A fundraiser that was frozen last year by the coronavirus pandemic is coming back with a new location at the Mosaic District.
Special Olympics Virginia last held a polar plunge at Penny Lane Park in Merrifield in 2020 to help with its programming aimed at serving people with intellectual disabilities. Now, the event is slated to return this year on Jan. 15, with a costume contest at 1 p.m. and people jumping into the water at 1:15 p.m.
This time, though, the nonprofit’s event will have pools in the Mosaic District’s main park and pedestrian area, located by Target along Strawberry Lane.
The donations help individuals participate in the organization’s athletic training and compete at Olympic-like events, while providing school-based programming and health screenings for free to recipients.
“In early 2020 our polar plunges helped sustain us through the first year of the pandemic, and we hope [that] this year, our first year back to in person plunging, they will help continue to get us back on the playing field,” Ellen Head, senior director of development for Special Olympics Virginia, said in an email.
Special Olympics Virginia officials have been watching COVID-19 case numbers and discussing how they should proceed, given concerns over the worsening spread of the virus. Organizers have been reassured by the outside nature of the event — a lower risk environment for the spread of the virus — as well as a masking requirement for parts of the event.
Like other organizations, the nonprofit’s donations have declined amid the pandemic, but it has added virtual programming for participants that it plans to continue beyond the lifespan of the virus.
The organization has raised over $24,000 of a $30,000 goal. Head said it hopes to multiply that goal in coming years.
Photo courtesy Special Olympics Virginia
A few teenagers can’t solve world hunger on their own, but some McLean High School students are doing their part to at least make a difference on a local level.
Steven Guo and Rehan Marshall started organizing food drives in June 2020 after seeing news reports about the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic downturn pushing more people to seek food assistance.
“Not enough donations were going to food banks, so many food banks around the nation were running dangerously low on supplies,” said Guo, who was a sophomore at the time. “We saw this and didn’t want it to happen locally.”
Over the past 18 months, the two students’ effort has grown into the nonprofit Teens for Food Banks, which now boasts about 50 members and remains entirely student-run.
The organization has collected 7,793 pounds of food with 17 food drives held every month since June 6, 2020. The most recent campaign concluded last weekend and brought in 328 pounds, according to Guo.
With past events ranging from McLean and Falls Church to Centreville and Arlington County, Teen for Food Banks operates differently from a traditional food drive, where people bring donations to a designated site.
Instead, the nonprofit follows a model similar to Food for Neighbors’ Red Bag Program. First, volunteers distribute flyers throughout a chosen neighborhood. Then, they return the following week to pick up the food and drop it off at a food bank.
“The TeensforFoodBanks group is a wonderful group of teenagers,” AFAC Associate Director of Communications Jeremiah Huston said by email. “We are always amazed to see teenagers take it upon themselves to do great things in our community. They are very self sufficient and self motivated.”
Teens for Food Banks has given AFAC about 2,000 pounds of food, according to Huston.
Guo says organizing the food drives involved “a lot of trial and error,” with navigating COVID-19 safety protocols as the top challenge. Initially, the entire process was contact-free: students picked up food without ever meeting the donors and only saw their fellow volunteers at drop-off time.
However, for Guo, the logistical demands of Teens for Food Banks have been outweighed by an “outpouring” of community support and his neighbors’ generosity. For the last food drive, one family contributed two boxes of food that he estimates weighed 60 to 80 pounds.
“These acts of kindness, especially during COVID, during a very rough year for everyone, it was very inspiring,” Guo said. “I’m also just glad to know I was able to have an impact on the community.”
Now, he hopes to empower other students to get involved in their community. Read More
Victim of West Falls Church ATM Shooting Dies — “A 73-year-old man has died days after he was shot at an ATM in Falls Church, Virginia, during an attempted robbery, police said days after the attack. The victim was identified as Nelson Alexander, a loving, family-oriented man and involved member of his church who sang in the choir, his loved ones said.” [NBC4]
FCPS Hires Firm for Superintendent Search — The Fairfax County School Board has awarded human resources recruitment firm GR Recruiting a contract to conduct a nationwide search for Superintendent Scott Brabrand’s successor. Fairfax County Public Schools says parents, students, staff, and community members will be involved in the process, with the next superintendent taking over on July 1, 2022. [FCPS]
Another Full I-66 West Closure Coming Tonight — “All lanes of I-66 West approaching Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) will close Monday night, October 25, for continued bridge beam installation at the I-66/I-495 Interchange. Traffic will be detoured using Route 7 and I-495. Multiple lanes of I-495 North approaching I-66 will be closed, along with a full closure of the 495 Express Lanes North and associated ramps at the interchange so that this work may be implemented.” [VDOT]
Nonprofit Opens New Office in Vienna — “A nonprofit organization focused on providing day programs for adults with disabilities held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and talent show on Thursday as it celebrated the opening of its new administrative office in Vienna. The new office for the nonprofit SPARC is at The Church of the Good Shepherd, a United Methodist church located at 2351 Hunter Mill Road in Vienna.” [Patch]
County Board Looks at Waiving EV Permit Fees — “Fairfax County supervisors on Oct. 19 directed the county’s Department of Land Development Services to analyze the possibility of waiving permitting fees associated with installation of electric-vehicle infrastructure. The intention is to reduce barriers to switching to environmentally friendly alternatives, said Chairman Jeff McKay (D).” [Sun Gazette]
(Updated at 4:55 p.m. on 10/13/2021) Fairfax County has partnered with the Tysons-based nonprofit Second Story to support COVID-19 vaccinations in the Culmore area of Falls Church tomorrow (Thursday).
