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

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Morning Notes

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]

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Morning Notes

Virginia to Change Vaccine Scheduling Systems — Fairfax County residents will finally follow the same approach to obtaining COVID-19 vaccine appointments as the rest of the state, as the Virginia Department of Health says its statewide system will also be retired on Sunday (April 18) in favor of self-scheduling through Vaccine Finder. [Patch]

Lawsuit Filed over Virginia’s Unemployment Benefits — “Several legal groups filed a federal class-action suit on Thursday against the Virginia Employment Commission for its failure to reach residents with unemployment benefits, and abruptly cutting off payments to others without explanation.” [DCist]

Fish Released into Lake Thoreau — Reston Association stocked Lake Thoreau with 80 triploid grass carp this past Sunday (April 18). RA says that the fish are part of its plan to “help manage aquatic plants such as hydrilla” in the lake and must be released if caught while fishing. [RA/Twitter]

Reston Nonprofit to Give Free Food to Those in NeedCornerstones will hold a free food distribution event tomorrow (Saturday) in the parking lot of the Fairfax County Department of Family Services building at Lake Anne (11484 Washington Plaza West). The grocery bags will contain toiletries as well as fresh produce, and they will be distributed from 10 a.m. to noon, though spaces are limited. [Lake Anne Elementary School]

Hunter Mill District Bike Tour Sold Out — Tickets for the inaugural Tour de Hunter Mill sold out yesterday. Scheduled for May 15, the event will take cyclists on a scenic tour from Reston to Vienna and back, but attendance was capped at 150 riders to ensure social distancing. [Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

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

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 5:05 p.m. on 4/2/2021) Fairfax County Seeks Public Input on Police Chief Search — “Next Tuesday, April 6, @SupervisorLusk and I are holding a public input session on the selection of our new Police Chief. Provide your comments on what you hope to see in our next police chief ahead of time or live.” [@JeffreyCMcKay/Twitter]

Northam Signs Free Community College Legislation — Signed in Alexandria, the bill creates a “G3” program that makes community college tuition free for low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields. The initiative has $36 million to cover tuition, fees, books, and support services for eligible students who attend two-year public institutions in Virginia. [Office of the Governor]

Cornerstones Monthly Food Giveaways Draw Lines — A recent food giveaway hosted by the Reston nonprofit Cornerstones illustrates the still-urgent need for food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is increasingly straining nonprofits and volunteers. [The Washington Post]

Advocates Raise Concerns about Training on Restraint and Seclusion Policy — “Parents were pleased that in addition to banning seclusion in all schools by 2023, the school system promised to train staff on alternative methods to physical restraint and seclusion. But several founders of the Fairfax County Special Education PTA have raised concerns that staff did not receive comprehensive training before students returned to classrooms in person earlier this month.” [Inside NoVA]

Reston Restaurant Delivery Company Integrates with DoorDashWaitbusters LLC has augmented its delivery service by adding an integration with DoorDash Drive, a move that the Reston-based company says will allow it to serve more locations, give customers and restaurants more options, and ensure drivers are available “almost 100% of the time.” [Restaurant News]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

County Seeks Help with Vaccinations — The county’s health department is hiring roughly 250 vaccinators. Interested candidates should have experience vaccinating and hold a current license or multistate licensure privilege. [Fairfax County Government]

Reston Association Election Underway — Voting ends on April 2 at 5 p.m. Four candidates are running for two at-large seats and one person is vying for the South Lakes District seat. A 10 percent quorum is required for the results of the election to be considered valid. [Reston Today]

Local Organizations Receive Homeless Reduction Grants — Twelve projects in the Northern Virginia area received a total of $2.1 million in state grants from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. Reston-based nonprofit organization Cornerstones received $100,000 to fund housing stabilization case management. [Patch]

State Bans Single-Use Styrofoam — Gov. Ralph Northam has signed a bill into law that bans the use of Styrofoam cups and food takeout containers. Food chains with 20 or more locations cannot package or dispense food in the containers beginning July 2023. [Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Friday Morning Notes

Northam to Extend School Year into Summer — Gov. Ralph Northam will announce a plan to extend the school year into the summer today. N details have been released, but the plan is intended to help students catch up. [Inside NOVA]

Reston Association Board to Meet Next Week — RA’s Board of Directors will hold a special online meeting on Monday evening to have a consultation with counsel. [RA]

Food and Coat Drives Set for Tomorrow in Reston — Cornerstones’ Coat Closet is accepting winter items from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at the North County Government Center while Stuff the Bus will have buses parked at the center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for donations. [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Monday Morning Notes

Toiletries Drive to Benefit Cornerstones — Reston Community Center is collecting supplies on behalf of Cornerstones to support local families. Items needed included shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and deodorant. The drive runs from Jan. 4-18. [RCC]

Vaccination Numbers Available By Locality — ‘The Virginia Department of Health is tracking COVID-19 vaccination numbers as vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are being distributed around the state under FDA emergency use authorization. As of Sunday, 38,172 vaccine doses have been administered in Virginia. No one has received the second dose, which both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require.’ [Reston Patch]

Around Town — Input Sought on American Legion Bridge — ‘The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Maryland Department of Transportation recently finished a study on the American Legion Bridge’s future, and are now asking the public for comment on the findings.’ [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Cornerstones, a Reston-based nonprofit organization that offers housing stability program in Northern Virginia, has won a $125,000 grant award from Chick-fil-A.

