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Herndon Couple Create Holiday 'Spirit'

Jackie and Jeff Johnson are planning to create a "Spirit of Giving" this weekend at their home in Herndon.

For their annual charity open house, the couple — who operate JJDeli at the Herndon Centennial Golf Course — have opted to help the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for the second year in a row.

Active in helping area charities over the past eight years, Jackie Johnson said helping America's soldiers was a perfect fit because of their family's military background.

After serving in the Army for 20 years, her husband retired in 1997, she said.

And, while at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a check-up last year, the Johnsons — who were looking for a new charity to benefit during the holiday season — had an epiphany.

"I said to my husband, I know what we're going to do," recalled Jackie Johnson. "Let's help the soldiers."

From there the Johnsons approached the family services coordinator, asking what they could do to help soldiers away from their families over the holiday season. After receiving a list of needed items, they sent out invitations to friends and acquaintances in the area, asking them to attend an open house and to bring an item to be donated to the cause.

Last year the main item donated were phone cards. This year the Johnsons are asking for books of stamps, squishy pillows, portable DVD and CD players, winter jackets, breakaway pants and hooded sweatshirts, among other things.

The items will be donated to the soldiers at Walter Reed, said Jackie Johnson.

"This cause is very close to my husband's heart because when he was in the Army he was away from his family," she said. "And, especially during the holidays it's hard to be away."

The Johnsons have scheduled their open house for this weekend, although the event is by invitation only. But, residents who would like to contribute goods to be donated to Walter Reed can drop the items off at JJDeli inside the Herndon Centennial Golf Course. A box is designated inside the building for donated items. All items must be in before Dec. 16, because the couple plans to bring the donations to the hospital that day. Any questions, e-mail JJDeli@cox.net.

"My husband and I feel very blessed that we're living in this area and for the people we have met," said Jackie Johnson. "Everything we've been given we just feel we should give back."