Tysons, VA

The Women’s Center is taking its annual leadership conference online for the second year in a row.

The Vienna-based nonprofit (133 Park St. NE), which provides mental health services and education, announced yesterday (Thursday) that its 35th annual Leadership Conference will be held virtually from 1-5 p.m. on Apr. 9.

In the past, the conference took place at the Hilton McLean hotel in Tysons, drawing over 700 attendees, but last year’s event had to be rescheduled and reorganized for an online setting after the COVID-19 pandemic put large, in-person gatherings on hold, according to a press release.

The 2021 conference has been titled “Learn, Pivot, Grow” and will focus on the mental health challenges that many people are experiencing in their professional and personal lives during the pandemic.

“This isn’t just an economic crisis. It’s a mental health crisis, too,” The Women’s Center CEO and Executive Director Rachna Singal Krishnan said. “That’s why we felt the theme ‘Learn, Pivot, Grow’ was so timely. It gives us an opportunity to explore the issues of the times and forge our best path forward.”

Krishnan notes that the pandemic has been particularly disruptive for women, who tend to work in the industries hit hardest by the public health crisis and have been more likely to take time off work or leave their jobs altogether to shoulder childcare responsibilities.

Founded in 1974, The Women’s Center aims to provide accessible and affordable mental health care through offices in Vienna and D.C. On top of offering counseling services that are funded in part by Fairfax County, the nonprofit runs a training program for mental health professionals.

In addition to speakers and panels, the leadership conference will feature an auction and luxury vendors that will donate a portion of their proceeds to the center.

An initial lineup of speakers can be found on the conference website. Tickets will be available for sale starting on Mar. 9.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Shepherd’s Center that serves Oakton, Vienna, Reston, and Herndon is no more.

The local nonprofit organization, which provides services to older adults, has merged with an affiliate in Great Falls to form the Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia (SCNOVA), the new organization’s interim executive director, Jayne Young, announced on Feb. 15.

Young says the Oakton/Vienna/Reston/Herndon Shepherd’s Center and Shepherd’s Center of Great Falls started exploring options to improve their reach and efficiency several months ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced nonprofits to reevaluate how they deliver services.

“Certainly, the pandemic has challenged us to find new ways of tackling most anything you can think of,” Young said in a letter. “For our Shepherd’s Center, that included taking a look at the way we meet our mission so we ensure that we continue delivering impactful services as efficiently as possible.”

The merger will give clients from the smaller Great Falls center access to more services, while combining the resources and volunteer networks of the two organizations, which are both affiliates of the Shepherd’s Centers of America.

Young says all Great Falls volunteers and clients will be transferred to SCNOVA, which will operate out of the existing Oakton/Vienna/Reston/Herndon facility at 541 Marshall Road in Vienna. Free transportation services will also still be provided to seniors in Great Falls.

The full transition is expected to be completed on Sunday (Feb. 28).

Founded in 1997, the Shepherd’s Center of Oakton-Vienna expanded to include the Reston and Herndon areas in 2019.

The nonprofit assists adults 55 and older with free transportation to medical and therapy appointments, food pick-up and delivery, minor home repairs, and health counseling and referrals. It also offers educational classes, luncheons, caregiver support groups, and other community programs.

“We are excited to begin 2021 with such good news!” Young said in her letter. “Working together, we hope to provide even better and more impactful services to seniors in Northern Virginia.”

Image via Google Maps

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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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More people in Fairfax County are facing food insecurity this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as illustrated by increased requests to the county and local pantries for groceries.

Fairfax County received 5,980 requests for emergency food from Mar. 1 to Dec. 21 of this year, a 56% increase from the same timeframe in 2019, according to Shweta Adyanthaya, a public information officer for the county’s Health and Human Services Department.

“The height of the requests came in the early months of the response — April to September — and then leveled off to average levels of requests since then,” Adyanthaya said. “Those households in need of food resources are referred to nonprofit and faith-based community partners, as well as other county resources.”

She encourages residents in need to use the county’s map application to locate food distribution groups near them.

One nonprofit in the Tysons area is Food for Others, which operates out of a warehouse in Merrifield.

Food for Others spokesperson Bridge Snydstrup told Tysons Reporter that the nonprofit is distributing food to an average of 4,000 families weekly, double the number of families it served pre-pandemic.

“The majority of people we are serving right now are unemployed due to COVID-19,” Snydstrup said. “Many of our clients work in the service industry and have either lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced due to the pandemic.”

She said that donations are also ticking up, helping the nonprofit meet the additional need.

“The Northern Virginia community has been extremely generous in helping FFO respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” Snydstrup said. “So many people have reached out asking what they can do to help and have either donated food or made monetary donations.”

However, volunteer rates are down overall, even though many in the community are interested in helping out.

“We have to limit the number of people in our warehouse to allow for social distancing and to ensure that our staff, volunteers, and clients are safe,” Snydstrup said. “We do have limited volunteer slots in our warehouse on weekdays, [and] those interested can sign up on our website.”

The best thing to do for those who want to help but are unable to volunteer is to host a food drive and drop off the donations.

Students in the area are also stepping up, Dranesville District School Board representative Elaine Tholen said in her newsletter on Monday (Dec. 21).

Last week, Cooper Middle School and Langley High School held a joint food drive for SHARE of McLean that brought in more than 6,500 non-perishable items. More than 40 students volunteered.

“We are thrilled to share it was an overwhelming success,” Tholen said. “We continue to be amazed by the generosity displayed by our school community and pyramid at large.”

The increase in demand for food assistance and drop in available volunteers are trends playing out nationally too.

Feeding America’s network of food banks have distributed nearly 57% more food in the third quarter of this year compared with 2019, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Meanwhile, NPR reported that food banks are seeing fewer volunteers, in part because the usual volunteers include older people, who are staying home to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Food donation photo via Dranesville School Board Representative Elaine Tholen.

