Alexandria, VA

Stuck at home this weekend social distancing but still want to connect with your fellow Alexandrians? A few online or quarantine-friendly activities

If the quarantine has you stressed out, there are several local online meditation classes. Mind the Mat Pilates and Yoga is live-streaming various yoga, pilates and other exercise classes. The Meditation Center of D.C. is also hosting live-streamed meditations every Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with a Buddist monk.

Other locations throughout Alexandria are offering online fitness or wellness classes.

For the artistic Alexandrians, the Kyo Gallery is offering virtual tours of the art exhibits. Local art gallery The Athenaeum is also encouraging artists of any age to submit their doodles.

According to the submission page:

The Athenaeum Gallery invites artists–or anyone of any age–to e-mail sketches, doodles and other graphics that make a visual statement about your experience with or thoughts about the current pandemic, social distancing and other ways your life has been touched by it. When something resonates with our jurors, we will post it to our website, Instagram and Facebook accounts as a sort of virtual gallery. We are looking for true, quick, gestural and doodle-like work, not fully conceived and finished works of art. The works can be in any medium. To submit sketches and doodles, email jpgs or pdfs to Athenaeum Gallery Director, Twig Murray, at [email protected]

If you don’t feel like cooking this weekend and want to support some local restaurants, Visit Alexandria has compiled a list of restaurants offering social distancing-safe take-out and delivery options.

Alexandria’s farmers markets are still operating, but only for take-out orders placed online.

ALXnow compiled a rundown of many online church services last week. This week, the Fairlington United Methodist Church is also hosting an all-ages Trivia Night at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 4.

Photo via Kyo Gallery/Facebook. James Cullum contributed to this story.

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Coronavirus is shutting down one Alexandria workshop, but the bike business is booming across town at a local store.

Velocity Bike Co-op (2111 Mount Vernon Avenue) in Del Ray announced yesterday that, after a period of trying to make do with reduced hours, the non-profit, volunteer organization would be temporarily closed

The co-op said they are completing repairs on bikes that are already in the shop but the co-op would be closed as-of yesterday.

At Big Wheel Bikes (2 Prince Street) in Old Town, however, it’s business as usual. Owner Charles Bennett Moore — who goes by Bennett — said the store has been jam-packed with customers over the last few weeks.

Bennett said people are keeping their distance in the shop and everything is being sanitized, but the store itself remains open and they’re getting hammered with business as the spring season starts to warm up.

While many parks and recreational activities have been shut down, trails remain open and outdoor activities like running and bicycling are among the few physical outdoor activities permitted.

“The only thing that’s slowed down has been rentals,” Bennett said.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund has raised more than $500,000, and more than $350,000 has been given to 39 local nonprofits.

The city donated $100,000 at the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19, and Amazon donated $200,ooo toward the effort, according to ACT for Alexandria.

As of this week, $95,400 in grants was awarded to 11 nonprofits in the city, with most of the funds going toward emergency food, supplies and financial assistance in the city.

The recent grants were awarded to:

  • Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center’s Food Bank: The Food Bank, which has seen requests double, provides culturally appropriate food and personal hygiene items. Funding will allow them to expand their mobile distribution sites to reach those who are home-bound and disproportionately impacted communities in the West End.
  • Offender Aid and Restoration of Arlington will provide financial assistance for medical expenses, utilities, transportation and vocational training to people who have recently returned to Alexandria from incarceration and who are set back by the virus outbreak.
  • St. Martin de Porres Senior Center is keeping vulnerable seniors connected with medical consultations, case management and other supports.

