(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
FY 2022 Budget Markup Approved — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a markup package for the county’s fiscal year 2022 budget yesterday (Tuesday) that includes a 1% pay raise for county government employees and an additional $15 million for Fairfax County Public Schools, partly to support compensation increases. [Fairfax County Government]
Virginia Reviewing New Mask Guidelines — The CDC released new guidance yesterday (Tuesday) stating that people who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks outdoors except when in a big crowd of strangers. Gov. Ralph Northam’s press secretary said in a statement that the governor’s office is reviewing the guidelines “to determine if and where we need to make changes” to Virginia’s mask requirements. [Office of the Governor]
New Police Chief Use-of-Force Record Scrutinized — Incoming Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis lost two lawsuits over his use of force when he worked in the Prince George’s County Police Department in the 1990s. In the first case, the plaintiff said Davis pulled him over without giving a reason and violently arrested him, while the second victim alleged that “Davis and other officers essentially kidnapped him for a night.” [NBC4]
Nonprofit Hits Record for Food Donations to Feed Students — Food for Neighbors received more than 21,000 pounds of food from over 1,200 households during its April 24th Red Bag Program food collection, including 5,547 pounds from 366 households in Herndon and Reston neighborhoods. [Patch]
Reston Defense Contractor Acquires Seattle-Based AI Company — SAIC announced on Monday (April 26) that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Koverse, a software company that “provides a data management platform enabling artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning on complex, sensitive data.” [Koverse]
Community Helps Reston Resident with Medical Expenses — A GoFundMe for Reston resident David Vlcek, who suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, has raised more than $55,000, getting the fundraiser halfway to its $100,000 goal. Started by a family friend, the campaign funds will help defray medical costs not covered by insurance and pay for airfare for Vlcek’s parents, who need to travel from the Czech Republic. [Patch]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Herndon Police Cites Drivers for Violating Cellphone Ban — The Town of Herndon Police Department says its officers issued 22 citations last week for violations of Virginia’s new law against driving while using mobile devices. The ban took effect on Jan. 1 of this year and imposes a $125 fine for a first offense, followed by $250 for a second offense. [Herndon PD/Twitter]
Northam Signs Deal to Expand Virginia’s Railroads — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a $3.7 billion deal Tuesday with Amtrak and CSX Transportation that officials say will break loose a major East Coast chokepoint and allow for a dramatic expansion of passenger and commuter rail.” [NBC4]
Lawsuit Filed over Virginia Guidelines Supporting Transgender Students — Conservative groups are suing the Virginia Department of Education over its new policy requiring school districts to accept students’ gender identities and provide access to facilities and programs in accordance with those identities. The policy took effect on March 6 after the General Assembly passed a law last year directing the department to develop guidelines. [The Washington Post]
Reston Nonprofit to Benefit from Jersey Mike’s Purchases Today — “Jersey Mike’s Subs store at 2254 Hunters Woods Plaza in Reston is donating 100 percent of sales to Cornerstones on Wednesday…The effort is part of the sandwich franchise chain’s Month of Giving, which has raised $32 million for local charities since 2011.” [Reston Patch]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Since COVID-19 has negatively impacted community members, Community Foundation for Northern Virginia recently awarded $1.5 million in grants to 70 regional non-profits around the Northern Virginia region, including Reston and Herndon.
So far, four rounds of grants have been given out to the non-profits and a fifth-round is currently under review. Reston based non-profit Cornerstones, received $15,000 in the first phase of the grant which will go towards promoting “self-sufficiency by providing support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, quality childcare, and other human services,” according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
In round two, Herndon-Reston FISH, which assists local residents in crisis, was granted another $15,ooo, the page said. FISH, which is short for Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help, assists low-income families and individuals by helping to pay utilities, offering personal finance classes, and assisting with medications and health, its website said.
“The Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund…is built to help carry the heaviest burdens for those who can’t do this alone — or can’t do this alone anymore,” Eileen Ellsworth, president, and CEO of the CFNV said. ‘Those for whom future planning is a luxury because today’s needs have overthrown it. Those who are suffering the most with the least wherewithal to weather the storm.”
Photo via Cornerstones/ Facebook
The drive, which is one of several set to take place in the area, will run from 5 to 7 p.m. at Chick-Fil-A (1494 Northpoint Village Center) and those who donate will receive a special offer from the eatery, according to the Facebook page.
