State of Emergency Declared for Snow — “Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of a winter storm that is predicted to bring snow and other winter weather to many parts of Virginia. This storm, expected to arrive Thursday evening into Friday morning, comes on the heels of a storm Monday that left more than a foot of snow in some parts of the Commonwealth.” [Office of the Governor]
Reston Company Sponsors NASCAR Driver — The technology contractor Leidos is teaming up with basketball legend Michael Jordan’s racing team to become the official sponsor for Bubba Wallace, the only full-time African American driver in NASCAR. Wallace’s new Leidos No. 23 car will debut at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in March. [WTOP]
Cornerstones Highlighted in ‘State of the County’ Address — Community partnerships have been vital to Fairfax County’s COVID-19 response over the past year, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said earlier this week. The Reston-based nonprofit Cornerstones is among the groups involved, providing primary medical care, dental care, pharmacy assistance, and COVID-19 testing. [Patch]
County Seeks Farmers Market Vendors — Applications for farmers and other producers to serve as vendors at the Fairfax County Park Authority’s farmers markets will be open from Jan. 21 to Feb. 11. The county operates 10 markets, including the Lake Anne Village Center market in Reston and one by the Red Caboose in Old Town Herndon. [FCPA]
An apartment fire that displaced 44 people Dec. 2 in Herndon has drawn responses from numerous services and community members to help as families embrace a holiday season much different than they expected.
Help has come through an outpouring of donations as well as help in staying in hotels for the short term, following the fire that officials say was linked to a charging cable.
“We are working to help make sure that these families have all of their short-term and long-term needs placed,” Cornerstones spokesperson Margaret Ann Lara said.
The nonprofit Cornerstones has been working with the Fairfax County Emergency Operations Center, county schools, a helpline for residents known as Coordinated Services Planning (703-222-0880), the American Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region and other safety net providers to address the “devastating impact of this fire,” Lara also said in a statement.
Cornerstones, the social services organization known for assisting homeless individuals and families, has also provided gift cards so victims can purchase food, clothing and transportation. It’s also working with other agencies to provide support for many suffering from emotional and physical trauma, Lara wrote.
“In that same light, the community’s support is extraordinary. We’ve received generous offers of clothing, furniture, toys, appliances, etc.” Lara said in the statement. “Household and personal items will definitely be needed in the future. But for now, the greatest community support opportunity is to donate gift cards or make direct financial donations through Cornerstones, as we coordinate resources to help with short-term needs and anticipate the long-term supports required for these families over the next 8-12 months.”
The organization plans to partner with local nonprofits, faith and civic groups and corporate as well as individual advocates to help fulfill families’ needs for household goods, furniture, appliances and more.
COVID-19 vaccines mean volunteers are coming back to help a warming shelter in Reston.
The nonprofit Cornerstones had a moratorium on volunteers for safety, but it’s been welcoming them back incrementally since August. They’re a key part of the hypothermia shelter at the North County Human Services Center (1850 Cameron Glen Drive), which assists the county’s hypothermia prevention program.
“Our volunteers are coming back. And we’re so happy to have them back because we haven’t had them in over a year,” said Khristina Koontz, who heads homeless services for the nonprofit Cornerstones.
Cornerstones started with volunteers last year, but due to COVID-19, and many of its volunteers being older, the organization clamped down on using volunteers unless it was holding an outdoor event.
Volunteers can now return to facilities if they’re vaccinated and wear masks indoors, and they’ve already been trickling in, according to the organization.
That’s not the only change for Cornerstones as its service organization and others seek to move past the pandemic. In addition, Koontz said they’re doubling their hypothermia case managers from two to four to help find long-term housing for as many people as they can.
While the hypothermia prevention program officially begins Tuesday, running from Dec. 1 until March 31, Cornerstones accepts people starting in November and has already done so this year.
