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Monday, November 23, 2015

Help a needy family enjoy the holidays

Boy Scouts collect food for the ACCA food pantry during the Scouting for Food event earlier this month.
How about embracing the true meaning of Christmas this year by “adopting” a needy family for the holidays? The Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA), a coalition of local churches, is coordinating a program matching donors with those who need help.

Donors provide a basket full of groceries for a holiday meal or a grocery gift card plus gifts for the children. 

If you’d like to sponsor a family for the December holidays, send an email to the program coordinator, Mary Lee Di Spirito (, 703-256-9513). Be sure to include your name, address, phone number, and maximum number of adults and children you can serve.

Di Spirito will send you the information about your adopted family by Dec. 15. To make it convenient for donors, she will try to match donors with recipients in the same zip code. ACCA also organized a holiday basket program for Thanksgiving, but the deadline for participating in that has passed.

Once a sponsor is assigned a family, it’s their responsibility to contact them, see what they and their children need, and arrange a time to drop off the groceries and gifts. Sponsors are given the names, address, ages of the children, and children’s wish lists. If the parents don’t speak English, ACCA will find someone to help communicate with them.

Needy families have been identified by case workers from the Fairfax County Department of Family Services, school social workers, or parent liaisons at local schools.

Because this is such a diverse area, with so many cultures represented, the gift baskets are for the “December holidays,” rather than for Christmas, Di Spirito says. She urges sponsors to find out what the family prefers. For example, Vietnamese families traditionally serve duck for their holiday dinner.

ACCA is also sponsoring a winter clothing drive Dec. 6-13 to benefit day laborers, people staying at the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter, and children at the ACCA Child Development Center.

Winter jackets, hooded sweatshirts, heavy sweaters, hats, and gloves – clean and in good condition – are especially appreciated. Di Spirito suggests gloves be put in a plastic bag so they don’t get separated.

Clothing can be dropped off in the parking lot of St. Anthony of Padua Church, 3305 Glen Carlyn Road, Falls Church, on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2-4 p.m.

ACCA depends on the generosity of the community to fund its programs. It provides emergency food assistance, furniture, child care, and financial help to those in need. The organization’s challenge campaign, now under way, has the goal of raising $120,000 by Jan. 31. If you would like to help, checks can be sent to  ACCA, 7200 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003, with “challenge” in the memo line. Donations can also be made online.

Here are some of the good works undertaken by ACCA last month:
  • More than $21,500 in family emergency funds helped with rental payments for 26 households, utilities  assistance for four households, and assistance with medical issues to two households. Among those served was a single mother who had surgery and could not afford the rent due to lost wages. In another case, a woman with four small children could not afford the rent because of lost child support when the father was incarcerated.
  • ACCA’s food pantry assisted 168 people.
  • The furniture program delivered furniture to 30 households, including a single mother and child who moved into a small basement apartment, a single mother who moved from a shelter to a subsidized apartment, and two veterans, one of whom was disabled. 
  • ACCA volunteers transported six clients to medical appointments.
  • Twenty-three meals-on-wheels clients received two meals per day.

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