Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Virtual County Fair Starts Today at Noon — “August 14-16, the Arlington County Fair will be hosting a variety of LIVE events on our Facebook page (via Facebook Live) to share the magic of the Fair even during unsure times. Check out our exciting schedule that includes fan favorites and some brand-new fun.” [Facebook]

County Considering More Early Voting Locations — “Arlington County Board members will hold a special session Aug. 25 to act on a request from county election officials doubling the number of ‘satellite’ early-voting centers across the county this fall. In addition to Madison and Walter Reed community centers, which had been used for early voting in recent presidential elections, the Electoral Board aims to add the Aurora Hills Community Center and Langston-Brown Community Center.” [InsideNova]

Local Movie Theaters to Open Soon — “Arlington’s two AMC Theatres are set to reopen on Aug. 27: AMC Courthouse Plaza 8 [and] AMC Shirlington 7… the movie theater chain said guests will pay just 15 cents per movie on that day.” [Patch]

Inside PBS NewsHour HQ in ArlingtonUpdated at 9:40 a.m. — From a magazine feature written pre-pandemic: “This is how PBS NewsHour happens every weekday: with a 9:45 a.m. meeting that feels, already, like midday. Each morning, some 30 people fit into a tight conference room in a low-slung brick building on the outskirts of Shirlington to discuss what the longtime public television fixture will air that evening at 6 p.m.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Fundraiser for Local Fitness Instructor — “Chris Green is one of the DMV’s finest fitness instructors. A Lululemon and South Block ambassador, he is a coach and mentor to so many… He recently ruptured his Achilles and has an incredibly long and tough journey ahead. As if COVID hadn’t impacted fitness professionals enough, throw this in the mix and it’s a double, even triple whammy.” [Community Post]

Marymount Ditches SAT/ACT Requirement — “Beginning with applicants for the Fall 2021 semester, Marymount University will adopt a complete test-optional policy for submission of SAT and ACT scores. This decision builds off of the University’s longstanding commitment to a holistic review of applications, as Marymount has been test-optional for select students for a number of years already.” [Press Release]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Dems Reject Bipartisan Redistricting — “Despite criticism from within the party that the move would be seen as blatantly partisan as well as bad policy, the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s membership on Aug. 6 voted to oppose the state constitutional amendment that, if enacted, would set up an independent redistricting commission.” [InsideNova]

Marymount Announces Reorganization — “In its latest strategic initiative, Transform MU, Marymount University is restructuring its existing academic programs into three highly focused Colleges, each combining disciplines to create broader educational and research opportunities.” [Press Release]

Diocese Announces New Virtual School — “The Catholic Diocese of Arlington announced it will offer a fully virtual school for grades K-8 in the 2020-2021 academic year, which begins in early September. The school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, provides a new option to parents interested in enrolling their children in local Catholic schools. All 41 brick-and-mortar Catholic schools in the Diocese, which serve 17,000 students, have announced they will reopen in the fall for either safe-distance full-time in-person instruction or a combination of in-person instruction and e-Learning. St. Isidore offers families an option for full-time virtual learning.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]

Local Teen Raises Money for Yemen — “Since July 1, an Arlington teenager has raised $300 for Saba Relief. The organization helps people affected by the crisis in Yemen. Emily Tesone started hand sewing plushies for her friends when the pandemic began. Her hobby grew more meaningful after she learned about what was happening in Yemen.” [WDVM]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

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On Tuesday, Grace Abi-Najm Shea — a co-owner of Lebanese Taverna — was one of those watching in horror as an explosion tore through Beirut. She said they took the day to cry and grieve at the loss that happened in the country her family left years ago. The next morning, they got to work.

The regional Lebanese restaurant chain that started in Arlington in 1979 has since raised nearly $30,000 for the Lebanese Red Cross on GoFundMe.

This weekend, the company is planning to start a deal where $1 from every hummus order at Lebanese Taverna and LebTav locations will be going to the World Central Kitchen. Dany Abi-Najm, Grace’s brother and another co-owner, will be traveling to Beirut with D.C. celebrity chef Jose Andres as part of the World Central Kitchen team to deliver supplies and offer food to those who have been displaced by the explosion.

“It feels good to be doing something,” Shea said. “We mobilized pretty quickly on Wednesday morning. We just needed to do something. It was heartbreaking. My father lives there, he moved back 12 years ago, and the scenes on TV were just too much. I know so many people wanted to help.”

Shea said Lebanon has a history of corruption leading to mistrust of organizations and the government, so she said Lebanese Taverna wanted to be sure the money got to the right places.

“There was the immediate need with the Red Cross and [we’re] addressing the ongoing need starting this weekend with World Central Kitchen,” Shea said.

