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Faith Communities Unite To Aid Needy

Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim residents of Herndon and Reston will spend Sunday completing community service projects.

Nine years ago, at the United Christian Parish in Reston, a summer intern suggested the church bring together a handful its fellow local faith communities for one day filled with projects to assist the less-fortunate residents of Reston and Herndon.

Today, that intern's idea has grown into Works Sunday, an annual August tradition with more than 15 churches, synagogues and mosques participating.

"We all pushed for this in the community," said Marilyn Silvey, chair of the Works Sunday steering committee. "We all believe in one God and that God pushes us to help the less fortunate."

This Sunday, hundreds of volunteers will complete community service projects and deliver to local charities countless boxes of goods collected from congregations over the last few months.

Apart from helping the needy in Herndon and Reston, church leaders will hold worship services at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center and at the Reston Community Centers at Hunters Woods and Lake Anne.

Plus, children and adult choirs from two congregations will perform at assisted-living facilities to entertain senior citizens.

"It's great that we can get out there and work together for the good of the community on these projects," Silvey said.

BY HOLDING Works Sunday in August, the faith communities are able help local charity organizations whose donations have dwindled because so many people are on vacation or preoccupied with back-to-school activities.

"It's a time of year when all of us get in that mode," said Kerrie Wilson, executive director of Reston Interfaith. "But the timing for us is wonderful."

Wilson's organization is one of the bigger beneficiaries of Works Sunday. This year, Reston Interfaith's food pantry will be fully stocked from Works Sunday donations and the Laurel Learning Center, which teaches low-income children, is having its playground mulched. Also, Works Sunday volunteers will finish constructing a loft at the center on which children can climb up and read amongst pillows.

"It's a wonderful effort," Wilson said.

Another major project this year will be to fix up the seven Gabriel Homes in Herndon and Reston, which are group homes for employed mentally-disabled people.

Works Sunday volunteers will perform routine maintenance at the homes, landscape the yards, fix plumbing problems and more.

Also, teenage Works Sunday volunteers will be stationed outside grocery stores to collect food donations.

"People think about this during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but these people are hungry all year," Silvey said.

THOUGH WORKS SUNDAY is only held once a year, it is intended to help faith communities identify local areas of need for ongoing assistance, Silvey said.

But by having it on one day, it becomes more of an event and draws contributions from across the religious spectrum.

"It's gotten so big, it's amazing," said Nancy Mohl, the Washington Plaza Baptist Church's representative to the steering committee. "It's like a snowball or something."

Mohl is coordinating her church's efforts to collect goods for the Laurel Learning Center, a local women's shelter and a men's shelter in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the good works, Mohl said it is heartening to see people from all faiths working side by side.

"Where else on this planet would you find Christians, Jews, Catholics and Muslims working together?" she said.