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Making Spirits Bright

FACETS helps children give presents to their siblings.

Bank of America volunteers wrapping presents are (from left) Amilcar Ferrufino, Mauricio Matallana, Carmen Berdea and Maria Sorto.

Bank of America volunteers wrapping presents are (from left) Amilcar Ferrufino, Mauricio Matallana, Carmen Berdea and Maria Sorto. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

No matter people’s income levels, their children still want presents at Christmastime. So each year, FACETS holds Sibling Shops, enabling children to peruse a variety of toys, games and other items, select gifts for their brothers and sisters and have them wrapped.

The events are also holiday parties, involving food, games and crafts, and the nonprofit FACETS hosts four of them this week. FACETS helps people suffering the effects of poverty in Fairfax County. It works with families living in public-housing communities and having an average income under $20,000 for a family of four. It also helps those who are, or recently were, homeless.

The first party was Monday evening at the Ragan Oaks Community Center in Fair Oaks, and those attending live in the Ragan Oaks apartments. It was divided into two parties for about 50 people total; the first was for children ages 3-12 and the second for youth ages 12-18.

ABOUT NINE VOLUNTEERS from the Bank of America provided the decorations, games and refreshments and wrapped the presents. “I like helping the kids,” said Madeeha Jauhar. “Before school started, I volunteered with FACETS to collect school supplies and distributed them to the kids. I liked seeing their faces—they were so happy.”

Volunteer Nadia Chaudry enjoyed the holiday party, as well. “It feels so good to help out and watch the children have a good time,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve attended this party; I heard about it from Madeeha and wanted to come.”

Melissa Edwards, volunteer manager for FACETS, said the organization also runs after-school programs for children and adults, all year ’round, at the Ragan Oaks Community Center. There are boys’ and girls’ groups, homework-help groups, arts and crafts, plus ESL classes for adults. But Edwards especially likes the Sibling Shops.

“Every year, FACETS gets donations for children, teens and adults from the community so kids can ‘shop’ for gifts for their brothers and sisters,” she explained. “It’s set up like a store, and volunteers walk them through and assist them in selecting age- and gender-appropriate gifts.”

FACETS also recruits groups to host and provide volunteers for each Sibling Shop. The Dec. 11 event at the Old Town Hall in Fairfax was hosted by Centrepointe Church. GMU’s Alpha Omicron Pi sorority hosted the Dec. 12 Sibling Shop at nearby Robinson Square, and Brandywine Realty Trust is hosting the Dec. 13 event at Barros Circle in Centreville.

In addition, a Sibling Shop for children not housed in one of FACETS’s family centers was hosted by Deloitte. All together, these holiday parties provided some 160 children with gifts to give to their family members.

“I get to work with the volunteers and donors and see how giving the community is,” said Edwards, a GMU and 2008 Robinson Secondary grad. “And it’s good to see how people are so willing to give back to the community I grew up in—and then reach out and do more.”

At Monday evening’s party, Lina Badawi, 9, a third-grader at Eagle View Elementary, picked out a makeup set for her older sister and an art kit for her 4-year-old sister. Children were able to get one gift for each of their siblings. Lina said it was fun “because you got to get presents and play games and stuff.”

SHOPPING TOGETHER were Lanier Middle students Sobia Latif and Mairah Mehtab with Fairfax High freshman Zerrnish Khan. Latif selected a toy car for her 7-year-old brother. Mehtab chose iPhone speakers for her brother and a basketball from him to her because he couldn’t come to the party. Khan got headphones for her brother, 18, and a Barbie doll for her 8-year-old sister.

Latif had a good time because “the volunteers were nice” and she was shopping with her friends. Agreeing, Mehtab said, “We could talk to each other while we picked out the presents and had food.” Added Khan: “We want to say thank you to everybody who made this possible.”

Lanier eighth-grader Courtnie Lucas, 13, chose a football for her 14-year-old brother and nail polish for her sister, 15. She enjoyed playing the game “Apples to Apples” at the holiday party and said the Sibling Shop was great because “it had stuff my brother and sister actually like.”

Fairfax High seniors Oghuz Anwar and Musse Ali also shopped together. Saying, “I always have a good time here,” Anwar got a basketball for his younger brother. “Some people don’t have money to celebrate the holidays, so this is a good idea,” he said. “It gives kids something to play with and keeps them away from bad influences.”

Ali selected an “iCarly” traffic signal for his 7-year-old sister. Noting that “we grew up here,” he said everyone attending the Sibling Shop really appreciated the efforts of those who put it on. Said Ali: “In volunteering, they’re putting in a lot of time and hours to help other people.”