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MOMS Club Seeks Service Opportunities

Club’s open house examines ways for families to volunteer.

Maddie Pelgrim, a sophomore at Oakton High School and founder of Maddie’s Blankets, leads a briefing during a volunteer event.

Maddie Pelgrim, a sophomore at Oakton High School and founder of Maddie’s Blankets, leads a briefing during a volunteer event. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— The Herndon Moms Offering Moms Support (MOMS) club hosted an open house at ArtSpace Thursday, Jan. 17, to help local families discover ways they can serve their community. The open house brought in representatives from Volunteer Fairfax, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Maddie’s Blankets and Fairfax Releaf provided multiple ways for families to get involved, depending on their interests.

"We do an annual service project and a few fundraisers every year, but we wanted to focus on specific ways that families with younger children can get everyone involved," said Jenn Zschunke of the MOMS club.

Recently the club has made connections with service events such as Honor Flights, where military veterans visit Washington, D.C., and Color A Smile, which distributes drawings to nursing homes, Meals on Wheels programs and others.

"We know families are busy, but we also want to present as many opportunities as we can, so people can commit to things they like, or their children will be interested in," said club member Maura Culligan. "We’re excited to harness the energy of this club and turn it into service opportunities."

Volunteer Fairfax is a way for residents to search out service opportunities all around the county that cater to a variety of different interests. They maintain a database on their website that is searchable by date, event and even age group.

"We aim to connect people to events that are family friendly and convenient, especially when students’ service hours are due," said Meg Emery of Volunteer Fairfax. "Two of our biggest events are our Global Youth Service Day which is the last weekend in April, as well as our Volunteer Fest in October."

Information and the searchable database can be found at www.volunterfairfax.org.

Fairfax Releaf is a nonprofit whose volunteers plant and preserve trees, as well as restore other natural habitats in the county.

"We host spring and fall tree plantings where families, including children as young as 3, can show up and plant a tree," said Kelly Wagner of Fairfax Releaf. "We also schedule special planting events for groups that would like to plant trees on their owns, whether its at parks, yards, on HOA land, whatever the group is interested in."

Wagner recommends that organizations interested in spring plantings get in touch with Releaf soon, because months such as April are very popular and can fill up quickly.

Releaf also scouts locations for their plantings, which includes getting utility lines marked. Their goal is to plant at least 10,000 seedlings per year.

More information is available at www.farifaxreleaf.org.

Maddie Pelgrim, a sophomore at Oakton High School, has been helping families get involved in community service for the past six years. When she was 10 she founded Maddie’s Blankets, and since then the group has made more than 10,000 fleece blankets for people and pets in need.

"It started when I was volunteering at PetSmart and I noticed the animals were resting on things like old towels and pillowcases. So we worked with some different blanket prototypes and came up with what we’re using now," Pelgrim said. "We’ve got the process down pretty well. The older kids make small cuts along the edges of pieces of fleece, which they do to get service hours. Then the younger children take two pieces of fleece, tie the frayed ends together, and you’ve got a blanket."

Pelgrim’s organization provides blankets to animal shelters, foster care homes and transitional housing. The first year they put out 200 blankets, in 2012 alone they made more than 4,000. Pelgrim says her goal is to put out a total of 20,000 before she graduates college in two years.

More information is available at www.maddiesblankets.org.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is the world’s largest organization funding research and providing support to those affected by blood cancer. Their annual Light the Night Walk at Reston Town Center raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

The LLS also reaches out to schools every year with their Pennies for Patients Program, which since 1994 has given children in schools around the country a chance to turn their spare change into support for a cause.

Schools, as well as organizations like MOMS can also hold events and collect change.

"We’re hoping to raise $875,000 during this year’s campaign, which takes place over a three-week period in February and March for schools," said Joanna Hatch of the LLS. "The National Capital Region is a big one for us, last year the two highest fundraisers in the nation were Walt Whitman High School and Walter Johnson High School in Maryland, so we know to expect big things."

Schools and organizations can sign up for Pennies for Patients at www.schoolandyouth.org. This year’s Light the Night Walk at Reston Town Center will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5.