Tysons, VA
A donation from RJ and Heidi Narang will cover the cost of critical repairs at group homes for people with developmental disabilities (Photo courtesy Langley Residential Support Services)

For Langley Residential Support Services, a little charity goes a long way.

The Tysons-based nonprofit announced on Wednesday (May 5) that it has received a $15,000 grant from the Narang Foundation, a private family foundation based out of McLean.

This is not the first time that the Narang family has given a boost to Langley Residential, which provides residential and community support services to adults with developmental disabilities. The foundation also donated $10,000 to the nonprofit last year.

“The Narang Foundation is proud to once again support Langley Residential Support Services and the essential services they provide our community. It is our pleasure to assist LRSS,” said Foundation trustee RJ Narang, who is also president and CEO of the information technology contractor Renegade Technology Systems.

Founded in the 1980s by members of three McLean churches, Langley Residential Support Services opened its first group home in 1985 and now operates six homes in Fairfax County, along with a community support program that provides counseling, training, and other drop-in services.

The nonprofit says it currently serves 23 people through its residential program and 31 people through the community program.

According to an LRSS press release, the Narang Foundation increased its donation this year in response to funding challenges that the nonprofit has experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LRSS has already used the funds to make repairs at two of its group homes. One of the facilities had an underground water main pipe leak that was also affecting a neighbor’s property, and the other had a failed heating and air conditioning unit that was discovered during seasonal maintenance.

“The gift has been a lifesaver in helping us make unexpected repairs to major systems at our group homes last month,” LRSS interim executive director Maureen Gum said. “We are thrilled that the Narang family has made this outstanding contribution that protects our community’s well-being and keeps everyone thriving.”

While the Narang Foundation’s grant was welcome, LRSS says more support is needed to address other projects that were delayed to accommodate the “ongoing overwhelming costs” of measures necessitated by the pandemic, including increased staffing, sanitation procedures, and personal protective equipment.

The nonprofit is now embarking on a two-week fundraising drive through May 18. Its needs include $300 to repair an existing stair lift, $700 to replace worn-out electrical systems, $6,000 to install a new stair lift, and $13,000 to install a vertical ADA-compliant platform lift.

“Every contribution makes a difference in providing the highest-quality care and support to LRSS individuals, their families, and our broader community,” Gum said.

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Respected McLean artist Emilie Brzezinski has gifted her work to the McLean Project of the Arts, which has been trusted with shaping “the next chapter” of her artistic legacy, the nonprofit said on Friday (April 30).

The gift was publicly announced a day earlier at MPA’s ArtSprings! Virtual Benefit, a fundraiser that featured live music, a silent auction, and an appearance by Czech Republic Ambassador to the United States Hynek Kmoníček.

“The entire MPA community is honored to receive this spectacular gift from Emilie Brzezinski and thrilled to work with the Brzezinski family in celebrating her vision of art in nature,” MPA Executive Director Lori Carbonneau said.

Known for creating large wood sculptures carved with an ax and chain saw, Brzezinski was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and grew up in California, but she lived and worked in McLean for much of her career, building her own studio in the house she shared with her late husband and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

After Brzezinski relocated to Florida, the Fairfax County Park Authority acquired the 5.45-acre Spring Hill property in November. The agency has not determined a use for the land yet, but it is currently being preserved as open space and could potentially be turned into a community park, according to MPA.

Brzezinski’s connection to the McLean Project for the Arts goes back to the 1980s, when MPA Curator and Exhibitions Director Nancy Sausser first displayed her work.

Her family says that longstanding relationship and their respect for MPA’s role in supporting the local arts community made it a natural custodian for her work.

“My family and I are thrilled that MPA has accepted our gift of mom’s many and magnificent sculptures,” Ian Brzezinski, Emilie’s son and an MPA board member, said. “We are excited to continue and strengthen this relationship by giving MPA the lead in celebrating mom’s incredible body of work.”

Here is more on Brzezinski’s career from MPA’s news release:

Born in 1932 in Geneva, Switzerland, Emilie Brzezinski immigrated to the United States with her parents and grew up in California. She graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in Art History in 1953. Brzezinski began her art career in the 1970s working with a variety of media, including resins, latex, and wood fiber. Her expressive themes always related to nature. Eventually, she shifted focus to creating monumental wood sculpture, using a chain saw and ax to carve towering forms that breathed new life into felled trunks.

Over the past two decades, Brzezinski has had many gallery and museum installations in the U.S. and abroad. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Corcoran Museum and the Kreeger Museum, both in Washington, D.C., and has been shown at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Katzen Arts Center in Washington, D.C., and the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. Her art can also be seen at sculpture parks across North America, including the Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey, the Royal Botanical Garden in Hamilton, Ontario, the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in New York and the Socrates Sculpture Park in New York. MPA Curator and Exhibitions Director, Nancy Sausser, first showed Brzezinski’s work in the 1980’s.

