Editorial: Holidays Are for Giving

Editorial: Holidays Are for Giving

In the scramble to finish Christmas shopping, remember tens of thousands of local children are short of food as well as presents.

The holidays are for giving.

Christmas and Hanukkah are about children and family, about sharing, about joy, about being thankful and about faith and appreciation.

Here in Northern Virginia, many of us see few signs of families in need as we go about our daily lives and holiday shopping. Our neighborhoods are largely segregated economically; we mostly see the people who are most like ourselves economically.

But in Fairfax County, about 65,000 people live below the poverty line, about 6 percent. In Arlington and Alexandria, more than 8 percent of the population lives in poverty, about 18,000 people in Arlington and more than 12,000 people in Alexandria.

To be clear, the poverty line is $19,780 for a family of three; it’s $11,670 for a single person household. Imagine for a minute how far $20,000 a year would go in your family. To live in Northern Virginia, a family needs to earn about twice the rate of poverty to get by. The median household income in Fairfax County and Arlington is well over $100,000.

In Fairfax County Public Schools, more than 52,000 students, or more than 28 percent, are poor enough to receive free or subsidized meals, a significant measure of poverty.

In Arlington more than 32 percent of the students are poor enough to receive free or subsidized meals; that’s 7,452 students at last count.

In Alexandria, more than 8,500 students are poor enough to receive free or subsidized meals. That’s 60 percent of the 14,222 students enrolled.

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, Hanukkah and winter holiday vacations.

Many of these are children are living in families who must choose between medical bills, car repair, heat and food. Almost all are families where at least one adult is employed full time, but still many are one unexpected expense away from disaster. Many of these families live on the brink of homelessness.

There are literally hundreds, probably thousands, of ways to give locally this season. Also mark your calendar to help again in a month or two. The needs don’t go away after the holidays. Here are a few ideas.

Where to Give Locally in Fairfax County

In no particular order:

  • Our Daily Bread’s Holiday Program helps those in need with food for the holidays and gifts for their children. Donations are still needed, go to www.odbfairfax.com/holiday
  • Cornerstones, 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston, serving Reston and Herndon. 571-323-9555, www.cornerstonesva.org. Programs and services include the Embry Rucker Community Shelter, Emergency Food Pantry, Hypothermia Prevention Program and the Thanksgiving Food Drive.
  • FACETS helps parents, their children and individuals who suffer the effects of poverty in the Fairfax area. FACETS is always in need of volunteers, and offers a variety of one-time and ongoing opportunities. 703-865-4251 or volunteer@facetscares.org. www.facetscares.org. 10640 Page Avenue, Suite 300, Fairfax VA 22030
  • HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, formerly the Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinic, provides medical, dental and behavioral health care to anyone in need, regardless of age or ability to pay. Herndon location, 1141 Elden St. Third Floor, Herndon, VA 20170, 703-481-8160 http://hwnova.org/
  • Alternative House — Abused and Homeless Children's Refuge, 2100 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA 22182, 703-506-9191. www.thealternativehouse.org
  • SHARE of McLean seeks donations of grocery gift cards and more. Checks and gift cards can be sent to: Holiday Celebration, Share, Inc. PO Box 210, McLean, VA 22101. 703-284-2179.www.SHAREofMcLean.org
  • Committee for Helping Others (CHO), Vienna, organized in 1969 by a group of concerned churches and individuals in the Dunn Loring, Merrifield, Oakton, Vienna community to provide simple, loving charity to those in need. 703-281-7614 http://www.cho-va.com
  • Fairfax City Area FISH (For Immediate Sympathetic Help), working with the Office of Coordinated Services Planning, Fairfax County Department of Human Services, FISH helps local citizens who are in temporary need of basic necessities such as food, clothing, and financial assistance for rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and medical treatments. 703-222-0880 http://fairfaxfish.org/
  • Herndon-Reston FISH (For Immediate Sympathetic Help), 336 Victory Drive, Herndon, 703-391-0105 Also operates thrift store, The Bargain Loft, 336 Victory Drive, Herndon, 20170, 703-437-0600 http://herndonrestonfish.org
  • Lamb Center, www.thelambcenter.org, Day center for homeless, Fairfax 703-691-3178
  • *Northern Virginia Family Service, providing gift cards and toys for 1,700 of Northern Virginia’s neediest families this season. 10455 White Granite Drive Suite 100, Oakton, VA 22124 703-385-3267 http://www.nvfs.org/
  • United Community Ministries, providing services to prevent homelessness, keep the utilities on, help with food insecurity and more. Mount Vernon, 703-768-7106, 7511 Fordson Road, Alexandria, 22306 http://www.ucmagency.org/
  • Food for Others, largest distributor of free food directly to people in need in Northern Virginia, plus provides a safety net for people who suddenly face unforeseen emergencies such as a family illness or the loss of a job or spouse. 2938 Prosperity Ave., Fairfax, VA 22031, 703-207-9173. www.foodforothers.org
  • Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO), 703-569-9160, admin@echo-inc.org 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. www.echo-inc.org.
  • Lorton Community Action Center, now collecting gift cards and food baskets for Christmas, drop off on Dec. 20, 2014. Also operates Lorton’s Attic, 9506 Richmond Highway (U.S. Route 1), Lorton, VA 22079 703-339-5161 703-339-8611 www.lortonaction.org.
  • 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. http://www.bgcgw.org/fairfax/
  • Office to End and Prevent Homelessness has a strategic road map to prevent and end homelessness, created by the Planning Committee to End Homelessness, in partnership with the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, government agencies, nonprofits, faith communities and businesses. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/homeless/
  • 12 Ways of Giving: Fairfax County Office of Public Private Partnerships’ "12 Ways of Giving" campaign is an annual event that showcases many ways for meaningful, local giving during the holiday season, highlighting nonprofits in Fairfax County. www.fairfaxcountypartnerships.org
  • Assistance League of Northern Virginia is an all-volunteer organization that clothes, feeds, educates and nurtures those in need focusing five of the neediest elementary schools. Volunteers and donors are always needed. Contact ALNorthernVA@yahoo.com or see www.northernvirginia.assistanceleague.org
  • Comfort for America's Uniformed Services (CAUSE) — organizes programs that promote recreation, relaxation and resiliency for members of the U.S. Armed Services recuperating from injuries received in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 4114 Legato Road Suite B, Fairfax, VA 22033, 703-591-4968, cause-usa.org
  • National Capital Food Bank, 6833 Hill Park Drive, Lorton, serving all of Northern Virginia, 703-541-3063. www.capitalareafoodbank.org
  • 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. http://www.wfcmva.org/
  • Touching Heart in Herndon is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate children to have giving hearts. http://www.touchingheart.com, 703-901-7355
  • Bethany House provides emergency shelter and supportive services to victims of domestic violence throughout Northern Virginia. www.bhnv.org, 6121 Lincolnia Road, Suite 303, Alexandria, VA 22312, 703-658-9500. See http://www.bhnv.org/getinvolved1/ for a list of needed items.

