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.
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.
There are a bunch of available volunteer opportunities in Alexandria this summer.
“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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Alexandria Families for Safer Streets Executive Assistant to Board of Directors — “The agency is seeking an executive assistant to help coordinate a diverse group of tasks necessary to keep us on track and moving forward. Someone with office manager skills would be the ideal candidate. To learn more 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- The Alzheimer’s Association and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s -Saturday, September 25 (National Harbor) and Saturday, October 9, 2021, on the National Mall, Washington, DC. Volunteers are needed on the day of the events to help with set up, sign placement, information services, promise flower distribution, cheerleaders, and route monitors. To learn more and register, click HERE for September 25 and click HERE for October 9.
- 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!”
- Create COVID-19 Care Packages with the Salvation Army — “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.
- 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.
- 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.”
Nonprofits Hearts of Enpowerment and The Oasis Alliance has helped to makeover the homes for some local survivors of trauma and for Alexandria-based recovery program Friends of Guest House — an Alexandria reentry program for women leaving prison.
“Hearts of Empowerment contributed its fundraising capacity to raise over $4,500, supply furniture and building materials, as well as provide discounts at local hardware stores,” the organization said in a press release. “The group promoted the program to shelters and community centers to help identify individuals and families that could benefit from the service.”
The organizations help makeover two homes in addition to Friends of Guest House.
“As a result, not only were two women with young children selected for space makeovers, but Alexandria-based Friends of Guest House, which helps women transition back into the community after incarceration, also received a facility makeover,”
Teams worked on a new reading room, computer area, kitchen and living room while women in the facility were out on a field trip to surprise them when they returned. The Oasis Alliance also offered time with a therapist for residents of the program.
Del Ray First Thursday Porch Party Today — “The Del Ray Business Association presents First Thursday Porch Party: Red, White, and Blue from 6 p.m. to dusk on Thursday, July 2. In the spirit of Del Ray’s summer street festivals, the event features a wide range of activities that promote community while maintaining social distancing standards.” [Facebook]
Major Residential Development Breaks Ground — “About 300 residences and a large parking garage are replacing an old office building in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]
DASH Bus Mobile Tracker Launches — “The new mobile-friendly DASH Tracker is finally here with new features and improved information to make finding your next bus a snap! Where will you go with the new DASH Tracker?” [Facebook]
Al’s Steak House Won’t Have Indoor Seating — “As we enter Phase 3 Al’s will continue not to have indoor seating available. Our space is too small to accommodate customers dining in and customers picking up their orders.The social distancing would be non existent. We do offer two tables for outdoor seating. Al’s will continue to accept call in orders and Delivery.” [Facebook]
Rebuilding Together Alexandria Slowly Getting Back on Track — “Our team was looking for a socially-distant project to get us out of the office and back into the community. We mulched the grounds of local nonprofit, Friends of Guest House. Check out the before and after!” [Facebook]
Mason & Greens Grand Opening Moved Online — “When news about the coronavirus began to spread, the Marinos knew they would have to cancel their big grand opening event.” [Alexandria Living]
Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Open House Saturday — “Explore the history in your own backyard with free, self-guided tours of the Lee-Fendall House on July 4th! Face masks are required and we will be limiting the number of visitors allowed in the museum at one time to allow for social distancing.” [Facebook]
For many women at Friends of Guest House, self-quarantining bears an uncomfortable familiarity to the jails and prisons they just left.
The Alexandria shelter helps women emerging from incarceration reenter their communities. But coronavirus has put a new wrench into those plans and spokesperson Marisa Tordella says there’s some extra frustrations and tensions for women who once again feel like they are in lockdown.
“There are peaks and valleys,” Tordella said. “I think one of the things that is really hard for our clients — even though their movement is restricted and locked in their home — it’s familiar to incarceration so there’s a lot of anxiety with that. We’re trying to bring as much to them as they can to make them feel better, to encourage them that it’s not just them. Everyone is feeling this.”
There are two homes for clients at Friends of Guest House, both of which are still open. While other non-profits have had to curtail their operations or close entirely, Tordella said their organization’s clients have become even more reliant on the services their nonprofit provides.
“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Tordella said. “It’s obviously stressful. It’s very difficult and challenging. It feels like our world is upside down but I don’t think we’re alone in that.”