DHS Communications Manager Kurt Larrick has organized the program since 2007. He was called to the front desk after he was told a gentleman had questions about the program.
“I was a little worried at first, but he only had three simple questions for me,” Larrick recalled.
First, the man wanted to know who, specifically, donations assist to ensure money donated stays in the community. Larrick confirmed the donations are strictly for Arlington residents, including low-income families, children in foster care, seniors and people with disabilities.
Next, he asked if any overhead or administrative costs would be taken from the total donation amount. Larrick said he again seemed to give a satisfactory answer, explaining that all donations that come in “go right back out.”
Finally, the man asked if there was a donation limit. Upon hearing there wasn’t, he said he wanted to write a check for $10,000.
“I told him that would be incredible,” Larrick said. “He was a really nice, kind gentleman.”
That $10,000 will be used to purchase hundreds of gift cards for local grocery, clothing, convenience and department stores.
Though the soft deadline for the collection has passed, Larrick said interested residents are still encouraged to contribute to the cause by mailing or hand-delivering donations to DHS.
Last year, the Secret Santa program raised $54,000 in gift cards and donations, and Larrick expects this year’s final count to be about the same. He added the program is mostly supported by small donations from community members of all ages — which are important no matter the amount.
“This donation was obviously huge and very generous,” he said. “But for every donation, big or small, there’s always a great story behind it.”
File photo via Macy’s
The Arlington County Police Department is holding a toy drive and The Salvation Army is running its Angel Tree Program for residents to sponsor a child in need.
The ACPD’s Holiday Toy Drive started yesterday and will run through next Friday, Dec. 11.
The department is seeking donations of new, unwrapped toys suitable for children ages 1-17. They’ll also oversee the collection and distribution of the toys.
There are two scheduled collection events for the drive, both called Operation: Fill The Cruiser. Residents can stop by during designated hours to drop off donations and meet Santa.
The locations, dates and times for these events are:
- Our Lady of Lourdes Parking Lot (830 23rd Street S.) on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 5:30-7 p.m.
- Lyon Village Park (1800 N. Highland Street) on Friday, Dec. 11, 4-6 p.m.
For those who can’t make the collection events but still want to contribute, there’s Operation: Stocking Stuffer. The department has also set up donation boxes at businesses and organizations around the county.
Donation boxes can be found at the following locations:
- Arlington County Police Department (1425 N. Courthouse Road)
- Bracket Room (121o N. Garfield Street)
- Don Tito (3165 Wilson Blvd)
- Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant (555 23rd Street S.)
- The Liberty Tavern (3195 Wilson Blvd)
- Mister Days (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
- Whitlow’s On Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd)
Residents who would prefer to donate gifts to a specific child can do so through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. It’s a regional holiday assistance program that pairs individuals or groups with children in need.
Those interested can register for the program online. In doing so, they agree to sponsor a child or family in Arlington by purchasing toys, clothing, bikes, games and other gifts for them.
The program also needs volunteers later this month to help move, sort and distribute the gifts.
Arlington County is joining a national effort to collect blankets and coats for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The drive started on Saturday and will run through Dec. 4, collecting new or gently used blankets and winter coats for donation.
There are two locations in Arlington where residents can bring items to donate:
- Arlington Mill Community Center, 909 S. Dinwiddie Street
Monday-Friday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. – 9 p.m.
- Courthouse Plaza Lobby, 2100 Clarendon Blvd
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Donated items must be clean and neatly folded. Sheets will not be accepted.
Arlington’s neighbor to the south, Alexandria, is also participating in the blanket and coat drive. According to Arlington County, more than 40,000 blankets have been collected in Northern Virginia over the past two years.
Photo via Arlington County
Restaurant discovery app Spotluck will be donating $5 to the Arlington Food Assistance Center for every download and signup made with the promo code “AFAC” through tomorrow.
Spotluck is running the promotion in honor of AFAC’s Chiefs vs. Chefs fundraising event Wednesday night, which pits local chefs against Arlington County firefighters to see who can create the most mouth-watering dishes using only ingredients that would be found in AFAC’s pantry.
The “three-course throw-down” kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd). Tickets, which start at $100, are still available online. ARLnow.com’s Scott Brodbeck is a judge for the event, along with the Washington Post’s Becky Krystal and former Top Chef competitor George Pagonis, who’s executive chef at Kapnos Taverna.
Spotluck, which is a D.C. area-based startup and an ARLnow.com advertiser, says it’s proud to be “supporting a great cause with our good friends at AFAC.” In order to ensure the donation is made, users need to download the app, launch it and enter “AFAC” as the promo code on the signup screen.
