WASHINGTON — If you are feeling grateful this holiday season and would like a chance to give back, there are many ways you can help feed the hungry or bring warmth to people experiencing homelessness.
The 25th Project is a nonprofit that helps the local homeless population by providing them with meals as well as propane tanks to heat up their tents.
“We go out on the 25th of every month and work with our local homeless population to where we can help them to get back into society. The meal is just an entry point to be able to help them and to see if they want help,” said Jay Herriott with the 25th Project.
The genesis of the project was to help the less fortunate after the holidays are over and the goodwill is gone.
Last year, the organization took nearly 600 hot Thanksgiving meals to people experiencing homelessness in Prince William County, Fairfax County and D.C., and Herriott says some of them said it was the best meal they had that year.
This year marks the 25th Project’s 15th year of feeding the hungry on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The nonprofit is in need of cooked food donations such as turkey, ham, mashed potatoes — all the Thanksgiving Day fixings. Donations can be dropped off at 8:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving at Burke Community Church at 9900 Old Keene Mill Road in Burke.
The organization is also in need of volunteers that can package meals around 8:30 a.m. or help deliver the meals a few hours later.
Herriott says volunteers who package the meals and also help deliver them will only take up to three hours during the entire process, at most. He says volunteers will be finished with plenty of time to get home and enjoy their own Thanksgiving dinners.
On Nov. 25, the nonprofit will hold a propane drive at 10:30 a.m., where volunteers will take propane tanks to people living in tents.
Herriott says that three years ago, it saddened him to learn that three homeless people in Prince William County died because of hypothermia. And a few years ago, a man Herriott says he knew well “froze to death six feet from his tent.”
“You’re talking about people that are living in tent camps in Prince William and Fairfax areas,” he said. “How do you heat a tent? That’s how they heat them, through propane.”
Volunteers for the 25th Project will take empty propane tanks and have them refilled. Herriott said the organization refilled the propane tanks with the help of Blue Rhino last year, and he hopes to work with them again this year.
Last year, they spent over $4,700 on propane from November to March.
Herriott says they’ll accept donations of propane tanks as well as financial donations in order to buy them.
Anyone interested in donating food or propane tanks or volunteering in either event can sign up through the 25th Project’s website.
“We’re just trying to help our homeless friends and to help them through the winter months,” said Herriott. “It’s great if we can bring a smile to their faces, but the end goal is to help them to become productive members of society again.”