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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Fairfax County is putting together a survey to direct funding for the Consolidated Community Funding Pool — which goes to help local nonprofits and organizations. The County is looking for public input on where the biggest needs are.

The goal of the fund is supplement the county’s ability to fill human services needs.

“To determine how these funds should be allocated, Fairfax County, with significant community input, establishes categories that are reflective of the needs residents feel are most important in their communities,” the County said in a press release. “In preparation for the next funding cycle, the county seeking your insight on our current category areas”

The categories are:

  • Financial Stability
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Literacy/Educational Development/Attainment
  • Positive Behaviors and Healthy Relationships
  • Support/Community/Social Networks

A survey for prioritizing needs is available online, and responses are welcome until Friday, Oct. 30. All responses will be kept anonymous.

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Wegmans Food Market will donate $5,000 to the Fairfax-based nonprofit Food for Others when its new store in Tysons opens next month, Food for Others announced yesterday (Monday).

The donation will kick off a partnership between the grocer’s Tysons store and Food for Others, which collects and distributes food to families in need throughout Northern Virginia.

“One of our highest giving priorities is providing food for people at risk of hunger and Food for Others is a great partner in helping us to achieve that goal,” Wegmans Tysons store manager Kevin Russell said. “By working together, we can get food on the table for those who are most vulnerable and in need.”

In addition to receiving a donation, Food for Others will work with Wegmans Tysons through its perishable pick-up program, which enables the nonprofit’s staff and volunteers to regularly visit the store and pick up food that will be distributed to families struggling with hunger and food insecurity.

An 80,000 square-foot supermarket located near the McLean Silver Line Metro stop on Capital One Drive South, Wegmans Tysons is currently in the process of hiring employees ahead of its anticipated opening on Nov. 4.

The store is looking to fill 150 full and part-time positions with plans to ultimately employ more than 400 people.

The Tysons location will represent Fairfax County’s fourth Wegmans. Aside from the donation to Food for Others, the grand opening will be light on festivities due to public health concerns and social distancing requirements necessitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Wegmans, whose Alexandria, Chantilly, and Fairfax stores also work with Food for Others, has donated over a million pounds of food and nearly a million dollars to the nonprofit since their partnership began, Food for Others director of development and outreach Alison Paget says.

As one of the largest food pantries in Northern Virginia, Food for Others feeds an average of 2,600 families every week through its warehouse, mobile sites, and a supplemental food service that provides assistance to 16 low-income neighborhoods and 21 local community organizations, including homeless shelters and faith-based organizations.

Getting support from a company like Wegmans is especially critical for Food for Others right now as the novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity in the region.

Food for Others says it has been serving three times as many families each week as usual since March, when the pandemic’s impact was first seriously felt in Northern Virginia, and more than 100,000 people in the region are expected to experience food insecurity within the next year.

“The Wegmans company is committed to fighting hunger and has been a strong partner to Food for Others for many years,” Paget said. “We are thrilled that the Tysons area is getting a Wegmans store and look forward to working with them to meet the growing need for food in our community.”

Photo courtesy Wegmans

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The City of Falls Church unveiled a new permit to help businesses and nonprofits to use outdoor space for classes and events.

The city announced yesterday (Tuesday) that the Temporary Outdoor Commercial Activity Permit will tentatively be available until Oct. 1, with the possibility that the end date might get extended.

Eight areas in the city are available to rent, including the Cherry Hill Park Basketball Court, designated grass area at Cherry Hill Farmhouse/Park and Mr. Brown’s Park. Normally, Mr. Brown’s Park is the only city park that businesses and organizations can rent for commercial activity.

Rentals are $20 per hour, along with a $200 security deposit. Applications are accpeted on a first-come, first-serve basis, the city said, noting that the permit does not apply to outdoor dining or service related to food or alcohol.

When using the outdoor space, people must follow the governor’s orders to social distance, wear face coverings and disinfect areas.

“We recognize that a lot of city businesses and non-profits are looking for ways to create safe environments for their customers and supporters,” Danny Schlitt, the parks and recreation director, said in a press release. “If they feel that open air venues help them safely deliver a service or program, then we want to help by temporarily allowing the rental of our parks. We are all in this together!”

Photo by Bradley Brister/Unsplash

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This week, Second Story plans to drop the trailer for the third season of its podcast, which will premiere in August.

