Editorial: Holidays Are About Giving

Editorial: Holidays Are About Giving

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

Northern Virginia is among the wealthiest areas in the country, and many if not most of us go through our usual routines without encountering evidence of needy families among us.

But more than 51,000 children who attend Fairfax County Public Schools are poor enough to receive free or subsidized meals, a significant measure of poverty. That’s 28 percent of students in Fairfax County Public Schools.

In Arlington more than 31 percent of the students are poor enough to receive free or subsidized meals; that’s 7,749 students at last count.

In Alexandria, 8,664 students are poor enough to receive free or subsidized meals. That’s 59 percent of the 14,671 students enrolled.

These are children who are living in families who may be on the brink of homelessness, families who must choose between medical bills, car repair, heat and food. These are children who may not be sure that they will have a meal between the meals they get in school. School holidays can bring uncertainty and hunger, a far cry from the celebrations, gifts and plenty that we associate with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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 will rerun this list again during the holiday, so let us know what we have missed.

Where to Give Locally in Fairfax County

  • Cornerstones, 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston, serving Reston and Herndon. 571-323-9555, www.cornerstonesva.org. Nonprofit providing support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, quality childcare, and other human services. Programs and services include the Embry Rucker Community Shelter, Emergency Food Pantry, Hypothermia Prevention Program, Thanksgiving Food Drive, Gifts for Kids and annual Coat Drive. Sign up this week to give Gifts for Kids, Alacia Earley at 571-323-9568 or alacia.earley@cornerstonesva.org. Hunter Mill District Winter Coat Closet distributed over 5,500 winter coats and jackets last winter, plus over 4,000 hats, gloves, mittens and scarves to individuals and families in need of winter gear. Bring coat donations to the North County Governmental Building, 1801 Cameron Glen Drive, Reston, VA 20190 through Feb. 29, 2016, 24 hours a day.
  • SHARE of McLean operates a food pantry; provides assistance to families to avoid eviction, keep utilities on and meet other needs in a crisis; provided gift cards and holiday presents to over 230 needy families, including 650 household members, last holiday season. Donate online or contact 703 - 229-1414. www.SHAREofMcLean.org info@shareofmclean.org
  • Alternative House — Abused and Homeless Children's Refuge, 2100 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA 22182, 703-506-9191. Now have a new program to help young people who are homeless while still in high school and who don't have the support of a parent or guardian. Requests for food and clothing are up more than 50 percent. www.thealternativehouse.org.
  • LINK, serving Herndon, Chantilly, Loudoun and more, needs contributions of food, coats and holiday toys for children, plus volunteers. More than 4,000 adults and children have signed up for help with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. 703-437-1776 www.linkagainsthunger.org.
  • Herndon-Reston FISH (For Immediate Sympathetic Help), 336 Victory Drive, Herndon, 703-391-0105 http://herndonrestonfish.org
  • Committee for Helping Others (CHO), Vienna, organized in 1969 by a group of churches and individuals in the Dunn Loring, Merrifield, Oakton, Vienna community to provide simple, loving charity to those in need. Last year 450 children had a special Christmas through the annual Christmas Store. Collecting gently used jackets and bikes, new toys, gift cards for teens, and food gift cards. Drop gently used bikes off at the Vienna Presbyterian 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28. On Friday, Dec. 11, bring new, unwrapped toys for children ages 1-12, gift cards for teens, and food gift cards. Volunteers needed Saturday, Dec. 12, we to help clients shop at Vienna Presbyterian Church, call at 703-281-7614 and leave a message in box #1. http://www.cho-va.com
  • Northern Virginia Family Service. Mail check or Shoppers Food Warehouse gift card to Northern Virginia Family Service, ATTN: Operation Turkey, 10455 White Granite Drive, Suite 100, Oakton, VA 22124. Gifting for Families was able to bring some extra holiday cheer to 2,122 children in Northern Virginia last year. Monetary contributions and online donations help the most. www.nvfs.org. Contact Pam Boyle at pboyle@nvfs.org or 571-748-2537.
  • Touching Heart in Herndon is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate children to have giving hearts. http://www.touchingheart.com, 703-901-7355
  • Western Fairfax Christian Ministries — food pantry at 13981 Metrotech Drive in Chantilly (near Backyard Grill and Bar). For more information or to sponsor a family, call 703-988-9656, ext. 105. To mail gift cards or send donations by check, add a note saying "food basket program" and send them to: WFCM, P.O. Box 220802, Chantilly, VA 20153. 703-988-9656.
  • HomeAid builds and renovates facilities that house the homeless, and partners with many local organizations to do so. 3684 Centerview Drive, Suite 110B, Chantilly, Va. 20151 http://www.homeaidnova.org/
  • FACETS helps parents, their children and individuals who suffer the effects of poverty in the Fairfax area, a partner in efforts to end homelessness in Fairfax County. FACETS is always in need of volunteers, and offers a variety of one-time and ongoing opportunities. 703-865-4251 or volunteer@facetscares.org. www.facetscares.org. 10640 Page Avenue, Suite 300, Fairfax VA 22030
  • Our Daily Bread in Fairfax expects to have 3,000 individuals and families on their list for the Holiday Program which helps those in need with food for the holidays and gifts for children. For more information on their holiday programs, including how to sponsor a family, go to www.odbfairfax.com/holiday
  • Fairfax City Area FISH (For Immediate Sympathetic Help), helps local people who are in temporary need of life's basic necessities such as food, clothing, and financial assistance for rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and medical treatments. FISH also provides limited transportation for doctor appointments and food delivery. 703-222-0880 http://fairfaxfish.org/
  • Lamb Center, www.thelambcenter.org, Day center for homeless, Fairfax 703-691-3178
  • Food for Others distributed more than 2.4 million pounds of free food to families in need in Northern Virginia in the year ending June 30, 2012, The nonprofit provides a safety net for people who suddenly face unforeseen emergencies such as a family illness or the loss of a job or a spouse. Located at 2938 Prosperity Ave., Fairfax, VA 22031, 703-207-9173. www.foodforothers.com
  • Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO), 703-569-9160. Open to receive donations at 7205 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield. Provides food and financial assistance to those in short-term emergencies, and provides clothing and household goods to low income families, helping more than 5,000 people last year. www.echo-inc.org.
  • Lorton Community Action Center, located at 9518 Richmond Highway (behind the Lorton Library) will assist more than 400 families (seniors, low-income and military) within southern Fairfax County. LCAC is now collecting holiday food baskets, gifts and gift cards for eligible families. Please see LCAC’s website, www.lortonaction.org or call, 703/339-5161, ext. 140 for more information.
  • 12 Ways of Giving: Fairfax County Office of Public Private Partnerships "12 Ways of Giving" campaign is an annual event that showcases many ways for meaningful, local giving during the holiday season, highlighting nonprofits in Fairfax County. www.fairfaxcountypartnerships.org
  • Assistance League of Northern Virginia is an all-volunteer organization that clothes, feeds, educates and nurtures those in need focusing five of the neediest elementary schools. Volunteers and donors are always needed. Contact ALNorthernVA@yahoo.com or see www.northernvirginia.assistanceleague.org
  • Comfort for America's Uniformed Services (CAUSE) ensures that recuperating service members have opportunities for recreation and social interaction and receive concrete signs of appreciation for all that they have done. 4114 Legato Road Suite B, Fairfax, VA 22033, 703-591-4968, cause-usa.org
  • National Capital Food Bank, 6833 Hill Park Drive, Lorton, serving all of Northern Virginia, 703-541-3063. www.capitalareafoodbank.org
  • Homestretch is the largest provider of transitional housing in Fairfax County and offers a services to help the homeless better their lives through education. Email: jhenderson@homestretchva.org; 703-237-2035 x125; http://homestretchva.org/volunteer/
  • Pathway Homes focuses on providing housing and support services to individuals with serious mental illnesses, with the mission to help these individuals reach their full potential and lead stable lives. They offer both in-home programs, semi-independent houses and assisted living facilities. 10201 Fairfax Boulevard, Suite 200, Fairfax, VA 22030 (703) 876-0390 info@pathwayhomes.org http://www.pathwayhomes.org http://www.pathwayhomes.org/support-pathway/
  • Shelter House provides crisis intervention, safe housing and supportive services to promote self-sufficiency for homeless families and victims of domestic violence in Fairfax County. http://www.shelterhouse.org/get-involved/
  • United Community Ministries, Mount Vernon, 703-768-7106, 7511 Fordson Road, Alexandria, 22306 assists low-income families and individuals living along the Route 1 Corridor, UCM provides four different housing programs as well as a Workforce Development Center to help prepare people for moving forward with their jobs. Last year, for the holidays, donations of nearly 10,000 toys, books, games, clothing, and other gifts ensured a joy-filled holiday for more than 1,200 children in 600 families. Please bring all donations no later than Friday, Dec. 11. Bring donations to UCM's main office at 7511 Fordson Rd., Alexandria VA 22306. Weekdays from 9am - 5.30pm. Or donate online www.ucmagency.org
  • Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services, 8305-17B Richmond Highway, PO Box 15096, Alexandria, VA, 22039. 703-768-9419, http://www.goodhousing.org/ The mission of Good Shepherd Housing (GSH) is to reduce homelessness, increase community support, and promote self-sufficiency. GSH housing manages more than 70 housing units.
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington Fairfax Area operates clubs in two of the neediest areas of the county, Culmore and the Route 1 corridor, focusing on character and academic success. www.bgcgw.org/fairfax
  • Christian Relief Services, 8301 RIchmond Highway, Suite 900, Alexandria, VA 22309, 703-317-9086, 703-317-9690 http://christianrelief.org/
  • Friends of Guest House Northern Virginia, Offers structure, supervision, support and assistance to female ex-offenders who want to improve their lives and break the cycle of incarceration. Friends of Guest House offers the only program for women of its kind in Northern Virginia. One East Luray Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301-2025, 703-549-8072, info@friendsofguesthouse.org, http://friendsofguesthouse.org/

