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Sister Aniliza Juan’s days of hauling boxes up from a cramped basement to offer food to those in need are over.

The new food pantry at 4725 Eisenhower Avenue opened on Nov. 1, giving Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington a much larger, better-equipped facility to better provide for Alexandrians struggling to get by.

Earlier today, Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge visited the new facility to offer a blessing.

“It is here in this place that we reflect our love for God by serving his beloved children, our brothers and sisters,” said Burbidge. “Those who come through these doors experience and encounter the compassion of Christ, but all those who work here and volunteer here see the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters who are poor and needy.”

The pantry is open two days a week, but staff said they can extend the hours if they receive more volunteer support.

Juan, volunteer coordinator for the Catholic Charities Alexandria Food Pantry, said since the start of November and throughout December, the food pantry has been busier than ever.

“The price of commodities is getting higher,” Juan said. “Some of our people are newly arrived and trying to settle, but they cannot get a job right away.”

Juan said some work three jobs but can’t afford rent in the area.

In the third week of December, Juan said the food pantry served 150 families — a new record for the pantry, which normally serves around 80-120 families in that same week each year.

For the first week of January, the pantry has served 95 families, higher than the usual 60 families for the same timeframe.

An annual report showed that Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington provided $8.2 million in support, from $3.4 million in food assistance to $900,000 in rental assistance.

St. Lucy Project, which runs the pantry, fulfilled more than 59,000 food requests over the last year and distributed $2.2 million in food. Christ House in Old Town distributed 17,627 free meals, a 42% increase over 2022 figures, a diocese representative said.

“The good news is that there is a more spacious place to serve even more people,” Burbidge said. “But the sad reality is the need is just as great too.”

The new pantry is a significantly larger space than the previous location in the basement of Christ House in Old Town. Volunteers there had to retrieve food from a cramped, narrow basement with a low ceiling. At the new location, those in need can grab a shopping cart and pick what they need from the shelves.

“We reached a point where we were really injuring ourselves trying to carry food up and down the stairs,” said Catherine Hassinger, director of community services. “Our poor sister did that for many years.”

Hassinger said it took five years, but eventually, Catholic Charities was able to find the new location on Eisenhower Avenue.

Those working at the pantry said the new layout helps give more dignity to the process for those in need of assistance.

“For us as a Catholic organization, it’s about dignity, and dignity comes with choice,” said Stephen Carattini, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. “What kind of cereal do they want? What kind of bread? We have that as a luxury, but most people don’t have that choice.”

“It’s a kind of relationship built with our clients that makes a difference,” Juan said. “It’s about how we serve them; with respect and dignity and friendship.”

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DASH trolley loaded with donated goods (image via DASH/Facebook)

The DASH bus network has had a pretty good year / and this week they’re hoping to spread holiday cheer.

Today’s (Thursday) ‘stuff the bus fundraiser’ will be at the Bradlee Shopping Center / in hopes of giving those in need some supplies for winter.

This bus is collecting clothing and food / and even some toiletries like baby shampoo.

Tomorrow (Friday) it will be at the City Hall/Market Square / from 3-7 p.m. it’ll be there.

Donations can be dropped off at the DASH central hive / that’s located at 3000 Business Center Drive.

Clothing items can be sized for children or their elders / all donations will benefit the Carpenter’s Shelter.

Photo via DASH/Facebook

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The Alexandria Fire Department is running its annual fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) starting next week.

The Fill the Boot campaign is an annual drive run by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2141. This year, it kicks off on Wednesday, Aug. 23 and will run through Thursday, Aug. 31. Drivers around Alexandria can expect to see local firefighters along the side of the road looking for donations.

“Between 2009 and 2022, AFD has raised more than $350,000 for MDA,” the city said in a release. “Every boot drive helps families with muscular dystrophy in your community by funding research for new treatments, supporting MDA Care Centers, and sending kids to MDA Summer Camp.”

According to the release, firefighters will be trying to fill the boot with donations at:

  • George Washington Parkway/Slaters Lane
  • Richmond Highway/East Glebe Road
  • King Street/Quaker Lane/Braddock Road
  • Van Dorn Street/Edsall Road
  • Washington Street/King Street
  • Duke Street/Patrick Street/Henry Street OR Gibbon Street/Patrick Street/Henry Street
  • Duke Street/Quaker Lane

Donations can also be made online.

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Some of the best hairdressing talent in Alexandria came together today (Monday) to give children from affordable neighborhoods and Carpenter’s Shelter a free back-to-school makeover.