The organization was one of 34 national winners selected for Chick-fil-A’s True Inspiration Awards. The grant will support Cornerstones’ homeless prevention, emergency shelter, and housing stability programs, including the Embry Rucker Community Shelter.

Kerrie Wilson, Cornerstones’ CEO, said her team is “incredibly honored” to receive the award.

“The foundation’s investment in our community will amplify our capacity to swift triage people struggling in our community,” she said.

The True Inspiration Awards program was created five years ago to honor the legacy of Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy. The program supports nonprofit organizations that work in the areas of education, hunger and homelessness.

Larry Schwartz, chairman of Cornerstones’ Board of Directors, said the grant will help support the organization’s wrap-around services and programs “so vulnerable neighbors can rebuild stability and resiliency by securing affordable, long-term housing, provide quality education programs for their children, and obtain valuable living-wage job skills so they can go back to work in our community.”

Cornerstones’ was nominated by Larry Everett, owner and operator of the Chick-fil-A in North Point Village Center.

Photo via Cornerstones

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Voting is officially open for Chik-fil-A’s True Inspiration Award.  Cornerstones of Reston was chosen alongside five other finalists competing for up to $150K to help support local families. 

The finalists for this award, chosen in October, must provide community support in education, fighting hunger and diminishing homelessness, according to a statement from Chick-fil-A North Point Village. 

Cornerstones has served the Northern Virginia community for more than 50 years, and they primarily reach communities of color.  The non-profit was nominated by the North Point Village Chick-fil-A for their service to the community and action on the three pillars listed, according to the statement. 

“There is no better organization than Cornerstones, that we as a community-based restaurant (Chik-fil-A) should partner with,” said Larry Everett, the Operator of Chick-fil-A North Point Village. “I am honored to know that Cornerstones will possibly receive up to $150,000 to continue impacting the Northern Virginia Area.”

Voting can be completed through the Chick-fil-A app until Nov. 21. The Grand Prize winner will receive $150K, while three other winners will receive from $50K to $100K for the Northeast Region. 

Chick-fil-A also committed to give more than $5 million dollars this year to local organizations whose primary focus is on communities of color through education, hunger and homelessness, according to the statement. 

Photo via Chik-fil-A/Facebook

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The Reston Community Center is working with the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, Reston Association, and Cornerstones to expand its Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive this year.

The drive is introducing two “Stuff the RA Camp Van” events this month, according to a press release from the RCC, encouraging people to bring non-perishable food and other items to the RA Camp Van. The van will be open at these places and times:

  • Saturday, Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the SunTrust Bank parking lot at South Lakes Village Center.
  • Saturday, Nov. 14 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. next to the BB&T Bank at North Point Village Center.

The Annual Thanksgiving Drive as a whole will run through Nov. 23. There are collection boxes at RCC facilities, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and other drop-off points, according to the release. People are encouraged to donate non-perishable food and gift cards, amongst other things. 

“The impact of COVID-19 has been profound, and the challenges faced by families struggling to meet their commitments during the pandemic are enormous,” said Leila Gordon, the RCC Executive Director. “We know that keeping our community strong and safe depends on the generosity of those who have the ability to give. We are very grateful for all the support people can offer.” 

Those looking to volunteer can sign up to be a Volunteer Loader on Nov. 24 or 25, or a Volunteer Food Sorter on Nov. 26 or 27. The events will be held with social distancing, mask-wearing, and smaller group sizes.

Photo via the RCC website

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Phase Two of Election Week to Continue — From this morning to Friday at noon, localities will process mail ballots that were received by 7 p.m. yesterday but not counted that night and hose delivered by USPS and postmarked by Election Day. [Virginia Public Access Project]

Thanksgiving Food Drive Underway  Reston Association is teaming up. With Cornerstones, Reston Community Center, and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce to help families need. Donations of non-perishable food and other items can be brought to the SunTrust Bank parking lot (11180 South Lakes Drive) on Nov. 7.  A second donation site is planned at North Point Village Center. [RA]

Herndon Man Arrested in Connection with Robbery — “Mohamad Alie Bangura, 30, of Herndon, VA, was arrested for the robbery of a fellow passenger on public transportation. Additionally, Bangura was charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication. He was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center where he was held without bond.” [Herndon Police Deprartment]

Photo via Marjorie Copson

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The Fairfax NAACP announced yesterday (Thursday) that they will be distributing nearly $20,000 in COVID-19 relief funding to several different non-profit organizations in the community, including to Reston’s Shelter House and Cornerstones. 

