Reston Ready for Season of Giving
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Reston Ready for Season of Giving

Where to give, how to help in Reston area.

It’s official! The Holidays are here and Reston Town Center says so!

It’s official! The Holidays are here and Reston Town Center says so! Photo by Andrea Worker.

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Reston Town Center is almost dressed and ready for this year’s “Season of Giving.” Reston residents are ready, too. A number of local and regional agencies, organizations and faith communities offer plenty of opportunities to share your holiday good will with your neighbors in need.

“I do everything early,” says Phyllis K. of Reston. Phyllis prefers to remain anonymous because “it’s not about blowing your own horn. It’s about helping others.”

She says her family laughs at her need to always get ahead of the curve. “I have most of my Christmas gifts already wrapped and tagged. I’m not telling where they’re hidden!” Just like her preparations for her family holidays, she’s also long since prepared her Thanksgiving baskets and clothing and toy donations for a number of local drives. For several weeks she’s been adding to the boxes she’ll be taking to Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods for the Thanksgiving meal distribution, “you know, just a can or two each time I grocery shopped. Now I’m getting the coats and scarves ready to drop off for the Winter Coat Closet.” In addition to the sorting of items the family no longer uses, she also picked up more winter wear at a local thrift shop. “I got some real deals during the summer and have just been waiting until now to get them ready to pass on.”

Thankfully, our neighbors in need in Reston and surrounding communities, can count on lots of people like Phyllis to help provide many of the basics they may be lacking and to brighten their holidays.

THE CHARITABLE, Reston-based organization Cornerstones looks out for those neighbors all year long through a wide variety of programs and in partnership with many other organizations, government agencies and faith communities throughout our region. They are a key component of that Thanksgiving meal distribution that Phyllis has been collecting for and the Gifts for Kids Drive that helps hundreds of local struggling and homeless families put a smile on their children’s faces when otherwise there just wouldn’t have been money to spare on the “luxuries” of Christmas gifts when the basics of food and shelter are iffy items on the family budget. Collecting for those drives may be over (with so many to care for, they have to get a jump on things just like Phyllis), but you can still make contact at www.cornerstonesva.org to see what else you can contribute or how else you may assist.

The Winter Coat Closet has only just opened, and will remain so until March 19, 2016, so there’s still plenty of time to be a good neighbor by donating new or gently used winter coats, jackets, scarves and gloves for both children and adults. The Community Room at the North County Government Center at 1801 Cameron Glen Dr. serves as donation and pick-up location.

If you really have your heart set on making your “Season of Giving” include a toy for a youngster, there are still a number of ways to make your wish – and theirs, too – come true. Reston Town Center (RTC) and a number of local businesses are supporting Toys for Tots once again, in association with the U.S. Marine Forces Reserve. The Marines will be on hand at Town Center for a collection kick-off event on Dec. 1, but unwrapped new toys will gladly be accepted in collection boxes in building lobbies around RTC through Dec. 15.

If you are a member of a faith community, you can probably be a “Christmas Angel,” buying a desired gift for a child, or maybe a much-needed item like a coat for an adult. Many of our local faith communities host this program on their own, or participate in the program sponsored by the Salvation Army. Sponsoring a child, or several, or a family can be a done by individuals, groups like your faith community, or even your family or a group of friends. Sounds like a great way to draw a family, or a neighborhood, closer together during the holiday season and beyond – and don’t forget that bell-ringing Santa outside the Giant, or the Safeway, or wherever. That bell ringing may make you a little dizzy, but think of the kind-hearted volunteers who stand there for hours regardless of the weather, just trying to shake a little change loose from passersby because a little bit of change goes a long way.

IN RESTON you can also combine your giving spirit with a bit of action, if you so desire. Potomac River Running is hosting the fifth annual Race With Santa 5K around Reston Town Center on Dec. 6. Registration starts at $30 through Nov. 21, and goes as high as $40 on race day. There are prizes in a number of categories, including best costume. With net proceeds going to local charities, you can get some exercise after all that Thanksgiving turkey and pie, kick off your holidays with some costumed fun, and feel good when part of your fee is used to help someone else enjoy the holidays as much as you will. A good deal all around.

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L’Occitane in Reston Town Center is just one local business that offers shoppers a way to check a gift off their personal shopping list, while attending to their “season of giving” list, as well.

And if riding, versus running is your thing, you can still help out while having fun. Starting on Friday, Nov. 27, after Santa arrives at the end of the RTC Holiday Parade, there will be mini-train rides and horse-drawn carriage rides that will be available on weekends throughout December. The first come, first serve rides that pick up in front of Talbots, only cost $5 per person, and the proceeds will benefit local charities. While you’re waiting for your ride, don’t forget to check out which of your favorite stores in RTC are sponsoring a holiday drive of some sort, like L’Occitane, that is working with Dress for Success, a nonprofit that helps women achieve economic independence. Certain gift purchases from the store will help someone get professionally attired for an interview with the support of the organization – and you.

Even if you haven’t prepared for the holidays like our friend Phyllis, don’t forget that it’s never too late to lend a hand, and with all of the options right here in our own community, there are plenty of ways to make this a real “season of giving” and show your less fortunate neighbors some real Reston holiday cheer.

Joining the ‘Season of Giving’

Just a few suggestions on ways to join in the “Season of Giving” in your community:

The Winter Coat Closet: Give a coat or other winter outer wear, or get one at the North County Government Center, 1801 Cameron Glen Drive. Call Hunter Mill District office 703.478.0283 for hours or information.

Cornerstones – Reston-based non-profit offering wide variety of programs and support, partnering with other agencies, organizations and faith communities. http://www.corner...">www.cornerstonesv....

Reston Town Center – Check the website. RTC has many Toys for Tots donation drop-offs, and a number of holiday events that will benefit local charities. http://www.reston...">www.restontowncen...

Salvation Army – Christmas Angel Program. Sponsor a child, an adult or a family and make some Christmas wishes come true. Something that family and friends can do together. http://virginiasa...">www.virginiasalva...

Embry Rucker Shelter – A 70-bed residential emergency center that houses men, women and families. There’s lots of ways to support this organization that cares for the most vulnerable in our community. Call 703.437.1975 to find out how.

Fairfax County Office of Public Private Partnerships – A great place to check out lots of volunteer or donation opportunities all around our region.

Herndon-Reston Fish (For Immediate Sympathetic Help) –http://www.herndo...">www.herndonreston.... Providers of immediate basic necessities and more. 703.222-0880.