Last week, Fair Share Education Fund released a report showing eligibility for free or reduced price school lunches is growing faster in suburbs like Arlington than in cities. Although the report focused on 2010-2011, an Arlington Food Assistance Center spokeswoman confirmed the organization still saw a huge increase in Arlington families using its services for the 2014 fiscal year, which ended on June 30.
AFAC served 1,400 families each week as of July 2013, and that bumped up to 2,000 families each week by this summer, which is a 40 percent increase. That equals about 5,000 individuals every week, of which 36 percent are children.
AFAC staff believes two factors contributing to the increase were last year’s government shutdown and the reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
“Last year in November, the SNAP cuts went into effect and we immediately saw an increase in the number of families coming to us,” said AFAC Director of Development Joy Myers. “The average reduction per family was $36 per month. That may not seem like a lot, but when you’re scraping to get by and every penny counts and you’re $36 short, you’re going to try to find all your resources. When they get food from us, they can take that money and pay rent or gas and electric bills, or buy medicine.”
One way AFAC is trying to combat the growing food insecurity for Arlington’s children is by expanding its Backpack Buddies program, which began serving homeless children a few years ago. This year, the pilot program will open up to children in need at four elementary schools — Barcroft, Barrett, Randolph and Carlin Springs.
Kids enrolled in the program receive food on Fridays, to take home and eat on Saturday and Sunday when they’re away from school. The kids can choose to take the pre-packaged goods home in their own backpack, or borrow one and return it on Monday. The program is anonymous to prevent embarrassing children who are signed up. AFAC volunteers drop off the food and backpacks to school cafeteria workers and that’s where kids registered with the program can pick up their weekend supplies.
“We’re trying to de-stigmatize it as much as possible for kids to get the food that they need,” said Myers. “We’re also hoping because there are so many people struggling with food insecurity who aren’t speaking out, we hope this is a way for families to hear about our other services. We don’t want anybody in Arlington going hungry.”
Children at the four schools will take home an information packet when school starts and their parents have to register through the Arlington Public Schools Office of Food and Nutrition Services.
Although AFAC always can use monetary and food donations, it especially could use help with Backpack Buddies because the pre-packaged, microwaveable kids’ meals are more expensive than other donated items. To donate, volunteer or set up a food drive, log on to the AFAC website for more information.
CEB May Anchor New Rosslyn Skyscraper — The Corporate Executive Board is considering jumping ship from its current Rosslyn office to anchor the planned office skyscraper in JBG’s Central Place development in Rosslyn. Should a deal with JBG go through, construction would start on the office skyscraper, which is currently on hold even though its companion residential skyscraper is being built. [Washington Business Journal]
WaPo Takes on Clarendon — “In the past decade and a half, Clarendon has seen a steady influx of hip eateries, high-rise condo buildings and happy 20-somethings in search of organic quinoa,” writes the Washington Post, in an article about “what to do in Clarendon.” [Washington Post]
Polls Suggest Beyer is Frontrunner in Congressional Race — Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer is leading in polls taken in the figurative backyards of his opponents. Beyer is leading in Charniele Herring’s House of Delegates district, Adam Ebbin’s state Senate district and in the city of Alexandria, where Bill Euille is mayor. Of the areas polled, only Patrick Hope in his House of Delegates district is beating Beyer. The polls were sponsored by the Democratic website Blue Virginia. The Democratic candidates vying to replace Rep. Jim Moran in Congress will debate tonight at George Mason University’s Arlington campus.
‘Outstanding Volunteers’ Named — The Arlington County Board on May 13 will honor 7 individuals and two teams for outstanding volunteer service to the county. [Arlington County]
New Development Coming to Falls Church — A new seven-story mixed-use building is coming to the City of Falls Church. The development, at 301 West Broad Street, will feature 282 apartments, a Harris Teeter store and another retail space. [Greater Greater Washington]
Photo courtesy @jdsonder
The rain is coming down in buckets in Arlington — and should continue to do so until tomorrow — so while you’re holed up inside and dry, check out some of these opportunities around the county to bring some sunshine to those in need.
