After a rocky start, a nonprofit group has transformed the historic 19-acre Winfield farm into a therapeutic respite home and will soon graduate the first participant in its program that treats those with serious mental illnesses.
“It offers our residents a peaceful setting,” said Karen Lewis, project director for the Hopewell House, a nonprofit. “It provides them with something different than the over-stressed urban setting and gives them time to heal.”
The foundation has turned the ranch, which is considered a historically significant property in Fairfax County, into a group home for the treatment of the mentally ill. The ranch is near its capacity of four participants and will soon graduate one who has been at the home for the last six months.
At this time last year, things were still quite unsettled because the home was without its state license to operate a mental health group facility. House officials were able to overcome some local opposition and get the license. Operations at the ranch have mushroomed to 15 staffers (including three ranch hands) who provide around-the-clock care and supervision.
“We were just thrilled to get our license,” Lewis said. “We had been working really hard to get the program running.”
Lewis could not have found a more bucolic and beautiful setting, she said. They bought the property about four years ago.
The ranch, just off of Routes 286 and 29, is sequestered down a one-lane former ox-cart path bordered on each side by grassy embankments. Trees interlace to form a leaf-covered canopy overhead. The ranch is significant because of the multi-room Winfield House, which dates back to 1815.
Local historians believe it was this cart-path that Confederate troops, under Col. John Mosby, used to evade detection, and capture Union Army Gen. E.H. Stoughton at the courthouse on March 8, 1863.
As part of their therapy, residents are encouraged to help out on the farm, interact with the livestock and walk the dogs, Lewis said. The farm is home to three horses, two dogs, four steer, a dozen or so chickens, two pigs, 12 goats and a handful of deer which occasionally wander onto the property.
Residents find the setting a helpful part of their therapy, Lewis said.
“For a lot of people with mental illness, they don’t think they are sick,” Lewis said. “They think their problems are caused by bad luck or just coincidence.”
“The farm gives them a break,” Lewis said. “Because they are in a different environment; it gives them a chance to find a different way to cope.”
Lewis and her staffers are holding an open house and pig roast on Saturday, Oct. 27, from noon until 6 p.m. to celebrate their operations and promote mental health awareness.