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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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Ukrainian refugees make it to Poland (courtesy of Mary Leonard)

(updated at 5:30 p.m.) A Night for Ukraine organizers hope to raise $10,000 to go toward relief efforts in Ukraine and raise awareness at the event, which Alexandria businesses have rallied behind to support.

LOVE in ALX‘s Mary Leonard and local business owner Dominique Fakir put together the Friday night fundraiser for U.S.-based nonprofit CORE, Community Organized Relief Efforts. The nonprofit’s volunteers are working in Poland to address the immediate needs of Ukrainian refugees.

“(A Night in Ukraine) really is just an opportunity for people to plug in locally and then see how their efforts here actually affect change over there,” Fakir told ALXnow. “You always want to help but you don’t know how. So my hope was really to have this event to share stories about what’s happening on the ground and then how people can give either financially, support-wise, even spreading awareness, like posting on social media, that matters, and keeping the conversation going.”

Leonard, who is in Poland volunteering, has been sharing stories about what she’s seen and heard on social media. She has helped escort refugees into Poland and said that their needs include everything from long-term housing, food and clothing.

“Some days the questions are ‘where can I get a bus to Warsaw or Rzeszow or another destination,'” Leonard said in an email. “Other days, we’re there with shopping carts to carry the luggage in shopping carts on to their destination busses…Refugees are now fleeing with one or two bags they threw together and emergency left their house. You’ll find everything from feminine products to coloring books in the crossing camp.”

Leonard posted a story on her social media accounts about horrifying conditions in Mariupol that a man told her about seeing before he made it to Poland and was separated from his son who is still in Ukraine.

“Four weeks ago, the lives of everyone in Ukraine were like yours. Loving, happy, sweet. They went to work, were raising their children, going to concerts, falling in love. And now this. Never take what you have for granted,” Leonard wrote in the post.

The fundraiser will host Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, First Secretary of the Ukrainian embassy Kateryna Smagliy, and CORE relief workers who will share their stories. As of this morning (Thursday) about 150 people had purchased tickets. Local businesses have donated more than $10,000 of in-kind services so there will be a plenty of food and people together in solidarity, Fakir said.

“This issue of the attack on democracy the unprovoked war it’s just heartbreaking as an American to see that,” she said.

The event will be held at the ALX rooftop at 277 South Washington Street, Penthouse 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Friday. Tickets are available on EventBrite.

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Morning Notes

The ‘I Love You’ art installation at Waterfront Park opens on March 25, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Leasing Starts for Apartments Over Wegmans —  “Developer Stonebridge and its leasing partner Bozzuto, announced Wednesday the start of leasing for Easton, a boutique-style apartment building offering sophisticated design and amenities located in the Carlyle Crossing neighborhood. The 11-story building is slated to begin move-ins in mid-April just ahead of the anticipated May 11 opening of Wegmans Carlyle Crossing.” [Alexandria Living]

Ukraine Donation Drive Launched — Leaders launched an effort Wednesday to provide donations, such as gently used coats, new blankets, new pairs of sweat socks or heavy socks, and new pairs of gloves at locations around Northern Virginia. “No matter the scale – global to local – humanity is a community unto itself and we must always come to the assist of those in need,” Alexandria Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said at the event. [Facebook, Patch]

Kingstowne Woman’s Family Raises Funds to Find Suspect — “The family of a missing Alexandria woman, who is presumed dead, is raising money to help catch her alleged killer.”[WJLA]

It’s Thursday — Light rain throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 58. Sunrise at 7:06 a.m. and sunset at 7:25 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Flyer calls for help for Ukrainians (via Northern Virginia Regional Commission)

Northern Virginia is coming together to help Ukrainians struck by war.

Local leaders and community members, organized by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, will launch a donation drive at the Fairfax County Government Center on Wednesday (March 23), collecting items through April 15 to send to refugees in Ukraine and Poland.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Amy Jackson will be among others at the donation drive’s launch on Wednesday, along with Fairfax County and Manassas leaders, according to a media advisory.

The donations will be accepted at over 30 locations — from libraries to supervisors’ offices and more — starting Wednesday (March 23). The event will be broadcast at 10 a.m. on the Fairfax County government’s Facebook page.

Requested items include new and gently used coats as well as new blankets, gloves, and pairs of sweat or heavy socks. More information about the drive, including a list of collection sites, can be found at helpukrainenova.org. In Alexandria, there will be two sites — one at City Hall and the other at Beatley Central Library.