For those who are unable to make the specific hours, people can still drop donations outside in a bag on a designated table or at the drive-through, according to the post.
“Your donation of canned goods and pantry items as well as gently used shoes will be delivered to Supporting Seniors in Place, Helping Hungry Kids and other food pantries,” the Facebook page.
The CORE Foundation, an organization based in Reston, helps small entrepreneurs reach their goals, according to its website, but also runs other fundraisers and support efforts.
Next week, the drive will be held at Glory Days in Reston, according to Mark Moody, a CORE Volunteer.
“If successful, we will continue this year-round to help keep our pantries stocked,” he said.
Photo via Chick-Fil-A/Facebook
People are encouraged to bring items to the brewhouse from May 21 through 24. The location will be accepting donations on Thursday and Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m., according to the event page.
Requested items include canned goods, nonperishable things like beans and rice or toiletries and personal care products.
Food and donations will go to vulnerable members of the community, the event page said, adding that customers are also encouraged to pick up to-go food and drink since a portion of the proceeds will also go towards the cause.
Image courtesy Lake Anne Brewhouse
For nonprofits struggling to make money off of fundraising events, Reston-based FrontStream just released a new product allowing groups to raise money through remote events.
Panorama allows nonprofits to host walks, runs and other athletic events and track the participants’ distance and time, which is a feature completely unique to the company, according to Terry LoPresti, FrontStream’s chief technology officer.
To help keep event participants engaged, the software offers gamification and real-time competition with others involved in the fundraiser, according to LoPresti, who said examples include the ability to earn special badges or set the view so users can pretend to be in the Swiss Alps.
Event organizers can also host auctions, crowdfund, coordinate sponsors and purchase items through the tool, the website said.
Instead of canceling events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are contacting FrontStream to host events digitally and learning how this software can simplify the fundraising process, according to LoPresti.
Once a client contacts the FrontStream team about hosting an event, she said they can “have them up and running within an afternoon.”
Given the complexity of the app, users and event organizers can customize features to suit their needs, according to the website.
For example, credit card companies often charge processing fees with any system that uses card transactions, but users can choose to cover these minimal fees so their donation goes directly to the charity, LoPresti said. If given the chance, almost all of the donors will choose to cover the transaction fee, ultimately saving the nonprofit money, according to LoPresti.
Though FrontStream wouldn’t share how much it costs to host a certain event on Panorama, LoPresti said that without customizations, it could theoretically be done for free.
LoPresti stressed that the software isn’t a temporary trend, but instead a long-term, fundamental shift for fundraising that works for organizations of all sizes.
“Taking your event digital is not temporary,” LoPresti said. “It isn’t here just cause of COVID. It is here to stay. It has forever changed the face of fundraising because we can engage on so many levels.”
Photo courtesy Panorama
During the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has become increasingly common. Community members will have the chance to ease the burden by donating non-perishable goods to an upcoming campaign.
Stuff the Bus, a typically biannual effort, organized collections dates on Saturday (May 16) and Tuesday (May 19) from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. to help fill the requests of local food banks, according to the event page.
“Unlike past years, the buses will not be parked in grocery store parking lots. Instead, buses will be parked in less-frequented lots,” the page said.
Around Reston, people can find a donation area at Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office (1801 Cameron Glen Drive), which will benefit Cornerstones, according to the event page.
In Great Falls, people can stop by the Great Falls Library (9830 Georgetown Pike).
“Because of the extraordinary events taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for food has surged in Fairfax County, so Stuff the Bus is again stepping up to feed hungry people,” the event page said.
Photo by Austin Kehmeier/Unsplash
Fairfax County recently created a map pinpointing local groups looking for donations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The map allows users to find nonprofits and organizations within a specific region of Fairfax County so they can help people within their own communities.
Users can search for charities by the proximity to an address or by clicking on one from the general geographic overview.
The charities listed on the website are accepting items including personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, baby products and paper items, the page said. Throughout the county, 22,620 households are at or below the poverty level, according to the website.
Charities collecting monetary donations can be found on the webpage as well.
People can learn more about a charity by reading an overview from Volunteer Fairfax.
- The Shepherd’s Center of McLean-Arlington-Falls Church
- American Red Cross in the National Capital Region
- Blood Donor Services, Inova Health System
Image via Fairfax County
(This story was updated to clarify that Reston Strong is an ongoing effort).
Several community organizations are banding together to power a no-contact donation drive in Reston.