Starting this week, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation is looking for swim instructors to help children with disabilities learn how to swim. Volunteers will be in the pool providing swimming assistance as well as support and encouragement, and, according to the volunteer announcement, “an important element of this class is building a relationship with ‘your’ class participant.”
Those interested, and free on either Wednesdays or Sundays, should call Kathryn Salyers at (703) 228-4738 or go online. Here are some other opportunities to get involved around the county (from Volunteer Arlington):
- Weekly Wednesday Food Distribution: The Arlington Career Center has over 1,000 students that walk through its doors. Out of all of those students, a number of them are in need of additional resources to help them succeed. One of those such resources is food. Every week on Wednesday afternoons, between 1:40 p.m. and 3:20 p.m., we distribute free groceries to our students at school. We are in need of individuals or groups who might be available one or more Wednesdays between 1:00 and 3:40 p.m. to help distribute groceries as well as to help with set up and breakdown. If individuals or groups are only available for half of the time, that also would work well. All volunteers who participate will be trained during their initial volunteer engagement. Volunteers who hope to volunteer regularly will also be required to complete a form for a required Arlington Public Schools background check on their first day of volunteerism. Contact: (703) 228-8694.
- In-School Tutor for Young Adults: Are you looking to make a difference in the lives of nontraditional students looking to obtain their high school diploma? Communities In Schools of Northern Virginia is seeking academic tutors at one of its high school sites to aide students in their English, reading, science or math skills. The individual must be able to commit to volunteering for 2-10 hours per week on site between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday or for math specifically between 5 p.m. and 9:10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Scheduling flexibility from week to week is definitely an option. More information can be found online. Contact: (703) 228-8694.
- Computer Skills Instructor: This is an opportunity to teach computer skills in using Microsoft Office applications, Social Media and any basic skills as needed to low- and moderate-income adults in Arlington at the Whitefield Commons Community Resource Center; many of whom are immigrants and have limited English. They need patient and sharing individuals like you to become involved. Volunteers must have proficiency using Microsoft Office, Social Media, Internet Explorer, and email accounts and an ability to patiently explain, in basic terms, how applications work and can be utilized. More information can be found online. Contact: (703) 465-5001.
Arlington County is celebrating National Volunteer Week next week.
Running from April 6-12, National Volunteer Week aims to “celebrate the ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things through service,” according to the Volunteer Arlington website.
Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette signed an official proclamation deeming the week the time to “celebrate the invaluable work that volunteers perform every day, to commit themselves to do even more through the many volunteer programs in our community, and to continue strengthening Arlington through volunteer service.”
In his proclamation, Fisette also notes that “volunteer service is needed now more than ever to tackle the tough social, economic, cultural, and humanitarian needs of our residents.”
A county-produced video promoting the week, above, boasts that 32 percent of Arlington residents volunteer each year — performing tasks like leading summer camp activities, teaching U.S. history and civics in preparation for the citizenship exam, and educating residents about emergency preparedness. Arlington residents donate more than 500,000 volunteer hours to Arlington County government each year, the video says.
Airlines to Drop 17 Nonstop Flights at DCA — American Airlines and US Airways are dropping nonstop service to 17 cities — including Detroit, San Diego, Minneapolis, Myrtle Beach and Nassau, Bahamas — from Reagan National Airport. The move is part of a deal with the government that was struck in order to win approval for the merger of the two airlines. [WJLA/Associated Press]
Preservationists Worry About Home Tear-Downs — The pace of home tear-downs in Arlington has been steadily rising over the past five years. Preservation Arlington says 179 houses, out of the county’s stock of 28,400 single-family homes, received permits to be torn down in 2013. “The looming demolition of these houses and buildings represents an incredible loss of history, architecture, time, energy, and materials,” the group said in a blog post. [Washington Post, Preservation Arlington]
Rich Getting Richer Faster in North Arlington — The northern-most parts of Arlington, along the Fairfax County border, have seen a dramatic 25+ percent rise in incomes over $200,000 in the past decade or so. That far out-paced areas along Arlington’s Metro corridors. [Patch]
Volunteers Needed for Homeless Census — Volunteers are being sought for the annual “Point in Time” count of homeless individuals in Arlington County. The count will take place this year between Jan. 29-30. [Volunteer Arlington]
Photo courtesy @flyidca
There’s an immediate need for people to help this week with sorting and distributing donated coats, or next week with distributing donated children’s holiday gifts. In the coming months, people are asked to help out with tasks like income tax preparation.
