Local Boy Scouts of America and Girls Scouts troops in Virginia may get some tax relief — if a local lawmakers succeeds in modifying the state constitution.
Inspired by the testimony of one Arlington Boy Scout, Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has introduced legislation that would exempt property owned and used by the organization “solely for the purpose of supporting” troops from personal property taxes.
The organizations would join other nonprofits that also enjoy this status, including museums, churches, the YMCA and similar religious groups.
Last September, Boy Scout Troop 167 member Griffin Crouch told the Arlington County Board that his troop was saddled with $3,000 in personal property taxes on its vans.
He asked them to see if there was a way to get the troop out of this obligation, as it eats up a chunk of the $21,000 budget.
Hope says he read ARLnow’s coverage and decided to try and help.
“I know many Scout troops rely on vehicles for camping trips and backpacking adventures across the state and the country,” Hope said. “Many troops, however, cannot afford other means of transportation to these excursions and owning your own van(s) is an economical way to afford these life-changing experiences.”
Up until last year, Mount Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road), near Ballston, officially sponsored Troop 167.
But last summer, the United Methodist Church, the largest supporter of scouting troops, told local churches to stop officially sponsoring local troops. Troops can still use their facilities, however.
Troop 167 decided to incorporate a nonprofit to sponsor the troop, but getting 501(c)(3) status and federal tax-exempt status did not protect it from state tax code or Arlington’s personal property tax.
So far, Hope says he’s only aware of Troop 167 facing this dilemma but he filed the resolution expecting other troops will also lose their sponsorship and face similar circumstances.
“More and more troops are going to lose their once enjoyed tax-exempt status and, while localities have the statutory authority to grant narrow exceptions to non-profits, there will be many that will refuse to open that door and, therefore, a state solution through amending the Virginia Constitution is the only available remedy,” he said.
It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means it’s Christmas tree time here in Arlington.
As in past years, there are a number of tree sales going on in the county this holiday season. In fact, there appears to be more this year than in 2021. Many sales begin this weekend, right after the Thanksgiving holiday.
However, that perfect pine may cost you more this year.
The Knights of Columbus, for instance, is resuming tree sales this year after being closed for the last two seasons due to Covid and tree supply issues.
But the group is cautioning locals that the price of a Christmas tree will be higher this year compared to last year due to rising operating costs and inflation.
“This will remain a challenging year for us, as have many other tree lot operators, as we have experienced almost a doubling of the wholesale costs from our suppliers due to the continuing Christmas tree shortage and the impact of inflation on shipping charges,” a spokesperson wrote ARLnow in an email. “While we realize this may reduce the amount we can raise from the sale, we felt it important to reopen the lot this year, as we’ve heard from many of our customers over the last few years that they miss their family tradition of heading down to the lot to get their tree.”
While not every tree sale posts prices in advance, at least two other local sales have appeared to have raised tree prices by about 15% compared to 2021.
Below are the sales that ARLnow has confirmed are happening this year.
Optimist Club of Arlington
Starts: Friday, Nov. 25 at noon
Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road)
The lot will be open every day of the week until all the trees are sold out. All profits go towards Arlington youth sports and academic activities.
Clarendon United Methodist Church
Starts: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 9 a.m.
Clarendon United Methodist Church (606 N. Irving Street)
There will be 300 trees for sale this year. Pre-sale is open now, with pick-up at the church lot. The trees come from Canada and the six to seven-foot trees cost $85 this year, a ten-dollar increase from last year. All proceed are going to Arlington Thrive. This sale has been held annually since 2007.
Scout Troop 167
Starts: Friday, Nov. 25 at noon
Mount Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road)
The boys and girls of Scout Troop 167 are hosting a sale near Ballston again this year. It’s being held Thanksgiving weekend, on Nov. 25, 26, and 27. The sale starts at noon on Friday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. Saturday. It will go to 8 p.m. each night. The next weekend (Dec. 2, 3, and 4) are backup dates in case of inclement weather. Pre-sales are being accepted.