Listeners can expect two story-driven episodes and five topical ones with Second Story’s staff and local experts tackling COVID-19 and social justice issues, Abigail Brougher, the podcast’s producer and Second Story’s spokesperson, told Tysons Reporter.

“I’m really glad that we’re able to share a little bit more of how all this has impacted youth in a high-level way,” Brougher said. “The stories are really important.”

The Merrifield-based non-profit helps kids, teens and young adults seeking food, shelter and emergency support.

Unlike the last two seasons, this upcoming one is debuting a few months earlier in the year, partly because people are trying to find things to do during the pandemic.

“This season, it was a lot more current event-driven, which was really interesting, and a lot more time-sensitive, which is part of why it’s coming out earlier, too,” she said. “As we as soon as we got the information, we felt like we didn’t want to sit on it — it would be really important for the community to hear right away.”

With seven episodes, the upcoming season is shorter than last year’s.

Brougher also had to record all of the interviews remotely when she started working on the new season in March.

“[The podcasts were] really an experiment at first,” she said. “We didn’t know how it would go. But this season, I think especially, it’s really clear that this is something that people really enjoy, and we’re really thankful to have this avenue to communicate through since we’re all so isolated.”

People can tune in every Wednesday for seven weeks starting Aug. 12. The episodes will be available on Second Story’s website.

Photo via Facebook

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As two drive-in movie fundraisers gather donations for Second Story, the local nonprofit is reevaluating how to seek support as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Based in the Merrifield area, Second Story helps kids, teens and young adults seeking food, shelter and emergency support.

Tysons Reporter caught up with Jade Leedham, Second Story’s vice president of development, to hear how the drive-in movie fundraisers happened, what fundraising looks like now and how their clients’ needs have changed during the pandemic.

Drive-in Movies 

Leedham said that both Tysons Corner Center and Capital One Center, which have been long-time supporters of Second Story, reached out about the drive-in movies.

Tysons Corner Center starts its series tonight (Friday) with movies on the second weekend of each month through September, while Capital One kicks off its four-week-long drive-in movies series tomorrow (Saturday). Both events are asking moviegoers to donate $25 to Second Story.

“It just kind of happened coincidentally at the same time from two of our main supporters here in Tysons,” she said.

Because Second Story is not co-planning the drive-in movies series, Leedham said it’s hard to predict what the donations might add up to.

“We don’t have any expectations, but we’ve seen some donations coming in,” she said. “For Capital One, I believe we passed $1,000 and there’s still a long time to go… I imagine it’s going to be a pretty sizable donation at the end.”

Leedham said that the donations will go toward supporting young people’s needs for food, safety items, toiletries and other essential items.

New Needs

Over the last few months, Leedham said she’s seen clients’ needs change. The nonprofit has had to significantly increase funds for rent support for participants in the program for homeless youth.

“That’s one big area that we’ve seen a hit,” Leedham said, noting that unemployment is impacting people’s ability to pay their rents.

Second Story has also shifted its asks for community support to gift cards and donations after seeing a decline in volunteers helping with things like food pick-up and drop-off and bringing in donations.

Leedham speculates that some corporate sponsors may now be seeing a loss in revenue or challenges with remote work, which could impact their contributions to Second Story.

“At the beginning, maybe they had enough to be able to do what they were able to do, but now they’ve got to start focusing on how to how to maintain their own businesses, which makes complete sense,” she said.

Even with fewer volunteers showing up in-person lately, Leedham says she’s still seeing a variety of support, from people starting online fundraisers to memorial donation drives.

“We had a teacher contact us recently because their colleague teacher passed away. They are doing a memorial donation drive because that teacher who passed away cared a lot about young people and especially homeless young people,” she said.

Some people were even able to donate personal protective equipment even when it was largely out of stock.

“I don’t know how they did it, but people were going out and looking for all of these essential items and bringing them to us. And so without that help, I don’t know how we would have been able to provide those things to our clients,” she said.

Sustaining Support

As Virginia rolls back COVID-19 restrictions and the start of the new school year approaches, Leedham said there are new, pressing concerns for people to grapple with.

“I just feel like the demand is just so high that it may be hard to keep up with the demand in terms of donating food,” she said.

To make sure people don’t forget about Second Story’s efforts, the nonprofit has increased its online marketing campaign and created a task force that alerts members of the organization’s immediate needs. Second Story’s podcast and newsletter also share how people’s support makes a big difference.

