As the 29 Diner recovers from a devastating fire in the fall, a community organization in Vienna has teamed up with the historic Fairfax restaurant’s cooking staff to revamp its menu and run catering and charitable campaigns.
The Vienna Moose Lodge #1896 welcomed the diner’s executive chef, Earl Green, to work on Monday (Jan. 10) in a temporary setup to provide meals to lodge members through events like all-you-can-eat breakfasts on Sunday mornings.
“Most of the members who are on the board have been into the diner at one time or another in the last 10, 20 years,” the lodge’s president, Dan Sullivan, said. “I’ve been going there since I was in high school.”
The collaboration began when lodge board member Scott Flesch reached out to 29 Diner owner John Wood in the wake of the fire that destroyed the diner’s kitchen two days before Thanksgiving.
Wood said the kitchen was a total loss, but his insurance company gave him the go-ahead to proceed with a rebuild. Work will require gutting and reconstructing the kitchen, and the dining room needs fire, soot, and heat remediation.
“Our community just has rallied around us in support,” Wood said.
Local teachers started a GoFundMe that raised over $60,000 in 30 days, and the Salvation Army delivered a mobile kitchen to the restaurant at 10:30 a.m. the next day after the fire.
The business has provided 100,000 free meals over the last two years to the community, including those living in domestic violence shelters, health care workers, and veterans, Wood said.
Through the new partnership, the Vienna Moose Lodge — a fraternal organization that provides social events for members and supports philanthropic groups — has hired Wood and Green as paid workers. Four other diner staff members will also get interim work.
The diner had been using the Salvation Army’s mobile cooking unit temporarily to run operations, but it needed something more stable.
Wood expressed appreciation for the lodge’s support. He will run his catering business out of its hall at 9616 Courthouse Road in Vienna starting this month as part of a rental agreement.
He also plans to continue campaigns recognizing community heroes, such as an ongoing a suicide prevention effort.
As for 29 Diner’s Fairfax Boulevard location, Woods hopes to reopen on July 20, which would coincide with the diner’s 75th anniversary.
Meanwhile, the lodge has welcomed the temporary staff to its kitchen after previously relying on volunteers.
“We’re looking forward to some different foods,” Sullivan said, noting that his favorites from 29 Diner include shrimp and grits and a dish with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and pork chops. “In the end, hopefully he will show us and the new staff that we’ll eventually hire in the future to continue…his good food going forward.”
Founded in 1958, the Vienna Moose Lodge is part of the Moose International Fraternity, which started in 1888 in Louisville, Kentucky, and now has over 1 million members across 1,500 lodges in the U.S., Canada, and Britain.
The Vienna lodge has seen a significant growth in membership in recent months, adding 122 members since April to reach 405 people, according to Sullivan.
“I can anticipate we’ll sign up some new members just because John has come to help us,” he said.
How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree — The Town of Vienna will provide curbside collections of Christmas trees to all customers through Jan. 31. Fairfax County collections will be from Jan. 3-14. All lights, decorations, and stands should be removed prior to pickup. [Patch]
Virginia Time Capsule Possibly Found — “Workers removing chunks of granite that had once supported this city’s Robert E. Lee monument finally found what appears to be an elusive 1887 time capsule shortly before noon on Monday…This is the second time a capsule was discovered under the monument; a small lead box opened last week contained mementos of several men who designed the memorial.” [The Washington Post]
Churchill Student Makes Food Network Debut — The Food Network kicked off the 10th season of its reality show Kids Baking Champion yesterday (Monday). Among the 13 young contestants competing to win $25,000 is Churchill Road Elementary School fourth-grade student Finley Sheers, who started making cupcakes as a hobby during the pandemic. [Inside NoVA]
Vienna Rotary Club Hosts Unhoused Youth for Holidays — “Our youth had a fun-filled event hosted by Vienna Rotary Club to celebrate the holidays. They created pillows, decorated wooden arts and crafts, made jewelry, decorated cookies, took pictures at the photo booth and with Santa, and ate a lot of pizza and snacks!” [Second Story/Twitter]
A few teenagers can’t solve world hunger on their own, but some McLean High School students are doing their part to at least make a difference on a local level.
Steven Guo and Rehan Marshall started organizing food drives in June 2020 after seeing news reports about the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic downturn pushing more people to seek food assistance.
“Not enough donations were going to food banks, so many food banks around the nation were running dangerously low on supplies,” said Guo, who was a sophomore at the time. “We saw this and didn’t want it to happen locally.”