The Arlington Food Assistance Center is preparing for its largest single-day food drive.
As food prices continue to rise across the country, Scouting for Food — an annual event held in partnership with local Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs — has taken on new urgency.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, Boy Scouts will go door to door and distribute bags to houses in the county so that residents can gather non-perishable food inside of them. The scouts return the following Saturday to collect the donations and bring them to Savior Lutheran Church, to be sorted by volunteers.
The food is then delivered to AFAC, where additional volunteers prepare it for distribution.
The drive has collected over 1 million pounds of food since 1995, and AFAC CEO Charles Meng says in recent years it has brought in upwards of 55,000 pounds of donations.
“And that’s desperately needed by the families who come to us,” he said.
Even in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, thousands of families are dealing with food insecurity.
The Arlington Food Assistance Center distributes food six days a week at its 2708 S. Nelson Street location. Meng says there has been a sharp increase in need since January and the center currently serves around 2,500 families, or roughly 8,000 individuals. He says a third of them are children.
“At this time of the year, we’re normally serving closer to 2,000 families a week, but we were up to 2,468 families last week, and that’s been increasing at about 25 to 30 families a week,” he said, adding that if the trend continues for a few more weeks, the demand will exceed the peak of the pandemic.
AFAC pays for 60% of the food it distributes, and higher food prices and increased demand are just two reasons Meng says this event is essential to the center.
“More families are coming to us, and so we need more food to give to them, which means we’re buying more, but we’re also buying it at a far higher price.”
He says the center is somewhat unusual because it purchases food to give away, whereas most food pantries only donate food given to them.
“So the Boy Scout food drive, being a national effort, really helps everyone throughout this country, and especially those food pantries that really don’t have the resources to purchase food,” he said.
The Arlington Food Assistance Center also holds food drives in various locations across the county, including at Arlington public libraries. Meng says the drives are critical as the holiday season approaches.
“During the holidays, it’s really important,” said Meng. “It’s one of the best ways to get the kind of food that our families like and will eat.”
A local scouting troop says it has been blindsided by a $3,000 personal property tax bill on its vans.
So a scout decided to seek relief from the bill — which would take a big chunk of its $21,000 budget — by going to the Arlington County Board.
“These vans take scouts on campouts and hikes, and to once in a lifetime adventures, backpacking in New Mexico and scuba diving in Florida,” Griffin Crouch told the Board on Saturday. “A lot of members are first-generation immigrants and the vans help us ensure that every scout gets to participate in practicing leadership and serving the community and have fun doing it — regardless of their families’ income.”
He told the County Board he hopes Arlington can find a way for the troop to remain tax-exempt, like Arlington’s other scout troops and youth organizations, before taxes are due.
More than 50 boys and girls who make up Troop 167 meet at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road), near Ballston. Up until last year, he said, the church officially sponsored the troop.
But this summer, the United Methodist Church, the largest supporter of scouting troops, told local churches to stop officially sponsoring local troops. Troops can still use their facilities, however.
The decision came the Boy Scouts of America declared bankruptcy following numerous legal battles over child sexual-abuse and dwindling participation due to the pandemic. As part of the BSA’s sexual-abuse bankruptcy and settlement plan, United Methodist Church paid $30 million to victims.
So Troop 167 decided to incorporate a nonprofit to sponsor the troop, Crouch said.
What the troop didn’t realize was that getting 501(c)(3) status and federal tax-exempt status did not protect it from state tax code or Arlington’s personal property tax.
“We have discussed the matter with our Commissioner of Revenue (COR), and although we are prohibited under state law from discussing the details of a particular taxpayer’s liability, the COR has confirmed that as a general matter, personal property belonging to a federally income-tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity is subject to the personal property tax in Arlington with a few limited exceptions,” Arlington County spokeswoman Jessica Baxter told ARLnow.
Boy Scout troops are not a mentioned in the list of entities whose property is tax exempt: churches, museums, the YMCA and similar religious groups, for example.