Reston Strong, the name of the community-based action group, and the CORE Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, are collecting donations at various storage pods in the area. Community partners include Cornerstones, Helping Hungry Kids, Reston Hospital Center, and the CORE Foundation.
- Cornerstones (11484 Washington Plaza West): Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- YMCA Reston (12196 Sunset Hills Road): Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- South Lakes Village Center, near Safeway (11120 South Lakes Drive): Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- North Point Village Center (1452 Reston Parkway): Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Individuals interested in helping manage the project at specific sites can sign up online but must abide by safety rules and precautions. Volunteer slots are available through May 31.
Ashley Hopko and Fatimah Waseem contributed reporting.
Photo via Reston Strong/Facebook
Roughly 1,400 individuals contributed 6,900 hours of volunteer time to community projects last year, according to the website. The RA chose to recognize several individuals for their work in 2019 with the annual Reston Service Awards.
Instead of an in-person reception due to concerns over COVID19, the RA said it will celebrate award winners by highlighting their “outstanding” work on social media accounts and electronic campaigns.
All of the winners are a part of Volunteer Reston. “The mission of Volunteer Reston is to enhance Reston Association’s services and programs by matching the talents of individuals and groups of all ages, interests and skills to a variety of engaging projects and endeavors,” the website said.
Detailed bios of award winners can be found online.
Individual award winners include:
- Surekha Sridhar for Volunteer of the Year
- Kevin Alegre for Youth Volunteer of the Year
- Susan Beffel and Irwin Flashman for Volunteers Over 55
Group award winners include:
- George Mason University Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL) for Group Volunteers of the Year
- The Bike Lane for Community Partner of the Year
- Lakes, Docks and Boats Working Group for Work Group of the Year
“Volunteerism is deeply rooted in Reston’s history and was one of the core principles of Reston founder Robert E. Simon Jr.,” the RA press release said.
Photo via Reston Association
Updated April 8 — To fix a typo and include donation times for April 8.
Beginning today (April 8) people can stop by the YMCA Fairfax County Reston (12186 Sunset Hills Road) from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. to donate blood, according to a press release.
Other donation dates throughout the month include April 15 and 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the press release said.
Potential Donors can sign up online and search by sponsor code “YMCA DMV” or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
People must show government issues identification at the time of donation.
“Added precautions are in place to ensure the safety of all donors and staff which includes donor temperature checks before entering the drive, spacing beds 6 feet apart where possible, using aseptic scrubs on arms, using sterile collections sets, and wiping down donor-touched areas,” the press release said.
Photo via LuAnn Hunt/Unsplash
Despite its temporary closure, a Reston-based makerspace challenged volunteers to supply hospitals and medical staff with lifesaving personal protective equipment.
Nova Labs, a local volunteer-based non-profit, used to serve as a place of ideation for kids and creative community members but decided to switch focus after health concerns from COVID19 shutdown non-essential businesses and gathering places in Virginia. Lab volunteers are now creating medical masks, plastic face shields and other essential equipment to keep people healthy, according to Margie Foster, one of the project’s coordinators.
Foster said she became involved after another member, Paul Chase, began tinkering with designs for face masks in his basement.
“I jumped in and was like ‘let’s make sure someone needs it, we are informed by the field and make sure we have places to donate it before we go all in,'” Foster said.
To keep volunteers safe and obey social distancing rules, Nova Labs sent 3D printers home with “altruistic” members who knew how to use them, so they can create the plastic pieces for face shields now required by nurses and doctors, Foster said.
Nova Labs isn’t the sole coordinator of this project though, Foster said. Micro Center in Fairfax and its manager Jeff Katz donated 50-kilogram spools of the colorful plastic filament to the cause, which would typically retail over $1,000.
To help with the assembly of the products, Nova Labs recruited local families who are looking for things to do now that schools are closed and some are off work.
Already, the group’s volunteers have managed to send over 550 face shields to Howard University Hospital and other area medical centers, according to Nova Labs Facebook page. In the coming weeks, Foster added that the team has the capability to branch out to adjust to new and unique needs.
In the early stages, some hospitals that originally agreed to use the personal protective equipment made by Nova Labs had to call the program coordinators back since their policies kept changing with uncertain guidelines regarding the ability to accept homemade equipment.
“A lot of the hospital policies are still trying to come up to speed with what is happening,” she said. “They are trying to change on the fly too.”
