Tysons, VA

For the first time in its 48-year history, Second Story is going online for its most important fundraiser.

Scheduled for Oct. 27, the 2020 Beacon of Hope Fundraiser will give supporters a look at how the Tysons-based nonprofit has adapted to the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, whose impact has been felt most acutely by poor and marginalized communities like the youths and families that Second Story serves.

Taking the form of a video streamed live on YouTube from 12:30-1:00 p.m., the fundraiser will feature updates from Second Story CEO Judith Dittman on the organization’s current status and its plans for the future. Three youths will also talk about their involvement in the nonprofit’s programs, which provide housing, counseling, and other kinds of assistance to young people and families in need.

The planned virtual fundraiser will be a major change from Second Story’s traditional Beacon of Hope benefit, which is held in October every year and typically serves as the nonprofit’s largest fundraising event.

“This is such a new territory for us, but everyone’s been really working hard in making sure that people will understand what the needs are of the under-served population that we work with,” Second Story vice president of development Jade Leedham said.

The annual Beacon of Hope fundraiser is especially critical for Second Story this year, as the nonprofit attempts to fill more gaps in essential needs for its clients during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

While Second Story also serves Washington, D.C., and Maryland, it is primarily based in Northern Virginia with programs to support teenagers in crisis, and young adults and mothers experiencing homelessness. The nonprofit also has drop-in centers in the Culmore area of Falls Church, Annandale, and Springfield that provide after-school support to students.

Leedham says Second Story has seen a “huge” increase in the need for food. Distribution events held twice a week in Culmore have consistently drawn about 300 people per day, while a site in Springfield regularly gets 100 people coming each day.

Second Story has also been dropping off food for clients who are unable to attend the distribution events.

Other pressing issues include access to technology, as students risked being left out of schools’ shift to virtual learning, and rent support after about 70 percent of the youths in Second Story’s rapid re-housing program lost hours at their jobs or got laid off in the past year.

At the same time, Second Story has seen the number of people using its residential programs dip.

“[It’s] the nature of COVID,” Leedham said. “People are reluctant to leave or to go anywhere that’s not familiar to them or that they don’t know is safe or not.” Read More

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The Falls Church City Council issued a proclamation on Oct. 7 declaring next Monday (Oct. 12) to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of Columbus Day.

To commemorate the occasion, the City of Falls Church is asking residents to “reflect upon the many contributions as well as the continuing struggles of Indigenous Peoples,” according to the city’s press release.

City Hall and all government offices, including the Commissioner of the Revenue, the Treasurer’s Office, and the Elections Office will be closed for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Falls Church will also not have any in-person early voting on Monday.

Curbside pickup from the Mary Riley Styles Public Library will not be available Sunday (Oct. 11) or Monday (Oct. 12). The library is already otherwise closed to the public due to COVID-19, as is the Falls Church Community Center.

In honor of this day, Falls Church will hold its third annual Indigenous Peoples’ Coat Drive at City Hall starting today (Oct. 9) until next Friday (Oct. 16). Donations will again go to support the Oglala-Lakota Nation.

Items requested for donation include new or gently worn winter coats and hooded sweatshirts of all sizes, baby blankets, new socks of all sizes, and bars of soap.

Once collected, they will be shipped to Re-Member, a nonprofit on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The donation drop box is located near the elevator of the West Wing entrance of City Hall (300 Park Ave.), the press release said. All visitors must also wear a face covering before entering the building.

Times for donating will vary depending on the day:

  • Friday (Oct. 9) – 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday (Oct. 13) – 1:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday (Oct. 14) – 1:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Thursday (Oct. 15) — 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Friday (Oct. 16) — 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Photo via City of Falls Church Government/Facebook

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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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Despite canceling in-person shows, Wolf Trap found a way to put their costume-making skills to work this summer by making and donating masks to the Vienna community. 

When Gov. Ralph Northam announced the stay-at-home order through June 10, Wolf Trap’s Opera Costume Department realized shows wouldn’t be happening and decided to find another way to employ some of their artisans. 