Where to Give Locally in Arlington

In no particular order:

  • Arlington Thrive 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.arlingtonthrive.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 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 www.a-span.org
  • Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing APAH Holiday Gift Drive. APAH, Arlington Mill, 901 S. Dinwiddie Street, Arlington VA 22204. Kim Honor Matkovsky, Volunteer Chair, APAH Holiday Gift Drive, khonor@macrodg.com, 703-624-9583

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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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.
  • Bethany House, 6121 Lincolnia Rd #303, Alexandria, VA 22312, (703) 658-9500 www.bhnv.org. Bethany House provides emergency shelter and supportive services to victims of domestic violence throughout Northern Virginia and the surrounding DC metro communities.
  • Volunteer Alexandria, 123 N Alfred St., Alexandria, VA 22314, 703-836-2176


  • Friends of the Alexandria Mental Health Center raises funds to support the special and emergency needs of individuals who are receiving services for mental illness, substance use disorders, and developmental disabilities from the city’s Department of Community and Human Services. Send donations to Friends of the Alexandria Mental Health Center, 720 North Saint Asaph Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314. Donations can be made online at Razoo.com.

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 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. The free clinic serves around 2,000 patients annually through the efforts of more than 50 volunteer physicians and over 100 medical and administrative volunteers.

  • 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 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.

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.