As of April 2, 2020, The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund has awarded more than $350,000 in grants to the following organizations:

  • AHC, Inc.
  • Alexandria Housing Development Corporation
  • ALIVE!
  • Basilica of St. Mary St. Vincent de Paul Society
  • Best Buddies
  • Capital Caring Health
  • Carpenter’s Shelter
  • Casa Chirilagua
  • Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services
  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington
  • Christ Church
  • Christ Church Refugee Ministry
  • Communities in Schools NOVA
  • Community Lodgings
  • Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
  • Family to Family, Old Presbyterian Meeting House
  • Friends of Guest House
  • Fruitful Planet
  • Mother of Light Center
  • Neighborhood Health
  • Northern Virginia Family Services
  • Nueva Vida
  • OAR of Arlington, Alexandria & Falls Church
  • Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic
  • Project ID & Spread the Vote
  • SCAN of Northern Virginia
  • Senior Services of Alexandria
  • Senior Services of Alexandria
  • St. Paul’s-Lazarus
  • St. Rita Church
  • The Campagna Center
  • The Child & Family Network Centers
  • Together We Bake
  • United Community
  • Urban Alliance
  • Volunteer Alexandria
  • Volunteers of America Chesapeake
  • Wesley Housing Development Corporation
  • YMCA Metropolitan Washington

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Jack Powers doesn’t just enjoy sunsets in Alexandria, he captures them.

For the last two years, the photographer has kept an eye out for beautiful sunsets from his 42-foot-long balcony, on the 11th floor of his condominium on South Reynolds Street in the West End.

“The first thing I do after I come back home from an event or shopping, or something, is look out the window. If see a sunset that’s visible, I make preparations,” Powers told ALXnow. “It soothes me, relaxes me. I feel like things can be good, or that I can experience hope in the midst of chaos. On a good day it tops it off, on a bad day it helps reverse my emotions and improve the comfort level of some mess that I just got out of. Most of the chaos, of course, is happening in Washington, D.C.”

Powers has since taken hundreds of photos of sunsets — all of them with his iPhone and not his professional Nikon equipment. He then uploads the photos to Facebook.

“Virtually everyone I meet on Facebook tells me how much they love my sunset photos,” Powers said. “People like it and I like doing it, and throughout the course of the year I will take several outstanding photographs.”

Powers, who retired in 2007 after 30 years as an administrator with the City of Alexandria’s Department of Human Services, has been taking photos since he was eight years old. He and his wife, Janet, lived in a single family home in the city for 34 years, and the sunsets were always obscured by trees. That was until he moved into Templeton Condominiums on South Reynolds Street.

“The photos help lift my spirits,” he said. “You’ll see variations of orange, bright orange, muted orange — all kinds of orange pictures that give me a view that most people in Alexandria have never seen. People will tell me all the time, ‘I was out all day and I never saw that.’ What they saw was a sunset in a distance blocked by trees, and it’s nice but its not the same.”

Powers said that the first batch of photos he took included his balcony, but that he later zoomed in for subsequent shots.

“As I developed doing this over time, I started focusing in within the sunset,” he said. “Our balcony faces west over Fairfax County and beyond, and I always try to get a building in Alexandria in the forefront to give it perspective. It’s just a different view of a sunset that most people have never seen here.”

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Casa Chirilagua took to YouTube to thank Alexandria for the recent outpouring of support and to outline ways the organization is trying to help some of the city’s most vulnerable populations.

Casa Chirilagua is a Christian nonprofit in the Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood that provides help for local low-income families. Over the last few weeks, as many of these families have lost jobs, Casa Chirlagua has scrambled to help cover rent and grocery needs for the community.

“We are constantly changing in terms of our response to the community,” Executive Director Adriana Gómez Schellhaas said in a video. “It’s one of the main concerns that parents have expressed, the fact that many have lost their jobs. We asked you all to see if people wanted to give and you responded.”

Schellhaas said over the last week, the organization raised $23,000, which will go directly to Casa Chirilagua families for rent and utility needs. The organization is currently calling families and starting to make payments, according to Schellhaas. The group is also partnering with local food pantries to ensure that families have access to groceries.

“You all have responded in incredible ways,” Schellhaas said. “God has moved mightily in the soft hearts of his people. I want to thank you so much for the outpour of response, particularly the financial and food response that you all have given Casa Chirilagua.”