Numerous opportunities can be found on the Volunteer Arlington website, such as the following:
- Children’s Gift Distribution — Volunteers have already sorted most of the donated children’s gifts for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree holiday program, but help is needed for distributing the items. Distribution takes place next Wednesday, December 18. Volunteers must be at least 13 years old, and those between the ages of 13 and 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Contact Luisa Slay at 703-979-3380 or online.
- Coat Drive Distribution — Nauck Community Services Center has collected hundreds of coats and had them cleaned, and now volunteers are needed from 7:00-9:00 p.m. this Friday, December 13, to help sort the items. Volunteers are also needed from 8:00-10:00 a.m. this Saturday, November 14, to help neighbors in need pick out the perfect coat for themselves and family members. Contact Bri Sheffey at 703-229-5650 or online.
- Ship Bicycles to Africa — Bikes for the World is looking for people to help load hundreds of donated bikes and bike parts into 40 foot shipping containers. The items are used for health, education and jobs programs in Africa. Training will be provided. A number of dates are available over the next few months. Contact Yvette Hess at 703-740-7856 or online.
- Income Tax Assistance — Volunteers are requested by the DC EITC Campaign for helping people with income tax preparation early next year. A number of positions exist, including tax preparer, client coordinator, greeter and savings promoter. Training will take place in January and helpers must pass an IRS volunteer test. Shifts vary throughout the 2014 tax season. Contact Elizabeth Rosenberg at 202-547-7773 or online.
- Tutor Young Adults — Helpers are needed for assisting students in trying to earn their high school diplomas. Communities in Schools of Northern Virginia requests tutors to work on-site at a local high school to assist students with English, reading, science or math. A commitment of 2-10 hours per week is required. All tutors must be 18 or older and have a high school diploma. Volunteers must also complete a background check. Contact Daphne Charles at 703-228-8694 or online.
Wreaths to Be Placed at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — Wreaths will be placed on nearly 130,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday. Most of the wreaths are being made possible by a $250,000 donation from Google. [Washington Post]
Church Works to Package 100,000 Meals — More than 500 volunteers worked to package 100,000 non-perishable meals for hungry children around the world last week at Jefferson Middle School. The effort was organized by Grace Community Church. [Sun Gazette]
ACPD Hiring Recruit Officers — The Arlington County Police Department is looking to hire a number of entry-level police officers this winter. The application process involves a written exam, physical ability test, interview, polygraph test, psychological evaluation and medical evaluation. [PoliceOne.com, Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
There are numerous opportunities for donating your time to a good cause around Arlington, including serving Thanksgiving meals.
In addition to those listed below, other volunteer opportunities throughout the county can be found on the Volunteer Arlington website.
- Thanksgiving Celebration Hosts — Helpers are needed from 11:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26, for the Clarendon House Thanksgiving celebration. Volunteers will assist with tasks such as decorating, cleaning up and preparing or serving food. Clarendon House is a community-based rehabilitation program for adults diagnosed with serious mental illness. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and must show compassion and caring for, as well as comfort interacting with and learning from, adults with serious mental illness. Volunteers should have a positive attitude, be responsible, use good judgment and maintain strict client confidentiality. For more information or to sign up, contact Susan Stolpe via email or at 703-228-1760.
