By Marjorie Wallach
The Clock Tower Thrift Shop has been a fixture in Falls Church for more than 20 years, but I never knew about it.
Despite driving by many times, I had always gone right past it on my way to Goodwill.
Until one day, with donations in my car, I saw a small store on my right, near the Goodwill, with furniture out front and a sign saying “Donations Needed.” So, I drove around to the side door of the building, where a young man helped me unload my car, and after giving me a receipt, said “Thanks for supporting this charity, Ma’am”.
Now curious about the place, I decided to go inside, and quickly look around. What I saw was a mixture of furniture, decor, clothing and collectibles. After browsing, and finding a few unique, bargain-priced treasures, I headed to the cashier, where I learned that that the shop supported Northern Virginia Family Service, a non-profit charity helping local families in need. I wanted to know more.
I know that Falls Church, where I live, is known as one of the wealthiest areas in the country. It’s a great place to live, with safe neighborhoods, great, parks, schools, and restaurants, and I feel fortunate. Learning about the services that NVFS provides made me realize how easy it is to forget about the pockets of poverty that are scattered throughout the region. Too many families living on the margins, trying to get by, with little or no safety net.
The pandemic has hit these families disproportionately. Prior to the pandemic, these people were struggling to get by and were often working more than one job, particularly in service industries. On top of juggling a hectic work life, they had child care, unreliable transportation, the cost of rent and the cost of putting food on the table to worry about, their families were under stress. Now many have either recently re-entered the work force after long layoffs or are still trying to rebound from lost jobs. They are suffering even more from uncertainty and stress.
The majority of the people served are women and children in Fairfax County. Northern Virginia Family Service is able to offer them hope and support.
Started back in 1924, NVFS has deep roots in the community.
Today, aided by some strategic partnerships, they are able to provide a combination of vital resources and hands-on support to more than 40,000 people a year in Northern Virginia. NVFS is a beacon of hope to struggling families, as they find a way forward to financial self-sufficiency, emotional and physical health.
It’s difficult to express just how much good this organization does, and what a difference they make in the lives of children and families living in poverty.
Their comprehensive programs address basic needs: secure, affordable housing; job training for employment; access to health care and medications; child care and early childhood education; legal counseling and mental health issues, including aid to refugees recovering from trauma and torture. These are critically important in order for children to grow in a safe and nurturing environment.
Children and families are at the heart of NVFS. A chance for kids to gain the cognitive and social skills necessary for school is provided through Early Head Start and Head Start programs. Pregnant women and new parents get advice and education that includes classes and home visits. Helping families thrive helps prevents child abuse and neglect. NVFS also gives intensive training and certification before home placement in their Foster Care and Adoption programs. NVFS also manages a family homeless shelter that is Northern Virginia’s largest. Of residents there, 40 percent are children, and the average length of stay is less than two months. This is possible because of individual case managers who connect residents with tools, knowledge and resources — the building blocks they need for self-sufficiency.
Finding security and stability will continue to be a challenge for many families in our area. They face serious obstacles. NVFS helps keep poverty, food insecurity and homelessness from becoming an endless cycle.
Are you looking for ways to give back to the community? NVFS needs volunteers for many of their programs! There are individual, group, family and business opportunities, and so many ways you can contribute to the good work they do. Visit nvfs.org to learn more.
Marjorie Wallach is a volunteer at the Clock Tower Thrift Shop