Just as the school resource officer debate started to cool down, things have started heating up between the City Council local first responder unions and city leadership over pay issues.
At the same time, city officials are entering the final stretch before election day on Tuesday, Nov. 2., which among other statewide elections will see candidates competing for the City Council, mayoral and School Board seats in Alexandria.
On the bright side, the local woman who was looking for help to pay for surgery earlier this week met her GoFundMe goal.
- Bonchon Chicken coming to Bradlee Shopping Center in December
- City to host historical discussion about Confederate statue removal
- Yates Pizza Palace plans go cold, but could reheat as food-prep space
- Poll: Are you planning on getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?
- First responder unions say underfunding is a crisis in Alexandria, but city officials say it’s a false alarm
- Alexandria community champion and pastor Matthew Ian Gillette dies unexpectedly
- Alexandria surpasses 14,000 cases of COVID-19, numbers of unvaccinated sick kids ‘unexpectedly’ high
- Local woman seeks help to pay for tumor removal surgery
- Two Metro Yellow Line shutdowns scheduled for 2022
- Alexandria Police say quarrels over music may account for some school violence
(Updated 5:50 p.m.) Amana Bhuiyan wakes up at 4 a.m. at her home in the Huntington neighborhood of Fairfax and immediately starts driving Uber. Around 9 or 10 a.m. she’ll switch to Instacart or DoorDash. Then around 2 or 3 p.m., it’s working at Walgreens until closing until around midnight. Then, another few hours of late-night Uber before returning home to sleep for two or three hours before starting it all again the next day.
It’s an exhausting schedule, but Bhuiyan said it’s what it takes to try t try to raise the money necessary to pay to remove a painful tumor.
“It’s exhausting, but when you have something to fight for, we make it work,” Bhuiyan said, trying to remain upbeat.
Bhuiyan has a tumor just above her hip near the lower part of her spine, which it painfully rubs up against. The tumor is complicated by Bhuiyan’s hemihyperplasia, which means she has extracellular growth on one side of her body. As a last resort, Bhuiyan is running a GoFundMe campaign to try to help cover the medical costs for removing the tumor. The GoFundMe has currently raised $18,640 with a $30,000 goal, which Bhuiyan said would help put a dent in the $150,000 in medical debt from her surgeries and her mother’s paralysis.
“I was born with [hemihyperplasia] which made it so that my tumor was hard to diagnose,” Bhuiyan said.
For two years, Bhuiyan said she jumped from doctor to doctor, from recommendation to recommendation, but each time she said she was told the procedure would be too risky to try and fix. Finally, Bhuiyan found a plastic surgeon willing to work on it. Bhuiyan already had one eight-hour surgery where she said the doctor was able to remove 65% of the tumor. But now, even as Bhuiyan is struggling with the debt from the first surgery, Bhuiyan said the tumor is slowly growing back. Now, even on the nights where she does have a few hours to sleep, Bhuiyan said it’s difficult due to the pain caused by the tumor.
“I already, right now from the first surgery, have maxed out that credit card,” Bhuiyan said. “I had amazing credit. I had a 753 credit score, and now I’m down to 562. I’m not being accepted for any loans because I’m apparently borrowing too much.”
That first surgery ended up costing over $50,000, which Bhuiyan said was all out-of-pocket. Bhuiyan, like many service industry workers that provide the labor pool for major apps, has no health insurance through her jobs. She said she applied for Obamacare last year but never heard back, and makes just enough from all of her jobs that she falls into the gap not protected under Medicaid. But even if she had insurance, Bhuiyan said the tumor isn’t considered a medically necessary surgery and isn’t covered by insurance for plastic surgery.
“I’ve been trying to get it to the point where hopefully I can pay off enough of my debt to try to get a loan to pay off the rest of this surgery because just the surgeon fee is $23,000,” Bhuiyan said. “Because he is a cosmetic surgeon, they don’t take insurance. It’s all out of pocket.”
On top of that work, Bhuiyan is taking classes at George Mason University, and she eventually wants to be a doctor and help people. In the meantime, Bhuiyan hopes at the very least that more people can understand the living situation for those less financially well-off in the area.
