Guide to Giving

Want to make a difference? Consider a donation of time or money to one of these local nonprofits.

Encore Learning

Encore Learning. Photo by Marjorie Varner

Encore Learning ( offers exam-free, noncredit, daytime college-level courses for people ages 50 and older. Classes are taught by working and retired scholars and business professionals. Clubs and special events augment the academic program. Encore Learning’s affiliations with George Mason University, Arlington Public Schools and Arlington County provide classroom and office space. Donations and member fees provide fiscal support.
Headquartered: Arlington
Serves: People 50 and older in the D.C. metro area
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $175 provides a scholarship for an annual membership and one class per semester for a limited-income student.
❱❱ $850 provides a laptop for the part-time staff.
❱❱ $5,000 covers the cost of one semester’s catalog production: graphic design, printing and postage.
Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers serve as course instructors who develop, then teach semester-long courses over a 4- to 10-week period in weekly sessions of 1½ to 2 hours. Volunteer standing committees recruit new instructors; seek exhibits, speakers and performances for special events; write and edit course catalogs; initiate and maintain clubs; advise on office technology; organize social functions; and recruit, train and support class aides.

Friends of Guest House

Founded in 1974, Friends of Guest House helps Northern Virginia women successfully reenter the community from incarceration. Offering programs that address the “five pillars of livability”—health care, employment, education, housing and family/community reconnection—FOGH provides the structure, supervision, support and assistance women need to transition successfully from incarceration to self-sufficiency.
Headquartered: Alexandria
Serves: Mostly Northern Virginia, with some services extending statewide
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $250 equips a new resident with a computer for résumé preparation, job searches and job applications.
❱❱ $1,000 provides lunch for two months for 10-12 residents participating in the Workforce and Life Development program.
❱❱ $10,000 covers 25 percent of the salary for a mental health clinician to teach Life Development small-group classes and provide one-on-one counseling services to residents struggling with mental health issues.
Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers facilitate life skills and workforce development classes, help with weekly groceries, provide transportation to weekly exercise classes, attend events with residents, and sort clothing and other donations. Age restrictions apply to certain roles.


Homestretch ( empowers homeless families to secure permanent housing and attain the skills, knowledge and hope they need to achieve self-sufficiency.
Headquartered: Falls Church
Serves: Falls Church City and Fairfax County
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $250 buys shoes for 15 children or 10 gas cards or Metro cards ($25 each) for working parents in the program.
❱❱ $300 buys groceries for three Homestretch families for one week.
❱❱ $1,000 funds much-needed dental work for two or three homeless adults, or car repairs for parents who need their cars to get to work.
❱❱ $15,000 covers nearly all of one family’s housing costs for one year.
Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers tutor adults or children, teach life skills classes, prepare apartments for incoming families, organize donation drives, assist with property landscaping and other service projects, help in the preschool or nursery, cook meals for the after-school teen program, and provide pro bono expertise in their given professional fields. Service projects can be adapted to fit school community service commitments or learning credits.

Jill’s House

Jill’s House ( supports families raising children with intellectual disabilities through short-term overnight respite care. These overnights are adapted to each child’s physical, emotional and behavioral needs. Since 2010, Jill’s House has provided more than 700,000 hours of rest and renewal to more than 780 families.
Headquartered: Vienna
Serves: D.C. metro area
What a donation provides:
❱❱ $60 supports a child’s activities for the weekend, including a wheelchair-accessible indoor pool.
❱❱ $125 supports the direct-care costs for a child’s overnight stay.
Volunteer opportunities (16 and older):Volunteers must commit to serving at least two shifts per month (three hours per shift) for at least one year. Students may use their volunteer hours for school service requirements, but they are still expected to make the one-year commitment. Volunteers serve in a variety of roles, from group buddies who engage directly with the kids, to pool, kitchen, administrative and event helpers.

 Just Neighbors

Just Neighbors ( provides immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees of all faiths and nationalities. Many clients come from countries such as El Salvador, Mexico, Liberia, Bolivia and Peru.
Headquartered: Annandale
Serves: Northern Virginia
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $250 helps fund one application for a work permit.
❱❱ $1,000 helps one asylee or refugee family apply for lawful permanent residency (green cards).
Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers help clients prepare their immigration applications and help students apply for internships. Volunteer attorneys provide face-to-face counseling to low-income immigrants and refugees. Others are needed to serve as translators or to help with web design, social media, writing and more.

