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Virginia State Capitol in Richmond (via Wikimedia Commons)

America’s oldest continuous law-making body, the Virginia General Assembly, is now in session, and local lawmakers have introduced a slew of new legislation.

With split control of the General Assembly, Republicans of the House of Delegates and Democrats of the Senate, it’s unclear how many bills introduced by Arlington’s all-Democratic representation will pass.

Still, some priorities appear to have a measure of bipartisan support, including SB 1096 (from Sen. Adam Ebbin) permitting marriage between two people regardless of sex while protecting the right of religious clergy to decline presiding over same-sex marriages.

Here are some of the bills that were pre-filed ahead of this session.

Arlingtonians could get relief from noisy cars and predatory towing.

  • SB 1085 (Ebbin): Prohibits the sale and use of aftermarket mufflers. This follows up on a change in law last year reversing a 2021 law that prevented officers from pulling over drivers just for having an excessively loud exhaust system. The original law was intended to reduce pretextual traffic stops and racial disparities but might have contributed to an uptick in noise complaints those living along highways and busy roads.
  • HB 2062 (Del. Alfonso Lopez) and SB 790 (Sen. Barbara Favola): Reprises a failed 2022 bill that would make violations of existing towing law subject to the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Under this act, predatory towing could receive heftier civil penalties than the $150 fine currently codified. Tackling predatory towing was a 2023 Arlington County Board legislative priority.

In addition to Ebbin’s same-sex marriage bill, a few others pertain to family life, health and privacy.

  • SB 1324 (Ebbin): Gives parents who make less than $100,000 a $500 child tax credit for 2023-2027.
  • SB 852 (Favola): Protects menstrual data stored on computers, computer networks or other devices — like phone period tracking applications — from being subject to search warrants. This likely responds to a Republican bill to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks except in the case of rape or incest or if the pregnancy endangers the life or “major bodily functions” of the mother.
  • HB 1879 (Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker): Requires each managed care health insurance plan licensee to provide a sufficient number and mix of services, specialists and practice sites to meet mental health care needs 24/7.

A number of gun control bills would curtail who can own a gun and who can assume possession of those owned by people who have committed a crime, while tackling the proliferation of “ghost guns.”

  • HB 1729 (Bennett-Parker) and SB 909 (Favola): Requires people to be at least 21 years old and to live under a different roof in order to accept guns from someone legally required to surrender them for being convicted of assaulting a family member or being under a protective order.
  • HB 1579 (Del. Rip Sullivan): Prevents people from buying or transporting firearms if they have two convictions in five years for operating a car or boat while drunk.
  • SB 1181 (Ebbin): Makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who is not a federal firearms importer, manufacturer or dealer to knowingly sell, offer to sell, transfer or purchase unfinished firearms that do not have serial numbers. These can be purchased online and used to build untraceable firearms, known as “ghost guns.”
  • SB 1192 (Ebbin): Prohibits certain semi-automatic guns — loaded or not — in any public right-of-way or publicly accessible natural area.

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Arlington police car (file photo)

A man allegedly exposed himself to four girls near Swanson Middle School in Westover.

Police are investigating the incident, which reportedly happened around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The girls told officers they heard a banging sound then saw an older man inside a residence exposing himself through the window.

From yesterday’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

INDECENT EXPOSURE (Late), 2022-12140164, 5800 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 3:43 p.m. on December 14, police made telephone contact with the reporting party regarding a late indecent exposure. The investigation indicates that at approximately 2:30 p.m., the four juvenile female victims were walking in the area when they heard banging and observed the male suspect in the window of a residence allegedly exposing himself. The suspect is described as an older, heavy-set, White male. The investigation is ongoing.

Around the same time on Wednesday, police say a 31-year-old Arlington man kicked and shattered an ART bus door along Columbia Pike. The man is also accused of kicking a police officer after his arrest.