“We live in an area where most people have insurance and work for the government, and we don’t really know what the bottom percent of people are going through unless you have someone in your life going through it,” Bhuiyan said. We don’t usually see it. If nothing else, I’m doing this so people can be educated about it.”
For those that want to move around and raise money for a good cause but aren’t too keen on long runs: local non-profit ALIVE! is hosting an annual five-mile group walk through Old Town this Sunday (Oct. 17).
It’s the 40th annual StepALIVE!, a group walk for charity that starts and finishes at First Christian Church (2723 King Street). Registration and t-shirt pickup starts at 1:15 p.m. with music from the Alexandria Citizen Band. There’s a post-walk celebration from 3:30-4:30 p.m. with live bluegrass music.
“This year’s StepALIVE! fundraising goal of $65,000 will benefit all ALIVE! programs which have worked extremely hard to respond to increased demand during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the non-profit said in a press release. “The funds raised by StepALIVE! will allow ALIVE! to continue providing food, shelter, emergency financial assistance, and eviction prevention to thousands of Alexandrians struggling with poverty and hunger.
Like with charity runs, the idea is that individuals and teams can raise money from supporters on a fundraising page, where people can donate in support of their walker or just to the non-profit in general. There will be prizes for the team with the most walkers and the most money raised.
“StepALIVE! supporters can also walk in solidarity with ALIVE! on their own or in a small group with their congregation, family, or community members in neighborhoods, places of worship, local parks, or other locations of their choice,” the non-profit said in a press release. “All are asked to maintain safety and health guidelines.”
Photo via ALIVE!/Facebook
Bondsman in Karla Dominguez case charged — “The bail bondsman in the Karla Dominguez murder case has been charged with criminal contempt of court and faces trial in January in the Alexandria Circuit Court.” [Alexandria Times]
Yard waste collection shifts to today — “Yard Waste collection… will be collected Friday, October 8. Please accept our apologies for any inconveniences caused by this temporary suspension.” [Alexandria T&ES]
Old Town Oyster Festival next weekend — “Join Old Town Business Association for this year’s Old Town Oyster Festival October 16th-24th in partnership with the Oyster Recovery Foundation and sponsored by Guinness. Come on out for the Oyster Shucking Competition to kick off a week of Oyster and Guinness specials! The Shucking Competition, set to live music from Driven to Clarity, will take place Vola’s Airstream Patio on Saturday, October 16th 2021 at 10 a.m.” [Visit Alexandria]
IDA showcases update on Potomac Yard HQ construction — “Watch the Eye on IDA video with Dean Graves to get a sneak peek of IDA’s future headquarters.” [IDA]
Local group raises $5,000 for veterans — The Fraternal Order of Eagles 871 hosted a Dining for Charity event with 7 participating Alexandria restaurants and raised $5,000 for Homes for Our Troops. [Zebra]
River Farm gets taken off the market — “Local residents cheered over email and text messages Wednesday after learning that the American Horticultural Society’s board — or what remained of it — decided not to sell its 27-acre property overlooking the Potomac River.” [Alexandria Living]
Northern Virginia AFL-CIO presents award to Rep. Don Beyer — “When the bus drivers in Alexandria – the DASH workers (who had been trying to unionize over decades, actually), Alexandria City hired a union buster and Congressman Beyer stepped in and was very forceful with his language in making the city aware that the DASH workers had a right to organize.” [Zebra]
Let’s Meat On The Avenue is restocked again after Saturday outage — “It wasn’t just restaurants impacted by Saturday’s #ArtOnTheAvenue outage. After having to toss much of their inventory, @LetsmeatDelRay is restocked and open! Picked up some beautiful pork chops for dinner. What’s your #artontheavenueafterparty stop today?” [Twitter]
Free food pop-up distribution points announced — “ALIVE! provides bags of food for specific neighborhoods or apartments, in collaboration with community partners, in the parking lot at each pop-up emergency food distribution location.” [City of Alexandria]
Today’s weather — “Mostly cloudy skies. High 77F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph… A few clouds. Low 63F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New job: Lot attendant/Porter — “We have full and part time positions available.” [Indeed]
There are dozens of volunteering opportunities in Alexandria.
