Arlington’s Secret Santa program is back to help neighbors in need


ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Christmas time is here, and Arlington’s Department of Human Services is preparing to give back to residents through their Secret Santa program.

Human services officials said this year’s Secret Santa program will be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many vulnerable residents, they’re accepting gift card donations from grocery stores, clothing stores, drug stores, and Target. The goal is to give back to over 1,000 individuals within the community.

Kurt Larrick, assistant director of Arlington County Department of Human Services said “through our social workers and case managers at public schools we can identify pretty well who are the neediest families in households. We also use or staff to give the cards to them before the holidays.”

Who it helps

Gift cards are distributed to clients engaged in the Department of Human Services safety net programs and other programs for low-income residents. Recipients include:

NEW FOR 2020 — COVID-impacted households: Arlington Households hardest hit by the pandemic will receive gift cards for food and other necessities.

Children in Foster Care: Arlington has nearly 100 children in foster care. Your contribution of a gift card will help bring a happy holiday to these deserving kids. Most kids in foster care are teens, and it is nearly impossible to get the right gift for a teenager – so gift cards are a great option!

People with Disabilities and Seniors with Low Incomes: Making ends meet can be difficult when you are without family and on a fixed income. That’s the case for many older Arlingtonians and members of the community who have disabilities. Our aging and disability services specialists report that gift cards distributed through the Secret Santa program never fail to bring smiles to these vulnerable members of the community. We also distribute cards at the Mary Marshall Assisted Living Residence, which is home for 52 disabled Arlingtonians with low income.

Families with Low Incomes: For families struggling to put food on the table, having the money to purchase even modest holiday gifts is difficult. More than 3,500 households in Arlington receive food stamps right now which, for a family of four means they make less than $32,000 a year. For low-income households, gift cards from local grocery stores are a big help – and helping a parent buy a special gift for their is priceless.

Teen Parents: Pregnant and parenting teens participating in the Arlington Public Schools’ Teenage Parenting Programs (TPP) receive gift cards to help provide gifts and items for their young children.

The deadline for donations is December 18th, however this year due to the pandemic they will be collecting past the 18th if need be. Officials also said gift cards should not exceed $25 each, but you can submit as many as you like.

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