Shea said while there’s global empathy for Lebanon as it goes through this crisis, many people locally have felt connected to it indirectly via the restaurant that has served Arlington for 41 years.

“We all grew up here and have so much support from so many people,” Shea said. “For them to want to do something for the country we left is very touching.”

Shea said she and her family have concerns about their brother traveling internationally during the pandemic, but that it’s a risk they have to take.

“There’s a thing called COVID going on,” Shea said. “You can’t help other people without taking a risk, really in anything that you do. I think it’s something much bigger than us. There are 300 people displaced from their homes in a minute. One of them being my cousin, but thankfully he has a support system. His home was completely demolished.”

For many Lebanese, Shea said growing up during the civil war left them prepared for the risks.

For those who have donated, Shea had one message to share.

“Thank you,” Shea said. “The number of people who donated and the number of shares is incredible.”

File photo 

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As a new school year nears, Volunteer Arlington is launching a new fundraiser for students in need.

The “Buy a Neighbor School Supplies” drive follows the group’s previous “Buy A Neighbor Lunch” and “Buy A Neighbor Groceries” programs, which raised a combined $59,000 to help Arlingtonians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the new effort, community members are encouraged to donate at least $10, which will go to foster care families and vulnerable families in the form of gift cards for school supplies.

Seven other local and regional organizations partnered with Volunteer Arlington for the fundraiser, including Arlington Foster Care/Adoption Program, Arlington Partnership For Affordable Housing and Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR).

The fundraiser is accepting money through August 23. Those interested in donating to “Buy a Neighbor School Supplies” can donate via the Volunteer Arlington website.

“We are asking people of all ages to come together to support this very tangible need, said Lisa Fikes, Executive Director of Volunteer Arlington, which is run by the Ballston-based Leadership Center for Excellence. “The Arlington community continually illustrates its heart and ability to support a worthy cause, and we are now calling on that generosity to support the growing educational and opportunity gaps in our community.”

In its earlier “Buy A Neighbor Lunch” program, Volunteer Arlington raised $50,000 by partnering with area restaurants. With each $10 donation, one of the restaurants would make and deliver a meal to a local resident in need.

“The beauty of this program was that it not only helped people who had become food insecure as a result of the pandemic, it also kept local restaurant employees working,” said Karen Coltrane, President and CEO of the Leadership Center for Excellence. “It allowed those of us still able to give to double our impact.”

Image via Volunteer Arlington

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When Air Force veteran Michael Emery went to pick up his dry cleaning from First Virginia Cleaners for the first time since the outset of the pandemic, he knew the economic fallout of the shutdown hit close to home.

The store at 2929 S. Glebe Road was dark, the air conditioning was off and owner Chantra Chet had tears in her eyes as she explained to him how poorly business was going. That’s when Emery, the longtime customer of Chet’s, knew he had to act.

Emery, an Arlington resident, created a GoFundMe campaign to support the store, which is located in the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center. Revenue at the dry cleaning business has plummeted as much at 80%, according to Chet, as office workers stay at home and formal wear stays in closets.

“It’s really helped me a lot,” Chet said of the fundraiser. I don’t know how I can thank him for what he did for me.”

The GoFundMe’s goal is currently $20,000, but Emery said that number was ambitious. He feels that even raising enough to pay for a month of her rent would be a success.

So far, Emery has posted to different community Facebook groups around the neighborhood to garner support. His fundraiser has reached a wide audience, and he’s even received donations from other states. Since the fundraiser was launched on July 9 it has collected more than $3,000, with contributions still growing.

This is not the first time Chet has faced adversity. She moved to the United States from Cambodia as a refugee from the Khmer Rouge in 1982, despite not speaking a word of English, and has been working in the community for more than 35 years. She was able to buy her dry cleaning business after working there for 14 years and has been running it ever since.

Right before the pandemic, Chet had spent her entire life savings on purchasing a second location to house all the dry cleaning equipment, according to Emery, adding that when the coronavirus pandemic hit, her business was “decimated.” He noted that because business was struggling, Chet could no longer afford air conditioning or electricity. To make matters worse, her landlord increased her rent to $9,000 per month.

Dry cleaners around the country are suffering a similar fate. What had been considered a safe, steady business is not among the industries hardest hit by the pandemic.

“There were no proms this year. No bridesmaids. No men in tuxedos. All that, gone,” one owner told CBS News. “We’ve been through every economic downturn. But this?”

A software provider to the industry said that dry cleaning revenue is still down about 50% on average, and was down even more earlier in the pandemic, according to the article.

Emery described Chet as very warm and friendly, especially to her customers.

“Once you peel back the layers you see that she is incredibly hardworking and patriotic, and just very caring,” he said. “She is the embodiment of the American Dream.”

