Two local service groups launched an outreach initiative on Tuesday (June 22) to help transport veterans to and from medical appointments.
The free service is being managed by the Reston-based Dulles Airport Transportation Association and its longtime partner NV Rides, a network of volunteer driver programs housed at the nonprofit Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.
With the initiative, the organizations hope to address one of the many issues that veterans face when seeking health care, exemplified by the cancellation of millions of medical appointments at Veterans Affairs medical facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although virtual visits have surged and vaccinations are rising, medical needs persist.
“The program hopes to harness the power of the special bonds that exist between the men and women who’ve selflessly served our country,” a press release announcing the launch says.
DATA and NV Rides were already collaborating to give veterans rides through their existing Veterans Connect program. This expansion is specifically dedicated to serving elderly veterans and those with disabilities.
Targeted toward veterans in Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties, the program is currently recruiting additional volunteer drivers, who can be veterans or other community members. Drivers utilize their own vehicles.
Interested individuals can visit the Veterans Connect Facebook page or contact Luke Frazza at [email protected] or 703-819-3459, and Karla Nativi at [email protected] or 571-455-2836 to volunteer or learn more.
“While veterans have long stepped up to support their brothers and sisters in arms, elderly veterans have told us they are more likely to take advantage of a volunteer ride provided by someone with whom they have literally or even figuratively shared a foxhole,” the press release said.
Before the pandemic, the NV Rides network provided about 1,100 rides per month to non-driving adults 55 and older, primarily in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, according to the group.
With stay-at-home orders last year, ridership declined by 60%, but partners continued to provide ride services to the most critical medical care appointments. Over the past year, ridership has bounced back, with the network providing over 1,500 rides last month, the organization says.
“We think this veteran-specific expansion of our NV Rides program will underscore our belief that our network provides ‘More than just a ride,'” NV Rides Manager Jennifer Kanarek said in a statement. “…Stories of joyful moments between volunteers and passengers are far more often the rule than the exception.”
The county is now offering a free weekend shuttle to and from its vaccine clinic on Route 1 in Alexandria. Other available transportation options include free taxi rides and rides for people 55 and older from the Shepherd’s Center.
In addition to the Veterans Connect program, DATA has also partnered with the nonprofit Northern Virginia Veterans Association to provide free rides to veterans for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, WDVM reported in May. That effort is being funded by an $80,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration.
“The feedback we’ve received from local veteran service organizations has been nothing but positive,” Veterans Connect Mobility Manager Luke Frazza said in a statement. “Support for the project has transcended those who served however, and garnered praise from across our community.”
(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Virginia’s lieutenant governor race is coming to Reston.
The nonpartisan community action group #RestonStrong is hosting a forum for the candidates running to succeed current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is vying to become governor, at Lake Anne Washington Plaza on Saturday (May 22) at 11 a.m.
#RestonStrong founder Sarah Selvaraj D’Souza says the group wanted to host the forum to help Reston residents learn how the lieutenant governor candidates address the issues they care about.
“The event is to educate and encourage citizen participation in the upcoming state election on matters impacting Restonians,” she told Reston Now.
Four candidates for lieutenant governor have confirmed their attendance at Saturday’s forum: former Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman, Del. Hala Ayala (D-Woodbridge), Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), and Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).
All lieutenant governor candidates were invited, and D’Souza says more may accept the invitation by Saturday.
The other contenders are Norfolk City Councilmember Andria McClellan (D), Arlington businessman Xavier Warren (D), independent Bobby Junes, and former state delegate and Marine veteran Winsome Sears, who clinched the Republican Party’s nomination for the position on May 11 after a convention.
The event will be held at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern with overflow seating at Café Montmartre. D’Souza says #RestonStrong chose those two local, minority-owned businesses as the venues to support them as they try to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those unable to attend in person, the forum will stream live on #RestonStrong’s website, Facebook, and Instagram, along with the Lake Anne Washington Plaza Facebook. The event will proceed rain or shine. To make reservations at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern, email [email protected] or call 703-707-0660.
