Press Club

(Updated on 5/18) A local family raised nearly $2,000 holding a yard sale this past weekend to help children impacted by the war.

Constantin, a Ukrainian-American who lives in Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood and flew flags on 1-66 overpasses earlier this year, held the sale in his front yard Saturday morning in support of the D.C. area non-profit United Help Ukraine.

The funds will specifically go to the Hibuki Therapy Project, a program that pairs toy stuffed dogs and specialized therapists with children impacted by the ongoing war.

https://twitter.com/iFirebrand/status/1525976966620450821

“It’s important to [bring] attention to the victims of the war,” Constantin told ARLnow via phone as he was rehanging Ukrainian and American flags over I-66. He asked his last name not be used for safety concerns.

He placed flyers for the yard sale near the Westover Library, the Lee-Harrison shopping center, and Nottingham Elementary. They attracted attention.

It was a “very strong turn out,” Constantin says, with neighbors donating both items and money to the effort. In all, he believes they made at least $1,600, though probably more since some folks donated money without buying items.

He held the yard sale not only to raise money to help those back in his homeland, but to show his own children how they can make a difference.

“I wanted to show my children how… they can take a specific thing, sell it, make money, and how it can go to a specific cause in Ukraine,” he says.

All of the money went to United Help Ukraine, which focuses on providing medical supplies and basic needs to Ukrainian refugees.

The local nonprofit has raised $25 to $30 million since Russia’s invasion in late February, President Maryna Baydyuk tells ARLnow. Through the Hibuki Therapy Project, 1,000 toy dogs have already been distributed to Ukrainian refugee children. The hope is to manufacture and distribute 6,000 in total, Baydyuk says, as well as train dozens of counselors who can help while the kids are at the refugee camps.

“Children are the most vulnerable group of refugees, so we want to focus on their psychological help,” Baydyuk says.

This yard sale won’t be the end of Constantin and his family’s efforts. He’s currently planning a block party fundraiser for early June that will give his East Falls Church neighbors. Even after close to three months of war, Constantin said it’s clear to him that Arlingtonians are still very much aware of and concerned about the ongoing human toll from the invasion.

“It’s very heart-warming as an American to see the number of Ukrainian flags going up in Arlington,” he said. “They are still everywhere.”

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(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Famed local ultramarathoner Michael Wardian is going full Forrest Gump and running across America.

The 48-year-old Arlington resident and noted athletic adventurer has a new running challenge: to run from sea to shining sea.

The journey begins this Sunday (May 1) at San Francisco City Hall. Wardian will follow U.S. Route 50 to Arlington and, then, onto Dewey Beach, Delaware. His mission is to dip his toes in the Atlantic Ocean on July 4. That’s 3,184 miles in 65 days.

“With no planned rest days,” he tells ARLnow on the phone from San Francisco. “At least, that’s the plan right now.”

Wardian is doing this to raise money for World Vision, an organization that works to provide clean and safe drinking water to families across the globe. His goal is to raise $100,000.

It will be his longest run ever, an attempt inspired by his run across Israel back in 2019.

“It’s something I’ve never done before. I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “But also a little nervous.”

Wardian is known for incredible feats of the foot. That includes running seven marathons on seven continents, setting treadmill records, and logging 260 miles running loops around Arlington Forest. He also has recently set his sights on mastering pickleball.

He was actually planning to run across the country back in 2020, but the pandemic pushed those plans back two years.

“This has been my dream for, like, 20 years. And now it’s finally coming to fruition,” he says.

With him running nearly 50 miles per day, Wardian acknowledges the effort will take a physical and, crucially, a mental toll. This will be the longest he has ever been away from his family, he noted.

But Wardian is not doing this alone. He’ll have support alongside him the whole way, including someone very special. Trailing behind him in an RV will be his dad, there to prepare meals, do laundry, and just be supportive.

“This is a chance to reconnect with my dad… this is the longest I’ve ever been with him since I moved out 25 years ago,” Wardian says. “He’s going to be cheering for me the whole time.”

There are several ways to keep pace with Wardian on his months-long journey from coast to coast. There’s the normal social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. There will also be real-time tracking along with a detailed day to day schedule (including endpoints).

For those who get the bug, runners can also join Wardian on his journey at any point and for any distance — yes, much like Forrest Gump and his running entourage — by reaching out to [email protected].

About 40 people have already committed to joining him at some point one the expedition, including a few Arlington pickleball buddies.