Announced on Monday (Oct. 11), the vaccine distribution site is part of a fall festival that Second Story has organized with the county health department and Neighborhood and Community Services.
The vaccinations will be administered by the nonprofit Neighborhood Health, which will also return in three weeks to deliver second doses to those who need them.
The fall festival will take place at Second Story’s Culmore Family Resource Center (3304B Culmore Court) from 2-6 p.m. There will be food, music, crafts, and other community resources at the event in addition to the vaccination clinic.
“Part of the reason that this community is not entirely vaccinated is because they have trouble accessing a vaccination site,” Second Story spokesperson Abigail Brougher said. “…We wanted to make sure that the vaccine is accessible for them, so when they come to this event, there will be people right there able to give them the vaccine.”
This is the second time that Second Story has gotten involved in the county’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign after it hosted a similar site at a Hispanic Heritage Month Festival in Springfield earlier this month.
That event also offered the flu shot and other inoculations, according to Brougher.
(Correction: This article previously stated that 25 individuals were vaccinated at the Springfield festival. Second Story did vaccinate 25 people in one day about two weeks ago, but it was a separate community outreach effort. The nonprofit doesn’t have numbers for how many people got the COVID-19 vaccine at the Hispanic Heritage Festival.)
Dedicated to providing basic needs assistance, counseling, and other services to teenagers, young adults, and families, Second Story works directly with some of the community members who have been most affected by the pandemic from health and economic standpoints.
Some clients have contracted COVID-19, leading them to get sick or miss work, which can be devastating for young people just trying to make ends meet. In addition, many are ineligible for unemployment benefits and other supports, Brougher says.
As a result, Second Story has been offering rental assistance and meals throughout the pandemic. It’s still providing food to approximately 1,050 families every month through distribution sites, drop-offs, and programs, such as the after-school services that have started to meet in person again.
“We’ve been doing a lot of meetings virtually — family counseling, individual counseling, catching up with youth — and trying to just continue to provide some of those basic needs as we always have…food and clothes in addition to the bigger supports we provide,” Brougher said.
Even so, the nonprofit has encountered some vaccine hesitancy within the communities it serves.
There are a variety of factors behind that hesitancy, from wariness of the side effects and misinformation to the challenges of getting to a vaccination site without a car or the flexibility to take time off work, according to Soraya Borja, Second Story’s vice president of community-based services.
Taking place shortly before its annual Beacon of Hope fundraiser, which has been moved online for a second year, tomorrow’s fall festival is part of Second Story’s effort to reduce barriers to vaccination for its clients.
Its staff has distributed 200 flyers advertising the event throughout the community.
“This outreach has been really important to us, getting out into the community, getting face-to-face,” Brougher said. “We’re definitely a trusted face in the community, so if we’re able to instill some of that trust in the community that the vaccine is something they can feel comfortable with, we are eager to be able to do that.”
Photo courtesy Second Story/Facebook
After a year off, Oktoberfest will return to the Town of Vienna tomorrow (Saturday), bringing with it a beer and wine garden, live entertainment, and a slightly pared-down assortment of food, craft, and retail vendors.
Now in its 13th iteration, the festival will unfold from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in its customary site between Maple Avenue and Ayr Hill Road, with the biergarten and main tents set up in the parking lot next to the Red Caboose.
Vienna Oktoberfest is organized by the Vienna Business Association, serving as the chamber of commerce’s main annual fundraiser, but it also depends on the support of dozens of local community groups, VBA Executive Director Peggy James says.
“We are so grateful to huge amount of participation we have received from our local Vienna non-profit organizations for their volunteer support and sponsor support in the festival this year,” James said. “As always, our goal is to provide a safe and fabulous festival that is welcoming to people of all ages. The enormous amount of support we have had this year will ensure this happens.”