Over the past 18 months, the two students’ effort has grown into the nonprofit Teens for Food Banks, which now boasts about 50 members and remains entirely student-run.
The organization has collected 7,793 pounds of food with 17 food drives held every month since June 6, 2020. The most recent campaign concluded last weekend and brought in 328 pounds, according to Guo.
With past events ranging from McLean and Falls Church to Centreville and Arlington County, Teen for Food Banks operates differently from a traditional food drive, where people bring donations to a designated site.
Instead, the nonprofit follows a model similar to Food for Neighbors’ Red Bag Program. First, volunteers distribute flyers throughout a chosen neighborhood. Then, they return the following week to pick up the food and drop it off at a food bank.
So far, the food drives have benefited Share of McLean, which runs a food pantry out of McLean Baptist Church, and the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), which serves Arlington County.
“The TeensforFoodBanks group is a wonderful group of teenagers,” AFAC Associate Director of Communications Jeremiah Huston said by email. “We are always amazed to see teenagers take it upon themselves to do great things in our community. They are very self sufficient and self motivated.”
Teens for Food Banks has given AFAC about 2,000 pounds of food, according to Huston.
Guo says organizing the food drives involved “a lot of trial and error,” with navigating COVID-19 safety protocols as the top challenge. Initially, the entire process was contact-free: students picked up food without ever meeting the donors and only saw their fellow volunteers at drop-off time.
However, for Guo, the logistical demands of Teens for Food Banks have been outweighed by an “outpouring” of community support and his neighbors’ generosity. For the last food drive, one family contributed two boxes of food that he estimates weighed 60 to 80 pounds.
“These acts of kindness, especially during COVID, during a very rough year for everyone, it was very inspiring,” Guo said. “I’m also just glad to know I was able to have an impact on the community.”
Now, he hopes to empower other students to get involved in their community. Read More
Franklin Sherman ES Kicks Off COVID-19 Pediatric Vaccine Rollout — “Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) kicked off the national rollout of COVID-19 vaccination for children ages 5-11 today, when the school division welcomed First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to a clinic at the school where the first Polio vaccine was administered in 1954.” [FCPS]
Fire Department Now Accepting Toys for Tots — The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is participating in the annual National Capital Region Toys for Tots campaign, where firefighters and paramedics collect new, unwrapped toys that will be delivered to children for the holidays. Collection boxes will remain outside local fire stations until 8 p.m. every day until Sunday, Dec. 12. [FCFRD]
National Airport Opens New Security Lines — “Passengers will see a new way through security at Reagan National Airport starting Tuesday at 4 a.m. It launches as air traveler traffic is picking up to nearly 30,000 passengers a day at DCA and that’s expected to increase with the busy holiday season just weeks away.” [DCist]
Extended Closure Scheduled for I-66 West Ramp at Nutley — “The ramp from I-66 West to Nutley Street North and South will be closed from 9 p.m. Friday, November 12, continuously through 11 a.m. Monday, November 15, for paving operations. Traffic will be directed farther west to the exit to Vienna/Fairfax/GMU Station, stay to the right onto Country Creek Road, continue onto Virginia Center Boulevard, then at the traffic signal turn left to Nutley Street North or turn right to Nutley Street South.” [VDOT]
After a year off, Oktoberfest will return to the Town of Vienna tomorrow (Saturday), bringing with it a beer and wine garden, live entertainment, and a slightly pared-down assortment of food, craft, and retail vendors.
Now in its 13th iteration, the festival will unfold from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in its customary site between Maple Avenue and Ayr Hill Road, with the biergarten and main tents set up in the parking lot next to the Red Caboose.
Vienna Oktoberfest is organized by the Vienna Business Association, serving as the chamber of commerce’s main annual fundraiser, but it also depends on the support of dozens of local community groups, VBA Executive Director Peggy James says.
“We are so grateful to huge amount of participation we have received from our local Vienna non-profit organizations for their volunteer support and sponsor support in the festival this year,” James said. “As always, our goal is to provide a safe and fabulous festival that is welcoming to people of all ages. The enormous amount of support we have had this year will ensure this happens.”
Many groups, such as the Rotary Club of Vienna, the local Shepherd’s Center, the Stroke Comeback Center, and even James Madison High School’s crew team, have members volunteering at the festival. Others are participating through sponsorships, which range in cost from $200 to $5,000 for the platinum title.
This year’s food court sponsor is One Neighborhood Foundation, the nonprofit that Vienna VA Foodies co-founder Lydia Russo started in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to help local restaurants by delivering meals to first responders and food-insecure residents.
