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. Many if not most of us go through our daily and seasonal routines without encountering evidence of the needy families among us.
More than 52,000 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. (Nearly 7 percent of students in FCPS live below the poverty line, a harrowing $24,000 for a family of four.)
All of 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. Some of 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.
Many nonprofits in the county need your help to provide a holiday meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas, to provide children with gifts.
There are literally hundreds, probably thousands, of ways to give locally this season. Here are a few ideas. We will rerun this list again after Thanksgiving, so please let us know what we have missed.
— Mary Kimm, email@example.com
Where to Give Locally
*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 by Nov. 17 for Gifts for Kids, Alacia Earley at 571-323-9568 or firstname.lastname@example.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. 16, 2017, 24 hours a day. The Closet is accepting donations of new and clean, gently used coats and jackets, as well as new hats, gloves, mittens and scarves. Deliver any time to the 24-hour drop box at the Community Room of the North County Governmental Building, 1801 Cameron Glen Drive, Reston, VA 20190.
*SHARE of McLean operates a food pantry; provides assistance to families to avoid eviction, keep utilities on and meet other needs in a crisis. Share of McLean will provide holiday assistance to more than 250 needy families (630-plus people) this year. Each family will receive a grocery gift card in November along with a bag filled with pantry staples and traditional items. In December, our families will be welcomed to a festive party, served a light meal, and Santa will travel all the way from the North Pole to take photographs with the children. Each person will receive a “wish” gift and families will be given a grocery gift card, a bag filled with toiletries, and a jug of laundry detergent. Help us help our neighbors in need by fulfilling a wish or donating Walmart, Target, Giant, or Safeway gift cards. Contact Chris Wilbur at ShareWishes@gmail.com for more information. Visit www.shareofmclean.org for more info about Share.
*Herndon-Reston FISH (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help), 336 Victory Drive, Herndon, 703-391-0105, herndonrestonfish.org. Herndon-Reston FISH has assisted local residents in short term crises by since 1969. FISH provides Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help by responding to emergency requests for rent, transportation, utilities, medical prescriptions and other needs. FISH operates The Bargain Loft, a thrift store, which needs donations of good quality saleable items, accepting and selling art, furniture, jewelry, household linens, dishes, pots and pans, books, women’s designer clothing (clean and on hangers), puzzles, games, collectibles, small electronics and much more. If you have store questions, call 703-437-0600. Herndon-Reston FISH also provides Holiday Food & Gift Baskets during the November and December season.
*LINK, serving Herndon, Chantilly, Loudoun and more, needs contributions of food, coats and holiday toys for children, and needs volunteers. More than 4,000 adults and children have signed up for help with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. Every year the goal is to provide each family with a week’s worth of non-perishable food in November and again in December. When funds allow, grocery gift cards are also included. In November, clients also receive a voucher for coats and warm clothing. In December, children 16 and under receive gifts. email@example.com. 703-437-1776 www.linkagainsthunger.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. 703-281-7614, www.cho-va.com.
*Northern Virginia Family Service. Just $50 provides a complete holiday meal to a family of four. Donate online or via check payable to "NVFS" with "Operation Turkey" on the memo line, or send grocery store gift cards. Northern Virginia Family Service, attn: Holiday Initiatives, 10455 White Granite, Drive, Suite 100, Oakton, VA 22124. Gifting for Families was able to bring some extra holiday cheer to more than 2,000 children in Northern Virginia last year. Monetary contributions and online donations help the most at www.nvfs.org. www.nvfs.org/holidayprograms. Or donate toys. New toys for children of all ages are needed to stock our Toy Closet. (If possible, shop for infants/toddlers or teens, as these age groups can be overlooked.) Drop off on Monday, Dec. 12, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 13939 Metrotech Drive, Chantilly, VA 20151.
*Alternative House — Abused and Homeless Children's Refuge, 2100 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA 22182, 703-506-9191. Alternative House provides shelter and services for homeless, runaway or abused teenagers, unaccompanied youth, and young mothers and their children. Requests for food and clothing are up more than 50 percent. www.thealternativehouse.org.
*Touching Heart in Herndon is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate children to have giving hearts. 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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. www.facetscares.org. 10640 Page Avenue, Suite 300, Fairfax VA 22030
*Britepaths will have 3,000 individuals and families in need of holiday assistance list this fall. Sponsor a family or donate to provide a family with a Thanksgiving meal, December holiday meal and/or gifts for their children. Join Britepaths at Wine & Wonderment, Nov. 30, at 2941 Restaurant britepaths.org.