Where to Give Locally in Arlington

In no particular order:

  • Arlington Thrive provides one-time, same-day emergency financial assistance to Arlington residents facing a financial crisis, and also has programs to help prevent homelessness. 703-558-0035 www.arlingtonthrive.org
  • Doorways for Women and Families provides services to help women out of domestic violence and homelessness toward safe and stable lives, Arlington www.doorwaysva.org, 703-504-9400
  • The Arlington Food Assistance Center provides supplemental food assistance to Arlington County residents, on average serving 3,500 adults and 1,500 children a week, plus weekend backpacks for about 300 homeless children attending the public schools in Arlington. 2708 South Nelson Street, Arlington, VA 22206 http://www.afac.org/ 703-845-8486
  • Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, http://habitatnova.org/ Arlington, 703-521-9890
  • Arlington Free Clinic provides medical care for low-income, uninsured adults in Arlington. www.arlingtonfreeclinic.org 2921 11th St. South, Arlington, VA 22204 703-979-1425
  • Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, Email jmazarr@aachhomeless.org now to help with holiday giving. New name in 2015, Bridges to Independence. 703-525-7177, www.aachhomeless.org
  • A-SPAN provides services for Arlington’s street homeless, serving 80 meals a day and seeking to secure permanent housing for homeless. 2708-B. S Nelson St., Arlington, VA 22206‎ 703-820-4357 http://www.a-span.org/
  • Northern Virginia Family Service, providing gift cards and toys for 1,700 of Northern Virginia’s neediest families this season. 10455 White Granite Drive Suite 100, Oakton, VA 22124 703-385-3267 http://www.nvfs.org/

