WILLIAMSBURG, VA-Community of Faith Mission (COFM), Greater Williamsburg's only emergency winter shelter, announces the hiring of Ashley Ryland Willis as its first Executive Director.
Willis has served with COFM since its inaugural season as a volunteer Key Leader and a member of the Board of Directors.
Each year from November to March, COFM provides 126 nights of shelter, three meals a day and other resources to men, women and families who are homeless in the Historic Triangle. The rotating weekly shelter is hosted by different faith congregations throughout Williamsburg, James City County and Upper York County.
"It is a privilege to serve the community I love in this new role," Willis said. "For me it is impossible to enjoy the blessings that come with living in Williamsburg without doing something to help people who have to struggle for the most basic necessities. COFM is frontline care for people who need to get off the streets or out of the woods during the coldest months of the year."
COFM has served hundreds of homeless individuals, mobilized thousands of volunteers and collaborated with more than a dozen community partners since its inception in 2012.
Although Willis grew up in Williamsburg and has lived there most of her life, she first served homeless individuals through CARITAS in Richmond. It is a larger but similar program to COFM.
"I literally could not sleep at night thinking about the homeless families I met in the program," Willis said.
While part of the Community Care staff team at Williamsburg Community Chapel, Willis assisted numerous homeless and precariously housed individuals who needed shelter, food and "compassionate interaction with encouraging people," she said. "When I heard that COFM was becoming a reality I knew I wanted to be part of it. Since then I have met so many other people who have the same passion, and I have had the joy of working in the shelter with dedicated volunteers all over Williamsburg. They are the heart of COFM."
"I have also met people living through homelessness who have modeled humility, humor, trust and incredible patience while going through some of the worst times of their lives. They have challenged and inspired me, and it is a privilege to serve them."
COFM's shelter season is four months out of the year but managing the organization is a year-round endeavor that has been handled by only volunteers, until recently. Willis will promote the organization's role in the community as the bridge between living unsheltered and finding permanent housing.
"Williamsburg is fortunate to have several organizations tackling homelessness and implementing the best ways to serve people at every level of need. COFM is honored to be a crucial link in that chain."
Willis' other professional background experience includes journalism, public relations, business and real estate. She is a graduate of Mary Washington College and Lafayette High School.

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