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Beyond Just “Doing Our Job”

By Tracee Garner, Peer Counselor

If you take the time to give, your gift-giving for family and friends may be pretty much the same. You get what you can for this one and that one, and then, there’s a big reveal on holiday mornings. After that, you go back to work and school as usual. However, we are often reminded that it is not true for everyone. Conflicts and struggles abound for many of us, making it challenging for some to be thankful.

This year, we experienced impactful and tangible joy through our Alexandria Assistance and Emergency grants program. We don’t often get to see the impact of our work in a traditional sense. We help folks get what they need, but they don’t always tell us how it impacts them. We go back to business as usual without knowing our reach.

COVID first emerged in 2020 and continues to have an impact on society. Giving has never been more important. Those of us fortunate enough to be gainfully and competitively employed, with a shelter over our heads, food on the table, and everyone in our household safe and secure, can get caught up in seeing our jobs as a chore, something to do, something to pay the bills and something to “get through…”.

But this season, we were reminded that giving, impacts and changes lives.

We’ve been entrusted with an emergency assistance grant from the City of Alexandria and Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. We strive to be good stewards but it is always easy to quantify the impacts we make from the funding we receive.

An example that hit home for me, was someone recently diagnosed with cancer. This person was making an honest living one minute, and then was flat on his back the next. His wife and children, who are immigrants to this country, relied on him for everything from food to housing. Most of us have never experienced the dire feeling of not being able to make the next rent or buy food that will last to last until the end of the month. Through our emergency grant, we were able to give this family peace of mind with financial assistance for just a little while longer, while we also worked on alternative resources and partnerships to help all of our families.

There are many illustrations, scenarios, and moving stories like this all over our service area and beyond.

Here’s what our Expansion and Outreach Senior Pansy Walker said about her recent on-site outreach in Alexandria: “Being there for families during any time of year is important, but the holidays make giving seem so much more. There are job descriptions that each person is hired to do, but to look in someone’s eyes and see the appreciation and the tears, brings [me] nothing but joy and a sense of purpose to want to do more. This is not about the job. It is about being a part of a community and wanting to bring some comfort if only for a moment.”

Just the idea of being a caring person, listening even where the full needs of that person cannot always be met, or a promise to at least help, can bring so much hope and change to that person’s prospects. 

People say, “Money isn’t everything.” We would agree, it might not be everything, but it can help change things for so many. Some people disparage charitable organizations as being no different than glorified lenders, safety nets that are considered “too safe,” and require nothing of others to receive support. I challenge that assumption. It can be a big step to ask for help, Reaching out can be at a great cost to one’s pride and the possibility that you very well may be turned away. That does cost something, and it takes courage.

People do not want to fall on hard times. It can happen to anyone, any time. COVID was an impossible epidemic and illness that crushed businesses, forcing folks to close their doors. When businesses dried up, patronage stopped.

Then, we slowly emerged sometimes, even tentatively as we waited and looked for something else just as devastating to happen. People’s lives were upended, including their ability to provide for themselves and their families. The pride and shame on people’s faces tell you a lot. Many would rather die, or be out on the street, than have to ask for help. Giving is not only a wonderful thing, it’s the only thing that can give others a chance to get their lives back on track and care for those they love. We should want that for everyone, regardless of the circumstances that bring us to our current situation.

Rosalia Fajardo, ECNV Director of Multicultural Families, said: “In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, it was such a moving experience for ENCV to be able to provide rental assistance and food cards to the residents of an area we serve. We were able to witness, firsthand, the enormous needs of our immigrant population with disabilities. Giving help to these families was deeply satisfying. Being able to fulfill our mission and seeing the gratitude toward ECNV on the faces of the families made me feel so proud to work here. Doing this is not just a day’s work. It is much more than that. It is being able to reach out with all our hearts. Serving the most vulnerable, is for us an act of immense love we can demonstrate by providing our support, and resources to help them as much as we can.”

We must remember that when we take time to give and help others, what we do is more than financial support. Being a willing listener who offers advice and new ideas to solve problems is also a chance for a person to be heard and comforted during impossible situations. It can mean everything to the person on the receiving end, with reverberations traveling beyond them to their families, and communities and this helps motivate us to keep working as hard as we can for change.