“We are trying to look for opportunities and help people to come up with fundraising ideas, while of course also relying on others to pitch ideas to us and just supporting them however we can with our materials and our branding and our videos and our messaging, so that they can represent Second Story in their own unique creative ways,” she said.

Second Story is also working toward a three-year fundraising goal that began last fiscal year. “As we go into the second half of the year here in 2020, we are doing our best and staying cautiously optimistic that we will have a great holiday season to sustain all of the things that we’re doing, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that COVID will have long term effects on everyone,” she said.

How People Can Help

Second Story is encouraging donors — if they have the capacity — to commit to the Beacon of Hope Society’s commitment to at least $1,000 per year for five years, Leedham said.

Leedham also hopes that people donating smaller amounts will be able to increase their contributions on a consistent basis.

There’s even a free way to help the nonprofit — by voting for Second Story on Apple Federal Credit Union’s list of four charities, Leedham said. The votes will determine how much each charity will receive from a pot of funding up to $100,000.

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There were spells cast and monsters launched. There were fashion shows and combats. But, the real magic happened when the clock struck midnight on June 18 when teenagers around the world dropped the curtain on a three-day gaming spree to help Broadway actors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

A group of about 70 teenagers from around the world gathered virtually for a 72-hour Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) marathon game this past weekend. The event raised $1,157 benefitting Broadway Cares, which supports actors.

“You could definitely tell that everyone had fun,” said Elizabeth Tippens, the organizer of Teens4Broadway, following the event. “People who have never met before were having a great time.”

Tippens, a rising junior at Langley High School and theater student, organized the game and Teens4Broadway along with seven other local teenagers. She said the idea came to her while playing D&D with her friends during the stay-at-home order. Her friends love theater and wanted to support the industry, so they decided to create a fundraiser to benefit actors. 

“We’re informed about some Broadway things just from being in theater, and we also play D&D a lot,” says Lily Spiller, one of the dungeon masters.

“With COVID, there’s a lot of things going wrong for a lot of people in theater, because theater is a pretty in-person thing. We wanted to do something to help with that,” said Spiller.

D&D is a fantasy tabletop roleplaying game that allows players to create their own characters. A dungeon master serves as the game’s storyteller while maintaining the setting of the fantastical world. A roll of the dice can often determine the life or death fate of players’ characters, according to the D&D website

From there, Tippens connected with Broadway Cares, a nonprofit that provides assistance and aid to actors. She and her friends came up with a live virtual marathon game of D&D to raise money for the Broadway Cares Actors Fund. 

Teenagers from Virginia to Scotland gathered to play. Anyone interested was invited to watch the game live with the option to donate money. Viewers who donated certain amounts of money could influence the game and the players. For example, with a $25 donation, a healing potion could be delivered to any of the players. 

“There were quite a few $50 donations, which were the party heals,” said Tippens, adding that $50 allowed donors to heal the entire party and give spell casters all their spells back.

However, the real chaos came from the $100 donations, which gave the donor the power to choose any D&D monster of the party’s level to be dropped immediately. 

“The main way it was influenced was because of the big monsters people were dropping on us,” said Tippens. 

The game took place over Roll20, an online roleplaying site geared towards tabletop roleplaying games, such as D&D. Each player was required to make an account on the site to be eligible to participate. The game was then live-streamed via Twitch, a live streaming service often used by gamers. The group had specific technicians to ensure that donations were verified and that the technology ran smoothly throughout the three-day marathon. 

Despite the fun, Tippens said there were many technical challenges. These included a lag on the website due to the high volume of people, a problem with audio where some people couldn’t be heard, and kids not showing up to some of the later slots. Additionally, Roll20 was down for about three hours on one of the days, and a session was canceled because of it. 

This marathon game may only be the beginning of more games in the future held by Teens4Broadway.

Tippens said she has projects in mind for how the game can be improved if it were to happen again, such as using different software for the virtual play. She also mentioned a potential name change and possibly supporting other organizations besides Broadway Cares to reach a broader audience. 

“We definitely have ideas in the works for future events.”

Photo courtesy Elizabeth Tippens

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A Tysons teenager decided to use his newly found free time to assist with COVID-19 relief efforts by creating his own campaign to help health care workers and local eateries.

Arul Nigam, who is 17, founded Heroes of COVID to arrange food deliveries to hospitals in pandemic hotspots around the country and support local eateries in the process by paying them for their services.

Thanks to donors, Nigam uses funds from a GoFundMe page to purchases meals from struggling eateries to give to hospital workers.

