Upcoming Charity Pitch Contest in Reston to Benefit At-Risk Kids

A charity event later this month in Reston invites guests to hear from keynote speakers and vote for their favorite non-profit presentation.

Together We Give is an annual event that donates money to a local charity supporting kids. The fourth annual event will take place this year on Thursday (Oct. 17) from 6:30-9 p.m at the Leidos Conference Center (11951 Freedom Drive). Tickets cost $25.

The exact organization receiving the grant money will be decided that evening by attendees following pitches from Heeling House, Hispanics Against Child Abuse and Neglect and Kids R First. Funding will come from audience donations and ticket sales, according to the event page.

The keynote speech will be given by Victoria Vrana of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the event Facebook page said.

Together We Give is organized by Giving Circle of Hope, a Reston-based organization that focuses on small nonprofits in the Northern Virginia area.

Image via Giving Circle of Hope

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‘Hamilton and Peggy!’ Author to Speak in Reston Next Week

An author, history buff and former journalist will speak in Reston next week about her recent historical novel.

Laura Elliott will be at Sunrise Senior Living (1778 Fountain Drive) on Tuesday (Oct. 1) to give a presentation on her novel “Hamilton and Peggy!: A Revolutionary Friendship,” which explores the friendship between American historical figures Peggy Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton.

The event is part of “Creative Conversations” at the senior living facility, with similar talks scheduled through 2020, according to Connection Newspapers. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

Elliott began her writing career as a journalist and was a senior writer with Washingtonian where she said she wrote about women’s issues. Later in her career, she decided to become a novelist and has written nine novels so far, she told Reston Now.

She said she decided to write the novel after learning about their friendship — Peggy helped Hamilton by acting as a “wingman” to help Hamilton court her sister, Elizabeth.

Elliott said that many of her readers first became interested in the topic after hearing about the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

“It’s amazing how much history they fit into the musical,” Elliott said.

She will tailor the presentation to the audience, understanding that some of the seniors at the living community may be veterans, she said.

“The thing about seniors is that they know their history,” Elliott said. “I really do try to gauge what interest the audience most and leave time for questions.”

Looking forward to the future, Elliott said she is discussing with her publisher another book focusing on other prominent figures from the era. She told Reston Now she is considering writing a novel about John Laurens, who was a soldier during the Revolutionary War.

Photo via Facebook

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Save the Date: Community Yard Sale in Reston Next Saturday

Restonians can gather next Saturday (Sept. 21) for a community yard sale.

Attendees are welcome to buy or sell items from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot at 1900 Campus Commons Drive.

There will be around 80 booths at the event, according to the Reston Association.

Shoppers may swing by for free, but those wishing to sell items must preregister and pay a booth fee of $45 for Reston residents or $55 for participants who don’t live in the area. The fee includes the rental of two parking spaces. Tables, chairs and other equipment are not provided.

If it rains on the day of the event, the event page indicates that the yard sale will be rescheduled for Sunday, September 22.

Photo via Reston Association

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Proposed Fairfax Connector Changes to Impact Reston, Herndon Riders

A community meeting next week will tackle proposed Fairfax Connector changes that would impact riders in Reston and Herndon.

Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is seeking the public’s input on proposed service changes to six routes:

  • Route 396: a new route servicing Backlick North Park-and-Ride to the Pentagon
  • Route 306: GMU- Pentagon
  • Route 395: Gambrill-Pentagon Express
  • Route 640: Stone Road-Westfields Boulevard
  • Route 650: Chantilly
  • Route 950: Herndon-Reston

The proposed changes to the Herndon-Reston adjust the running time on Elden Street on Saturdays heading eastbound and westbound between 3-7 p.m.

FCDOT says that the proposed changes for all of the routes “will improve on-time performance.”

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the cafeteria at Eagle View Elementary School at 4500 Dixie Hill Road in Fairfax on Thursday, Sept. 19.

“In addition to the community meeting, Fairfax Connector staff will connect with customers, in-person throughout September, on routes that are affected by the proposed service changes,” according to FCDOT.

People can submit comments until Oct. 1. After reviewing the feedback, FCDOT plans to bring the proposed changes to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this fall.

If approved, riders can expect the changes to go into effect in January.

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Great China Takes Sign Down at North Point Village Center

Great China appears to have closed its doors for good at North Point Village Center.