“We need hundreds of people per week,” Volunteer Alexandria Executive Director Marion Brunken told ALXnow. “More people are in need now than ever.”
Here’s Volunteer Alexandria’s list of new and upcoming opportunities.
- Alexandria Dept. of Community and Human Services Volunteer Guardian — “Looking for individuals who can assure the well-being of an incapacitated Alexandrian living in an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Facility. Volunteer Guardians are appointed by the Court to make decisions for older Alexandria residents who have lost the capacity to understand the consequences of their decisions. The volunteer will visit the resident monthly and follow the person’s wishes as much as possible. To express interest, click HERE.”
- ALIVE! — “Volunteers are needed to assist with multiple programs relating to their Food Program, ALIVE! House, and Alexandria Eviction Prevention Partnership Program will distribute food at Mobile Pop-ups and Truck to Trunk events, etc. Click HERE to learn about each opportunity and to register.”
- ALIVE! Thursday Warehouse Volunteer — ALIVE! is looking for volunteers every Thursday. The role will consist of accepting deliveries, crating fruits and vegetables, shelving boxes, and all other tasks that may need to be done. Some tasks require lifting and/or moving possibly heavy items. Commitment to at least one Thursday a month is required. To express interest, click HERE.
- Help Provide Meals to Children — “Alexandria City Public School (ACPS) will provide two days worth of breakfast and lunch meals with a snack pack free for any enrolled ACPS student on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Friday distribution will include a meal(s) for Saturday. Volunteers will meet at various schools to assist with packing boxes and loading buses with boxed meals. Then, volunteers will ride the bus along to distribute the meals while on site at a few ACPS mobile pop-up locations. Click on each location to sign up: Francis C. Hammond Middle School, Alexandria City High School, or Jefferson Houston School.”
- ALX Fit Fair Volunteer — “Join in the ALX Fit Fair, a fun day in the park connecting the community of health and wellness businesses with fitness brands in mini-workouts and tasty samples! The event will begin at 10am and go until 2pm, but volunteers will be needed to set up an hour earlier and break down for up to 3pm. Energetic, health- focused individuals 16+ years of age who have a passion for fitness and the outdoors are needed to assist with registration, traffic control, directing people, and assigning raffle tickets. Click HERE for more information.”
- Casa Chirilagua — “Casa Chirilagua needs volunteers to help tutor/mentor children and adults virtually and in-person during their Kids Club, Teen Club, Mentoring program, Spanish Tutor program, and Adult English Classes. To learn more click HERE.
- Volunteer for the new DASH Network Launch — “DASH is looking for volunteers 18+ to interact and share
information with riders about the New DASH Network during in-person pop-up events! After nearly two years of planning, outreach and community discussion, the New DASH Network is set to launch fare free on September 5th! The New DASH Network introduces more frequent, all-day service on major transit corridors in Old Town, Arlandria, Potomac Yard, Parkfairfax, the West End and the King Street corridor, and serves more low-income and minority residents. This new network will also provide access to 50,000 additional residents and nearly 25,000 additional jobs in Alexandria. Bilingual volunteers with conversational Spanish and Amharic would be a great help. All CDC mask wearing guidelines must be followed while participating in this event. To volunteer or find out more information about the new network, click HERE.”
- Emergency Preparedness Outreach — “Help us recruit more passionate volunteers like you for our upcoming National Preparedness Month in September, our Snowbuddies Program in the winter, and all of our other emergency preparedness training programs! For more information or to sign up, click HERE.”
- FACETS – Front Desk Volunteer at Alexandria Location — “Volunteers are needed to work at the front desk. Tasks include assisting clients, answering phone calls, receiving donations, data entry/filing, and maintaining the front desk and lobby of the office. Register HERE.”
