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Votes

Helping Families in Need

Our Neighbor’s Child collecting toys, clothing.

From left are Rebecca Gallagher, Joy Hansen, Becca Owens, Kelly Domas and Madison O'Neill of Phase Cheer & Dance outside the Fair Lakes Walmart.

From left are Rebecca Gallagher, Joy Hansen, Becca Owens, Kelly Domas and Madison O'Neill of Phase Cheer & Dance outside the Fair Lakes Walmart.

How To Help ONC

  • Visit the web page at www.ourneighorschild.org for up-to-date information, current volunteer opportunities and a link for donations.
  • To “adopt” a child and purchase his or her specific clothing needs, e-mail Stephanie Somers at volunteer@ourneighborschild.org.
  • Groups or businesses still have time to host a giving tree; the link to sign up is on the Web site. ONC will provide ornaments listing a child’s specific gift wish, or organizations may host a general, gift or gift-card collection.

Gifts for young teens are particularly needed. Especially popular with teens are iTunes gift cards or Target or Walmart gift cards for clothing that allow them the opportunity to select just the right fit and style.

  • A box of homemade cookies accompanies every ONC gift delivery. More than 20,000 cookies are needed. Anyone wishing to bake cookies for the families should drop them off Thursday, Dec. 13, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Virginia Run Community Center, 15355 Wetherburn Court, off Route 29 and Pleasant Valley Road in Centreville. Any type of disposable container is fine; they’ll all be repackaged into assortments. Contact Pam Ryan at volunteer@ourneig... with any questions.
  • Packaging Day is also Dec. 13, when hundreds of volunteers will be needed to help match up each item to the children’s wish lists provided by the recipient parents.
  • Delivery Day is Sunday, Dec. 16, from 1-4 p.m. People interested in volunteering for either packaging or delivery should go to www.ourneighborsc... and click on “Volunteer Needs.”
  • To volunteer for any part of this effort or to reach someone in charge of a particular portion, e-mail volunteer@ourneig... and the e-mail will be redirected to the volunteer Project Leader organizing that event.
  • Financial contributions are more important than ever this season. These funds are critical to help ONC purchase any remaining gifts that aren’t adopted by a sponsor. Due to the increase in clothing requests this year, that number is expected to be at an all-time high.

Checks payable to Our Neighbor’s Child may be mailed to: Karen Moore, Treasurer, Our Neighbor’s Child, P.O. Box 276, Centreville, VA 20120, or online donations may be made via the “donate now” link on the ONC website, www.ourneighborschild.org. One hundred percent of the monetary contributions collected by this all-volunteer organization go directly to the purchase of gifts for local children in need.

— With only a week left until packaging day, the volunteers of Our Neighbor’s Child are working to make sure local children’s Christmas wishes come true.

The nonprofit ONC is responsible for providing new toys and clothing for 680 families — including 2,300 children — in Chantilly, Clifton, Fair Oaks and Fair Lakes. But it can only do it with the community’s help.

And although children love receiving toys and games as presents, their parents also struggle with the reality of keeping them warmly clothed during the coming winter. So now, in its 21st year, ONC finds itself inundated with clothing requests.

“Our clothing request list is more than twice what it was last year,” said ONC Clothing Coordinator Stephanie Somers. “More children are receiving free and reduced-price lunches at school, so that means more families here are in need. That’s what motivates me each day to try to fill all these requests — but we need more people willing to help buy clothes for these children.”

Many of the clothing requests are listed on ornaments on the giving trees in various local churches, schools and businesses. People may also contact Somers at volunteer@ourneighborschild.org to fulfill children’s clothing needs.

This year, because the need for clothes is so acute, Somers said parents aren’t requesting particular styles or colors of clothing for their children. They just need clothing — period.

“I think that, because of the economy, people need anything and everything,” she said. “At this point, what I’m hoping for is to give a whole outfit to each child. That includes basic school clothes — shirts, pants, sweaters, underwear, etc. — as well as coats, jackets, scarves and mittens.”

Actually, said Somers, “The clothing need is so huge that it’s been very eye-opening. Parents just want something clean, new and good for their children to wear. And it may be one of the few times all year that they get something new.”

Being ONC’s clothing coordinator, she said, is “so rewarding and wonderful, but the demand for help is so overwhelming. But when people e-mail me and say they’ll take care of some children’s clothing needs, I’m just so happy.”

Also important, said ONC Executive Director Kelly Lavin, is support for Stone Middle School’s Panther Pick-Up/Drop-Off. The event is this Saturday, Dec. 8, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Area residents may bring new clothes and toys to the school, and it will all be donated to ONC.

Stone students will be posted in front of the school for drive-by drop off of new clothing, toys, books and/or games, and Westfield High students will be on hand to make pick-ups. To arrange for a pick up, e-mail the address to PantherPickup@ourneighborschild.org.

Those unable to make it to Stone on Saturday may also go to the ONC Web site at www.ourneighborschild.org. and click on the “donate now” link. Monetary contributions made there will also help purchase the needed clothing.

“Our Neighbor’s Child is not subsidized and there’s no funding,” said Lavin. “It’s the goodness of the community’s heart — and everyone pulling together — that makes it happen.”

Each family in need has a story and many of them are heartbreaking. And ONC data manager Nicole Rogers hears them all.

For example, she said, “We have families that have recently been foreclosed upon and are living in hotels. Some are single parents who’ve been injured in car accidents and are unable to work. Others have only asked for grocery-store gifts cards so their children won’t go hungry. A couple families are living in their cars, and one family of four is living on $520/month.”

Whatever is collected will be packaged Dec. 13 and delivered on Sunday, Dec. 16. But with so many families receiving gifts, it’s a monumental task, and more residents are needed to help with the deliveries.

“We have a lot of deliveries to make, but we can only do them if the community shows up to help,” said Lavin. “Directions and maps are provided to each driver.” To lend a hand, go to www.ourneighborschild.org and click on “Volunteer Needs.”

Meanwhile, there’s still a lot of work to do and a lot of children’s gift wishes still unfulfilled. “I’m definitely concerned about the clothing needs and the impact it’ll have on the families if not enough clothing — or the donations needed to purchase it — come in,” said Lavin.

“But each year, there are a lot of unsung heroes who make all this possible,” she continued. “And the community has always come through for us in the past, so I’m confident that it’ll do it again — I have faith.”