- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

"Friday's child is loving and giving, "
Line from a Mother Goose poem, written in England in the 1700s

A recent Friday night in the Chevy Chase Community Center in Northwest proved that children of the 21st millennium are as "loving and giving" as those described in the poem written 300 years ago.
Scores of preschool to 10-year-old children joyfully stuffed warm clothes, books and toys into big red stockings as part of the latest annual gift-giving project by Friday's Child,
The organization started two years ago when a 15-year-old girl began giving gifts to poor, homeless, foster or abused children.
"It was one of thousands of things that I thought would be good to do," says Vanessa Steck, now 17. "I said to my mom, 'Hey, this would be really cool.' She said, 'OK, let's do it.'"
With her mom, Sarah, and her sister, Nicole, 13, she filled mesh stockings with warm gloves and toys. Then they took about 100 stuffed stockings to charities Martha's Table and Proyecto Nino.
The Stecks' neighbors in the 6000 block of 32d Street NW subsequently started participating in the project. They meet twice a month, beginning in September, to coordinate plans.
At first, the project was known as Kids 2 Kids, but that is a copyrighted name, so the organization changed its moniker to Friday's Child, which is not yet copyrighted. Vanessa says the name change will enable the project to allow tax deductions to gift donors.
Most of the donors are businesses in five or six blocks along Connecticut Avenue south of Chevy Chase Circle, which provide gifts from stock. Businesses such as liquor stores give money.
"Every business except two or three have contributed to the event," says Karen Jacobs, a next-door neighbor of the Stecks', who is in charge of solicitations.
Each stuffed stocking is worth about $15, says Mrs. Jacobs, mother of Andrej, 4, and Sofia, 2. She says the goal of Friday's Child volunteers is to fill and deliver 150 stockings before Christmas.
Most of the stockings will be given to Bright Beginnings, a child care center for homeless children 6 months to 4 years of age. Last year, 68 children residing at the center, in the 100 block of M Street NW, received stockings at a "breakfast with Santa."
"I suggested Bright Beginnings might be a good beginning," says Betsy Agnvall, 35, another neighbor and a volunteer with the Junior League, which sponsors the center.
About eight stockings will be delivered to abused children at another center; those youngsters soon will be transferred to foster homes, Vanessa says.
The gifts delight the children who receive them, but Mrs. Agnvall says the children who stuff the stockings, most of whom attend nearby Lafayette Elementary School at 5701 Broad Branch Road NW, learn the joy of giving.
"They don't understand not having enough food to eat, not having a bed to sleep in," Mrs. Agnvall says. "We never are talking about those things."
Libby Agnvall, 4, who helped give out gifts last year, got a sense of the life of deprivation, her mother says.
"At Thanksgiving dinner this year, when she was asked what she was thankful for, she said, 'I'm thankful for my home,'" says Mrs. Agnvall, who also has a 5-month-old son, Robert.
"Kids last year were talking about how much fun it was," says Vanessa, and one 7- or 8-year-old girl this year donated money she collected from a lemonade stand.
"They're like a community center," Vanessa says of Lafayette students and staff.
Adult volunteers prepared for the Friday giveaway by stacking the red stockings beside the entry. Nearby was a pile of toys for older children, and rows of tables were laden with books, videos, stocking caps, mittens, rompers, baby blankets and similar gifts.
Inside the community center at 5601 Connecticut Ave. NW, a flurry of activity was taking place: Some children signed murals; others wrote thank-you notes to gift givers as adults circulated among them distributing cookies, soft drinks and other snacks; toddlers seated at short tables used crayons and construction paper to create Christmas cards as Bonnie Loper, wearing a brown reindeer nose and antlers, helped them; and a magician and man creating balloon figures entertained.
"What struck me about this group is that they are teaching little kids to give," Mrs. Loper says.
"It's chaotic, but it works," Vanessa adds.
"I love Santa," she says, explaining that human kindness, not religion was the reason Friday's Child came into being.
"People who come to the stocking stuffing come from all religions," she says. "I'm not a religious person; I'm a spiritual person."
Vanessa, a junior at Thornton Friends School in eastern Montgomery County, visited about a dozen other high schools before enrolling there. She says she chose Thornton because of its small student body, and she has "always done better in a smaller class."
The neighbors are enthusiastic fans of Vanessa's.
"She's the perennial baby sitter," Mrs. Agnvall says. "She's terrific with children."
Equally enthusiastic are her parents, Sarah, 51, a management consultant, and Bob, 58, a speechwriter and Vietnam War veteran who rode with George Brummell in the 16-day Vietnam Challenge bike ride across the nation in 1998. Mr. Brummell was blinded by a land mine during the war.
Mr. Steck, who majored in philosophy at Harvard and Yale universities, is writing a book, "War and Death." Speaking of Friday's Child, he says, "I think it is terrific," and adds that Vanessa "always has been concerned about folks who have little. We are very proud of her."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide