By Joe Beck
WINCHESTER -- The long good-bye to retiring U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf continued Tuesday with the Kendall Community Campus of Our Health paying tribute to the role the Vienna Republican played in the opening of the facility in 2003.
Wayne Byard, a member of the Our Health Board of Directors, praised Wolf for obtaining more than $1 million through the congressional appropriation process. Byard said the money came through an "earmark," a term for pet projects in the home districts of individual congressman.
Earmarks have since fallen out of favor with many members of the House of Representatives, especially those from Wolf's own party, but Byard said the campus would not exist without the money Wolf wrested from the federal budget.
"There was a time not too many years ago when earmarks wasn't a bad word," Byard told Wolf. "This was a tool used by judicious legislators to do the public good."
Byard added: "You know a lot of congressman are accused of building roads to nowhere, but you built a road to better health and a better life for thousands of people in the Shenandoah Valley, and for that we can never thank you enough."
Bayard spoke at a noon luncheon organized by Our Health, a nonprofit entity associated with Valley Health. Sharon Gromling, executive director of Our Health, described the growth of the campus over the last 11 years from six nonprofit agencies serving 5,000 clients to 16 nonprofit and public agencies that counted 77,600 client visits in 2012.
The campus has grown to encompass 60,000 square feet of space, Gromling said, citing the acquisition and renovation of the former Snapp Foundry Building in 2010 as the latest example of Our Health's success in meeting community health needs.
"Congressman, that vision you helped support more than a decade ago has truly become a reality," Gromling told Wolf.
Wolf, who announced in December his plans to retire at the end of his current term, returned much of the praise.
"I think what you've put together here is really a model not only for the rest of the district but really for the rest of the country to sort of replicate," Wolf told the audience.
He also spoke warmly about the Northern Shenandoah Valley's history, scenic beauty and hospitality shown him after it was incorporated into the current 10th Congressional District.
"I remember when the lines first changed and some said, 'how can a guy from Fairfax County ever represent the Shenandoah Valley?'" Wolf said.
But he quickly grew to love the area, and the relationships he built with its residents.
"The people here embraced me," Wolf said. "There's a friendship."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org