Tysons, VA

Morning Notes

Cases over Bijan Ghaisar’s Death Stall in Court — A federal judge assigned to oversee a criminal case and civil lawsuit against U.S. Park Police officers for the 2017 fatal shooting of McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar “has made no moves to hold any hearings on the cases or provide a pretrial briefing and discovery schedule.” The officers were indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury in October but are seeking to have the cases moved to federal court. [The Washington Post]

Statewide Tornado Drill Scheduled for Today — Virginia will conduct a tornado drill at 9:45 a.m. today (Tuesday) as part of its first-ever Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week, which started yesterday and will last through March 19. The alert will be issued through NOAA Weather Radio stations as well as local radio, TV, and cable outlets. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Falls Church City Council Gives Initial Approval to New Noise Ordinance — The city council voted 7-0 to give a preliminary “OK” to a measure that would permit up to 75 decibels of sound up to 10:30 p.m. in business and industrial areas on Friday and Saturday nights. Dates for a public hearing and final approval have not yet been scheduled. [Falls Church News-Press]

Fairfax County Chairman Criticizes Proposed Metro Cuts — Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says that Metro’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget would be “frustrating and could be harmful in both the short- and long-term to Metro and our Northern Virginia economy,” especially in Tysons. Federal relief funds are expected to stave off the cuts, but they have not been officially taken off the table yet. The public comment period ends today at 5 p.m. [Inside NoVA]

James Madison High School Kicks off Renovation — “We have officially kicked off renovation season! Fencing was installed in our main parking lot today. Changed traffic patterns and relocated parking spaces are just the start of what spring will bring us!” [@JamesMadisonHS/Twitter]

McLean Private School Rallies Support for Food Drive — Students, parents, faculty, and staff at The Langley School all chipped in for a three-week food drive to support the D.C. nonprofit So Others Might Eat. The effort produced more than $5,000 in monetary contributions and more than 2,000 donated non-perishable food items. [Sun Gazette]

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Falls Church High School (FCHS) wants to set up a permanent food pantry to help students who might otherwise go hungry, but to ensure a steady, reliable supply of food, it needs the community’s help.

It is the latest school in Fairfax County to partner with the nonprofit Food for Neighbors, which collects groceries donated by community members through its Red Bag Program to feed middle and high school students.

Falls Church High School will participate in its first Red Bag collection day on Mar. 6, when volunteers will drive by donors’ houses to pick up bags of groceries. With more than 100 families at the school relying on food assistance, the FCHS PTSA is making a final push to recruit donors.

Food for Neighbors Falls Church Area Manager Paula Prettyman says that, as of yesterday afternoon, 91 new donors have signed up for the Red Bag Program since FCHS joined just a few weeks ago. She hopes to get 100 new donors in the Falls Church area before the deadline for the Mar. 6 event arrives at midnight today (Wednesday).

“We don’t know yet how much food that is going to be for the Falls Church pantry, but it will be significant,” Prettyman said.

Falls Church High School first established a food pantry back in 2017 after receiving a grant and starting a partnership with the nonprofit Britepaths, according to Gina North, who serves as a special projects officer for the FCHS PTSA.

However, organizers had to suspend the pantry’s operations when schools closed last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, since students were no longer around to stop by and pick up food.

With the pandemic contributing to increased food insecurity around the county, the FCHS PTSA reached out to Prettyman for guidance to restart their food pantry. Prettyman also serves as vice president of the Luther Jackson Middle School PTA, which has been working with Food for Neighbors to help stock its own pantry since 2018.

Partnering with Food for Neighbors allows Falls Church High School to not only relaunch its pantry, but to expand it by appealing to the community outside of school parents and taking some of the burden of collecting and distributing food off of school staff.

“This has another organization that kind of specializes in this helping us, and it’s wider reaching,” North said. “There’s people in my neighborhood who have signed up that don’t have kids in Falls Church anymore. It’s just another way to give back to the community.”

For the Mar. 6th collection, Food for Neighbors will accept all shelf-stable food with family-sized items encouraged. People can also help by donating $30 to $75 for virtual red bags, which provide enough food to feed eight students for a weekend.

While she doesn’t know by how much, North says the number of Falls Church High School students who need food assistance has definitely gone up during the pandemic, with some students working during the day on top of attending school to support their families.