Emery hopes Chet can gain support either through donations or more business.

“At a time when people are so politically divided… I feel like she represented everything that is good about this country,” said Emery. “This felt like something very small that I could do.”

Photo via GoFundMe

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This Friday, a Columbia Pike pie shop is planning to turn its back parking lot into a one-night benefit event not for themselves, but for one of their neighbors.

Acme Pie Co. (2803 Columbia Pike) is hosting the socially-distanced event for Papillon Cycles (2805 Columbia Pike), Arlington’s oldest bicycle shop.

“COVID-19 has been hard on small business and although there is a demand for bikes, Papillon can’t get stock or parts, putting them in a tight spot,” Acme Pie Co. said on the page. “So let’s help them out while having a great time with music, friends and neighbors — and plenty of space between you.”

Many bike stores are struggling to keep up with the demand as coronavirus has thrown a wrench into the supply chain.

The event is scheduled for this Friday, July 31, from 6:30-11 p.m. Live music is planned, along with pizza from nearby Sicilian Pizza and pie from Acme Pie Co. Entry is $10 at the entrance or paid in advance via Venmo to @sol-schott. All proceeds will go towards supporting Papillon Cycles.

“In order to keep everyone safe, strict social distancing guidelines will be followed and masks are a must!” Acme Pie Co. said on the event page. “[Bring your own] lawn or camping chair.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Hotel-to-Apartment Project on Hold — “A proposal to convert the Arlington Courts Suites extended-stay hotel in the Courthouse area to apartments is on hold, at least for now. The project had been slated for County Board consideration on July 18, but has been deferred until at least October at the request of the applicant, citing ‘economic concerns about the project due to the COVID-19 emergency.'” [InsideNova]

Controversy Sparks Idea for Fundraiser — A local man has raised more than $140,000 “after starting a GoFundMe page to buy Goya Foods products and donate them to local food pantries after critics called for a boycott over pro-Trump comments from Goya’s CEO. ‘People are seeing in the news a double standard for one political view,’ 27-year-old Casey Harper of Arlington, Va., told FOX Business.” [Fox Business, GoFundMe]

Jury Questionnaire Going Out Soon — “The Arlington Circuit Court, which includes the City of Falls Church, will soon begin its annual juror qualification process.  Juror questionnaires will be mailed in early August to randomly selected residents of Arlington County and Falls Church City.  These questionnaires are used to qualify residents for jury duty which begins Jan. 1, 2021, and ends Dec. 31, 2021.” [Arlington County]

Job Losses Possible at DCA — Among the 36,000 United Airlines workers who may be furloughed starting in October, according to WARN Act notices, are 116 employees at Reagan National Airport. [Virginia Employment Commission]

Swearing In for New County Board Member — “Takis P. Karantonis, elected to the Arlington County Board in a special election on July 7, 2020, will be sworn in at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14 in a virtual ceremony. Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington Paul Ferguson will officiate.” [Arlington County]

Red Hook Lobster Pound Shuts Down — Long-time local food truck operator and concessionaire Red Hook Lobster Pound is selling its trucks and assets as the pandemic forces it out of business. This presumably means that there will be no Red Hook lobster restaurant near Clarendon, either. [Washingtonian]

ACPD Investigating Airbag Theft Along Lee Highway — “At approximately 7:30 a.m. on July 12, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 7:00 p.m. on July 11 and 7:30 a.m. on July 12, an unknown suspect(s) smashed the windows of approximately three vehicles and stole the airbags. There are no suspect(s) descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Mike Cantwell

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Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Today — Voting is underway in the three-way special election to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s County Board seat. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. The candidates are Takis Karantonis, Susan Cunningham and Bob Cambridge. “Don’t forget your photo ID, ballpoint pen, and face mask,” Arlington’s election office said this morning in a tweet. [Twitter]

No Incentive Payments for Amazon This Year — “Amazon.com Inc. won’t receive any direct cash payments from Arlington County, this year at least, for its HQ2 office leases… because Amazon’s incentive payments are tied to Arlington’s tourism industry. And many rooms remain empty to this day.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Working to Offer Free Internet Service — “In May, the Arlington County Board allocated $500,000 of funding for a joint County/School Internet Essentials Grant Program to provide broadband internet access to APS students in need. The grant, allocated as part of the federal [CARES] Act, will provide free, high-speed internet access to low-income families who qualify for Internet Essentials from Comcast. Arlington is the first community in Virginia to partner with Comcast to offer free broadband services to students and their families.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Flying Squirrel Rescued from Chimney — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This little flying squirrel had been stuck in a local resident’s chimney since Saturday, but thankfully, Sgt Ballena was able to remove him and release him safely nearby!” [Twitter]

