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Giving to Givers

Giving Circle of HOPE awards $65,000 to 13 local organizations.

It is a season of giving, but those who give are also on the receiving end these days. The Reston-based Giving Circle of HOPE recently awarded $65,000 in grants to 13 organizations committed to improving the lives of Northern Virginians.

"All of these organizations are committed to making life better for other people," said Mary Narayan, one of GCH's four founders. Since its inception in January 2004, the Giving Circle of HOPE has awarded $145,000 through its grant program. On top of the financial help the organization provides through its grants, members of the Circle volunteer at local charity and fundraising events. The organization's grant sub circle determined the 13 winners from 16 applications it received in the past year. Narayan said the applications are divided based on the applicants' mission statements and the depth of difference the grants would make in the lives of needy Northern Virginians.

The head of GCH's grant sub-circle, Diana Katz, said the 13 winning organizations offered a wide range of services for Northern Virginians, including medical and educational services. Katz added that the need for those services grows each year. "Every time we look at these organizations, none of them are able to cope with the numbers," said Katz.

"They [the winning organizations] are very valuable. They provide services not provided by other organizations," said Linda Strup, another co-founder of the GCH. For example, she added, the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry is the only organization in the area helping children affected by the illness. Strup said GCH tends to fund smaller advocacy groups. "We value efficient organizations who are passionate about helping others," she said.

ALTHOUGH NORTHERN VIRGINIA is generally associated with affluence, members of the GCH argue there is a great deal of need for help in the area. Katz said each year there are more organizations helping the local population, and each year those organizations are helping more people.

"There are over 2,000 homeless people [in Fairfax County], and it's a hidden problem," said Strup. "Because of the image [of an affluent area] it's not very publicized."

Many of those seeking services from local organizations are members of the growing immigrant population. However, the issues are also starting to engulf middle class families.

"It is increasingly more difficult for someone who doesn't make a lot of money to live here," said Marcia Di Trapani, president of Herndon-Reston FISH (Friendly, Instant, Sympathetic Help), one of the 13 grant winners. FISH won the grant for its work in helping needy adolescents receive holiday gifts. "A lot of people we are helping out are working people," said Di Trapani. She agreed that the number of people seeking help each year is rising. Di Trapani added that the local community is willing to help when it knows the help is needed. "As we publicize the need, the help [from the community] is rising," she said.

The Giving Circle of HOPE will host a reception on Jan. 26 to honor this year's recipients at the Reston Community Center, at the Lake Anne Plaza Gallery.