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Giving Back: How to Help Out the Community This Holiday Season

One of the most important themes during the holiday season is giving back, whether it be to family members, friends or even the community. In the City of Falls Church and surrounding areas, nonprofit organizations, toy drives and donation centers are helping those who may not be as fortunate during the holidays. These can also be great ways for people to help their fellow local community members who may need it. 

Shepherd Center will be committed to continuing their mission of providing free rides to older adults during the holiday season. (Photo: Carrie Le)

The Shepherd Center of McLean/Arlington/Falls Church is a nonprofit, all volunteer organization that provides free rides for adults of 50 years of age or older. These rides, provided by background-checked volunteer drivers, can include going to doctors, therapist and dental appointments, as well as pharmacy and grocery store visits. The organization also responds to requests for “minor household repairs.” 

Carol Edelstein, the board secretary of the Shepherd Center of McLean/Arlington/Falls Church, said the organization is committed in continuing to provide free rides throughout the holiday, stating the volunteers they have are “willing to drive 24/7, 365 days a year” for the older adults in the community who need it. 

Edelstein said the center is always looking for more volunteers during the holidays, as the organization has seen a rise in requests for rides by older adults in the community. For volunteers, they can be of any age and there’s no “minimum requirement;” they are free to choose “how often [they drive] and the hours they drive,” providing some flexibility during the season. 

“Typically, we are able to provide well over 95 percent of the ride requests,” Edelstein said, “and if we can do that throughout the holiday season, or even exceed that, we would be thrilled because that’s when the need is [at its] greatest.” 

Throughout the City of Falls Church, various toy and gift donations are being held to give children and their families a happy holiday season. The City collected new, unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots, while the City of Falls Church Sheriff also collected toys for children in area hospitals. While those toy drives have already stopped their donations, one can support the Mary Riley Styles Public Library by taking part in their annual donation drive, a way in helping the library expand the “collection, programming and vibrance of our library.” They also sell merchandise that is perfect for holiday gifting and giving back to the library. 

Four-legged friends also deserve some holiday spirit this season. Barkley Square Pet Spa is taking donations for the Homeward Trails Animal Rescue until December 23rd. People can stop by the pet spa Monday through Saturday between 9:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m. to drop off their donations, which can include dog leashes, high quality canned cat and dog food, and collars. People can also give back to the pet spa by donating cleaning supplies, office necessities and gift cards. 

Medical Care for Children Partnership Foundation (MCCP) is a public/private partnership of the Fairfax County government dedicated to providing access to medical and dental care for low-income, uninsured children who live in Fairfax County. 

Eva Starrak, the Director of Development for the organization, said the foundation will be holding a food distribution drive at Culmore United Methodist Church in Falls Church on Thursday, December 22nd. Locals can help out the foundation by dropping off food donations during the drive, or donating financially to MCCP on their website. They also accept new, unworn children’s clothing, full-sized toothpaste, individually packaged toothbrushes and floss. 

“MCCP hopes to provide smiles, relief and access to health for vulnerable children in Fairfax County this holiday season,” Starrak said. 

Other local organizations offering volunteer opportunities one can become involved in during the holidays are Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), Falls Church Community Service Council and the American Red Cross Blood Services. If one doesn’t have time to volunteer during the holidays or toys to donate, they can donate to local social service and nonprofit organizations in the area. Service and organizations such as the Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS), Shelter House, Falls Church Community Service Council and more.