“Hopefully, I can pop in on some [pickleball] games along the way,” he says. “I’d also like to play chess at various places too.”

Oh, Wardian is an avid chess player as well.

Wardian understands why he’s sometimes compared to Forrest Gump: the beard, the long hair, and the jogging across America.

“I have been called ‘Forrest Gump’ about a gazillion times… over the years and across the planet so I completely understand and embrace that,” he says.

But there’s one difference, he says, between him and the fictional character.

“Forrest Gump, to me, wasn’t quite sure why he was running at first but eventually he found what he was looking for,” Wardian says. “Which is different than me.”

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Northside Social in Clarendon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated 12 p.m.) Today (Thursday) marks one month since Russia invaded Ukraine, plunging the country and Arlington’s sister city, Ivano-Frankivsk, into war.

In solidarity with Ukraine, Northside Social (3211 Wilson Blvd) is hosting a fundraiser this weekend, featuring traditional food and beer and live Ukrainian music from D.C.-area ensemble Gerdan.

The fundraiser begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, and Gerdan will play “original arrangements of traditional Ukrainian folk melodies” from 4-6 p.m., according to a flier.

Northside Social will donate a percentage of proceeds to the International Committee of the Red Cross and World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by local celebrity chef José Andrés that’s currently working to feed Ukrainian refugees and those still in the war-torn country. Proceeds from some wine sales will go to World Central Kitchen, the flyer says.

An Arlington-based glass artist, Maria Milton, will be selling pieces at the fundraiser and donating proceeds to United World Mission. The Arlington Sister City Association will be on-site raising awareness about the war and Ivano-Frankivsk.

“If you’d like to stop by and help support, I think it’s going to be a great event,” Arlington County Board Member Libby Garvey said at the Board meeting on Tuesday. “I know it always feels like we’re doing not much, but I think every little bit helps, and the more awareness builds, the more there’s global pressure to bring this horrible, horrible invasion to a halt.”

Locals can also bring new and gently used coats, as well as new blankets, heavy socks and gloves, to Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street), where a collection bin was set up yesterday (Wednesday).

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission will be sending collected items to relief agencies and churches in Poland “waiting and wanting these goods,” Garvey said.

NVRC requests items be donated no later than April 15.

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its second month, the U.S. has announced it will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Today, President Joe Biden is participating in an emergency NATO summit that could lead to more aid for Ukraine and additional sanctions against Russia.

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Morning Notes

A jet takes off from Reagan National Airport at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Whiskey Bar Coming to Clarendon — “Chicken + Whiskey is branching out into Northern Virginia. The Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant and whiskey bar, which got its start from a smaller location in Logan Circle in 2017, has inked a deal for a new location near the Clarendon Metro in Arlington County. The 5,708-square-foot restaurant is slated to open late this year or early next at 3033 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s Flood Awareness Week — “Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States and it is becoming more frequent with climate change. As we head into the typical rainy season, Arlington County and Fairfax County are teaming up for Virginia Flood Awareness Week to get out key messages of being informed and prepared.” [Arlington County]

Bill to Limit Gov. Powers — “Five of Arlington’s seven-member General Assembly delegation voted in support of a measure that will limit the power of governors to act unilaterally for an indeterminate period in a crisis. Legislation sponsored by state Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) on March 9 cleared the House of Delegates on a 91-8 vote, following earlier passage in the state Senate by a margin of 29-11. Gov. Youngkin is expected to sign the bill.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Kids Hold Ukraine Bake Sale — “Our boys and friends wanted to do something to help the people of #Ukraine – they decided on a bake sale. They raised $900+ today and it’s now headed to medical staff that are getting supplies to the Ukraine/Poland border. Nice job kiddos.” [Twitter]

Bishop O’Connell Swimmer Stands Out — “For Kate Bailey, her time to receive deserved recognition as a standout high-school swimmer in Arlington came this season in her final senior campaign. During past winter years, Bailey and other top local swimmers performed in the shadow of 2022 Yorktown High School graduate and Summer Olympian Torri Huske. With Huske now swimming in college at Stanford University, Bailey’s accomplishments this winter drew more attention.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 58 and low of 31. Sunrise at 7:22 am and sunset at 7:16 pm. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) A community fundraising campaign is helping Green Valley’s New District Brewing Company purchase its own canning equipment.

