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NOVA RAFT founder Dan Altman speaks to Afghan refugees, Aug. 12, 2023 at WIlliam Ramsay Recreation Center (staff photo by James Cullum)

If you have any experience helping to teach English as a second language, you could put that to use in helping Afghan refugees settle into Alexandria.

Nonprofit Northern Virginia Resettling Afghan Families Together (NOVA RAFT) — which aims to help Afghan immigrants settle in — started a program in late August to help students improve their English skills.

The program benefits both children and adults and is taught at the William Ramsay Recreation Center (5650 Sanger Avenue).

“ESL volunteers will work closely with our Dari-speaking instructor to help our students improve their English skills,” the program’s website said. “Classes meet on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. Beginner class with young children is from 9:45-11:45 a.m. and the advanced Beginner class is from [noon] to 2 p.m.”

Volunteers are also needed for childcare assistance and specific skills, like phonics/basic literacy.

The volunteer sign-up sheet is available online.

Kudzu on the Mount Vernon Trail (photo via Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail)

Anyone who has traveled along the Mount Vernon Trail can tell you the kudzu near the old GenOn power plant is so thick it nearly swallows the trail. Now, Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail are fighting back.

The group is organizing a pushback to the kudzu invasion on Saturday, Aug. 19 from 9-11 a.m. The group is meeting on the trail near 1198 N. Fairfax Street.

Volunteers will be using pruners and loppers to remove the vines, as well as hauling away vegetation and fallen tree branches.

Volunteers should bring water, long sleeve shirts and long pants. Volunteers should bring gloves, pruners and loppers if they have them, but some will be available to borrow.

Marion Brunken, executive director of Volunteer Alexandria (on left), and Jenn Ayers, executive director of ALIVE!, celebrate reaching the goal of collecting more than 33,500 pounds of canned goods and cooking oil during the month of July (courtesy photo)

ALIVE! and Volunteer Alexandria exceeded their goal and collected more than 33,500 in last month’s first-ever citywide food drive.

The nonprofits collected 33,511 pounds of food from 38 locations across Alexandria last month.

“Thank you, Volunteer Alexandria, for hosting this food drive for us and the community,” said Jenn Ayers, ALIVE! executive director, “Donations like the ones we’ve received go a long way to keeping our costs down and provide a healthy variety of food to people who need help.”

The food collected will feed thousands of Alexandria families needing assistance. The effort was so successful that Volunteer Alexandria Executive Director Marion Brunken said that there will be another food drive next summer.

“We are thrilled to have exceeded our goal by over 3,000 pounds for our first community food drive and thank everyone who was able to help in some way,” Brunken said.

While the food drive was successful, ALIVE! always needs more donations. Food can be dropped at the ALIVE! Food Warehouse (801 South Payne Street) on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 pm. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

The food drive was sponsored by Ting InternetFitness Together and the Rotary Club of Alexandria.

Volunteer Alexandria and ALIVE! wanted to thank the following organizations:


The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail are starting the new year with some improvements near Daingerfield Island.

The volunteer organization, which does everything from clearing the trial to fixing bumps and other issues, is hosting an event on New Year’s Day. The work area is the trail on Daingerfield Island near 615 Slaters Lane.

This time, the work involves cleaning trash, clearing vegetation, and fixing several bumps in the trail.

For those that can’t make it in person, the organization is also raising funds to keep volunteers equipped with tools and supplies.

According to the event posting:

Volunteers may perform some of the following work:

  • Using pruners and loppers to remove vegetation growing into the trail
  • Using hand saws to cut tree branches
  • Hauling away vegetation and fallen tree branches
  • Picking up trash

What to Bring:

  • Water
  • Gloves (We’ll have some to borrow)
  • Long sleeves and long pants


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