But 24/7 coverage last winter will change for several sites. For the North County Human Services Center, it will return back to operating during overnight hours, from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., reverting to a pre-pandemic schedule. Several other county sites are mirroring that: County spokesperson Ben Boxer said in an email that the extended coverage was because most businesses and public facilities were closed or had limited public access due to COVID-19.
“We did it [for] 24 hours because we didn’t want people to go somewhere, contract COVID and come back, give it to people,” said Koontz, noting declines in COVID-19 numbers this year have led to changes.
For Cornerstones, the organization began its annual “no turn away” policy beginning Nov. 15, officials said, meaning people needing a place to weather the cold could visit the Embry Rucker Community Shelter (11975 Bowman Towne Drive) during the day, an additional area of coverage beyond its normal overnight hours.
The hypothermia shelter has a capacity of 25 people for single adults, and the Embry Rucker shelter has a capacity of 47, which provides for individuals and families, according to the organization.
“As the time progresses, we’re almost full — at capacity — like every night,” said Milton Rodriguez, an outreach worker with Cornerstones.
The organization is encouraging people to donate to help those in need with basic supplies ranging from socks to boots and other clothing, said Missy Norquest, supervisor for the hypothermia program and an outreach worker for Cornerstones.
With giving Tuesday on the horizon, the season of charity and gift-giving has arrived.
A number of local organizations have launched year-end campaigns and donations drives. We’ve rounded up some ways to help your neighbors and local nonprofit organizations.
Drop off new unwrapped toys, games, books, and gifts to any Fairfax County police station through Saturday, Dec. 11. The items will be donated to Fairfax Hospital, the Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center and other children in the community. The Town of Herndon’s police department is also participating.
Toys for Tots
The county’s fire and rescue department is taking part in the annual campaign. Residents can drop off unwrapped and new toys at any Fairfax County fire station through Sunday, Dec. 12.
Knitting Communities Together
Donate new or gently used handmade hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, and socks for adults and children. Items are distributed to local nonprofits like Cornerstones, Homestretch and ShelterHouse. Donations can be made through Jan. 5 at a number of locations, including the Herndon Senior Center in Herndon and the Pimmit Hills Senior Center in McLean.
Reston Winter Coat Closet
The Hunter Mill District Office and Cornerstones are collecting new or gently used winter coats and new hats, scarves and gloves for neighbors in need. Donations can be dropped off at the North County Governmental Center in Reston between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Dec. 11 and Jan. 8.
Reston Elf Store
The recently renamed Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate and the Reston Teen Center are collecting a wide variety of items. Suggested donations include candles, robes, nail polish, home goods, gloves, shaving kits and flashlights. Donations can be dropped off through Dec. 10 at the center in Reston.
The county’s domestic and sexual violence services office is also accepting gift card donations. Mail cards by Thursday, Dec. 9, to Vanessa Cullers at the Domestic Violence Action Center or Gulira Alieva at Domestic and Sexual Violence Services.
The police department’s victim services division is also collecting gift card for child victims and witnesses of domestic and sexual violence. Residents can drop off gift cards or send them to Saly Fayez, Victim Services Section, 12099 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035.
Know of any other local opportunities to get into the giving spirit? Let us know in the comments below.
If there is an opportunity to help others, “just do it,” according to advice from Reston third-grader Benjamin Kamp.
The idea of helping others is an established value in the Kamp household as they have regularly donated and fundraised over the past six years to support their community and specifically Cornerstones. In previous years, Benjamin and his family have also created snack packs for kids at Embry Rucker Community Shelter and also donated winter coats and hats to the shelter.
“Benjamin’s always been a helper,” Liz Kamp, the eight-year-old’s mother, said. “Last year he made handmade holiday cards that he went door-to-door on our street raising money for Cornerstones and then sent the money in. He’s a kid that’s always looking to help people and make other people happy.”
Following in those philanthropic efforts, Benjamin decided he wanted to make more of an impact this year.
