family having thanksgiving

Resources - November 26, 2019

Giving Thanks, Giving Back

How Goodwin House Residents Give of their Time & Talent

by Amber McCracken

This week officially starts the season of giving. As we gather with family and friends to celebrate and give thanks, it’s important to recognize the beauty of giving back throughout the year.

At Goodwin House, it is a pillar of our mission to give back to the community around us. This spirit of service and generosity is present in the nearly 1,200 residents of our Life Plan Communities and Goodwin House at Home members, and our 900 employees. Nearly every day, residents participate in volunteer opportunities that reach both our Goodwin House neighbors and the Northern Virginia region at large. Here’s a look at just a few of the organizations that are supported by our residents and members:

Monthly Clothing Collection. A group of Goodwin House men gather monthly to receive clothing donations from residents, then put them in large bags for delivery to the Clock Tower Thrift Shop. The proceeds of the sales are passed on to Northern Virginia Family Services. This October, they collected 18 bags, roughly 450 pounds – a typical month!

Back-to-School Collection. Each year Goodwin House Alexandria (GHA) Chaplain Bruce Stewart encourages donations to help students start the new school year. Residents and staff contributed an impressive $3,000 this year, and it went to Hammond Middle School, located near the GHA campus in West Alexandria. Hammond used the funds for back-to-school supplies and weekend food bags for homes in which food scarcity is a concern.

Hammond Middle School. Residents also volunteer their time to help students at Hammond as judges in the annual National History Week competition and as mentors for the foreign-born students presenting their “portfolio” of what they are learning – in English.

  • Hands-on Projects. Residents who are less mobile are no less active in supporting local organizations. They give back in a variety of ways: Semi-annually, residents deliver toiletries they collect, sort and deliver to the Culmore Clinic, a free medical clinic in the neighborhood.
  • Periodically, residents gather to stuff envelopes for fundraising drives in support of the Culmore Clinic.
  • Annually at Thanksgiving, knitters and crocheters send handmade hats, scarves, mittens, afghans and other items to the Carpenters’ Shelter.
  • Semi-annually, residents collect eyeglasses (in cooperation with Goodwin House Baileys Crossroads) and deliver them to the local Lions Club for distribution to those who need eyewear and are unable to afford it.
  • Residents also harken back to tried and true – pull tab collections. Those little pull tabs, collected over time, yield jars and jars that go to support the Ronald McDonald House.

Chapel Fund Donations. Worshippers at the GHA Memorial Chapel donate regularly each week much as churches everywhere. These donations go first toward chapel expenses, while the remainder, usually well over $10,000, is distributed as grants in our community.

Advent Angel Tree. At Christmas time, all residents are invited to pick a decorative angel from the tree near the chapel, then write a check to a designated charity.

What Residents Say

We asked members of the GHA Resident Outreach Committee about their volunteering efforts. Their answers emphasized their love for others and importance of understanding that everyone has something to contribute.

Frank Wade

“I think life is meant to be lived outward into the world around us. Volunteering is one of the best ways to live as we were meant to live. We are elders in the community. We must model the behavior that builds community.”

Ed Morai

“Volunteering is important to help residents enjoy whatever activity in which they are participating – to engage them in conversations, to feel comfortable. I especially enjoy volunteering with the chapel services as a worthwhile contribution to the spiritual community at Goodwin House. The residents become more involved with each other and feel a part of the Goodwin House family.”

John Berry

“If I can still help others, I’m not over the hill yet! My most rewarding experience has been helping out in the nearby middle school and seeing a wide diversity of young students eager to learn — the way I was 70 years ago! We are the lucky ones. There is real need in our community, and we can help. And in so doing, we find we still have the strength and courage to do the Lord’s work.”

Pierre Shostal

“I believe that those of us who have been fortunate in life should lend a hand to those who have not been as blessed. Our volunteering demonstrates that Goodwin House Alexandria is indeed a member of the community. I especially enjoy working with Afghan refugees who come to this country after having served with U.S. forces in their country. I learned that they are dedicated to becoming full members of our community and being self-sufficient.”

For these residents and those who dedicate their time and efforts to volunteering throughout the community, we are truly grateful.

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Amber McCracken is the executive director of Current Communications, a boutique consultancy that helps organizations with their marketing and public relations activities. Amber has worked with GHI since 2014, providing her expert advice to support Goodwin House at Home. She contributes regularly to The Good Life, both as a writer and editor. Amber lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children.

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