Earlier this month, Arlington’s first production brewery in a century launched a campaign to raise $8,000 in order to partially pay for a canning line (equipment used to can). The equipment can cost about $23,000, so the initial plan was to cover the rest with a loan.

“When COVID-19 hit and all the brewery tap rooms were shut down, everyone moved to canning. But we didn’t have a canning line,” says New District Brewing co-owner Mike Katrivanos. “So, what we had to do was hire a third-party company to bring a mobile canning machine in… we did it out of necessity, really.”

New District was able to can a limited selection of its beers and sell them to the public. However, the process is expensive and can be hard to schedule, since the third-party company was also working with other breweries.

So, Katrivanos and his co-owner (and brother) Stephen Katrivanos decided they needed to purchase their own canning line and to ask its customers for help.

In just 10 days, the brewery hit that original goal of $8,000 and is now moving forward with a new stretch goal of $23,000 that would allow the brewery to own the equipment outright.

As of yesterday (Jan. 26), New District has raised more than $10,700 with eight more days still in the campaign.

“We are completely blown away by community support,” says Katrivanos. “We are obviously very blessed.”

There are perks, like T-shirts, hats and mugs. For those donating more, there’s an opportunity to be an assistant brewer for the day as well as a chance to design and name your very own beer. For $2,000, one can become the official “New District Monopoly Man (or Woman),” which includes getting two cases of beer from every canning run for the next year plus a top hat and monocle.

Beyond those perks, it’s also a chance to help a local, small business continue to overcome pandemic-related challenges.

New District Brewing Company opened in 2016 in a 5,200-square-foot warehouse space at ​​2709 S. Oakland Street, near the Shirlington Dog Park and the W&OD Trail. It was Arlington’s first production brewery — as in, not an accessory to a restaurant — in a century.

Like most breweries across the country, though, the last two years have been a struggle for New District.

Sales were cut in half in 2020 and the brewery has yet to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels, Katrivanos says. With omicron emerging and few guarantees about what 2022 will have in store, the ability to can and sell beer themselves to customers is a lifeline.

“[Canning] is in many ways the only way we can earn a living,” says Katrivanos.

With the new equipment coming, New District is looking at the potential of working with local, independent beer stores — like Westover Market and Crystal City Wine Shop — to sell its beer.

After the fundraising campaign is over, it could take up to two months for the brewery to get the equipment. Which means that it may be April or May before canned New District beer is available to thirsty customers.

But Katrivanos is optimistic that, by the summer, Arlingtonians will be able to taste the suds of its labor.

“We are just thrilled to be engaged in a community like this,” he says. “It’s been an awesome ride.”

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Morning Notes

Hiring sign and a long drive-thru line at the Langston Blvd Starbucks (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fundraiser for Westover Barber — “A barber at a beloved #ArlingtonVA barber shop needs help while he undergoes radiation and chemo.” [GoFundMe, Twitter]

Covid Officially on the Rise — “Arlington County, like much of Virginia, is now seeing a HIGH level of community transmission. It is recommended everyone age 2 and up wear a mask in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.” [Twitter]

Santa Returning to Cherrydale — From the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department: “It is t-minus 3 days until that jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus, joins us for our parades through Cherrydale! Are you ready? We will be parading through North Cherrydale on Thursday, December 9th, and then South Cherrydale on Friday, December 10th. Both parades will take place from 6-8pm.” [Facebook]

Home Stretch for Big Bell Project — “The Netherlands Carillon has reached the final stages of a massive renovation project which brought the addition of three new bells and the retuning of the existing bells, making it a ‘Grand Carillon.'” The Carillon is currently expected to reopen in the spring. [WUSA 9]

Report: Metro Errors After Fatal Stabbing — “An investigation into Metro’s actions during the Aug. 3 stabbing incident at the Pentagon Transit Center determined that Metrorail failed to establish an on-scene command center and did not communicate effectively with its personnel at the Pentagon Station during the emergency. These delays led to a 13-minute gap between the report of an active shooter situation and the evacuation of the Pentagon Station platform. In addition, Metro lost track of station personnel during the emergency.” [Patch]

Helicopter Called in for Shirlington Sexual AssaultUpdated at 8:45 a.m. — According to Arlington County police this morning, a suspect was arrested last night in the following case: “4200 block of 31st Street S. At approximately 2:57 a.m. on December 7, police were dispatched to the report of trouble unknown. The investigation determined that the known suspect sexually assaulted the known victim. Officers located the suspect in the area and he fled on foot. A perimeter was established and the area was searched with the assistance of the United States Park Police helicopter. The suspect was not located and the investigation is ongoing.” [ACPD]

