Tysons, VA

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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A Stuff the Bus food drive this weekend will give Tysonians several opportunities to contribute to some of their neighbors in need.

Fairfax County has typically held Stuff the Bus food drives — where volunteers contribute food to those in need — twice a year. But the pandemic and economic downturn has left more in need than usual, so the county is holding more Stuff the Bus events than usual.

Stuff the Bus food drives in May collected 33.6 tons of food for local non-profits to distribute over two days.

This Saturday, Sept. 26, buses will be parked at 21 locations throughout the county from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. to collect donations.

Locations close to Tysons this weekend are:

  • 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)

The buses will be parked in less frequently used lots to avoid crowding.

The County included a list of frequently requested items from non-profits:

  • Canned Tuna, Salmon or Chicken
  • Soup
  • Canned Pasta
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Canned Fruit (in light syrup or juice)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Jelly
  • Bag (Dry) Beans
  • Rice – Brown or White
  • Instant Potatoes
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Pancake Mix
  • Pancake Syrup
  • Hot and Cold Cereal
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Beans
  • Healthy Snacks (e.g. raisins, granola bars)

Image via Fairfax County

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Local children’s book author, Joe Jamaldinian, is partnering with the Kendra Scott location in the Mosaic District (2920 District Ave) tomorrow (Sept. 19) for a charity event benefiting the Grace DC Homeless Project.

At the event, which runs from 12-2 p.m., Jamaldinian will be signing his Penguin Bob books purchased on-site and conducting meet and greets.

Grace DC Homeless Project is a non-profit that feeds and provides care packages for people experiencing homelessness, according to Jamaldinian.

For all the books sold, Jamaldinian will be donating 100% of the profits to the charity while Kendra Scott will be donating 20% of all sales.

The partnership came about after Jamaldinian said he was contacted by a Kendra Scott representative who loved his book.

Those who want to contribute to the cause but cannot make the in-person event are invited to donate to the cause directly.

Additionally, “20% of Kendra Scott purchases [go] to Grace DC Homeless Project during the event and online through September 20th,” a Facebook post said. “Just enter GIVEBACK8936 at checkout.”

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In lieu of being able to serve the community in-person, members of Falls Church-based Dulin United Methodist Church started a monthly charity project led by their pastor, Dave Kirkland.

Since July, the congregation has chosen a different charity to support each month by raising funds for those in need.

“We pick up a different ministry each month and see how it hits the spirits of people and how they respond,” Kirkland said.

Though the charities range in geographic location and purpose, the July donation to Homestretch benefited people within Falls Church’s own community.

Not only did churchgoers and a variety of other donors raise $100,000 which will support the charity’s mission to help disadvantaged families find housing and sustainable lives, but the group was also able to donate $7,200 worth of gift cards and put together care packages with toiletries for 28 local families, according to Kirkland.

Many of the people which received help thanks to the donations are entry-level frontline workers, Kirkland said, and many are also survivors of human trafficking or abuse.

“We knew a lot of these folks probably lost their job and COVID has really affected their lives, so we made a plea,” Kirkland said.  “They [Homestretch] support their families through skills, knowledge and hope. We couldn’t help with skills or knowledge but we could help with hope.”

In August, Dulin United Methodist also raised $17,000 for a group called Free Minds Book Club, which is a D.C. based organization that encourages incarcerated youth to develop a passion for literature.

This month, congregation members will be supporting a charity in Sierra Leone which works to set up infrastructure in the country which was destroyed by civil war, according to Kirkland.

Anyone interested in supporting the church’s mission can donate online.

Photo via Dulin United Methodist Church/Facebook

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Vienna music venue Jammin Java has reopened to the public with a series of socially-distanced benefit shows called “A Song & A Slice.”

The series combines outdoor concerts with pizza from Union Pie at Jammin Java, the pizza restaurant opened by the owners during the pandemic. 

Attendees are encouraged to donate during each show to a charity selected by the performers. In addition, one dollar from every beer sold will go towards those charities. 

Some of the upcoming shows include:

  • DJ D’s Dance To The Decades benefitting the US & JJ Staff Fund on Aug. 14 at 7 p.m.
  • Irresponsible benefitting the National Black Child Development Institute on Aug. 16 at 6 p.m.
  • Tommy McGee Band benefitting SURJNOVA on Aug. 21 at 7 p.m.

Jammin Java stopped their shows when the pandemic hit in March and then opened Union Pie at the beginning of April. 

“We’d been talking about it for a while, but once the COVID struck, we decided it was now or never,” said Lana Mahmoud, the Director of Operations for Jammin Java. They then decided to blend the pizza with the music to create concerts to benefit both businesses.  

Once Virginia was able to reopen, they were able to move forward with scheduling shows again. Their first outdoor show this summer took place on July 19, and they have concerts scheduled through Oct. 31. 

“We’re focusing on local artists to keep the local scene alive,” said Mahmoud.

The venue is taking recommended measures to ensure COVID-19 safety, including mandating masks indoors and for all employees, keeping tables at least 6 feet apart and setting up hand sanitizer stations. They are also using disposable menus and cups. 

“A lot of people are just so thankful to have live music back,” said Mahmoud. “It’s a really beautiful sense of community and joy.”  

Photo via Jammin Java/Facebook

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The Food for Others 5k and Fun Run in Tysons in September won’t resemble the race in previous years.

Instead of happening in-person on a set date, the event will now take place virtually during a weekend in late September. Just like the previous races, the registration fee will benefit food-insecure people in Fairfax County.

Located in the Merrifield area, Food for Others notes on its website that more than 70,000 people in Fairfax County live in poverty. The organization distributes food to more than 2,600 families weekly.

“Between March and July, Food for Others has served food to a total of 72,223 households, a 35 percent increase over the number of families we served between March and July of 2019,” the organization recently announced.

Participants will have the weekend of Sept. 25-Sept. 27 to complete the distance and can complete the 5k on a trail, treadmill or anywhere they can walk.

The cost to join the event is $30 per person, which will go toward giving rice and beans to 25 families. People who register before Sept. 10 can get a race t-shirt mailed to them. The race is also accepting sponsorships.

The event description asks that participants record their time and share photos on social media using #Foodforothers5K.

Some of the prizes will include awards for people with the best race costume, most creative route and best pet photo. The full list of prizes will be announced by Sept. 10 so that participants can prepare.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento/Unsplash

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