Having adequate, reliable access to food is critical for students’ academic success as well as their general physical and mental well-being, North says, citing her past experience as an elementary school special education teacher.

“I’ve seen firsthand when I have kids who I know didn’t eat breakfast or didn’t eat dinner the night before, they can’t focus on what I’m trying to teach them,” North said. “I used to keep snacks in my desk just for those occasions, because they need their basic needs met in order to take advantage of the education that’s being provided.”

Photo courtesy Paula Prettyman

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Wednesday Morning Notes

CVS COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments Already Fully Booked — CVS is not scheduled to start appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia until Friday (Feb. 12), but the available slots were quickly filled up after the registration system opened to state residents on Tuesday (Feb. 9). Only one CVS store in Fairfax County will receive doses in the initial rollout of the pharmacy’s partnership with the federal government. The Fairfax County Health Department says anyone who gets vaccinated by CVS or another provider should email the department to be taken off the county’s waitlist. [Inside NoVA, Fairfax County Health Department]

Virginia General Assembly Heads into Special Session — “Though the Virginia General Assembly technically adjourned on Monday with Republican members wanting to limit work to 30 days, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a special session saying more time was needed to advance the state’s budget and pandemic relief efforts.” [WTOP]

McLean Eagle Scout Leads Blanket Drive — “For an Eagle Scout project, Eli Witkiewicz enlisted fellow members of Troop 1130 in McLean and their family members to make fleece blankets for Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides handmade blankets to children in need.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

McLean-Based ID.me Partners with Fellow Identity Services Provider — “ID.me, a federally certified identity verification platform, and Sterling, a leading provider of identity and background services, today [Tuesday] announced the launch of an exclusive partnership that brings a powerful new identity service offering to the employment and screening space.” [ID.me]

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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Fairfax County is changing up its Stuff the Bus food drive this winter to support increased demand for food while accommodating challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically held twice a year, Stuff the Bus will kick off its 10th year of existence with buses parked at select locations throughout the county from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.

During the two-day food drive, community members can stop by the buses to donate nonperishable food that will help restock local food pantries, which have reported an uptick in the need for food and drops in volunteer rates during the pandemic.

To prevent the potential transmission of the novel coronavirus, donors should wear a mask or other face covering when at a Stuff the Bus site, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) is directing people to place their donations directly inside the buses through their rear doors, rather than approaching the front door or the bus drivers.

Fairfax County is also encouraging people to make online monetary donations to the participating nonprofits in lieu of donating food in person.

According to the county, virtual donations give food pantries more flexibility, allowing them to purchase in bulk, stock up on fresh food, and obtain “culturally appropriate foods, which better meet the needs of the diverse communities they serve.” It is also less labor-intensive.

“Nonprofits often rely on the work of volunteers to sort and shelve donations,” NCS says. “The COVID-19 virus has greatly impacted volunteers’ ability to serve, especially older adults or those with pre-existing conditions.”

Fastran buses will be located at the following sites in the Tysons area for the upcoming Stuff the Bus food drives:

  • McLean Government Center (1437 Balls Hill Road)
  • Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Avenue East)
  • Providence District Supervisor’s Office (3001 Vaden Drive)
  • James Lee Community Center (2855 Annandale Road)

Donations at the McLean Government Center will benefit LINK, which provides emergency food to people in the Herndon, Sterling, and Ashburn communities. The Patrick Henry Library drive will support Western Fairfax Christian Ministries on Jan. 30 and Cornerstones on Feb. 6.

The two Providence District locations — the supervisor’s office and James Lee Community Center — will support the Annandale Christian Community for Action on Jan. 30 and the Falls Church Community Service Council on Feb. 6.

A list of the most frequently requested food items can be found on the Stuff the Bus website.

Based on unemployment and poverty data, the Capital Area Food Bank estimates in its October 2020 Hunger Report that there has been a 48% to 60% increase in food insecurity in the D.C. region since the pandemic began.

