Reston, VA

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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Volunteers coordinate donations to Shelter House, Inc.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in what some local advocates and law enforcement officials are calling a pandemic within a pandemic for domestic violence victims.

In Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Police Department reported a slight uptick in calls related to domestic abuse. Following statewide orders to remain at home when possible, the average number of monthly calls jumped from 158 in February to 191 in April.

Between then and July, that number remained near the upper 190s, with a high of 200 calls in July and 200 calls in September, according to FCPD data released to Reston Now.

More victims are coming forward with serious injuries than before the pandemic, particularly strangulation attempts and the types of weapons used.

Efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 have also presented new challenges for police officers who cannot have face-to-face contact with victims.

“It has been stressed from the very beginning of the pandemic to be aware of domestic issues that arise from long hours confined in a home,” FCPD Sergeant Hudson Bull said.

Officers adapted to the new safeguards but still respond to calls in progress utilizing personal protective equipment and social distancing to ensure victims of crime are safe,” he added.

The Fairfax County Department of Family Services reported a 28 percent increase in the number of monthly calls to the county’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline. Since then, the numbers have stabilized, according to Angela Yeboah, a project coordinator for the department’s domestic violence action center.

Emotional and psychological abuse also has been used as a tactic to keep victims in the home and fearful that if they leave, they will have limited housing and economic options due to the pandemic,” she said.

But at Shelter House, Inc., a Reston-based nonprofit organization that offers services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence, advocates have seen a different story.

The nonprofit organization reports a significant decrease in the number of calls since the pandemic began — a silence that concerned many service providers.

“We believe that this initial decrease was a direct result of stay-at-home orders and victims not being able to find safety from their abusive partner in order to reach out for help,” said Terrace Molina, the organization’s marketing and communications manager.

Now, Shelter House, Inc. is seeing case counts return to their previous levels. But the type of abuse is more severe as more victims enter the shelter. More serious injuries were also reported, Molina said.

She says victims need our support “now more than ever.”

High rates of unemployment and added pressures of children attending school virtually have produced more stressors for victims.

For victims who are in our emergency shelter or other programs, maintaining employment has been a challenge, particularly while also tending to the needs of children who are attending school virtually,” she said

Advocates hope to bring more awareness about the issue in light of domestic violence month, which happens in October.

Shelter House operates the county’s only 24/7 emergency hotline for victims of domestic violence, stalking and human trafficking. Individuals in need of help can call 703-435-4940. A domestic violence detective and a victim services specialist are also assigned to each district station. Anyone in immediate danger should call 911.

Photo courtesy Shelter House

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With more residents spending time at home, local and regional nonprofits are being a surge in drop-off donations.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, The Closet of Greater Herndon, a nonprofit organization in the Town of Herndon, has seen a spike in the number of cars arriving with items to donate to its store.

To meet growing demand in an efficient manner, The Closet has launched a new donation and drop-off center.

The center was constructed in collaboration with HomeAid Northern Virginia, which builds and renovates homeless shelters and supportive housing facilities.

“This is a different project than perhaps what is ‘typical’ for our work with HomeAid,” said Jack Gallagher, division president, Mid-Atlantic region, for Richmond American Homes. “But The Closet is a partner organization in need of construction support, and their general mission is well aligned with the same community we serve.”

Here’s more from The Closet on the project:

Led by HomeAid Northern Virginia, construction of the donation center was already fortuitously underway when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, closing the store and slowing the construction process. Through deliberative and creative coordination, HANV worked with its building partners to deploy small crews of essential construction workers at different time intervals to move the project forward. The opening of the new donation center was ultimately (if not intentionally) well-timed to “the great decluttering.”

