For Patty Moran, the Christmas season is a time to give back to the community. That’s why she volunteers for the annual holiday toy drive of the Community Partners for Children, a nonprofit organization that helps children in need. Every year, the organization rounds up dedicated volunteers like Moran to make sure that all of the city’s children have a joyous holiday season.
“Alexandria is such a unique community because it’s so giving,” said Moran, who coordinates the volunteer effort. “If people don’t have things to give, they’ll donate their time.”
Community Partners for Children collects gifts from drop boxes located throughout the city. Donors can leave toys at stores, banks or libraries. On Dec. 17, volunteers will deliver the toys to T.C. Williams, which is transformed into a winter wonderland. In one area, Santa and his elves entertain the children while — in a different area — parents pick out the perfect toy for their youngster.
“We replenish the tables every half hour, so each shift gets a fresh supply of choices,” she said. “Last year, each child got 15 toys, one book and one stuffed animal.”
NONE OF THIS would happen were it not for the volunteers. Moran, for example, will pick up the toys at five different drop boxes. She will bring them to the high school by 7:30 a.m., when more volunteers will be needed to make the annual event a success. Another shift of volunteers will be needed for the afternoon event with parents and children.
“In the morning, we need volunteers to deliver the toys and move them into the building,” Moran said. “In the afternoon, we need volunteers who can speak Spanish — so there’s lots of opportunities for people who want to help.”
For those families unable to attend the Dec. 17 event, a second event will be held on Dec. 20.
“We need volunteers for that too,” Moran said.
SUZANNE KRATZOK, coordinator of community resources for the city’s Department of Human Services, says that the city offers many ways to help. For those who are too busy to volunteer their time, a donation might be the right holiday decision. One way to help, she said, is to donate a gift certificate for a teenager.
“A few years ago, we discovered that teenagers weren’t being covered,” Kratzok said. “Nobody wanted to shop for them, and those of us who have teenagers know why.”
Teenagers can be picky. But what teen wouldn’t love a $20 gift certificate from their favorite local retailer? Kratzok said that donated gift certificates can be dropped off at the Human Services Center at 2525 Mount Vernon Ave.
Another way to help those in need is by donating a gift certificate from a grocery store.
“All of these families need food,” Kratzok said. “Gift certificates are one of the best ways to help out those in need during the holiday season.”
How to Help
The annual Community Partners for Children toy drive needs volunteers on Dec. 17 and Dec. 20. Those interested in volunteering may call 703-836-5883. Gift certificates can be donated in person to Suzanne Kratzok at the city’s Human Services Center, which is located at 2525 Mount Vernon Ave.