Image via Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services

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Wednesday Morning Notes

What to Know About the 2021 Presidential Inauguration — Inauguration Day has arrived, and with it came a host of street closures and transportation service changes in the D.C. area, as local public officials advised residents to stay home and avoid traveling downtown. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

FEMA Declines to Reimburse Virginia for Capitol Riot Response — “The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied requests from Maryland and Virginia for an emergency declaration to cover expenses associated with responding to the Capitol riot and increasing security around President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.” [The Washington Post]

MetroWest Developers Look to Bring New Apartments to Vienna Metro Station Area — “Pulte Homes and the CRC Cos. are both pushing ahead with new construction on the 56-acre site, located just across Interstate 66 from the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro stop. The companies could start work in 2021 after years of delays on what would eventually be a combined total of six buildings with at least 980 units and 41,500 square feet of retail.” [Washington Business Journal]

1st Stage Teams Up with Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce on Food Drive — Food donations for the Capital Area Food Bank can be dropped off at the 1st Stage theater and offices between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. from today through Friday, and from 12-4 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 23). [1st Stage Theatre/Twitter]

Cunningham Park Elementary School Students Learn About Government with Mock Election — First graders at Cunningham Park got a virtual chat and tour of Vienna Town Hall with Mayor Linda Colbert before participating in a fictional mayoral election with storybook characters as candidates. [FCPS]

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More people in Fairfax County are facing food insecurity this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as illustrated by increased requests to the county and local pantries for groceries.

Fairfax County received 5,980 requests for emergency food from Mar. 1 to Dec. 21 of this year, a 56% increase from the same timeframe in 2019, according to Shweta Adyanthaya, a public information officer for the county’s Health and Human Services Department.

“The height of the requests came in the early months of the response — April to September — and then leveled off to average levels of requests since then,” Adyanthaya said. “Those households in need of food resources are referred to nonprofit and faith-based community partners, as well as other county resources.”

She encourages residents in need to use the county’s map application to locate food distribution groups near them.

One nonprofit in the Tysons area is Food for Others, which operates out of a warehouse in Merrifield.

Food for Others spokesperson Bridge Snydstrup told Tysons Reporter that the nonprofit is distributing food to an average of 4,000 families weekly, double the number of families it served pre-pandemic.

“The majority of people we are serving right now are unemployed due to COVID-19,” Snydstrup said. “Many of our clients work in the service industry and have either lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced due to the pandemic.”

She said that donations are also ticking up, helping the nonprofit meet the additional need.

“The Northern Virginia community has been extremely generous in helping FFO respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” Snydstrup said. “So many people have reached out asking what they can do to help and have either donated food or made monetary donations.”

However, volunteer rates are down overall, even though many in the community are interested in helping out.

“We have to limit the number of people in our warehouse to allow for social distancing and to ensure that our staff, volunteers, and clients are safe,” Snydstrup said. “We do have limited volunteer slots in our warehouse on weekdays, [and] those interested can sign up on our website.”

The best thing to do for those who want to help but are unable to volunteer is to host a food drive and drop off the donations.

Students in the area are also stepping up, Dranesville District School Board representative Elaine Tholen said in her newsletter on Monday (Dec. 21).

Last week, Cooper Middle School and Langley High School held a joint food drive for SHARE of McLean that brought in more than 6,500 non-perishable items. More than 40 students volunteered.

“We are thrilled to share it was an overwhelming success,” Tholen said. “We continue to be amazed by the generosity displayed by our school community and pyramid at large.”

The increase in demand for food assistance and drop in available volunteers are trends playing out nationally too.

Feeding America’s network of food banks have distributed nearly 57% more food in the third quarter of this year compared with 2019, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Meanwhile, NPR reported that food banks are seeing fewer volunteers, in part because the usual volunteers include older people, who are staying home to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Food donation photo via Dranesville School Board Representative Elaine Tholen.

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With Thanksgiving over and Christmas music on the airwaves debate-free, local nonprofits and nurseries are starting their annual sales of Christmas trees and other holiday greenery.

People getting into the festive spirit can choose from many local organizations, which will use the money to fund everything from scholarships and Boy Scout Troop outings to youth ministry programs and community health programming.

Trinity United Methodist Church in McLean (1205 Dolley Madison Blvd) kicked off its sales right after Thanksgiving Day, and they will continue through mid-December. The sales benefit Trinity youth ministries and Boy Scout Troop 869.

Hours for the sales vary depending on the day:

  • Thursday & Friday: 4-6 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12-5 p.m.

St. John Academy in McLean (6422 Linway Terrace) is launching its Christmas tree sales this Thursday (Dec. 3). A tree lot will be set up in the school’s lower-level parking lot through Dec. 20.