- Deliver and Serve Thanksgiving Dinners — The Knights of Columbus seeks people to help ensure all members of the community — particularly the needy, elderly and home-alone — can celebrate Thanksgiving with a hot meal. Volunteers are needed on Thursday, November 28, to serve and deliver meals for around 3,000 people. Volunteers should be flexible and willing to help out where needed. Those who volunteer as deliverers should have their own vehicle to transport meals. Contact Mary Jo Galvin by email or by calling 703-532-8498.
- Food Drive Hosts — The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) seeks residents in condo and apartment buildings to host holiday food drives. The volunteers would coordinate with building management to host a food drive in November and/or December to benefit AFAC. Volunteers would be provided with food collection bins and fliers that can be posted around the building. Those interested in helping should contact Danielle Rampton at email@example.com.
The Jefferson (900 N. Taylor Street) senior independent living community is looking for people to help its residents feel beautiful. It’s seeking volunteers to help give manicures.
The Jefferson will provide all the necessary manicure supplies, volunteers just need to show up and help to do the residents’ nails. Volunteers of nearly any age are welcome, but those under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Anyone interested should contact Jocelyn Hunt at 703-741-7585 or via email.
There are numerous other volunteer opportunities available on Volunteer Arlington’s website, including those listed below:
- Turkey Trot Volunteers — Helpers are needed for Arlington’s 8th annual Turkey Trot race on Thursday, November 28. In addition to those who can assist with tasks like setup and water station attendants on the day of the race, volunteers are needed on Tuesday, November 26, and Wednesday, November 27, to register participants. No special training is necessary, but volunteers must be able to stand during the event, which will take place rain or shine. Any helpers under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Volunteers can register online or contact Mark Riley at 703-927-0328 for more information.
- Shelving at Westover Branch Library — Westover Branch Library needs people to help put returned materials in numerical order and prep the materials for re-shelving. Volunteers must be dependable and should enjoy working on detail oriented projects. Two-hour shifts are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Helpers who are 18 and older must consent to a background check. Anyone interested should contact Barbara Dean at 703-228-7688 or via email.
- Mentor Latino Youths — Helpers are needed for Edu-Futuro’s Emerging Leaders Program. The program assists youths who are contemplating attending college with applying for scholarships, submitting college applications and improving speaking/writing skills. Mentors will meet with their assigned students on six Saturday mornings this fall. Applications can be found online and are due on Wednesday, October 23. Applicants must undergo a background check and attend an orientation. For more information, call 703-228-2560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosslyn Jazz Fest Street Closures — A number of lane and street closures will be in place for most of the day on Saturday for the 2013 Rosslyn Jazz Festival. The festival itself runs from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. The closures will be in place from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., in the area of Gateway Park. [Arlington County]
Road Closures for 9/11 5K Race — Several roads in the Pentagon City area, including parts for Route 110, Army Navy Drive, Washington Blvd and S. Joyce Street, will be closed Saturday night for the annual Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff Memorial 9/11 5K race. The closures will first go into effect at 5:45 p.m. [Arlington County]
‘Cheesemonger’ Katie Carter Profiled — Katie Carter, the cheesemonger for Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway), recently placed third in a national cheese contest. The honor was the culmination of the D.C. native’s nearly lifelong love of cheese and cheesemaking. (Now expecting her second child, Carter is taking a break from her “Your Cheesemonger” column on ARLnow.com.) [Washington Post]
Teen Tutors Needed — Affordable housing nonprofit AHC Inc. is again looking for volunteer tutors. AHC’s tutoring program has served at-risk teens in Arlington for more than 15 years. [AHC Inc.]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
There are a number of new volunteer opportunities available throughout Arlington, including several positions with an organization whose mission bring opera to the masses.
Opera NOVA, an all-volunteer non-profit organization, aims to make opera affordable and accessible to all residents of Northern Virginia. The group is currently seeking a Schools Coordinator for Children’s Opera. The volunteer will introduce Opera NOVA’s programs to schools, plan school outreach strategies and assist in creating marketing materials for schools and families. Those interested can apply or request more information online.
More volunteer opportunities throughout the area can be found on the Volunteer Arlington website. A few others are listed below.