Little Snow Expected Today, After All — From the Capital Weather Gang: “Brutal — Watch DC’s snow event slip away in 16 GFS model runs. Early runs had rain– then it was snow– now it’s nada.” [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

It’s Wednesday — Today there is a chance of snow, mixing with rain after 10am, then gradually ending. Cloudy, with a high near 43. Sunrise at 7:14 a.m. and sunset at 4:46 p.m. Tomorrow there will be increasing clouds, with a high near 44 and a low of 35. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Fundraiser for Man Killed in Crash — An online fundraiser for Stevan Zikic, the 26-year-old Alexandria man killed when he collided with a school bus while riding a motorcycle in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood, has raised nearly $35,000 for “overseas transportation and funeral costs.” [GoFundMe]

County Board Approved Pike Plan — “The County Board voted 5 to 0 to approve zoning updates that will help realize the vision of Columbia Pike as a walkable ‘Main Street’ by providing greater flexibility for commercial, office, light industrial, and agricultural uses–including animal boarding and craft beverage production — on ground floors along the Pike.” [Arlington County]

Public Art Plan OKed — “The Arlington County Board voted 5 to 0 today” — despite some last-minute opposition — “to approve an update to the Public Art Master Plan (PAMP) that will better serve placemaking efforts and improve the quality of public spaces around the County. The update, which is part of the County’s overall Comprehensive Plan, details the vision and guiding principles of public art in Arlington and sets priorities and themes centered around goals to integrate, expand, connect and engage through public art installations around the County.” [Arlington County]

Unhoused Taking Up Residence Under Bridge — “Eight months after the W&OD bicycle-pedestrian bridge opened at the Arlington-Falls Church border, members of our homeless population have gravitated there… I’m told by Kurt Larrick, assistant director of the Human Services Department. ‘Our outreach teams,’ which include PathForward volunteers, ‘are making regular visits.’ On Oct. 15, they spoke to two men sleeping at the base of a footing for the bridge. They didn’t seem interested in services now but agreed to discuss the possibility when reminded of the location’s vulnerabilities.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Beyer ‘Falling Short’ in Fundraising — “Let’s say you’re independently wealthy, well-regarded by most constituents (even from the opposition party) and occupy a district so reliably Democratic that the only way an incumbent could possibly lose the seat is via a scandal… What would you be doing? If you were U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), you’d still be asking supporters to send you money.” [Sun Gazette]

Two Men Beaten in Crystal City Area — “Victim One was inside the business in line at the register behind the suspect, when the suspect allegedly turned around, struck him in the face, exited the business and verbally threatened him from outside. A short while later, Victim Two attempted to enter the business when the suspect, who was still standing outside, allegedly struck the victim in the back of the head with a blunt object before fleeing the scene on foot. Arriving officers located Victim Two outside of the business with a large laceration on the back of his head and administered aid until medics arrived on scene.” [ACPD]

Here Comes the Flu — From Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman’s latest social media post: “Our COVID isolation numbers in the ED have been pretty stable over the last 3 weeks. We’re better than a month ago but we continue to have a steady number of patients who require our COVID isolation protocol. Hospital wide, our inpatient census is up a touch from last week and our overall percent positive rate for the hospital is also up a bit. We are starting to see just a sprinkling of flu cases over the last month. It’s not too late to get your flu shot.” [Facebook]

It’s Monday — Today will be breezy and mostly sunny, with a high near 51. West wind 9 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Sunrise at 6:51 a.m. and sunset at 4:54 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny, with a high near 53.

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Morning Notes

Fundraiser for Former Restaurant Employee — “My name is Dante. I’m the general manager at the Green Pig Bistro in Arlington. Recently we had a tragedy in our green pig family. One of our former employees, Myra died in child birth. Her husband, Rolando, is also a former employee. We are… [raising] money to help this single father out.” [GoFundMe]

First for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — “A historic first happened at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Friday. The Tomb at Arlington National Cemetery has been guarded continuously for the past 84 years… On October 1, for the first time ever, there was an all-woman shift change.” [WUSA 9]

Designers Weigh in on New County Logo — “I think if you think of it as a logo, it has some pretty obvious shortcomings in that it doesn’t say much about Arlington except as part of the larger region. It’s more of a reasonable mark for the DMV than it is for Arlington itself. It would be nice if they could’ve had something about Arlington to feature there. On the other hand, Arlington being part of the DMV might be what’s most interesting about it.” [Washingtonian]