*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 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. 2938 Prosperity Ave. email@example.com Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. www.foodforothers.org
*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 (LCAC) will provide Thanksgiving and Holiday assistance to more than 450 families this year. Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets along with fulfilling gift wishes for more than 1,000 children and teens will help low-income families during this holiday season. Consider making a basket or “adopting” Christmas wishes this year to help a neighbor. More information about LCAC’s holiday program can be found at http://lortonaction.org/seasonal-assistance/. Volunteers are needed for these events as well. Register online at http://lortonaction.org or call 703/339-5161, ext. 140.
*Assistance League of Northern Virginia is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that feeds, clothes and educates children in need. Assistance League’s philanthropic programs touch the lives of thousands of children at 11 Title I schools in Northern Virginia, serving children most in need at selected schools in Fairfax and Prince William counties and the City of Alexandria. To learn more about volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://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.
*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. Bring all donations no later than Friday, Dec. 9, to UCM's main office at 7511 Fordson Road, Alexandria VA 22306. Weekdays from 9 a.m. - 5.30 p.m. Or donate online www.ucmagency.org. Donations of cash/checks and gift cards are also welcome. Make an online donation, or make checks payable to "UCM." Designate "Holiday Gift Room" online or in memo line on the check.
For questions or if interested in organizing a Holiday Gift Room collection drive, email Laurel Cunnane, holiday coordinator, Laurel.Cunnane@ucm.org or call 571-255-8974.
*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: email@example.com; 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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.pathwayhomes.org http://www.pathwayhomes.org/support-pathway/.
*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, email@example.com, http://friendsofguesthouse.org/
*Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia transforms the lives of lower-income families in need by providing affordable homeownership opportunities in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Falls Church. Learn more at www.habitatnova.org.
Volunteer Locally Through Volunteer Fairfax
Britepaths (formerly Our Daily Bread): Sponsor individuals and families in need who live throughout the Fairfax County area for Thanksgiving meals, December holiday meals and/or gifts for children in December. Britepaths will send you information on a person/family who meets your criteria, and you will contact them and arrange to deliver food and/or gifts. You may also donate funds to help us assist those who are not sponsored. To sponsor a family or make a donation, visit http://volunteerfairfax.civicore.com/.
The Holiday Project: Share the spirit of the season with The Holiday Project, a non-profit organization that organizes visits to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities during the holiday season. Bring the spirit of a holiday to those who might not otherwise have a celebration. Visits occur throughout the metropolitan area. Dates and times of visits vary by location; for more information visit http://volunteerfairfax.civicore.com/index?section=volunteerNOW&action=viewOpportunity&fwID=21393.
Cornerstones: Volunteer to accept gifts from donors and get them ready for distribution to local families, or assist families that are picking up gifts with getting items to their car. Several shifts are available. Good for adults, families and corporate groups. Dec. 8-10, Dec. 15-17. Times vary. To sign-up or learn more please contact us at http://volunteerfairfax.civicore.com/.
New Hope Housing: Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, New Hope Housing provides nearly 200 food baskets to clients living in our community housing programs. Volunteers ensure that families are able to have a special and memorable holiday. Volunteers can sign up to help by hosting a Thanksgiving or Christmas food drive, donating a food basket for a single adult or family, donating grocery store gift cards for clients to purchase turkeys (grocery stores along Route 1 are best), signing up to drop off Christmas dinner at one of our Permanent Supportive Housing sites.
Sign up to help ensure that children in those families receive holiday gifts this year. You can volunteer to help by adopting a child and fulfilling his or her holiday wish list. Wish lists are available now. Donating gift cards for parents to purchase their children new clothing. Stores along Route 1 are best. Hosting a special program for the children, such as holiday card and gift making for their parents.
To sign up, fill out the following form and a member of the New Hope Housing team will respond as soon as possible: volunteerfairfax.civicore.com/form
Richard Byrd Library: Semi-annual Holiday used book sale at Richard Byrd Library in Springfield. Pre-Sale: (Nov. 28 - 30) volunteers will set up tables, organize sale area, post signs, lift/move crates of books, sort books. During Sale: (Dec. 1 - 4) volunteers will assist shoppers; restock sale items, clear sale area as necessary. For information visit here.
Volunteer Fairfax: Your local volunteer center, seeks individuals and families, youth and seniors, corporate groups and civic clubs for volunteer opportunities at holiday time and throughout the year. www.volunteerfairfax.org or call 703-246-3460.