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Sunday, August 30, 2009

ACCA helps people in crisis

A single mother with four children lost her job and couldn’t afford her utility bills. A man who supports his elderly parents and three siblings needed help with the rent. A senior single with kidney failure had trouble making ends meet. These are just some of the hundreds of needy people who received emergency assistance from Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA) over the past couple of months.

Located in a brick building that used to house an elementary school on Columbia Pike, ACCA is an Annandale institution. When it was created in 1967, it was a “pebble in the pond,” says ACCA President Norm Hicks, who has been involved with the group for 38 years. As the first interfaith service group in the county, it served as a model for similar initiatives.

ACCA offers an amazing array of services to local people in times of crisis, including emergency funding to help with things like rent, utilities, and car repairs; meals on wheels; a food pantry; transportation to help people get to medical appointments and find jobs; furniture repair; child care; and a college scholarship program. Only the day care center has a staff. The rest of the work is carried out by volunteers, most of them from the 26 churches that contribute to ACCA.

The day I visited with Hicks, he was working on helping a family who fled Iraq after terrorists killed the man’s parents. The man is having trouble finding work due to health problems, and because he doesn’t have health insurance, must go to the emergency room for treatment. Meanwhile, Hicks’ wife, Ann Marie, was taking a blind woman shopping for clothes.

ACCA has been spread thin in recent months as the recession is taking a toll on people struggling to keep their homes and feed their families when they lose jobs and face health setbacks. Meanwhile, the churches themselves are struggling as membership declines.

ACCA spent about $280,000 last to help needy families in Annandale and the Culmore area in Bailey’s Crossroads, up from $240,000 the year before, but that doesn’t come close to what is needed, says Hicks. About a third of ACCA’s revenue comes from the churches, one third from grants, and another third from private donations.

You don’t have to be associated with one of the volunteer churches to volunteer; anyone can help. To volunteer, contact ACCA at accacares@verizon.net or (703) 256-0100. If you need help, call the ACCA emergency line, (703) 256-1378.

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