The seemingly tireless volunteers of Our Neighbor's Child (ONC) are still hard at work collecting new toys and clothes for needy families in the Centreville, Chantilly and Clifton area.
And the list of families who'll receive these items keeps growing. Since last week, alone, nearly 30 more families have been added.
"We have just under 400 families and more than 1,000 children," said ONC Executive Director Kelly Lavin of Centreville's Hunt Chase community. "I can't believe we're there. I remember when we were at 110 families, five or six years ago."
ONC IS IN its 12th year of helping the community at Christmastime but, with so many people requesting clothes and toys for their children, the generosity of area residents becomes even more crucial in making sure all the needs are met and the wishes, fulfilled.
"Chantilly High and St. Andrew Lutheran Church preschool are doing a hat, glove and mitten drive, this week and next," said Lavin. "And Sully Station Children's Center is putting up giving trees and collecting toys."
Children's gift wishes are listed on special paper ornaments on giving trees in local schools, churches and businesses. Residents may then select ornaments and buy the needed items.
And this Saturday, Dec. 6, from 9-6 p.m., the Fair Lakes Wal-Mart is hosting an ONC toy drive via the giving tree in its store. Customers simply purchase the gifts listed on the ornaments and then place them in the big, ONC boxes outside the store.
Virginia Run's Kathleen Esposito is coordinating this event, and helping collect the toys will be children from Cub Scout packs 1682 and 1684, Brownie troops 3327 and 3222, Girl Scout Troop 3325 and Junior Girl Scout Troops 1681and 1810. "We're hoping for a good turnout," said Esposito. "There's a lot of people out there who are needy, and it's a nice time of year to help others."
Wal-Mart's tree will stay up through Friday, Dec. 12 so, said Lavin, "If people can't make it there on Saturday, they can go later on, buy the gifts and give them to the cashiers at the check-out." Gifts may also be dropped off at Long & Foster, Realtors, in Centreville Square, and at Sully Station Children's Center at Sully Park and Stone Creek drives, in Centreville.
PRESENTS FOR teen-agers are always needed and, this year, families requested more than $3,000 in gift certificates for them. Lavin said gift certificates for Kohl's, Target and Best Buy are especially welcome.
She said a Washington Redskins ticket-raffle raised more than $2,000 — which will be used to buy toys for children whose ornaments aren't chosen and whose wishes would otherwise go unfulfilled. Said Lavin: "A lot of times, people won't take an ornament off a tree for expensive items like bikes or video games, so we go and buy them on sale."
Next Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 9-10, ONC workers will gather in an unoccupied commercial-building space in Chantilly owned by DuPont Fabros Development Co. There, they'll package toys going to the families.
"We really appreciate their willingness to lend us this space to do our work because we couldn't afford to rent space of our own for this job," said Lavin. "Every penny donated to ONC is used to purchase toys or clothing."
She said ONC used to package the toys at local community centers. But with the increased number of families needing help, she said, "We need a much larger space. So if anybody anticipates having any vacant space that we can use temporarily, for just a week or so, next year at this time, call 703-830-2699."
To help ONC in other ways, see the sidebar. Tax-deductible, monetary contributions may also be sent to Our Neighbor's Child at P.O. Box 276, Centreville, VA 20120, or e-mail Karen Moore at KK1MO@aol.com.