La Cocina VA

La Cocina VA ( trains, certifies and places low-income immigrants in meaningful jobs in the food-service industry. Most clients are women who have suffered from domestic violence, human trafficking or chronic unemployment. The program has an 85 percent job placement rate.
Headquartered: Arlington
Serves: D.C. metro area
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $250 provides the necessary ingredients for program participants to prepare 200 healthy meals, which are then donated to local families in need.
❱❱ $1,000 pays for 50 hours of vocational, industry-oriented English classes.
❱❱ $10,000 provides culinary training, food certification and job placement for one student.
Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers drive and distribute meals daily to affordable housing units and shelters in South Arlington.

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia

The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia ( teaches adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking and understanding English so they can participate more fully and confidently in their communities.
Headquartered: Falls Church
Serves: Northern Virginia
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $75 provides a student scholarship.
❱❱ $250 trains five volunteer instructors.
❱❱ $500 supports five families in LCNV’s Family Learning Program.
❱❱ $4,500 covers a survival and job readiness literacy class for 10 refugee women.
❱❱ $10,000 purchases all the books needed for parents and children in LCNV’s Family Learning Program.
Volunteer opportunities: Volunteer teachers lead classroom instruction two to three times a week per three-month semester. Class aides support learners in the classroom once or twice a week. Tutors provide supplemental instruction before or after class. Assessment specialists assess learners for appropriate program placement and measure their progress six times a year. Others help with class registration, outreach, office tasks and special projects.

New Hope Housing

New Hope Housing ( provides shelter, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, support services and outreach programs for homeless families and individuals. The nonprofit serves more than 2,000 people each year, and helped rehouse more than 400 people last year. It seeks to end the cycle of homelessness by offering the services people need to change their lives.
Headquartered: Fairfax County
Serves: Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and Fairfax
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $250 provides a new bed for someone moving out of homelessness.
❱❱ $1,000 subsidizes a month of housing for a formerly homeless family.
❱❱ $10,000 allows more than 30 adults to obtain certifications needed for better employment opportunities.
Volunteer opportunities: Volunteers assist with tutoring, résumé writing, job search assistance, meal preparation, event planning, building repairs and maintenance, landscaping, yard work and office tasks. Commitments can be short- or long-term. Internships are offered to students focusing on careers in social services or communications and marketing.

Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR)

OAR ( is a restorative justice organization that blends compassion and accountability to help offenders lead productive and responsible lives. OAR offers classes inside the Arlington County Detention Facility, provides re-entry services to individuals coming home after incarceration and manages the community service program for Arlington and Falls Church courts.
Headquartered: Arlington
Serves: Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $100 provides social activities for five recently released clients.
❱❱ $250 provides IDs for six clients, which are needed to secure housing and employment.
❱❱ $500 provides three months of case management for one client.
❱❱ $1,000 provides one month of transportation for 15 clients to travel to job interviews.
❱❱ $2,500 provides one year of re-entry services for one high-risk client.
❱❱ $10,000 covers the cost of one part-time employment specialist for one year.
Volunteer opportunities (18 and older): Volunteers teach inside the Arlington County Detention Facility (curricula can be developed based on a volunteer’s skills/interests); provide office/administrative support; cultivate relationships with local businesses; oversee clients engaged in community service projects on weekends (8-16 hours per month in spring, summer and fall); organize toy drives that collect holiday gifts for children of incarcerated parents; and assist re-entry clients with résumé building, interviewing skills and applying for jobs (weekday evenings, one to two nights a week for two to three hours).

Phoenix Bikes

Phoenix Bikes ( educates youth, promotes bicycling and builds community through its full-service community bike shop in Arlington’s Barcroft Park. Its free, year-round Earn-a-Bike program teaches bike repair basics to young people ages 12-17, who then practice their skills refurbishing a bike for someone in need and then earn a bike for themselves. The program has more than 150 graduates annually.
Headquartered: Arlington
Serves: D.C. metro area
What a donation buys:
❱❱ $25 provides one U-Lock and helmet for an Earn-a-Bike program graduate.
❱❱ $50 provides snacks, transportation and supplies for a month’s worth of Saturday youth group bike rides (more than 45 rides held annually).
❱❱ $150 provides registration for all of “Team Phoenix” to compete in a cycling race (more than 25 races participated in annually).
Volunteer opportunities: Weekly Volunteer Nights on Tuesdays allow mechanics of all skill levels to lead and/or learn the nuts and bolts of bicycle refurbishment or participate in other shop organization tasks. Volunteer Ride Leaders join weekly youth bike rides that range from three to more than 20 miles and often include an educational or service component.

Categories: Community