In a statement from the Fairfax NAACP, they explained that the pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color in multiple ways, from higher infection and death rates to housing and employment insecurity to distance learning inequities. 

“This public health crisis has exposed and exasperated the inequities that already existed in our society,” said Sean Perryman, the director of the Fairfax NAACP. “We will get through this together.”

Healthcare-centered donations to Shelter House will fill gaps that the government and other non-profits aren’t able to fill by supporting their Quarantine/Protection/Isolation/Decompression sites, according to Joe Meyer, the CEO of Shelter House. The donations will further help people of color dealing with COVID-19 and homelessness.

Assistance towards Cornerstones will be directed to individuals facing eviction due to COVID-19. According to Greg White, the COO of Cornerstones, the NAACP’s contribution will help support low-income community members in rebuilding their economic, mental, and physical stability. 

The Fairfax NAACP also distributed funds towards helping small businesses, as well as providing distanced learning technology for underserved students. 

Image via Fairfax NAACP

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Donations for the annual Winter Coat Closet Program have officially begun this week. 

Cornerstones 50 is working in partnership with the Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office this year to help operate the Winter Coat Closet Program, according to a release from the nonprofit.

The collection is asking for new or gently used coats and new hats, gloves, mittens and scarves. 

The two locations for donation dropoffs are at Cornerstones (1150 Sunset Hills Road) and the North County Government Building (1801 Cameron Glen Drive). 

Cornerstones hours are Monday through Friday from Oct. 13 through Nov. 6, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The North County Government Building is collecting Nov. 14, Dec. 12 and Jan. 9 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

The collection can accept plastic coat hangers, but not wire. For more information about the Winter Coat Closet Program, visit the Cornerstones website

Photo by Daniel Bowman/Unsplash

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As winter approaches, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has taken steps to provide safe temporary hypothermia prevention shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness.

The Board approved an emergency ordinance on Tuesday, Oct. 6, authorizing the establishment of several county-operated temporary shelters between December 2020 and March 2021.

“It cannot be understated how critical this program is, and has been over the years, for thousands in our community who otherwise would have had no defense against the icy grip of winter,” Fairfax County Chairman Jeffrey McKay said in a press release.

“COVID-19 has dealt us all a challenging hand, and this measure is just another example of how we are continuing to use outside-of-the-box thinking and planning to ensure that we can still come through on behalf of those who need our help the most in our community.”

Fairfax County has partnered with houses of worship and nonprofits in years past to provide shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness. Those efforts have allowed people who enter the shelters to receive meals and other assistance.

Due to COVID-19 and protocols advised by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many houses of worship are closed or functioning in a limited capacity that will not allow for the same shelter options as previous years.

As a result of the protocols now in place, the board has identified seven county-owned sites that can be utilized for the Hypothermia Prevention Program and offer shelter. These include:

  • Lincolnia Senior Center (4710 North Chambliss Street, Alexandria)
  • Braddock Glen Wellness Center (12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)
  • Gerry Hyland Government Center (8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria)
  • North County Human Services Building (1850 Cameron Glen Dr., Reston)
  • Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfax)
  • Herrity Building (12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)
  • Pennino Building (12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax)

“The County’s Hypothermia Prevention Program provides a critical, life-saving service for our county’s most vulnerable residents,” Tom Barnett, Deputy Director for the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, said in a press release.

“Last year, through an outstanding community partnership effort, we were able to provide 49 sites to serve an average of 215 guests each night who had no place else to go. Through this action, we can begin planning contingencies to ensure that everyone who needs a warm place to stay and access to supportive services can find it.”

The North County Human Services Building – which is serviced by Cornerstones – is the lone site of the seven that was used in this capacity last year. However, services will be altered at the site as two rooms will be utilized instead of one to allow for 100 square feet per person, according to Maura Williams, Cornerstones’ Division Director for Housing and Community Services.

“This additional space means we need to hire twice as many staff as normal to manage two rooms,” Williams said. “There has been some discussion about providing 24-hour services for the hypothermia program this year, but no firm decision. It really depends on our staffing capabilities.”

Williams also said Cornerstones’ staff will continue to implement the new COVID-19 procedures it has utilized at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter. Those procedures include temperature checks, health screenings, hand sanitizer, gloves, face masks, face shields, sneeze guards and social distancing.

A press release from the county says many of the chosen locations are currently closed to the public or operating at a reduced occupancy that will allow for “a safe, warm location where individuals who are homeless can stay overnight.”

A public hearing is planned for November for the Board to receive public comment on this ordinance. Additional information about the hearing will be posted online as further details are finalized.

For more information about the hearings and how to contribute comments, visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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