- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

As Arthur and Brenda Growden can attest, "everybody can help somebody do something."
So says Mr. Growden, who lives in Lanham with his "computer whiz" wife, as they set about on their personal crusade to put the Golden Rule into actual gold ducats for people they will probably never meet.
Talk about love thy neighbor. "If you don't give money, you can give yourself," Mr. Growden adds.
The Growdens read my column last week and wrote that not only did they agree with a suggestion I made, but they were already acting on it: Those who are able to cut back on expensive Christmas presents for their families could help families who suffered major losses of life or work in the September 11 attack.
Mrs. Growden said she and her husband have raised more than $1,000 (and counting), which they have distributed to three Washington-area families.
As I wrote: "If we really want to show what we've learned about how much we've changed since that fateful September day, we'll put our American spirit of camaraderie and community ahead of consumerism this holiday season. Instead of spending our recession dollars on gifts we don't really need, why not spend our renewed spirits on those who really need us?"
By conservative estimates, at least 30,000 workers lost their jobs because of the impact the September attacks had on the area's tourist industry. Mrs. Growden said the biggest problem the unemployed faced was finding a central location to guide them through the process of getting what assistance was available. Most said the Salvation Army was the only place they could get immediate help.
Lending a helping hand is not that hard, as Mrs. Growden demonstrates. First she contacted the Virginia employment office to leave their name as a contact to be added to a resource list for anyone seeking help. This is a good place to start in Maryland and the District for anyone who wants to follow her example, she said.
Then, she searched the Internet, inquired through the "lost and found" link on the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Web site seeking information about anyone who lost a job and who might need assistance. Her e-mail was passed around until it landed with Jay Jay Lavine, a ramp manager at the airport, who had to lay off 345 workers when the airport shut down.
Ms. Lavine sent the Growdens the names of eight families and a brief description of their particular situation. They picked three names from the list; those families, in turn, contacted them.
"We knew we couldn't contact everybody on the list. We contacted friends and co-workers to put the information into the grapevine with us as the contact for anyone who wished to help," Mrs. Growden wrote.
The only drawback, she mentions, is that the donations are not tax-deductible because it is not a recognized charity. "But the donations have been made cheerfully nonetheless," she said.
Originally, they thought about handing out gift certificates but decided that people needed cash more, and they "wanted to pay utility bills and provide grocery money, something to help fill the gap between what a person was earning and what they were able to get from the support organizations and unemployment now that they were laid off."
Mrs. Growden told me yesterday of one woman who lost her job and moved to Baltimore with her parents because she is separated from her husband. He is not paying child support for their two sons, one of whom has multiple sclerosis. The cash donation allowed her to make a car payment so she can transport her son to medical appointments.
Another young New Carrollton couple had just moved into a new town house when the wife lost her job with US Airways and the husband lost his job with Embassy Suites hotel. The couple have twin 16-month-old girls and the cash helped them with overdue living expenses.
"These people are just like you and I, who couldn't afford to miss a paycheck to make ends met," Mrs. Growden said. True that.
Mr. Growden is a machinist and Goddard/NASA Space Center in Greenbelt. Mrs. Growden is an outreach technician in the Arlington County Human Resources Department.
Brenda is known as "the voice of Arlington," the voice you hear when you call the job line. In addition to collecting and spending their own cash on their newfound mission, Mrs. Growden has been assisting unemployed workers by helping them to rewrite their resumes or making job referrals.
The Growdens, who have a married son, are planning to use all the money they budget for Christmas to give to their new "families."
"It will brighten their holiday a little to know we are still thinking about them and that someone realizes that they are still not recovered from the damage done to them," Mrs. Growden said.
"I can't save the world, but I can save a corner, and I can pick my corner," Mr. Growden said. Amen. Again, make yours and your needy neighbors' a happy holiday.
Mrs. Growden's e-mail address is [email protected] if you want to find out more about how to extend a helping hand.

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