“It seems wrong a scout troop has to pay that because it’s being sponsored by a non-religious nonprofit rather than a church,” Crouch said. “We still help the church and it considers us a part of its social justice ministries.”
Board Chair Katie Cristol praised Crouch for demonstrating “the best of the values of scouting: community organization, leadership and critical thinking and analysis.”
“I know some of my colleagues have started this conversation with you all, and will continue it,” she said. “The principle that’s at stake here is one of fairness. We don’t exempt nonprofits in general from personal property taxes, and so exceptions we would make we would need to understand in context of, or have a framework for how we can be fair across nonprofits.”
Cristol said she will follow-up personally regarding next steps.
“I think you have done a great job of summarizing how it’s been a complicated series of events to get the troop here,” she said. “I wonder if there may be some opportunities for us to figure out your incorporation status, and if there are ways we can help in that regard.”
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It was a reasonable ask. Amanda Dabrowski and Jessie Dertke just wanted to do more outdoor activities and go camping. So, they joined the Boy Scouts. Specifically, Arlington’s Troop 104, the oldest continuously operated troop in the Commonwealth and first established more than a century ago.
For nearly all of those years, though, girls weren’t allowed to join.
But all of that changed in 2019 when the Boy Scouts of America allowed girls ages 11 to 17 years old to enter their ranks for the first time. The organization was renamed Scouts BSA. Additionally, the new members were given the opportunity to rise to the rank of Eagle Scout.
The very first day, February 1, 2019, that girls were allowed to join the Boy Scouts, then-12-year-old Dabrowski did exactly that. And went camping, winter be damned.
“I was so excited. And there was a camp-up that day, so I went out and did it. It was six degrees and freezing cold. But I was really, really psyched,” Dabrowski tells ARLnow, now 15 and living in the Ashton Heights neighborhood.
Dabrowski, as well as Dertke have gone on to become Eagle Scouts, making them among the first girls in Arlington to not only be part of what was once called the Boy Scouts but achieve the organization’s highest rank.
“I’m super proud,” Dabrowski says. “It makes me really happy and [becoming an Eagle Scout] doesn’t feel quite real yet… I’m one of the first people within the movement to be part of this.”
Overall, the two Arlingtonians are part of as many as 140,000 girls nationwide who have joined Scouts BSA since early 2019.
Like some who make history, the locals’ initial intentions weren’t necessarily to be first. It was simply to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. They just wanted to go camping, build fires, and learn how to use a hatchet.
Dabrowski explains that she used to tag along with her twin brother’s troop, doing all of the same activities and completing all the tasks, but wasn’t given the same opportunity for recognition.
“It was really hard to see my brother get the awards and, then, I had done the same things, but wasn’t able to be awarded it because of my gender,” she says.
For 18-year-old Dertke, who’s now a student at Virginia Tech, joining the Scouts was also a way to get outside and go camping. Though, she did have some trepidation about joining.
“I kinda didn’t really want to join at first because I was worried people would say, ‘What are you doing here? You are a girl?’,” she says. “It was actually a great atmosphere and everyone was very supportive. It was a very good decision [to join].”
Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County and local events being held online. If you’d like your event considered, fill out the event submission form to submit it to our event calendar.
Tuesday, May 18
Anxiety, Isolation And Hopelessness: The Pandemic Mental Health Crisis
Via Zoom or Facebook
Time: 7:30-8:30 p.m.
WAMU host Kojo Nnamdi will be part of a round-table discussion with a panel of experts to discuss the state of mental health in the wake of the pandemic. Kojo and the panel of experts will discuss the effects of COVID-19 on mental health and what can be done to get people the needed help.
Thursday, May 20
Columbia Pike Progress Luncheon*
Time: Noon-1 p.m.
The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is celebrating its 35th year with a virtual luncheon to discuss how far the Pike has come as a community and the progress still being made. A donation to the organization is required for registration, with optional amounts of $35, $50 and $89.
