In August, Adebimpe opened an e-mail that tore at her heart: Doctors had given Christopher only days to live, and he was being taken to Capital Hospice in Arlington. She hadn’t yet met the family, but the urge to provide any comfort she could was strong. She drove to the hospice.
“You question: Am I welcome? Am I inserting myself into a very private family moment?” she says.
She needn’t have worried. “Jumoke was an angel,” Cassell says.
Adebimpe visited every morning before work and every evening after. “She laughed with me. She prayed with me. She cried with me,” Cassell says.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Adebimpe says. “What really spoke to my heart was a family in this situation.”
Cassell mentioned that her son loved music. Adebimpe, 29, has a beautiful voice—a contralto, she’d sung in an opera group at George Washington University. She’d serenade the little boy, singing songs from musicals and songs of worship. “If he was agitated,” Adebimpe says, “he would go right to sleep.”
Christopher died in August, a month after arriving at hospice. Cassell asked Adebimpe to sing the song “For Good,” from Wicked, at the funeral.
“Because she had been a stranger—that’s what that song is about, finding new friends,” Cassell says. The family now drives an hour every Sunday from their home near Purcellville to attend Grace Community Church.
“We lost a son, and it’s going to take a lot of healing,” Cassell says. “But we gained a huge family. People come into our lives for a reason.”
Building a Home Together
When Julia Kramer and Tom Oberdorfer were planning their May 2004 wedding—a second marriage for both—the last thing they needed was another blender.
“We’re both now in our fifties. We didn’t want to register for things,” Kramer says. Instead, they thought, why not ask guests to give the money they’d spend on gifts to a worthy cause?
Oberdorfer, a psychotherapist, had started his career at the nonprofit Northern Virginia Family Service. One of NVFS’s efforts interested them: a program that raises funds to buy transitional housing for homeless women and their children in Prince William County. The women not only get a place to live for one year but also receive training in everything from parenting to job hunting to budgeting.
“Tom and I were looking for something not just to do that year but to do every year—a goal to work toward,” says Kramer, a management consultant and writer. NVFS has eight houses, but hundreds of families are in need of transitional housing: “We’re just trying to get them another house.”
The couple has since held three annual events, around their anniversary, to raise money, and they’ve created a Web site, kohf.org. About 100 friends, relatives, and colleagues pay $150 each for dinner and dancing—one year was a black-tie affair at the City Club, another a lobster feast at their home. Local businesses and friends donate items for a silent auction—from jewelry to original art to vacations. So far the couple has raised $65,000.
“To buy even a townhouse in Northern Virginia is going to take more than that,” Kramer says. “We’re not there yet, but that day will come. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than opening that door and giving a house to homeless moms.”
Organizing each fundraiser takes a lot of work.
“It’s like planning a wedding every year,” Kramer says. “But it’s one of those things that helps you sleep at night.”
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