After going through a couple of ideas, he chose a t-shirt fundraiser and designed them with the slogan of “Be Kind.” printed on them. He is selling kids and adult shirts for $25 each with all proceeds from the fundraiser are going to Cornerstones to support the Embry Rucker Shelter, which provides emergency housing for homeless people.
“Some people can be mean to those people who don’t have much money, so just be kind,” Benjamin said.
Over just a few weeks, Benjamin has sold over 200 shirts, raising about $4,500. Benjamin initially began with 50 kids shirts to sell, but the popularity of the shirts and cause quickly exceeded the family’s initial expectations and beyond Benjamin’s initial goal of raising $1,000.
The shirts have become a popular sight for friends of the family and Benjamin’s teachers as they relay photos to them of people wearing the shirts around the community. It’s also become something Benjamin has enjoyed seeing.
“It’s so exciting to see a lot of my friends and people sending these pictures,” Benjamin said. “I’ve seen people like the things I make.”
The first order of shirts sold out within a day while adults were asking for shirts as well and has placed additional orders to continue to fill the demand. Benjamin sold an additional 24 shirts this past weekend at Lake Anne Plaza during the Farmer’s and Craft Markets, raising $600.
The family will be taking orders for adult shirts via email at [email protected] through Sunday night for another order.
On Saturday, Nov. 20, Benjamin will also be outside Liz’s shop New Trail Cycling & Strength at 1641B Washington Plaza North from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to sell kids shirts and taking orders for adult shirts. There will also be a collection at the shop for welcome home baskets that will be donated to Cornerstones as a part of the businesses’s annual give back to the community and Cornerstones.
“I don’t want anyone to not like their life,” Benjamin said. “I want them to have a great life, not have a bad life. I don’t want them to hate their life, I want them to love it just the way it is.”
Shirts may be paid for via Venmo to Liz or by emailing a screenshot or forwarding a donation made on Cornerstone’s website with “Benjamin’s Shirts” in the comment box.
Monday, Nov. 1
- RCC Thanksgiving Food Drive (through Nov. 22) — Patrons, businesses and organizations can drop off non-perishable food and other items at various drop-off points throughout the community to benefit the social services nonprofit Cornerstones.
Tuesday, Nov. 2
- Grades K-2 Makerclass (4:30-6 p.m., runs weekly through Dec. 14) — Kids will work on creative projects that make use of skills ranging from art to engineering and technology. There’s no class on Thanksgiving week. Presented by Nova Labs. Cost is $100.
Wednesday, Nov. 3
- Reston Farmers Market (3-7 p.m.) — Stop by for some fresh produce at the parking lot of St. John Neumann Catholic Church.
Thursday, Nov. 4
- Anna Balakerskaia (2:15-3:30 p.m.) — “Dr. Anna” will perform with her George Mason University students as well as Levine Music pianist Dasha Gabay. Free, but registration is required.
Friday, Nov. 5
- “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” (8 p.m.) — A satirical performance reminiscent of musical theater greats ranging from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Rodgers and Hammerstein kicks off at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage. Finale is 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $20 for adults, but discounts are available.
Saturday, Nov. 6
- Appraisal Roadshow (11 a.m. to noon) — Have an expert appraise one of your personal items, from jewelry to coins and more, at the Reston Association headquarters. Private appointments with appraisers may be scheduled after the show, too. Cost starts at $15.
Sunday, Nov. 7
- “The Turn of the Screw” (2 p.m.) — A finale gives audiences one last chance to attend, following performances on Friday and Saturday. Adapted from the classic Henry James horror story, this play follows the journey of a governess caring for two kids when she begins to wonder if the home is haunted. Tickets are $25.
The Reston-headquartered nonprofit Cornerstones is continuing to give free meals to those in need, thanks in part to federal money.
The money assists kids at the nonprofit’s Laurel Learning Center (11484 Washington Plaza West, Suite 200) as well as homeless people and others experiencing emergencies at the 24/7 Embry Rucker Community Shelter (11975 Bowman Towne Drive).
