How to Find Reward by Working With Those in Need

As Maureen McCarty and I meet with Maria (not her real name), I realize the compounded struggles of the poor. Maria’s English speaking and comprehension are limited. She and her husband are separated. Her son’s health issues complicate her search for work. And at this moment, with area rents topping $1,000 a month, even for a small apartment, Maria needs rent assistance. Can we help her? Each Wednesday morning, McCarty and other finance counselors who volunteer with a Christ Church’s …

A Holiday Surprise: Learning How to Give

There’s a woman in my town who seems to be everywhere. She is of indeterminate age, and whether she’s at the Metro or the farmers market, she asks passersby for money. Sometimes she sells the homeless newspaper. She usually talks in a kind of sad, downbeat monotone. I saw her at the market Sunday, and it was pretty cold. When she said she needed a few bucks for a meal at our local cafe, I said I’d walk down with her …

One Man’s Secret to Playing a Great Santa

Edward Lacy, 56, has a secret identity. Once a year, Lacy transforms into a superhero more powerful than Superman and Batman combined. Without a cape or Batmobile, he flies around the globe in 24 hours, squeezes down chimneys and visits every child in the world. Yes, Lacy is Santa Claus for the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority in Virginia. The rest of the year he’s the authority’s ombudsman. A week before Christmas, I play elf to Lacy’s jolly St. Nick …

Why Delivering Meals On Wheels Gives So Much More

“I love to eat,” says Tom Irvin, 85, as we loaded up his Toyota with the day’s Meals On Wheels deliveries. “I know how important food is.” So when a neighbor asked Irvin to join her on a Meals On Wheels delivery seven years ago, it was a perfect fit to him. Today, he distributes hot and cold meals several times a week as one of the 250 volunteers with Senior Services of Alexandria. “This is my way of giving …

Journeys From Prison to Productivity

For me, beautiful fall Saturday mornings are meant for open air markets, bike rides and hikes. For Abed Commey, 55, they mean teaching computer skills to female ex-offenders at Friends of Guest House. FOGH is a nonprofit that helps women transition from incarceration back into the community by giving them temporary housing, vocational training, counseling and long-term support. >> Find Volunteer Opportunities at Create the Good This particular Saturday, I decide to see things Commey’s way. We join an eclectic …

Biking for Books … All the Way Across the Country

Rich McKinless believes books are the way to open the windows of the world to children. So he spent the summer pedaling across America to raise awareness and money for literacy. McKinless, 57, of Arlington, Va., ended a 4,351-mile, “sea to shining sea” cycling journey on Sept. 28 and raised more than $45,000 for First Book, a nonprofit that provides access to new books for children from low-income families. He became acquainted with the organization while working at audit and …