A driver and rider participating in NV Rides’ free transportation program (courtesy NV Rides)

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.”

Researchers have found that transportation can be a major barrier to accessing health care, a concern that has persisted in Fairfax County’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

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.”

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After a year off, the two-decade-old Ride of the Patriots in Fairfax is back and ready to rumble.

With the 2020 iteration canceled due to the pandemic, the Memorial Day weekend event and ride is returning to the D.C. area, but it will be scaled down a bit compared to previous years.

It will take place Friday (May 28) through Sunday (May 30) starting at Patriot Harley-Davidson on Fairfax Boulevard in Fairfax.

There will be vendors, food trucks, an appearance from the “Saluting Marine,” and a gathering of bikers.

There will also be two rides, each limited to 225 riders. On Saturday, the ride will begin at 11 a.m., and on Sunday, it will depart from Patriot Harley-Davidson at 11 a.m. to join up with AMVet’s Rolling to Remember in D.C. Registration to ride cost $25.

First held in 1999, the ride’s purpose is to remember and commemorate military veterans, particularly those who fought in the Vietnam War and those who remain missing in action. In recent years, there’s been a focus on veteran suicide.

An average of 17 veterans die by suicide per day, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

In previous years, upwards of 12,000 bikers would join in on the festivities from across Northern Virginia and even the country. But this year, there will be significantly fewer participants.

Kevin Hardy, the event’s organizer since 2017 and marketing director at Patriot Harley-Davidson, thinks there will be about 300 to 400 bikes this year.

Hardy says the constantly changing COVID-19 health regulations over the last few months made it tough to plan for more than that. He’s excited, though, that the end of most capacity limits starting May 28 will allow Ride of the Patriots to happen again this year.

“You don’t want to not have it for two years. I’m a big believer in things being front of mind,” Hardy said. “If you don’t [hold the event], it kinda fades away with time.”

Rolling Thunder, the similar, long-running Memorial Day weekend event, officially ended in 2019, leaving smaller events like Ride of the Patriots to fill the void.

Hardy believes bringing awareness to veteran issues remains of the utmost importance. He also has a personal connection to the topic, with his father being a retired military colonel who served in the U.S. Army for 27 years.

“I think there’s a lot of change going in America today and a lot of what [these veterans] did enabled people to speak their mind and protest certain things,” Hardy said. “A lot of what America is and those rights were fought for by veterans.”

After starting in Fairfax, the Ride of the Patriot will proceed down Route 50 towards the District.

The Fairfax County Police Department confirmed to Reston Now that they will temporarily close Route 50 between Patriot Drive and I-495 “to allow safe passage” for the riders starting around 11 a.m. on Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

The hope is that next year’s event will be back to 2019 attendance levels with thousands of bikers making their way down Route 50 to pay their respects to those who have served.

“We’ll be ready to go in 2022 for thousands and thousands of bikes heading from here to D.C. in honor of veterans,” Hardy said.

Photo courtesy Kevin Hardy

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County School Board Adopts Budget — The Fairfax County Public Schools fiscal year 2022 budget includes funding for 50 new positions for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, school-based technology specialists, and 18 new social worker and psychologist positions to meet state requirements. It also covers technology support fees previously charged to families and a 2% market rate adjustment for all employees. [FCPS]

Bike To Work Day Is Here — The D.C. area’s annual initiative to encourage people to ride a bicycle to work marks its 20th anniversary today. There will be a pit stop at Reston Station Plaza from 6:30-9:30 a.m. and one at the Herndon Town Hall Green that will be open in the morning (5:30-10 a.m.) and the afternoon (4:30-6 p.m.). [Bike to Work Day]

Northern Virginia Vets Will Get Free Rides to Vaccine Appointments — Starting in mid-June, veterans in Northern Virginia can get free transportation to and from COVID-19 vaccine appointments, thanks to a partnership between the Dulles Area Transportation Association and Northern Virginia Veterans Association. The effort to organize rides through a taxi service was made possible by $80,000 in funding from the Federal Transit Administration. [WDVM]

Reston Association to Hold Big Yard Sale on June 19 — “Join Reston Association at the Reston Community Yard Sale. Eighty families will be selling a variety of items, so this event is a great opportunity to find things for a new home or a college dorm. Sign up to have a booth or stop by to browse for great bargains.” [RA/Twitter]

Baby Panda to Make Public Debut Today — The Smithsonian will reopen the National Zoo to the public today after a six-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and visitors will get their first chance to see giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji in person. The cub, whose name translates to “little miracle,” was born on Aug. 21, 2020 and now weighs 45 pounds. [The Washington Post]

Park Authority Hiring for Summer Camp — “Rec-PAC, affiliated with the Fairfax County Park Authority, is hiring to fill over 200 positions for its six-week summer camp. Rec-PAC is hosting two open hires for job seekers interested in working as a camp counselor or camp director…Join us for the virtual open hire on Monday, June 7, 2021 anytime between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.” [FCPA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Several employers in Reston and Herndon ranked high in Military Times’ annual ‘Best for Vets’ list.

