MEET ROBERT PAXTON
Rob doubles up his gig as a Realtor and head of Safe Haven, a non-profit organization based in Falls Church. Rob hangs his real estate hat at Long & Foster's Annandale office.
I first met Rob at a volunteer event hosted by a mutual friend of ours, in Reston. In our conversation, he mentioned that he works for this non-profit that serves meals for the poor. It just so coincidence that in my sparetime, I sometimes do volunteer work (outside my political activism) for organizations that serve meals for the poor/homeless. But in that capacity, I had never really seen the faces because most of the time we work behind-the-scene, until... last week.
So I decided to pay a visit to his organization last week.
On weekdays, Rob is wearing the hat as the Director for Safe Haven, "a non-profit day shelter that provides food and comfort to the hungry and homeless in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County," according to their website. Safe Haven is falls under the umbrella of First Christian Church of Falls Church. (He didn't tell much about his real estate business. We talk most of the time around the organization he works for).
Safe Haven was founded 10 years ago by Bill LaLiberte who decided at the age of 83 that he wanted to do something for the area homeless with the help of his church.
While waiting for Rob to finished up his meeting, I talked to Erin McKenney, who works as his assistant. At the time, Erin and a volunteer were working the table registering and counting how many people actually showed up that day for breakfast and lunch.
She told me that day they have at least 100+ people. "We have 153 people show up today," she says. People would come and go. "Sometime you see the same people come to the site, sometime they would come one day and never show up again."
Safe Haven serves meals (breakfast and lunch) on Thursdays for most months of the year. However, during the cold winter months they add another day - Tuesdays - to the schedule.
Rob came to Safe Haven from another non-profit gig he had not far from where his office is now, where he taught financial literacy to the low income (mostly unemployed). He's been with the organization since mid 2010.
On the menu was pasta, salad, and cakes for dessert. So after they served the homeless, we - the volunteers and us - got to taste the food for lunch. Yum! The quality of the food was really good. The salad was fresh. With the exception of cakes, think the salad and pasta were prepared by volunteers from scratch - at Safe Haven's kitchen.
"One day, one of my friends who I haven't seen in 20 years, read about what I do now from Washington Post - and sent us a check - which was enough to feed them for 6 months!" Rob says. Every month, volunteers from different churches in the area come to help them out - whether working the kitchen, washing dishes or serving meals. There's usually one week a month that Safe Haven have to provide the meals upon themselves.
In addition to working to help the homeless, Rob also loves to help homeless animals. He saved his then someone's dog from a foreclosed home.
Rob would like to see next year - budget permitted - that Safe Haven expands their services into job training in addition to the ESL (English as a Second Language) that recently was added to the program. "People just need jobs. They want to work," he says. For him to expand their services into job training, they would need to pump up funding from private donations. Because right now, the small grants they received from the County covers only expenses for staffing up the program. There's no funding to cover the job training program yet.
If you want to help, donate and/or volunteer, you can reach them via their website http://www.fccfc.org/index.cfm?page=history-ministry. You can also find them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Safe-Haven/193058304041713
WISH LIST for Safe Haven
Here is the list that was put together by one of the volunteers. You can drop your donation off at Safe Haven, 6165 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church - Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 3pm.
A Day at Safe Haven (pictures)