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 Public Schools, more than 54,000 students (29 percent) are poor enough to receive subsidized meals.
Many 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 Christmas and the holiday season.
Hundreds of homeless students attend the public schools, and their needs are greater.
Many nonprofits in the region need your help to provide holiday meals around Christmas, to provide children with gifts.
There are literally hundreds, probably thousands, of ways to give locally this season, for humans in need, for animals in need, for an environment in need. Here are a few ideas. Please let us know what we have missed.
— Mary Kimm, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, Gifts for Kids and annual Coat Drive.
For families in need, often there isn’t enough money to spend on gifts. To register for the Gifts for Kids drive, visit https://www.cornerstonesva.org/gifts-for-kids-donation-form/. Personalized wish lists will be distributed within two business days of your submission.
Gifts will be collected at Cornerstones’ main office, 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston, VA 20190, during the following times:
Thursday, Dec. 6 and Friday, Dec. 7: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 8: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
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 hundreds of needy families this year. In December, Share’s 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. Help Share help those in need by fulfilling a wish or donating Walmart, Target, Giant, or Safeway gift cards. Contact 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. 703-437-0600.
- The Community Foundation of Northern Virginia www.cfnova.org The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia works to respond to critical need and seed innovation in our region. Your gift helps us make grants in our focus areas of interest while also bringing a spotlight on the benefits of community philanthropists www.cfnova.org/for-donors/donate-now
- 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. Coming up, holiday bike drive. 703-281-7614, www.cho-va.com
- Our Neighbor's Child (ONC) volunteers are preparing for delivery of holiday gifts for children from financially struggling families in western Fairfax County – predominantly in Centreville and Chantilly. www.ourneighborschild.org/
- Northern Virginia Family Service. The organization provides the essential building blocks for financial, emotional and physical well-being, serving as leaders and innovators for the Northern Virginia community. Every year, it empowers 35,000 individuals to achieve self-sufficiency. www.nvfs.org Northern Virginia Family Service, 10455 White Granite, Drive, Suite 100, Oakton, VA 22124. 571-748-2500
- Second Story — Second Story (formerly Alternative House) provides shelter and services for homeless, runaway or abused teenagers, unaccompanied youth, and young mothers and their children. second-story.org.
- Shepherd’s Center of Oakton Vienna providing services, personal enrichment, volunteer opportunities for adults 50 and over. Currently serving 3,000-plus 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 — 4511 Daly Drive, Suite J, Chantilly, VA 20151 in Chantilly. For more information or to sponsor a family, call Jennie Bush, Community Outreach Manager at 703-988-9656, ext. 107. To mail gift cards or send donations by check, send them to: WFCM, P.O. Box 220802, Chantilly, VA 20153. @WFCM_VA
- 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 donations and volunteers, and offers a variety of one-time and ongoing opportunities. 703-865-4251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. www.facetscares.org. 10640 Page Ave., Suite 300, Fairfax VA 22030
- Britepaths Britepaths is working to assist 800 Fairfax County area families who might otherwise go without December holiday meals and gifts for their children. Sponsor a family or donate to provide a family with a holiday meal and/or gifts for their children. Britepaths.org
- Centreville Labor Resource Center (CLRC), a safe, organized center where residents and contractors can negotiate work arrangements with day laborers. Centreville Square Shopping Center, 5944 Centreville Crest Ln, Centreville, VA 20121. Phone: (703) 543-6272 Email: Contact@CentrevilleLRC.org www.centreville-lrc.org/
- Fairfax City Area FISH (For Immediate Sympathetic Help) FISH provides funds and volunteers to serve the needy and elderly in the greater Fairfax City area of Fairfax County. FISH responds to requests for life's necessities: food, clothing, financial assistance for delinquent rent, mortgage, utility bills, gasoline, and prescriptions. 703-222-0880 fairfaxfish.org/
- Lamb Center, www.thelambcenter.org, day center for homeless, Fairfax 703-691-3178.
- Food for Others Located at 2938 Prosperity Ave., Fairfax, VA 22031, 703-207-9173. 2938 Prosperity Ave. email@example.com. Most needed items include: Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, canned chili, canned tomato products , canned meat, rice, 16 oz packages, spaghetti sauce, 14 oz – 1lb (ideally in cans instead of glass), canned fruit (packed in fruit juice instead of syrup) 11oz – 20oz, beans, dried or canned, canned pasta. 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. Outerwear drive through Dec. 14. See Greater Springfield Chamber for drop off locations. www.echo-inc.org.
- Lorton Community Action Center (LCAC) will provide holiday assistance to hundreds of families. Christmas food baskets along with fulfilling gift wishes for children and teens will help low-income families. See website for warm coat and Christmas donations and volunteer needs. lortonaction.org/seasonal-assistance/.