More from ACPD:

ASSAULT ON POLICE, 2022-12140119, Columbia Pike at S. Dinwiddie Street. At approximately 2:15 p.m. on December 14, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that an Arlington Transit bus was slowing to a stop at this location when the suspect approached and allegedly kicked the door, causing the glass panel to shatter. Responding officers located the suspect and took him into custody. While conducting their investigation, the suspect twice kicked a police officer. Yohana Gebremeskel, 31, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Assault on Police, Destruction of Property and Public Intoxication. He was held without bond.

A woman pushing a child in a stroller was bloodied and brought to the hospital after being struck by a driver in North Arlington this morning.

The crash happened around 10:30 a.m. at the intersection of Military Road and Lorcom Lane.

“At approximately 10:25 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a crash with injuries involving a pedestrian,” Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Upon arrival, it was determined the pedestrian was pushing a stroller at the time of the crash. The pedestrian, an adult female, was transported to an area hospital with injuries considered non-life threatening. The child was not injured.”

The woman could be seen being helped to a waiting ambulance after the crash, her face covered in dried blood. The apparent driver and the striking sedan could be seen nearby. So far there’s no word as to what led to the crash nor whether any charges will be filed.

“The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene,” said Savage. “The investigation is ongoing.”

The intersection, which is controlled by a four-way traffic light, is surrounded by homes and a pair of churches, on the northern edge of the Cherrydale neighborhood.

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Elementary-school-aged children will soon be able to get the Covid vaccine from Arlington County.

The county’s public health division says it will start offering free jabs to 5-11 year-old children on Saturday. That follows the FDA’s emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for the age group last week.

The shots will be offered by appointment only and supply may be limited early on. According to the county, about 13,000 children ages 5-11 live in Arlington.

The county started offering free vaccine shots to children ages 12-15 in May, after FDA authorization for that age group.

County Board member Katie Cristol called the availability of the vaccine for local 5-11 year-olds good news on social media this afternoon, after it was announced by the county.

Arlington Public Schools has reported 15 positive Covid cases among students over the past seven days, all but one in elementary schools.

Overall, Covid cases have been slowly trending down in Arlington over the past month and a half. Currently about 21 cases per day are being reported in the county, on average, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

More on the new vaccine offering, from an Arlington County press release:

On Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 Arlington County Public Health will begin offering free COVID-19 vaccines by appointment to children ages 5-11 years old at Walter Reed Community Center and Arlington Mill Community Center. Clinics designated specifically for this age group will be held Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 13 and 14, 2021, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

This follows the expansion of Pfizer’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to children in this age group, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

“The Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 in children. This approval is a critical step towards protecting our kids and keeping other vulnerable community members safe. We encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated when they become eligible,” said Dr. Reuben Varghese, Arlington County Public Health Director.

Find a Vaccine for Your Child

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 5-11-year-olds will be available at Arlington County Public Health Division clinics and pharmacies, searchable through Vaccines.gov. Your child’s pediatrician may also offer the vaccine.

In the early weeks of distribution, vaccine supply may be limited. As supplies increase, so too will appointment availability.

Arlington County Public Health Division Clinics

Arlington County’s Public Health Division (ACPHD) will be offering COVID-19 vaccine by appointment only at Walter Reed Community Center and Arlington Mill Community Center. Walk-ins will not be accepted. Please note: Children ages 17 and younger must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to receive their free COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Sat. Nov. 6 and Sun. Nov. 7 (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)
  • Mon. Nov. 8 – Fri. Nov. 12 (2 p.m.-7 p.m.)
  • Sat. Nov. 13 and Sun. Nov. 14 (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) Note: These clinics are exclusively for 5-11-year-olds; Vaccine for people ages 12+ will not be offered

Appointments for ACPHD clinics can be made online though the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) — select the option labeled “Schedule a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine appointment (age 5-11).”