Schellhaas said donations to the organization can be made directly through PayPal or by purchasing an item on the group’s Amazon wishlist.

“We don’t know how long this will last, so we pray people will continue to support us and support the families,” Schellhaas said.

Photo via Casa Chirilagua/YouTube

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By now, homes across the city have received forms and information regarding the 2020 Census.

An accurate count of residents helps Alexandria receive federal aid, redistrict jurisdictions, gather statistics for grant applications and apportion congressional seats.

The City Council budgeted $80,000 to get the word out to residents, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates $20,000 in federal funding in the city is lost with every person left uncounted over the course of 10 years.

According to the city:

The online Census form will be available in 12 languages other than English, and language guides are available for 60 languages.

The 2020 Census asks:

  1. How many people are living or staying in your home on April 1, 2020
  2. Whether the home is owned or rented
  3. Each person’s sex
  4. Each person’s age
  5. Each person’s race
  6. Whether each person is of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin
  7. The relationship of each person to the householder

Today is 2020 Census day! It takes less than 10 minutes to complete your Census and ensure our community gets the…

Posted by Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Today is #CensusDay! All #AlexandriaVA households received a mailing in the past few weeks with directions- it takes…

Posted by Alexandria Economic Development Partnership on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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A new deli is in the works for a building on S. Washington Street that was once Union officers’ quarters during the Civil War.

The site is planned to be turned into Delicious Deli Inc., a full-service, 1,600 square foot restaurant. The restaurant will be a neighbor to Ally & Indy Pet Boutique, which shares the ground floor of the double-house.

While the official title in the documents is Delicious Deli, it is also listed as Manna Chicken and Burger in the application. The owner could not be reached for comment.1

In an application for a Special Use Permit, the restaurant was described as a small, eight-seat restaurant. Menu options will include burgers, chicken and sandwiches.

Somewhat less appealing cuisine was likely served in the 1860s, when the then-recently built double-house was used as Union officer’s quarters, then contraband lodging, and later a medical dispensary, according to its listing on LoopNet.

The restaurant is also planning to apply for permits to serve beer and wine on the premises.

Top photo via Google Maps, plans via KMIN Design Consulting

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Alexandria Police Chief Michael L. Brown says there has been a marginal increase in domestic violence calls for service over the last three weeks, and is concerned that Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay at home order will mean a more significant uptick.

“We’re not seeing a real huge spike, but as time goes on the pressures inside the homes of the residents may increase as everyone’s now sheltering in place,” Brown told ALXnow. “We’re very concerned about the stress that causes within the household or within the home and we want to make sure that our community gets the assistance it needs to get through this process.”

Brown added, “We would rather do that than respond to a call for service involving some kind of a fight or domestic violence issue.”

The city’s Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program are open, and hotlines are available 24/7 at 703-684-7273 [Sexual Assault Hotline] or 703-746-4911 [Domestic Violence Hotline]. Online support is also available with The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.

There are currently 44 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, and no officers have exhibited symptoms yet, Brown said. Additionally, no one has yet been charged with violating the governor’s order, although police have been dispatched to speak with a number business owners who have illegally opened. Police have also prioritized non-emergency calls and taking care of as many as possible via phone to limit exposure to officers.

“It’s been a very stressful period for our folks. So far right now we’re doing fine and we hope the trend continues, but this is an invisible problem that we hope doesn’t affect our people,” he said. “We’re meeting our calls for service, and we hope that trend continues and we certainly hope that everyone uses the direction given to us by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], which we promulgated to our folks, and that is social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and the like.”

Brown said that officers have been issued initial supplies of personal protective equipment and that the department is working on getting more.

“It’s a challenge. We have backorders in place working through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to get additional assets,” he said. “Those are all being prioritized for medical professionals as well as first responders. We have a supply that’s already been issued we have a small reserve and we’re hoping that that will get us through until we get the additional equipment that we need.”

