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Community Matters: Arlington Organizations Excel During Challenging Times

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

I have always been intrigued by how organizations adapt. As an Arlingtonian, I am beyond impressed by the outstanding work of Arlington’s organizations and businesses during the pandemic. Due to their leadership and long-standing collaboration, they have thrived in ways that will have a positive impact on Arlington for decades to come.

Coordination — The Arlington Community Foundation was established in 1991 when the Honorable William T. Newman, Jr. observed the work of the San Francisco Community Foundation after the earthquake of 1989. Today the Foundation coordinates critical initiatives including Shared Prosperity and Bridges Out of Poverty. The Foundation’s extensive work with other nonprofit organizations has allowed them to seamlessly provide Rapid Response grants to local organizations during COVID-19.

The Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington was created in early April as a collaboration between the Arlington County Department of Human Services, Arlington Public Schools, Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) and a number of organizations providing meals to those in need through school PTAs and local neighborhood groups. AFAC is working with the Cooperative to provide groceries that can be delivered to homebound individuals, those in quarantine, and those with active cases. Having a strong organization such as AFAC has been critical during COVID-19 and they are seen as a key collaborator

Resources — Funds, materials, food and other resources have been critical to ensuring our community is served during COVID-19. Amazon contributed $1M to four area community foundations, of which the Arlington Community Foundation received $350,000. Arlington County is giving $300,000 to Arlington Thrive which delivers same-day emergency funds to our neighbors in crisis, and has been a leader in Arlington for 45 years. Businesses are offering free meals to seniors, students and families.

Adaptability — Many organizations, businesses and churches did not skip a beat to continue their work despite the social distancing and stay at home orders. The Arlington Committee of 100, founded in 1954 to foster open and vigorous discussion of issues involving all facets of community life in Arlington,  held its April gathering via Zoom. The Rosslyn BID will be holding virtual trivia nights. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is connecting businesses with resources for signage to alert customers about delivery and carryout options. Several organizations and businesses have updated their websites or apps to facilitate ordering and general communication. The League of Women Voters of Arlington has started Pandemic Postcarding where they wrote 1000 postcards to rural African American voters in Virginia for the NAACP.  I am sure dozens of budding entrepreneurs and existing businesses have started making and selling masks.

I recognize that in addition to these formal organizations, there are countless smaller and information gatherings of people who are doing similar work. Oftentimes the collective of these organizations and businesses characterize a community. They can be our vehicles to solve community problems. They represent the fabric of who we are. When times are good, it is easy to forget about the dedication and the innovation it takes to run both businesses and organizations. When challenges arise we expect them to rise to the occasion. It may be months before we fully realize the impact that our businesses and nonprofits are making, but whether we are having a pandemic or not, they deserve our full support.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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