The restaurant had its windows papered last week, according to a reader-submitted photo. As of today (Sept. 9), the sign is now gone at the restaurant’s spot at 1484 North Point Village Center.

The restaurant is no longer listed in the shopping center’s directory.

A building permit indicates that the address will be home to a new restaurant.

Hat tip to Laura Crielly

Second photo courtesy Laura Crielly

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Reston Residents Accuse Local ‘Music Man’ of Repeated Overcharging

Two Reston families said they’ve been waiting months to get their money back after suing a music school for “random” credit card charges.

Michele Chesser said that she learned about District Music Academy from a parent-teacher association event last June at a Reston school and signed up her daughter, who “loves music and trying new things,” for a free lesson.

“It was a good lesson,” Chesser said. “What I liked about District Music Academy is they come to the house. We don’t have to go anywhere.”

At first, she said she communicated mostly with the piano teacher who would come to the house. Then the business owner reached out later in the fall to let her know that the teacher had left and would be replaced by a new one.

A couple of months later, she noticed the company was double-billing her credit card for the lessons, charging her at the beginning and end of the month. In total, according to court documents, District Music Academy overcharged her $1,260.

Chesser said she contacted business owner Jeffrey Levin in November, and he took her credit card off of automatic billing, telling her that it was a billing mistake that was taking care of caused the issue.

In December, he offered to give her credit toward future classes, but Chesser declined, saying the amount he offered was incorrect.

At that point, Chesser said there was one lesson left that she had paid for. When that lesson came around on Dec. 28 at 3:10 p.m., Chesser said that the teacher never showed up — upsetting both her and her daughter.

“After a month of emailing and calling him, I realized he wasn’t going to do anything about it,” she said, so she contacted her credit card company, which was able to credit her two out of the five months of double billing. She decided to try to recover the rest of the money in court.

Earlier this year, she tried to serve Levin his court summons three times, finally resorting to a process server, according to court records. The judge heard the case in May and ordered Levin to pay the full amount.

But as of August, Chesser said she hasn’t gotten the money back.

“I don’t think I’ll ever see my money again,” she said.

The Breakdown

District Music Academy offers private in-home lessons, after school programs, entertainment for retirement communities in the D.C. area and other services, according to its website.

Chesser is not the only one in Reston who has sued Levin’s company for unwanted credit card charges in small claims court.

Anjia Nicolaidis told Reston Now that her daughter started ukulele and voice lessons once a month in February 2018 and the family scheduled lessons through August.

For a family with two full-time working parents, she said that District Music Academy seemed like a convenient solution, adding there are “not a lot of companies offering that in-home instruction in the immediate area.”

But by July of that year, Nicolaidis noticed double charges and “random charges.” When she reached out to Levin, “first there was some delay in getting him to acknowledge that our records and the teacher’s record were consistent,” she said.

“We asked for that reimbursement and gave him a number of opportunities to give it to us,” Nicolaidis told Reston Now, adding that Levin at first offered to make up the amount with credits to future lessons. After she declined the offer, the discussion over repayment broke down.

According to court records, Nicolaidis emailed Levin back on Sept. 10, writing:

As of this morning, September 10, 2018 you have not refunded the money you owe us. It has been a week since we received your email indicating you would process the refund. We have been corresponding about this issue for nearly two months…

We feel victimized and are in contact with other families that have had the same experience with District Music Academy.

Levin responded via email the same day, saying, “We have resolved all issues with our credit card system, but the process to refund the money is taking longer than expected. If it is acceptable to you, I can mail you a check today for the money due so that you can receive the fund more quickly.”

Nicolaidis said Levin never sent the check and she hasn’t heard from him since.

Taking Levin to Court

Early this year, Nicolaidis took Levin to court and the judge ordered him to pay to $1,526 with 6% interest starting Feb. 15.

“We still have no compensation to date,” she said as of Friday.

Records from the General District Courts for Fairfax and Loudoun counties indicate that 11 other people have individually sued Jeff Levin, District Music Academy, or Sebbie Enterprises — a limited liability company started by Levin — since 2014 for alleged unpaid debts.

The judges sided with the plaintiffs in two cases in Loudoun and four in Fairfax — totaling $11,842 in damages. One case in the Loudoun General District Court is still pending.

In one of the Fairfax cases, a judge sided with a Great Falls family suing Levin for $960 after the business owner wrote them on Nov. 5 that he was “waiting on long overdue vendor payments from our retirement communities and it has put us in a tight spot” and offered to pay back the money by hand-delivering a check for the $960 on Nov. 9, per court records.

