Reston, VA

Later this month, the Reston Community Center will host a three-day celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

On Saturday (Jan. 18), Sunday, (Jan. 19) and Monday (Jan. 20), people can attend a variety of events ranging from performances by the Reston Community Orchestra to community service projects, along with a keynote speaker luncheon. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Reston Community Center’s annual celebration.

Each day will feature different speakers and activities at various venues throughout the community.

Though most of the events are free, a few require registration or are accompanied by a fee, like the keynote address by Bakari Sellers. Tickets are $5 for Reston residents and can be purchased online.

This year’s community service project includes a winter coat drive for Cornerstones, a local non-profit. The RCC is also seeking volunteers for the community service project, the luncheon and a youth volunteer. Anyone interested can explore details online and register for positions.

A gallery will highlight artwork honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s accomplishments and life by local elementary school students. The works will be on display at the Reston Community Center Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road) from Jan. 11-31.

Image via Reston Community Center

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Restonians have banded together to launch “Light Up Reston,” a community-wide initiative that aims to encourage residents to support charities and decorate homes for the holidays.

The initiative aims to show residents’ community spirit and raise funds for Public Art Reston, Friends of Reston, and Cornerstones. It draws inspiration from Lake Thoreau Entertainment Associations’ “Festival of Lights,” which raises money for local charities and brings lights to the lake.

This year, residents — some friends and others strangers — decided to spread the initiative throughout the.

With expanding this effort across Reston, we are hoping to raise holiday spirit as well as  awareness of these wonderful Reston based charities by raising $25,000,” said Mary Prochnow, one of the organizers.

So far, $400 has been raised as the initiative kicks off. Last year’s “Festival of Lights” raised more than $8,500 for local charities.

Residents can donate funds to charities by contributing the dollar amount used to put up holiday decorations, the number of homes decorated in your neighborhood, or the number of times residents’ have thought about falling off a ladder while putting up lights.

Melissa Romano, who is also helping organize the initiative, said Restonians involved in lighting up Reston were drawn by their common desire to promote “great events in Reston.”

Photo via Charlotte Geary Photography

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The Hunter Mill District’s Winter Coat Closet is open for another season through Jan. 16.

The closet, which is a partnership between the Hunter Mill District Supervisors Office and Cornerstones, offers winter coats for those in need since the program started in 2001.

Donations of new or gently-used winter coats, as well as hats, gloves, mittens and scarves are accepted. Items are needed for all ages.

The closet accepts donations at the Coat Closet, which is located at 1801 Cameron Glen Drive on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Individuals in need can get a coat from the closet at the North County Governmental Center through March 14.

For questions, email Cornerstones at [email protected] or call 571-323-1410.

Photo via Unsplash

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As winter approaches, Cornerstones in Reston asks the community to come forward and donate cold-weather gear for those in need.

The annual Winter Coat Closet Charity Drive, which started on Thursday (Nov. 14), collects new or lightly used jackets, hats, scarves and gloves for men, women and children.

People who want to donate or are in need of winter clothing can stop by the Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office (1801 Cameron Glen Drive) and ask for the community room on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The location will be collecting jackets until Jan. 16, but those in need can come collect gear through March 14.

Kids’ coats, as well as men’s XXL sizes, are in high demand, according to the drive’s website.

Anyone wanting to volunteer their time can contact Morgan Grant, Community Resource Coordinator, at 571-323-3674.

Photo via Unsplash 

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Herndon High School and Cornerstones have received $191,000 from the Virginia Department of Education, a grant that will allow the school to expand afterschool activities for at-risk students.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant will help the Herndon High School 21st Century Community Learning Center, which will provide afterschool programming to improve academic performance and support developmental wellbeing.

Students will receive guidance on college, careers, life skills, community involvement, and cultural awareness. An eight-week program will supplement the school-year program.