Saturday, May 22
National Landing Farmers Market
Metropolitan Park (1330 S Fair Street)
Time: 8 a.m.-Noon
The National Landing BID is launching a weekly farmers’ market in Pentagon City every Saturday, offering a variety of meat, eggs, and produce options. The markets start this Saturday and will run through July 31.
Troop 647 May Drive-Through Scouting for Food
Church of the Covenant (2666 Military Road)
Time: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Troop 647 is pushing to reach a goal of raising 8,000 pounds of food by June. Over 5,000 has been raised since November and the Troop is hoping to make a big push for unopened canned or packages of dry food at an event this Saturday. Scouts will be at the church to receive the donation then box it and take it to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
*Denotes featured (sponsored) event.
Storm May Affect Waste Collection — “In preparation for the upcoming storm ‘Isaias,’ residents should properly secure trash, recycling, and yard waste carts in case of flooding and high winds… The storm may cause additional delays in collection services. Please leave un-serviced carts at the curb (if not a flood risk) until they are collected.” [Arlington County]
County COVID Testing Sites Closed — “Arlington’s COVID-19 sample collection sites at 1429 N. Quincy Street and Arlington Mill Community Center will be CLOSED Tuesday, August 4, in anticipation of inclement weather.” [Arlington County]
Apartment Operator Suspends Evictions — “AHC Inc., one of the D.C. region’s largest managers of affordable housing, will not move to evict any of its residents struggling amid the coronavirus crisis for the rest of the year. The company announced the move in a letter to roughly 5,000 tenants in late July, just before August rents started to come due. The Arlington company also said it won’t charge any late fees for missed payments, or seek to impose any rent increases, until at least Jan. 1.” [Washington Business Journal]
Stabbing in Ballston on Sunday — “At approximately 5:55 p.m. on August 2, police were dispatched to the report of a stabbing. Upon arrival, officers made contact with Metro Transit Police, who had already arrived on scene and detained the suspect. The investigation determined that the victim was sitting in the park when the suspect allegedly approached him from behind and struck him with a sharp object, causing a laceration. The victim was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries.” [Arlington County]
Boy Scout Troop Donates Food — “Scout families and members of Troop 167 in Arlington delivered 1,500 packages of food to local families facing unemployment and financial instability during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic.” [Patch]
New Officers Sworn In — ” In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Arlington County Police Department added 15 new officers to its ranks, following the graduation of Session 142 from the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy (NVCJA) and their completion of additional, supplementary local training.” [Arlington County]
Dorsey Upped to Voting Member on Metro Board — Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey has been appointed as one of the two principal voting members of the WMATA Board of Directors from Virginia. He previously served on the Metro board in a non-voting alternate capacity. [Arlington County, Twitter]
Miss Arlington Takes State Crown — Miss Arlington, Emili McPhail, has been crowned Miss Virginia and will compete in the Miss America pageant. [WDBJ7]
Alex Trebek in Arlington — Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek stopped by the WJLA studios in Rosslyn on Friday for an interview with the station’s anchors and to help with the weather forecast. [WJLA]
VOA Profiles Choun’s County Board Run — The Voice of America’s Cambodian service followed up on Cambodian-American Chanda Choun’s run for Arlington County Board. Though Choun did not receive the Democratic nomination, he did over-perform the expectations of many. Despite the defeat, he also is encouraging “other non-traditional candidates to run to make local US elections more competitive.” [VOA Cambodia]
Lidl Faces U.S. Headwinds — German grocer Lidl, which established its American headquarters in Arlington near Crystal City, has had a rocky go of it as it tries to expand in the U.S. The company is adjusting its strategy after disappointing results from the stores it has opened thus far. [Philly Inquirer]
Six Achieve Eagle Scout Status — “Six members of Boy Scout Troop 638, affiliated with Little Falls Presbyterian Church, recently ascended to Eagle Scout during a ceremony held June 9 at the church. Recent Yorktown High School graduates Owen Gorman, Aubrey Bouchoux, Jack Durham, Tim Kent and Michael Mellett and recent H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program graduate Ben Mundt were honored at the ceremony.” [InsideNova]
Photo courtesy @bethanyhardy
(Updated 12 p.m.) As elementary school students, blind triplets Leo, Nick and Steven Cantos were bullied, had few friends and no role models.