Levin told Reston Now that the Nicolaidis and Chesser families and one in Great Falls have all been repaid.

“Also, we no longer process credit cards in house,” Levin said. “More than 90% of our clients pay by check and the remaining clients use our online system to input their own payments after receiving and approving an invoice.”

Today, there are about 30 former contractors and families are sharing their experiences with the company and its owner in a private Facebook group called District Music.

“Part of the reason the Facebook group has been such an important resource for everybody who is on it [is] we can compare notes and learn from each other,” Nicolaidis said.

Disharmony Within District Music Academy

Five former contractors spoke to Reston Now on the condition of anonymity, citing a non-disparagement clause in their contracts. The workers alleged that District Music Academy paid them less than it promised, paid late, and in some cases didn’t pay at all.

“I was never objecting to how much I was getting paid,” one former contractor told Reston Now. “I was objecting to not getting paid.”

The contractor alleged that Levin has yet to pay wages for three months of work over the summer of 2018.

Another former contractor who played gigs at retirement communities said that Levin would blame payroll problems on complex invoices and the retirement communities not paying on time.

A third contractor told Reston Now that Levin still hasn’t paid the several hundred dollars owed from their brief work with the company.

“I smelled the BS almost immediately,” the contractor said, adding that the lack of lesson plans and the “promise of ‘next week it would change'” concerned them.

“Regarding the contractors, I’d be happy to review their invoices with them,” Levin said, in response to a question from Reston Now about the allegations. “We now pay our contractors the day of their events or lessons so that there are no issues regarding payments.”

“We do great work in [the] community and my intent is [to] continue to build good relationships and to mend any fences where needed with past customers and contractors,” Levin said.

The contractors who spoke with Reston Now said that Levin ran his music business from two separate apartments in Reston. Today, District Music Academy lists an Ashburn address.

Levin is also the founder of Bach to Rock, a chain of musical schools that lists 39 locations across 18 states and D.C. on its website.

“Jeff Levin started the original Bethesda school that we acquired and used to launch our Bach to Rock business,” Angela Sakell, the vice president of marketing and operations for Bach to Rock, told Reston Now. “He was involved in the business in the early years before moving on to other interests and isn’t currently involved in running the business today.”

Image via District Music Academy/YouTube

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Herndon-Reston FISH Names New Executive Director

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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Kageyama to Discuss ‘Love for Reston’ in September at CenterStage

Author Peter Kageyama dives into his love of Reston during a special event at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage in September.

Kageyama, the author of “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Place,” will discuss how Reston exemplifies his ideal.

The event is set for Saturday, September 7 at 8 p.m.

Kayegama’s book explores the “mutual love affair between people and their places,” according to the book’s descriptions.

Here’s more about the book:

The mutual love affair between people and their place is one of the most powerful influences in our lives, yet rarely thought of in terms of a relationship. As cities begin thinking of themselves as engaged in a relationship with their citizens, and citizens begin to consider their emotional connections with their places, we open up new possibilities in community, social and economic development by including the most powerful of motivators–the human heart–in our toolkit of city-making. The book explores what makes cities lovable, what motivates ordinary citizens to do extraordinary things for their places and how some cities, such as New Orleans, Detroit, and Cleveland are using that energy to fill in the gaps that “official” city makers have left as resources have disappeared. Meet those amazing people who are truly “in love” with their cities and learn how they are key to the future development of our communities.”

Tickets are $15 for Reston residents and $20 for all others. The box office is open from 4-9 p.m. on Thursday, August 1 for residents and employees of business in Small District 5 to purchase tickets. Sales will open up to the public and online on Thursday, August 8 at 4 p.m.

Photo via Reston Community Center

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Where to Find Fourth of July Festivities Around Reston

The Fourth of July is coming up next Thursday, and several festivities are planned nearby.

Here’s where to head in Reston, Herndon and Great Falls for Independence Day events.

Reston July 4th Celebration

Lake Newport Recreation area (11601 Lake Newport Road); noon-4 p.m.

A precursor to fireworks, this free event will include a DJ, contests and pool time. Pizza, popcorn and cotton candy will be available to purchase.

Firecracker 5K for the Troops

Reston Town Center (11911 Democracy Drive); starts at 8 a.m.

The annual race is now in its 10th year. Refreshments and live music will be offered. There will be cash awards for the top three men and women finishers ($300, $200, $100) as well as $100 for the top master runners.