Trees start at $50, and garlands and wreaths are also available. Sale hours are 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Optimist Club of Greater Virginia is selling Christmas trees, wreathes, roping, and tree stands at the corner of Maple Avenue and Branch Road near PNC Bank and Giant in Vienna. Weekday hours go from 4-8 p.m., and weekend hours are from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Tree sales fund awards, scholarships, and honoraria for students from James Madison, George Marshall, and Oakton High Schools, as well as their school pyramid, scout troops, sports teams and youth groups, according to the Vienna Business Association website.

The Vienna Lions Club has Fraser Firs for sale with costs ranging from $65 to $115. The club will also be selling wreaths, ropage and related holiday goods in the Walgreens parking lot at 225 Maple Ave.

Hours are:

  • Weekdays: 2 to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

According to its website, the Vienna Lions Club expects items to be gone before Dec. 13.

“We will remain open until we sell out,” the club said. “We anticipate a strong and brisk tree sale and remind our loyal customers of just how quickly our inventory can diminish.”

Proceeds from the sale benefit local, national, and international LIONS Sight and Hearing Foundation activities, along with several organizations, community, and individual betterment activities.

Local nurseries in Fairfax County have also decked out their socially distanced halls with greenery to buy.

In Vienna, shoppers can stop by DePaul’s Urban Farm (2599 Chain Bridge Rd) for trees and a holiday market.

The Merrifield Christmas shop looks more spread out this year to allow for safe social distancing, but it is still offering the same selection of Christmas decor, plants, and greens.

Orders must be placed before arriving at one of the store’s three locations in Falls Church, Fair Oaks, and Gainsville. Once shoppers arrive at the loading station, they can remain in their vehicles while staff loads their purchases.

Meadows Farms has trees, poinsettias and wreaths galore, with locations in Chantilly, Falls Church, Annandale, Vienna and Herndon, and 16 other shops. It also has an online library with decorating tips and care instructions.

If you know of any other location, please let Tysons Reporter know!

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The COVID-19 pandemic’s shake-up of the 2020 winter holiday season continues, disrupting traditions normally fueled by a spirit of sharing and togetherness.

The Woman’s Club of McLean, a nonprofit focused on community philanthropy, said on Sunday (Nov. 22) that its annual Holiday Homes Tour has now been canceled for the first time in 53 years due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Holiday Homes Tour is the main fundraiser for the Woman’s Club of McLean, raising over $1 million for various causes since the club was founded in 1958 by local women looking to support their community through volunteering.

Charities currently supported by the club include the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, Second Story, the McLean Volunteer Fire Department, Friends of Pleasant Grove Church, the Vinson Hall transitional housing project, and Share Inc.

“It’s the only means of raising an adequate amount of money to meet the needs of the community,” Woman’s Club of McLean President Cecilia Glembocki said when asked about the importance of the Holiday Homes Tour.

The club has maintained much of its usual charitable support this year, but it has retained about 50% of the funds it raised with the 2019 Holiday Homes Tour so that it will have some money to donate in 2021.

The 2019 Holiday Homes Tour took place on Dec. 5 and opened four decorated homes in the McLean area to visitors. Tour visitors could also join the club for lunch and holiday shopping at a marketplace set up in the Trinity United Methodist Church on Route 123.

The Woman’s Club says it hopes to stage the Holiday Homes Tour or another major fundraising event next year.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust voiced his support for the club and its homes tour.

“It’s a tradition in McLean,” Foust said.

Photo courtesy Women’s Club of McLean

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The novel coronavirus pandemic did not dampen Noel and Jasmine Bourroughs’ first summer running a mobile Kona Ice truck in Fairfax and the City of Falls Church.

In fact, their first season of operating the franchise was so successful they decided to expand. By next March, the couple anticipates opening two more trucks that serve Arlington and McLean.

“It is exciting,” Noel said. “I believe wholeheartedly in the company, and the company and I think it’s going to be a winner. “

For the Bourroughs, who live outside the City of Fairfax, the opportunities to support the community through shaved ice distinguished Kona from the other franchise options they mulled over this spring.

“The more I looked at it, the more I liked it,” Noel said. “The philosophy of the company is fantastic, and owning a business that has the flexibility to give back is satisfying.”