Second dose appointments will be scheduled at the time of the first dose. If you need ADA accommodations or require assistance scheduling your appointment with Arlington County Public Health, call 703-228-7999.

Vaccines.gov

  • Schedule an appointmentNOTE: Vaccines.gov is in the process of being updated to include an option for Pfizer (ages 5-11).
  • Text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX) or to 822862 (VACUNA) to find nearby vaccine locations.

Pediatricians

  • Contact your child’s pediatrician to ask if they are offering the vaccine to patients.

Approximately 13,000 children ages 5-11 live in Arlington. Arlington County encourages everyone 5 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine. For more information, visit the County’s COVID-19 website. Also check out vaccine FAQs.

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Students at the inaugural session of the Dyslexic Edge Academy at Drew Elementary School (Photo courtesy of Krista Gauthier)

(Updated, 2:50 p.m.) A new, free literacy program has come to Drew Elementary School thanks to the local non-profit Sliding Doors, Virginia Tech, and the local NAACP branch.

The Dyslexic Edge Academy launched this week with 11 first graders at Drew Elementary in Green Valley. The goal is to help those students who struggle with reading by focusing on their strengths.

“People with dyslexia tend to gravitate to and be very good in STEM fields; science, technology, engineering and math,” Krista Gauthier, executive director of Merrifield-based Sliding Doors, tells ARLnow.”What we want to do is not only make sure that kids receive the evidence-based instruction that they need, but also play on their strengths. To us, confidence is as important as reading.”

The students meet with instructors after school in a group setting twice a week for 90 minutes. Half of the session is spent with one-on-one tutoring using the Orton-Gillingham approach, which breaks down reading and spelling using multisensory skills like sounds and hand motions. The other half of the session is spent on STEM-related projects.

The STEM activities include everything from kitchen chemistry to rocketry to robotics to coding,” says Gauthier.

That could mean making slime, building model rockets, or operating an underwater robot, she says. It’s hoped that field trips to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the Smithsonian could be part of the curriculum in the future as well.

While the program is starting with 11 students, the expectation is that it will have 20 students by early next year. The pilot program will run until at least May 2023.

About 20% of the population has some form of dyslexia, according to statistics from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Yet, many school systems haven’t adapted to help these students and private tutoring can be prohibitively expensive, explains Symone Walker, co-chair of the Arlington Branch NAACP Education Committee.

She believes this is a big reason why there’s such an opportunity gap at some Arlington schools, including Drew Elementary.

“We really wanted to target a population that has been disproportionately impacted by the achievement gap,” says Walker. “We’re very familiar with how Drew has been historically passed over, looked over in the community, and we wanted to give back where we saw the greatest need.”

Both Walker and Gauthier say that the opportunity and achievement gaps that exist in county schools have a lot to do with reading scores and how schools are teaching literacy.

The Dyslexic Edge Academy will use the multisensory Orton-Gillingham approach to teach reading, as opposed to the balanced literacy approach that’s currently being taught in Arlington public schools.

“When we talk about multisensory, we’re talking about big motions,” says Gauthier. “We actually use something called ‘skywriting,’ which is as the child is actually forming the letter in the air… they’re actually saying the letter, repeating the letter, attaching the sound to the letter.”

What’s more, by bringing cool STEM-related projects into the learning, it helps students gain confidence.

“They really begin to associate something they struggle with, with something they love,” says Gauthier. “It really actually plays into them wanting to read as well.”