Many groups, such as the Rotary Club of Vienna, the local Shepherd’s Center, the Stroke Comeback Center, and even James Madison High School’s crew team, have members volunteering at the festival. Others are participating through sponsorships, which range in cost from $200 to $5,000 for the platinum title.
This year’s food court sponsor is One Neighborhood Foundation, the nonprofit that Vienna VA Foodies co-founder Lydia Russo started in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to help local restaurants by delivering meals to first responders and food-insecure residents.
Russo says the foundation “is very excited” to be part of Vienna Oktoberfest for the first time after providing “thousands and thousands” of meals over the past 18 months or so through its own efforts and by organizing fundraisers for other nonprofits.
The group raised $20,000 in just one day in June 2020 when it turned to the Vienna VA Foodies Facebook group to support Martha’s Table, a D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to healthy food, education, and other resources for families.
Even after all that work, though, Oktoberfest will represent the first opportunity to meet in person for many of the community members who have gotten involved with One Neighborhood Foundation.
“We plan to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere, all while staffing our tent which will be fundraising for future food deliveries,” Russo said by email. Read More
Help Name Former Container Store — Celebrate Fairfax is turning the former Container Store at 8505 Leesburg Pike in Tysons into a community event venue whose name will be determined by a social media poll. The options are Tysons Commons, Tysons Collective, Social District at Tysons, and The PARC (People, Art, Recreation, and Community) at Tysons. [Celebrate Fairfax Festival/Twitter]
Inova-Tested Drug Helps COVID Patients — “A drug tested at Inova Health System has shown to improve clinical outcomes in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who required supplemental oxygen. The Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the safety of fostamatinib was conducted on behalf of Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc…Results were published Wednesday in Clinical Infectious Diseases, an official publication of the Infectious Disease Society of America.” [Inside NoVA]
Falls Church to Get First Electric School Buses — “FCCPS is one of 19 Virginia school divisions receiving a grant to replace diesel school buses with new electric buses. The grant announcement came last Thursday, in a news release from the governor’s office. FCCPS will receive $530,000 for two electric buses from the Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Local Nonprofit Names New Leader — “Vienna-based Langley Residential Support Services, a nonprofit serving adults with developmental disabilities, has named a new executive director. Langley Residential’s board hired Maureen K. Gum as executive director after she served as interim executive director.” [Patch]
Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Stops by Dunn Loring — Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for Virginia’s governor, announced his policy priorities yesterday (Monday) outside the construction company CJ Coakley Co. Inc. in Dunn Loring. The package includes $1.8 billion in one-time tax cuts, a pledge to create 400,000 new jobs, raises for school teachers, and the addition of 20 new charter schools. Opponent Terry McAuliffe called the plan “out of touch the state’s fiscal reality.” [The Washington Post]
Nonprofit to Open Office in Vienna Church — “A nonprofit focused on providing a day program for adults with disabilities is opening a new administrative office at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna. The grand opening of the SPARC office will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 1 at the church, located at 2351 Hunter Mill Road.” [Patch]
Mosaic District Gym to Host Vaccine Clinic — “@fairfaxhealth will have a Pop-up COVID-19 Vax Clinic at nearby XSport Fitness (8190 Strawberry Lane) on Tuesday, 8/31 from 3PM-7PM. The 1st (or 2nd) dose Pfizer jab will be available to anyone ages 12+ for free. Walk-ins welcome, or make an appt” [City of Falls Church/Twitter]
Vienna Ben & Jerry’s Offers Free Ice Cream for Solar Art Contest — The Ben & Jerry’s in Vienna has partnered with Ipsun Solar on the solar panel company’s fourth Sunny Summer Art Contest, where kids can submit artwork inspired by the sun and the need to find solutions to climate change. All participants will get a coupon for a free ice cream cone from Ben & Jerry’s Vienna, and winners will get gift cards. [Ipsun Solar]
(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) Hurunnessa Fariad knows what it’s like to be an Afghan refugee.
She fled Afghanistan with her family in the 1980s while the country was under Soviet occupation. While the circumstances were certainly different three decades ago, her emotions upon seeing another exodus in the wake of the Taliban’s recent takeover are comparable to her own experiences.
“The sentiment of leaving your home, leaving everything behind…and coming to a country where you don’t know anything, you don’t know the culture, you don’t know the people, you don’t know who’s going to help you — it’s terrifying,” she said.
Today, Fariad works as outreach coordinator at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society — also known as the ADAMS Center — in Sterling. It’s the second-largest Muslim community in the country and serves people across Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
She also serves as the center’s Afghan lead, working with Lutheran Social Services to help those who have evacuated Afghanistan to make a new home in the U.S., joining many non-profit and faith-based organizations across the region.