Going forward, Foster said she is concerned about what will happen as competition for the plastic face mask material intensifies. Already, producers of the shield material are backlogged with orders and prices keep rising due to high demand, according to Foster.
“We are in competition with like Pepsi,” she said. “They use the same material for their bottles.”
Still, team members associated with Nova Lab are dedicated to the cause, according to Foster.
“The bulk of this project has been funded out of pocket by the makers,” she said.
Those interested in helping the cause can donate online.
Photo via Nova Labs/Facebook
UPDATED at 2 p.m. — Tysons Reporter received new information from area hospitals about current needs and shortages. At this time, area hospitals are NOT in need of homemade medical masks, according to the spokesperson from Reston Hospital Center.
A Reston father and his two sons teamed up to make a group to help people who could be severely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
After feeling bored in self-isolation, Colin, Hayden and their dad, Ray Whitney, researched how they could best assist their community and discovered a group called Caremongers out of Canada. After some guidance from its volunteers, the trio founded one of their own chapters for the Reston community.
Caremongers Reston VA is a group that writes letters and shares ideas with others on how to help and delivers groceries or medicine to people around the area who are elderly or immuno-compromised, according to Ray.
Ray said he founded the Facebook page for the group around March 18, and already, the group has helped roughly 40 people — and continues to grow its outreach efforts through a partnership with the United Christian Parish Reston, where the family attends services.
“Right now it’s really just me and my sons trying to push things through and get things set up,” Ray said.
The group said they were able to write a letter to a 100-year-old WWII veteran who celebrated his birthday on Sunday (March 22) without a group of friends due to health concerns.
Currently, Ray said Caremongers Reston isn’t accepting donations.
“This is a unique opportunity for everybody to help,” according to Ray, who added that everyone is in a position to do something, even if it’s digitally reaching out to someone who might feel lonely in self-isolation or quarantine.
For people posting on social media, the group is using the hashtag #SpreadLoveNotCOVID19 to promote thoughtfulness during this time.
To protect themselves, the family is ensuring that they wear gloves during curbside deliveries, leaving the house only when they have to and making sure to practice social distancing — i.e. keeping 6 feet away from people — when they are out, Ray said.
Ray added that they are trying to be cautious but not fearful.
For kids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that not every child will react the same way to stress from the pandemic and suggests that parents share facts with their kids and reassure them that they will be safe.
Colin is a 4th-grade student at Lake Anne Elementary and Ray said he is simply excited to be helping his community and that he seems to be handling everything okay. Hayden is currently a 9th-grade student at South Lakes High School.
“We are really proud of the fact he wants to step up and help people,” Ray said.
Photo courtesy Ray Whitney
Lovers of independent films can check out the Vidi Space Film Festival in Reston this weekend, which features films and panels from celebrities.
The festival which will take place on Saturday (Feb. 22) at Bow Tie Cinemas (11940 Market Street) was originally created to “encapsulate all haunted, unknown and supernatural things,” according to the event page.
Independent filmmakers were invited to submit their independent films through the end of 2019, the website said, and the films will be judged in various categories. They will receive awards for things like best actor and best experimental feature.
“As filmmakers ourselves, our mission is to promote independent filmmakers and provide a platform for a new audience to appreciate your work,” the event page said.
Tickets start at around $100 for a day pass and tickets for individual films start at $10.
Tomorrow (Feb. 22)
Stuff the Bus (9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) — At this charity event, people can go to Fox mill Giant (2551 John Milton Drive) in Herndon and donate food toward families in need through Helping Hungry Kids.
Dazzle Dance — Hit the Red Carpet (6 to 8 p.m. ) — Families in Reston can attend a gala at Life Time Athletic (1757 Business Center Drive) where they will be treated with appetizers, a DJ and a red carpet. Tickets are $20 and kids under four are free.
Jazz Pianist Quentin Walston (6:30 to 9:30 p.m.) — Lake Anne Coffee House & Wine Bar (1612 Washington Plaza) will host a concert for people featuring this upcoming artist. People are invited to come to try a selection of wine and enjoy the free music.
Sunday (Feb. 23)
Empower Hip Hop Dance Class for Dancers with Special Needs (4 to 9 p.m.) — Monsters Dance will host a hip-hop dance class for those with special needs at the Hyatt Regency Reston (1800 Presidents Street). “In keeping with Monsters’ mission to provide dancers with real opportunities, these unique eMpower classes allow dancers with special needs the chance to express themselves in a fun and safe environment,” the event listing said.