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A season of giving that lasts all year

Volunteer opportunities abound at Ashby Ponds

Created date

October 23rd, 2015
Ashby Ponds residents
Ashby Ponds residents

“I am at my happiest when I am helping others, so I always have my eyes out for someone who needs a helping hand,” says Sharon Harvey, who lives at .

There are many people at the Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., who feel the same way. This fall, in an effort to help those less fortunate than themselves, generous volunteers provided school supplies to local children and continue to donate clothing to the homeless in Washington, D.C.

A+ students

Because many community members at Ashby Ponds formerly worked as educators and school employees, helping children is at the top of their volunteer lists. For the past six years, more than 75 community members have led a school-supply drive based on the lists distributed by Loudoun and Fairfax Counties. 

This year, the group collected enough donated funds to provide school supplies to 145 students, all of whom are the children of Ashby Ponds’ hourly employees. Volunteers invite the children to visit the campus to select a new backpack and fill it with the supplies requested by their schools.

“The school supply project is dear to my heart,” says Joanne Harney, who taught elementary school for 18 years. “Our residents are extraordinarily generous. Personally, I enjoy the opportunity to get involved with kids and school again.  I know a lot of us feel that way.

“The best part is watching the kids pick out a backpack and fill it with things they choose,” she adds, “especially the excitement of the little ones and the appreciation of the older ones and their parents.”

Lyn Knapp, who taught in rural Iowa and served as a Fairfax County Public School librarian, agrees.

“The most fun is filling the chosen backpack alongside the child of one of our employees,” she says. “Not all children are able to attend, but we fill all the backpacks and distribute them to the parents. Everyone is always so grateful.”

Some of the former educators involved in the school-supply drive also volunteer with Ashby Ponds’ English as a Second Language program, started by Joanne six years ago.

“We tutor any staff member who wants help advancing their knowledge of English,” says Joanne. 

Warm hearts

Coinciding with the school-supply drive and continuing throughout the year, a group of Ashby Ponds volunteers led by community member Mildred Fitch collects clothing donations for the homeless in Northwest D.C.

“Years ago, I noticed a photo in The Washington Post picturing a homeless child who only received one gift box for Christmas. That image stuck with me,” says Mildred. 

To help as many people as she is able, Mildred began making donations to area shelters and organizations in 1980. Just over a year ago, she enlisted the help of her Ashby Ponds neighbors to collect clothing for donation to a distribution center for the homeless in Northwest D.C.

Many were quick to answer her call, including Ruth Durloo, Jean Balcom, and Sharon Harvey. The women help with the collection, load Mildred’s minivan, and often drive with Mildred to the donation center. 

“Most donations include winter items like coats, sweaters, scarves, and hats, but also other important accessories like socks and shoes,” says Mildred.

Every few months, once her van is full, she drives dozens of bags of donated items into D.C.

“I enjoy the fact that we are taking clothes no longer needed by residents to people who can really use them,” says Sharon. “The collection is ongoing. As soon as Mildred receives a carload of clothing, she makes the delivery, and we start filling her car for the next trip.”

Recently, Mildred’s car was so full of donations that Sharon also filled her car with bags and headed into D.C. 

“I think Ashby Ponds residents know how blessed they are and wish to share what they have with others,” says Jean Balcom. 

“Ashby Ponds is a wonderful place to live, and there are opportunities for volunteering based on every interest,” says Joanne.