Brown said flexibility will be key for his officers in the days ahead, and that in his experience the only thing this pandemic comes close to is during the 1980s when he was a California Highway Patrol officer.

“I think the closest thing in my career that I recall is back in 1983, in California when the AIDS virus appeared, and there were a lot of unknowns with regards to that when it first came out, and we were always very concerned about protecting our law enforcement personnel, but this is different,” he said. “This is a different kind of virus, and it’s transmitted differently. It presents unique challenges for all of us first responders in terms of protecting our people and still making sure that we are able to respond to the needs of the community.”

Photo via Alexandria Police Department/Facebook

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While Alexandria’s library network is closed for the foreseeable future, the library has a new selection of electronic options to help Alexandrians through the quarantine.

“The City of Alexandria has given the Library $50,000 to purchase additional eBooks and eAudiobooks,” the city said in a press release. “With Governor Northam’s announcement that Virginians are to stay at home, residents need virtual options to Library services even more than ever.”

The library offers several routes to check out audiobooks and ebooks, though the largest so far is an app called Overdrive which allows users to browse an extensive library and check out up to ten books.

Other services, like RBdigital, gets library users access to magazines.

If you weren’t signed up at the library before the quarantine, don’t worry, the library is also offering library card registrations online during the quarantine.

“We’ll continue to process library card registrations received online,” the library said on its website. “Getting a free card only takes a few minutes. We are extending the expiration of these temporary cards to six weeks to allow customers to utilize online resources without coming to the library to collect their physical card.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that the Alexandria Fire Department does business.

While there are currently no AFD personnel who have exhibited symptoms, the department is responding to an uptick in COVID-19-related emergency calls.

“We’re definitely seeing more calls for fever and body aches, but it hasn’t been an exponential increase,” Deputy Fire Chief Brian Hricik told ALXnow. “It’s been four or five, maybe even six calls a day where it’s flu like symptoms is what we’re looking for — the cough, body aches, fevers, those types of things. We might go to a residence for somebody that’s having a heart attack, and if the family member that’s sitting right next to them is coughing and sneezing, and within six feet of us, then we need to be prepared to protect ourselves.”

Hricik is the deputy planning section chief for the city’s Emergency Operations Center, and coordinates response efforts for the fire department, the Alexandria Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office.

Fire Chief Corey Smedley says Hricik is the man for the job.

“One of my first decisions as Fire Chief was to promote Deputy Chief Hricik,” Smedley told ALXnow. “He has been with the department for 23 years and continues to show great leadership and knowledge. He has been leading our efforts to ensure the safety of our members and our community throughout this pandemic. Hricik cares about AFD and the Alexandria community, so he’s the right person for the job especially during these uncertain times.”

There are currently 36 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria.

Hricik said that first responders are wearing personal protective equipment, distancing themselves from patients and taking minimal equipment into buildings. He also said that 911 operators are screening callers to determine if they are symptomatic, and AFD staff are routinely taking their temperatures and changing clothes.

“EMS is not generally great with responding to flu-like emergencies and protecting ourselves. We’ll often run catch coughs, sneezes, sniffles on a routine basis, especially when flu season starts,” he said. “Now we’re much more purposely moving forward in a slower pace to say, okay, we’re going to send one person in and start asking questions probably at that 10-to-six-foot mark away from the patient or for family members and start asking questions about what’s happening, how we can help, what are the symptoms that they’re having and those types of things. If they have a cough or if they’ve had a fever, we’re handing them a surgical mask to put on themselves first, and then we also have on all of our gowns, gloves, goggles and masks.”

Hricik said the city’s first responders and law enforcement are now rationing personal protective equipment.

“I think right now we have a handle on what we have in stock. We’ve put some measures in place so that we’re not wasteful with it,” he said. “If we end up getting a New York-style expansion, then there’s no way we’re going to survive on what we have.”