Earlier: Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a hearing in March to discuss allowing Fairfax County Park Authority to sublease the 130-year-old, two-story, 3,300 square foot house at 2739 West Ox Road to ServiceSource as part of the county’s “Resident Curator Program.”
The terms of the lease allows the organization to transform the house into a “Community Integration Center” that would provide employment to its clients through an onsite café and handicrafts specialty store.
ServiceSource has programs across the country including theirs in Northern Virginia for more than 40 years, according to its website.
The sublease would be for 29 years.
The ServiceSource – the “resident curator” – has proposed rehabilitating “by making ADA-compliant improvements and incorporating green-building designs in a manner that respects the heritage, historic features and appearance of the property,” reads the board agenda.
Under the lease, the resident curator also agrees to provide ongoing maintenance and property upkeep for the next nearly three decades in exchange for rent-free use.
The Resident Curator Program is managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA). There are four properties in the program: Lahey Lost Valley in Vienna, Ash Grove also in Vienna, Hannah P. Clark House in Lorton, and Ellmore Farmhouse in Herndon.
In 2001, FCPA acquired Ellmore Farmhouse for inclusion in Frying Pan Park.
The house was first constructed in 1891 as a family home. William Ellmore, a prominent local politician who served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor, operated a dairy farm on the property as well until it was sold in 1945. It continued as a dairy farm for another decade before shutting down operations.
It went through several different owners, including a church, prior to being sold to FCPA.
Photo via Fairfax County Government
The Shepherd’s Center that serves Oakton, Vienna, Reston, and Herndon is no more.
The local nonprofit organization, which provides services to older adults, has merged with an affiliate in Great Falls to form the Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia (SCNOVA), the new organization’s interim executive director, Jayne Young, announced on Feb. 15.
Young says the Oakton/Vienna/Reston/Herndon Shepherd’s Center and Shepherd’s Center of Great Falls started exploring options to improve their reach and efficiency several months ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced nonprofits to reevaluate how they deliver services.
“Certainly, the pandemic has challenged us to find new ways of tackling most anything you can think of,” Young said in a letter. “For our Shepherd’s Center, that included taking a look at the way we meet our mission so we ensure that we continue delivering impactful services as efficiently as possible.”
The merger will give clients from the smaller Great Falls center access to more services, while combining the resources and volunteer networks of the two organizations, which are both affiliates of the Shepherd’s Centers of America.
Young says all Great Falls volunteers and clients will be transferred to SCNOVA, which will operate out of the existing Oakton/Vienna/Reston/Herndon facility at 541 Marshall Road in Vienna. Free transportation services will also still be provided to seniors in Great Falls.
The full transition is expected to be completed on Sunday (Feb. 28).
Founded in 1997, the Shepherd’s Center of Oakton-Vienna expanded to include the Reston and Herndon areas in 2019.
The nonprofit assists adults 55 and older with free transportation to medical and therapy appointments, food pick-up and delivery, minor home repairs, and health counseling and referrals. It also offers educational classes, luncheons, caregiver support groups, and other community programs.
“We are excited to begin 2021 with such good news!” Young said in her letter. “Working together, we hope to provide even better and more impactful services to seniors in Northern Virginia.”
Image via Google Maps
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
It has barely been 10 days since Fairfax County launched its annual Hypothermia Prevention Program, and it’s already clear that this winter will be unlike any other that Abby Dunner has experienced in her nearly decade-long work with the initiative.
Now the manager of the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, Dunner has been involved with the hypothermia prevention program since she was employed as a case manager and assistant by the nonprofit FACETS in 2012.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced Dunner and the other county and nonprofit officials who run the program to completely reengineer their operations, which were well-honed after 15 years of providing shelter for people in need during the coldest months of the year.
This year’s hypothermia prevention program, which started on Dec. 1 and runs through Apr. 1, 2021, must contend not only with the public health risks and social distancing protocols created by COVID-19, but also the looming threat of a surge in homelessness if emergency assistance measures end.
