Living in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is a gift. We are part of a very loving community—a community that shares values, favorite restaurants, beloved mountain trails, and most importantly: a helping hand to those who need it. Most of us don’t realize how many of our neighbors are currently experiencing homelessness. Open Doors of the Shenandoah Valley has recognized this need in our community, and they are working tirelessly to both help our homeless population and raise awareness in our area.
Open Doors is a local nonprofit organization that coordinates with numerous faith-based locations to offer shelter and food to people experiencing homelessness in the Valley. Volunteers from both the organization and the various faith groups serving as hosts work tirelessly to provide beds, storage, meals, transportation, and shelter to those who need it. Open Doors has only one full-time staff member: Executive Director Rachel Howdyshell. Her dedication and hours of input are astounding! Dozens of volunteers surround her in the efforts to provide warm and welcoming shelter to neighbors in need from the beginning of November until April. The organization offers 40 warm beds to men and women over the age of 18 at various host locations.
In an interview with us, Rachel explained homelessness in a way that makes it very relatable to all of us. She said, “I like to tell people that those experiencing homelessness are just like me. The difference is that I have a support system to catch me when I fall. We are trying to be that support system for others.” Open Doors is doing just that for between 150-175 different people a year. About 10% of those guests stay longer than a month, and the rest are able to quickly get back on their feet. The organization offers support and guidance to its guests who are experiencing either temporary or (in a few cases) chronic homelessness.
Open Doors is always in need of financial assistance. In recent years, the organization has built an incredible fundraising event: Food Truck Fest. Attending this event filled with live music, food, local business vendors, beer and wine, and beautiful views from Sunny Slope Farm is an effortless way to contribute to Open Doors. This year, we are honored to be a Grand Sponsor of the event; because of the dozens of tiered sponsors, ticket sales and contributions at the festival go directly to Open Doors.
There are many other ways to contribute to Open Doors. Should you not have time to volunteer, you can simply donate money directly do the organization! Just $25 can provide one guest with new socks, underwear, undershirts, and a set of mini toiletries to carry with them. If you are part of a church or other faith-based group and feel compelled to help those experiencing homelessness in our area, contact Open Doors today! The organization is always in need of volunteers and host locations.