The ADAMS Center is currently collecting funds to help with both immediate needs, such as gift cards to Target or Walmart that can be used to purchase basic items, and long-term needs for housing, jobs, and education.
Fariad says the center was collecting individual items, like toiletries and hygiene items, but they got “inundated” and need time to sort through all of the donations.
“The funding is going to keep going on for a while because there’s so many people coming in that they’re going to need help,” she said.
Additionally, the ADAMS Center is putting together a list of local residents who speak Dari and Pashto and can act as translators. They are sharing that list with both Virgina Gov. Ralph Northam’s office and the federal government.
As of yesterday (Tuesday), more than 6,000 people and 44 dogs have arrived at Dulles International Airport in the last week, according to an email from state officials to local partners.
A Fairfax County spokesperson confirmed that the county is providing support for resettlement efforts, primarily assisting with health, human services, and public safety needs.
“Currently, the county is supporting a Department of State operation for people evacuated from Afghanistan and arriving at Dulles International Airport. Some of these individuals are being supported temporarily at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly,” the county spokesperson wrote. “The center has the capacity to support more than a thousand individuals.”
The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management also helped set up cots at Northern Virginia Community College, according to The Washington Post. Community members are being asked not to go to any of these hosting sites.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay visited the Dulles Expo Center yesterday, saying in a newsletter that he was “touched to hear the human side of what we are seeing on the news.”
“While we can’t be sure how many people will ultimately relocate to Fairfax County, I want to be clear that we look forward to welcoming all who want to join our diverse community,” he wrote. Read More
This year, ArtsFairfax received requests for over $937,000 in funding and allocated a total of $441,900.
The Operating Support Grant program is designed to assist local, nonprofit arts organizations with funding to support their basic operational needs.
In recognition of the challenges that the arts community has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, ArtsFairfax says it increased the minimum grant amount to $1,000 and waived a requirement that recipients match the funds they receive.
ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda S. Sullivan says the program was also modified to place more emphasis on equity and how organizations are considering issues of diversity, access, and inclusion in their operations, programs, and services.
“The past year has created an unprecedented hardship for arts organizations and artists,” Sullivan said. “The Operating Support Grant provides arts organizations with critically needed funding for basic operations — funding that helps keeps the doors open — as they develop artistic programming for audiences return.”
The Tysons, Vienna, McLean, and Falls Church organizations that received grants are:
- 1st Stage
- BalletNova Center for Dance
- Creative Cauldron
- McLean Project for the Arts (MPA)
- New Dominion Chorale
- Providence Players of Fairfax
- The Choralis Foundation
- The McLean Symphony
- The Vienna Jammers Percussion Ensemble, Inc.
- Traveling Players Ensemble, Inc.
- Vienna Arts Society
- Vienna Choral Society
- Vienna-Falls Chorus of Sweet Adelines
- Vienna Community Band
“Fairfax County residents benefit from a dynamic and diverse arts sector,” Sullivan said. “To sustain and grow our cultural capital over the long-term requires a consistent source of public and private funds. ArtsFairfax’s Operating Support Grants are a direct investment in our community ensuring that the arts remain centerpieces and economic engines in our community.”
Photo via Traveling Players Ensemble/Facebook
Tysons Could Get a Rock Climbing Center — An affiliate of the Manassas-based Vertical Rock Climbing & Fitness Center plans to convert the former Hamilton’s Sofa & Leather Gallery at 8461 Leesburg Pike into a rock climbing facility. The 9,220 square-foot space has been leased and is slated to open later this year, but Fairfax County is still processing permit applications to allow the use at that location. [Washington Business Journal]
Tysons Education Nonprofit Honored by General Assembly — Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) presented a signed commendation to the Center for Excellence in Education (7918 Jones Branch Dr.) during the 38-year-old nonprofit’s annual Congressional luncheon on July 15. The State Senate and House of Delegates both approved a proclamation recognizing CEE for promoting science, technology, engineering, and math education with free programs for students and teacher training. [CEE]
Visit Fairfax Joins Regional Sports Tourism Partnership — “The tourism-marketing organizations of Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford counties on Aug. 10 announced the launch of SportsNOVA, a new regional sports-tourism partnership designed to market Northern Virginia as a premier destination for travel-sports events.” [Sun Gazette]
Maryland Beltway Project Contract Approved — The Maryland Board of Public Works voted 2-1 to approve a “predevelopment agreement” with toll lanes operator Transurban and financial firm Macquarie to design express lanes on I-270 and part of the Capital Beltway. The much-debated project is seen as critical to the success of Virginia’s 495 NEXT project in McLean, which got key federal approvals last month. [The Washington Post]