Break out the check books and dancing shoes, the Lorton Community Action Center's Fall Fest is only a few days away.
Scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 30, Fall Fest is the largest fund raiser for LCAC, said director of communications Anda Ostergard. Last year's event, at the Mountjoy home on Mason Neck, raised $51,497 which was used to provide backpacks and back-to-school supplies for children, holiday gifts and food baskets for clients and emergency assistance programs.
The Lorton Community Action Center, established in 1975, offers a food pantry and emergency assistance to Lorton families in need. During the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, donations of food and cash gifts are collected to provide dinner baskets, and at Christmas, volunteers can "adopt a family" to purchase gifts. Every fall, LCAC sponsors a school supply drive to provide backpacks, pens, papers, notebooks and a voucher for a new pair of sneakers to children.
THE FALL FEST has become "the biggest social event in Lorton," said Ostergard.
In addition to dinner, dancing and music by the Afterhours Band, Ostergard said the big draws of the evening are the live and silent auction.
"We typically have a few hundred items in each auction, ranging from Redskins' tickets to vacations to dinner certificates and baby quilts," she said.
One of the hottest items in this year's auction is a VIP trip to New York City for a taping of Martha Stewart's show. Some lucky bidder will also win a Peter Max painting with a personalized message.
"This is a great way for neighbors to get together and dress up for a good cause," said Ostergard.
A volunteer for the Fall Fest for nearly a decade, Rita Smith said she keeps giving her time because she believes in the work LCAC does in her community.
"I've seen how it benefits children in my community. I've seen people who work at some of the local schools and don't make a lot of money go to them for food," Smith said. "LCAC makes our community a true community ... they make us feel more connected to each other."
Now in charge of the volunteer bartenders and setting up the event, usually inside a private home on Mason Neck, Smith said she supervises about 40 eager workers.
In addition to having a reason to dress up, Smith said she and her husband have been able to get some good vacation deals through the auctions.
"We bought a week at a condo in Paradise Island in the Bahamas, complete with airfare, for $1,300 one year," she said.
ALL OF THE ITEMS donated for the auction are from vendors, across Northern Virginia.
"There's something for everyone, if you want to spend $200 or $2,000 at the auction," Smith said.
Tim Rizer and his wife, Barb, have been involved with Fall Fest for more than 12 years, bringing in donors and making sure the night of the event moves smoothly.
"My goal for this year was to bring in more large donations," said Tim Rizer, who set a goal of $50,000 to be met prior to the Fall Fest. So far, he's managed to secure $40,000.
"Most people I see and I know have real nice cars and real nice homes and boats. They talk about what car they'll get next or what trip they'll go on next," Rizer said.
"Right up the street, still in Lorton, people wonder if they'll be able to make rent or keep their kids safe from gangs and drugs. The disparity is too much, I can't live one life and ignore the other," he said.
Like Smith and Ostergard, Rizer said he enjoys the opportunity to have a nice evening out with his friends, all cleaned up in suits and ties.
"It feels like a Washington event, but it's here in Lorton," he said. "It's a good quality party with lots of fun, good food, good music and good dancing. Plus, you know you're doing it for the right reason."