Initially, Wolf Trap just planned to make masks for its foundation board and staff, as well as artists from its opera residency. But they also knew they wanted to help the community, so they worked with the Vienna Business Association to provide masks to restaurants, according to Lee Anne Myslewski, the vice president for Opera and Classical Programming at Wolf Trap. 

“We determined that partnering with the VBA would get them to organizations and individuals that needed them,” said Myslewski. 

Of the 1,000 masks made by the company, 130 went to the VBA, according to Peggy James, the VBA’s executive director.

The masks are made from three-ply pre-shrunk cotton, and some mask material comes from unused off-cuts from previous shows, according to a newsletter from the VBA. They have large and medium masks to give out to Vienna businesses. 

“I really appreciate that they are big supporters of the Vienna community,” said James. “We are very appreciative of their membership and their generosity.” 

In addition to restaurants, masks were also given to nonprofits, teachers and other businesses around Vienna, according to James. 

While the mask donation was a hit, Wolf Trap says that it was just a one-time thing, and hopefully, they can resume performances soon. “We hope to be able to make opera sets and costumes again next summer,” said Myslewski.

Wolf Trap is still offering virtual concerts for both adults and children on their website.

Photos courtesy of Peggy James

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Although Halloween in Vienna will look a little different this year, COVID-19 isn’t stopping the town from holding socially-distanced fall festivities. 

Currently, the town is collecting donations for “Halloween in a Bag” until Oct. 1. The collection, based on their “4th of July in a Box” over the summer, will deliver 750 bags with enough supplies for two kids per household to celebrate Halloween from home.

The bag will include a pumpkin decorating kit, Halloween candy and treats, festive crafts, recipes and activities, vampire teeth and an assortment of Halloween fun, according to the Vienna Voice. Bags are $20 each.

Then, the Vienna Business Association and the Town of Vienna will host Distanz Oktoberfest — a twist on the usual Oktoberfest celebration — from Oct. 2-4.

The celebration will feature various festivals that fall into four different categories: Festival Food, Beer & Wine, Market Platz/Retail and Business Expo/Professionals. 

On Oct. 31, the town will host the “Halloween Wave Parade.” At 10 a.m., locals can expect 10-15 floats to travel through the four quadrants of Vienna. 

The parade is looking for more sponsors — businesses can apply to be a sponsor on the VBA website. Sponsors will have their logos displayed as the parade moves across town.

Photo by David Menidrey/Unsplash

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Visitors to Tysons Corner Center can drop off canned food and snacks to help people facing food insecurity.

The mall teamed up with radio station WGTS 91.9 and the Capital Area Food Bank on a food drive.

The Capital Area Food Bank is looking for the following items:

  • canned or dry beans
  • canned vegetables (low sodium, no salt added)
  • peanut butter
  • hot and cold cereal
  • grains: brown and white rice, pasta, macaroni and cheese
  • canned tuna, salmon or chicken
  • 100% juice (all sizes)
  • canned fruits
  • healthy snacks like raisins and granola bars

Working with more than 450 nonprofit partners, the Capital Area Food Bank provides more than 30 million meals yearly, according to its website.

For communities across the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic has made it harder to access food and resources. A study earlier this year by Feeding America predicts that 17 million more people — including 7 million kids — will face food insecurity this year than in pre-pandemic times.

People will have until Sunday, Aug. 30, to drop off donations at either the concierge desk on the second level near Starbucks or at Bloomingdale’s.

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Local restaurants want diners to donate to the relief efforts helping the thousands of people suffering from the aftermath of a deadly explosion in Beirut.

The massive explosion in Lebanon’s capital last Tuesday (Aug. 4) killed approximately 150 people and left thousands injured and homeless.

Mediterranean restaurant Zenola took to Facebook on Wednesday to ask diners to donate to the Lebanese Red Cross and Impact Lebanon. “The city and its people are near and dear to our hearts,” the Facebook post said. “We’re heartbroken over the loss of life and the destruction of vital infrastructure. The road ahead to recovery and rebuilding will be a long one.”

“Being Lebanese-American, most of us in the [D.C. area], we felt like we had to do something,” Noha Zeitoun, who is one of the restaurant’s owners, told Tysons Reporter. “Being so far away, one of the easiest things we can do is fundraise for the organizations doing the work on the ground.”

