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Helping Those in Need for Holidays

Local organizations collect food, supplies for needy.

Charitable organizations in and around Reston are getting into the holiday spirit a little early this year. Groups like FISH (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help), a nonprofit volunteer organization in Reston and Herndon, and Reston Interfaith are working overtime to make sure the area's neediest families don't go hungry this holiday season.

Despite the economic slowdown, Robin Camp, a FISH organizer, says she has not seen a corresponding downturn in donations. "The last three years have just been incredible," said Camp, who has been organizing FISH's drives for six years. "We always have enough food, but I have noticed a definite rise in the level of enthusiasm. I've also talked with a lot of individual families who are looking to adopt a needy local family for a more traditional holiday. I think they really want to show their kids the true meaning of the holidays."

Each year since she came on board, Camp said, she has been prepared to see a decline in giving, whether it was because of a slowdown in the economy, the tech-corridor bust or Sept. 11, but each year, she says, she has been proven wrong. This year has been no exception, she said. Camp said she expects to serve about 150 families this year, slightly higher than last year's figure.

Representatives from FISH have begun collecting money and non-perishable food items for Thanksgiving baskets that will be donated to underprivileged local families. Each family will also receive a $10 gift certificate to be used to buy a turkey or other meat, said Liz Leukroth, a FISH representative. Last year FISH, now in its 30th year, donated Thanksgiving baskets to more than 120 families.

Anyone interested in giving non-perishable food donations, can drop off their donations at the United Christian Parish Church at 2222 Colts Neck Rd. in Reston.

FISH will be assembling the baskets between Nov. 18 and 20 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Volunteers will be out in the community delivering the holiday food baskets on Nov. 20 and 21.

<b>KERRIE WILSON</b>, the executive director of Reston Interfaith, is continually astounded by the generosity of her community. "The people of Reston and Herndon always open their hearts and wallets at this time of year, no matter what," said Wilson. "I know, for a fact, that our food pantry will never be bare. That alone says a lot about the people and the generous spirit found in this community."

Reston Interfaith, according to Wilson, anticipates that it will donate as many as 500 food baskets to more than 300 families in need in the Reston and Herndon area this Thanksgiving.

While Reston Interfaith, and other organizations like it, are looking for the traditional holiday food staples, like cans of cranberry sauce and assorted vegetables and boxes of stuffing, Wilson said her organization has adapted itself to the changing landscape of Reston. "We are always looking for a lot of different kinds of ethnic foods, everything from beans to Muslim Kosher meats," she said. "We know not everyone in our community grew up on turkey and mashed potatoes for the holidays. That's why we encourage gift certificates."

<b>IN HERNDON, LINK</b>, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization is soliciting donations of non-perishable items and $10 - $25 grocery store gift certificates. LINK, which is comprised of 15 member churches in Herndon and Sterling, provide food and financial assistance to qualified people living in need 52 weeks a year. "Due to the current economic disruptions and slow recovery of the job market," said a LINK spokesperson, "an estimated 400 families (1,600 people) are projected to receive Thanksgiving baskets this year and another 1,600 people at Christmas."

LINK will be celebrating its annual Thanksgiving gift basket program on Saturday, Nov. 23 and its Christmas program on Saturday, Dec. 21 at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Sterling and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon.