For this Christmas, the Committee for Helping Others (CHO) will help more families than ever. Usually around 150 families get food, clothing and toys from CHO's annual Christmas distribution. But this year, 178 families will be participating.
"It's more than we've ever had," said Carolyn Mysel of CHO.
Since 1969, CHO has provided goods and services to local families and individuals in need. Serving Dunn Loring, Merrifield, Oakton and Vienna, CHO holds an annual Christmas distribution at Vienna Presbyterian Church. For the past several Decembers, families have gotten toys for their children, as well as food certificates for local grocery markets.
"We have clients from all over the world here," Mysel said.
Indeed, while many of their clients are immigrants who haven't started working, a number of them are native-born residents who have fallen on hard times. Some of them are single mothers, those with health concerns, and those who've been out of work for three or four months.
"We see the need year long, we know the stories of the people," Mysel said.
For this year's donations, they've received help from local churches, community organizations and businesses such as the Rotary Club, the Vienna-Tysons Chamber of Commerce, St. Mark Catholic Church, The Lions Club and the town of Vienna. Our Lady of Good Counsel provided funds for much of the food certificates that will be passed out.
And while CHO receives donations throughout the winter holiday season, Mysel said they would welcome receiving donations year-round.
"They can remember us with food donations during the year, especially during the summer," Mysel said. Cash donations for emergency services are also helpful, she added. "And now, with more people not working, that's more critical."
Fellow CHO volunteer George High said local residents can also volunteer their time. CHO needs drivers to medial appointments, as well as volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program.
"We constantly need people," High said, adding that they would welcome younger volunteers.
One volunteer, Frank Fiorentino, has gotten his office involved in CHO's Christmas distribution for years. Fiorentino, along with his wife Janice Kaye, has asked co-workers to bring in toys for the children.
When they finish collecting, they bring two full carloads to CHO.
"We had always done it ourselves, and we decided that it would be a good way to get more toys for the kids," Fiorentino said.
To make a donation to CHO, send it to Committee for Helping Others, P.O. Box 233, Vienna, VA 22183. For more information about volunteering, call 703-938-7213.