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It has barely been 10 days since Fairfax County launched its annual Hypothermia Prevention Program, and it’s already clear that this winter will be unlike any other that Abby Dunner has experienced in her nearly decade-long work with the initiative.

Now the manager of the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, Dunner has been involved with the hypothermia prevention program since she was employed as a case manager and assistant by the nonprofit FACETS in 2012.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced Dunner and the other county and nonprofit officials who run the program to completely reengineer their operations, which were well-honed after 15 years of providing shelter for people in need during the coldest months of the year.

This year’s hypothermia prevention program, which started on Dec. 1 and runs through Apr. 1, 2021, must contend not only with the public health risks and social distancing protocols created by COVID-19, but also the looming threat of a surge in homelessness if emergency assistance measures end.

“We recognize the challenges and kind of the unique situation that we’re in, but everybody is also very much on board with understanding that the program has to continue,” Dunner said. “We have to still be able to shelter people who are experiencing homelessness.”

County officials and the nonprofit contractors that operate the hypothermia prevention shelters realized early on that they would have to make major changes to the program to make it viable this year.

Dunner says the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness collaborated extensively with the Fairfax County Health Department throughout the planning process. Health officials walked through each site and recommended ways to implement social distancing as much as possible.

Typically, the county relies on faith communities and nonprofits to host the actual shelters, which rotate between different locations every week, but the churches and other buildings usually utilized were too small to allow for the approximately 100 square feet of space sought per guest.

This time, the county turned to its own facilities, ultimately identifying seven sites that were sufficiently spacious, centrally located, and accessible by public transportation.

The ideal site for Central Fairfax, which includes the Tysons area, turned out to be a former Container Store at 8508 Leesburg Pike in Vienna.

According to Mike Dykes, the hypothermia coordinator for FACETS, which is operating the site, Fairfax County had been renting it out to George Mason University as a storage space before realizing it could be repurposed. At roughly 19,000 square feet in size, it can accommodate up to 84 shelter guests with social distancing.

“It’s quite a lot of space, much larger than the spaces we were looking at earlier and larger than most of the spaces we’re at in other years,” Dykes said.

Dunner says the hypothermia prevention program generally serves about 1,200 people across its four months of operation, and roughly 215 people utilize the shelters each night.

Though only a handful of people stayed at the Container Store site for the first couple of nights, the shelter averaged about 26 guests over the program’s first seven days, reaching 40 people on Dec. 7 with numbers expected to continue rising, according to Dykes. Read More

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The New Dominion Women’s Club awarded a $1,200 literary grant to the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center on Dec. 1 for Giving Tuesday, the McLean-based civic group announced today (Tuesday).

A nonprofit dedicated to supporting the local community through volunteerism and fundraising, the New Dominion Women’s Club (NDWC) received the grant in February from the Express Lanes Community Grant Program run by Transurban, the company that operates Northern Virginia’s I-95, 395, and 495 toll lanes.

The NDWC applied for the program with the goal of obtaining funds to promote early childhood literacy, a cause that it regularly supports by reading and distributing books to the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center’s Reading Is Fundamental program.

“New Dominion Women’s Club is pleased to help FCMLCC upgrade their materials for pre-K and kindergarten students,” NDWC President Kim Marinus said. “The center’s commitment to providing a safe space for children to learn and play during this difficult time is truly admirable.”

The Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, an early childhood education center located on Idylwood Road in Falls Church, plans to use the grant to upgrade its technology and software with Bluetooth speakers to help children hear music when they are spread out in a classroom, according to the press release.

The funds will also go toward technology intended to help students develop early literacy skills, such as rhyming, spelling, and identifying letter sounds.

“This grant is particularly well-timed for this very unusual school year,” FCMLCC Interim Executive Director Lucy Pelletier said. “Many of our books and puzzles have faded due to frequent sanitizing. The new materials were chosen for their durability and will better stand up to frequent cleanings.”

Photo courtesy Melissa Snyder

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Fairfax’s Britepaths is collecting community donations to provide holiday meals and gifts for children in the Fairfax County area this holiday season. The nonprofit will be distributing goods to 500 area families. 

Britepaths is adapting to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by mailing gift cards that will allow parents to purchase food and gifts for their children. The organization is encouraging donors to give funds or gift cards to go towards this initiative, according to a press release from the nonprofit.

“The holidays will be so different for all of us this year, and especially challenging for families who are struggling from lost income, illness, and other effects of the pandemic,” Britepaths Executive Director Lisa Whetzel said. “It is a heartwarming feeling to know your act of kindness can make such a big difference for our neighbors at a profoundly difficult time.”

The families eligible to receive assistance through the holiday program were referred to Britepaths by Fairfax County Public Schools, which identified them as being in need, according to the release.

Participating schools in the Tysons area include:

  • Beech Tree Elementary School (3401 Beechtree Lane, Falls Church)
  • Glen Forest Elementary School (5829 Glen Forest Dr., Falls Church)
  • Luther Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Rd., Falls Church)
  • Cedar Lane School (101 Cedar Lane, Vienna)

A full list of the Britepath partner schools whose families are eligible for assistance from the holiday program can be found on the nonprofit’s website.

The Britepaths Holiday Program is sponsored by two local Walmarts, one in the City of Fairfax and the other in the Vienna/Tysons area.

“We hope community members will be inspired to make the season brighter for hard-working families who may otherwise go without holiday meals and presents for their children,” Whetzel said.

Those interested in donating and learning more can visit the Britepaths website. Checks or gift cards can be mailed to Britepaths at 3959 Pender Drive, Suite 200.

Photo courtesy Britepaths

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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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