Many of Brzezinski’s works are in the Czech Republic, the country of her family’s origin. There, “Prague Titans” gazes upon the Vltava River, and a more restrained installation, “Broken Blocks,” can be seen in the National Gallery in Prague.

Photo courtesy McLean Project for the Arts

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When former Vienna Town Councilmember Maud Robinson died in 2019, she set aside much of her estate to pay for sidewalks throughout town.

At the time, town staff projected that the money would fund 22 stretches of sidewalk totaling about 3.3 miles. Vienna would front the costs for these projects and accept the trust in the form of reimbursement.

Two years later, the town council has approved four eligible roads but have deferred six others in response to objections from neighbors, who have argued that the sidewalks are unnecessary, would encroach on precious driveway space, affect their trees, or place a burden on residents to maintain them.

At this rate, those close to the initiative are feeling the pressure of a deadline. Vienna has until fall 2024 to use up the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust.

Town staff estimate it could take up to two years after a street is identified to complete a project, and no construction has started, meaning no money can be transferred. A few town council candidates have also highlighted the importance of using the bequest.

“We are remaining optimistic [but] we do know we need to hit the accelerator button on that a little bit,” Vienna Public Works Director Michael Gallagher said.

The town is poised to take a step forward soon, with several sidewalk projects set to go before the Vienna Town Council next Monday.

Two are designed and ready for construction, which would cost nearly $320,000 combined, and there will be a public hearing for nine other projects.

Those nearing the construction phase are Cabin Road SE from Glyndon Street to Branch Road and Pleasant Street SW from east of Maple Avenue to Surveyors Court. Another two could be ready for final approvals in May, according to Gallagher.

The nine slated for a public hearing and the first round of approvals are:

  • Alma Street SE — Delano Drive to Follin Lane
  • Birch Street SW — Battle Street to Plum Street SW
  • Blackstone Terrace NW — Holmes Drive to Lawyers Road
  • Charles Street SE — Locust Street to Branch Road
  • Cherry Circle SW — Cottage Street to end
  • Elmar Drive SE/SW — DeSale Street to Park Street
  • Oak Street SW — Birch Street to Center Street
  • Symphony Circle SW — Melody Lane to end
  • Timber Lane SW — Tapawingo Road to Harmony Drive

Even though it seems like it’s moving slowly, Andrew Jinks, Vienna’s transportation engineer, says the timeline will still be shorter because the town will not have to do the time-consuming work of navigating state and federal regulations.

“That is a significant benefit,” he said. Read More

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Implements New COVID-19 Call Center — The health department says the new center will enable the county to “better meet the needs of our residents during the upcoming transition to Phase 2 and beyond.” Wait times may be prolonged this week as the department resolves issues with the new system and trains more call agents. [Fairfax County Health Department]

Virginia Investigates Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Death — Health officials stated yesterday that one of the six U.S. cases of a person developing blood clots after receiving the J&J COVID-19 vaccine appears to involve a Virginia resident who died in mid-March. Use of the vaccine has been paused throughout the country as the cases are under review. [Patch]

“Hamilton” Returning to the Kennedy Center — “The Kennedy Center announced on Tuesday its theater lineup for the upcoming season, which will include performances of Hamilton, Jersey Boys, and Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird. Theater curtains will first raise on October 13 for a staging of Tony-winner Hadestown, a return to live theater that may cause musical buffs to break out into a chorus line.” [Washingtonian]

Tysons Company Provides Air Monitoring to D.C. SchoolsSenseware has installed its air monitoring data platform in D.C.’s 112 public schools. The Tysons-based software developer says its technology can detect the presence of COVID-19 particles and help users monitor air quality to reduce the risk of viral transmission. [PR Newswire]

Vienna Coffee Shop Donates Beans to Food Bank — “Donating bags of our coffee beans to @foodforothers! Here at Caffe Amouri, we believe in giving back to our community that shows up for us every day. Thank you @foodforothers for letting us be apart of your mission” [Caffe Amouri/Twitter]

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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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Friday Morning Notes

Deadline for Water Utility Relief Applications Extended — Fairfax County, Fairfax City, and Falls Church City residents who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply for assistance through Fairfax Water’s utility relief program through Dec. 1, 2021. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Fairfax County Kicks Off 10th Year of “Stuff the Bus” Food Drives — “On January 30 and February 6, Stuff the Bus held food drives at 21 locations throughout Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax to collect nonperishable food donations for area food pantries. The drives were a resounding success, resulting in 33 tons of food, surpassing the 27.6 tons donated during the previous Stuff the Bus food drives in September 2020.” [Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services]

Madison High School Girls’ Swim Team Wins Fifth Straight Regional Title — “The girls high-school swimming and diving team again showed strong depth throughout its lineup to win the recent 2020-21 6D North Region event with a 420.5 point total, an improvement from last season’s 399 winning mark. Madison won four events, finished second in five others and had as many as 12 swimmers place in events.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

McLean Youth Soccer Raises Money for Cancer Center — “McLean Youth Soccer leaders and players presented the Georgetown University Lombardi Cancer Center with a check for $2200.00 as a result of a fundraising effort held by the club and supported by its players during the month of October.” [Patch]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Wednesday was a busy day for presidents past and present, but in between witnessing Joe Biden’s inauguration and paying their respects at Arlington National Cemetery, ex-Commanders in Chief Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama grabbed a bite to eat — courtesy of Urban Plates.