Spotluck has 23 Arlington restaurants in the app and says it collectively sends those restaurants thousands of diners per month. In addition to helping users to find new restaurants, Spotluck also offers “preferred pricing” to restaurants that the user lands on via a virtual spin of a wheel in the app.
“Spotluck is a mobile app that allows you to discover local restaurants and save money in a fun new way,” says the company’s website. “With a simple spin, Spotluckers earn preferred pricing and forgo the hassle of figuring out where to eat next!”
AFAC serves some 86,000 pounds of food to more than 2,000 Arlington families in need each week.
Last week, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, announced a $5 million donation to a non-profit right here in Arlington.
The announcement came via a Facebook post to Zuckerberg’s 32.7 million followers which has reached 153,072 likes and counting.
The organization in question, TheDream.US, is a scholarship fund designed to help undocumented immigrants realize their dreams of going to college in the United States. The brainchild of Don Graham, CEO of Graham Holdings Company and former publisher of the Washington Post, the non-profit has made its home in Graham’s Rosslyn offices for the past two years.
Through his work with other education-based charities in the area, Graham says he learned that there were many such undocumented students in the D.C. metro area, particularly in Northern Virginia.
These students are commonly called DREAMers after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act that has been proposed several times since 2001 but has yet to pass in Congress. DREAMers are unable to receive federal aid to continue their education. In most states they are also not eligible for in-state tuition, which can make going to college prohibitively expensive.
“Certainly in Arlington County, almost every high school student has classmates who are DREAMers, and they quickly come to understand the unique cruelty of the situation of these students,” Graham told ARLnow.com. “They can be the valedictorian, they can be the president of the class. All the other low-income students in the class get U.S. government assistance in going on to higher education, and these students cannot.”
Graham says his organization was empowered to tackle this issue head-on after President Barack Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012. DACA allowed undocumented immigrants who had come to the United States when they were children to obtain a Social Security number, a driver’s license and temporary legal status, renewable after two years.
In the summer of 2013, Graham, program director Gaby Pacheco and Henry Muñoz III gathered people together and proposed the idea of a scholarship program to enable those who had obtained DACA status to go to college. Amanda Bennett and Carlos Gutierrez joined Graham and Muñoz in founding TheDream.US, which officially launched on Feb. 4, 2014.
TheDream.US currently partners with about 60 colleges across the U.S. Pacheco says they look for schools located in areas with high concentrations of undocumented students, where you can get a good education for around $25,000 (the scholarship amount offered by the non-profit). In Virginia, TheDream.US partners with Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.
The fund currently has $81 million, including donations in the millions from Graham, Zuckerberg, Bill Ackman and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. TheDream.US also allows donors to specify where they want their money to go: for example, Zuckerberg’s $5 million donation was earmarked for students in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pacheco believes this ability to ask that their money be set aside for their own region attracts donors to the organization.
“People love to be able to help out in their own community,” she said. “Many affluent people have foundations in their names or their family names, so we target them and say, ‘look, we can bring a scholarship program to your area.'”
Graham says that as of now, the organization expects to see at least 3,000 students graduate college, but that he “would like to raise more money and make it at least 5,000, and possibly go from there.”
Another part of the organization’s mission is to tell these students’ stories. TheDream.US is doing this through their stories project, which spotlights the lives of notable DREAM scholars. Interns Julia Leibowitz and Sadhana Singh (a current DREAMer) are working on the project this summer in the Rosslyn office.
“For us, it’s really about leveling the field for these young people to go to college,” said Pacheco. “We’re going to allow our numbers to speak for themselves, and show that we are helping meet the gap for people needed in various fields.”
One of D.C.’s most prominent philanthropists has turned his eyes — and his wallet — to Rosslyn’s U.S Marine Corps War Memorial.
The Iwo Jima memorial is in line to receive a $5.37 million donation from David Rubenstein, who just last year gave $12.35 million to the Arlington House Robert E. Lee museum in Arlington National Cemetery. Rubenstein co-founded the private equity firm The Carlyle Group and has also used some of his billions of dollars to fund the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs and enrich the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ endowment.
Today, the National Parks Service announced that Rubenstein’s gift will go to “re-gild the engravings on the sculpture’s pedestal, wax the sculpture, and improve lighting, landscaping, and infrastructure.” The NPS will also improve the signage and educational materials on the memorial, sandwiched between the Netherlands Carillon, N. Meade Street, Route 50 and Route 110.