But that changed when, at the age of 10, blind attorney and Crystal City resident Ollie Cantos became their mentor after learning about them through a friend at church. He legally adopted them two years ago, and turned their lives around.
“I didn’t have friends, my brothers were the only people, that was it,” Nick Cantos said. “I was essentially shut in for seven years, and I was a violent kid. I got into fights with people, because I was being bullied in school. It ended up getting so bad that I wanted to end [my life]. Dad really saved my life.”
A ceremony on Wednesday night marked how far they have come, having also graduated from Wakefield High School earlier this year. At The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alexandria, the brothers became the first ever blind triplets to be honored as Eagle Scouts in the history of Boy Scouts of America.
To become Eagle Scouts, the highest honor in scouting, candidates must complete a slew of assignments, including tasks like first aid, knot-tying, leadership and orientation. It also requires community service, and six months or more spent in leadership positions at their troop.
Each also had to lead a community service project. Steven Cantos collected school supplies for low-income schoolchildren for nonprofit Aspire! Afterschool. He already volunteered with the organization, which helps children improve their reading, and had intended to collect enough supplies for 90 students.
When the supply drive was over, he had collected enough for 130 students.
“They go in and help kids read in a more advanced way, since they feel that reading is the first thing that kids need to learn, and then they learn other things if they can read better,” Steven Cantos said. “The project stemmed from the fact that I’d already volunteered a bit of time to them, so I wanted to give some more time… I decided that education is important, so let’s give them school supplies.”
Leo Cantos collected blood and blankets for INOVA Fairfax Hospital, a children’s hospital where he spent a month re-learning how to walk. He finished with 88 units of blood and 77 blankets, all donated by local people he had recruited.
“I wanted to give back to the kids, because I saw the kids there and I saw how they were not doing too well,” Leo Cantos said. “I wanted to give them a better experience, kind of like the one I had in the hospital but extended to them as well.”
And Nick Cantos collected donations of hygiene supplies for nonprofit Doorways for Women and Families, which helps people out of homelessness and away from domestic violence and sexual assault. He collected about $2,000 worth of supplies to donate to the organization.
“It took a lot of planning, it took a lot of work and papers,” Nick Cantos said. “The craziest part was seeing all my scout friends and leaders and brothers helping me to do this, and me managing this thing.”
Car Crashes Into Construction Equipment — A vehicle crashed into some parked construction equipment in Courthouse during the evening rush hour yesterday. The crash happened on Wilson Blvd, just down the hill from the Wendy’s. Wilson Blvd was closed for a short period of time as a result. [Twitter]
Five Achieve Eagle Scout Status — Five members of the local Boy Scout Troup 106 achieved Eagle Scout status during a recent ceremony in north Arlington. [InsideNoVa]
Happy Hour for a Good Cause Thursday — Guarapo in Courthouse (2039 Wilson Blvd) will be hosting a happy hour to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on Thursday. [Clarendon Nights]
Group Seeks Prom Dress Donations — The annual “Formals for Five” initiative is seeking donations of dresses, jewelry, shoes and accessories. The donated items will then be sold for $5 apiece to students at Washington-Lee and Wakefield high schools. [InsideNoVa]
Even though trick-or-treating is over, you may still see some kids in
costumes uniforms come to your door tomorrow, seeking food with bags in hand.
Saturday is the Boy Scouts’ annual “Scouting for Food” drive in the D.C. area, and Boy Scouts will be tying plastic bags to the doors of Arlington houses tomorrow. The following Saturday, Nov. 9, they will return to collect the bag, which they hope the residents will fill with nonperishable food items.
Last year, the drive collected 825,000 pounds of food, according to the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Once the bags are collected, the food collected in Arlington will be distributed by the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Boy Scouts will also be at Safeway grocery stores Nov. 9 encouraging shoppers to buy additional items to be donated to AFAC.