The restaurant, which opened last September in Vienna, is donating the proceeds from two menu items — a cocktail and comfort dish — through this Wednesday (Aug. 12) to the two organizations, Zeitoun said. “The Lebanese Red Cross is incredibly well respected and well regarded with giving money directly to the people,” Zeitoun said. “Impact Lebanon — they are known for highly vetting the organizations they give money to.”

The cocktail is called “Toot Toot to Beirut” — a play on words of a song by the Lebanese artist Marcel Khalife — and is made from blackberry juice and gin. The comfort dish “Ablama” is baby zucchini stuffed with beef, pine nuts and onions with tomato and truffle béchamel sauce. The dish comes with rice and vermicelli.

“We grew up eating it at home and in Lebanon,” Zeitoun said about Ablama. “It’s a warm dish that brings you fuzzies.”

Zenola joined D.C.-area restaurants taking part in a fundraising effort called Beitna, which means “our house” in Arabic and was started by Chef Roro Asmar and Chef Marcelle Afram of Compass Rose and Maydan, Zeitoun said. Additionally, the restaurant is encouraging diners this month to make donations when they get their checks.

Zeitoun said that Zenola has raised about $300 since last Wednesday and hopes to double the amount by next Wednesday (Aug. 19).

“There are some really, really hard videos to watch, given everything worldwide with the pandemic,” Zeitoun said about the explosion, noting a recent map shows what the impact would have looked like in the D.C. area. “It’s another extra thing making 2020 just a little bit more unbearable.”

“It will take a lot of time, but Beirut has recovered through a lot of things, and the people are very resilient,” Zeitoun said, noting that the country is facing hyperinflation and economic turmoil.

Because of inflation, Zeitoun said that every dollar counts: “USD goes a really long way right now.”

Other restaurants in the Tysons area are also looking to support Beirut.

Phoenicia Resto and Lounge in the Dunn Loring area took to Facebook to share relief efforts people can donate to.

“[No] words can heal the wounded or bring back the souls killed by this horrific tragedy… Beirut always in our heart,” the restaurant posted.

Lebanese Taverna, a regional chain that was started in Arlington and has a location in Tysons Galleria, started a GoFundMe for the Lebanese Red Cross. The fundraiser netted more than $62,000 in five days — surpassing the initial goal of $50,000.

“We are now shifting any additional donations to Jose Andres’ organization, World Central Kitchen as our brother, Dany Abi-Najm is traveling to Lebanon with #CHEFSFORBEIRUT,” the restaurant posted on Facebook yesterday. “Any further money collected will go directly to assist their efforts on the front line as they help to feed the more than 300,000 people displayed.”

Additionally, the restaurant’s website says that a portion of the proceeds from the Hommos sold through the end of the month will benefit World Central Kitchen, which is giving prepared meals to seniors, first responders and people in need in Beirut.

Photo via Zenola/Facebook

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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Reach the office at 703-790-9090.

Has all of this time at home finally given you that “time” you’ve been dreaming about?

I know I spent April, when I was home most, organizing every closet we had out of boredom. I’ve seen many posts around social media showing people doing the same — finally purging all of that stuff you never actually needed. I’ve also seen people wondering if donations are still being accepted during this time of COVID-19.

If you’re tackling a summer clean out, please consider donating your items to these organizations:

Photo via Community Cares Vienna/Facebook

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What started as a mom-led effort to help food-insecure families has grown into a large volunteer group giving groceries, kids’ clothing and more to roughly 150 people in the Vienna area each week.

Self-described bargain hunters Sharon McKew and Grace Westreich got to know each other through a yard sale site. They told Tysons Reporter via Facebook Messenger that they are leading the efforts behind the public Facebook group Community Cares Vienna.

“It started after schools shut down, and I found out many of the students I worked with would no longer receive the ‘blessings bags’ from the school,” McKew said. “It was just a way to continue to get them food.”

Westreich said the group “exploded overnight.” As of today (Wednesday), it has more than 300 members.