Kids receive hot lunches and two snacks per day, and the learning center is currently accepting additional families, adding to the 92 children there, Cornerstones spokesperson Margaret Anne Lara said in an email.
The community shelter serves three hot meals and a snack each day to guests.
The two facilities have been involved in the federal program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), for over 20 years. The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service provides reimbursements to participating facilities.
“By participating in the CACFP, Cornerstones Laurel Learning Center and Embry Rucker Community Shelter can increase the quality of the meals served and provide more nutritious options,” Lara wrote.
Annual income for individuals must be at or below $16,777 for free meals and $23,828 for reduced price meals. Two-person household max incomes are $22,646 and $32,227, respectively, three-person households are $28,548 and $40,626, accordingly.
For larger families, add $5,902 for each family member for free meal income eligibility and $8,399 for each family member for reduced meals.
The nonprofit also operates one of the largest food pantries in northwest Fairfax County and provides other social services.
House of Delegates candidates answered questions on a range of issues that they could face in Richmond, giving voters a firsthand look at their viewpoints.
The nonprofit Cornerstones hosted the forum online with 36th District candidates Matt Lang, a Republican security consultant and veteran, and incumbent Ken Plum, a Democrat who has held the office since 1982.
For the 86th District race, the forum also featured candidates Julie Perry, a Republican high school history teacher, and Irene Shin, who won the Democratic Primary in June to take the nomination away from incumbent Ibraheem Samirah.
Candidates fielded questions from panelists and the audience in the hourlong event. A recording of the forum was slated to be posted on Cornerstones’ website.
Extending child care subsidy
Panelist Nasia Ashkir noted a federal subsidy for child care will end in December, and she asked if candidates would support extending it with leftover American Relief Act Money.
Plum shared his support for doing so and noted that he wrote about the issue for a column this month. He cited research showing how kids who received pre-school education have been linked to less societal costs, mainly in the area of crime.
Lang also said he’s support such an extension and would want to look for how to fund it once the federal aid runs out in ways that don’t raise taxes.
“Like Del. Plum just said, children are the future,” the Reston resident said. “Their education and their foundation is going to be our success down the road.”
Addressing affordable housing
Pastor Stephen Smith-Cobbs, who served as the forum’s second panelist, noted how $4.3 billion in flexible funding is available through ARPA but hasn’t been spent so far in affordable housing.
“Many people who work in Fairfax County simply can’t afford to live here,” Smith-Cobbs said, asking what candidates’ plans were for increasing the stock in affordable housing.
Both Republican candidates noted concerns with long-term assistance.
“If we help them forever, they’re never going to have the incentive to want to try their best and shine in society,” Perry said, adding that everybody can live the American dream.
Shin, the executive director of the nonprofit Virginia Civic Engagement Table, which looks to support progressive organizations, said she would support fully funding the Virginia Housing Trust, saying it incentivizes developers to make affordable housing.
Lang also said that increasing the supply of rental units or homes could help reduce the sales of existing homes, and lowering prices of other things, such as fuel taxes, would help put more money in people’s pockets.
His opponent said Cornerstones serves as a model for how to go forward by providing comprehensive services, such as child care and job training. Plum also said he expects the governor’s upcoming budget proposal to increase affordable housing investments, such as by working with organizations, setting up land conservation trusts and pursuing other efforts to leverage public money.
Cornerstones Celebrates 50 Years — The nonprofit organization will celebrate its 50th anniversary at Reston Community Center tonight. The event begins at 6 p.m. [Cornerstones]
Reston Community Players Launches New Program — The organization has launched a new apprenticeship program for students between the ages of 12 and 18. The opportunity involves 10 performances at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage. [Reston Patch]
Fire Department Cancels Fill the Boot Event — The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department has once again canceled its in-person “Fill the Boot” event for muscular dystrophy this year. The decision was made due to increasing cases of COVID-19. [FCFRD]
An entity that launched to serve those in need over 50 years ago is celebrating its successes and looking at what’s ahead in order to help others.