Four hairdressers spent the morning working on styling hair for 22 girls and one boy at the new Iye’s Beauty Salon (4600 Duke Street). It was a mini-reunion for hairdressers of Angels Salon, a recently closed salon specializing in Black hair, including Iye’s eponymous owner Iye Bayoh.

Bayoh said she specializes in natural styles and braiding. Bayoh said because most children don’t like getting their hair done, the Salon tries to make it more engaging for children.

“It’s relaxing,” Bayoh said. “This is a place where people can come to get peace of mind.”

Bayoh said City Council member Alyia Gaskins coordinated the event. Bayoh was joined by Shanika Morgan from Nevaeh Crowns (5510 Cherokee Avenue), Marquis Handley from Quisonthecombs, and Shantell Ford from The Divine Touch Salon.

Gaynelle Diaz, director of Resident and Community Services at Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA), said the event helped children in ARHA feel empowered as they head back to school.

“It really helps out,” said Diaz. “With having to buy school supplies and with things being more expensive, takes some of the financial burden off of families. They don’t have to shift priorities, because you want your kids to go back and feel good about themselves so parents to worry about.”

Diaz said the event came out of conversations about how Black girls are generally neglected in back-to-school events.

“At back-to-school events, it’s more common to offer free haircuts for young boys and men because it’s a quicker process because we feel girls get left out,” Diaz said. “Sometimes, when you’re doing community events, it doesn’t go as quickly and we have a harder time finding people who are available to donate their time.”

The new salon opened on the ground floor of an apartment building on Duke Street on Aug. 2. Bayoh, who is originally from West Africa but has lived most of her life in Alexandria, said after working at Angels Salon she thought it was important to stay local in Alexandria.

“Most of my clientele is from around here and I grew up in Alexandria,” Bayoh said. “It’s been good, the people here are great, and it’s good for the kids to have a feel of what it’s like in a salon.”

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ACT for Alexandria did it again.

Wednesday’s Spring2ACTion fundraiser — the largest single day of giving in Alexandria — broke the record set two years ago by collecting $2.9 million for 182 local nonprofits. The 13th annual event received more than 7,700 individual donations and ACT for Alexandria exceeded its goal of $2.5 million.

“Alexandria is an incredibly generous community,” ACT for Alexandria CEO Heather Peeler told ALXnow shortly after midnight. “People really want to give back and see our community thrive.”

The final tally keeps changing, as stragglers are allowed to donate on the Spring2ACTion website until Sunday, April 30.

Spring2ACTion is the main annual fundraiser for most of the participating nonprofits. The top three recipients are Move2Learn with $170,400, Casa Chirilagua with $167,994 and Carpenter’s Shelter with $91,938.

“They’re not doing the galas or the big events,” she said. “They’re using Spring2ACTion as a way to promote their organization, connect with donors, connect with local businesses, and raise critical funds.”

Peeler said that 75 Alexandria businesses also donated a portion of their proceeds toward the effort.

“It shows that Alexandra’s business community is is very connected to and supportive of the nonprofit community,” she said.

Peeler said that her staff of six employees are tired.

“We’re a little tired, to be honest, but we are super excited,” she said. “We have a tremendous sense of responsibility, because so many nonprofits really depend on Spring2ACTion for those donations to support their work.  It doesn’t happen overnight, even though it seems it all happens on one day. It’s many months of preparation in terms of connecting with potential donors, and providing training and opportunities for nonprofits to learn what they can do to have the best Spring2ACTion possible.”

Spring2ACTion has raised more than $20 million over the last 13 years.

Spring2ACTion Top 10:

  1. Move2Learn | Powered by Runningbrooke raised $170,400 from 174 donors
  2. Casa Chirilagua raised $167,994.79 from 327 donors
  3. Carpenter’s Shelter raised $91,938.53 from 289 donors
  4. Art League raised $83,214.50 from 205 donors
  5. The Alexandria Harmonizers raised $77,674 from 319 donors
  6. ALIVE! raised $74,756 from 423 donors
  7. Alexandria Tutoring Consortium raised $72,952 from 206 donors
  8. Alexandria Seaport Foundation raised $66,602 from 101 donors
  9. Friends of Guest House raised $62,833 from 141 donors
  10. Together We Bake raised $62,683 from 138 donors

Image via Running Brooke/Facebook

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Alexandrians are likely to see more firefighters on the streets next week as the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) launches its “Fill the Boot” campaign to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that causes the progressive loss of muscle mass. The campaign is an annual fundraiser for the AFD, raising money for treatment and other forms of support for those dealing with muscular dystrophy.

“Between 2015 and 2019, AFD has raised more than $230,000 for MDA, and the goal this year is to raise $50,000,” AFD said in a press release. “Every boot drive helps families with muscular dystrophy in your community by funding research for new treatments, supporting MDA Care Centers, and sending kids to MDA Summer Camp.”

