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Editorial: Holidays Are About Giving in Arlington

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

Give Locally

In no particular order:

Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs (AMEN) provides one-time, same-day emergency financial assistance to Arlington residents facing a financial crisis, and also has programs to help prevent homelessness. 703-558-0035 www.emergencyneeds.org

Doorways for Women and Families provides services to help women out of domestic violence and homelessness toward safe and stable lives, Arlington www.doorwaysva.org 703-504-9400

The Arlington Food Assistance Center provides supplemental food assistance to Arlington County residents, on average serving 3,500 adults and 1,500 children a week, plus weekend backpacks for about 300 homeless children attending the public schools in Arlington. 2708 South Nelson Street, Arlington, VA 22206 http://www.afac.org/ 703-845-8486

Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, Arlington, 703-521-9890

Arlington Free Clinic provides medical care for low-income, uninsured adults in Arlington. www.arlingtonfreeclinic.org 2921 11th St. South, Arlington, VA 22204 703-979-1425

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

A-SPAN provides services for Arlington’s street homeless. Our mission is to secure permanent housing for one of Arlington’s most vulnerable populations. P.O. Box 100731 Arlington, VA 22210 703-820-4357 http://www.a-span.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 Arlington County Public Schools, for example, more than 7,000 of the 22,800 public school students qualify to receive free or subsidized meals, a significant measure of poverty. That’s about 30 percent, but some schools have a much higher percentage of poor students. While Yorktown High School has about 13 percent of students qualifying for subsidized meals, at Wakefield, it’s more than 48 percent. Elementary schools in Arlington where the majority of students are poor: Abington, 50 percent; Barcroft, 61 percent; Barrett, 52 percent; Campbell, 56 percent; Carlin Springs, 85 percent; Drew Model, 54 percent; Hoffman-Boston, 65 percent; Randolph, 73 percent.

Arlington schools have about 300 students who are homeless any one time, and those students often don’t know when they will get their next meal when they are not in school. Arlington Food Assistance Center, in addition to feeding 3,500 adults and 1,500 children each week, provides weekend backpacks of food for homeless students to help see them through until the next school day.

In fact, many poor students rely on breakfast and lunch at school as their reliable meals, and several groups work to provide weekend snacks for these students as well, although the need outstrips the help available.

It’s hard to imagine more than 7,000 students going hungry in Arlington; 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.