What began as religious organizations coming together, the outreach once known as Reston Interfaith has evolved into community centers providing everything from recreational needs to social services, a 24/7 70-bed homeless shelter, over 100 affordable homes and more.
“The single-most-important thing we built is a reputation for reliable, low-drama services to our neediest neighbors,” said Larry Schwartz, chair of Cornerstones’ Board of Directors.
The homeless shelter now bears the name of Embry Rucker, a businessman turned pastor who sought to avoid building churches and instead focus on social services.
As the region changes, the nonprofit expects to double the housing stock it owns, which currently allows people to live in affordable housing while capping families’ costs at 30% of their income.
The Reston-headquartered organization has grown with its donors and volunteers, where before the COVID-19 pandemic it had around 6,000 people helping annually. Their efforts range from aiding Thanksgiving food drives to helping out with winter clothing campaigns.
During the pandemic, the organization also obtained $1.6 million in CARES Act relief to people in need, Schwartz said.
The pandemic was a factor in delaying the organization’s celebration of its 50-year milestone, causing a fundraising gala to be held during the organization’s 51st year now in 2021. It will take place virtually and in person on Sept. 30.
The organization is also highlighting its progress throughout the decades with a gallery of photos capturing key moments, including the opening of the Laurel Learning Center (11484 Washington Plaza West, Suite 200 in Reston) and its expansion with an infant and toddler day care named after former Reston Interfaith CEO Connie Pettinger.
“The families can afford quality childcare while they’re outside the home trying to build the home,” Schwartz said.
Cornerstones’ Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center (1086 Elden St.) at the Dulles Park Shopping Center serves as a one-stop-shop for social services ranging from financial counseling to legal services for immigrants and job training as well as housing a health care center.
While the organization has its roots with religious groups, it changed its name in 2013 as it’s sought to be more inclusive with businesses, civic and community organizations, foundations and other supporters. Nevertheless, the group noted the new name, Cornerstones, is one that “has meaning in many of our faith traditions,” a letter by CEO Kerrie Wilson said.
Currently, Wilson describes Cornerstones as being at the front end of responding to eviction challenges amid the pandemic and helping families stabilize and ensure they have the support they need.
She noted that policies put in place years ago as a country have influenced how people are stuck in poverty and created barriers for home ownership.
“We will continue to serve on the frontlines,” she said, “But I think the biggest additional change and emphasis for us has to be the work in changing policies and systems that will let us truly end hunger and ensure that all families … have that first chance at home ownership.”
Photo via Cornerstones/Instagram
Mary Ann Flynn, a long-time Fairfax County Public School teacher and community leader, died last week at the age of 85.
Flynn was an educator at Hunters Woods, Dogwood, and Terraset elementary schools for more than two decades, primarily teaching first grade. She was among the first teachers at Dogwood and Terraset, when that school first opened in 1977, her family says.
“She used to say she loved teaching first grade because she could still do the math,” daughter Merri Flynn told Reston Now. “Really, it was because…it was the year she got to see such huge improvement because it was the year that most children learned to read. And she really loved being able to help them learn to read.”
She was beloved as a teacher. Her son Christopher attended Terraset while his mother taught there and has received notes with fond remembrances from former students all week.
“You can’t get away with a whole lot [at school] when your mom’s down the hall,” Christopher said. “A lot of people I went to school with remember her as a teacher.”
The family says “dozens of folks” have commented on a post they made on Facebook about Flynn, who was loved by family and pupils because of her compassion, generosity, thoughtfulness, and listening skills.
“I think people felt comfortable with her because she was quiet and an excellent listener,” Merri said. “She was always interested in what people were saying about their lives and she would remember details.”
She also loved sharing and seeing photos of loved ones.
“She was one of those rare people who really loved seeing pictures of other people’s family, especially babies and children,” Merri said with a laugh.
