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Help Still Needed

Our Neighbor's Child Collects Toys, Clothes for Area Needy

Santa and the elves have nothin' on Our Neighbor's Child (ONC). This plucky, all-volunteer group has been inundated with requests for Christmas gifts and clothes for the area's needy, and it's working as hard as it can to meet the demands.

But it's not easy. And it's pretty much a 'round-the-clock job for the moms scrambling to pull everything together. Just since last week, 27 more Centreville, Chantilly and Clifton families have been added to ONC's list, bringing the current total needing help to 269.

Now in its 11th year, the nonprofit ONC gets referrals from the Fairfax County Department of Social Services and then collects, buys, packages and distributes new clothes and toys to those in need. And just when the volunteers think they're finally catching up, more requests come in.

"A local school called [Tuesday night] and has 15 families in need of clothes and toys," said toy coordinator Kathy Sposa of Sully Station II. "And we still need gifts for teen-agers. These children were young when we started, years ago, but they've grown and are now 13, 15, 16, 17, etc."

So far, Girl Scouts, residents, businesses and churches have come through for ONC via monetary contributions or their own collection drives. For example, ONC clothing coordinator Tracy McInturff picked up clothing Monday afternoon at Chesterbrook Academy in Chantilly.

"That's 28 families that their school took care of," she said. "It was a tremendous effort ā€” the whole school is working diligently to help us."

On Saturday, Centreville High seniors plus members of Girl Scout Troop 1739 manned a collection booth in front of the Fair Lakes Wal-Mart. They gave customers information about items needed, and shoppers placed them into ONC boxes as they exited the store.

"People have been so generous," said Troop leader Marilee Moot, pointing at some of the donations. "We've gotten Barbies, a bicycle, Tonka trucks ā€” some nice, nice things."

Some employers also helped out. "Thanks to last minute, emergency donations from area businesses, on Monday night [Centreville High field hockey coach] Starr Karl and I bought $2,500 worth of toys," said Sposa. "Another group of shoppers bought toys Tuesday."

But gifts for teens are still lacking. Residents may help by donating things such as: Purses, backpacks, watches, toiletry bags, alarm clocks, CDs and gift certificates for CDs, men's cologne, movie tickets, perfume, CD players, Game Boys and game cartridges, gift certificates to clothing or record stores and lots of batteries, especially AA and 9-volt.

"This way, on Christmas Day, they'll get things they can't afford to buy for themselves," explained Sposa. "Or, with a gift certificate, they can have the joy of picking things out."

Warm, winter clothing is also needed. Call McInturff at 703-222-6669 or e-mail her at gmfamily1@aol.com for specific items and sizes needed. She'll accept clothing until Christmas Eve. To donate toys, e-mail Kathy Sposa at sposafamily@aol.com, or bring toys and clothes to Bull Run Elementary, Sunday, Dec. 15, from 1-4 p.m.

Volunteers are still needed to help pick up, sort and package donated items, plus drivers to deliver the presents to the recipient families. E-mail wkduncan@aol.com for information about the next packaging date. People are also needed to shop for items not found among those donated. E-mail Karen Moore at kk1mo@aol.com.

Tax-deductible, monetary contributions may also be made to Our Neighbor's Child at P.O. Box 276, Centreville, VA 20120. Since ONC is all-volunteer, 100 percent of all donations is used for toys or clothing for needy families. For more information, visit the www.ourneighborschild.org Web site and click on "current needs" or "volunteer opportunities."

Tuesday, 80-100 people sorted and packaged the items for the first 240 families. "They really rose to the occasion," said ONC Executive Director Kelly Lavin. "Kelly Cronin [Karl's sister] and her team of volunteers began at 7:30 a.m. and were still there when I left at 9 p.m."

Lavin, too, appreciates the local businesses who donated money, this week. And she hopes the community will "keep us in mind for donations because we'll get them to the ones who need it most."