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Editorial: Holidays Are About Giving in Potomac

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

— 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 Montgomery County Public Schools, 35 percent of the 151,000 students qualify for subsidized meals, a significant measure of poverty. That's more than 52,000 students. 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.

It’s hard to imagine more than 50,000 students going hungry in Montgomery County. 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.

Hundreds of homeless students attend the public schools, and their needs are greater.

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

Potomac: Where to Give Locally

Manna Food Center, 9311 Gaither Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, 301-424-1130 www.mannafood.org

Manna Food Center, the main food bank in Montgomery County, strives to eliminate hunger through food distribution, education, and advocacy. Manna has distributed more than 43 million pounds of food to more than 2.7 million individuals. Manna provided food to 5 percent of Montgomery County residents this past year.

Mercy Health Clinic, www.mercyhealthclinic.org,

7 Metropolitan Court, Suite 1, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Mercy Health Clinic is a free, community-based volunteer organization providing quality healthcare to uninsured, low-income residents of Montgomery County. The clinic, located in Gaithersburg, depends on the expertise of volunteers, healthcare professionals and support from community partners to provide quality care to those in need. The clinic is staffed with medical professionals including family practice physicians, cardiologists, endocrinologists, nurse practitioners, nurse assistants, translators and behavioral health counselors.

Interfaith Works, www.iworksmc.org, 114 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville, MD 20850, Interfaith Works provides shelter, food, and clothing to low-income and homeless neighbors.

Potomac Community Resources, http://pcr-inc.org/ 9200 Kentsdale Drive, Potomac, MD 20854, Phone: 301-365-0561 Potomac Community Resources, Inc. (PCR) provides therapeutic, recreational, social, and respite care programs for teens and adults with developmental differences, as well as information about community resources for families.

Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, www.mcch.net, 600-B East Gude Drive, Rockville, MD 20850 301-217-0314

Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH), a community-based nonprofit organization, is a leading provider of permanent housing, intermediate housing, emergency shelter, and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness. MCCH programs serve 1,600 men, women and children each year.

Shepherd’s Table, www.shepherdstable.org, 8210 Dixon Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910, 301-585-646

Shepherd's Table is a nonprofit organization in downtown Silver Spring, supported by volunteers, religious organizations, government, businesses, foundations, and individual donors. Shepherd’s Table provides help to people who are homeless or in need by providing basic services, including meals, social services, medical support, clothing, and other assistance.

Fisher House, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, www.fisherhouse.org, 111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420, Rockville, Maryland 20850 | (888) 294-8560

The Fisher House program supports members of the military and their families when they travel great distances for specialized medical care. Fisher House Foundation donates “comfort homes,” built on the grounds of major military and Veterans medical centers, including Walter Reed in Bethesda. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times.

Friends in Action, www.iworksmc.org/friends-in-action, 114 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville, MD 20850, 301-762-8682

Founded by Interfaith Works (formerly Community Ministry of Montgomery County) in 1986, Friends In Action recruits and trains a network of people from all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. Volunteer mentoring teams are linked for one year in a supportive relationship to a needy family in their community. The goal of the program is to help the family identify their strengths and develop attainable and manageable goals that guide them toward financial independence and personal well being.