The ranking determines how companies nationwide have expanded efforts to recruit and retain former service members into the job market.

Of the 14 companies in Fairfax County that made it to the list, five are in Herndon and Reston.

Here’s a list of the local companies that made it to the list:

  • ManTech International Corporation (2251 Corporate Park Drive) – #15, 48 percent veterans
  • Leidos (1750 Presidents Street) – #39, 22 percent veterans
  • MAXIMUS (1891 Metro Center Drive) – #54, six percent veterans
  • Peraton (12975 Worldgate Drive) – #87, 19.6 percent veterans
  • Constellis (13530 Dulles Technology Dr) – #133, 25 percent veterans

A total of 144 employers took part in this year’s survey. Military Times conducted the survey with ScoutComms, a marketing and research firm that focuses on the military community. The firm recently ceased operations due to COVID-19, according to its company page.

Firms responded to nearly 100 questions detailing their policies and practices related to veterans.

Here’s more from Military Times on the project:

The success in recent years is evident in veterans unemployment figures, which have fallen steadily from their peak a decade ago. Even with this year’s spike in joblessness due to the coronavirus, unemployment among veterans remains lower than among their civilian counterparts.

In recent years, more companies are focused on not just hiring veterans but making sure the veterans who are hired succeed in the long term.

“It’s not about a job. It’s about a career. It’s about fit,” said Rosalinda Maury, who serves as IVMF’s director of research and analytics.

Comcast NBC Universal topped the list, followed by Southern Company.

Rendering via Boston Properties

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To celebrate Armed Forces Day, residents at Hunters Woods at Trails Edge in Reston will be treated to a parade of antique cars this Saturday (May 16). 

The Northern Virginia Regional Group 96 Early Ford Club of America will drive roughly a dozen antique cars by the senior living facility around 10:45 a.m., according to a press release. The Cub Scouts Pack 159 of Fox Mill Elementary School will also participate by standing 10 feet apart and holding flags to represent each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

“Our LifeStages Director Paul Adam put together this creative event to honor the Armed Forces while safely treating our residents to a parade of wonderful antique cars,” Cissy Nickel, the executive director of the facility, said in the press release, adding that this event is special because many of the residents are veterans. 

Residents and staff will remain inside their rooms and observe from their windows in order to maintain social distancing measures, the press release said.

Antique cars featured in the parade will range in age. Many of them were built between 1932 to 1953, according to the press release. 

Photo via Hosea Georgeson/Unsplash

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American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association will be under new leadership after the retirement of its current president and treasurer, according to a press release.

The non-profit organization, which is based in Reston, provides military life insurance,  help with wealth management, survivor assistance and mortgage services, according to its website. Walt Lincoln, who served with the company for 28 years will be succeeded by Michael Meese, the press release said.

Both Meese and Lincoln served in the United States armed forces for significant stints themselves, according to the press release, which added that during Lincon’s management, the company expanded membership growth 36%.

“Working for, and alongside, so many great people for so long, doing work that we know makes such a positive difference in the lives of the families who have sacrificed so much for our country and its freedom — it will be difficult to step away from all of that,” Lincoln said in the release.

It is unclear exactly when leadership responsibilities will transition over to Meese, but he comes into the position after serving as the chief operating officer for the company since 2013, according to the press release.

Photo via Jon Sailer/Unsplash

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Carahsoft, a Reston-based IT company that was founded in 2004, is taking part in the state-based veteran employment program.

State Gov. Ralph Northam announced this week that the company will participate in the Virginia Values Veterans Certification Program, which aims to give veterans more employment opportunities through training and education.

The Reston-based company is the 1,000th to receive certification in the state program.

The program was created in 2012 and is describes the first state-based program dedicated to improving employment opportunities for veterans by training employers on national best practices for recruitment, hiring, and retention.