- Teacher positions at Friends of Guest House — “Friends of Guest House – Various Teacher Positions Dedicated volunteers needed to teach various subjects and skills classes to women. The ideal volunteer will be patient and interested in the success of these women as they further their knowledge. Volunteers are also needed to assist with vaccination pods and instruct substance abuse, addiction, and recovery classes. To register and learn more click HERE.”
- National Preparedness Month Volunteers – “Interested in helping us plan, organize and execute events for National Preparedness Month? Join our planning team! No experience necessary just a passion for emergency preparedness. Click HERE to sign up!”
- Repair Coach at Fixit Clinic – Kate Waller Barrett Library — The Barrett Branch Library is seeking volunteers to join in our first Fixit Clinic on Saturday, September 11 between 11am and 3pm. The Fixit Clinic is an opportunity to help your neighbors, teach skills for living all while keeping items out of the landfills and pushing against throwaway culture. We’re looking for skilled professionals and amateur craftspeople who work within the categories of small appliances, furniture, computers, electronics, clothing, jewelry, book and paper, bicycle repair and blade sharpening. Repair coaches not only will attempt to fix the items brought in, but will work with visitors to explain the process or encourage owners to attempt repairs themselves. To express interest, click HERE.
- Create Salvation Army care packages — “We are collecting items for seniors and vulnerable populations. You can help by creating care packages from the security of your own home and safely dropping items at our locations. To express interest, click HERE.”
- Senior Services of Alexandria’s groceries to go – “Shop for and deliver groceries every other week to home-bound seniors who live within the City of Alexandria. You will be paired with a senior, who will provide you with their grocery list. Further instructions will be provided to you once you've filled out the application, which involves a background check. To register click HERE.”
- Senior Services of Alexandria’s Meals on Wheels — “Meals on Wheels provides meals to seniors who are unable to leave their homes to shop, or have difficulty preparing a meal, to have two healthy meals a day delivered to their homes. Click HERE to learn more and to register.”
- Long Term Client Intake Case Workers — “Provide financial and logistical assistance to those in need of a Virginia state ID, needed to access housing, food assistance, jobs and more. While helping clients get IDs we also register them to vote and help others restore their voting rights. To register, click HERE.”
- Space Of Her Own (SOHO) Mentoring for Girls — “SOHO is returning in-person for the 2021-2022 school year with a brand new class of 5th grade girls from under-resourced communities in Alexandria, Virginia, each waiting for a caring adult female mentor like you! Join us for an information session on either August 24 or 25 from 5:30-6:30 pm at The Art League Annex, at 1055 North Fairfax Street. To learn more, click HERE.
Vacant lot in Eisenhower could become pop-up events and market space — “At 2425 Eisenhower Ave., there’s more than 18,000 square feet of open, grassy space. Until recently, the lot, which is owned by Rubenstein Partners LP, has remained unused except for the occasional dog romping with its owner. The Eisenhower Partnership is working with the site owners to bring fresh life to the lot by creating a pop-up space that could be used for food trucks, markets, arts, musical performances and other recreational uses according to a recent application filed with the City.” [Alexandria Living]
There’s a new mural in Old Town — “When Erik Muendel took over the ESP Tea and Coffee Shop at 1012 King Street, he not only revitalized the hip location with a new spin on the name and increased offerings, the wanted to make a splash on the outside as well.” [Zebra]
Catholic Charities plans café for Alexandria headquarters — “Catholic Charities USA filed an application to add a café in 2,088 square feet on the ground floor of its headquarters building located at 2050 Ballenger Ave. in Suite 400. According to the application, the space was formerly occupied by the Carlyle Club restaurant.” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s weather — “Cloudy skies (during the day). Slight chance of a rain shower. High 81F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph… Overcast (in the evening). Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 66F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Personal assistant — “I am the owner of a luxury men’s clothing store and am seeking a personal assistant/IT adviser . You will not only be working for me but working with me towards a common goal. If you are a self starter with a ton of different talents and all you have been waiting for is an opportunity, this may be for you.” [Indeed]