As Walker points out, a lot of NASA employees have some form of dyslexia. In fact, that includes more than half of NASA employees, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

“We want to produce more Arlingtonians who work for NASA,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Demolition has leveled the former Summers restaurant in Courthouse (staff photo)

Pentagon City Metro Elevator Update — From Arlington Transit: “On Sun., Sept. 19, the bus stop serving ART 42, 74, 84 & 87, Metrobus 7A & 22A, and Fairfax Connector 599 (AM) will temporarily be relocated south on S Hayes St. due construction of Pentagon City Metro second elevator.” [Twitter]

Huffpost Calls Arlington GOP Tweet ‘Racist’ — “In a racist tweet Monday that was promptly ratioed into the shame museum, the Arlington County Republican Committee in Virginia suggested that two Democratic congresswomen of color should retire and go work as lobbyists for the Taliban… ‘This tweet isn’t about race ― it’s about the Squad’s constant support for anti-American sentiment abroad,’ the Arlington GOP tweeted.” [Huffpost]

ACFD Responds to Courthouse Gas Leak — “Arlington County Fire and Rescue crews said a gas leak reported just before 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Courthouse area was fixed about an hour later.” [Patch, Twitter]

Local Nurse Lauded for Covid Candor — “An Arlington woman who continues going above and beyond to help her community throughout the pandemic is being nominated for a community hero award from her fellow neighbors.” [WJLA]

Arlington Students Make ‘Merit’ Semis — “Sixteen high school students from Arlington have been named 2022 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, taking the first step in securing a scholarship in the competitive program.” [Patch, Arlington Public Schools]

Restaurant Recs for Those With Kids — “Going out with kids is complicated enough — finding dishes for picky eaters, hoping they will sit still long enough to finish their food and not terrorize other tables, praying you can relax for five minutes… These restaurants are going out of their way to create a welcoming, inclusive and safe dining environment for families, with outdoor dining and child-pleasing choices.” [Arlington Magazine]

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An apartment complex in Lyon Park recently issued a warning to tenants saying the only place for child’s play is the playground.

A note provided to ARLnow, addressed to the residents of Washington & Lee Apartments (2200 2nd Street N.), said “children are to be playing in the playground and in no other areas,” in bolded, italicized and underlined letters.

They cannot play in “common areas which include… on the grass or trees,” only the area designated as the playground, according to the note.

It’s one of two notes ARLnow has obtained indicating that some apartment communities are cracking down on play in common areas in response to an uptick in complaints from other tenants about noise and property damage.

The note to Washington & Lee tenants (courtesy of anonymous)

The Washington & Lee note was a first for Nicole Merlene, a Tenant-Landlord Commission member and ARLnow opinion columnist. She tells ARLnow it describes a potentially discriminatory practice and reveals the need for Arlington to offer mediation services between tenants and landlords.

“Since I have been on the commission we have not received a complaint of this kind where there is potentially discrimination based on age for activities,” she said.

The note responds to an increase in complaints from tenants about damaged cars from kids playing in the parking lot, a property manager for the complex told ARLnow. In a phone interview, the manager said five complaints have come in the last few months of kids hitting cars with rocks or scratching them up with scooters and bikes. As for the trees and grass, the manager said kids were breaking limbs and digging holes.

“It’s just gotten to the point where the damage and complaints were so bad I’d have to take action,” the manager said. “Because of COVID… [parents] didn’t have adequate care and the children were just left at home on their own.”

The note also bans sidewalk chalk because kids drew on the brick walls, according to the manager. The note said “stricter action will be taken” if the problems continue. In 2014, the same apartments launched a campaign against tenants feeding squirrels.

Merlene said that these kinds of landlord-tenant disputes could be resolved through an out-of-court mediation service — one that Arlington has not had since it was defunded a few years ago, she said.

“This type of out of court service requires both parties to willfully participate, but after conversations with both Alexandria and Fairfax, it is by and large extremely successful at finding a solution when a tenant is the one bringing a grievance,” she said. “The Tenant-Landlord Commission is in the process of looking into ways in which other jurisdictions have successfully provided this service and will recommend a system that works for our community for the Board’s consideration.”

Asked to evaluate the letter, she said commission members are not lawyers or trained in discrimination policy, so commissioners avoid determining if something is illegal. Instead, those with complaints are referred to the county’s Office of Human Rights.

But taking apartmentment owners to court, while a recourse for Arlington tenants, rarely happens.