The program will be open to between 50 and 60 students. The success of the program will be measured through objectives like improved reading and math skills, increased family engagement, reduced dropout rate, and increased emotional and social learning competencies. Rising ninth-grade students will also be involved in the center.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education covers 32 percent of the total cost of the three-year program. Additional funding will be provided from the following community partners:

  • Herndon High School
  • Fairfax County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services
  • Cornerstones
  • Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services
  • Childcare Resources
  • Herndon United Methodist Church
  • Town of Herndon

Cornerstones will help develop the curriculum and activities for the project.

Photo via FCPS

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The Town of Herndon is working with Cornerstones to provide a free workshop for owners.

The workshop, which is set for Sunday, Oct. 6, will guide attendees through the many issues of owning and maintaining a home.

The event is set to take place at Herndon Community Center from 1-3 p.m. Contractors, housing specialists, real estate brokerage and attorneys will present information about preventive maintenance, home repairs, foreclosure prevention, and legal documents.

Attendees can RSVP by emailing [email protected]. Space is limited.

Cornerstones is a local nonprofit organization that helps resident overcome economic challenges.

Image via Google Maps

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The trio behind Reston Farmers Market was awarded for more than 20 years of community work. The managers received the Elly Doyle Park Service Award from the Fairfax County Park Authority.

From a program that gives dollars for low-income families to an initiative to reduce plastic waste, the managers have put on the market on Saturday mornings from April through December.

John Lovaas has managed the market for 22 years. His wife Fran Lovaas joined him after her retirement 16 years ago and Keith Strange joined the initiative a decade later.

Northern Virginia magazine featured their efforts in a recent article:

“Community service is probably the number one thing that sets them apart for this award,” says Mary Olien, site operations manager of the Fairfax County Park Authority. “They know the farmers and vendors very well, so they can promote the products in an honest way. They are highly respected, which makes for a very fun and organized market.” 

The market managers have worked with local nonprofit Cornerstones since 2012 to enable low-income families to use their SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the Reston Farmers Market. Plus, after all the shoppers have cleared out, vendors gather all of the untouched produce together and bring it to local shelters, decreasing food waste.

The managers partnered with Clean Fairfax to decrease plastic use by encouraging the use of reusable mesh bags. So far, five vendors have joined the sustainability initiative thus far.

FCPA established the Elly Doyle Park Service Award in 1988 to recognize the service of former ParkAuthority Board Chairman and member Ellamae Doyle. The award publicly recognizes a volunteer or group of volunteers for outstanding contributions to county parks.

Photo by John Lovaas

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Parents and students looking to prepare for the new school year can do so at the annual “Back 2 School Bash” next week.

The event, which is set for Saturday, Aug. 17, at South Lakes High School from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., is designed to be a one-stop destination to prep for the return to school.

Local schools, government entities and non-profit provides will be on-site to provide information and resources for local community members.

The bash is co-sponsored by Fairfax County Public Schools, Cornerstones, Reston Community Center, YMCA Reston and Fairfax County Neighborhood & Community Services.

The first day of school for FCPS is on Aug. 26.

File photo

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Several Reston communities will be holding special events to mark National Night Out, an annual campaign of solidarity against crime.

The nationwide, community-building campaign — which promotes policy-community relations and neighborhood camaraderie — is set for Tuesday August 6 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Activities include keeping the lights on all night outside to fun and games with local polie officers.

In particular, the Hunters Woods Neighborhood Coalition and Cornerstones are partnering up to host a kick off cook out at Hunters Woods Plaza from noon to 2 p.m.

The cook out is open to all and will take place on the plaza in front of the Reston Community Center.

More information about local events in the Reston area is expected to be released soon.

Neighborhoods interested in hosting an event are encouraged to register online.

Photo via FCPD

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Small Change Consignment, a relic of Reston’s history and Bob Simon’s vision for the community, is closing its doors at historic Lake Anne Plaza on Saturday.