Hotel expansions to increase meeting planning options in Alexandria — “Alexandria is continuing to expand its hotel offerings with an extensive multi-million dollar renovation of the Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria…The historic George Mason Hotel is set to undergo restoration in 2021 (and) will have two buildings located in Old Town, and will feature 141 hotel rooms, two restaurants, rooftop dining and outdoor dining. The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center will also begin a $10 million renovation starting in late November, with a target opening of the first week in January 2022.” [Previewmeetings.com]
ALIVE! resumes collecting food — “Community members are welcome to drop off purchased or collected food items at 801 S. Payne St. ALIVE! accepts donations on Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.” [Zebra]
Neighborhood Restaurant Group honored for pandemic pivot — “Alexandria-based Neighborhood Restaurant Group has been nominated for a RAMMY Award, presented by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). Their nomination is in a new, coronavirus-influenced category: Most Impressive Pivot to Provisions or Market.” [Alexandria Living]
Locals theorize that bug bites could be tied to cicadas — “The Facebook group members have hatched a theory that these bites are tied to oak itch mites, or pyemotes, which are thought to feed on cicadas eggs. Similar outbreaks of itchy bug bites have coincided with periodic cicada cycles in Chicago and Northern Ohio.” [ARLnow]
Kids restore preschool playground and garden boxes — “Thanks Trinity United Methodist Church youth group & @Volalex Breaks with Impact (BWI) youth group who restored the ALIVE! preschool playground and garden boxes. They’ve been busy weeding, pruning, and cleaning but still needs much more!” [Twitter]
Today’s weather — “Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High 89F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph… Generally fair (in the evening). Low 63F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Anthropologie key holder — “At Anthropologie we tell stories – of products thoughtfully designed, crafted, and curated, and of a collaborative, inventive community. We are, above all, devoted to our customer – to the smart, creative individual who seeks beauty wherever they go.” [Indeed]
The pandemic is over, right? Not for Volunteer Alexandria.
“We are actually seen a decrease in new people registering…only 114 people, which is really low for us,” Volunteer Alexandria’s Executive Director Marion Brunken told ALXnow. “We are still in need of people who are able to donate time to assist with food and meal distributions – ALIVE!, ACPS, and CASA Chirilagua all need people to assist.”
Brunken said there were 224 registered volunteers in April and 187 in March, and that she is now looking at a 30% shortage in school meal distribution volunteers.
“We need hundreds of people per week,” Brunken said. “Because, tutoring, mentoring — those are so important. Seniors always need food delivered, no matter if the pandemic is over or not. More people are in need now than ever. We still deliver food. We still have after school programs, and now we’re going to the summer camps, so we need to staff those as well.”
As part of the expansion of Catholic Charities USA’s (CCUSA) expansion into Carlyle, the non-profit is requesting permission to build a cafe and conference center on the ground floor of its 2050 Ballenger Avenue headquarters.
The expansion is part of an application headed to the Planning Commission on Tuesday, June 1. The space is owned by CCUSA and until recently was leased to a restaurant, but the non-profit said in its application that the restaurant closed in January.
“CCUSA proposes to repurpose the space formerly occupied by the restaurant and establish a conference center and cafe in its place,” CCUSA said. “The conference center will be occupied and managed by CCUSA, and will be utilized to host a variety of meetings and events including Board and membership meetings, trainings, and conferences.”
CCUSA said it will also rent out the conference center to third parties on a rental basis, which could help meet the heavy demand for conference space in the area.
“Over the years, CCUSA has received numerous inquiries regarding the availability of conference center space in its building,” the non-profit said. “Organizations that have expressed interest include other nonprofit organizations, community groups in Carlyle, and the Westin Hotel in instances where there has been overflow demand from its existing conference facility. The proposed ground floor conference center will help meet this demand.”
The cafe will offer sandwiches, desserts and beverages and operate as a workforce training program.
“The program will provide workforce training in the food and beverage and hospitality industries to underserved and vulnerable populations, such as the unemployed,” CCUSA said. “The space is well-suited for this use, given the existing kitchen facilities left in place by the former restaurant tenant.”
CCUSA said the commercial kitchen space could be used as an incubator for start-up food and beverage businesses for people from underprivileged communities.
Photo via Google Maps