“It is a privilege to honor our fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to attain and preserve the freedoms we enjoy,” Rubenstein said in a press release. “I hope this gift enables visitors to the Iwo Jima Memorial to better appreciate the beauty and significance of this iconic sculpture, and inspires other Americans to support critical needs facing our national park system.”
The memorial was dedicated Nov. 10, 1954, by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Since then, it has attracted millions in visitors. According to Arlington Economic Development, it attracted 1.4 million visitors in 2007.
“The Marine Corps War Memorial stands as a symbol of this grateful Nation’s esteem for the honored dead of the U.S. Marine Corps,” Marines Major General Michael R. Regner said in the release. “We are grateful for Mr. Rubenstein’s patriotism and generous donation to the National Park Foundation that will ensure this significant memorial continues to honor our fallen and inform public understanding of the cost and nature of their nation’s expeditionary force in readiness.”
Candidates Push for Streetcar Referendum — Both Democrat Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Republican David Foster promise to introduce legislation in Richmond to allow Arlington residents to vote on the Columbia Pike streetcar. Last month, Arlington County Board members said they do not have the authority to put such a referendum on the ballot. Even if the measure would pass through the General Assembly and were approved by Gov. McAuliffe, it likely wouldn’t take effect until July 2015. [InsideNova]
Politico Moving in Rosslyn — Politico is leaving the space it shared with WJLA and NewsChannel 8 at 1100 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, but it’s not moving far. The publication has signed a long term lease at 1000 Wilson Blvd. [Washington Business Journal]
McCoskrie Lands Falls Church City Attorney Position — Carol McCoskrie, Arlington’s former Assistant County Attorney, has been approved as the new City Attorney for the City of Falls Church. McCoskrie spent 24 years working for Arlington County, mostly focusing on land use and development. [City of Falls Church]
Last Days for APAH School Supply Drive — There are only two days left to help the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing with its backpack and school supply drive, which benefits Arlington children in need. APAH will accept donations of new supplies like pencils, glue, backpacks, scissors and erasers at its office at 2704 N. Pershing Drive until Friday (August 15). [APAH]
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 backpacks, 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.
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, received a major donation this week.
D.C. philanthropist David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, donated $12.35 million to the National Park Service “to restore and improve access to Arlington House.” The donation will fund a project that will restore Arlington House “as it was in 1860,” including more attention to the slave quarters. The money will also fund technology investments, with more mobile and web “assets,” an audio tour and a virtual tour, NPS said.
“I am honored to support the National Park Service’s renovation of historic Arlington House built in honor of George Washington and located on hallowed ground atop Arlington National Cemetery,” Rubenstein said in the release. “I hope that upon its restoration, Arlington House will appropriately remind visitors of America’s rich history and our country’s good fortune to have such a unique site to honor our veterans, especially those who gave the last full measure of devotion on behalf of this nation.”
Arlington House went through a round of renovations 2-3 years ago — including work done to repair damage from the 2011 mid-Atlantic earthquake.
The Washington Post reported that Rubenstein, a billionaire, decided to make the donatation after funding half of the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs. NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis suggested the $12.35 million repair project for Arlington House — described as languishing in “embarrassing” condition — to which Rubenstein simply replied, “be glad to do that.”
Arlington House was built by George Washington Parke Custis — and, the NPS points out, his slaves — between 1802 and 1818 as a memorial to George Washington, before it was the home to Lee and his plantation. The plantation was used as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War, as a community for freed slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation and, later, as a military cemetery.
The NPS says more than 650,000 people visit the house every year, making it the country’s most-visited house museum. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Committee, which oversees the National Parks, issued a statement after Rubenstein announced his gift yesterday.
“On behalf of 8th District voters and local history buffs I’d like to thank Mr. Rubenstein for his generous gift,” Moran said. “I’ve been a supporter of Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, throughout my 24 years representing the people of Northern Virginia. Mr. Rubenstein’s philanthropy allows the flexibility needed to restore this historic site, working beyond the constraints of public funding to build on the restoration work already completed by the National Park Service.”
