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Editorial: Holidays Are About Giving in Alexandria

So many needs, so many great organizations, give locally where your heart leads you.

Alexandria: Where to Give Locally

ALIVE! 703-837-9300 www.alive-inc.org, Emergency food assistance, emergency financial assistance, shelter, year-round preschool, furniture and housewares.

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, 703-237-0866, www.lcnv.org, Teaches adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking and understanding English. Offers one-to-one tutoring programs for adult learners as well as beginning-level ESOL and Family Learning adult programs.

Senior Services of Alexandria, 703-836-4414, www.seniorservicesalex.org, Support services for elders enabling them to age with dignity.

Tahirih Justice Center, 703-575-0070, www.tahirih.org, Legal services, public policy advocacy, and education for immigrant women and girls.

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, 703-746-4774, www.alexandriaanimals.org, Pet adoptions, spay and neuter assistance, education and community service and outreach.

Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia, 703-820-9001, www.scanva.org, Parent education, public education-re: child abuse and court advocacy for abused and neglected children.

Rebuilding Together Alexandria, 703-836-1021, www.RebuildingTogetherAlex.org, Home repair and maintenance for vulnerable veterans, elderly, disabled and families with children.

ACT for Alexandria, 703-739-7778, www.actforalexandria.org, Nonprofit and donor services.

Alexandria Community Services Board, www.alexandriava.gov/mhmrsa, Crisis intervention services, elderly needs, mental health, substance abuse, mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, 703-525-7177, www.aachhomeless.org.

Carpenter's Shelter, 703 548-7500, www.carpentersshelter.org, Homeless services and programs including education and case management.

The Campagna Center, 703-549-0111, www.campagnacenter.org

Center for Alexandria’s Children, 703-838-4381, www.centerforalexandriaschildren.org, Child abuse & neglect and parent support.

Child and Family Network Centers, 703-836- 0214, www.cfnc-online.org

Community Lodgings, Inc., 703-549-4407 Transitional and affordable housing, youth education, adult education, bilingual staff assistance.

Computer C.O.R.E. 703-931-7346, www.computercore.org, Adult education, computer training and career development.

Hopkins House, 703-549-8072, www.hopkinshouse.org, Preschool academy, family budgeting and literacy, family education and youth summer enrichment camp, Early Childhood Learning Institute.

Northern Virginia Family Services, 703-385-3267, www.nvfs.org, Employment and job training, healthcare, housing, mental health, foster care and Healthy Families (home visitations to new parents).

Volunteer Alexandria, 703-836-2176, http://volunteeralexandria.org, Volunteer recruitment and placement, court-referred community service placement, community awareness events, and volunteer management training. See www.achsova.org.>

— The holidays are about giving. They are about children. The holidays are about sharing, about joy, about alleviating suffering for others. The holidays are about being thankful and about faith and appreciation.

Most of us live in neighborhoods that are very homogenous. There are exceptions, but most people reading this live in affluent areas where the houses are mostly in the same price range, and while there might be some ethnic diversity, there is little in the way of economic diversity.

It’s easy to forget that there are massive unmet needs, hungry children, homeless families most with at least one working parent, homeless individuals with jobs and without jobs, people who don’t know for sure whether they will have enough to eat or be able to be warm enough, people who are choosing between medical care and car repair when forgoing the car repair could mean losing a job.

In Alexandria, nearly 8 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. That’s $19,500 for family of three.

In Alexandria Public Schools, 8,100 of the system’s 13,000 students qualify to receive free or subsidized meals, a significant measure of poverty. This is about 60 percent of all students enrolled in the public schools, although some schools have a much higher percentage of poor students. At William Ramsay Elementary School, Patrick Henry, Jefferson-Houston and Cora Kelly, more than 80 percent of students are poor.

Many elementary schools staff are discovering that for some of these students, a majority of students in some schools, they only meals the can count on are breakfast and lunch on school days.

Nonprofits, school staff and individuals have been working to send backpacks of healthy, kid-friendly food home with students on the weekend. For example, the Assistance League of Northern Virginia provides weekend bags of food for 1,200 poor students once a month at six elementary schools around Northern Virginia, including Cora Kelly.

It’s hard to imagine more than 8,000 students going hungry in Alexandria; it’s obvious that children who aren’t sure they will be able to eat when they are hungry are not going to have joyous holidays filled with family meals, gifts and special activities.

There are literally hundreds, probably thousands, of ways to give locally this season. Here are a few ideas. We welcome suggestions for other groups.