Rent Keeps Rising in Arlington — “Median apartment-rental rates across Arlington continue their post-COVID rebound and are the highest in the Washington region, but the rate of growth over the past month was slightly below the national average. With a median cost of $2,061 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,495 for a two-bedroom unit, the median price for Arlington rentals over the preceding month was up 1.9 percent.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Jobless Rate Dropping — “Arlington’s jobless rate in August dropped to 3 percent, according to new data, as the county and region continue to wriggle free of the economic grip of COVID… The August data… showed 145,095 Arlington residents employed in the civilian workforce and 4,549 looking for jobs. The resulting 3-percent rate was down from 3.4 percent in July, and a healthy drop from the 5.2-percent rate recorded in August 2020.” [Sun Gazette]

Seeking Police Oversight Board Members — “The Arlington County Board is now seeking applications from residents interested in serving as part of the County’s new Community Oversight Board (COB) that will have independent oversight and help to increase transparency and collaboration with the Arlington County Police Department. This volunteer COB will work directly with an accompanying Independent Policing Auditor, who will be hired at a later date.” [Arlington County]

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A long-time neighborhood restaurant serving the Cherrydale and Maywood communities is closing.

Portabellos: An American Cafe is set to serve its last meals on Saturday, Sept. 25. The restaurant, located within a small, one-story shopping strip at 2109 N. Pollard Street, has been open under its current ownership for 15 years.

In an email to customers, a version of which was also posted on its website, the restaurant cited pandemic-related business challenges and said it was “unable to come to an agreement with the landlord on how to move forward.”

To All Our Valued Guests

it is with great sadness that we announce the closing of Portabello’s an American Cafe. Our lease expired last year in June 2020 and this year we were unable to come to an agreement with the landlord on how to move forward both during and after the pandemic. We want to thank all of our wonderful guests and employees for supporting us over the last 15 years. What began as a little 54 seat restaurant on the corner of North Pollard street, tucked away grew into a place that had welcomed many guests that became like family to us . We are extremely humbled that so many embraced our restaurant and that we were able to succeed as long as we had. For a restaurant to survive and thrive right outside Washington, Dc for 15 years is an accomplishment of which we can be proud. We could not have done it without all of you! THANK you all for your love and support! We will be Officially close on Sept 25th, so please come through!

Nothing but LOVE for Arlington and the surrounding area!

Sincerely,
MJ, William, Jackie, Belldo, Mariono

A GoFundMe page, meanwhile, has been established by a local community member to help out the restaurant owner.

The pandemic “wiped out all of his savings,” says the fundraising page, which so far has raised more than $5,000 from 50 donors.

The extra cash could “lift spirits there a bit and help out,” notes a post promoting it on a local Facebook group.

More from the GoFundMe campaign:

Portabello’s has been around for 20 years and MJ has owned it for about 15 years. The Covid 19 pandemic, however, has taken it’s toll and the restaurant can no longer keep going. MJ Hussein says it has been very challenging during the Covid 19 pandemic and it wiped out all of his savings. He has not been able to pay his lease. The lease ran out last July and he and the landlord decided it’s best for them to part ways.

When MJ took over Portabello’s his youngest daughter was 6 month old and now she’s in 10th grade. He wants to spend time with his daughters and work on his mental health after a very trying 17 months. He is so thankful for Arlington and especially Cherrydale and Maywood, who have been like a family to MJ and his staff.

He mentioned he was going to try to sell the restaurant and would share the proceeds with his loyal staff who have been with him for many years.

I am skeptical he would find a buyer in the current climate of Covid. This GoFundMe is a gesture of good will to a restauranteer many of us have appreciated and enjoyed. MJ always made an effort to get to know his customers. He knew what people generally ordered and would stop by the tables to chat.

This GoFundMe page will be available until September 25, 2021.

Hat tip to Smiley456. Photo (2) via Google Maps.