After spending time in San Francisco, D.C., and Norfolk, Flynn and her husband Tom, a Naval officer, settled in Reston in 1970. It became their home for the next several decades.
Even after Flynn retired as a public school teacher in 1992, the couple remained very active in the Reston community. The Flynns helped out at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, running its Angel Christmas and Birthday Club. Both of these programs worked through the local nonprofit Cornerstones to provide gifts to children.
The couple was honored by the Virginia General Assembly in 2003 for their community service efforts.
Flynn also assisted with weddings at the church, sometimes walking up and down the aisles.
“She wanted to make sure no one was chewing gum,” Merri Flynn said.
As a mother and grandmother, she was always present.
“She had a big smile whenever anyone she loved entered the room,” Thomas Flynn, Mary Ann’s grandson, said. “She just made you feel very special whenever you were talking to her. There was a kind of beam shining on you because everything was just about you.”
Flynn’s commitment to education went beyond her career. She helped to set up a library at Falcons Landing, a military retirement community in Potomac Falls that she and her husband moved into in 2014.
“She was a lifelong educator, but she did it in a really gentle way,” Merri said. “She never talked down to someone or made them feel less than.”
According to those who knew her, Flynn’s defining quality was her dedication to being an advocate for her family and students.
“She was your champion,” Merri said. “She always had your back.”
Mary Ann Flynn is survived by her husband Tom, three children, and two grandsons, Andrew and Thomas. Her death was preceded by that of her parents and a son, Thomas Edward Flynn IV.
The visitation and funeral mass will be held tomorrow (Aug. 31) at St. John Neumann Catholic Church at 11900 Lawyers Road, starting at 10 a.m.
The burial will take place at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery, where Flynn will join her son Thomas.
Reston Triathlon Raises Money for Nonprofit — The Reston Sprint Triathlon returned on Sunday (Aug. 15) after going entirely virtual last year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Now in its 15th year, the race saw athletes compete across Reston pools, streets, and paths with the goal of raising $25,000 for the local nonprofit Cornerstones, which would bring its all-time fundraising total to $400,000. [Patch]
Childhood Reston Friends Reel in Big Fishing Goal — “In the summer of 2020 — antsy from pandemic lockdowns and in no hurry to start their upcoming freshman year of college staring at computer screens — Luke Konson and Daniel Balserak set themselves a goal: to travel the United States and catch the official state fish from all 50 states…The pair have known each other since they were second-graders at Dominion Christian School in Reston. Avid anglers, they first fished together a couple of years ago.” [The Washington Post]
Reston Library Book Sale Returns Today — In time for the new school year, the Friends of the Reston Regional Library is bringing back its Children and Educators’ Book Sale starting today through 2:30 p.m. on Sunday (Aug. 22). The group isn’t taking donations this time, and patrons must comply with masking and other COVID-19 requirements while perusing the stock of gently used or good books. [Reston Library Friends]
Water Mine Sends Out Summer With a Bark — “The Water Mine at Lake Fairfax Park is going to the dogs on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, when Dog Daze returns from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. As pool time comes to a close for humans, canines get their day to splash in the water. Dog Daze features dogs-only swimming, a Canine Resource Fair and fun for all members of the family. The cost is $10 per dog. All proceeds go to the Fairfax County Park Foundation to benefit parks.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Two Fairfax County organizations have been awarded grants from a national nonprofit aimed at increasing access for food service programs for children and their families.
The Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center and Cornerstones in Reston both received grants from No Kid Hungry, a campaign from the national nonprofit Save Our Strength, whose mission is to end hunger and poverty.
No Kid Hungry announced on July 26 that it has distributed $1.16 million in grants to more than 30 Virginia school districts and organizations to combat food insecurity and provide more access to food to children and families.
The Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center received $25,000, and Cornerstones was granted $30,000.
