Q: What is "Our Neighbor's Child" and how are you able to serve all these children I'm reading about?
A: Our Neighbor's Child is the local nonprofit organization that coordinates holiday assistance for children from low-income families in western Fairfax. Our 22 project leaders bring together the generous efforts of local schools, churches, businesses and individuals who make this effort possible.
Q: I signed up to volunteer at Set-Up (packaging and delivery) ... What if it snows?
A: In most cases we will forge ahead, and hope that people can make it there safely in their SUVs or other four-wheel drive vehicles. But please check the web site. We will post an emergency message if any activity absolutely must be canceled.
Q: We just heard about ONC and we want to help. What's the best way for us to get involved?
A: Visit the web-site at www.ourneighborschild.org. Many of the things we need help with are posted there, along with the e-mail address of the project leader in charge of each event. If you have questions, ask any one of our project leaders and they can always forward your e-mail to the appropriate person.
Q: We have an Angel Tree at our church, but the deadlines seem so early.
A: Our first priority, along with providing for the children, is to relieve a little stress for these struggling families. We always deliver on the latest possible Sunday that would still leave a week before Christmas. Once that date is determined, our packaging date is set for the week before, which means the gifts need to be collected on that preceding Sunday. This puts our pick-up date to be Dec. 11 this year.
Q: I'd like to make a donation to ONC. Where should I send it?
A: We have a great need for donations this year and they can be sent to our treasurer, Karen Moore at P.O. Box 276, Centreville, VA 20120.
Q: How much of my donation will actually be used for gifts?
A: Every penny. For every one of our 14 years, ONC has had no paid staff, and we beg, borrow or take out of our own pockets for anything we need to get the job done.
Q: I could probably help with some of those supplies. What types of things do you need?
A: White paper (for copies and printing family information sheets), Plastic bags, highlighters, duct tape, three-ring binders, printer ink, etc. Before next season we'll have a link to our Web site that will give a complete "wish list" and the specs on all these things!
Q: How does ONC determine which families to serve?
A: Fairfax County's Department of Human Services meets annually with representatives from the organizations that provide holiday assistance. They divide the areas we'll serve according to ZIP code. ONC and WFCM serve the same ZIP codes in Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton and Fairfax, west of Fair Oaks Mall.
Q: I've purchased some gifts I'd like to donate. Where can I drop them off?
A: There are several local gift collections: Centreville Tire & Auto and Long & Foster, Realtors, in Centreville, Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks in Chantilly, and the Wal-Mart in Fair Lakes are just a few.
Q: My high school son/daughter needs to earn volunteer hours. What are good activities for this age group?:
A: This Sunday, Dec. 11, from 4:30 -6 p.m. is a great time for students to help. We will be unloading toys from trucks, sorting and setting up for the packaging team. Another big day that we'll need help is during the week schools are out.
On Tuesday, Dec. 27 from 1-3 p.m., we have to move out of the warehouse. We can use help loading tables and any remaining toys into the trucks, removing trash and sweeping the floors. Certainly not glamorous, but we'll make it fun.
Q: How do you know who needs assistance?
A: We receive the applications from a variety of sources, most predominantly the school counselors. The majority of the families have qualified for assistance through Fairfax County's free and reduced price lunch program. The guidelines are available on-line at the FCPS Web site. We also receive referrals from WFCM for families who have qualified to use their food pantry and may have children not yet in school.
Q: We delivered gifts to a family that doesn't celebrate Christmas. Why is that?
A: Our Neighbor's Child is a community-based rather than faith-based organization. While a large portion of the families we serve celebrate Christmas, we recognize that there are struggling families of all faiths. We want to help the children who are in need, regardless of whether it's a Christmas gift, Hanukah gift, Kwanzaa gift or Ramadan gift. This is the one time of year we are able to give them a little extra help.
Q: Our Neighbor's Child seems to grow every year ñ how big will it get?
A: We've never really wanted to get "bigger" in terms of the families we serve. We'd love to see many of these families reach income levels that would keep them from struggling. We plan to keep the serving area the same and just continue to work toward improving the "system". We served about 525 families last year, and we projected about 600 for this year, which would include 30 or so families relocated by Katrina.
Q: I have some suggestions and ideas for ONC. Where do I send them?
A: We'd love to hear from you! ONC will only be as successful as the feedback we receive from the community! In an all-volunteer effort of this size, there's always room for improvement. As you participate, your feedback is critical to any adjustments we can make in the "off-season". Send your ideas and suggestions via e-mail to KMLavin@aol.com, or address them to ONC at P.O. Box 276, Centreville, VA 20120.
Q. How many volunteers/donors are involved in this program?
A. We have so many incredibly generous people involved in ONC and there are so many ways to help. All phases combined, we have more than 400 volunteers who donate their time and energy to make this program work. We also have approximately 45 local businesses and individuals who donate gifts and money to this project. Every contribution, both large and small, is what makes this program possible. The response that we get from everyone is so inspiring. People in this community really care about their neighbor.