So far, Nigam said the project has raised around $9,000 and has helped people not only around the Tysons area but in nine different states as well.

Just last Wednesday, Heroes of COVID delivered a meal to Inova in Falls Church, according to its Facebook Page.

Each meal that is delivered to a medical worker also features a personal note, Nigam said.

Along with meal deliveries, the organization also features medical professionals who work in challenging conditions and gives them a platform to voice their experiences.

“We are creating a platform for health care workers to share their message and share what it’s like working on the front lines, he said. “A lot of health care workers want to use it as a platform to educate people on the types of precautions they should take during this time to protect themselves and everyone around them.”

Anyone who works in the medical field and wants to share their experience can message the Facebook page or drop a comment on one of its recent posts.

“We hope that showcasing their stories and broadcasting their messages will help spread awareness, build confidence, and foster safety, while encouraging us all to be more cautious and cognizant,” the Facebook page said.

People can also follow the Heroes of COVID’s Instagram account if they’d like to hear about the personal narratives from healthcare workers.

This experience helped Nigam to hone his networking, logistic and coordination skills, he said. But, this isn’t his first experience with campaigning.

He previously started an organization that works with companies to host community service events that allow staff members to bond with their co-workers while helping their community. A popular project, Nigam said, is gathering members of a company during a lunch break to assemble meals to give to homeless shelters.

As a junior in high school, he added that his peers are really interested in his work.

“A lot of them have shared information about it with friends and family, which has helped elevate us on social media,” he said. “That has been really helpful.”

As of last week, Heroes of COVID has managed to help feed workers at roughly 17 different hospitals around the country.

Photo courtesy Shirali Nigam

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A boy in Falls Church can now hang out with his friends online because of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic chapter.

Kevin, the 12-year-old boy, received his wish for a computer in early April, according to a press release from Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic.

“The leukemia fighter can now connect with his friends, play games and catch up on schoolwork next year,” the press release said.

While Make-A-Wish was able to grant Kevin’s wish, the mid-Atlantic chapter is struggling to grant the “record number” of wishes by children with critical illnesses.

“As a vast majority of local wishes involve travel or large group settings, approximately 30 wish children each month will… wait indefinitely for special wish moments they’d been looking forward to,” the press release said. “Disruptions to these wishes, along with major fundraising event cancellations and an ever-changing economic landscape, means our work is quickly changing and multiplying.”

Make-A-Wish launched on Wednesday (April 29) — Make-A-Wish’s 40th anniversary — the “Wishes Need Stars Like You” campaign to encourage people and corporate sponsors to financially support the organization’s efforts.

“The campaign serves as the first effort under the multi-year When Stars Align strategy, intended to highlight the past, present and future stars who align their time, talents and resources to make the Make-A-Wish mission possible,” the press release said.

Photo courtesy Make-A-Wish

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(Updated 3/16/2020) Local nonprofit Second Story is asking people to send gift cards instead of volunteering or donating food and clothing to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Located just south of Tysons, Second Story assists young people struggling with homelessness, poverty or domestic issues. In a message today, CEO Judith Dittman said that all of Second Story’s programs will remain in operation.

However, the nonprofit won’t accept clothing, food or other donated items to “help prevent the potential spread of germs through objects as well as limit the number of people who visit Second Story for Teens in Crisis,” Dittman said.

Second Story is also limiting its visitors, telling its staff to work remotely and suspending its volunteers in the homeless, young mothers and teen crisis programs, along with volunteers who provide meals to the programs.

Meanwhile, people can still volunteer in the community-based programs, Dittman said.

For people who want to help the nonprofit, Dittman said that gift cards are needed to purchase items for the programs.

“Gift cards are extremely valuable right now as we temporarily suspend meal donations and youth in our programs, many with hourly jobs, may have a greater need for immediate support,” Dittman told Tysons Reporter.

Christine Bartell, Second Story’s resource management director, told Tysons Reporter that Visa gift cards are the best option, but Second Story will also accept grocery store and Amazon gift cards via mail to “Attn: Christine Bartell, PO Box 694, Dunn Loring, VA 22027.”

“Since we’re limiting contact between youth and volunteers, gift cards for food will be especially important,” Bartell said.

Dittman also shared how the nonprofit is working to decrease the risk of spreading coronavirus, taking steps like sanitizing surfaces more and communicating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The full message is below the jump:

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