Fourth of July Hometown Celebration and Parade

Great Falls Village Centre Green (776 Walker Road); 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

Great Falls has a packed schedule for its Independence Day celebrations, including a 5K starting at 8 a.m.; two parades — a kids’ parade at 9 a.m. and the main parade at 10 a.m.; and food, games and a magic show from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Fireworks will start at 6 p.m. at Turner Farm Park (925 Springvale Road).

Town of Herndon’s Independence Day Celebrations

Bready Park softball field (814 Ferndale Avenue); start at 6:30 p.m.

The free, family-friendly events kick off with games, kids’ crafts and bingo at 6:30 p.m. Then, the ’80s cover band Guys In Thin Ties will perform at 7:15 p.m. The fireworks show begins at 9:30 p.m. Food will be available to purchase from vendors.

Photo by Elisha Terada on Unsplash

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Fairfax County Police Investigating Mob Assault in Reston

Fairfax County police are investigating a mob assault in a residential Reston neighborhood by the Hidden Creek Country Club.

The incident occurred around 10:45 p.m. on Saturday (June 1) in the 1700 block of Torrey Pines Court.

Police said the victim heard loud knocks on the front door and saw a group of 15 men running away from the house. “The victim ran after the group when they turned around [and] assaulted the victim,” according to police.

“The group of men were described as black with white shirts and dark pants,” according to the police report.

The victim received minor injuries, police said.

Image via Google Maps

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After Firefighters Help with Delivery, Baby’s First Birthday Party Held at Fire Station

Happy birthday to 1-year-old Lauryn, who local firefighters and paramedics in Reston helped deliver last year.

Last year, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue members from Station 39 B-Shift in North Point received a call to help deliver a baby girl at a local home shortly before 11 p.m.

After the birth, the mother and baby were transported to an area hospital, and the paramedics and firefighters continued working for the rest of the night.

Fast forward one year later and the family of baby Lauryn reached out to the members from Station 39 to join in the birthday celebration.

The birthday bash included a “Happy First Birthday Lauryn” sign outside the fire station, two cakes with one of them shaped like a miniature fire truck, balloons and a photo shoot with Lauryn and mom by a fire truck.

“Cake, balloons and Lauryn’s big sister, who was a big help during the delivery, were all part of the celebration,” the fire department posted.

Photos via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue 

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Hotel coming to Reston Station — “Comstock Holdings Cos. Inc. has closed a franchise agreement with Marriott International Inc. to bring a Renaissance hotel to Reston Station… The hotel building, to be topped by 80 luxury condominium units, is expected to deliver in 2022 on a site bounded by Reston Station Boulevard, Wiehle Avenue and Sunset Hills Road. It is being designed by Nunzio Marc DeSantis Architects.” [Washington Business Journal]

Crash caused lane closures — Commuters heading on Fairfax County Parkway by West Ox Road last night around 6 p.m. may have noticed a multi-car crash that closed two southbound lanes on the parkway for about half of an hour. All of the lanes opened up shortly before 7 p.m. [Fairfax County]

Reston makes “hottest up-and-coming” list — Reston was included in the Northern Virginia Magazine’s annual roundup of neighborhoods to keep an eye on in Northern Virginia. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Make dip dye scarves — Tonight from 7-9 p.m. at ArtSpace Herndon, you can learn how to make dye scarves and some basic Shibori style folding and binding methods. [ArtSpace Herndon]

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Something to Bark About: Fur Factory Celebrates 37 Years of Business in the New Tall Oaks Village

Since 1982 The Fur Factory has been grooming the Reston region’s canines.

Even Dawn Caicedo, the Reston resident who has owned the shop since 2005, can’t imagine how many dogs — and how much fur — have been shorn in the Tall Oaks Village Center shop, both in her previous location at the center and her new location in the recently remodeled retail building at 12054 North Shore Drive.

The number of satisfied clients — both human and otherwise — are legion, and the confidence in the groomers comes from the years of experience each has put into the craft. The groomer at the Fur Factory with the least amount of time in the trade has 83 dog years of beautifying just about any breed to their credit (that’s 15 “human” years).

The Fur Factory experience begins with a shampoo bath — oatmeal, medicated, hypoallergenic and others — before towel and blow drying (depending on the desired look). The finishing includes brushing, combing, de-shedding (when needed), nail trim and sanitary trims.

