By Olivia Overman | Photos by Delia Engstrom
In 2009 Northern Virginia Family Service, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving the Northern Virginia region, merged with SERVE. SERVE stands for Securing Emergency Resources through Volunteer Efforts and is an organization created by a group of local churches, organizations and individuals to provide emergency services in Prince William.
Today, SERVE is run as a program of NVFS, and continues the tradition of providing emergency services to the Greater Prince William community that has been in place since 1975.
Providing Much-Needed Services
Located in Manassas, the SERVE Campus offers an emergency shelter for families and individuals, provides food through the Hunger Resource Center and offers educational programs for families.
- Emergency Shelter – A 92-bed, 4,000 square foot facility provides shelter for families and individuals in need. A cook prepares lunch and dinner Monday through Friday with volunteers preparing food over the weekend.
- Hunger Resource Center – This 8,000 square foot facility is used to provide fresh food to residents of Prince William.
“We service the entire Prince William area and provide food to approximately 650 families a month,” said Navara Cannon, community and volunteer engagement specialist, SERVE and Greater Prince William Northern Virginia Family Service.
Between corporate sponsors, local grocery stores, churches, families, individuals and volunteers, the HRC is able to provide food to those in need every day of the week. Clients shop for fresh fruits, vegetables and perishable goods while volunteers pack dairy, frozen foods and non-perishable products for people to take home with them. “We offer options such as gluten free, low sodium and protein options so people don’t have to alter their diet,” said Cannon.
To make use of the HRC, clients simply need to show proof of residency as well as income.
- Early Childhood Development – A key to changing the cycle of poverty is ensuring children develop healthy habits, from eating to cognitive skills. NVFS offers this through programs such as Healthy Families, Early Head Start and Head Start.
Healthy Families offers regular home visits from pregnancy until the child reaches 4 years old, while the Early Start and Head Start programs provide full day, year-round education programs in a child-care center. Providing these options for parents allows them to work while ensuring their children are receiving learning opportunities. The SERVE campus currently facilitates 16 kids in the child-care center.
SERVE also offers a home-based program where parent educators come to a family’s home for weekly education sessions.
Community Support Is Strong
While SERVE receives donations from individuals and families through canned food drives by civic groups, youth clubs, churches and companies, and excess food donations from grocery stores and restaurants, there is another organization that highly impacts SERVE’s success — Friends of SERVE. Friends of SERVE is a membership-driven organization dedicated to supporting the SERVE Campus of NVFS and improving the quality of life in the community. Its mission is to support families through the provision of safe housing, food and support and to improve the quality of life of the residents in Prince William.
Unity Works, based in Hampton, Virginia, and run by a former SERVE volunteer, is another organization that supports SERVE. By providing birthday bags to children ages 0 to 3 years old in the Healthy Families Program and holiday bags to seniors, the non-profit brings just a little extra joy to those in need. Birthday
bags include a book, diapers, clothing, toys, hygiene products. Seniors being cared for in the shelter receive a blanket or robe, slippers or non-skid socks, hygiene items, a book, a solo game and some candy.
“Most people want to help, and we want their help,” said Cannon. “We’ve had the Virginia Ballet Company come in and put on a little performance for the kids, but we also have people and companies that make the facility nice, pretty and welcoming,” she said.
With an 8,000-square-foot Hunger Resource Center and a 4,000-square-foot shelter to support, SERVE appreciates any and all donations. Cash and services are the most needed and can be made to specific areas such as the Hunger Resource Center or the Healthy Families Program.
If you are looking for emergency assistance or help through one of SERVE’s programs, call the SERVE Campus at 571-748-2600, ext. 1. Find information about NVFS, upcoming events, programs and donations at their website at nvfs.org.
Olivia Overman is a graduate of American University’s School of Communication. She writes articles for online and print publications and can be reached at [email protected].