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A Beautiful Friendship: Volunteer Alexandria Keeps ALIVE! Up and Running

On Saturday, ALIVE! provided hundreds of hungry families with free food at it’s mid-month free food distribution at Cora Kelly School and John Adams Elementary. The nonprofit has given out three times more food on a monthly basis since the pandemic hit the city, and the only way it’s been made possible has been through the efforts of Volunteer Alexandria.

“People respond to our calls to action,” Marion Brunken, executive director of Volunteer Alexandria, told ALXnow. “Our data shows that there are three times as many volunteers before COVID that signed up to volunteer. That translates to 7,500 people.”

Many of the volunteers that dropped out from the roster at Volunteer Alexandria and ALIVE! are seniors citizens, who are restricted from donating their time since it is a health hazard. Of the 57 fatalities from the virus in Alexandria, all but one of them are above the age of 50. Consequently, no volunteers are allowed over the age of 64.

Jennifer Ayers, the executive director of ALIVE! said that there is still a need for volunteers to pack groceries for families. The nonprofit has given out hundreds of thousands of pounds of food since March.

“There is still a huge need daily to bag the groceries,” she said. “And the moratorium on evictions is expiring this month. We are still going to see evictions going up and there will be an increased need for financial support. If you have a choice between rent or food, if we can provide one of those things, we will.”

Right now, Volunteer Alexandria is looking for helpers to package 30,000 face masks (20,000 from the State Department and 10,000 from the city) to be sent out to nonprofits.

The pandemic also forced ALIVE! to temporarily shutter its furniture distribution and child care programs, and have focused on food distribution at more than a dozen locations around the city. Now after months of nonstop work, Ayers and Brunken have to motivate their staffs and keep them from burning out.

“I work every day, weird hours sometimes,” Ayers said. “I try to raise a lot of money and talk to a lot of people. Sometimes I wake up and the first thing I think about is work… My food staff is really tired and cranky. We’re working really hard.”

Photo via ALIVE!/Facebook

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