A unique organization in Northern Virginia helps children across the country without taking credit of letting the kids know they’re receiving charity, and it’s done in memory of the founders’ mother.
Ron Fitzsimmons and his sister remember growing up poor and the shame they felt from accepting charity, so they started Alice’s Kids, an idea inspired by their mother.
Fitzsimmons always keeps one word in mind: dignity.
“How we can kind of give back to kids the way our mother did with small items that were still very important to our self-esteem,” he said.
“So when we started Alice’s Kids, we vowed that when, if we could, we would make the assistance totally anonymous,” he said.
His family suddenly found itself on welfare in the early 1960s, getting by on about $200 a month.
“It got to the point where we were wearing the same shirt to school, the shoes had holes in them,” Fitzsimmons said. “Became quite embarrassing.”
Now they use those painful memories for good. Alice's Kids provides money through gift cards and checks to kids all over the country.
Fitzsimmons receives requests by email from school social workers and goes through each one. For example, a teacher requested funds for swimming lessons for two boys. Within 24 hours, that money was on its way.
At the school, workers print out the gift cards and hand them to the parents without the children ever knowing they're receiving charity.
“They have been able to help us not only provide items to families but also build trust,” school worker Stephanie Cruz said.
She said the families are so appreciative.
“It’s always a big hug and a thank you and I sometimes wish Alice’s Kids could get some of that,” she said.
Fitzsimmons said the thank yous are nice, but the main goal is just to help people while keeping his mom's memory alive.
“She tried, you know, and she did lift us on occasion, and we remember that, so we’re trying to do the same thing here with thousands and thousands of children who are in the same situation,” he said.
Last month, Alice's Kids handed out $22,000 in gift cards and checks to help kids and families. The organization is run largely on donations, which you can contribute to here.
“I’ve had a lot of careers,” Fitzsimmons said, “and this is the best work I’ve ever done.”
Reported by Leon Harris, produced by Michelle Montgomery and edited by Scott Eisenhuth.