Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM) needs help. Each year, it provides Thanksgiving food baskets for hundreds of local families; but this time around, the demand far exceeds its supply.
"This is incredible — it's never been like this before," said WFCM Executive Director Dorothy Fonow. "Last year, we had requests from 422 families. This year, we have in excess of 700 requests, and they're still coming in."
WFCM helps families in need in Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton and Fair Oaks. The names come from the local schools, based on who's eligible for free or reduced lunches, as well as from the Fairfax County Department of Family Services, which uses HUD guidelines. In addition, WFCM has its own list of families who regularly come to its food pantry.
IT CURRENTLY has 500 donors from its 36 member churches, plus various businesses and individuals, who'll put together and deliver the food baskets, the weekend before Thanksgiving. EDS has volunteered to fill baskets for 100 families, and the Knights of Columbus will also help.
The volunteers fill up big laundry baskets with everything imaginable for a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings, including, for example, a turkey or ham, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, bread or rolls and cookies. Some people even include special touches, such as pretty napkins and candles.
The problem, said Fonow, is that although the deadline for requests was Oct. 27, more keep arriving every day, and WFCM doesn't want to have to turn people away.
"We're experiencing a 50-percent increase over last year," she said. And, with more than 700 families needing food for Thanksgiving, said Fonow, "That's more than I can get volunteers to make baskets for, so we're in desperate need of grocery-store gift cards."
That way, WFCM can at least mail the cards to the leftover families so they may purchase their own food. "We'll need 200-plus gift cards by Nov. 20," said Fonow. Or people may send checks payable to WFCM and it will buy the gift cards.
Donations are tax-deductible, and receipts are available.
Checks or gift cards may be either brought or sent to: WFCM, 13981 Metrotech Drive, Chantilly, VA 20151. WFCM is in the Sully Place Shopping Center, off Route 50 west, between Blockbuster and Backyard Grill and Bar. Any organizations or businesses wishing to help with the Thanksgiving baskets may call Fonow at 703-988-9656, ext. 104.
Fonow said this year's huge demand caught them by surprise. "It could be a reflection of the existing financial climate or, possibly, the growing popularity and knowledge of this program," she said.
"For whatever reason, we have been amazed by the number of applications," she continued. "So we hope people will consider purchasing grocery-store gift cards in $10 or $20 denominations so that every family that needs help at this time will be able to celebrate this truly American holiday."