The Bargain Loft Thrift Store at 336 Victory Drive in Herndon is run under the auspices of nonprofit Herndon-Reston FISH – Friendly, Instant, Sympathetic Help. Co-manager April Elliott said to ‘come on in next Tuesday, Nov. 24 for the Grand Opening of the 2015 Bargain Loft Christmas Shop.’
Last year in this special “season of giving section” we introduced you to “Arleta,” a Herndon mother of 8-year-old twins who had lost her husband to cancer earlier in the year. Arleta had given up her fulltime job to care for her husband before his death and could only find part-time work after his passing. That job was enough to keep the family in a new, smaller apartment, “but we had food. I was paying the bills,” said Arleta. Still, she admitted that she was “a little sad” that she couldn’t afford the Christmas gifts that she knew her youngsters wanted. One had his eyes on a Hot Wheels remote-controlled car set, while his brother had hopes that a special Lego set would be waiting under the tree on Christmas morning. Arleta had prepared her sons. This year it would be the practical new shoes and jeans that both sorely needed.
When a friend suggested that she look for just that bit of extra help from one of the community service organizations that serve the Herndon and Reston areas, Arleta didn’t think that she would qualify for any assistance and felt she didn’t deserve to “take away from people who really need it. I know people who have it worse than we do.” But, thinking of those boys, she made a call and thanks to Cornerstones, the Reston-based nonprofit, this family that hadn’t had a Thanksgiving or Christmas the year before due to the father’s illness and the bills needing to be paid, suddenly was looking forward to a turkey feast with all the trimmings.
CORNERSTONES looks out for neighbors all year long through a wide variety of programs and in partnership with many other organizations, government agencies and faith communities and with a dedicated staff and an army of volunteers and generous supporters. The Thanksgiving meal distribution that they organize brought a happy holiday to Arleta and her boys last year, and they will do the same for close to another thousand struggling families this year.
Cornerstones also sponsors a seasonal Gifts for Kids Drive. That Hot Wheels car and that Lego set that Arleta’s boys wished for but were prepared not to receive found their way to their Christmas tree courtesy of that happiness-producing program. There were even a few other “just plain fun, not stuff we just needed real bad” presents that came along with their original wishes, reported the “older” twin with delight. This drive may already have closed so that preparations for delivery can be made, but it’s certainly worth contacting www.cornerstonesva.org to see what else people can contribute and how else they may assist.
If it’s still toys you want to donate, Toys for Tots, the US Marine Forces Reserve program that collects thousands of gifts for children around the country, has a strong presence in the neighborhood, and a number of local businesses and schools have signed on as drop-off sites. The Nysmith School for the Gifted is one location, at 13625 EDS Drive in Herndon, open for donations from 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. National Realty Partners at 365 Herndon Parkway, Suite 106, is a longtime supporter and drop off center open Monday–Thursday from 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Fridays until 1 p.m. Verizon Wireless at 13340-E, Franklin Farm Road in Herndon has extended hours, most days from 9 a.m.–8 p.m. and The Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel at 13869 Park Center Road in Herndon can accept donations 24/7. There are even drop-off boxes located in building lobbies at Reston Town Center (RTC). The Marines will visit RTC for a kick-off event on Dec. 1. Locally, the drop off spots cover all corners of the Herndon/Reston regions. Most accept donations through Dec. 12. For a complete list of sites, or how to request toys from the program, visit their website at www.toysfortots.org.
Toys are tops, no doubt, but as Arleta told us last year, making sure that the family is fed is the top priority for many, and sadly, not a given. A number of organizations spearhead programs and food pantries, and not just during the “season of giving.” LINK is one such group that services needful neighbors all year long. They state that they are “all set” for the Thanksgiving deliveries, but that there is still a need for donations and for volunteers to help out during the Christmas distributions from Dec. 14–19. Visit www.linkagainsthunger.org. Food donations are always welcome. The folks at LINK have been able to count on many local businesses and schools, like the Garden Group at Herndon Middle School, who not only donated to the food pantry, but grew their donations themselves.
Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets are also offered by Herndon-Reston FISH, providing Friendly, Instant, Sympathetic Help, and they still need your help to continue achieving their mission, especially during the busy holiday season. Local grocery stores and several local Boy Scout Troops have been much-appreciated supporters of the FISH food drives. If assisting with the December food drive and distribution could enhance your season of giving, contact them by email at Holiday@herndonrestonfish.org. There’s lots of other volunteer opportunities or ways to help or donate so don’t hesitate to make contact or call them at 703-391-0105. You might even consider a shopping trip to their volunteer-run Bargain Loft at 336 Victory Drive in Herndon. Call 703-437-0600 to check on hours or for more information.
FAITH – the Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help – stays busy all year long, as well, and could always use the helping hands of the open-hearted residents of Herndon. In addition to food programs and a thrift shop located at 795 Center St., Unit 2 in Herndon’s Historic District, the folks at FAITH offer programs to help mentor and support orphans, young refugees and other children in need and offers them workshops, field trips and opportunities to learn and grow despite disadvantages. To add FAITH to your “season of giving” list, call them at 571-323-2198 or visit www.faithus.org.
Although this is just a sampling of some of the services that so many generous people and organizations in our community offer to our neighbors in need, the needs around us are great enough to keep them and all the others looking for your support. Now is the time, this “season of giving,” when Herndon really shows its heart.
- Just a note: Arleta and her now 9-year-old twin sons are proud to report that they have donated to the Thanksgiving meal collection that served them only one year ago – and the boys picked out items for other children to receive through the Gifts for Kids Cornerstones program that made them so happy last Christmas. “Things aren’t always easy, but they are a lot better,” Arleta said with a smile. “Now it’s our turn to help somebody else.”