- Read to Children — Volunteers are needed to read to children in homeless shelters and affordable housing complexes. The one hour reading sessions each month engage children in the books and hands-on activities. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and will undergo a background check. For more information or to sign up, email or call Stephanie Berman at 703-528-8317, extension 10.
- Library Circulation Support — The Westover Library needs someone to help with the circulation of library materials. The helper will prepare items to be sent to other branches, search for lost items and unpack items received from other branches. Shifts are available on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Anyone interested should contact Barbara Dean via email or at 703-228-7688.
- Visual Arts Facilitator — A creative volunteer is wanted for developing and providing art instruction to groups at Parks and Recreation community centers. Volunteer must attend training for skill building, arrive in advance of the program to prepare materials and a sample of projects, and assist in preparation of art exhibition for participants’ work. The helper must be able to stand for three hours at a time and lift and/or carry material bins weighing up to 20 pounds. To sign up or learn more, contact Milada Weaver at 703-228-4730 or via email.
This article was written by Maddy Berner
“I was looking at choosing colleges and I wasn’t sure of about that level of intensity,” she said. “I felt like I needed more time to figure that out.”
This fall, Parker-Simkin will begin a year-long journey with Global Citizen Year, a gap-year program that allows students to do service work in a developing country before college. Parker-Simkin will spend what would be her freshman year of college in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, in the city of Florianópolis. The recent Washington-Lee graduate has already started a blog about her experiences.
She writes in her first blog post: “After reading a friend’s Global Citizen Year blog posts over the course of his term, I decided to apply to the program. It seemed like a perfect intersection of self-discovery, adventure, and service. I am excited to be going to the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil.”
Global Citizen Year is a non-profit organization that aims to create a different kind of educational pathway for its recruits. The program selects a diverse group of high school graduates and sends them to communities in Africa and Latin America. Through their own immersion and hands-on training, the students help the communities’ education efforts, as well as gain their own entrepreneurial experience and self-awareness.
In 2008, founder Abby Falik pitched the idea for the program to a Harvard Business School startup competition. A year later, the program launched with 11 participants. In just four years, Global Citizen Year has grown to include more than 200 alumni.
And in a year, when she finishes the program and heads off to college (school as yet undetermined), Parker-Simkin will be one of those alumni.
Parker-Simkin said she initially chose the GCY program because of its service- and community-oriented agenda, something she’s used to. In Arlington, she volunteered at the Central Library and Arlington Food Assistance Program.
“I like that it’s not just sending kids to go fix problems,” she said. “I think it’s good that it’s very community-based.”
After a week of training in California later this month, Parker-Simkin will head to Florianópolis and stay with a host family. She said she’s never traveled extensively before, and is excited about the new experiences and culture that await her. She said she’s been learning Portugese all summer, and can’t wait to further her knowledge of it.
But mostly, she’s thrilled about her upcoming service work and helping those in her new Brazilian community.
“It’s going to be exciting to do something really big,” she said.
Photo courtesy Libby Parker-Simkin
The library recently began lending American Girl dolls and the toys are getting a lot of play time. Volunteers are needed for upkeep of the dolls, including combing their hair, washing their clothes and replacing worn out parts. The position posting reads: “We need someone who enjoys working with dolls and their belongings and who is dependable.”
There would be a weekly commitment, but hours are flexible. Ideal candidates are teens or a parent/child team. Those 18 years and older must consent to a background check.
Interested volunteers should contact Barbara Dean at 703-228-7688 or put in a request online.
Below are a few other new volunteer opportunities around Arlington:
- Community Picnic Volunteers — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is looking for helpers at a picnic it is hosting for residents at Columbia Grove on July 15. Volunteers would help with setup and cleanup, leading games for children, face painting, cooking and distributing food and drinks. The picnic is designed to help residents meet their neighbors and build a sense of community. The event runs from 3:30-7:30 p.m., but arrangements may be made for those who can’t stay the entire time. Anyone interested in helping should contact Liz McElwee at 703-851-3635 or send an online request.
