation as an affiliate United Way member is a shot in the arm for the men's homeless shelter on Warren Avenue.

"I am so excited," said Wanda Moloney, a House of Hope volunteer and board member. "Being accepted to me is exciting because the donor can actually walk in and see where their dollars are at work."

The House of Hope was started by Leslie Gardner in December 2006. Gardner served as executive director until stepping down earlier this year. Moloney said with the United Way affiliation, the House of Hope is heading in a positive direction.

"Yes, with this happening," Moloney said. "We've come a long way. It's a lot of work. Leslie thought of it and worked hard at it and we've kept it going."

Lee Smith-Osina, executive director of the Front Royal/Warren County United Way, said the House of Hope can begin receiving funding immediately if donors designate the shelter as a recipient. Otherwise, the House of Hope will have to wait until next spring, when it becomes a full member, to receive allocations from the upcoming 2009 campaign that kicks off on Sept. 15.

"It took them about three years to get all of their legal ducks in a row," Smith-Osina said. "I am very happy for them. I'm happy for us. Since I came on board in 2007, the focus of the United Way has been homelessness. The bottom line is they've worked hard."

Moloney said the shelter at 722 Warren Ave. can accommodate seven men, most of whom have jobs. The overnight shelter next door can hold 16 men who stay for various lengths of time.

"We have zero alcohol tolerance and we do drug screens," Moloney added.

Kevin Gray, 52, who was laid off from Rubbermaid in Winchester, says the House of Hope was a godsend following his recent heart attack.

"Yes, it has been," Gray said. "Otherwise, I'd of been out in the street. Actually, this is not a bad place. I mean it's a nice and relaxed atmosphere. The food's good. The guys seem to be pretty nice. It's a lot better than a couple of other places I've been. I'll just leave it at that."

Alex Phillips, 34, a native of Alexandria, has been at the House of Hope for three weeks after being laid off from his previous job. Phillips now has a job at a local restaurant and, thanks to the House of Hope, a place to live.

"It's a great thing," Phillips said of the United Way designation. "A lot of guys don't have the opportunity that most of us guys have here."

Melvin McCracken, 56, formerly of Mountain City, Tenn., will second that. McCracken is in the process of applying for disability due to a stroke he suffered and has been at the House of Hope for about four months.

"I recommend 'em very highly, I really do," he said of the shelter. "If you can't make it here, something's bad wrong. Everything's furnished to you. All you have to do is try to get your life together."

For more information about the House of Hope and its programs, call the shelter at 635-2466 or visit its Web site at www.warren countyhomeless.org.

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