Tysons, VA

A Vienna woman decided to take advantage of free time to help women around the D.C. area that are either suffering from homelessness or domestic violence while also supporting a regional Black-owned eatery.

Alexandra Sorrell, a recent Virginia Tech graduate, doesn’t start her new job until October and said she couldn’t stand the idea of sitting idly by while other people are in need. So Sorrell decided to organize a GoFundMe to purchase full-price meals from Puddin’ for women at both the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter and N Street Village facilities.

Both of these non-profits focus on helping women and children in the area by offering housing, counseling and advocacy, according to their websites.

“It’s hard to find things to fill your time and I felt so guilty sitting at home while so many people are suffering, especially now with the pandemic and Black Lives Matter,” she said.

Though Sorrell thought about assisting community members around Vienna, she recognized that there was a more immediate and extreme need in D.C.

One of Sorrell’s family friends is an emergency room nurse in a regional hospital and told her that they have seen record numbers of domestic violence and child abuse cases.

“I was trying to address as many areas of struggle as I could,” she said.

Puddin’, which is owned by Toyin Alli, serves Southern-style comfort food, according to the food truck’s website. Sorrell chose the truck from a recommendation of a staffer at N Street Village.

Sorrell told Tysons Reporter that she wanted to do more than provide canned food meals. Through Puddin’, she is able to connect recipients with meals they could enjoy.

She added that she wants to help replicate the joy that she feels when she is able to enjoy a nice meal with some friends.

As of this morning, the campaign has raised $1,760 out of $2,500. If the campaign doesn’t raise the full amount, Sorrell said she would donate the rest from the signing bonus from her new job.

The campaign will run through Aug. 1, according to the GoFundMe.

“My fear is to be ever complacent,” Sorrell said, adding that she hopes other people will assist with outreach and take advantage of free time to help others.

Photo via Puddin’/Facebook

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After noticing harm done by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vienna community members banded together to help D.C. residents in need.

Lydia Russo, who organized the fundraiser on the Vienna VA Foodies Facebook group, said that the group raised roughly $20,000 to support Martha’s Table, which works to support education programs, healthy food and family outreach.

Russo told Tysons Reporter that she was impressed with Martha’s Table’s work East of River and wanted to partner with them to benefit the Barry Farm neighborhood, which is near one of the centers for Martha’s Table.

“I wanted to go with a well-known charity because they have a well-organized program that is intertwined in the neighborhood and has a good system going,” Russo said.

In the first two days of the fundraiser, Russo said the effort raised $18,000 — far exceeding her expectations.

“My first ‘goal’ was only $1,000. Then it increased to $5,000,” she said. “Within the week, we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people donate — children, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, people I’ve met, people I’ve never met, people who heard about the fundraiser from a friend.”

The check is set to be hand-delivered to Martha’s Table this week by Russo and both of Vienna’s incoming and outgoing mayors, Russo said.

“My hope was to show that we are all part of one larger community, and we should think of our neighbors and put our thoughts and words into action,” Russo said.

Though the fundraiser ended yesterday, Russo encourages people to organize their own fundraisers or donate to Martha’s Table directly, since the nonprofit accepts donations year-round.

Photo via Martha’s Table/Facebook

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For roughly 500 kids in Northern Virginia, the annual Pride Prom hosted by Tysons-based NoVA Pride was a time where they could have fun and connect with their peers.

Though COVID-19 has put a damper on in-person Pride celebrations this year — and led to Pride Prom’s postponement twice — NoVa Pride is still working to support members of the LGBTQ+ youth community. Pride month is meant as an inclusive, celebratory event commemorating Stonewall.

Amy, the director of youth outreach for the group, said they decided to set up virtual activities where participants can connect with their friends.

These kids need extra support in the age of COVID-19 since LGBTQ+ youth may not have as much support at home, according to Amy, who added that a lack of peer support and contact could put them at risk.

“Many kids rely on schools for affirmation and validation,” Amy said. “They’re the ones who are experiencing more social isolation.”

The digital events, which Amy said are held every other week, include Netflix parties, Q&As with student leadership and an Instagram chat option.

Anyone who wishes to get involved with these events can check out NoVA Pride’s website and social media.

For the next meeting, NoVA Pride will be teaching a DIY drag tutorial, according to Amy.

Though many of NoVA Pride’s events are aimed at kids in ninth-12th grade, the organization also works with adults, serving as a resource to help connect new community members with LGBTQ-friendly churches and groups.

“From what we’ve seen, adults aren’t really looking for anything online,” Amy said.