- Angel Tree Family Registration — Although it’s summertime, the Salvation Army is already looking for people to help with its Angel Tree holiday gift program. The program identifies needy children and matches each one with a sponsor who will provide holiday gifts for the child. Volunteers will register needy families for the program and help make holiday wish lists. Helpers must be available on weekdays from September 16-October 11, but the schedule is flexible. Although volunteers who are available on a recurring basis are preferred, those who are only available on a one-time basis will also be considered. To sign up, call Brittney Drakeford at 202-756-2615 or send an online request.
- Spanish Academy Teacher Assistant — Volunteer teacher assistants are needed for Edu-Futuro’s Spanish Academy — a two week (August 12-23) summer immersion camp that provides cultural and academic enrichment and Spanish language skills to rising kindergarteners through fifth graders. Volunteers will perform tasks such as assisting with student registration, helping with classroom activities and watching over students during activities and recess breaks. Applicants should have Spanish language skills (verbal and written), experience working with children and must go through a background check. To sign up, contact Eneida Alcade at 703-228-2560 or send an online request.
Photo via Facebook
The Volunteers of America Residential Program Center at 1554 Columbia Pike is offering fitness classes to its residents and is looking for volunteers to help instruct.
The shelter is looking for qualified Zumba and yoga instructors. It describes the ideal candidates to teach Zumba as “fun, engaging and passionate,” and says all forms of yoga are welcome. The center writes in the volunteer announcements that it can be flexible with scheduling.
In addition to the fitness classes, the center is also hoping to start planting a garden in its backyard. It is looking for someone with gardening experience to work with the residents and teach them the finer points of starting a garden.
Those interested in applying should contact Volunteer Coordinator Joe Onyebuchi at 703-228-0017.
It’s that time of year when Sherlock Shad (pictured left) begins appearing more frequently in Arlington neighborhoods. But the county needs help attaching the storm drain markers bearing his likeness.
Arlington marks many of its more than 10,000 storm drains as a reminder that anything going into a drain heads directly to local streams that flow into the Potomac River. The river is the source of tap water for Arlington and much of the D.C. metro area.
Nothing should be dumped into storm drains, per Arlington County Code Section 26-5, which reads: “…it shall be unlawful for any person to discharge directly or indirectly into the storm sewer system or state waters, any substance likely, in the opinion of the County Manager, to have an adverse effect on the storm sewer system or state waters.”
Arlington partners with the neighboring jurisdictions of Fairfax County and Alexandria to all order the same style of markers. Ordering the markers in bulk helps each jurisdiction keep costs down. The costs vary each year based on how many markers need to be attached.
Arlington County Department of Environmental Services Stormwater Outreach Specialist Jen McDonnell said in addition to affixing the markers to currently unmarked drains, volunteers replace some markers that are damaged or have come loose from the pavement.
“Whether it’s snow removal or new construction, these markers do come off with time,” said McDonnell. “Not only are they [volunteers] affixing the markers, but they can tell me which streets need new markers or what is unmarked.”
The markers list different streams depending on which neighborhood they are placed in. Some of the waterways include Lubber Run, Four Mile Run, and Gulf Branch.
The glue used to attach the markers to the pavement does not work in cold, wet conditions. Therefore, the markers only can be applied on dry days during the late spring, summer and fall.
Nearly anyone can volunteer to help out, including adults, scout groups or middle school and high school students wishing to fulfill service hours. Volunteers receive all the materials necessary to attach the markers. Once finished with the task, volunteers report which drains they have marked so the locations can be entered into an electronic database.
“This project allows the citizens to be involved and clues them in to all the storm drains. It makes them think about if there are things in the street, where it all goes,” McDonnell said. “It’s a great, easy program that people can get out and do whenever they have time for it.”
Anyone who would like to volunteer to affix the markers in their neighborhood should contact Jen McDonnell at email@example.com or 703-228-3042. Residents can also contact her to report a storm drain in need of a new marker.