Others will want the full haircut, and the Fur Factory’s experienced staff of certified groomers is skilled in the standard look for all breeds, as well as happily following the styling from a photograph.

A community staple, The Fur Factory is located in Reston’s Tall Oaks development and is one of the most valued amenities of the neighborhood. The Fur Factory’s early hours (7:30 a.m., Tuesday to Friday; 8 a.m. Saturdays) accommodate many dog owners’ schedules.

Tall Oaks Village Center is undergoing an exciting transformation as Stanley Martin Homes plans a mix of residential developments that will include townhomes and condominiums, as well as a landscaped plaza which will provide a central community gathering place between the residential area and retail offerings.

Additionally, the recently renovated commercial and retail buildings offer several new and unoccupied professional office and retail suites that are available for lease from 1,290 to 5,430 square feet.

Located less than one mile from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, Tall Oaks Center is conveniently situated in North Reston, at the intersection of Wielhe Avenue and North Shore Drive.

For Tall Oaks Village Center office or retail space leasing information, call Ty Hausch at 703-272-2680 or send an email to [email protected]The Fur Factory is located at 12054 North Shore Drive, Suite 100D, in Reston. To schedule an appointment, call 703-437-7794 or send an email to [email protected].

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Musician Luke Brindley to Perform Friday for Deepwood Sessions

Luke Brindley will bring folk rock and acoustic guitar music to the Deepwood Sessions, a series of house concerts hosted in Reston, this Friday (March 8).

Based in Virginia, Brindley is a fingerstyle guitarist and singer-songwriter. He also runs with his brothers a music venue, bar and cafe in Vienna called Jammin Java.

He released the “Dream Songs EP” in 2018.

The 7 p.m. show asks attendees each for a $15 minimum donation. Each concert for the Deepwood Sessions has a suggested minimum donation, which goes to directly to the artist.

According to the website, the series hosts its acoustic and unplugged concerts featuring independent artists with a variety of styles and musical genres.

RSVP-ing in advance is strongly recommended.

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Mascot Books Shares Favorite Books by Local Authors

Looking for some reading suggestions? Mascot Books has some recommendations for books by local authors.

The full-service hybrid book publishing company (620 Herndon Parkway #320) started in 2003 with a self-published book about a collegiate mascot. Since then, it has published more than 2,500 fiction, nonfiction, children’s and cookbooks since then, according to its website.

Reston Now asked Mascot Books to share some favorite books about Reston or written by local authors. Here’s what the staff recommended, along with reasons for why they are worth reading.

“Ruby Foo and the Traveling Kitchen: Finding the Foo Identity” by Tiffany Foo

Description: Ruby Foo may seem like your middle schooler, but in the kitchen, she turns into a culinary superhero called the Fantastic Foo! When a mysterious photograph leads her out of her own kitchen and into her grandfather’s, she must use her culinary skill and courage to uncover some long-hidden secrets about her family’s storied past.

Why we love it: Part history, part culinary adventure (and including several kid-friendly recipes!), “Ruby Foo” is perfect for chefs of all ages — she is as smart as she is fearless and is a great role model for middle school-age kids. Tiffany Foo is a Herndon resident.

“Reston A to Z” by Watt Hamlett

Description: “Reston A to Z” takes young readers on a tour of America’s first modern planned community. Guided by Robert E. “Bob” Squirrel (reminiscent of Reston’s beloved founder, Robert E. Simon), readers will undoubtedly recognize the town’s many landmarks in the photos of the places, activities and nature that make Reston a treasure to families.

Why we love it: Reston was one of the first planned communities in the state, and “Reston A to Z” does a great job not just showing off the local sites, but also talking about the history of this great town. We particularly love the piece about the town center — it’s amazing to see how it’s changed! Hamlett is a Reston resident.

“Hoos in the Kitchen” by Melissa Palombi

Description: Inspired by the flourishing food scene and endless pride of the University of Virginia, “Hoos in the Kitchen” features more than sixty recipes from members of the UVA community. This collection is perfect for UVA fans everywhere, with recipes designed to incorporate Virginia-based ingredients to those of international origins.

Why we love it: Melissa grew up in Reston and moved to Charlottesville to work for the University of Virginia. Hoos in the Kitchen does a great job of showing the local culture and community through food. We’d love to see a “Reston Kitchen” cookbook one day, too! Palombi was raised in Reston.

Photos via Mascot Books

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