The uptick in donated items expands the ability of The Closet to support local Northern Virginia nonprofits. Founded by local churches/faith-based organizations 25+ years ago, The Closet’s profits supports local organizations such as Shelter House, Cornerstones, Fellowship Square, and Helping Hungry Kids. The Closet also provide clothing and other household goods free to families and individuals referred from several Fairfax County public and private human service agencies, as well as awards annual scholarship grants to select students from five area schools in Fairfax and Loudoun counties (South Lakes, Herndon, Oakton, Park View & Mountain View High Schools).

The architecture of the structure draws inspiration from the Town of Herndon’s railroad history and the Washington & Old Dominion railroad, which is just steps away from the facility.

Photos via The Closet

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The board chair of Shepherd’s Center was recently honored with the Hunter Mill District Community Champion Award.

Bill Farrell was selected by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which recognized one individual for their commitment to promoting volunteerism in the community.

Farrell began working with the center when he began volunteering as a driver in 2006. Over the past five years, Farrell took on many positions, including treasurer and the chair of several committees. He joined the Board of Directors in 2008.

Here’s more from the center on Farrell’s work and contributions:

W. Scott Schroth, SC Co-Vice Chair, Board of Directors, noted that “Bill’s calm and thoughtful leadership not only drew me into service with the Shepherd’s Center as a volunteer, but quickly enticed me to join the talented volunteer Board of Directors. He is a pleasure to work with, collegial, and dedicated to our mission. I’m honored to call him a friend and proud of the work he does on our behalf in the local community.”

Bill’s dynamic and friendly leadership style has transformed SC into a leading local charitable organization, recognized and honored both locally and regionally for outstanding community service. Bill was also recognized and selected for a national leadership position with Shepherd’s Centers of America where he served as national treasurer for six years. Bill provides the organization with strategic leadership, prudent financial management, and an infectious desire to help others.

Shepherd’s Center is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving quality of life as individuals’ age.

Photo via Shepherd’s Center

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Although the return to school will be atypical this year, a Reston-based nonprofit organization is seeking donations for its back-to-school drive.

Shelter House, which is located at 12310 Pinecrest Road, has created an Amazon-based wish list. All donations for the Shelter House should be directed to the Shelter House.

Items requested include headphones, face bandanas, gloves, printers, hand sanitizers, lunch boxes, tissue, rulers, binders, and pens.

Anyone who wishes to arrange more specific deliveries can contact [email protected] Monetary donations are also accepted online.

Founded in 1981, Shelter House is a nonprofit organization that offers crisis intervention, housing, and supportive services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence in the community.

Photo by Tim Guow/Unsplash

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Friday Morning Notes

A Reminder about School-required Immunizations — Immunizations remain mandatory for school enrollment.  The Fairfax County Health Department is offering nine additional community childhood vaccination clinics and has also expanded office hours. [Fairfax County Government]

Columbus Day Renamed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day — “The Fairfax County School Board has voted to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the previously approved 2020-21 Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) school year calendar as well as the yet-to-be approved 2021-22 school year calendar. The 2021-22 calendar is scheduled to be adopted in September.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Herndon Company Operates New Satellite Technology — “HawkEye 360, a radio frequency (RF) data analytics company based in Herndon, operates a first-of-its-kind commercial satellite constellation to identify, process and geo-locate a broad set of RF signals especially for defense, security and intelligence missions. John Serafini, chief executive officer, spoke to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority about HawkEye 360, including the applications of its satellite technology operations, hiring projections, and why Fairfax County is a great place for the company’s headquarters.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Transportation Service for Oakton, Vienna, Reston and Herndon Residents Returns — “The Board of Directors of Shepherd’s Center serving Oakton-Vienna-Reston-Herndon (SC) has announced that their face-to-face medical and companion transportation service are now being offered.  Due to virus safety concerns for their clients and volunteers, SC had put that service temporarily on hold. If you are a current client and you live in Oakton, Vienna, Reston or Herndon, SC is available to, once again, provide this invaluable service for seniors.” [Shepherd’s Center]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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After receiving thousands of applications, Fairfax County officials want to add funds to its grant program to support more small businesses and nonprofits facing financial turmoil from the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will consider spending $20 million to expand Fairfax RISE, according to the draft agenda for the meeting.