- Assistance League of Northern Virginia is an all-volunteer organization that transforms the lives of children through community programs. The nonprofit’s Weekend Food for Kids, New Clothing for Kids, Reading Express and Hugs Pillows programs help some of the neediest children in Northern Virginia achieve a better quality of life. There is an immediate need for new clothing articles, including sweatpants, sweatshirts and socks for children in grades K-6. New books and school supplies are also in high demand. Financial donations in any amount are always appreciated. To learn more about volunteer, membership and sponsorship opportunities, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.alnv.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. Mailing address: 4201 Wilson Blvd., #110-284, Arlington, VA 22203, CFC #33011, Phone 703-591-4965, 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. It is our mission to get families back into stable housing in order to provide them the opportunity to continue their journey to self-sufficiency. www.shelterhouse.org
- United Community Ministries, Mount Vernon, 703-768-7106, 7511 Fordson Road, Alexandria, VA 22306 assists low-income families and individuals living along the Route 1 Corridor, UCM provides housing programs as well as a Workforce Development Center. Last year, for the holidays, donations of nearly 10,000 toys, books, games, clothing, and other gifts ensured a joy-filled holiday for hundreds of children. 7511 Fordson Road, Alexandria VA 22306. www.ucmagency.org Donations of cash/checks and gift cards are also welcome.
- Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. For more than a decade, the Friends community has impacted thousands of pets; saving lives, easing pain and suffering, and enriching the lives of pets and their humans. (571) 212-9858 www.facebook.com/pg/FFCAS/about/
- New Hope Housing, founded in 1977, is a non-profit agency in Northern Virginia committed to finding creative and lasting solutions to end the cycle of homelessness by offering homeless men, women and children the services they need to change their lives and succeed. 8407E Richmond Hwy., Alexandria, VA 22309 www.newhopehousing.org/how-to-help/donate/
- 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 our 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 to meet the needs of its older members. The group fundraises all year to make this possible and count on the generosity of the community.
- National Capital Food Bank, 6833 Hill Park Drive, Lorton, serving all of Northern Virginia, 703-541-3063. www.capitalareafoodbank.org
- Homestretch is a 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/volunteer/
- Pathway Homes providing non-time-limited housing and supportive services to adults with serious mental illness and co-occurring disabilities in Northern Virginia. Founded in 1980, Pathways currently serves more than 400 adults in community-based homes in Northern Virginia. www.pathwayhomes.org
- Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services, 8305-17B Richmond Highway, PO Box 15096, Alexandria, VA, 22039. 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
- TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, 3033 Wilson Blvd., Third Floor, Arlingotn, VA 22201, Call 24/7 800-959-TAPS (8277) The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors offers compassionate care and resources to all those grieving the loss of a military loved one. Make a donation to support surviving military families and loved ones. You can also make a gift in honor or memory of a loved one. www.taps.org/donate
- 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. It helps children from all over the Mount Vernon area through small acts of kindness.
- Neighborhood Health, 6677 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA 22306. The organization partners with its patients to treat the whole person through medical, behavioral health and dental programs. It has 10 clinics throughout Arlington and Fairfax counties. Participating with all insurance including commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid, 703-535-5568, www.neighborhoodhealthva.org
- Tahirih Justice Center, 703-575-0070, www.tahirih.org, Legal services, public policy advocacy, and education for immigrant women and girls.
- OAR rebuilds lives and breaks the cycle of crime with opportunities, alternatives, and resources for offenders and their families to create a safer community. 10640 Page Ave., Suite 250, Fairfax, VA 22030, 703-246-3033. OAR needs volunteers and financial donations. oarnova.org/christmas
- NAMI Northern Virginia (National Alliance on Mental Illness) works to raise awareness and provide education, advocacy, and support programs for people living with mental illness, families, students, educators, law enforcement, and the public throughout our neighborhoods. Many excellent programs. NAMI Northern Virginia serves Fairfax, Falls Church, Arlington, Alexandria, and Loudoun www.nami-northernvirginia.org/ HelpLine: (571)458.7310, Email: email@example.com
- PRS, Inc. exists so that individuals living with mental illness, substance use disorders, mild intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who faces life crises can achieve safety, personal wellness, recovery and community integration. PRS also provides crisis counseling and connection to supports CRISISLINK When crisis calls, we answer 24/7 Call: 800-273-TALK  Text: "CONNECT" to 85511
- Potomac Riverkeeper Network works to protect the public’s right to clean water in our rivers and streams; to stop pollution to promote safe drinking water; to protect healthy river habitats; and to enhance public use and enjoyment. 3070 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007. (202) 888-2037 www.potomacriverkeepernetwork.org
- Potomac River Conservancy, 8403 Colesville Road, Suite 805, Silver Spring, MD 20910, 301.608.1188 potomac.org, seeks to improve the Potomac River’s water quality by building an impassioned base of river advocates to impart change at the local level.