The campaign is set for Tuesday, Aug. 30, Sept. 1-2, and Sept. 5-7.

This year, the campaign is a cooperative effort between on-duty AFD personnel, Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department personnel, off-duty volunteers, friends and family, and members of local labor organizations.

AFD said the campaign is scheduled to host fundraising efforts at:

  • Van Dorn Street/Edsall Road
  • Richmond Highway/East Glebe Road
  • King Street/Quaker Lane/Braddock Road
  • Washington Street/Slaters Lane OR King Street
  • Duke Street/Patrick Street OR Henry Street
  • Duke Street/Quaker Lane

Those interested in contributing can also do so online.

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As local kids prepare to head back to school, Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue and ARHA is hosting their annual School Supply Giveaway this weekend.

The event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street) on Sunday, Aug. 14.

The program, which is led by School Board Member Willie Bailey, will offer school supplies for kids in need as well as a free haircut.

“A free haircut and school supply giveaway event will be happening in the Alexandria area,” the group said in a flyer. “Please note that kids must be present to receive their backpacks and school supplies!”

Additional booths will be set up throughout the gym to offer a variety of other services to local families.

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West End residents now have a new hub to to take care of food insecurity and other basic living needs.

On Thursday morning (May 26), nonprofit and city leaders cut the ribbon for the ALIVE! West End Food Hub at 510 S. Van Dorn Street in the Van Dorn Station Shopping Center. The brick and mortar location was made possible by funding from the American Rescue Plan.

Residents will now be able to pick up free food five days a week, in addition to personal items, cleaning and school supplies, and connections to other city and federal services.

“I’m very excited about this,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at the ribbon cutting. “It’s addressing a critical need that multiplied exponentially at the beginning of COVID — our food insecurity, but it allows us to try to meet that need long into the future.”

Rolf Blank, is the vice president of the ALIVE! board, which is made up of dozens of representatives from religious congregations.

“For a long time, the board and a member of congregations have been looking for another way to be able to distribute food and interact with our community,” Blank said. “It’s really more than about food. It’s a way for people to interact with our staff.”

The Food Hub is open from noon to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

ALIVE! has given away millions of pounds of food during the pandemic, and needs donations and volunteers.

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Alexandria’s Homegrown Restaurant Group just stumbled across a proverbial goldmine of infant baby formula, and on Friday morning (May 20) they donated 10 cases of Similac Advance to ALIVE!.

It could take months before Alexandria grocery store shelves are stocked with infant formula, as communities around the country are struggling through the shortage.

HRG’s Bill Blackburn was inspired to find the formula after reading a Washington Post article about a restaurant owner who found a stash through his commercial food supply chain.

Blackburn made a call and found that his distributor had 10 cases of Similac Advance. It cost $1,000, which was paid for by HRG, Alexandria Celebrates Women and the Del Ray Business Association.

“Homegrown Restaurant Group is proud to partner with these organizations to provide this much-needed baby formula to ALIVE! during this crisis,” Blackburn said.

ALIVE! Executive Director Jennifer Ayers said that the nonprofit needed the formula and is grateful.

“Once again neighbors have demonstrated that if there’s a need in this community that we can work together to help other neighbors,” Ayers said.

Courtesy photo

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ACT for Alexandria raised $2.5 million for 172 local nonprofits in its 12th annual Spring2ACTion fundraiser on Wednesday (April 27). The fundraiser is the largest single day of giving in Alexandria, and came just short of matching the amount raised last year, ACT CEO Heather Peeler told ALXnow.

“I’m almost speechless in terms of thinking about how to describe just the care and love that people show for our community,” Peeler said shortly after midnight. “This is really about the entire community coming together. It’s about the nonprofits that are doing incredible work that people want to support, the donors who are feeling really generous and the local businesses who see giving back as core to their business. It’s really an all-hands-on-deck effort from across the city.”

The final numbers keep changing, as stragglers will be allowed to donate on the Spring2ACTion website until Sunday, May 1.

The top three recipients were the same as last year: RunningBrooke took in $157,000 from 197 donors, followed by Casa Chirilagua with $114,000 from 313 donors and Friends of Guest House with $112,000 from 180 donors.

Spring2ACTion has raised nearly $19 million over the last 12 years, and awarded $28,000 in prizes to the organizations with the most donors.

The Del Ray Business Association also raised the most of the five competing business associations, raising $20,525 from 90 donors, and final tallies are still be made for participating businesses that contributed 10% of proceeds toward Spring2ACTion.

Spring2ACTion Top 10:

 

 

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