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Morning Notes

Langston Blvd Plan Meets Resistance — “Following this May’s release of area planning maps and a presentation on density from consultant AECOM, a furious screed was published by Lyon Village Civic Association president John Carten. Though the process is still in the community engagement phase that precedes concrete recommendations, the hint of possible changes in the General Land Use Plan prompted the Lyon Village group to predict a parade of horribles.” [Falls Church News-Press]

New Clarendon Apartment Building Sold — “Trammell Crow Residential has sold the Alexan Earl, a 333-unit multifamily building at 1122 N. Hudson St., to Lincoln Property Co. for $192 million… The Earl represents the first phase of the long-planned Red Top Cab redevelopment… Shooshan continues to plan for the second phase, a roughly 250-unit building fronting Washington Boulevard at the intersection with 13th Street North. It expects to start demolition this fall.” [Washington Business Journal]

Online Fundraiser for Fallen Officer –” The family of George Gonzalez started a memorial fund Sunday for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer who was fatally wounded Tuesday on the platform of the Pentagon Transit Center… By 3 p.m. on Monday, the GoFundMe campaign had already raised $15,000, outstripping its original goal of $1,000.” [Patch, GoFundMe]

Local BBQ Joint Competing in ‘World Championship’ — “Arlington’s Smokecraft Modern Barbecue… has been invited to compete in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.  Taking place in Lynchburg, TN on on October 8th and 9th, ‘The Jack’ as it is known, is widely considered the world’s most prestigious barbecue competition.” [Press Release]

Va. AG Continues to Fight Robocalls — “Attorney General Mark R. Herring today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fight back against the scourge of illegal robocalls by moving up the deadline for smaller telephone companies to implement caller ID technology. Attorney General Herring joined a bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general have in submitting comments to the FCC.” [Press Release]

Pentagon to Require Vaccinations — “The Pentagon will require members of the military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo on Monday. About 64% of active duty military members are fully vaccinated, a low enough rate to pose concern for potential outbreaks and international deployment.” [Axios]

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A new GoFundMe page was established over the weekend to raise money for five families who have been impacted by the pest infestations and mold at the Serrano Apartments.

These families have been relocated to temporary housing, in hotels and elsewhere, while their units are remediated and repaired. As of Monday afternoon, the fundraiser has raised $3,333 of its $18,738 goal.

It is the latest move by the community leaders and residents who have been calling on affordable housing nonprofit AHC, which owns the property, to improve conditions at the complex. After two years of advocacy, and after involvement from the NAACP and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), organizers say the Serrano Apartments and its residents are finally getting the attention they deserve.

In the case of the families for which funds are being raised, more support is needed, organizers say.

“These families, all with school-aged children, have to replace beds, furniture, clothes and other household items and prepare to get their children ready for back-to-school as they relocate, return and try to restabilize their homes and families,” they wrote on the GoFundMe page.

“These families have suffered significant losses and were unexpectedly uprooted due to the lack of maintenance and care at the Serrano Apartments,” the page continues. “These families work hard, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and do not have additional finances nor renter’s insurance to assist them in replacing their belongings and to address other costs involved with resettling and restabilizing their homes and families.”

Former School Board member Tannia Talento, Arlington Schools Hispanic Parents Association member Janeth Valenzuela, Rev. Ashley Goff and local NAACP President Julius “J.D.” Spain put together the fundraiser. They said they hope to raise $4,000 for four families that spent more than two months in hotel rooms, $2,000 for one family that suffered some significant loss of their belongings, but could relocate to another affordable housing residence, and $738 for the GoFundMe fees and transaction costs.

Meantime, AHC has made some structural changes since the conditions came to light, including the resignation of their CEO. AHC hired an interim CEO, former Independent County Board candidate Susan Cunningham, to take the helm.

“I’m a straight shooter,” she told County Board members during a meeting in mid-July, two days into her new post. “I’m not going to sugar coat. I care a lot about accountability: my own, yours, ours as a community, and the problem-solving that it takes to deliver the kind of quality that we expect in the county.”

AHC and Cunningham are working with advocates and tenants to address repairs, the pest infestation and maintenance issues.

The interim CEO told the board she plans to have an in-depth update on progress in September.

She said AHC has “made good progress” but is not done rehousing the nearly 30 families who were placed temporarily in hotels earlier this year. Although the majority are in permanent homes — some with AHC and some in other complexes — a handful are still in hotels and considering their options, she said.

Meanwhile, AHC has three vendors on site trying to tackle an extensive mouse problem.

“We are filling holes, and we are getting ready to pull cabinets,” she said. “I think we’re getting on top of it, but we won’t feel that for sure for a couple of weeks.”

Fundraiser organizers say the same.

“Change is slow, and while we anticipate AHC will make these families whole again, it may take weeks before anything comes to fruition,” they said in the GoFundMe.

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