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Gainesville ministry plans jazz festival to help homeless

When Lonnie Ford was turned away in a time of need, he decided that he did not want others to endure the same fate.

Ford, who was living in Florida, struggling with addiction and living on the streets, sought help from a local church but he was turned away.

This experience sparked Ford’s desire to dedicate his time to helping others in their time of need. After meeting in his wife, the Rev. Patricia Ford, in 2001, the pair moved to Virginia where they founded the Outside the Walls Ministry in Gainesville.

The ministry’s name is a reference to Ford’s personal experience, looking for support outside of the Church.

The ministry was founded in 2004 and later incorporated in 2010. Currently, the ministry is run by Ford, who serves as executive director and Rev. Ford, who works as the CEO. The ministry is also governed by seven board members.

Outside the Walls Ministry serves those in need in Fairfax, Loudon and Prince William counties by providing shelter, food, clothing and career services. The ministry also provides a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), which teaches people to live within their recovery.

WRAP is especially dear to Ford because he understands firsthand the struggles that accompany addiction recovery.

When asked why he has dedicated his life to serving others, Ford explained that he wanted those in need to understand that “there are some people out there who care for them.”

In almost 10 years since Outside the Walls was founded, Ford has not lost sight of his mission to serve those in a time of need.

Each month, Outside the Walls serves 1,200-1,700 people. In addition to the basic yearound services, the ministry also offers a winter months Hypothermia Program, which provides warm clothes and 2-3 weeks of food for those who participate.

Local businesses, including Starbucks, Food Lion and Panera Bread, lend a hand through food donations.

Each person served by the ministry also works with volunteers from the First Baptist Church of Sterling. The church first became involved when Ford’s ministry t-shirt caught the eye of Bishop Leslie Patterson in a local Safeway store.

Ford and Patterson recognized that they shared a common desire to help their communities and together with the help of volunteers, have been serving the Northern Virginia public. The church provides 25-30 regular volunteers, who help with the ministry’s day-to-day functions.

Thanks to a donation by the First Baptist Church of Sterling, the ministry plans to expand in the coming months by adding a new food center.

Outside the Walls also hosts events for the community.

On July 28, the ministry will host the annual Jazz Outside the Walls festival at the Heritage Hunt Golf and Country Club. The festival will showcase the talents of regional jazz musicians and is a fundraiser for the ministry. Tickets are $65 each and may be purchased by calling Pat or Lonnie Ford at 703-743-2427.

The concert runs from 6 to 10 p.m.

More information about Outside the Walls, as well as details about the jazz festival, can be found on the ministry’s website: http://outsidethewallsministry.org/
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