Cornerstones provides assistance with food, shelter, child care, and other basic needs. Based at 11150 Sunset Hills Road, the nonprofit operates community centers in the Cedar Ridge, Crescent, Stonegate Village, and Southgate neighborhoods as well as the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center.
According to CEO Kerrie Wilson, Cornerstones has distributed more than 21,000 bags of food, produce, diapers, and household supplies to families in fiscal year 2021 so far.
“While this region has navigated major economic and health crises before, never has something like this pandemic had such an immediate and destabilizing impact — particularly on families already struggling with food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty,” she wrote in a statement.
Cornerstones will use its grant to rent an outdoor storage unit to expand its pantry program, pay off-site storage facility costs, and purchase a new cargo van to deliver fresh food to households in need, Wilson says.
Food insecurity remains a huge challenge in the D.C. region. About 1% of residents in several pockets of Reston, Vienna, Tysons, and Herndon were food-insecure in 2020, according to Capital Area Food Bank research.
One in eight children under 18 in Virginia live in a household where they may not be getting enough to eat, according to No Kid Hungry.
“If it weren’t for the free meals being offered by schools and community organizations, that number would be much higher,” No Kid Hungry Virginia Associate Director Sarah Steely said.
Food insecurity disportionately impacts communities of color and immigrants. Cornerstones says about 70% of the people it serves are people of color and 40% are children, half of whom identify as a member of a minority or immigrant community.
The nonprofit surveyed some of the residents it works with and found that food stability remains a huge, immediate concern.
“Food stability is a continued top priority and source of stress for themselves and their families,” Wilson said. “The concerns about access to healthy and adequate food and nutrition was significantly higher in respondents who identified as people of color and immigrants.”
Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center Executive Director Lucy Pelletier says existing food access challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic due in large part to employment uncertainty.
“We are seeing that our families are in widely varied states of employment recovery,” Pelletier said in a statement. “Our parents who are restaurant servers are exhausted from all their overtime hours because restaurants can’t hire enough employees. Parents in other direct service jobs such as house cleaning are either working less than pre-pandemic levels due to clients’ fears of covid, or they are traveling further to fill their schedule with families willing to accept cleaners into their homes.”
Rising food prices also means that paychecks are not going as far as they used too, she added.
Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center Development Director Renee Boyle says the early childhood education program will share its grant money with the Seven Corners Children’s Center, a preschool in Falls Church.
$15,000 will go towards providing low-income families at both centers with grocery cards that can be used at their discretion. That way, children and their families, including parents and older siblings, can have easier access to food even outside of the schools’ walls, Boyle says.
“Oftentimes, it can be difficult getting to school to get food, or [the kids] don’t attend pre-school,” she said. “This allows [families] to purchase fruits, veggies, and meats of their choice and reflects their ethnic preferences.”
The other $10,000 will go towards contracting Good Food Company out of Arlington to provide high-quality lunches at the center. They provide meals full of fresh vegetables, proteins, and wholesome dishes, Boyle says.
“The menu varies everyday and they’re higher quality meals than county public schools,” she said.
Community organizations like Cornerstones and the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center are critical to ensuring children have enough healthy food to eat, because they can provide access outside of schools, especially during summer and winter breaks.
“These meal programs work together with nutrition programs like Pandemic EBT and SNAP to ensure kids have enough to eat,” Steely said by email. “We know that summer can be the hungriest time of the year for children and families across the Commonwealth and beyond.”
Reston community members have set up a GoFundMe to help an individual experiencing homelessness pay for a local hotel room.
On a sunny May morning, 62-year-old Mark sat on the curb at the back of Target’s parking lot on Sunset Hills Road in Reston.
When a gray Honda CR-V pulls up in front of him, he smiles and waves. The car’s window comes down, he stands up, limping to the car. The woman inside hands Mark some money.
“God bless you,” Mark said.
“Your smile makes me happy,” the woman responded.