Russo says the foundation “is very excited” to be part of Vienna Oktoberfest for the first time after providing “thousands and thousands” of meals over the past 18 months or so through its own efforts and by organizing fundraisers for other nonprofits.
The group raised $20,000 in just one day in June 2020 when it turned to the Vienna VA Foodies Facebook group to support Martha’s Table, a D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to healthy food, education, and other resources for families.
Even after all that work, though, Oktoberfest will represent the first opportunity to meet in person for many of the community members who have gotten involved with One Neighborhood Foundation.
“We plan to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere, all while staffing our tent which will be fundraising for future food deliveries,” Russo said by email. Read More
Early Voting Starts Today — Voters can now cast their ballots for the Nov. 2 general election by mail or by visiting the Fairfax County, North County, and Mount Vernon government centers. Virginia has three statewide offices and all 100 House of Delegates seats up for election, and Fairfax County voters also face a school bond question. [Fairfax County Government]
Parents of Sexual Abuse Victim Object to Plea Deal — The family of a girl who was sexually abused by a relative wants a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge to reject a plea deal today (Friday), arguing that the 17-year maximum prison sentence is insufficient. They feel Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano has prioritized defendants over victims, a criticism increasingly leveled against progressive prosecutors across the U.S. elected on promises of reducing mass incarceration and addressing historical inequities in the justice system. [The Washington Post]
Virginia Adds QR Codes to COVID-19 Vaccine Records — “As requests for proof of COVID-19 vaccination by businesses and employers increases, the Virginia Department of Health has announced that QR (quick response) codes are now available. Virginia is now the fifth U.S. state to adopt the SMART Health format for QR codes.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Vienna Unveils Annual Holiday Ornament — “The town of Vienna later this year will begin selling a 2021 holiday ornament, which depicts the ‘Taking Flight’ bronze statue situated in front of the Vienna Community Center. Vienna Town Council members on Sept. 13 unanimously approved the sale of the ornaments, which will be available at the community center, Town Hall and at the upcoming Oktoberfest celebration.” [Sun Gazette]
Tysons 5K Run Raises Money to Feed Community — “Tysons Partnership is proud to have sponsored the @foodforothers Tysons 5K and Fun Run. Sunday’s Fun Run raised over $91,000 for community members facing food insecurity. Thank you to everyone for your support and participation in this year’s race!” [Tysons Partnership/Twitter]
Merrifield Church to Celebrate 151st Anniversary — “The First Baptist Church of Merrifield will kick off their 151st Homecoming Anniversary Weekend on Saturday, September 18 and Homecoming Sunday Service on Sunday, September 19. Immediately following the worship service we will have a soft opening Ribbon Cutting ceremony followed by Lunch on the Grounds.” [Greater Merrifield Business Association]
(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) Hurunnessa Fariad knows what it’s like to be an Afghan refugee.
She fled Afghanistan with her family in the 1980s while the country was under Soviet occupation. While the circumstances were certainly different three decades ago, her emotions upon seeing another exodus in the wake of the Taliban’s recent takeover are comparable to her own experiences.
“The sentiment of leaving your home, leaving everything behind…and coming to a country where you don’t know anything, you don’t know the culture, you don’t know the people, you don’t know who’s going to help you — it’s terrifying,” she said.
Today, Fariad works as outreach coordinator at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society — also known as the ADAMS Center — in Sterling. It’s the second-largest Muslim community in the country and serves people across Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
She also serves as the center’s Afghan lead, working with Lutheran Social Services to help those who have evacuated Afghanistan to make a new home in the U.S., joining many non-profit and faith-based organizations across the region.
The ADAMS Center is currently collecting funds to help with both immediate needs, such as gift cards to Target or Walmart that can be used to purchase basic items, and long-term needs for housing, jobs, and education.
Fariad says the center was collecting individual items, like toiletries and hygiene items, but they got “inundated” and need time to sort through all of the donations.
“The funding is going to keep going on for a while because there’s so many people coming in that they’re going to need help,” she said.
Additionally, the ADAMS Center is putting together a list of local residents who speak Dari and Pashto and can act as translators. They are sharing that list with both Virgina Gov. Ralph Northam’s office and the federal government.
As of yesterday (Tuesday), more than 6,000 people and 44 dogs have arrived at Dulles International Airport in the last week, according to an email from state officials to local partners.
Currently, new arrivals are temporarily being housed at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. They were previously housed at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale as well.