“We recognize the challenges and kind of the unique situation that we’re in, but everybody is also very much on board with understanding that the program has to continue,” Dunner said. “We have to still be able to shelter people who are experiencing homelessness.”
County officials and the nonprofit contractors that operate the hypothermia prevention shelters realized early on that they would have to make major changes to the program to make it viable this year.
Dunner says the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness collaborated extensively with the Fairfax County Health Department throughout the planning process. Health officials walked through each site and recommended ways to implement social distancing as much as possible.
Typically, the county relies on faith communities and nonprofits to host the actual shelters, which rotate between different locations every week, but the churches and other buildings usually utilized were too small to allow for the approximately 100 square feet of space sought per guest.
Dunner says the hypothermia prevention program generally serves about 1,200 people across its four months of operation, and roughly 215 people utilize the shelters each night.
Though only a handful of people stayed at the Container Store site for the first couple of nights, the shelter averaged about 26 guests over the program’s first seven days, reaching 40 people on Dec. 7 with numbers expected to continue rising, according to Dykes.
Individuals are given 100 square-foot spaces marked off by tape, and they are required to wear masks except when eating and sleeping in their space.
Shelter staff, who also must wear face coverings, administer temperature checks and wellness questionnaires when guests arrive. If someone records a high temperature or reports COVID-19 symptoms, they are directed to one of the Quarantine, Protection, Isolation and Decompression sites that Fairfax County has set up in local hotels, where they can be monitored and tested.
As of Dec. 9, the county has 445 rooms at six hotels for QPID shelter. 360 of them are occupied by 477 guests, only seven of whom were not experiencing homelessness upon admission, Fairfax County Health and Human Services reported.
In addition to housing people who are unable to isolate or quarantine safely in their own home, the QPID rooms could serve as overflow shelter if the county’s emergency shelters and hypothermia prevention sites run out of capacity.
FACETS Senior Director of Programs Carole Huell says Fairfax County could also revisit sites that were previously considered for the hypothermia prevention program, but a second location would require hiring more staff, something that was already a challenge.
The volunteers that the program normally relies on to staff the shelters are not involved this year, since they tend to be older and, therefore, at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 if exposed.
“There is a back-up plan [if shelters exceed capacity],” Huell said. “It’s just we hope we don’t have to get to that, because each agency that needs additional space for a facility will have to man that space, and that’s additional resources and funding necessary.”
According to Dunner, Fairfax County is already seeing evidence of the pandemic’s economic fallout, as new people enter an increasingly strained social safety system that had glaring deficiencies even before a deadly contagion entered the picture.
Dunner says the county is “very concerned” about the ripple effects of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium ending on Dec. 31, but even with the ban in place, evictions have not wholly stopped.
Still, both county and nonprofit workers believe they have prepared adequately for the season. They have also gotten support from partners in various faith communities, who are contributing food, clothing, and other donations in lieu of being able to serve as hosts and volunteers.
“We’re hoping that, based on the spaces that we’ve chosen and the way that we planned the program, we’ll be able to accommodate anyone who’s in need of shelter,” Dunner said.
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
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
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
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
Although the return to school will be atypical this year, a Reston-based nonprofit organization is seeking donations for its back-to-school drive.
Items requested include headphones, face bandanas, gloves, printers, hand sanitizers, lunch boxes, tissue, rulers, binders, and pens.
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
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
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.
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.
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
Fairfax County recently created a map pinpointing local groups looking for donations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The map allows users to find nonprofits and organizations within a specific region of Fairfax County so they can help people within their own communities.
Users can search for charities by the proximity to an address or by clicking on one from the general geographic overview.
The charities listed on the website are accepting items including personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, baby products and paper items, the page said. Throughout the county, 22,620 households are at or below the poverty level, according to the website.
Charities collecting monetary donations can be found on the webpage as well.
People can learn more about a charity by reading an overview from Volunteer Fairfax.
- The Shepherd’s Center of McLean-Arlington-Falls Church
- American Red Cross in the National Capital Region
- Blood Donor Services, Inova Health System
Image via Fairfax County