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Going to Works Sunday

Hundreds from various local faith communities volunteer for projects to help the less fortunate.

After dropping off one of many loads, John Dister paused a second, his head on a swivel as he glanced at the pantry room’s floor cloaked by a pile of grocery bags.

“It’s pretty impressive,” the Reston resident said, wiping beads of sweat from his brow built up from continuous trips back and forth.

Dister and about a dozen other volunteers spent most of their Sunday afternoon transferring groceries from trucks into Reston Interfaith’s Food Pantry.

A FEW MILES away, more than a dozen volunteers packed backpacks, which will be given later to students in need.

“We have a production line going,” said Susan Stolpe, Reston Interfaith’s volunteer manager, describing a scene of volunteers wading through a room overflowing with school supplies purchased by Kids R First.

Amy Reich, with her 7-year-old daughter Annika Pracher and her 4-year-old son Zachary Pracher, circled the room, filling backpacks with crayons, markers, notebook paper and other supplies. “I thought this would be a good fit for the kids,” said Reich, who moved to Reston last year. “It’s something they can relate to.”

The previous day, Charlie Wight of Reston led another group of volunteers, planting and mulching at a Gabriel Homes house in Reston, which provides group residence to mentally challenged adults.

“We got the backyard completely landscaped,” said Wight, a septuagenarian who has volunteered for the project the past three years. “It’s a great thing to do each year.”

IN FACT, last weekend, it was one of 24 great volunteer projects part of the 11th annual Works Sunday, a day where people put their respective faiths into action to help their communities. Hundreds of members of 16 Reston and Herndon congregations, including Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faith communities, participated in the event.

For Reston resident Ted Gagnon, a member St. Thomas a' Becket Catholic Church, who worked alongside Jaime Bernstein of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, at the backpack packing project, the day served as a reminder of all he had to be thankful.

“Today’s my birthday,” he said, “So, I figured I spend it here helping others.” Besides, Bernstein, 17, added, “It’s fun.”

The day was also a reminder of how many people in the region need help. “I didn’t know how many people needed this stuff around here,” she Bernstein.

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE in need were helped over the weekend. Reston Interfaith expects to give out 4,000 backpacks.

“Our food pantry had been running low, said Melisa Melendez, a program assistant with the Reston-based non-profit. But now it is fully stocked because of about 7,500 pounds of donated food.

Meals, included bag lunches and dinner, were prepared and served for the homeless.

Volunteers also fixed up and beautified three local Gabriel Homes houses. “The people of our community are wonderfully generous when given the opportunity,” said Work Sunday’s Committee Chair Marilyn Silvey, in a statement. “We set records in the number of volunteers involved, the amount of work done, and the amount of donations received.”