The Doing Good blog follows area charities and social service agencies.

About Amy Umble: Amy Umble writes about religion and social issues affecting the Fredericksburg community. You can email her at

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A Big-Hearted Community

All I can say: Wow.

And thank you.

You have been so generous. And I am amazed.

Being a religion and social services story during the holidays is a strange experience.

On one hand, you get some instant perspective. So when your son, for example, tells you every other kid has a Wii, you know that not only is that not true but that some kids don’t even have a house.

And when you’re shopping in the toddler section for your 12-year-old son’s presents, you don’t feel sad about how disabled he is. You’re thankful he’s not one of the kids who may not get a present at all because ARC-Rappahannock desperately needs holiday sponsors.

And when you fight with your husband over the Christmas tree, you don’t wonder how you could possibly spend 14 years of your life with someone who prefers fake trees. You thank God you’re not one of the women in the Haven, the local shelter for women escaping abuse.

On the other hand, you’re very, very busy. And stressed. So much so that not much gives you pause. You don’t even really stop to think much at all.

But this week, the community’s generosity has penetrated my holiday stress.

First, I got an email from Kathy Olson, the social work supervisor for Stafford County schools. Olson is the homelessness liason for the county, and in part of her email, she told me that a story I’d written a month ago had inspired a great response. I wrote about the new American Girl doll who was homeless. And I included ways people could help the area’s homeless men, women and children. One idea was to bring crock pots to Olson. Her case managers would give them to families living in motels, so they could cook. The day after the story ran, people dropped off 15 crock pots. Think of all those families who will now have a home-cooked meal, even though they’re living in a motel room.

Then, Monday morning, an email went out to the Rappahannock United Way’s listserve. It was already late in the season, and 35 seniors still didn’t have anyone bringing them presents. The email went out, and the United Way also posted the need as its Facebook status. By Wednesday morning, every senior had been adopted.

And then, there are the holiday wishes. We’ve started the series, which follows area families and residents with some unique needs this season. I wasn’t sure what response the series would get. As a social services reporter, I’ve seen firsthand how people sometimes would rather judge situations than lend a hand. So far, five of the stories have run. And the response has been remarkable. People have offered cars, presents, home-cooked holiday meals, jobs, dress-up clothes for little girls.

Most of the calls start off with, "I don’t have much to give, but I’d like to…"

And so I know that most of you are just like me: Your families are struggling with a smaller income and rising expenses. Your own Christmases will be a little bit smaller than usual. And your own children are learning that wish lists are not always fulfilled. It would be so easy to be a little less generous this year. To hold tighter to those purse strings. But you haven’t.

And so again: Wow.

And thank you.


  • buskettigirl

    Your stories are such an important part of what makes this area such a wonderful place to live. Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters has seen so many of our families “adopted” for Christmas – the community’s generosity is amazing! Thank you Amy!