Hricik said that the biggest challenge for the department is the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“We’re trying to plan. If we have one patient, our response looks like this, if we have 10 patients, then our response looks different,” he said. “There’s 140,000 to 150,000 people in the city of Alexandria, and if everybody ended up getting it, how do we deal with that? How do we prepare for that? If we have 40 [infected] people in the city and that’s our top number, then I’m confident we’ve got it under control. If we end up having 40,000 people in the city, and that’s our top number, that’s a completely different ballgame.”

Photo via Alexandria Fire Department/Facebook

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The following Letter to the Editor was written by Heather Peeler, the President and CEO of ACT For Alexandria.

If you’re like me, the last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster.

One minute I’m over come by concern and fear. I’m worried about my sister, an ICU nurse in New York City, and all the other health care workers putting their own personal health at risk in order to serve our communities. I’m worried about the families that were already on the financial edge before the pandemic and the additional hardships that they will encounter with layoffs and school closures.

The next minute I’m filled with hope. I’ve been inspired by the volunteers organized by Volunteer Alexandria who are lending their time with patience and flexibility. I am also awed by the grit of our local business community that is finding creative ways to serve customers while supporting their employees. For example, Alexandria Restaurant Partners has raised more than $10,000 through the purchase of gift cards; 50% of the gift card value will be dedicated to an employee relief fund.

ALX at Home has a listing of the many innovative offerings from Alexandria’s business community. My days are also filled with gratitude. Alexandria’s nonprofits have demonstrated incredible responsiveness, compassion and commitment during the crisis.

This week, the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund awarded $245,000 to 25 organizations who are providing emergency food and household supplies to families in need. They are reconfiguring their program delivery models in compliance with social distancing guidelines and hiring staff to replace volunteers. As they face significant financial challenges due to canceled fundraisers and other revenue-generating activities, they are also ramping up their outreach to community members hardest hit by the outbreak.

I am grateful for the City of Alexandria and ACPS staff who have been working quietly behind the scenes to keep basic public services functioning while implementing new operations, policies and programs that will help Alexandria be resilient in the face of crisis.

I am filled with appreciation for the Alexandrians who are supporting one another in unprecedented ways. More than 400 people have donated to the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund which has raised $470,000 to date. People are reaching out through Facebook groups and community listserves to collaborate and lend a hand.

We are likely weeks away from fully understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation and community. That’s why I’m also filled with determination. We can’t let our foot off the gas. We must resolve to be there for the community we love now and in the months to come.

If you would like to support nonprofits on the front lines of the emergency response, please consider donating to the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund. A gift of any size will make a big difference. And starting on April 3 you can directly support your favorite nonprofit through Spring2ACTion, which celebrates our community spirit through an online 24-hour giving event on April 15.

As we navigate crises together, I am proud to be part of a community that recognizes our shared humanity through generosity and love.

ALXnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity, at our discretion.

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As the coronavirus pandemic brings tourism to a standstill, Visit Alexandria has scheduled a series of virtual sessions with local businesses and attractions called ALX at Home LIVE.

The video series is scheduled to start today (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. with an interview with town crier Ben Fiore-Walker, featuring an original town cry.

“Tune in to Visit Alexandria’s Facebook page for virtual sessions with local businesses and attractions ranging from how-to videos to guided deskside exercises,” the organization said in a press release.

The video series is part of a broader effort called ALX at Home, which aims to become a hub for keeping Alexandrians connected to information about local restaurants and independent boutiques.

“Included on the hub are more than 100 ways to support Alexandria businesses as well as virtual experiences ranging from ghost tours to a black history scavenger hunt,” Visit Alexandria said. 

According to the press release, the full schedule is:

  • March 31: Meet Alexandria’s Town Crier
  • April 7: AR Workshop’s Craft Tutorial
  • April 14: Carlyle House’s Virtual Tour
  • April 21: Old Town Books’ Virtual Storytime
  • April 28: Mind the Mat’s Wellness Exercises

Staff photo by James Cullum

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