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
* 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/
* 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. firstname.lastname@example.org. 703-437-1776 www.linkagainsthunger.org.
* 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
* 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 email@example.com. 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
* 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. firstname.lastname@example.org Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. www.foodforothers.org
* 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 email@example.com 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/
* 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: firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com http://www.pathwayhomes.org http://www.pathwayhomes.org/support-pathway/
* 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
* 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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/index?section=volunteerNOW&action=viewOpportunity&fwID=22508.
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.
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.
* 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 email@example.com.
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.