“Reasons range from fear of potentially losing the case against a big landlord’s lawyer and having to pay their attorney fees, immigration status, cultural barriers, and various other hurdles,” she said.

Complaints of noise and kids’ behavior have also registered with the management office at Union on Queen (1515 N. Queen Street), near Rosslyn.

Tenants received a “friendly reminder” that no residents can hang out in or around the courtyard fountain. It told parents they are responsible if their children play there, according to a screenshot shared with ARLnow.

“Thus far we have seen trash left in the courtyard and in the fountain, and we’ve seen children playing in the courtyard [spraying] water on other resident’s [sic] windows,” the letter said.

The Union on Queen reminder also noted that the office “has received numerous complaints about increased noise levels due to groups being in the courtyard and around the courtyard’s fountain.”

“We will unfortunately have to issue lease violations should the issue persist,” the note said. “Again, we don’t want them to hurt themselves or others in the building. We want all of our residents to be safe and comfortable.”

A note to Union on Queen residents (courtesy of anonymous)

Photo via Google Maps

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A man grabbed an girl’s buttocks while she was walking near Arlington County government headquarters, a block from police headquarters.

The alleged sexual battery happened Monday afternoon on the 2100 block of Clarendon Blvd, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

“It approximately 2:45 p.m., the juvenile victim was walking in the area when the unknown male suspect walked past her and touched her buttocks,” ACPD said.

The suspect remains at large and the investigation is “ongoing,” said police. A vague suspect description notes that the man was dressed in all black and was carrying a black backpack.

Separately, a man was arrested Monday night after police say he exposed himself to a woman along N. Cameron Street in the Halls Hill neighborhood, near Lee Highway.

“At approximately 11:04 p.m. on June 28, police were dispatched to the report of an exposure,” said the crime report. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when she heard the male suspect behind her and turned around to see him with his genitals exposed and attempting to engage with her.”

“Officers canvassed the area and located a suspect matching the description provided by the victim and took him into custody without incident,” the crime report continued.

A 25-year-old man was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and public masturbation.

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Morning Notes

Police Called for Man Spitting on Bus Passengers — An incident on a bus prompted a police response Thursday afternoon. Per ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage: “At approximately 1:38 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject on a Metro bus in the area of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street. The suspect left the area prior to police arrival and a search by responding officers returned with negative results… The call for service alleged the subject was acting disorderly and spitting on individuals on the bus.”

Arlington Company Is Among Fastest-Growing — Ballston-based Hungry is the fastest-growing technology firm in the D.C. area and the 18th fastest growing tech company in the nation, according to a new list from Deloitte. Another Ballston tech company, Evolent Health, ranked No. 402 in the U.S. [Deloitte]

NAACP Statement on H-B Incident — “We are pleased that the principal took swift action to notify families and meet with affected students and that the Superintendent followed up with a letter to APS families with an honest depiction that did not minimize the significance or harm it caused. This act of racial violence is the latest and most egregious in a progressive pattern of racist incidents occurring within our schools.” [Press Release]

Grant to Help Local Tourism Recover — “Arlington Convention and Visitors Service has received $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program, designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of state grant funds.” [Arlington County]

ACFD Hosting Kids’ Bedtime Stories — “We are extremely excited to host our 4th Virtual Bedtime Story/ Fire Engine Tour! Spots are limited and previous events have maxed out quickly. If you are interested in joining please email [email protected] Can’t wait to see you Monday night.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]

More County Website Problems — Arlington County’s website again suffered technical difficulties yesterday afternoon. The issues were resolved within a few hours. [@ArlingtonVA/Twitter]

Gondolas Gaining in Popularity — “Air gondolas — ski-lift-type conveyances that have become common sights in South American cities like Medellín, Mexico City and La Paz — could one day dot the U.S. urban landscape, some transportation planners say.” [Axios]

Nearby: Car Plows Into CD Cellar — The CD Cellar store in Falls Church was damaged after a car came crashing through one of the front windows earlier this week. “Someone thought we were a drive-thru record store,” CD Cellar quipped on social media. [Facebook]

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Like many community members in Arlington, Amanda and Michael Sutton were concerned that the pandemic could lead to a wider education gap between those with resources at home and those without. So they decided to do something about it.

