Profile in Service: Giving Circle of Hope

Profile in Service: Giving Circle of Hope

Finding strength in unity, the Giving Circle of Hope doesn’t take long to make a difference in the community.

Part of a series of profiles of Volunteer Fairfax award winners and nominees from the Reston area.

Created just 16 months ago, the Giving Circle of Hope has quickly become known as a lady bountiful organization doing volunteer work and giving grants.

In April, at the 13th Annual Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards, Volunteer Fairfax honored the Reston-based Giving Circle of Hope with the Adult Volunteer Group Award.

This award was among two others the organization received in the last year.

Started by a group of long-time friends who had been working together on and off for 10 years on PTA projects and children’s sports teams, the Circle found strength in numbers.

After a neighborhood teenager was in a car accident, the group of friends came together, ad hoc as they often did, to help raise money for growing medical bills and to help support the family.

“We had quite a bit of success and we felt good about doing it,” said Joan Kasprowicz, a founding member of the group. “So, we decided to brainstorm for a way of doing it more permanently, and we came up with a giving circle.” The group’s other founders include Mary Narayan, Linda Strup and Diana Katz.

“Within two months, membership increased tenfold as other women embraced the idea of working in collaboration, making connections, demonstrating commitment, affecting change, being creative, and celebrating their time together,” says the group’s Web site.

“I guess we’d all been long-time volunteers in Reston, but we were all working independently,” said Strup.

“Our focus is on doing volunteer projects, but we also issue grants once a year to nonprofits,” said Kasprowicz.

Last year, said Kasprowicz, the Circle issued five grants, totaling $25,000. But she first points out that the group spent more than 860 hours volunteering in the community last year.

“All of us have grand designs to help people, but [Giving Circle] has picked up that mantle and run with it,” said Ridge Loux, a Reston resident and president of South Lakes’ PTSA. “They get inspired by their own success and continue to build on it and find new outlets to give and serve.”

“Volunteering makes up a big portion of the Circle,” said Kasprowicz.

THE CIRCLE HAS THREE ongoing volunteer projects — Cameron Glen/Sunrise Assisted Living: Senior Friends, Kids Club at the Embry Rucker Homeless Shelter, and Book Circle — where members routinely give their time.

The organization started a bi-weekly reading literacy program at the Embry Rucker Shelter and designed and created a “literacy corner” at the shelter. The literacy program is just one of 12 projects that the group has undertaken.

“Those programs were conceived by members,” said Kasprowicz.

“Because we are a member organization, we really want to follow the lead of our membership,” said Strup. “Everybody has the same mission of helping others, but it is by pooling all those skills and resources that we’re able to do it more effectively.”

“They have recognized the willingness of people in this area to help,” said Loux, who nominated the group for the award.

Just last weekend, the group participated in Reston Relay for Life, a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. The Circle raised just more than $2,000.

The organization is an all-volunteer, non-paid grassroots group that gives back 100 percent of its contributions through grants issued once a year.