Shawna delivers donations to two staffers at the SERVE family shelter

Dropping off donations at the SERVE family shelter

At any given time, 13 of every 10,000 Virginia residents are homeless. When homelessness affects entire families, the SERVE Family Shelter of Northern Virginia connects families to the tools and resources they need to move forward. SERVE is the largest family shelter in Northern Virginia.

Shawna, an acts manager for Random Acts, wanted to address the challenges families face with the coming of colder weather. “With more people moving into shelters,” Shawna explains, “I thought it would be helpful if I could provide some comfort to my fellow Virginians who are not as fortunate as I am.” She ended up finding not one, but two ways to support her community through SERVE.

Moving right along

Northern Virginia is within the greater Washington, D.C., area. So, Shawna’s first thought was to help families with their transportation needs. As anyone living around a major city knows, the cost of owning and parking a car can be prohibitive. Even travel costs within the regional transit system can be outside the reach of families who are facing housing insecurity. But, as Shawna observes, “sometimes it becomes a necessity to ensure a person’s safety during our cold and rainy winters.”

Shawna decided to donate 17 pre-loaded fare cards to help families travel to work and social service offices in warmth and safety. This, the first half of her two-part donation, was in support of SERVE’s mission of helping families move toward self-sufficiency.

But wait, there’s more!

photo of transit card

Pre-loaded transit cards assisted families with transportation

Shawna was happy to provide the travel cards, but she still felt there was more she could do. She decided to reach out to the shelter to ask what their most-needed item was. It turned out to be bed pillows!

Guests at the SERVE shelter stay an average of about one month while they work with a counselor to secure resources and assistance. With cold weather coming, the shelter would soon be accepting more families. The shelter explained that bed pillows are not reusable, and the needs of new guests might deplete the shelter’s pillow supply.

In addition, more than 40% of the shelter’s residents are children. Shawna imagined that “a comfortable place of their own to rest their head for the night” might be one of the most soothing things a child in a shelter could have. So, she donated 20 pillows to round out her two-part act of kindness.

Shawna still does not think she has done enough. “I do not have access to their clientele and cannot know how this impacted them, but I wish I could have done more,” she says. Who knows—maybe next time, she will come up with a triple act of kindness!

Local acts add up to global good

Do you have an idea for an act of kindness in your own community? Random Acts can help with that! Contact your local Random Acts Regional Representative for information on Sponsored Acts or any other help you need to turn your idea into a reality.