The children’s consignment shop — home to hundreds of items and the hearts of consigning families — has cemented its role in the community as a place to buy used clothing and a community gathering place. On a recent Wednesday evening, customers and friends came in to say goodbye to owner Susann Gerstein, 70, who has operated the shop for the last 37 years.

A group of teenagers lined up empty hangers in rainbow form — an organizational style Gerstein loves. She spent most of the night on Tuesday packing away clothes and coordinating donation drop-offs with local nonprofits.

Not much has changed since three young mothers and friends  started the venture on Nov. 21, 1981 in the vacant offices of an optician across the lake. The friends embraced the dark interior — with its Marimekko wallpaper and lime green carpeting. Gerstein’s husband built wooden clothing stands. Gerstein stitched hand-sewn clothing tags.

The paint was still drying when the store first opened. From the first day, customers embraced the business as a place to buy used clothes, chat over the racks and build community. The store has averaged 1,200 consigning families annually.

Eighteen years later, the shop moved to its current location, giving it a bigger space to work with. Gerstein’s paper ledger and the same Rolodexes from its opening day sit on the counter.

“Friendships grow for me here and they’ve grown for me too,”Gerstein said. “That’s the hardest part of saying goodbye.” She said the store brought out the extroverted side of her otherwise introverted personality.

Rents, which had been steadily increasing over the years, skyrocketed this year, making it hard to make ends meet, Gerstein says.

“I tried and we just couldn’t make it work,” she said.

She describes herself as a Reston booster and a big believer in Simon’s vision. Her involvement with Cornerstones, a nonprofit organization that promotes self-sufficiency; the Reston Historic Trust & Museum; and other organizations is clear in the store. She was the founding president of the Reston Museum and helped found the Reston Historic Trust for Community Revitalization.

A Cornerstones donation jar sits on the counter and Gerstein often donates clothing to local nonprofits and domestic violence victims through various community partnerships.

Politics entered her shop following the November 2016 presidential election. Gerstein put up a sign, “Stop Tearing Families Apart” in the window of her storefront. She began selling “Hate Has No Home Here” signs. A fabric banner of children holding balloons — which was made by the friend in the original space — hangs from the ceiling. On weeknights, she tries to ride with members of Herndon-Reston Indivisible to hold lighted letters at the White House several times a month.

“I wanted my store to be a safe space for everyone. Some people didn’t like it but everyone knows where I stand,” Gerstein said.

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Cornerstones, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals overcome tough economic times, is hosting a forum on affordable housing next month for candidates running for the Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat

The event, which takes place on Monday, May 13 from 7-9 p.m. at Heritage Fellowship Church (2501 Fox Mill Road), was organized in response to the “housing affordability crisis” in Fairfax County, according to Cornerstones. More than 44 percent of renters and 22 percent of homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the county’s strategic plan.

Candidates for the Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat will answer questions about affordable housing and economic development in Fairfax County from a panel of businesses and community leaders. A meet and greet reception will follow the question-and-answer period at 8:30 p.m.

Rev. Debra Haffner of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston will moderate the event. The forum is free and open to all, but attendees should register online. Hunter Mill District residents can submit questions about affordable housing to [email protected]. Questions will be selected prior to the event.

The Hunter Mill District Supervisor election is set for June 11.

Photo by Reston Association

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The 28th annual Best of Reston Awards celebrated honorees for their philanthropy and volunteerism in the Reston and Herndon communities last Thursday night.

The event, held in partnership by Cornerstones and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, raised $504,660 for Cornerstones, a local non-profit. 

The honorees for 2019 are:

Del. Ken Plum said that he and State Sen. Janet Howell “always look forward to coming to Best of Reston, because, although we are heavily involved in the community, it always is the case when we come here we meet wonderful new people that we hadn’t known about.”

Photos via Chip McCrea Photography

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The finalists were recently announced for the 2019 Best of Reston Awards.

A reception hosted by Cornerstones, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and SOS International LLC (SOSi) on Tuesday (Feb. 19) unveiled the honorees.