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]
Wakefield Advances to Regional Title Game — Wakefield High School’s boys basketball team defeated Broad Run last night 85-80, advancing the Warriors to the regional title game of the 5A North Region Tournament. Senior Re’Quan Hopson scored 29 points during the game. [Sun Gazette]
Police Look for Witnesses to Fatal Crash — Arlington County Police are seeking witnesses to the Feb. 24 crash that killed 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson. Lawson was struck by a dump truck on Little Falls Road after volunteering at Nottingham Elementary School. Detectives believe two vehicles were behind the truck and would like to interview the drivers. [Arlington County]
United Way Donates $260K to Arlington Nonprofits — The United Way has donated nearly $260,000 to 20 Arlington nonprofits. The list of nonprofits receiving grants includes the Arlington Pediatric Center, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Arlington Thrive and others. [Sun Gazette]
John Youngs Dies — John Youngs, a past president of the Arlington Bar Association and former head of the Arlington public defenders office, has died after a long battle with brain cancer. Youngs was 69. “John fought the good fight and he is now at peace,” the bar association said in an email to its members.
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
About 50 members of the Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment delivered nearly 700 pounds of donated food to the Arlington Food Assistance Center this morning.
In case the donation wasn’t impressive enough, the soldiers delivered the food on foot, marching 4 miles from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to AFAC’s building in Shirlington with rucksacks on their backs.
The 3rd Infantry Regiment is also known as the Old Guard. The donation was made by the Old Guard’s 4th Battalion, which consists of ceremonial companies, a military police company, and the guards of the Tomb of the Unknowns, among others.
The food will be distributed ” to the 1,800 families that seek food from us each week,” according to AFAC communications manager Clare McIntyre.
Photos courtesy Clare McIntyre/AFAC
Lyon Park Bat Turns Out to Be Something Else — A Lyon Park resident called animal control officers late last month after a startling discovery: a bat inside his or her home. There was only one problem — the responding animal control officer found that the “bat” was actually a sweatband. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. Previously, a balloon had been mistaken for a bat, a ski hat lying on the road was mistaken for a dead cat, and a “mangy, emaciated cat” turned out to be stuffed animal. [DCist]
GOP Trying to Find Candidate for Special Election — The upcoming County Board special election to replace the retiring Chris Zimmerman could give Arlington Republicans their best chance of winning a seat on the Board since the late 1990s, the last time any non-Democrat served as a Board member. “We could really pull a surprise,” said Arlington County Republican Committee chairman Charles Hokanson. [Sun Gazette]
County Seeking Food Donations for AFAC — As part of County Board Chair Walter Tejada’s “Moving Forward Together” initiative, Arlington County is collecting food items to help stock the shelves at the Arlington Food Assistance Center for the winter. Drop-off points have been set up at Arlington community centers and libraries. [Arlington County]
Mary Bono Selling Arlington Condo — Former California congresswoman Mary Bono is selling her two-bedroom, two-bath condo in the Eclipse building, near Potomac Yard, for $569,000. [Washington Post]
Lustron Home for Sale — A “rare and historic” Lustron home in south Arlington is for sale. The prefabricated two-bedroom, one bathroom home is all steel and was considered a “[marvel] of modern efficiency and style” when it was built at the end of World War II. It’s listed at $499,000. [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
The gift cards, distributed by the county’s Department of Human Services, will help foster children, people with disability and low-income buy gifts or food for the holiday season.
Cards from grocery stores, drug stores, clothing stores and department stores like Target are encouraged. DHS requests gift cards instead of gifts to empower the recipients to buy what they need most.
The gift cards should be of no more value than $25, but Secret Santas can send multiple gift cards. The gifts should include the value of the card and be sent by Dec. 17 to:
Secret Santa Program c/o Kurt Larrick
Department of Human Services
2100 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22204
If you include a return address or email address, the county will send back a thank you note and a tax receipt.
An Arlington resident who died in June gave what’s estimated to be more than $700,000 to the Arlington Public Library in her will.
Rosemarie Bowie lived most of her life in Arlington and was 76 when she died June 24. She left her home on the 700 block of N. Danville Street, and half of her residuary estate, to the Library. The property was assessed at $626,500 this year and the residuary estate is believed to be worth more than $100,000, according to Library spokesman Peter Golkin.
Bowie was “a quiet person, loved the Library, used it often and simply didn’t want to bother her family with her estate,” Golkin said.
“We’re blown away by her generosity,” Library Director Diane Kresh said. “It epitomizes how so many people in this community feel about the Library and that’s very humbling. I’m sorry I didn’t know her but she’s leaving a legacy that will touch generations to come.”
After Bowie retired from her career working in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and as an attorney, she volunteered provided legal services as a guardian to many elderly residents of Arlington.
The County Board will vote to approve the gift at its meeting Sept. 21. The money will be donated to the county in a Trust and Agency Account designated specifically for the library.
The Library will dedicate a plaque in Bowie’s memory at Central Library, Golkin said.