Fairfax County plans ceremony, day of service to mark 20 years since 9/11

A Volunteer Fairfax member carries Valentine cards for Inova workers earlier this year (staff photo by Jo DeVoe)

As the country reflects on the 20 years that have passed since the 9/11 attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon, volunteers in Fairfax County will spend this Saturday (Sept. 11) giving back to the community.

Volunteer Fairfax, the county’s volunteer network, has hosted a countywide day of service each fall to support local nonprofits for over 25 years. The 2021 VolunteerFest has been timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and will involve over 30 volunteer projects, including ones that can be done at home.

The proceedings will begin at 9 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway) with a Chalk4Peace.org art project for youth to create positive messages of peace using art and sidewalk chalk.

Fairfax County will also host a remembrance ceremony for those lost on 9/11 at the Bailey’s Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department (3601 Firehouse Lane) in Falls Church, though members of the public are being encouraged to watch online through Facebook or the county government’s cable channel.

Scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., the event is expected to have a number of public safety and elected officials in attendance, including Rep. Gerry Connolly, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay, Fire and Rescue Chief John Butler, and Police Chief Kevin Davis.

Additionally, the Department of Public Safety Communications will make a special, countywide announcement over Fire and Rescue radios at 10:28 a.m.

Starting at 10 a.m., the county will also hold its first Stuff the Bus food drive of the fall with sites at the government center and 22 other locations around the county, including Fairfax, Chantilly, Reston, Lorton, and McLean.

Now in its 10th year, the program organized by the county government and local nonprofits collects donations for local food banks to address hunger in the community. Volunteer Fairfax has also been accepting monetary donations online during the pandemic.

Registration is still open for a range of VolunteerFest projects.

In-person projects include removing invasive plants at Difficult Run Stream Valley Park in Oakton, cleaning up Centreville Elementary School’s gardens, and helping prepare a large garden bed for planting several trees to beautify South Run RECenter in Springfield.

Those looking to participate in an at-home project can create “homeless survival kits” to be distributed across Northern Virginia, make fleece blankets or toys for rescue dogs and cats, and craft face masks for people with mental health, substance use and homelessness issues at Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia centers.

There will also be a gratitude station at the government center for community members to compose messages of remembrance and thanks that will be distributed to local fire and police stations. The station is co-hosted by Kids Give Back, a local nonprofit that supports youth volunteering.

Originally called the Voluntary Action Center of Fairfax County when it was created in 1974, Volunteer Fairfax took on its current moniker in 1992 as the organization’s focus evolved to accommodate more volunteers looking to serve, including youths.

Volunteer Fairfax now works with almost 14,000 volunteers who have contributed more than 54,000 service hours to over 650 nonprofits and public agencies, according to its site.

According to a news release, this year’s edition of VolunteerFest is supported by AT&T, NetApp, Kaiser Permanente, Accenture, Deloitte, Virginia Service Foundation, and The Williams Foundation.

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