Fairfax County Santa’s elves come in several forms; and in the local area, many of them are Northern Virginia Family Services volunteers. And this week, they’ll deliver Christmas presents to 589 families — some 2,100 people — in Fairfax and Prince William counties.
Among them are residents of Centreville, Chantilly and Clifton, and those numbers include more than 1,100 children. “Besides toys, we also provide food cards to every family so they can buy their holiday meal,” said Northern Virginia Family Services Director of Development Pam Ryan.
The recipients are the agency’s client families and, each year, its programs serve about 30,000 people. “NVFS provides whatever programs and/or services families need to permanently lift them out of poverty,” said Ryan. “It’s a private, nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals and families find new paths to self-reliance and brighter futures.”
Last week, volunteers were busy accepting drop-offs of new toys to sort and fill up the Northern Virginia Family Services toy closet in the Sully Place Shopping Center in Chantilly. And Ryan was thrilled with the site.
“We’re here because of Beatty Management’s generosity in donating this space for us to use for our Gifting for Families program,” she said. “It’s so important for us to have a place like this for storing and sorting the gifts.”
It’s also where the 68 caseworkers come to pick out the gifts which they’ll deliver to the particular families they serve. But, said Ryan, “This wouldn’t be possible without John Beatty’s and Beatty Management Co.’s support of and belief in our programs.”
Northern Virginia Family Services offers “Training Skills,” a 23-week job-training program for both unemployed and underemployed individuals. It provides emergency financial and food assistance and runs the 92-bed Serve shelter in Manassas. In addition, said Ryan, “We have Head Start and early Head Start programs, plus we offer our clients life-skills and financial-management programs.”
As for the gifting effort, it began in October when Northern Virginia Family Services sent out a holiday-appeal letter to its regular donors and also put it on its Web site. “We asked for food and gift cards for our Operation Turkey Thanksgiving Food program,” said Ryan. “We also asked people to consider donating new toys or gift cards for Christmas, as well.”
In return, she said, “We got a tremendous response from our thousands of individual and corporate donors. For example, many companies will do a gift card or toy drive for us.”
Northern Virginia Family Services got into its Chantilly space Dec. 10 so donors could drop off their toys and gifts there. “We’ve got a full team of about 50 volunteers that sorts the gifts into categories by age and gender,” said Ryan. “That makes it easier for the caseworkers to come in and select the specific presents for the families with which they work. They know them best, so they know what the children would like to receive.”
Volunteers include people and companies from the community, as well as students from Westfield High. But the Gifting program is only one of the many things the agency does for its clients. To learn more about its work or to volunteer for any of its programs anywhere in the area, go to www.nvfs.org.