Alexandria in Action: Making a difference in neighbors’ lives

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Alexandria in Action: Making a difference in neighbors’ lives
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By John Porter

Want to make a difference? Want to have a larger impact?

If you answered, “Yes,” to these questions, we have just the thing for you — an opportunity both to make a difference and to have a larger impact through Spring2ACTion 2016 on April 20. This annual day of online giving promises to be the biggest and best yet, enlisting support from 10,000 donors and raising $1.5 million for deserving Alexandria nonprofits.

Since its inception in 2011, Spring2ACTion has received support from more than 31,500 donors and helped Alexandria nonprofits raise $3,391,271. The growth in donors from 1,265 in 2011 to 9.431 last year, coupled with $1,276,909 raised in 2015 compared to $104,156 in its first year, is remarkable, but the direct impact these donations have had — the difference they have made — is the real story.

In 2015, ALIVE! raised funds for its Family Emergency Program. Executive director Diane Charles commended Alexandrians who “stepped up to help their neighbors in need … giving more than $17,000 to people right here in our community who were struggling to pay their rent and utility bills.”

While just one of ALIVE!’s many efforts on behalf of others in our community, funds raised through Spring2ACTion truly had an impact and made a difference in the lives of those individuals and families receiving rent and utility support.

For UpCycle, a Del Ray-based nonprofit whose goal is for more people to reuse what they have before buying new items, last year’s Spring2ACTion campaign enabled them to implement a new initiative which provided the opportunity for more than 500 Alexandria children to think creatively and use materials in new ways. Program cofounder Kelley Organek sees UpCycle’s work, in addition to helping our environment, as a way to help children become more creative problem solvers.

“Working with reuse art materials builds problem solving skills, persistence and resiliency,” Organek said, “which are life-long skills that students need to have to be successful in school and in life.”

Higher Achievement, an after-school program for city middle schoolers, is focusing in this year’s Spring2ACTion to raise funds to support new elective opportunities for the students with whom they work, believing “all students in Alexandria should have access to programs like theater, bike-building and film-making,” according to executive director Katherine Roboff.

But in some ways, even more importantly, the training provided to nonprofit leaders, staff members and volunteers during Spring2ACTion can be used throughout the year. From help creating a webpage devoted to an individual nonprofit’s fundraising efforts to cutting edge social media techniques, these items and skills can be used year round and are valuable far beyond the initial purpose of financial support.

It’s also about community, specifically the bringing together of individuals and businesses to support the nonprofits that give back to our city every day and, on a larger scale, the strengthening of connections between nonprofits and the greater community. The more we connect with others and build lasting relationships, the more we grow and the more our community benefits by what we can accomplish together.

I invite you to be one of the 10,000 or more participants in this year’s Spring2ACTion. It’s an easy way to have an impact and make a difference no matter how large your donation. I encourage you to go online to www.spring2action.org on April 20 and support the nonprofits that you feel address your passions, interests and goals for our community. And whatever the amount you are able to donate is important for the nonprofit receiving and, more importantly, for those served by that nonprofit.

I also believe you will find that giving to others, in addition to making a difference and having an impact on them, will do the same for you. In the words of W. H. Auden, “We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.”

Don’t just give. Solve. Act for Alexandria.

The writer is the president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.

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