“I love to see them smile back,” Mark said, sitting back on the curb as the woman drives away. “It’s a little bit of interaction.”
With his balloons, signs, and a smile, Mark — who asked Reston Now not use his last name out of privacy concerns — has become a well-known fixture at this spot. He has been sitting there six days a week, with Mondays off, since he started experienced homelessness five years ago, going on six.
Earlier this year, Oak Hill resident David Ritter set up a GoFundMe to assist Mark in paying for a room at a nearby hotel. Currently, the fundraiser amassed over $900, but it has a goal of $10,000.
Ritter tells Reston Now he’s helping because he’s gotten to know Mark over the last several years.
“A lot of homeless people don’t interact, don’t engage, and are not positive like Mark,” Ritter said. “I think that’s a testament to his character.”
Mark tells Reston Now that he’s a veteran and a Columbia University medical school graduate who has a past criminal record that has prevented him from getting a job.
“I’ve sent out 1,500 job applications in five years,” Mark said. “Nobody will hire me…The computer probably just spits it out once you check that box.”
He also has physical limitations stemming from diabetes, a bad hip, and a shoulder surgery gone bad, putting his left arm in a sling. He additionally suffers from bipolar disorder. He says he’s applied for disability and is still waiting to hear back about help.
Behind the smile and loquacious nature, Mark admits that the difficulty of his situation can affect his mental health.
“It’s definitely difficult at times,” he said. “I’m bipolar. I can have massive depression episodes. I go down hard.”
In general, Mark says, people are very kind to him.
The nearby Sunoco gas station owns the land where he sits, Mark says, and they let him sit there every day (Reston Now independently verified this with Sunoco). Target employees are also very nice, teasingly calling him the “goodbye person” since he waves to everyone exiting the parking lot.
He says Fairfax County police check in on him regularly, always treating him with respect and dignity.
And people in cars often stop to give a few dollars, food, and other supplies. On good days, he says he makes about a hundred dollars a day.
Over the course of his hour-long interview with Reston Now, no less than six people in cars stop to help Mark out. He greets everyone with a wave, a smile, and a hearty thank you.
“I get a lot of food from Target and all the restaurants from around here,” he says, chuckling. “I haven’t had to buy my own lunch or dinner in a long time.”
The hope with the GoFundMe is that it would provide Mark the means to get a room every night at the local hotel where he’s staying. Read More
New Police Chief to Speak at Public Input Session — Community members will get their first chance to talk to new Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis at 7 p.m. on Thursday (May 6). Local civil rights groups have criticized Davis’s past record and a hiring process they say lacked transparency and public involvement, prompting the county board to issue a statement last night reaffirming its support for Davis. [Supervisor Rodney Lusk/Twitter]
Fairway Apartments Sold to Swedish Investor — Swedish investment firm Akelius has acquired Fairway Apartments, a 346-unit apartment community near Reston Town Center, from JBG for $93 million. Akelius says it plans to add new washers and dryers, renovate some kitchens and bathrooms, and make other minor upgrades to the property, which is 97% occupied. [Bisnow]
More Spots Open for Tour de Hunter Mill — More registrations are now available for the Tour de Hunter Mill bicycle ride that will take cyclists through Reston, Vienna, and Tysons on May 15. The event has expanded in response to Virginia easing restrictions on public gatherings that day, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s office. [Walter Alcorn/Twitter]
Herndon IT Firm Acquired by McLean Contractor — “McLean, Virginia-based government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton will acquire Herndon, Virginia-based Liberty IT Solutions LLC for $725 million. Liberty IT Solutions has about 600 employees…Its work includes IT modernization projects for government agencies and in the health care industry.” [WTOP]
Nonprofit Food Pantry Distribution Helps 260 Local Families — “We’re happy to have assisted 260 families from the Herndon, Springfield, Chantilly, Alexandria, and Centreville area with groceries, toiletries, fresh produce and store gift cards to help with pantry staple purchases.” [Cornerstones/Twitter]