Tysons, VA

(Updated 3/16/2020) Local nonprofit Second Story is asking people to send gift cards instead of volunteering or donating food and clothing to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Located just south of Tysons, Second Story assists young people struggling with homelessness, poverty or domestic issues. In a message today, CEO Judith Dittman said that all of Second Story’s programs will remain in operation.

However, the nonprofit won’t accept clothing, food or other donated items to “help prevent the potential spread of germs through objects as well as limit the number of people who visit Second Story for Teens in Crisis,” Dittman said.

Second Story is also limiting its visitors, telling its staff to work remotely and suspending its volunteers in the homeless, young mothers and teen crisis programs, along with volunteers who provide meals to the programs.

Meanwhile, people can still volunteer in the community-based programs, Dittman said.

For people who want to help the nonprofit, Dittman said that gift cards are needed to purchase items for the programs.

“Gift cards are extremely valuable right now as we temporarily suspend meal donations and youth in our programs, many with hourly jobs, may have a greater need for immediate support,” Dittman told Tysons Reporter.

Christine Bartell, Second Story’s resource management director, told Tysons Reporter that Visa gift cards are the best option, but Second Story will also accept grocery store and Amazon gift cards via mail to “Attn: Christine Bartell, PO Box 694, Dunn Loring, VA 22027.”

“Since we’re limiting contact between youth and volunteers, gift cards for food will be especially important,” Bartell said.

Dittman also shared how the nonprofit is working to decrease the risk of spreading coronavirus, taking steps like sanitizing surfaces more and communicating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The full message is below the jump:

Dear Friends,

Because I know how much you care about the young people in our programs, I wanted to provide you with an update on the ways we are trying to keep them safe during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

As of this writing, there are no community spread cases of COVID-19 transmission in Virginia and the Fairfax County Health Department says the risk of infection is very low in our community.  However, as soon as we learned of cases appearing in the U.S., Second Story immediately implemented the following practices:

  • Increased sanitizing of surfaces in our programs;
  • Made sure that young people and staff know about and practice good hand hygiene;
  • Limited group meetings;
  • Communicated the latest information from the CDC and County Health Department to every person served in our programs;
  • Sent letters home with information on steps our programs are taking and CDC information to parents in our Community Based Programs; and
  • Made sure our staff knows not to report to work if they are sick.

All of our programs are open and, as of now, we do not plan to suspend operations at any location.  However, we want to be proactive and be in front of this situation which may change rapidly.  Therefore, in addition to measures we already have in place effective immediately and through the end of March, we are:

  • Not accepting donations of clothing, food and other items.  This will help prevent the potential spread of germs through objects as well as limit the number of people who visit Second Story for Teens in Crisis.  (Our program on Gallows Road for teens who are homeless or in crisis.)
  • Limiting visitors to our programs.
  • Asking volunteers in our Second Story for Homeless Youth, Second Story for Young Mothers and Second Story for Teens in Crisis to suspend volunteering at the programs.
  • Requesting volunteers who provide meals to our programs to suspend their efforts for the time being.
  • Asking volunteers in our Community Based Programs to be sure they are well before helping in our after-school programs.
  • Encouraging staff who can do so to work remotely.

Many of you have asked if there are ways that you can help.  YES!  We can use gift cards to allow us to purchase needed items for our programs as well as to provide to youth.  Young people in Second Story for Homeless Youth and Second Story for Young Mothers work at hourly jobs, often part time.

If these youth are furloughed, we need to be able to support them until the crisis eases.  Gift cards will also help purchase food and other needed supplies for those served by our Community Based Programs, many of whom already face food insecurity.

Thank you for your support as we all work to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, most especially the vulnerable young people at Second Story.  If you have any questions about what I covered in this letter, I welcome you to reach out to us at [email protected]

With gratitude for all you do,

Judith Dittman
CEO

Photo via Facebook

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