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.
In Fairfax County, more than 52,000 (28 percent) of FCPS students are are poor enough to receive free or subsidized meals.
The median family income in Fairfax County rose to $129,800. But among families with children, 6 percent have income below the poverty level. That’s $20,420 for a family of three. That’s about $1,700 a month. Median rent in Fairfax County is $1,747, meaning the cost for half the rentals is more than that.
These are children 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 the holidays.
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.
— Mary Kimm
- 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. Gifts will be collected at Cornerstones main office, 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston, VA 20190 on Thursday, Dec. 7 and Friday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 9, 9 a.m. – noon. Contact Nate King, Donations and Drives Coordinator, at 571-323-9569.
- 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. Help neighbors in need by donating money, fulfilling a wish or donating Walmart, Target, Giant, or Safeway gift cards. Share's Furniture Program is in major need of drivers and helpers. Visit the Furniture Program page. The Food Pantry is in major need of supplies; visit the Food Pantry page and check Facebook to see how to help the Food Pantry. 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 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. 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. 571-748-2500, www.nvfs.org, Employment and job training, healthcare, housing, mental health, foster care and Healthy Families.10455 White Granite, Drive, Suite 100, Oakton, VA 22124.
- Second Story — Abused and Homeless Children's Refuge, 2100 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA 22182. 703-506-9191, second-story.org. Second Story (formerly 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.
- Shepherd’s Center of Oakton Vienna providing services, personal enrichment, volunteer opportunities for adults 50 and over. Currently serving 3,000+ mature adults in the region. 703-281-0538, www.scov.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. 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.
- 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, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facetscares.org. 10640 Page Ave., 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. 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, fairfaxfish.org.
- Lamb Center, day center for homeless, Fairfax. 703-691-3178, www.thelambcenter.org.
- 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, email@example.com or www.foodforothers.org. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO). 703-569-9160, www.foodforothers.org. 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.
- 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 More information at lortonaction.org/seasonal-assistance/. Volunteers are needed for these events as well. Register online at lortonaction.org or call 703-339-5161, ext. 140 or email Linda@LortonAction.org. Mailing address: LCAC, P.O. Box 154, Lorton, VA 22199-0154.
- 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, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit 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. 1100 N Glebe Road, Suite 373, Arlington, VA 22201.703-591-4968, 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. www.shelterhouse.org/
- Mount Vernon At Home, 703-303-4060, www.mountvernonathome.org. From practical help to social, wellness, educational and cultural activities, Mount Vernon At Home membership helps connect senior members of the community. Neighbors helping neighbors with volunteer support is the power of Mount Vernon At Home. Mount Vernon At Home is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working hard to meet the needs of older members. They fundraise all year to make this possible and count on the generosity of the community.
- United Community Ministries, Mount Vernon, 7511 Fordson Road, Alexandria, VA 22306, 703-768-7106, www.ucmagency.org, 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. 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. Donations of cash/checks and gift cards are also welcome.
- 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; homestretchva.org/.
- 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, www.pathwayhomes.org, www.pathwayhomes.org/support-pathway/.
- Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services, 8305-17B Richmond Highway, PO Box 15096, Alexandria, VA, 22309. 703-768-9419, 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 Mount Vernon/ 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, 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 Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301-2025, 703-549-8072, email@example.com, friendsofguesthouse.org/
- Wright to Read 703-299-9854, www.wrighttoread.org. Provides volunteer-based, one-to-one tutoring and mentoring to City of Alexandria public elementary school children in need. Funds are needed to provide field trips and enrichment activities, books and other resources. For more information about Wright to Read and becoming a “Tutor/Mentor” see website.
- 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.
- Alice's Kids (@alicewillhelp), aliceskids.org, P.O. Box 60, Mount Vernon, VA 22121. When a child is raised in poverty they suffer both publicly and privately. When there is no food in the refrigerator, no electricity nor heat, these are hardships that they can keep hidden from their peers. But, when that same child can't afford to pay for the band field trip, a pair of glasses, a chorus outfit or a new pair of shoes, these are indignities that are evident to their classmates. Alice’s Kids pays for these relatively inexpensive items in the hopes of preserving the dignity of the child. Alice’s Kids helps children from all over the Mount Vernon area through small acts of kindness.
- The Community Foundation of Northern Virginia has launched its Permanent Fund campaign, a community endowment which is a forever source to provide critical support for those in need in the Northern Virginia region; Consider leaving a legacy through a current or planned gift to the Permanent Fund at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. www.cfnova.org/permanentfund.
- The Historic Pohick Church Foundation, 9301 Richmond Highway, Lorton, VA 22079, 703-339-6572. The Historic Pohick Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has played a central role in the history of our country, founded by George Washington, George Mason, and others. The Historic Pohick Church Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable corporation that was established in 1983 for the maintenance, upkeep, and preservation of the historic colonial-era Pohick Church building and the surrounding churchyard.
- Rising Hope, 8220 Russell Road, Alexandria, VA 22309, risinghopeumc.org. Supports poor and homeless people along the Route 1 Corridor. To volunteer, donate in-kind contributions or partner with Rising Hope in other ways, contact Kat Roman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-360-1976.
- The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church, Virginia 22042, 703-237-0866, lcnv.org, teaches adults to speak, read, write and understand English at the most basic level. The organization has been around for 55 years, and serves Fairfax and Arlington Counties and the cities of Falls Church and Alexandria. Most of the students are immigrants, and they are mostly women, and low income.
- Neighborhood Health Clinics, www.neighborhoodhealthva.org, Improving health and advance health equity in Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax by providing access to high quality care regardless of ability to pay.
- Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (Habitat NOVA) helps families build strength, stability, and self-reliance to create better lives for themselves and their children through affordable homeownership. Serving Fairfax and Arlington counties and the Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church. 295 Edsall Road, Suite 120, Alexandria, VA 22312; phone: 703-521-9890; email: email@example.com. Visit www.habitatnova.org. Alexandria ReStore: 703.360.6700; Chantilly ReStore: 703.953.3747