Synetic Organizing Joint Fundraiser — “Synetic Theater has partnered with the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to raise $20,000 during the month of July to be split evenly between the organizations. This partnership was initiated by Synetic Theater to help fulfil the company’s desire to invest in their local community while they are unable to host live performances at their Crystal City/National Landing theater space.” [Press Release]

Interview With New Poet Laureate — “When Hollynd Karapetkova learned that she had been selected as Arlington County’s poet laureate, she saw it as a wonderful piece of good news and positive recognition at a time when everything in the world seemed so chaotic. ‘I’m really grateful that Arlington has gone ahead with this program in spite of all the chaos that’s unfolding,’ she said.” [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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This weekend, Calvary United Methodist Church in Aurora Highlands is holding a “Stuff the Truck” donation event to collect food for the Chirilagua neighborhood in Alexandria.

The community — also known as Arlandria — has faced disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 positive patients, as have Latino and Hispanic communities in Arlington and throughout the region.

Local nonprofits have worked to get food and other emergency supplies to hard-hit Chirilagua.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the Chirilagua neighborhood are experiencing hardship from job loss, sickness, and food insecurity,” Calvary UMC said in a media advisory. “Recent data revealed that over 40% of Chirilagua residents are unemployed and, in mid-May, over 55% of COVID tests taken by community members living in Chirilagua were positive.”

This Saturday, June 6, Calvalry UMC is hosting a donation event at the church (2315 S. Grant Street) from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to fill a 20-foot truck with items most needed by Chirilagua residents and families.

“To participate, donors can come to Calvary UMC and bring donated food and supplies to place in the truck,” the church said. “Items needed most are shelf-stable foods such as rice, beans, canned food and cornflour.”

The event is the latest in a series of fundraisers and food drives for the church to support the Chirilagua community. So far, the church says it has raised $24,000 of its $25,000 goal. The church plans to make an additional $15,000 pledge to bring the total to at least $40,000, the church said.

“Donors wishing to make a financial contribution to MISSION:COVID can donate at the event or through the Calmeth.org website,” the church said, “or text GIVE to 703-936-2684 and select MISSION:COVID from the menu.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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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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Morning Notes

VHC Staff Honored by NYSE — Two radiation therapists at Virginia Hospital Center, Melinda Mack and Amanda Sprecher, were honored during the opening bell ringing at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. [Twitter]

Tomorrow is Arlington’s ‘Community Day’ — “A beloved Arlington tradition, Neighborhood Day brings communities together to enjoy the great outdoors and strengthens ties between neighbors.  In our currently socially-distant world, Neighborhood Day 2020 (May 2) is swapping out the traditional outdoor get-togethers and focusing on how Arlingtonians can build community while staying apart.” [Arlington County]

Fundraiser for Shelter Employee Bonuses — “I’m raising money to benefit four emergency shelters in Arlington County. The front line staff at these organizations are heroes who risk their personal health and wellness for those most vulnerable. I want to offer each front line staff member a $5/ hour bonus for their selfless work for at least two weeks.” [GoFundMe, Facebook]

Courtland Towers Store to Become Apartments — “It’ll soon be ‘bye, bye, bodega,’ as Arlington County Board members are allowing the owner of the Courtland Towers apartments in the Courthouse area to replace its longstanding ground-floor convenience store with four additional residential units and other amenities for residents. The proposal had generated pushback from nearby residents and garnered formal opposition from the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Federation.” [InsideNova]

Roots Closing at Pentagon City Mall — “Toronto clothing retailer Roots Corp. said Wednesday it will close both its stores in Greater Washington. The closure of outposts in Georgetown and at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City come as part of the liquidation of the apparel company’s U.S. subsidiary through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing — a measure being taken to close the stores quickly and in a cost-effective manner, the company said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Fund Created for Local Immigrants in Need — “The Dream Project, a nonprofit organization offering educational assistance to immigrants in Northern Virginia through scholarships and mentoring, has established an emergency relief fund to help immigrant students and families who are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Press Release]

Hotel Donates Rooms to County — An unnamed hotel in Arlington has donated rooms to the county to serve as Permanent Supportive Housing for up to 16 people, reducing their risk of COVID-19 exposure. [Arlington County]

Electric Bills Going Down This Month — “Dominion Energy says Virginia customers will see a $6 discount on their billing each month starting on May 1. ‘The cost of fuel has gone down and we’re passing the savings directly on to customers,’ Dominion Energy said.” [NBC 12 Richmond]

New County Initiative Tackling Hunger — “Arlington County announced a new initiative for the coronavirus era: the Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington. We talked to those heading the group — Abby Raphael, Diane Kresh and Amy Maclosky — about what it is and how they plan to help during these tough times.” [Facebook, Apple Podcasts]

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