Grant Expands LINK

Grant Expands LINK

After receiving a health and human services grant of more than $99,000, LINK, an all-volunteer organization, has been able to expand its services to help area residents in need.

Comprised of 16 churches in the Sterling and Herndon areas, LINK works year-round to offer food and financial assistance to qualified residents in need. During the holidays, LINK volunteers offer a Holiday Baskets program, where more than 4,000 people sign up to receive a week's worth of groceries the week before Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition, residents can receive a winter coat in November and a new toy during the December event.

In February 2004 U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) informed LINK representatives about the health and human services grant offered through the Department of Health and Human Services. The money was made available in May 2004, and LINK volunteers created the "Hope For Our Neighbors In Need," program by July. Through the program LINK was able to expand its services for an interim period to include the delivery of 145 new beds to residents in need, roughly $11,000 in hygiene supplies and grocery gift cards for perishable items essential to the physical health of those in need. Finances from the program also supported local free clinics and medical transportation services in the community.

Specifically, $12,687 was given to Loudoun Community free clinic and $6,268 was given to the Herndon Free Clinic. This money was used to purchase prescription hardware and software for the clinics and pharmacy prescriptions for residents using the clinics.

Because the organization dedicates almost all of its budget to helping residents in need, its operational equipment, including freezers and refrigerators, were in need of repair. The awarded grant allowed the organization to buy new equipment, including new refrigerators and laptop computers and expand on its emergency support services.

Last year, LINK was able to spend less than five percent of its budget on operating expenses, allowing the majority of its funding to go toward residents in need. Each year LINK volunteers see an increase in the number of people in western Fairfax County and eastern Loudoun County requesting food, grocery gift certificates and finance assistance.

On average, LINK provides more than 1000 families with various kinds of support in a year. The organization usually provides food to approximately 60 families, or approximately 250 people per month. In 2004, food deliveries were provided to 747 families — more than 3,000 people — and another 421 deliveries to support organizations and worship centers including the Embry Rucker Shelter, Good Shepherd Alliance Shelters, ADAMS Center Mosque, Grace Ministries at Floris United Methodist Church, Neighborhood Resource Center, The Closet and William Watters Adult Living House. More than $14,000 in grocery gift certificates was also included with these deliveries. LINK volunteers also work with the public school special programs to assist families with school children in need and make deliveries five days a week, 52 weeks a year. LINK also provided 135 families with financial assistance totaling $25,000 through the Northern Virginia Family Services and Loudoun Social Services. This money helped with rent and utility bills.

LINK is currently seeking volunteers to help with its annual Holiday Baskets program scheduled for Nov. 19 and Dec. 17 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Residents may also donate non-perishable food, clean used winter coats and unwrapped new toys. Call 703-437-1776 to sign up or donate goods.