By Amy Falkofske and Jorge de Villasante
Part of the Prince William Living mission is to enhance the quality of life in our community and to inspire our
readers to do the same. We highlight organizations that are giving back in every print issue, creating greater awareness and support of their efforts. Annually, we invite our readers to nominate outstanding not-for-profit organizations in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park through our Giving Back Award.
This year, out of the amazing nonprofits that were nominated, the judges chose Volunteer Prince William as our winner, with honorable mentions to Matthew’s Center and Saving Prince William’s Littles.
Volunteer Prince William
Volunteer Prince William, an affiliate member of Points of Light Institute and Hands On Network is located in Manassas and concentrates on motivating people to take action to change the world one person at a time, little by little. Volunteer Prince William offers many volunteer opportunities in the Prince William region where they work together with community groups. Volunteers can help a child learn to read, gather food for local food banks, improve the environment or spend time with a senior citizen. Volunteer Prince William partners with community agencies to mobilize volunteers and resources to provide solutions for critical issues in our community.
“This organization supports as many people as they can through the services they provide. If they cannot help you, they will point you in the right direction,” said nominator Wendy Rogers.
“For the past 30 years, Volunteer Prince William has been building a stronger community by connecting volunteers with opportunities,” said Uriah Kiser, a member of Volunteer Prince William’s Board of Directors.
Kiser pointed out the many ways in which Volunteer Prince William has engaged with the Prince William community. “Volunteer Prince William is best known for its annual Untrim-A-Tree program where, each year at Christmastime, we help provide toys for children in need. A year-long effort, we work to collect and supply up to two toys per child for girls and boys throughout Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. Each year, we help more than 5,000 children in our area,” he said.
Another critical program Volunteer Prince William offers, is the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, connecting people 55 and older with meaningful service opportunities. Ready and willing to help, these dedicated volunteers have matched older adult volunteers eager to help with local organizations on the front lines of meeting community needs.
The organization supports the community in a variety of other ways, as well.
“When trouble strikes our region, our Disaster Services Program is ready. Volunteer Prince William collaborates with government and non-profit partners to match resources to unmet needs to assist residents in achieving post-disaster stability,” said Kiser “Additionally, we help those who have given us so much — our veterans. Our Drive-A-Vet-Program helps veterans get to critical medical appointments,” Kiser said.
VPW also “stays in motion” with their Meals-on-Wheels program, which delivers food to the elderly throughout Prince William.
Additionally, Volunteer Prince William is the coordinating agency for all court-related alternative community service work for adults and juveniles in Prince William County. “We routinely process referrals from the 31st General District Court and Prince William County probation offices,” said Kiser.
“It’s an honor to continue to serve Greater Manassas and Prince William County, which continues to be such a diverse and growing region. We’ve strived to be a helpful community partner in a greater collaborative mission to serve,” he said.
Over the past year, Volunteer Prince William stepped into overdrive, working to help community food banks to feed families during the pandemic. As the world returns to normal, Volunteer Prince William has returned to educate the community on the importance of volunteering and where residents can give their time.
“Our Untrim-A-Tree continues to grow, and our dedicated staff and members of our working Board of Directors are stepping up to meet the growing need for this service to help make this year’s holiday season better for so many families,” said Kiser.
For further information, call 703-369-5292 or visit volunteerprincewilliam.org.
Focusing on communication skills and social instruction, Matthew’s Center is a private day school with publicly placed students. Matthew’s Center specializes in developing and improving life skills such as daily living skills, as well as play and social skills. The center’s focus is decreasing interfering behaviors that limit access to communication and instruction.
“We provide educational services to students with autism and related disabilities. We also partner with those families to find wrap-around community service as needed,” said Executive Director Brandy Moss.
“Our school staffs two Board Certified Behavior Analysts to help address the severe behaviors our students present. Students require one-to-one staffing based on their intensive behavior, communication and instructional needs,” said Moss.
Matthew’s Center’s mission is “enhancing lives through the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.”
Over the last year, “Matthew’s Center has been able [to]successfully transition back into full school days despite the pandemic. Our students are those that were most affected by the school shut down due [to]the severity of their disabilities, they could not effectively access virtual learning. While we struggle with staff shortages and the threat of COVID our students and staff have risen to the occasion and continue to experience everyday successes in instruction, communication and behaviors,” said Moss.
“The Giving Back award recognizes the dedication and commitment Matthew’s Center has had to those families affected by autism since our beginning some 20 years ago. We have been able to grow from just 3 students and their family to 32.
Matthew’s Center also partners with not only the Prince William School district but also Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudon, and Warren County public schools as well as Manassas City Public School,” she said.
More information is available at matthewscenter.org.
Saving Prince William’s Littles
Saving Prince William’s Littles, located in Haymarket, specializes in child safety education in the community, specifically in raising awareness and training people about car seat safety.
“Our mission is to bring down the car seat misuse rate in the county (typically at least 75%) by teaching caregivers how to correctly install their children’s car seats and make sure their children are riding as safely as possible,” said President Claire Szanyi.
Not only does Saving Prince William’s Littles instruct people in the community about protecting children in vehicles, they also provide free car seat safety check events.
“Saving Prince William’s Littles hosts a free car seat check event at least once a month in Prince William County. We are comprised of an amazing group of Child Passenger Safety Technicians that volunteer their time to educate the community on car seat safety. We are currently one of two organizations in the county (that I’m aware of) that have certified CPSTs available to check car seats,” said Szanyi
The organization has been very successful in their mission over the last year.
“We are very thankful to have had almost every single appointment slot taken for each of the car seat check events we’ve held this year. We are definitely seeing a baby boom in Prince William County! In the same vein, knowing that people are sharing our contact information and events has been wonderful — many people still assume that you can go to a fire station for a car seat check, so having advocates in our
community is invaluable,” said Szanyi.
Szanyi also said she feels that being nominated for the Giving Back award is proof of Saving Prince William’s Little’s success.
“It means a lot to be nominated since we really seek to serve our community, so the recognition makes us feel like we’re succeeding in our mission to help caregivers,” she said.
These great non-profits were also nominated and have been or will be covered in future Prince William Living stories.
ImagiNation Learning Center is an establishment in Chantilly and Gainesville that provides a space for children to embrace and love learning. ImagiNation offers early childhood education, as well as developmental programs, and focuses on helping children develop self-esteem while respecting their individuality.
In addition, children are prepared to cope in life, socially, and at school. Parents, teachers, early childhood agencies and vendors, as well as local business leaders, share a common goal at ImagiNation Learning Center: working together to provide a positive early childhood experience.
The Oasis Alliance
Most people believe interior design is a luxury. But interior design is an underutilized tool to
empower, encourage and resurrect people at their lowest point, according to the Oasis
Alliance in Woodbridge. This organization helps survivors of trauma by creating lovely
personalized interior spaces with donated furniture, décor, and other fundamental
household items. These beautiful areas inspire recovery, well-being, and progress. Volunteer
artists, designers, therapists, movers, installers, and clients create harmonic spaces, thus
fulfilling the mission of The Oasis Alliance.
Amy Falkofske is a freelance writer and photographer. She has a Master’s degree in Film-TV with a concentration in screenwriting. She lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys, and two Beagle dogs.
Jorge de Villasante is a multilingual writer and translator who enjoys traveling as much as he enjoys his home and caring for his two cats.