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Shopping with SHARE

SHARE clients choose gifts for family at annual Christmas Store in McLean Baptist Church.

When Jaime Quintero spotted the box that said "Crash Traxx" on it, he knew instantly that he had found exactly what he needed.

"It's perfect for my 6-year-old son," said Quintero, speaking through a Spanish translator. "He is going to love it."

Quintero picked out the plastic miniature race car track last Saturday afternoon, Dec. 9, at the annual SHARE, Inc. "Christmas Store" held in McLean Baptist Church. He and girlfriend Nieve Vera browsed through rows of toys and clothing, filling a shopping cart with Christmas presents for their family. Originally from Ecuador, the couple currently lives in Falls Church with their two young sons. They became SHARE clients a year and a half ago, after Vera heard about the McLean based non-profit charity through friends.

"It's excellent," said Vera. "It has helped me and my family very much, with food at Thanksgiving, and presents at Christmas."

SHARE was created 36 years ago by several McLean residents, and operates out of McLean Baptist Church. The all volunteer organization strives to meet the needs of local families and individuals that have fallen into financial hardship. SHARE collects furniture, food and clothing donations all year round, and operates a weekly food store and clothing store out of the basement of McLean Baptist Church. On Saturdays, SHARE clients come to the stores to "shop" for staple items. SHARE runs an annual school food drive to collect non-perishable stock for its food store.

IN ADDITION, there are two SHARE projects that have become annual traditions in the community — the Thanksgiving Basket program, and the Christmas Store. Just before Thanksgiving, SHARE collects food certificate donations in order to provide its clients with a way to purchase a Thanksgiving meal for their families. In the past, SHARE had collected donations of baskets filled with items from a specified grocery store shopping list. However, the invention of grocery store food cards eliminated the need to do this.

"It was a logistical nightmare," said Jim Lebherz, a contributor to SHARE, and a member of St. Luke's Catholic Church in McLean.

Lebherz collects monthly cash donations for SHARE from the congregation at St. Luke's.

"We give them the money and they buy food certificates," said Lebherz.

On the first or second Friday of every December, SHARE collects new and gently used clothing, toy and furniture donations at McLean Baptist Church.

SHARE volunteers then spend the day setting up the Christmas Store and arranging displays of donated items. On Saturday, SHARE clients come to scheduled shopping appointments and are guided through the store by a SHARE volunteer who helps them select gifts for various family members. Nancy Duffner has helped to coordinate the Thanksgiving Basket program and the Christmas

Store for several years. Duffner said that since the bulk of Christmas Store donations arrive on the day of setup, SHARE volunteers often worry that they will not have enough items for the store.

"But we did get a lot this year, and it's been going very well," said Duffner. "We had a lot of volunteers show up."

Former SHARE president Warner Sinback said that the organization can always rely on the residents of McLean to come through in times of need.

"We are so very fortunate to live in a community where the support is so strong," said Sinback. "A lot of charities this year are crying out for help, but we live in a very giving community."

Sinback said that he is also very proud of the efforts made by SHARE, and appreciative of McLean Baptist Church's support in the form of storage space.

"One of the wonderful things about SHARE is that out of every dollar that we take in, we end up giving about 95 cents of it to the client," said Sinback. "So the efficiency of this charity is great … we are all volunteer with no expense accounts, and no paid visits to fancy places for meetings."