The county board originally made the grant program in May with $25 million from funds through the CARES Act. Businesses can receive the following amounts based on the number of employees:

  • 1-10: $10,000
  • 11-25: $15,000
  • 26-49: $20,000

The county is especially trying to help women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses stay in business during the pandemic.

Of the 6,280 applications the county received in June, 6,038 qualified for funding, meaning the county would need more than $60 million to support all of them, according to the county.

“As the Grant Program was oversubscribed, a random selection was used to determine the order of processing for all applicants,” according to county documents.

The county invited 2,183 applicants — 36% of the total qualified applicants — to submit documentation and start the certification process. The county documents say that some businesses that qualified during the first review phase may become disqualified in the second review phase if they don’t meet the documentation requirements or don’t respond.

Now, the county wants to expand the program to hopefully fund approximately 65%-80% of the applicants by adding $20 million from the county.

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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

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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.

County-wide:

Reston:

Herndon:

Image via Fairfax County

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High School can be a difficult time for many teens, but three high school students living in Reston began their sharing experiences through a podcast in hopes of empowering others.

The Epic Theory” began under three South Lakes High School Juniors named Anastasia Vlasova, Esha Pathi and Hannah Giusti in July of 2019. Since then, the students have produced 15 episodes of the podcast that are available for free on Spotify and other apps, according to the website.

The podcast is “focused on self-growth, venturing outside of our comfort zones, finding passion and uplifting the global community,” the students wrote in an email to Reston Now.

What began as a “curiosity-driven summer project” turned into so much more as the girls said they began to attract international followers.

In the last several months, the team built a relationship with the CORE Foundation, a non-profit that helps social entrepreneurs achieve their goals. The group is helping to boost the podcast, according to the girls.

“In addition to recording our authentic, existential conversations, we have hosted a “Dream Big” event at a local elementary school, during which we interacted with sixth graders and encouraged them to pursue their dreams,” the girls said. “We explained to them the power of brainstorming solutions in pursuit of their dreams, as they will inevitably experience obstacles.”

During the event, the trio said they helped the kids embrace optimism about their future and the power of their individual voices.

The girls were actually planning yet another upcoming “dream big” event but unfortunately had to cancel it due to concerns over COVID-19.

“But we are still moving forward with recording podcast episodes and solidifying our status as a non-profit,” the girls said about the forced cancelation. “We are using this time to brainstorm, update our website, share social media content, and record podcast episodes.”

In the latest episode of “The Epic Theory,” Vlasova hosted the podcast by herself since the girls decided to voluntarily self-quarantine. She spoke about what it means to “live your best life” during quarantine and shared tips about how to feel fulfilled during this time.

“The whole idea of stagnancy really freaks me out, and that’s why I am so motivated and eager to learn and try new things,” Vlasova said, adding that she tries to never plateau in her quest for knowledge. To avoid boredom during this time, she said she is always reading new articles or researching cool ideas.

“As news of COVID-19 is occupying most of today’s media coverage, we would love a chance to shine light on what we, as teenagers, are doing to positively contribute to the world,” the students said.

Image via The Epic Theory/Instagram

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The NOVA Relief Center is hosting a blanket and coat drive for Syrian refugees. The Hunter Mill District Office is once again collecting blankets and coats for the drive beginning Nov. 23 through Dec. 9.

All items will be shipped free of charge to three refugee camps in Jordan this winter.

Locally, donations can be dropped off at the Hunter Mill District Office (1801 Cameron Glen Drive), as well as at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(1515 Poplar Grove Drive in Reston and 2727 Centreville Road in Herndon).

Other drop-off locations are also available online.

The center accepted clean items that are new or in gently-used condition. Sweaters and sweatshirts are also welcome. Gloves, hats and scarves must be in new condition only.

More information about the drive is available online.

