Editorial: Holidays Are About Giving

Editorial: Holidays Are About Giving

Give thanks and share; tens of thousands of families around us are in need.

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.

Surrounded by the bounty in so many neighborhoods in Northern Virginia, many of us see little signs of the massive unmet needs here. But in Fairfax County Public Schools, more than 52,000 of the students 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, 8,582 students are poor enough to receive free or subsidized meals. That’s 60 percent of the 14,222 students enrolled.

These are children who are living in families who may be on the brink of homelessness, families who must choose between medical bills, car repair, heat and food. 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 Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Hundreds of homeless students attend the public schools, and their needs are greater.

There are literally hundreds, probably thousands, of ways to give locally this season. Here are a few ideas. We will rerun this list again during the holiday, so let us know what we have missed.

Where to Give Locally in Fairfax County

In no particular order:

  • Our Daily Bread — has been serving needy families in Fairfax County for 25 years. The Holiday Program helps those in need with food for the holidays and gifts for their children, making last year’s holiday season brighter for approximately 3,000 families. For more information on their holiday programs, including how to sponsor a family, 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
  • The Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinic, 13525 Dulles Technology Drive, Herndon, VA 20171, 571-235-3577. Last year, 139 community volunteers — nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians — gave more than 1,300 hours of their time to see patients. jsfreeclinic.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
  • LINK, serving Herndon, Chantilly, Loudoun and more, needs contributions of food, coats and holiday toys for children, plus volunteers. More than 4,000 adults and children have signed up for help with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. 703-437-1776 www.linkagainsthunger.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. 14th Annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Service is Tuesday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m. at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 2589 Chain Bridge Road. Vienna 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 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 http://fairfaxfish.org/
  • Herndon-Reston FISH (For Immediate Sympathetic Help), 336 Victory Drive, Herndon, 703-391-0105. http://herndonrestonfish.org
  • Lamb Center, www.thelambcenter.org, Day center for homeless, Fairfax 703-691-3178
  • Northern Virginia Family Service, 10455 White Granite Drive Suite 100, Oakton, VA 22124 703-385-3267 http://www.nvfs.org/
  • United Community Ministries, Mount Vernon, 703-768-7106, 7511 Fordson Road, Alexandria, 22306. http://www.ucmagency.org/
  • Food for Others distributed more than 2.4 million pounds of free food to families in need in Northern Virginia in the year ending June 30, 2012, The non-profit 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. www.foodforothers.com
  • 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, helping more than 5,000 people last year. www.echo-inc.org.
  • Lorton Community Action Center operates the Act ll Thrift Shop at 9506 Richmond Highway, Lorton. Sales from the shop generate funds for LCAC and clients also shop there. Now collecting gift cards and food baskets for Thanksgiving, gifts and food baskets for Christmas, and warm coats. 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 needs just a few thousand dollars more in contributions for Jeans Day (in October) to qualify for a matching grant from the Phillip L. Graham Fund, turning many $5 and greater donations into $50,000 to help thousands of homeless in Fairfax County. www.ziphomelessness.com
  • 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) — ensures that recuperating service members have opportunities for recreation and social interaction and receive concrete signs of appreciation for all that they have done. 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.
  • 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

Where to Give Locally in Arlington

In no particular order:

  • Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs (AMEN) 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.emergencyneeds.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, 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, 703-525-7177, www.aachhomeless.org
  • A-SPAN provides services for Arlington’s street homeless. Our mission is to secure permanent housing for one of Arlington’s most vulnerable populations. P.O. Box 100731 Arlington, VA 22210 703-820-4357 http://www.a-span.org/
  • Northern Virginia Family Services, 703-385-3267, www.nvfs.org, Employment and job training, healthcare, housing, mental health, foster care and Healthy Families.

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.
  • 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.
  • Tahirih Justice Center, 703-575-0070, www.tahirih.org, Legal services, public policy advocacy, and education for immigrant women and girls.
  • 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, 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
  • 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.

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 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, Phone: 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 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.

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.