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Nonprofits Offer Holiday Volunteer Opportunities

Give, don't just recieve, this holiday season.

Every year the holiday season brings a dilemma for many – what to get friends, family and business associates for Chanukah, Christmas or Kwanza. This year, look to those in need and give time, and maybe even a check.

“Volunteers always show up at the holidays and that’s good but we need them the rest of the year, too,” said Bill North-Rudin, the executive director of the Alexandria Volunteer Bureau. “That having been said, we do have a number of agencies that are looking for volunteer time, specific gift items for families and children and food.”

One of those volunteer opportunities is for the Volunteer Bureau itself. Beginning Thanksgiving weekend, representatives of AVB will be wrapping gifts at the Barnes & Noble at Potomac Yard. “We will ask for a donation for the gift wrapping service, with the funds going to support AVB,” North-Rudin said. There are plenty of shifts available. Call 703-836-2176 to schedule some time to wrap for a good cause.

Volunteers are also needed to help receive and sort bundles of gifts on Wednesday, Dec. 15 and Thursday, Dec. 16, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Human Services Center, 2525 Mount Vernon Ave. For those who can’t volunteer their time, the Department of Human Services is also looking for gift certificates for teenagers and grocery gift cards for families. On Dec. 17, drivers are needed to deliver these gifts to Alexandria families. To volunteer, call Suzanne Kratzok at 703-838-0768 or send her an e-mail at Suzanne.Kratzok@Alexandriava.gov.

Coats for Kids is a new organization in Alexandria. They provide new winter coats to children in the city’s public school system.

“We’ve already delivered a number of coats to city schools,” said Paul Darby, Coats for Kids president. “We need more warm coats of all sizes, children and adult, and, of course, money to purchase them.” For more information, call 703-567-1000.

Many organizations are selling Christmas ornaments, calendars and other items to raise money. AVB serves as a clearinghouse to assist most of these local agencies. Their web site, www.alexandriavolunteers.org, has links to many of them.

The Alexandria Police Youth Camp was seriously damaged by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 -- so much so that the camp was unable to open last summer for the first time in more than 50 years. The camp’s major fundraiser is the sale of Christmas trees. Beginning on Dec. 4, trees will be available for purchase in the city’s upper parking lot at Alexandria’s Union Station.

“Last year we earned $15,000 selling trees,” said Investigator Dan Morris, APYC’s Board president. “It costs around $300 to send a child to camp for a week. We want to make sure that, as always, any Alexandria child who wishes to go away for a week of fun and adventure on the Chesapeake Bay can do so.”

There are many other volunteer opportunities, now and throughout the year. Get involved. Call AVB at 703-836-2176.