Northam plans to visit Carahsoft next week to present the certification.

Photo via Unsplash

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Job site Monster’s list of the 2019 best places for veterans to work includes several Reston-based companies.

Ahead of Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11), Monster and Military.com ranked 10 companies in the United States as the best companies for veterans.

Intelligent Waves, a veteran-founded company that specializes IT and communications support, ranked second on the lost. This year, half of its hires were veterans and 44 percent of its total workforce are veterans. judges noted the company “focuses on placing veteran hires on the right job where they can be successful at building a civilian career.”

Cybersecurity and IT enterprise solutions company PRISM came in sixth on the list. Roughly 25 percent of its total workforce are veterans. The company was recognized for offering a veteran-focused performance management program.

A Tysons-based company, DynCorp International, topped the list. Roughly 60 percent of all employees are veterans.

The list was created with the help fo veteran-hiring experts who selected employers that demonstrated an “extraordinary commitment to veteran-hiring and retention,” according to a press release.

File photo

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Reston Landscaper Wins $200,000 in Lottery Scratcher — Brett Calhoun scratched the winning Jewel 7 ticket in his car, but had to send a picture of the ticket to his wife to make sure he was reading it right. Calhoun, a landscaper, bought the winning ticket the 7-Eleven at 29900 Centreville Road in Herndon. [Inside NOVA]

Taste of Reston Needs Volunteers — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce is looking for volunteers to help put on the annual event on June 14 and 15. Volunteers will receive a volunteer T-shirt and a dozen taste tickets. [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]

Reston Nonprofit Marks 140 Years of Supporting Military Families — “Before he got a job assisting military members and their families, Michael Meese was in the military himself. Meese served in the U.S. Army for 32 years, a period that included deployments to Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan and concluded with a stint as professor and head of the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After retiring as a brigadier general, Meese became the chief operating officer for the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association, and he has worked at the Reston-based nonprofit since 2013, now holding the title of executive vice president.” [Fairfax County Times]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Decreasing the chances of opioid addiction — The director of neurosurgery trauma at Reston Hospital Center is using a new technique to reduce the chances of opioid addiction following major surgery.

Nearby: Amazon HQ2 decision coming close — “New York City and Northern Virginia will be the homes for Amazon’s second and third headquarters, according to people familiar with the matter, ending a more than yearlong public contest that started with 238 candidates and ended with a surprise split of its so-called HQ2.” [Wall Street Journal]

An honorable retirement — Old Glory can sometimes get old, tattered and torn. If you need to dispose of an American flag, there are several available locations in the county to do so, including the Reston District Station, the lobby of the government center in Fairfax and the I-66 and I-95 transfer stations. [Fairfax County Government]

The report card is in for Comstock — Comstock Holding Companies reported total revenue of $14.9 million, as compared to $13.8 million around this time last year. [Global Newswire]

Updates about the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department — The annual report for the department, which offers an overview into programs, services, and progress, is out. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Photo by Gail Crockett

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Ahead of Veterans Day on Monday, the Fairfax Jubil-Aires will perform patriotic a cappella barbershop tunes to honor those who currently serve or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The event is set for Saturday at 3 p.m. Below is a limited list of other events taking place in the Reston area this weekend. If you have an event you would like to ensure is listed on the website, be sure to submit it to our Events Calendar.

  • Herndon High School’s advanced theatre class kicks off performances of The Diary of Anne Frank tonight at 7 p.m. and into the weekend at the school.
  • Celebrate international games week at Reston Regional Library with classic board games and some new options from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Vera Kochansky presents her autobiography of her father, Boris, who lived through the Holocaust. The event is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at Scrawl Books.
  • Caitlin Teal Price, a DC-based photographer known for her photographs of people, offers a talk about her work at Greater Reston Arts Center on Saturday from 3-5 p.m.
  • Donna Ulisse, a veteran songwriter and singer, performs during the Bluegrass Barn Series at Frying Pan Farm Park on Sunday at 7 p.m.
  • Build a machine powered by an electric motor that rolls and goes home from 2-3 p.m. on Saturday, at Reston Regional Library.
  • South Lakes High School students are raising money for the school’s band by organizing a mattress sale at the school on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Take a drive into the history of World War II with this six-part series led by Professor Harry Butowsky from 2-4 p.m. at Reston Regional Library.

Photo via Reston Town Center

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Herndon High School’s band program is hosting a free concert in order to honor veterans on Nov. 7 (Wednesday).

