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Wish List Grows with Every Year

Great Falls resident Ginger Mahon continues to organize and run successful Embry Rucker Community Shelter gift program.

Every year the gifts keep piling up in Ginger Mahon’s home — which is just how she likes it.

“It’s bigger than ever,” said Mahon as she supervised the delivery of gifts in her Great Falls home on Saturday, Dec. 15.

Mahon started her “Project Wish List” in 2005, and the successful charitable project has grown with every passing holiday season. Working in conjunction with Reston Interfaith and the Embry Rucker Community Shelter, Mahon recruited families from Forestville Elementary School to sponsor individuals and families from the shelter. The individuals and families supply Mahon with their holiday wish lists, and each Forestville family fulfills the requests of their assigned family or individual. The first year that Mahon organized the project, she collected gifts for 10 families and 40 individuals. This year, she collected gifts for 45 families and over 313 individuals. She also added another shelter to the program, the new Katherine Hanley Shelter in Centreville.

“I think it’s an amazing project,” said Susan Stolpe, volunteer manager at Reston Interfaith. “We always appreciate that the program is genuinely geared towards the people who we serve, and Ginger will do whatever we ask her to that will best meet the needs of the families — and you can really see that through the personalization of all the gifts.”

LOCATED in Reston and operated by Reston Interfaith, the Embry Rucker Community Shelter provides 70 beds each night for men, women and families. In the winter, another 15 beds are made available to prevent hypothermia among people who are homeless. Drop-in services such as hot meals, laundry and shower facilities are also available for unsheltered homeless people. The Project Wish List recipients include teenagers, parents, children and people of all religious backgrounds. As Stolpe pointed out, some of the Embry Rucker Shelter residents asked for clothing that conformed to their religious beliefs, and their community benefactors made sure to honor their wishes.

“Some of the women asked for clothing based on their religious traditions, and they did a really good job with that, and that’s so rare,” said Stolpe.

According to Stolpe, Reston Interfaith begins coordinating Project Wish List with Mahon as early as September.

“The first question she always asks is ‘what can I do?’” said Stolpe. “She doesn’t come with her own agenda — she just wants to provide us with the most support possible. She really gets it.”

Although the bulk of Project Wish List benefactors came from Forestville Elementary School families, there were others who simply heard about Mahon’s efforts via word of mouth. Alexandria resident Deborah Oberly read an article about Mahon in Northern Virginia magazine and volunteered to sponsor a family and a teenager.

“It’s just the best of things, and it’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Oberly of the project. “But it’s the people like Ginger and her husband who open up their house and organize and collect everything who are really helping out. It’s so easy to contribute — they’re the ones who have done all the hard work.”

Oberly said she chose Project Wish List over other potential charities because of its commitment to local families and individuals.

“It’s a way to give back to local families and local foster kids and that’s always nice,” said Oberly. “This is going to go to needy families and needy kids, and it’s Christmas. I’m definitely going to do this next year — it restores your faith in humanity.”