Although the calendar says we are in the season for sharing and giving, the mood in the United States seems conducive to neither. In Virginia, the majority in the House of Delegates continues to block using federally available millions to help with very basic healthcare for 400,000 low-income Virginians. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, supported sorry to say by our own Democratic congressman, just voted to essentially block desperate women, children and men refugees driven out by the war in Syria from coming to the U.S.--this, despite the fact that the U.S. is an active contributor to the Syrian conflict, raining bombs on their country. Then, there is the disgusting competition among the Republican candidates running for President to see who’d build the biggest walls along our borders or round up the most undocumented women and children to evict them from the country. And, I won’t even get into Conservative efforts to redistribute from poor and middle-income families to their patrons in the top one percent!
In Reston at this time of year and all year around, in fact, we have competition of a different sort. We have several wonderful volunteer-driven charitable organizations which go all out to help neighbors in need. What makes these nonprofits so great is that they run on our donations and our volunteer effort. Some of my personal favorites are Cornerstones (formerly Reston Interfaith), Herndon-Reston FISH, and the Giving Circle of Hope.
Cornerstones is perhaps the finest charitable organization in the Washington Metropolitan area. Originally and for many years called Reston Interfaith, Cornerstones changed its name in part to reflect the growing number of people it serves. It provides people in need with a range of emergency assistance, but its overarching goal is to assist beneficiaries to achieve self-sufficiency. Its broadly representative Board and superb management team direct food, emergency shelter, basic life skills training and affordable housing to those in need while also serving as their advocates for more supportive public policy, Cornerstones receives some assistance from public agencies, but it relies largely on our help for funding and volunteers who make up a large part of its workforce. For more info and to find out how to contribute, go to www.cornerstonesva.org or call 703-323-9555.
The Giving Circle of Hope is another well-run nonprofit serving Reston. The Circle has a different approach. It seeks to energize and leverage broader support for those in need by making modest grants to exceptional startup and promising smaller nonprofits. In their relatively short history, they have already given over $750,000 to important new charitable initiatives. Go to www.GivingCircleofHope.org to learn more and see how you can contribute.
An organization I have done some heavy lifting for (picking up and delivering furniture for families in need) is Herndon-Reston FISH. A low-budget, volunteer-driven organization, FISH (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help) does a fine job providing very basic assistance to very low income families in often dire need. In addition to operating the Bargain Loft second-hand store located in the Herndon industrial park on Sunset Hills Road just across the Reston frontier in Herndon, FISH offers emergency rent, food, and other assistance to those in crisis situations. For more info or to contribute money or time, go to www.HerndonRestonFISH.org or call 703-391-0105.
These are by no means the only worthy charitable organizations serving our community, but they are certainly among the very best. The need for their services exceeds the resources they have. They need our help, especially at this time of year. Please consider them when you make your holiday sharing decisions.