The items will be boxed together with help from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Oakton congregation. Paxton Companies, a North Springfield moving business, will then shrink wrap boxes and transport them to Wilmington, North Carolina.

A business that wishes to remain anonymous will ship the donations overseas, bringing the supplies to trucks in Antwerp and a non-governmental organization that has a supply chain on the ground, NVRC executive director Bob Lazaro said.

The campaign came together after local elected leaders reached out to NVRC, seeking to replicate a similar effort by the area in 2013 to help Syrian refugees who fled a civil war that’s still continuing.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24. The war has now killed thousands of people — including at least 902 civilians — destroyed cities, and threatened the country’s sovereignty, causing over 3 million refugees to flee to neighboring countries.

The United Nations’ human migration agency reported that 3.3 million people in Ukraine have been displaced. Every minute, 55 more Ukrainian children become refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund has estimated.

“Our residents don’t want to stand by — they want to help,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “As we uplift and offer support to our residents of Ukrainian descent here in the County, we can also aid in efforts abroad, sending much needed supplies to the millions of displaced Ukrainians taking refuge in Poland.”

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Students return to George Washington Middle School (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

(Updated on April 29) Headsets with microphones, recycling bins and Play Doh were among the items that a George Washington Middle School teacher recently put on her school-wide Amazon wish list.

The teacher went around and asked her colleagues what they needed and put their requests on the list, which was taken down after ALXnow sent questions about it to Alexandria City Public Schools.

Turns out that the George Washington Middle School PTA asked the teacher to remove the links, “because we were able to fund her requests,” Joy Pochatila, GWMS PTA president, told ALXnow.

In a note shared on social media, the teacher says she is worried about retiring colleagues, and took a proactive step of asking them what they needed, if anything. The list also ended up including batteries, 3 printers and microscopes.

“As a teacher that is smack in the middle of my career, I’m worried,” the teacher wrote. “I’m worried about the new teachers that are drowning and looking for (and finding) other jobs. I’m worried about my most experienced colleagues retiring early because they just can’t anymore. I’m worried about administrators that aren’t able to do their actual jobs because all they do is contact trace and try to keep up with the constantly moving goalposts that are COVID protocols and policies. I want them to stay in education and I’m worried they won’t.”

ACPS saw 42 staff members retire at the end of last school year, but data on their replacement was not available. There are 27 staffers expected to retire at the end of this school year.

Terri Mozingo, the ACPS chief of teaching, learning and leadership, said that every school in the system receives funding for materials and supplies, which are designated to meet the needs of the school and are overseen by the school’s leaders.

“Teachers work with their department heads to ensure they have the supplies they need for their classrooms,” Mozingo said. “All staff members are encouraged to reach out to their principals for any supplies they need to deliver instruction.”

Donations to ACPS are still welcomed, including from individuals, PTAs, boosters, organizations, corporations, and community groups in alignment with all ACPS policies and regulations, Mozingo said.

“The GWMS PTA, for example, provides mini-grants of up to $500 to support instruction and provide GWMS teachers with funds for specific projects and experiential learning.ACPS has a strong partnership with Donor’s Choose, which provides staff at all of our schools with the opportunity to secure additional funding for specific needs or new projects,” she said.

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Alexandria nonprofit ALIVE! is launching a reusable bag drive later this month to help residents get free food and reduce waste.

ALIVE has given away millions of pounds of food to city residents since the pandemic started, and the reusable bags are also intended to bring awareness to the city’s new 5 cent plastic bag tax. The bag tax went into effect on Jan. 1.

These bags and their contents will then be sorted and redistributed to the food insecure in Alexandria at our on-site distributions and eventually, our food center,” ALIVE! said in a release. “When clients return to the next ALIVE! event, they bring back the bag for another, creating a closed loop and hopefully reducing the waste that comes with plastic or paper bags.”

Donors should drop off the bags at the ALIVE! food warehouse at 801 South Payne Street between Friday, Jan. 14 and Monday, Jan. 17.

The next ALIVE! food distribution will be conducted at three sites on Saturday, Jan. 29. The event will be from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Cora Kelly Elementary School (3600 Commonwealth Avenue), Northern Virginia Community College (500 Dawes Avenue), and William Ramsay Recreation Center (5650 Sanger Avenue).

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It was a warm holiday for Friends of Guest House residents in Alexandria, as a local realtor more than doubled her goal by receiving more than 130 sets of new pajamas and warm socks from the community.

The Friends of Guest House reentry programs help women transition back to the community from prison, and the pajamas and socks were given to 30 women in both of the nonprofit’s facilities.