The Tag Day Concert, which is set for 7 p.m.,  aims to celebrate and recognize members of the American military with patriotic songs, according to event organizers.

The concert will focus on World War II as the marching band prepares to go to Normandy, France to participate in a parade marking the 75th anniversary of D-day.

The band is raising money to offset the cost of next year’s trip.

The concert is free and concert-goers should park in front of the school and enter through door 11. The event will take place in the auditorium of Herndon High School.

Photo via Herndon High School Band/Facebook

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Monday Morning Notes

Reston Association to Set Budget for Next Year — On Thursday, RA’s board of directors will set the annual membership assessment rate and approve a new budget. The meeting will air live on YouTube at 6:30 p.m. [Reston Association]

South Lakes High School to Hold Dinner for Veterans — The school’s JROTC program is hosting an appreciation for 400 honorees on Dec. 9 from 6 – 9 p.m at 11400 South Lakes Drive. The dinner will include cadet demonstrations and music by the school orchestra. [South Lakes High School]

Reston Association Club Features Weekly Themes for Children — This week’s Reston Today video looks at RA’s Fit Kids Enrichment Club, which allows children to explore their talents and abilities.  [Reston Today]

South Lakes’ Seahawks Advance to Second Round of Class 6 Playoffs — On Friday, the high school’s varsity football team advanced to the second round of playoffs with a decisive 49-14 win. [Seahawks Athletics]

Herndon High School Hosts Holiday Vendor Sale — On Saturday, the school will host a sale that will include cake, cotton candy, crafts, face paint and more. The event is at the high school’s cafeteria (700 Bennett St.) from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. [Herndon High School]

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CEO Mark Rockefeller and Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe - StreetShares

A Reston startup run by veterans, for veterans has been honored by the Commonwealth of Virginia for its efforts.

StreetShares, a small-business funding operation geared toward military vets, has received recognition as a certified company by Virginia Values Veterans. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe presented a first-place award from the program to CEO Mark Rockefeller during a Wednesday ceremony at the company’s headquarters (1985 Isaac Newton Square West).

“Exactly what you’re doing, we’re trying to do at the state level,” McAuliffe said. “We’ll be the first state in the United States of America that actually does that, to help our veterans who want to be entrepreneurs who need a little lift there.”

StreetShares has facilitated more than 1,000 loans for veteran-owned small businesses across the country, with many of those coming in Virginia.

“When I came back from Iraq in December of ’08, I realized that I was representative of a generation of veterans who would want to start businesses the way that our grandparents did after World War II,” said Rockefeller, a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “We had to solve that, as veterans do, by turning to each other — and that is what StreetShares does.”

John Harvey, Virginia’s Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, spoke during the event to praise both McAuliffe’s and StreetShares’ commitment to the commonwealth’s veterans.

“You invest in Virginia’s veterans and you invest in Virginia,” Harvey said. “It’s just the perfect combination for growth, for building that new Virginia economy that’s so important to our future.”

Also during the ceremony, McAuliffe announced that he is expanding the V3 program’s goal for hiring veterans within the state. Originally aiming for 10,000 veteran hires by the end of his term, the new goal calls for 25,000.

Rockefeller said StreetShares would continue to do all it can to help toward the goal.

“The businesses that we are funding, each of them goes on to hire veterans, just like we have,” he said. “StreetShares wants to commit to funding companies to produce 1,000 of those [hires] toward [McAuliffe’s] 25,000 goal in the next 12 months.”

Each month, the StreetShares Foundation names 10 veteran-owned small businesses from across the nation as finalists for grant funding, made possible through a partnership with JPMorgan Chase. Online voting determines the top 3, which receive grants for $5,000 (first), $3,000 (second) and $2,000 (third).

This month’s finalists were announced at Wednesday’s event:

Nicole Amelio-Casper, Amelio Media LLC (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Keith King, National Veteran Business Development Council (Detroit, Michigan)

Meegan Mackay, Artes pro Vita Academy (Altus, Oklahoma)

Chris Nichols, Narrows Hill LLC (Swanton, Maryland)

Richard Sanders, SHplates (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, Gracefully Global Group LLC (Hayward, California)

Scott Tucker, Be Financially Fit (San Diego, California)

John Van Horn, Veteran Unmanned Solutions LLC (Marietta, Georgia)

Jaime Velez, PingMomo (Chicago, Illinois)

Brian Zimmerman, Income Designers (Castle Rock, Colorado)

Voting will be available on the foundation’s website.

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