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Walking For Local Charities

New Dominion Women’s Club walkathon May 14 will raise money for Claude Moore Farm, Alzheimer's Family Care Center and Education for Independence.

With the budding of the trees, the blossoming of the flowers and the onset of spring comes the arrival of weekend walkathons, fundraisers for worthy causes and easy, healthy ways for families to do something good together.

While most walkathons are for national campaigns, the New Dominion Women’s Club of McLean is sponsoring a walk on May 14 at the McLean Community Center to benefit organizations that deal specifically with residents of Fairfax County.

“We wanted to come up with a family-friendly event,” said Kitty Gonzalez, the club’s publicity officer. “We wanted to be able to raise enough money to significantly benefit the groups we support.”

The club is centered on “volunteerism and financial contribution” to nonprofit and charitable organizations in and around McLean, she said.

Each year, the club’s members break into three committees, and each committee comes up with three nominations for a group that will benefit from the proceeds of the walk.

The groups are selected from the more than 100 organizations NDWC donates to every year, Gonzalez said, and represent the arts, education and conservation, and health and home life.

“This year we decided to split the proceeds from the walk four ways, with 30 percent going to each charity and 10 percent going to the general fund to support the 30 charities we fund every year,” she said.

FOR THIS YEAR, the Alzheimer’s Family Care Center, Claude Moore Colonial Farm and Education for Independence are the recipients of the proceeds.

The Claude Moore Colonial farm is “so completely dependent on volunteers to manage and keep the farm thriving,” said Anna Eberly, the farm’s executive director. “When I went to an organizational meeting for the walk last week, 90 or so of their members had been to the farm before, and most of their members have school-age children. That’s our market,” she said.

For the farm to have access to a volunteer group with over 100 members, Eberly said the club’s support was very important. “We’re really interested in getting them to volunteer and learn more about the farm and help promote it,” she said.

Most of the farm’s funding comes from grants, she said. “When it’s locally based, it’s even more important. It’s like the community is saying, yes, you do a good job. This is worth even more than the money.”

The Alzheimer’s Family Day Center provides adult day care for Alzheimer’s patience along with training and support for caregivers, said Anna Ellis, communications coordinator for the Center.

“We serve between 25 and 27 people each day,” she said, adding that since 1984, more than 1,000 families have been helped through the Center’s facilities.

The New Dominion Women’s Club has helped the Center through other fund-raisers in the past, Ellis said. “We rely pretty heavily on donations to keep our costs down for the families we serve.”

The Center provides daytime care for people with Alzheimer’s and “Alzheimer’s-type patients,” she said, and is the only organization in the region to provide care for late-stage patients, in addition to early and mid-stage patients.

The cost for the program is $66 per day for early and mid-stage patients and $69 per day for late-stage patients, she said. The services range from art therapy to van rides for medical appointments, she said.

“We’re delighted they decided to contribute to us,” she said.

EDUCATION FOR Independence is a program sponsored through Fairfax County Public School system that provides career counseling and job training, said Lorraine Obuchon, career information specialist for the organization.

“New Dominion has been a partner with us for several years now and they’ve always loved our organization and our program,” she said. “Every year at our holiday open house, they provide food for our holiday gift baskets and presents for our families.”

The group takes a “holistic” approach to career training, she said. “It doesn’t just help women get skills, but also to become self-sufficient. We help with their self-esteem and with job placement. It not only helps the women but their families and communities as well,” she said.

Education for Independence is “the only program of its kind in the area,” Obuchon said. “We have events and seminars to help the women. We have several networking opportunities for women to meet each other meet and form friendships.”

To put one woman through their career-training program, which usually takes about two-and-a-half years, the cost is about $1,500, but the service is provided free of charge, she said. “The money we receive from the walk will be used toward tuition fees, textbooks and other supplies the women will need,” she said.

“We serve mostly people in need. There are income guidelines, including single parents or single pregnant women from across Northern Virginia,” Obuchon said. The program is based out of the Centreville Adult Center and the Bryant Adult Center in Alexandria.

The organization is in its 20th year, she said. “We’re very grateful to New Dominion, they’ve been wonderful, and we’re so thankful they chose us to help,” she said.

Not only does the walk benefit worthy causes, it’s a fun afternoon activity for families to participate in together, said Lisa Vogt, president of the club.

“We’ve publicized this walk with our Girl Scout troops, Boy Scout dens, schools, PTA’s. We really want to make this a community event,” she said. “It’s a short walk, only about two kilometers, and kids all get medals at the end of it.”

Bicycles are not encouraged but people are welcome to bring large strollers, she said. “We’d like to tap into people we don’t know and branch out into the community. We’d like to get involved with more schools and churches,” she said.

“Our goal is to give money to the most needy people we can find in the area, but we try to stay in the Great Falls, McLean, Falls Church, Arlington Area,” she said.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great community service project,” said Kim Briggs, a member of the club. “These are local groups we’ve been involved with for years, and they serve important needs in the community.”

As a mother of two children, she appreciates being able to have a day out

with her family. “I’m almost nine months pregnant and I can participate with my two kids,” she said. “It’s a great chance for the community to get together and participate in something all together. We try to teach our kids to give back to the community.”

The event, which used to be held on McLean Day, has been moved to the week before to allow families to have two weekends with activities to do together, she said.