The Suttons have so far raised more than $6,400 via an online fundraising campaign called “My Job Bags.”

“A child’s ‘job’ is to imagine, create, learn and play,” the couple said on the GoFundMe page, which is nearing its $7,000 goal. “We’re working to assemble bags for children in need and to provide them with supplies to learn and be creative while at home. We’re accepting monetary donations as well as donations of the supplies below that will be included in the bags. All money collected will be used to purchase supplies and the bags will be assembled and distributed by volunteers.”

Amanda said she was among those trying to find ways to help out, knowing that many families were losing their jobs and students relied on the public schools for food and support. Other restaurants and teachers stepped up to help cover food needs, but there were other needs that were going unmet.

“We initially looked at ways we could help to provide food, in addition to financial support — and luckily, we found there are many organizations out there to help,” Amanda said. “Then as I was perusing Amazon for more homeschooling activities for my three sons, I couldn’t help but think of all the local families who are unable to do that. With all schools being closed, students are now forced to stay at home without basic school supplies, books and toys.”

That’s when Amanda and Michael came up with the My Job Bags campaign, thinking that children should be focused on playing, creating, imagining and learning.

“The hope was that during this scary and unprecedented time, students may have some comfort in knowing they can still continue their ‘job,'” Amanda said. “We brainstormed what to put in the bags — our goal was to include items that help keep a child entertained for long periods of time, have endless options for play, and enhance imagination and creativity.”

Among the additions to the bags was a jump rope, based on the suggestion of a local PE teacher. In total, Amanda said the contents of My Job Bags are:

  • crayons
  • markers
  • pencils
  • pencil sharpeners
  • dry erase board with marker and eraser
  • construction paper
  • spiral notebook
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • jump rope
  • bag of Legos
  • book

“I then spent some time researching the cost of these items — and was ultimately able to get the price down to about $7.00 per bag thanks to bulk ordering,” Amanda said. “Once our idea was solidified, my husband and I decided to begin by donating about 250 bags. However, we knew the need was much greater in the community which prompted us to create the GoFundMe campaign.”

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A pair of local nonprofits have joined with Amazon to help families in Arlington’s affordable housing get access to science, technology, engineering and math resources during the pandemic.

Rosie Riveters, an Arlington-based non-profit that focuses on getting girls between 4-14 years old interested in STEM, partnered with Arlington Housing Corporation (AHC) Inc. — a local affordable housing nonprofit — and Amazon to deliver STEM kits to some families. These are kits put together by Rosie Riveters and include the materials for six different projects, access to online lessons, and additional materials like notebooks, pencils and rulers.

Rosie Riveters said Amazon donated gift cards and the supplies to assemble the kits, as well as helped to deliver them to AHC.

An initial 15 kits were given out in the first round, with 30 more planned to be delivered over the next few weeks, Rosie Riveters told ARLnow, adding that the boxes are delivered with Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) distributions.

Eight boxes were also sent to community center participants and the supplies for 60 more boxes will be delivered over the next few days and distributed to other program partners.

“Rosie Riveters is proud to work with Amazon and AHC Inc. to bring fun and engaging STEM kits and essential learning materials to children in need,” said Brittany Greer, Executive Director of Rosie Riveters, in a statement. “Now more than ever enrichment opportunities like these are vitally important. We can not thank Amazon enough for helping to provide the resources and logistics needed to allow Rosie Riveters to continue our mission to engage and inspire girls aged 4-14 in STEM.”

Photo courtesy Rosie Riveters

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