Giving More Than Hope

Giving More Than Hope

Giving Circle of Hope is among the Best of Reston.

For the past two years, the Giving Circle of Hope awarded grants to the Friends of Loudoun County Mental Health to help start a program called “In Our Own Voices,” which aims to decrease the stigma of mental illness.

The program, now in its second year, was so successful that the state wants to duplicate it in other areas.

“If it weren’t for that first grant that program wouldn’t have happened,” said Linda Strup, a founding member of the Giving Circle of Hope in Reston. The group’s other founders include Mary Narayan, Joan Kasprowicz and Diana Katz.

Created in January 2004, the Giving Circle of Hope has grown into one of the area’s most successful and attractive local charities.

Recognizing the organization’s community contributions through grants to non-profits and volunteer service projects, the Giving Circle of Hope was named a 2006 Best of Reston award winner in January.

The Best of Reston awards are given out each year by Reston Interfaith and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and presented to businesses, individuals and organizations that have gone above and beyond in their service to improving the quality of life of those in the Reston community. The Giving Circle of Hope and this year’s other award winners will be honored at the 15th Annual Best of Reston Gala on April 20.

FOR 16 YEARS, a group of local friends had worked together informally on PTA projects, children’s sports teams and other ad hoc causes. Little did they know that their community efforts would one day lead to the creation of the Giving Circle of Hope.

When a neighborhood teenager was injured in a car accident, the group came together again, as they often did, to help raise money for the growing medical bills and to help support the family.

“After that, they felt motivated to institutionalize their efforts,” said Ridge Loux, who nominated the Giving Circle of Hope, adding that the all-volunteer organization embodies the Best of Reston. “They’ve become a positive catalyst for change.”

Each year, the Giving Circle of Hope seeks to make a difference with volunteer service and monetary grants to local non-profits ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.

But the group’s success has been married to its ability to quickly attract a dedicated, diverse and talented membership. The organization now has more than 100 members.

“I think the people in the Reston and Herndon communities are very volunteer oriented already. We didn’t do anything to create that,” said Strup. “What we do is provide a vehicle for people to easily engage in the community.”

The members, made up of women of various ages and backgrounds, have also found that by pooling resources the organization is able to help more people.

AND THAT’S exactly what the organization continues to do. This month, the Giving Circle of Hope began its latest service project to bring Flashes of Hope to the area. By joining with Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization that creates powerful, inspiring photographs of children fighting cancer and other life threatening diseases, the Giving Circle hopes to bring children at Inova Fairfax Hospital a sense of joy during difficult times.

“It was an uplifting thing for the families,” said Joan Kasprowicz, another founding member of the group. “[The professional photographer] got the kids laughing and smiling.” The project provides two 8x10 photographs of the child and all the photos on a CD.

The new project is just one of many that the Giving Circle has initiated in the area. The Circle also has ongoing volunteer projects, including a bi-weekly reading literacy program at Embry Rucker Homeless Shelter and a friendship program for the elderly at Cameron Glen/Sunrise Assisted Living.

Volunteer Fairfax honored the Reston-based Giving Circle of Hope last year with the Adult Volunteer Group Award.