How to Help
Want to help? Need some help? Here’s some contact information for some of the organizations in the area ready to lend a hand, or accept your time or donations.
Cornerstones – 11150 Sunset Hills, #210, Reston. 571-323-9555. Family services, food drives, shelter, more. www.cornerstonesva.com.
Emergency Shelter – Embry Rucker Community Shelter. 11975 Bowman Town Drive, Reston, 703-437-1975.
FAITH – 795 Center St. Unit 2, Herndon. 571-323-2198. Family services, housing, immediate assistance, food pantry, thrift shop, more. www.faithus.org
Herndon-Reston FISH – 336 Victory Dr., Herndon. 703-391-0105. The Bargain Loft Thrift Shop is located at that address. Emergency financial assistance, transportation, financial seminars, more. 703/437-0600. www.herndonrestonfish.org
Floris United Methodist Church – 13600 Frying Pan Rd., Herndon. 703-793-0026. www.florisumc.org
North County Hypothermia Prevention Program – In Reston, offering shelter from December until the end of March. 571-323-1383 or 571-323-9569.
2014 hasn’t been a good year for “Arleta” (name has been changed for anonymity) of Herndon. It started off with the loss of her husband to cancer, leaving her the single parent of twin 8-year-old boys. Arleta gave up her full-time job earlier to care for her husband and to spend as much time as possible with her frightened children. With no family nearby and Arleta only able to find part time work at not much more than minimum wage, things have been difficult for the still-grieving family. “But we can’t complain,” she said. “We got it better than a lot of people. We are making it. We got a place to live.”
Arleta and her family have enough to cover the basics, and she has hopes that a better job is not far off in the future, but the “basics” means rent, food, utilities and not much more. Certainly not enough to enjoy the traditional feast that is synonymous with Thanksgiving, and certainly not enough to put anything under the Christmas tree except maybe much-needed new jeans or shoes for school. Not enough for the Hot Wheels Remote Control car that one son wishes for, nor the special Lego collection that his brother really wants. “I was sad about that,” Arleta admitted. “But what can you do?” Apparently, in this community – plenty.
A friend suggested that Arleta seek just that bit of help that she and her family needed. “I didn’t really think there was anything like that out there for us,” she said. “We are not homeless, and I do have a job, so I didn’t think anybody could help with such simple things.”
But there is help to provide for those “simple” things, and for the more extreme needs, courtesy of an army of caring individuals and organizations right here in our neighborhood.
CORNERSTONES, formerly Reston Interfaith, is one of those organizations. Starting some 43 years ago serving the Reston community, the nonprofit group now embraces those in need in most of northwestern Fairfax County. And in just a few days, they will be distributing Thanksgiving food kits for almost 1,000 registered families from the main collection site at St. John Neumann Catholic Church on Lawyers Road. Dozens of volunteers have been busy collecting and sorting the donations from the generous community, and will be on hand to help facilitate the distribution. The food boxes include all of the non-perishables needed to make a full Thanksgiving meal, as well as a gift card to one of the local grocery stores so there will be turkey on the menu, as well – even for Arleta. “My boys are so excited,” she declared. “We didn’t have Thanksgiving last year, so they are really looking forward to this.”
Those two young men are in for yet another happy surprise, thanks to the Gifts for Kids Drive through Cornerstones. Registration to make a child’s Christmas Wish come true ended Nov. 21, but it never hurts to check in with the group and see if more items are still needed so that no wish asked for through the program will go unanswered. Gift collection will take place on Dec. 4, 5, and 6 at Cornerstones’ main office in Reston.
Cornerstones aren’t the only ones looking out for our most vulnerable neighbors.
HERNDON-RESTON FISH (Friendly, Instant, Sympathetic Help) has been on the job since 1969. They, too, are running their annual Thanksgiving Food Drive and will prepare their baskets at the United Christian Parish Church in Reston. While this may be the extra-busy “Season of Giving,” like Cornerstones and many other service organizations, FISH operates year-round “helping people meet emergencies and short-term needs…working closely with social workers from Fairfax County, other nonprofits and local hospitals.” The group also runs the Bargain Loft at 336 Victory Drive in Herndon, a thrift store selling quality furniture, household items, toys, and more. FISH also conducts financial literacy seminars and arranges rides for Herndon and Reston residents to get to medical appointments. Donations and volunteers are always welcome.
Christmas wishes will also be granted by the “elves” of Floris United Methodist Church (FUMC) in Herndon. Continuing a well-established tradition, the Hall at FUMC will once again house several Christmas trees decorated with “Wish List” tags that will fulfill the wishes of several area recipients, including families whose children attend local Hutchison Elementary. Non-members are welcomed to visit the church and participate in the program.
Last year’s “Alternative Giving (AG) Program” was such a success, that it will make a repeat appearance, reported Cynthia Lopynski, FUMC Director of Communications. The concept behind AG is to make a donation in someone’s name, like that family member or friend who just doesn’t need or want anything else from the general gift pool, or whom you would just like to honor. This year’s AG collection will support FUMC’s “Packaging Events.” (Yes, I, too, had to ask!) Lopynski explained that the “Packaging Events” were becoming a signature activity of the church. “Basically, we stick 100-150 people in a room and get them to assembly-line stuff 1200 plus backpacks with ziplocked meal items and other things – all in about 30 to 45 minutes! We’ve gotten quite good at it!” FUMC has “Packaged” at other times of the year, “But we just saw a need right now, so this is a new addition to our Season of Giving.” Funds raised through AG will also assist a nutrition program at Mercy Hospital in Sierra Leone. Or you can buy “Beans for Bo” – that’s coffee beans - to support the Child Rescue Center, in Bo, Sierra Leone. Again, church membership is not required to make an Alternative Giving Donation.
Cornerstones Rapid Rehousing Program will also benefit from the generosity of the FUMC congregation this year. The program has been added to the list of the recipients who receive the donated offerings from the church’s Christmas Eve services. “We are pleased that with these offerings, Floris United Methodist has the opportunity to help move families out of the Embry Rucker Shelter (a Cornerstones facility) and into safe and permanent housing,” Lopynski stated.
If your personal “Season of Giving” spirit has been roused by what you have been reading, and you think you have missed all of the donation deadlines, fear not. There is still time to join in. How about donating a coat to the Winter Coat Closet? Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, in partnership with Cornerstones, once again supports the Winter Coat Project. Last year about 5,000 coats were distributed. New or gently used and cleaned coats can be brought to the Winter Coat Closet at 11494 Washington Plaza West in Reston through November 30. The Closet is open for those needing coats now until March on Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – noon, Thursdays, 6 – 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Best to check the Cornerstones website for any changes. The Closet will not be open on Saturday, Nov. 28.
And there’s never any deadline to donate food to the Food Pantry or the Thrift Shop run by FAITH – the Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help – in Herndon. The nonprofit was officially established in 1999, although many dedicated volunteers had been doing the work through the social services group at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Herndon for many years. FAITH also owns and manages transitional housing units as part of their Family Assistance efforts.
Arleta wanted to be sure that her appreciation and that of her children was sent out to all who have assisted them with their “simple things.” With so much work being done by so many and so many willing to share with our less fortunate neighbors, sounds like there’s plenty of “Thanks” in this Thanksgiving to go around for this season and well beyond.