An awards gala will take place on April 4 to celebrate the honorees:

SOSi presented Cornerstones with a $50,000 check at the event. The community nonprofit also received a $100,000 check from Bob and Lisa Van Hoecke.

Started nearly three decades ago, the annual Best of Reston Awards recognize individuals, businesses and community groups that have helped Reston and Herndon through philanthropy and volunteering.

The gala on April 4 is set to be held at the Hyatt Regency Reston (1800 Presidents Street).

Photo via Chip McCrea Photography

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Valentine’s Day is come and gone, but Scrawl Books plans to keep spreading love with a fundraiser this Sunday (Feb. 17).

The post-Valentine’s “Galentine’s Party” — which originated from an episode about female friendship on the show “Parks and Recreation” — will benefit Cornerstones and the Laurel Learning Program.

Authors Orly Konig and Erika Marks will discuss books, writing and life, according to the event description. The fundraiser will also have raffles and giveaways.

Interested? The fundraiser runs from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at 11911 Freedom Drive. Scrawl Books asks for a $10 suggested donation at the door.

Tomorrow (Feb. 16)

  • Raptors Up Close (11 a.m.-noon) — Locals can join naturalists at the Walker Nature Center for programs designed for a mix of ages. Participants will be able to take an exploratory hike, explore outside or participate in an indoor Nature House program to learn about the natural world. Costs range from $7 to $9 per person.
  • Glowing LED Artworks (2-3 p.m.) — Observe light and sculpture using LED’s, batteries and art materials. and then create your own at the Reston Regional Library. The event is for kids ages 6 to 11.
  • Astronomy Festival (6 p.m.) — The Observatory at Turner Farm Park in Great Falls will have guided stargazing, telescope viewing and listening to ancient stories about constellations around a campfire. Hot chocolate and snacks will also be available for purchase. The cost is $8 per person if you register online before the event and $10 at the door.
  • Stage Reading “Haint So” (7:30-9:30 p.m.) — The original work explores “the rich tradition of folklore, superstition and the mystical spirits of the dark mountains in Virginia,” according to the event description. Intrigued? Register for the ArtSpace Herndon event.

Sunday (Feb. 17)

  • Walk or run (8 a.m.) — Join the group for either a 3- or 6-mile walk, a 10-mile run or a 12-mile trail run. Bring your running shoes to the South Lakes Village Center.
  • Herndon Library Board Games (1-2:30 p.m.) — Adults are invited to play classic board games. No registration is necessary.
  • Full Moon Nature Hike and Campfire (5:30-7:30 p.m.) — Locals can explore nature while a naturalist guide will point out signs of creatures in the woods at Riverbend Park in Great Falls. Participants can enjoy a campfire with s’mores after the hike. The cost is $9 per person.

File photo

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A newly opened domestic violence action center in Herndon will provide free advocacy services every Friday.

Fairfax County recently announced that the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) began offering services last Friday (Feb. 1) at the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center (1086 Elden Street), which is a collaborative effort between the county, Cornerstones and the Connections for Hope Partnership.

“A crucial component for engaging victims in services is access to the necessary resources available to them,” Kevin Ochs, the advocacy services supervisor for the Fairfax County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, said in a press release.

The services, which will include an onsite victim advocate who speaks English and Spanish, will be available every Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some of the services DVAC offers are:

  • Court Attire Program with a selection of clothing for court hearings and job interviews
  • crisis intervention, emotional support and options counseling
  • education about the criminal and civil justice systems
  • emergency shelter
  • housing information and referrals
  • short-term case management

DVAC also has locations in Alexandria and Fairfax staffed by county agency and community nonprofit partners.

Locals’ heading to the DVAC location at the Historic Courthouse in Fairfax “presented challenges for victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking, with safety being a prominent issue,” according to the county.

Now, people can walk-in, make appointments and also call the Herndon location.

Image via Google Maps 

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