Alexandria: Where to Give Locally

  • ALIVE! 703-837-9300 www.alive-inc.org, Emergency food assistance, emergency financial assistance, shelter, year-round preschool, furniture and housewares.
  • St. Mary's Church St. Vincent de Paul Society, 309 South Royal Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, can be reached by the needy, those who would like to donate support, or anyone with a question, at the hotline number: 703-836-1724. Email svdpstmaryalexva@aol.com
  • Tahirih Justice Center, 703-575-0070, www.tahirih.org, Legal services, public policy advocacy, and education for immigrant women and girls.
  • Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, 703-237-0866, www.lcnv.org, Teaches adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking and understanding English. Offers one-to-one tutoring programs for adult learners as well as beginning-level ESOL and Family Learning adult programs.
  • Senior Services of Alexandria, 703-836-4414, www.seniorservicesalex.org, Support services for elders enabling them to age with dignity.
  • Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, 703-746-4774, www.alexandriaanimals.org, Pet adoptions, spay and neuter assistance, education and community service and outreach.
  • Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia, 703-820-9001, www.scanva.org, Parent education, public education-re: child abuse and court advocacy for abused and neglected children.
  • Rebuilding Together Alexandria, 703-836-1021, www.RebuildingTogetherAlex.org, Home repair and maintenance for vulnerable veterans, elderly, disabled and families with children.
  • ACT for Alexandria, 703-739-7778, www.actforalexandria.org, Nonprofit and donor services.
  • Alexandria Community Services Board, www.alexandriava.gov/mhmrsa, Crisis intervention services, elderly needs, mental health, substance abuse, mental retardation and developmental disabilities.
  • Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, Email jmazarr@aachhomeless.org now to help with holiday giving. New name in 2015, Bridges to Independence. 703-525-7177, www.aachhomeless.org
  • Carpenter's Shelter, 703 548-7500, www.carpentersshelter.org, Homeless services and programs including education and case management.
  • The Campagna Center, 703-549-0111, www.campagnacenter.org
  • Center for Alexandria’s Children, 703-838-4381, www.centerforalexandriaschildren.org, Child abuse & neglect and parent support.
  • Child and Family Network Centers, 703-836- 0214, www.cfnc-online.org
  • Community Lodgings, Inc., 703-549-4407 Transitional and affordable housing, youth education, adult education, bilingual staff assistance.
  • Computer C.O.R.E. 703-931-7346, www.computercore.org, Adult education, computer training and career development.
  • Hopkins House, 703-549-8072, www.hopkinshouse.org, Preschool academy, family budgeting and literacy, family education and youth summer enrichment camp, Early Childhood Learning Institute.
  • Northern Virginia Family Services, 703-385-3267, www.nvfs.org, Employment and job training, healthcare, housing, mental health, foster care and Healthy Families.
  • Volunteer Alexandria, 703-836-2176, http://volunteeralexandria.org, Volunteer recruitment and placement, court-referred community service placement, community awareness events, and volunteer management training. See www.achsova.org.
  • Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, http://habitatnova.org/ 703-521-9890 ReStore, 869 S. Pickett St., Alexandria
  • Bethany House provides emergency shelter and supportive services to victims of domestic violence throughout Northern Virginia. www.bhnv.org, 6121 Lincolnia Road, Suite 303 Alexandria, VA 22312 703-658-9500 See http://www.bhnv.org/getinvolved1/ for a list of needed items.
  • St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Mary's Church on Royal Street offers person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Volunteers assist in serving the homebound elderly, the poor, the hungry, and the homeless who need financial assistance, those who cannot afford emergency medical or dental care, or those who are simply in need of the comfort of prayer and God’s word. Its hotline number is 703-836-1724.

Potomac: Where to Give Locally

  • Manna Food Center, 9311 Gaither Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, 301-424-1130 www.mannafood.org. Manna Food Center, the main food bank in Montgomery County, strives to eliminate hunger through food distribution, education, and advocacy. Manna has distributed more than 43 million pounds of food to more than 2.7 million individuals. Manna provided food to 5 percent of Montgomery County residents this past year.
  • Mercy Health Clinic, www.mercyhealthclinic.org, 7 Metropolitan Court, Suite 1, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. Mercy Health Clinic is a free, community-based volunteer organization providing quality healthcare to uninsured, low-income residents of Montgomery County. The clinic, located in Gaithersburg, depends on the expertise of volunteers, healthcare professionals and support from community partners to provide quality care to those in need. The clinic is staffed with medical professionals including family practice physicians, cardiologists, endocrinologists, nurse practitioners, nurse assistants, translators and behavioral health counselors.
  • Interfaith Works, www.iworksmc.org, 114 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville, MD 20850, Interfaith Works provides shelter, food, and clothing to low-income and homeless neighbors.
  • Potomac Community Resources, http://pcr-inc.org/ 9200 Kentsdale Drive, Potomac, MD 20854, 301-365-0561 Potomac Community Resources, Inc. (PCR) provides therapeutic, recreational, social, and respite care programs for teens and adults with developmental differences, as well as information about community resources for families.
  • Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, www.mcch.net, 600-B East Gude Drive, Rockville, MD 20850 301-217-0314. Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH), a community-based nonprofit organization, is a leading provider of permanent housing, intermediate housing, emergency shelter, and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness. MCCH programs serve 1,600 men, women and children each year.
  • Shepherd’s Table, www.shepherdstable.org, 8210 Dixon Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910, 301-585-646. Shepherd's Table is a nonprofit organization in downtown Silver Spring, supported by volunteers, religious organizations, government, businesses, foundations, and individual donors. Shepherd’s Table provides help to people who are homeless or in need by providing basic services, including meals, social services, medical support, clothing, and other assistance.
  • Fisher House, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, www.fisherhouse.org, 111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420, Rockville, Maryland 20850 | (888) 294-8560. The Fisher House program supports members of the military and their families when they travel great distances for specialized medical care. Fisher House Foundation donates “comfort homes,” built on the grounds of major military and Veterans medical centers, including Walter Reed in Bethesda. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times.
  • Friends in Action, www.iworksmc.org/friends-in-action, 114 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville, MD 20850, 301-762-8682. Founded by Interfaith Works (formerly Community Ministry of Montgomery County) in 1986, Friends In Action recruits and trains a network of people from all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. Volunteer mentoring teams are linked for one year in a supportive relationship to a needy family in their community. The goal of the program is to help the family identify their strengths and develop attainable and manageable goals that guide them toward financial independence and personal well being.