By Val Wallace
MANASSAS, Va. – Calling it “Mercy on Wheels,” the House of Mercy has started a mobile food pantry at the Georgetown South Community Council center, located at 9444 Taney Road in Manassas.
There, staff from the local nonprofit humanitarian organization set up shop the second and fourth Friday each month from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. to provide free food to those in need, said House of Mercy Acting Director Ann Cimini.
They serve registered clients of the House of Mercy and also others requesting aid, signing them up and providing free food to them on the spot, she said.
“We’re just getting started,” Cimini said of the venture, which began April 11. “Georgetown South residents represent more than a fifth of our 1,374 clients on file, all of low income and food insecure. Ordinarily, people must come to us at our agency to register as clients and receive free food and clothing. But a lot of people with low income don’t have transportation,” she said.
“Mercy on Wheels” is House of Mercy’s first mobile food pantry program, Cimini said. The need for food assistance is strong in the Georgetown South community, which is also centrally located to other low-income neighborhoods whose residents could benefit from House of Mercy services, she said.
“The primary goal of our ‘Mercy on Wheels’ program is to ensure that food-insecure households have access to nutritional food at least every other week,” Cimini said. Anyone may apply for aid from the House of Mercy, which plans to continue its mobile food pantry program indefinitely, she said.
Once enrolled, the agency’s clients also qualify for additional services at the House of Mercy, located at 8170 Flannery Court in Manassas.
“We provide clothing credits for clients in good standing to use in our thrift store, and we also offer a variety of free classes to assist people in daily life,” Cimini said. Class topics include basic money management, parenting, ESL (English as a Second Language), attitude, exercise, health and faith formation. The agency also continues to provide free food every two weeks.
To register as a client, applicants must bring documents showing their need, address and identification. These include a valid photo ID for each adult and the birth certificates of children younger than 18.
Usually a utility bill with the person’s current address, a driver’s license if it has the current address or a letter from the landlord suffices as proof of address, Cimini said.
Documents that establish low-income eligibility include current paystubs, unemployment verification or a letter from the person’s employer, documents from any of the Social Services agencies (WIC, TANF, EBT, SSDI, Medicare or Medicaid) or proof of refugee status. All documents are returned immediately, and no appointment is needed, Cimini said.
Food and clothing aid and other services are made possible primarily through donations, she said. House of Mercy services are available to anyone who qualifies, regardless of race, religious affiliation, ethnicity or where the person lives.
For more information about the House of Mercy’s “Mercy on Wheels” program or how to register as a client or donate, email [email protected] or call 703-659-1636.
Freelance writer and editor Val Wallace, of Manassas Park, is a regular contributor to Prince William Living and is also on the magazine’s editorial staff. She can be emailed at [email protected].