Some jobs limit opportunities for charitable work to allowing employees to participate in a company’s plans, he said. Kona, which has more than 1,600 trucks in 49 states, encourages franchise owners to donate to organizations close to home.

Since the company’s launch in June 2007, it has contributed more than $82 million to community organizations.

“I have the freedom to do as much charity as I can fit into my schedule,” he said.

The Bourroughs pledge to continue the mobile franchise’s tradition of donating thousands of dollars each year to local school groups, teams, and community organizations.

This season, which lasted from July 3 to mid-November, the Bourroughs parked outside an apartment complex at the request of the management and raised money to sponsor a cyclist in a Bike for Multiple Sclerosis event. Another Saturday morning, the couple raised several hundred dollars for two brothers in need of a bone marrow transplant.

“Noel and Jasmine share our commitment to giving back,” Kona Ice founder and president Tony Lamb said in a statement. “They want to have a positive influence on the people in their community, whether it’s new textbooks, sports uniforms or, simply, a smile. We are proud to have them on-board. Together, we are excited to make a difference in the lives of those around us.”

After the season ended two weekends ago, the Bourroughs are in planning mode for next year, although several franchise trucks have switched to cozy winter drinks. He has a good feeling about next season because of the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“If we can get that distributed early in the year, then we should be back on track for a lot of events that were cancelled from this year,” he said. “I’m very enthusiastic about that.”

This season, the truck put up signs reminding people to stay distanced, but the coolest safety-related change was the addition of a self-serve machine that dispenses 10 flavors that customers can mix. Customers insert their spoons into a handle that releases the syrup for a completely touch-free experience.

Those who want to learn more about the Kona Ice of Fairfax or book an event are encouraged to contact the Bourroughs by email at [email protected] or by phone at (703) 953-0114.

Image courtesy Jessica Tcholakov/All Points PR

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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

What a year 2020 has been — highs and lows for everyone — but our community has a need for support for those struggling to pay rent and buy food.

I often see posts about ways to help and, especially at the outset of the holidays, now is a good time to explore some options on where to put your resources should you have any to give. We have A LOT of great organizations around to help, so depending on what speaks to you, I’m offering some options below (which also looks different than in years past). 

One thing I might offer: If you’re looking for a more direct impact in your own community, call your local school and ask if any of the families need help. The front office staff should be able to find out what families are in need at this time. 

If you’re looking for a larger organization to support, check out these options:

Britepaths

In a non-pandemic year, Britepaths offers the option of adopting a family at Thanksgiving where you can bring them food to cook a Thanksgiving meal themselves. However, due to COVID-19, they can’t facilitate the direct delivery of food this year. Therefore, Britepaths is looking for gift card donations for families to go shop for food themselves. Learn more here.

Food For Others

Food For Others distributes food to more than 2,600 local families in need each week. They collect food throughout the year, but especially around Thanksgiving, they need items like cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beans, pie filling, gravy and canned sweet potatoes. Find out more here.

Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters (BRAWS) (Vienna)

BRAWS was started by a Vienna local, Holly Seibold, to help bring menstrual supplies, underwear and bras to local women and girls in need in the area. They work with school districts, shelters, food pantries and other community organizations. To learn how you can donate supplies and/or funds learn more here.

The Lamb Center

The Lamb Center is a day-time drop-in homeless shelter where individuals can eat, take a shower, do laundry, get housing and job counseling, see a nurse or a dentist, and more — for free. They are accepting donations of cleaning supplies, travel hygiene items, clothing and juice. Get more information here.

Additionally, Vienna’s own Social Burger provides a weekly meal to the Lamb Center, which you can also sponsor. 

SHARE of McLean 

SHARE has a Holiday Celebration, which is their biggest event of the year. They need volunteers as well as donations. You can also sign up to host a food drive to help stock their pantry, which they use to give food and gift cards to families in need. They have in-person volunteer hours, which may involve moving furniture, sorting clothing or restocking the shelves. If you want a more hands-on interaction, you can also greet and register the clients.

Women Giving Back (WGB) (Sterling)

WGB is an organization that supports women and children with the basics to get back on their feet. Please check their site to see what items they need. You can drop them off locally at First Excel Title just outside of Oakton at 3201 Jermantown Road Suite 350 in Fairfax. The store throughout the rest of the year needs clothing, accessories, shoes and kids clothes. Learn more here.

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