At first, the donations came from McKew’s wallet and former families from a daycare McKew ran. Then, Westreich started giving donations, and the two teamed up. Westreich now manages the money, orders, donation solicitations and delivery logistics, while McKew directs the volunteers and handles the food.

Over time, the group has turned into a space for people to share and solicit donations for items like bed rails, baby clothes, book bags, lined paper for students and more. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact vulnerable communities, it’s clear from the messages posted in the group that there’s an ongoing need for food and supplies.

A study earlier this year by Feeding America predicts that one in six adults — and one in four kids — could experience food insecurity this year. Jade Leedham with Second Story, a local nonprofit helping vulnerable kids and young, told Tysons Reporter in July that she’s seen a decrease in volunteers and corporate sponsors while the need for support continues.

Community Cares Vienna is working to keep residents and local businesses engaged. The group’s extensive reach is thanks to the “amazing volunteers,” McKew and Westreich said.

So far, volunteers’ efforts have included making masks for kids and adults, delivering disinfectants, buying school supplies and paying for art camps for homebound students, McKew said.

That’s not all. An anonymous donor donated their stimulus check. One mother-daughter duo dropped off boxes and bags filled with activities for kids. Several people organized neighborhood drives, while others consistently donate groceries. Girls Scouts and former daycare kids have prepared bags of food and teachers and staff from elementary schools are making deliveries.

The group also receives financial and marketing support from Lydia Russo, the local woman behind the Vienna VA Foodies Facebook group. People who want to get involved can email [email protected]

“Restaurants joined in, too,” Westreich said, highlighting local eateries that they made meals or donated:

“Sharon talks about kids waving from the window in excitement, the joy and sheer giddiness of knowing what the deliveries mean. Parents with tears of gratitude in their eyes,” Westreich said. “Sharon’s creed really has been, ‘No hungry bellies.'”

Photo by Maria Lin Kim/Unsplash

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For the second year in a row, a local student wants people to support a 50-mile walk fundraising for World Vision International, a global Christian humanitarian organization.

Last year, Alex Covell and a group of James Madison High School students organized the first 50-mile walk, which raised $9,000 — almost double the $5,000 goal to benefit World Vision’s efforts to provide clean to people in developing communities, Covell said.

The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 kids die each year due to diarrhea, which can be caused by unclean water.

“We were inspired to do this walk because of the staggering number of people who lack access to clean water, a resource us in the developed world don’t think twice about,” Covell said. “We are walking 50 miles because it takes on average $50 to get one more person lifelong access to clean water.”

Covell, who now attends Northern Virginia Community College, said that he came up with the idea for last year’s walk after he broke his wrist and was looking for something to do. “I probably had not walked more than 10 miles,” Covell noted.

So he decided to walk 50 miles from his family’s house to Baltimore, but no one wanted to join him.

Things changed when he saw the Vienna Presbyterian Church was hosting a 6K to support World Vision. “I really liked the cause,” Covell said. Working with the church’s missions team, Covell was able to find walkers for his 50-mile walk.

“We’ve shown that we can do it,” Covell said. “It’s been a little bit easier this year to get excited about it.”

This year’s walk will start at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1. Walkers can expect six rest stops along the route.

Initially, Covell said he was aiming for 100 walkers, but cut his goal back to 20 due to safety precautions because of the pandemic. The roughly 20 students and young adults will walk 50 miles from the W&OD Trailhead in Purcellville to the National Mall in D.C. Covell said he expects they will reach D.C. around 9 p.m.

For people wondering what walking 50 miles is like, Covell said the joints start to ache and blisters pop up on the feet. “It was a really cool experience — a little bit painful,” Covell said.

While there wasn’t any group training last year, Covell said the team had two 20-mile walks recently to prepare.

As of today, the event has raised $9,700 of the $50,000 goal. “The reaction has been very positive,” Covell said. “As people are donating, oftentimes they leave messages that are encouraging.”

Like last year, the donations will support World Vision. “By walking, we are trying to help World Vision elevate this suffering,” Covell said. To date, World Vision has helped 3.2 million people get access to clean water, according to its website.

People who want to support the cause can donate, sign up to walk or volunteer to help on the day of the walk.

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