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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sponsors sought to help needy families during the holidays

A child receives a gift from an Our Daily Bread holiday program sponsor. [Photo from ODB.]
Our Daily Bread (ODB), a nonprofit based in Fairfax, is seeking individuals, community groups, and businesses to sponsor needy families for Thanksgiving and the December holidays.

Sponsors provide a holiday meal and gifts for family members under 18. If you’re interested in signing up for Thanksgiving, you need to register online right away; the deadline is Monday, Nov. 11. The deadline for registering to help a family in December is Dec. 9.

ODB expects more than 3,000 Fairfax County residents will seek assistance for the holidays. “We’re desperate for people to volunteer,” said ODB Executive Director Lisa Whetzel. ODB operates its Holiday Program through a grant from the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.

The needy families on ODB’s list are referred by Fairfax County Public Schools social workers and community organizations. “Most referrals are from the Route 1 area, but we’re seeing referrals from all over the county. It’s pretty spread out,” said Whetzel.

There are flexible options for sponsorship. You can choose to help an individual or family and can select the size of the family to assist, the area of the county you’d like to support, and whether you’d like to provide help for Thanksgiving, a December meal, or gifts for children, or all three options.

Registered sponsors are given information on the individual/family they will serve and arrange to deliver the meals and/or gifts. The suggested donation for a meal is $50 for a small family, $75 for a medium-size family, and $100 for a large family (with seven or more people). Gift for children should be up to $25 per child.

Additionally, there is a “virtual sponsor” option that allows sponsors to provide a financial donation that ODB will use to purchase a gift card to help a specific family. ODB gets a discount for purchasing gift cards in bulk, which maximizes the contributions.

In 2012, ODB’s Holiday Program served more than 3,000 families. The organization is expecting to see increased demand for assistance this holiday season due to lingering effects from the federal government shutdown and sequestration, as well as the federal government’s plan to decrease benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) beginning Nov. 1.

“We’ve seen increased requests for general food assistance in the past month or so,” said Whetzel. “We think it’s a trend that is going to get worse because of the growing disparity in incomes. Our clients are hurt by the sequestration indirectly. When federal employees are seeing their pay cut, they’re not ordering maid services or shopping as much.”

According to the organization Feeding America, more than 76,000 residents in the Fairfax County area are “food insecure,” meaning they do not know where their next meal will come from. Fairfax County Public Schools estimates that approximately 46,000, or 24 percent, of its student population is qualified to receive free or reduced-price meals.

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