Even when times are tough, the strong, vibrant, diverse community Alexandrians enjoy thrives because those of us blessed with a little more than we need tend to lend a hand to those of us who need a little more. With the national economy putting the squeeze on more of our neighbors, now is the time to come together and help those in our community struggling to make ends meet.
Despite our relatively affluent city, more than 1,600 families live below the poverty line, more than 5,600 Alexandrians rely on food stamps, and over half of the children in our public schools qualify for federally subsidized lunches. Many of our citizens cannot afford basic human necessities like food, clothing and shelter, let alone other needs like health care, childcare, drug treatment, tutoring, and job training.
Through our tradition of caring and activism, we have risen to address these community challenges during good times and bad. While government safety-net programs are critical, we also depend on the extraordinary efforts of our communitys nonprofit human service providers, which work faithfully to serve those in need.
We know that supporting the work of these organizations is one way we can do our part to help. But who has the time to research which agencies work best and are meeting our communitys most pressing needs?
Contributing to this years Alexandria United Way Campaign, which is just now getting under way, is a great way to ensure that your charitable investment is being well spent. Through gifts and matching employer donations to the United Way, you can support local Alexandria agencies in several ways:
-You can designate your donation to any of the 900 nonprofit organizations that are certified by the United Way, including more than 60 nonprofits that are operating in Alexandria.
-You can choose a specific impact area you want to address, such as promoting self-sufficiency or supporting vulnerable and aging populations.
-Or, you can do what I do and give your money to the Alexandria Community Impact Fund (Code 9001).
Gifts to the Alexandria Community Impact Fund are distributed by a knowledgeable committee of Alexandria volunteers who work with nonprofit, government, and business leaders to identify gaps in services and make sure your money goes to specific local initiatives that serve those Alexandria needs.
This year, the Alexandria Community Impact Fund distributed more than $158,861 to 28 Alexandria nonprofits for programs such as: the ALIVE! Child Development Center, which provides special needs services to poor children; the Davids Place day shelter program for the homeless at Carpenters Shelter; Food and Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients with HIV/AIDS; Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, which provides a variety of human services in our community; and the Alexandria Seaport Foundations Boatbuilding Apprenticeship Program, which provides job training to young adults.
As this years chair of the Alexandria United Way Campaign, I urge all Alexandrians to be aware of the needy, the forgotten, and the unfortunate in our community during these difficult economic times, and to support the vital work of our nonprofit agencies. For more information about the United Way, visit the website at www.unitedwaynca.org, or call the Alexandria United Way office at 703-549-4447.
Englin is the 2008-2009 Alexandria United Way Campaign Chair