Preparing lunch for three former presidents and first ladies was a joint effort by all three Urban Plates restaurants in the D.C. area, including the staff at the Tysons Galleria venue, according to Urban Plates spokesperson Hannah Jacobs.

“Urban Plates is honored to have been chosen to serve,” Urban Plates said in a press release. “We believe that delicious, affordable food made with quality ingredients is something that everyone should have access to — and that’s something we can all agree on.”

Food served to the former White House occupants included a chicken cobb salad and sustainable grilled salmon. Urban Plates says the dishes were “hits” but declined to elaborate on who ordered what “out of respect for their privacy.”

To commemorate the occasion, the restaurant will donate 129 meals to frontline healthcare workers: 42 meals on behalf of Clinton, 43 for Bush, and 44 for Obama.

The donations are being made through Urban Plates’ Nourishing Heroes program, which allows customers to sponsor a meal for healthcare, police, fire, and military service workers by donating $12 when purchasing food. The restaurant matches every donated meal up to 1,000 meals per week.

“Our mission is to make craveable, wholesome, and clean food accessible to all,” Urban Plates co-founder and CEO Saad Nadhir said. “We are proud to have delivered on that promise to three former presidents, first ladies, their supporting staff, and a group of Arlington Cemetery groundskeepers and workers on Inauguration Day.”

Photo courtesy Urban Plates

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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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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Chesterbrook Woods, a tree-lined neighborhood nestled in southeastern McLean, raised $6,000 for charity with a holiday lights event that residents organized on Dec. 19 in lieu of their usual caroling tradition.

Organizers say the donated funds will be given to the Share of McLean food pantry and the nonprofit Get Us PPE, which delivers free personal protective equipment to frontline workers and underserved communities. $200 will also go to the McLean Volunteer Fire Department.

The idea for “Light Up Chesterbrook Woods” came from a place of both grief and celebration, according to resident Carla Post, who says she started thinking about potential substitutes for the traditional neighborhood caroling festivities in November.

“I started thinking about…how so many lives had been lost and how so many traditional holiday mainstays would not happen this year,” Post said. “I started wondering what we could do to come together as a community in joy and remembrance.”

Post reached out to her fellow caroling organizers — Kara Stoll, Lori Boerner, and Amanda Majkowski — about doing an illumination event instead, and they “were unanimously supportive.”

Though they had only a few weeks to stage the event, the four women got such an enthusiastic response to “Light Up Chesterbrook Woods” that it ultimately spilled over into other nearby neighborhoods.

More than 260 households participated in the event, which involved the distribution of 8,000 luminaria – votive candles in paper bags – that residents used to decorate their yards, walkways, and driveways.

Many neighbors assisted by donating paper bags or helping deliver the luminaria kits to different houses. Other households contributed by providing outdoor entertainment during the event, from caroling and a trombone concert to a screening of the movie “Home Alone” and a performance by professional musicians Lynn Veronneau and Ken Avis from the jazz band Veronneau.

Boerner used Google Maps to create a route for residents to find the participating houses so they could admire the lights either by foot or from a vehicle.

Organizers say “Light Up Chesterbrook” was a clear success, and they have gotten requests to turn it into an annual event.

“It was such a beautiful evening all around,” Chesterbrook resident Patty Freeman said. “The weather was perfect for strolling thru [sic] the ‘hood to see all the lights, listen to wonderful music, and view the scenes on the movie screens. We truly have a special neighborhood.”

Photo by Michelle Joss

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Mixed-Use Development Near Dunn Loring Metro Sold — Avenir Place developer Mill Creek Residential has sold the property to two different buyers, with the residential portion going to Pantzer Properties and the retail going to Asana Partners. Asana says it “plans to pursue some physical changes to the retail, upgrading the outdoor areas and adding more gathering places.” [Washington Business Journal]

What Census Data Tells Us About Growth in Tysons — The Tysons Census Designated Place has added more than 7,000 new residents since 2010. Key changes include the number of people of Asian descent, who now make up 40% of the population, and people who speak a language other than English at home, a group that now constitutes more than half of all residents. [Greater Greater Washington]

Northam Allocates Additional $20 Million to Economic Recovery Fund — “This new funding will bring the program total to $120 million and will enable more than 300 small business and nonprofit organizations that applied before the last round of funding was exhausted in early December to receive grants.” [Office of the Governor]

Fire and Rescue Department Finishes Annual Holiday Toy Drive — “Via partners/donors, between 3,000-4K toys were given to over 55 schools, shelters and non-profits throughout Fairfax County.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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