“It was amazing,” said Kathy Goode, a program assistant at Friends of Guest House, who delivered the presents on Christmas day. “They were ecstatic. Most of them put on their pajamas and wore them for the day.”

Maureen Clyne wanted to deliver at least 65 sets of pajamas and just as many pairs of socks, which is about how much she was able to get a few years ago. After a story with ALXnow, she says that her office at Coldwell Banker Realty in Old Town and her Del Ray home were deluged with donated gifts.

“A lot of times there’s not a lot of thought and attention given to previously incarcerated women,” Clyne said. “A lot of them are coming out with their prison clothes, they don’t have a whole lot, and pajamas are something everyone can relate to. It’s much more personal than writing a check. Everyone likes new pajamas.”

The remaining pajamas and socks have been stored away to give to new residents as they enter the residential program in 2022.

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Freedom House at 1315 Duke Street (photo via City of Alexandria)

Ahead of the Freedom House’s scheduled opening this spring, the Office of Historic Alexandria is asking for donations to help with some new exhibits and operations for the museum.

The museum was originally scheduled to open earlier this year, but that opening was pushed back to April 2022.

“Throughout this year we have been sharing updates about Freedom House as we work to restore [and] interpret this significant Alexandria [and] national site, slated to open by April 2022,” the Office of Historic Alexandria said. “As you consider your end of the year giving, help us continue telling these important stories. Your donation will help support the building as well as the 3 new exhibits that will not only educate [and] inspire, but challenge long held assumptions about race [and] equity in Virginia.

The new museum shifts the focus away from the lives and activities of the slavers who owned the building and more to the thousands of people who were enslaved and brought through the site between 1828 and 1861.

The museum is also receiving $150,000 in ARPA funding to help pay for staff.

“Support the preservation and interpretation of this important National Historic Landmark,” the city said on its website. “Located at 1315 Duke Street, this building was ‘ground zero’ for the domestic slave trade in the Chesapeake region. Between 1828 and 1861, thousands of men, women, and children were shipped or marched overland to markets in the Deep South. Since so many sites related to the domestic slave trade no longer exist, it is imperative that we preserve the building and tell the stories of the men, women, and children whose lives were impacted.”

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A local realtor is hosting a pajama party this month for Friends of Guest House residents.

The nonprofit’s reentry programs help women transition back to the community from prison. The pajamas and cozy socks will go to up to 70 women affiliated with the organization.

Realtor Maureen Clyne is leading the effort, and in a recent social media post wrote that Del Ray Cafe has donated 30 pairs of pajamas and socks. It’s her second time collecting pajamas for Friends of Guest House, and she was able to get 65 sets of pajamas donated in 2018.

“Everybody deserves a new pair of pajamas on Christmas morning,” Clyne told ALXnow. “My goal is 100 pairs of pajamas and socks by December 21. I’m at 32 sets right now.”

Donations of cozy socks and L-3XL pajamas can be dropped off at Coldwell Banker Realty, 310 King Street. Pickups can also be arranged by calling or texting 703-967-8884.

Friends of Guest House got a financial boost recently on Giving Tuesday by raising $30,300, and surpassing its goal by more than $10,000. Last year, the nonprofit reported 56 women participating in its six-month residential program. It has helped more than 4,000 women transition from incarceration since it was founded in 1974.

Sapan Patel/Unsplash

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After being canceled last year, the 50th annual Campagna Center Scottish Christmas Walk Parade is back on Saturday, Dec. 4.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) will be the grand marshal at Saturday’s parade, which begins at 11 a.m. at St. Asaph and Queen Streets and ends in front of City Hall.

In the parade, dozens of Scottish clans march to “Scotland The Brave” and other favorites as played by the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums.

While the main attraction, the parade is usually the proverbial cherry on top of a weekend caked with Scottish-themed events that historically generates approximately $250,000 in revenues such for the Campagna Center’s Early Learning Center at St. James, it’s New Neighbors program and Building Better Futures program, among others.

The festivities begin on Friday at 6:30 p.m. with the Taste of Scotland scotch tasting, which will be held in the newly renovated Atrium building (227 S. Washington Street).

The event is sold out.

Attendees are asked to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19, which includes a photo of a CDC vaccination card or a confirmation email from a negative test result.

“Guests who do not bring proof of vaccination/test results will not be allowed into the venue,” the Campagna Center said. “To expedite the check-in process, you may email a photo of your vaccination card to [email protected] by December 1, 2021.”

The festival is not yet back to full strength, as cancellations still include the annual historic homes tours and the Campagna Center’s heather and greens sale.

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