Photo via NOVA Relief Center

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Friday Morning Notes

Britepaths Seeks Volunteers — The Fairfax-based nonprofit organization is seeking volunteers to sponsor families in need throughout the county. Sponsors are matched with families and may opt to provide a December holiday meal and gifts for children under 18. [Britepaths]

First African American Appointed as State Fire Marshal — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced the selection of Virginia’s new State Fire Marshal, Garrett Dyer. Garrett Dyer will oversee the law and code enforcement branch of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP), and lead more than 28 inspectors and administrative support staff. The Virginia State Fire Marshal’s role is to implement and enforce the fire code.[Office of the Governor]

Toy Drive in Reston Town Center Kicks Off This Month — RTC’s “Toys for Tots” drive will run from the last week of November through the first week of December. The program is held in partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Toys will be collected in building lobbies. [Reston Town Center]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Herndon-Reston FISH, an organization that helps Reston and Herndon residents with short-term financial crises, has the new executive director.

The nonprofit’s Board of Directors announced at a recent annual meeting that Mary Saunders will fill the role, which was vacated when Lisa Groves stepped down at the end of June, according to a press release.

Saunders was previously the development director for Volunteer Fairfax and has been active in the area from serving as a former festival director for Reston’s Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival to a board member of the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center.

“As Herndon-Reston FISH celebrates is 50th anniversary, we are pleased to announce that Mary Saunders of Reston as our new Executive Director” Robert Reed, the board’s president, said. “A local resident for many years, she comes to us with great experience in management and development of nonprofit organizations in our area.”

Speaking on behalf of the board, Reed added, “We very much appreciate Groves’ service to FISH over the past five years and as a board member and volunteer prior to that.”

Photo 1 via Herndon-Reston FISH/Facebook, photo 2 via Mary Saunders/LinkedIn

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It’s been 50 years since Herndon-Reston FISH began helping Herndon and Reston residents in short-term financial crisis.

The organization, which has an acronym stands for friendly, instant sympathetic help, will celebrate its past successes and preview plans for the future at a public meeting on Monday, July 15.

The meeting takes from at Dominion Energy Offices, which are located at 3072 Centreville Road), from noon to 2 p.m.

Attendees will get the change to meet the organization’s new executive director, Mary Saunders. Local high school students will offer entertainment and light refreshments will also be provided.

HRFISH was founded in 1969 to provide emergency financial assistance to residents, including rent, critical dental care and medical prescriptions.

Short-term assistance “averts evictions that could lead to homelessness, prevents health problems from escalating, keeps the electricity on and the water running, and helps to ensure our neighbors’ well-being and stability are preserved,” according to the organization.

Photo via Herndon-Reston FISH/Facebook

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A blanket and coat drive for refugees fleeing Syria kicks off on Saturday (Nov. 10). The drive, which is organized by the NOVA Relief Center, will run through Dec. 8.

Donations collected this year will go to three refugee camps in northern Jordan, with shipping costs covered by Paxton Van Lines and Maersk.

Drop-off locations are available throughout the region. Options in Herndon and Reston include the following:

  • Office of Supervisor Cathy Hudgins North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive)
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1515 Poplar Grove Drive) – Sundays only
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Franklin building (2727 Centerville Rd. Herndon, VA 20171) – Sundays only
  • Oak Hill Elementary School 3210 Kinross Circle Herndon, Virginia Town of Herndon Town Hall (777 Lynn Street Herndon)
  • The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (3301 Hidden Meadow Drive)
  • Congregation Beth Emeth (12523 Lawyers Road) 

All sizes and fabric are accepted for the blanket and coat drive, but items must be clean and in new or gently-used condition. Interested residents can also donate funds for the drive, allowing the center to purchase high-quality blankets and coats in bulk and at non-profit discounts.

The drive is in its fifth year of operation. NOVA Relief Center is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of life for refugees abroad and in northern Virginia.

Photo via NOVA Relief Center

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