Regarding the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the country, Amy said she wants people to remember that Pride festivities were inspired by the Stonewall Riots, which were sparked by transgender women of color and other members of the LBGTQ+ community in response to police raids.

NoVA Pride’s mission is “to cultivate and grow a coalition to educate, advocate and celebrate in service to the [LGBTQ+] community of Northern Virginia and our straight Allies.”

“Nothing we have done has changed, we are a very diverse and inclusive organization in general,” Amy said. “The same youth leaders who are serving as Pride Prom leaders are the ones in their communities advocating for racial justice and racial equity.”

For anyone struggling with their identity, depression or social norms, the Trevor Project aims to prevent suicide and self-harm in LBGTQ+ youth across the country, according to its website. Though it has no official affiliation with NoVA Pride, Amy said it is a wonderful resource.

Currently, Pride Prom is scheduled to be held in August but Amy said it is unclear if they will be forced to cancel with how quickly things seem to be changing with COVID-19.

Photo via Allie on Unsplash

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To support other businesses around Vienna, locally-owned French Press Printing created a fundraiser that has collected more than $7,000 so far.

By selling specially designed t-shirts, owner Sarah Bohn said that she not only managed to raise funds for her neighboring buisnesses challenged by COVID-19, but also drawn attention to the compassion shared by Vienna residents.

Part of the reason the fundraiser has been so successful is that “people want to be involved in their community,” she said. “People didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to participate.”

For $20 people can purchase a dark blue t-shirt, which comes in two styles and has white lettering listing the 35 participating buisnesses on the back and the word “community” on the front.

Though all of the local buisnesses featured benefit from the extra advertising, some of them chose to forgo the money and either request it be given to other local buisnesses who need it more or take it to donate to a charity of their choice, Bohn said.

Frame Factory, for example, took its share and purchased fresh groceries from Caboose Tavern to share with locals facing food insecurity, according to Bohn.

Originally, Bohn ran a trial fundraiser in April and brought back a second edition out of popular demand. New orders will be accepted through June 5, according to the website.

More than 100 shirts have been ordered so far in the second fundraising round, Bohn said.

Currently, Bohn said she is in the process of sending out the original orders, adding that people who ordered recently will receive their shirts after the June 5 order deadline. 

Despite the hardship many buisnesses are facing, Bohn commented on the “wonderful energy” around town. She said she noticed that more and more buisnesses are reaching out to one another and forming partnerships, finding ways they can coordinate packages and deals for customers. 

Around town, Bohn said she looks forward to watching people walk down the streets in their #supportingvienna shirts as a reminder of the small-town feel that Vienna shares with residents.

Besides just t-shirts, French Press Printing also sells pillows, custom made fabric items, glassware, bags and jewelry, according to its website.

Photo via French Press Printing/Facebook

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A list started by a woman to “help local businesses in McLean get the word out” quickly became a resource naming roughly 300 businesses and charities in the D.C. area.

The project, created by Lori Boerner, consists of a Google Doc and map, so people either seeking assistance or wanting to help during the pandemic can efficiently find an organization that suits their needs.

Perusing the information provided, people will see a places collecting donations, restaurants offering takeout and delivery, fitness centers offing online classes, retail stores with curbside drop off and even corporate companies that are offering free services.

Part of Boerner’s inspiration for the project came from chatter from local forums and social media. She noticed that people wanted to help those in need but lacked a direct, coordinated list of resources.

“It was initially time-consuming,” she said, adding formatting the information and researching places took a substantial amount of time.

Now that the list is somewhat complete, she told Tysons Reporter that she still spends a few early mornings a week before work to update it with tips sent to her.

For example, the mother of a McLean teenager that works at Sweet Bites Café & Bakery told Boerner to help get the word out that the bakery is still open since its business has slowed substantially.

“A lot of it feeds upon itself — once people see it, they send things in,” Boerner said, especially since the list’s popularity continues to grow.

Since its creation, the list has been promoted by regional organizations such as the McLean Citizens Association, which Boerner is a member of.

Boerner had practice coordinating a similar list after she made one to assist people during the government shutdown in 2019.

“Things are different now and people are helping in any way they can,” Boerner said, adding that not everyone may be able to donate financially, but they can promote resources through social media channels and networks.

Image via Google Maps

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tysons Corner Center is working with community members to help those in need by providing an &pizza meal to healthcare workers. Anyone who wants to sponsor a healthcare worker by providing a meal can text #FEEDTHEM to 200-03, the page said.