A Fairfax County spokesperson confirmed that the county is providing support for resettlement efforts, primarily assisting with health, human services, and public safety needs.
“Currently, the county is supporting a Department of State operation for people evacuated from Afghanistan and arriving at Dulles International Airport. Some of these individuals are being supported temporarily at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly,” the county spokesperson wrote. “The center has the capacity to support more than a thousand individuals.”
The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management also helped set up cots at Northern Virginia Community College, according to The Washington Post. Community members are being asked not to go to any of these hosting sites.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay visited the Dulles Expo Center yesterday, saying in a newsletter that he was “touched to hear the human side of what we are seeing on the news.”
“While we can’t be sure how many people will ultimately relocate to Fairfax County, I want to be clear that we look forward to welcoming all who want to join our diverse community,” he wrote. Read More
NOVA Welcomes Afghan Refugees with Beds and Donations — Several hundred refugees and Special Immigrant Visa recipients arrived at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus on Saturday (Aug. 21) after being evacuated from Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover. The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management set up more than 500 cots, while volunteers provided food, water, and donated clothes and other supplies. [The Washington Post]
Person of Interest ID’d in Burke Double Homicide — “Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, have identified a person of interest who they say lived at the Burke home where two female victims were found dead on Friday. It is being treated as a double homicide by detectives. Authorities said in a news release that Bradley Lister, 33, is currently unaccounted for.” [WTOP]
Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care Reopens Today — “Adult Day Health Care teams are reviewing health and safety protocols as our centers plan their reopening (on Monday in Lewinsville, and Sept. 7 for other locations). We are looking forward to welcoming back our participants to our program!” [Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter]
Inova Hosts Back-to-School Health Clinic — “Visited the @InovaHealth back to school clinic in Falls Church this am- they were expecting 350 but had over 1000 patients show up for physicals & school immunizations & to enroll in expanded Medicaid – spent most of my time handing out water and snacks to kids in line” [Del. Marcus Simon/Twitter]
Storm Brings Power Outages, Hail to Fairfax County — Thunderstorms swept through Fairfax County last night (Wednesday), resulting in reports of damaging winds and even hail “that toppled trees and wires.” As of midnight, Dominion Energy’s outage map showed thousands of people in the county without power, particularly around McLean. [Capital Weather Gang]
Farmer’s Market Nonprofit Awarded State Grant — FRESHFARM will get a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund to establish new fresh food mobile markets in food-insecure areas of Northern Virginia. The nonprofit operates several farmer’s markets in Fairfax County, including the ones at the Mosaic District and The Boro. [Patch]
More Traffic Control Sought for Great Falls Park — “Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) officials are seeking to have the federal government provide $100,000 in permanent, annual funding for U.S. Park Police to control traffic at Old Dominion Drive and Georgetown Pike outside the park’s entrance when park usage is especially heavy…Traffic congestion outside the park routinely occurs on weekends, holidays and fee-free days from March through early November, GFCA leaders said.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Madison HS Student Brings Books and Bikes to Tanzania — James Madison High School rising junior Sophia Brown organized a bicycle drive at the Vienna school in May and collected dozens of donated books to bring to Tanzania for a Girl Scout project. Sophia traveled to the East African country this summer with support from the nonprofit Wheels to Africa, which she has worked with since she was in second grade. [FCPS]
Tysons Partnership Considers BID — The Tysons Partnership could become a business improvement district that would impose a tax to help fund its efforts to implement Fairfax County’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan. The district would be a first for the county, similar to what Arlington has around Amazon HQ2, but a majority of property owners would have to approve the tax. [Washington Business Journal]
Fairfax Connector Commits to COVID-19 Health Protocols — The bus system has joined the American Public Transportation Association’s Health and Safety Commitments Program, pledging to take “all the necessary measures to operate safely” as Fairfax County plans a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program commits transit systems to following public health guidelines, including cleaning protocols and mask requirements, and keeping passengers informed. [Fairfax Connector]
MPAartfest Submissions Open — The McLean Project for the Arts is seeking submissions for its 15th annual MPAartfest, a one-day, juried fine art and craft show featuring local and regional visual artists. This year’s festival will take place on Oct. 3 in McLean Central Park. The deadline to submit work is June 15. [McLean Project for the Arts]
McLean Teen Organizes Church Food Drive — “A 14-year-old from McLean, Virginia, is making an extraordinary difference in her community by helping hundreds of families who need some extra help during the pandemic…[Sophia] Sears’ efforts were done in conjunction with St. John’s Episcopal Church.” [WTOP]