Those seeking live entertainment can choose to check out 1st Stage Theatre’s Facebook page, where the arts organization posts videos of its talented cast members posting videos of them performing various songs and acts.

Tuesday (May 19)

  • Stuff the Bus — People can drop off non-perishable goods to help community members in need at both the  James Lee Community Center (2855 Annandale Road) Falls Church and the Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Ave E.) in Vienna from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
  • Virtual Mystery Fiction Book Group — At 7 p.m. people can join a virtual conversation about “My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel.” People must pre-register online to receive the link. This event is hosted by One More Page Books.

Thursday (May 21)

Saturday (May 23)

  • Performers in Quarantine — Starting at 2 p.m. 1st Stage Theatre will hold one of its community conversations via Zoom with performances by actors in the upcoming show “The Nance share.” The actors will share what their creative experiences have been like during the pandemic.

Photo courtesy Caboose Commons

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Two lifelong friends who work at Hoar Construction in Tysons and Clyde’s in Maryland recently teamed up to feed health care workers around the D.C. area. 

By leveraging their connections at their companies, Bryce Yetso, the general manager of Clyde’s, and Mike Dramby, Hoar Construction’s senior project manager, said that they have handed out over $3,000-worth of food at two regional hospitals within the last few weeks.

Though Hoar Construction works on a variety of projects, Dramby specializes in hospital construction and expansion for the D.C. area office, so he said he was already somewhat familiar with the needs of hospital workers during this hectic time.

Meanwhile, Clyde’s was forced to furlough workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was able to bring people back to work recently with the new request for meals, according to Yetso.

“Bryce was looking to get his people back to work and we were looking for a way to help front line folks,” Dramby said, adding that it made sense to join the two efforts together.

Hoar Construction managed fundraising efforts and coordination with the hospitals while Clyde’s was responsible for meal preparation and delivery, the men said.

Though Hoar Construction originally offered to front the meal order cost, Dramby said that almost all of his coworkers contributed to the effort.

Dramby told Tysons Reporter that his company has been especially busy during this time, because hospitals are investing money in wing expansions to boost capacity for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Going forward, the two men hope to cater meals to medical staff at two other hospitals in the near future.

Photo courtesy Clyde’s Catering

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Caffe Amouri and the Vienna Business Association are hosting a social distance 5K benefiting community members facing food insecurity.

Beginning Friday (May 15), people can take part in the Feeding Families 5K by preregistering and then tracking their distance and time as they follow the arranged route.

To maintain social distancing, participants can run anytime through the end of the month, according to the event page. When complete, people can turn in their results through email.

Registration is $25 for individuals or $50 for a family, according to the event page, which added that all proceeds go to charity.

Winners in several categories including “best time running” and “best time walking” will receive prizes from Caffe Amouri and local sponsors.

People interesting in just donating to the cause can do so online.

Image via Caffe Amouri/Facebook

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Fairfax County recently created a map pinpointing local groups looking for donations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The map allows users to find nonprofits and organizations within a specific region of Fairfax County so they can help people within their own communities.

Users can search for charities by the proximity to an address or by clicking on one from the general geographic overview.

The charities listed on the website are accepting items including personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, baby products and paper items, the page said. Throughout the county, 22,620 households are at or below the poverty level, according to the website.

Charities collecting monetary donations can be found on the webpage as well.

People can learn more about a charity by reading an overview from Volunteer Fairfax.

County-wide:

Vienna:

McLean:

Falls Church:

Image via Fairfax County

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In the coming weeks, a local nonprofit assisting community members facing food insecurity or homelessness will receive assistance from the McLean Citizens Association.

SHARE of McLean was chosen by the MCA at last night’s meeting (May 6) to be the recipient of incoming monetary donations to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is one of the most efficient charities we could possibly find,” MCA President Dale Stein said, adding that requests for food from SHARE have doubled since the COVID-19 outbreak began. 

MCA members voted to donate a minimum of $1,000, which has already been crowdsourced, to the nonprofit.

“I really do think this is good for our community and MCA,” Stein said.

Several members at the meeting asked that MCA raise the match amount.

“Let’s get the $1,000 to SHARE and then set up a working committee to get more funds donated and send in a second donation later,” Sowjanya O’Neill, an MCA at-large member, said. “I know there are a lot of people out there who are in need right now.”

Ultimately, they came to a compromise to re-examine donation amounts in the future.

“We can always decide to increase that at future meetings,” Stein said, adding that the board will review the project and possibly add onto it.

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck/Unsplash

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