Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) While Arlington Public Schools works to get meals to students who aren’t in school, a group of teachers have gone the extra mile and are working to get grocery gift cards to families on the free and reduced lunch list.

A GoFundMe campaign for Arlington students in need is approaching $170,000 raised, with an $830,000 goal. The hope is to provide a $100 grocery gift card into the hands of every APS student that qualifies for free or reduced lunch.

“Arlington Public Schools has approximately 8,300 kids who receive free or reduced lunches,” the fundraiser’s founders wrote on GoFundMe. “These food-insecure families may face challenges feeding their families. This problem may be compounded if employers start cutting hours or closing their doors and wage workers end up without work.”

The fundraising push has made headlines nationally, on Good Morning America, CNN and People Magazine, as the teachers try to spread the word about Arlington families in need during the coronavirus outbreak.

The fundraiser is not associated with APS — which is currently distributing grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches — but the teachers said they’re working with others in their schools and with the PTAs.

“They know the kids in need in their schools and are getting the cards to those families,” teacher Aaron Schuetz said, who started the fundraiser with fellow Yorktown High School science teachers Laurie Vena and Deborah Waldron. “Sometimes [delivery is] by mail, or pickup, etc.”

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Wakefield High School’s “Warrior Nation” and other friends of recent grad Truc Tran are rallying online to raise money online for the medical care of a student who was badly injured in a car crash last month.

Tran graduated from Wakefield in 2019 and is a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) studying biochemistry. Her friend Ileana Mendez, who created the GoFundMe for Tran’s family three days ago, said Tran excelled academically and is kind and sincere.

According to the GoFundMe page:

On February 23rd, 2020, Truc was driving back to VCU from her home in Arlington when she was involved in a terrible car accident along with her roommate and her friend. Truc was laying down on the back seat, with no seatbelt on. She suffered the worst injuries out of everyone in the car and had to be taken [to] a different hospital.

The page says that Tran suffered severe brain damage, collapsed lungs, and a broken spine. She was admitted to the cardiovascular ICU unit and given sedation.

“Truc is now at the Trauma ICU, being closely monitored and everyone is waiting for more updates on her condition,” Mendez said on the page. “She was slowly taken off the sedation and was able to open her eyes and move her shoulders and head a little. However, since the brain damage was too severe, the doctors are unsure if Truc will be able to be more responsive than how she is right now — only able to blink, move her fingers, toes, and her shoulders.”

Mendez said the broken spine will require additional surgery on top or two previous operations that attempted to fix the damage to her lungs.

“Truc’s family needs as much help as possible,” Mendez said. “Her parents are unable to work in this situation and they still have to take care of Truc’s little sister. It would be extremely appreciated if you could donate as much as you can in order to be able to cover for Truc’s stay at the hospital and for the recovery that lays ahead. The goal is to reach $500,000 as soon as possible, but whatever amount is reached we’ll be grateful for.”

As of 2 p.m. the fundraiser had raised more than $18,000.

The page has been shared throughout the Wakefield High School community.

Photo via GoFundMe

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Despite nearly a year’s worth of effort, it looks like a group of youth basketball referees left unpaid by a county contractor are not going to get paid via any kind of governmental intervention.

Instead, an Arlington County Board member is seeking to crowdfund their payments.

Matt de Ferranti, who has “taken on the cause of the referees as his own” and expressed optimism about finding a solution earlier this year, has instead launched a GoFundMe campaign on his own.

De Ferranti told ARLnow today that he launched the campaign in his personal capacity, and contributed $250 of his own money, after being unable to find a way to get the refs paid in his professional capacity.

The issue started after last winter’s rec league sports season, when the owner and sole employee of a company hired by Arlington County to manage referees suffered a stroke and was incapacitated. Most of the 100 or so referees hired by Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees, which received a $163,269 contract from the county, were paid, according to de Ferranti. About two dozen are still owed, in aggregate, somewhere around $12,000.

That money is unlikely to be forthcoming due to “significant financial problems” at the company, which is now reportedly under conservatorship.

De Ferranti’s GoFundMe effort has set a goal of raising $12,500 from the community, to — as the title of the campaign suggests — “Pay the Referees.”

“I think it’s a unique situation that the law, and the right thing to do, do not align,” de Ferranti said. “I think [the campaign] will move us forward as a community.”

De Ferranti stressed that all efforts had been made to find a way for Arlington County to intervene, but the possible legal remedies appear to have been exhausted. The county government can’t pay the refs — many of them teens — because it never employed them directly.

“The fact that we are legally unable to pay the rest is something that not everybody immediately knows,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do, to compensate individuals for work that has been done… This is unfortunately a reality of the law that says public entities cannot provide gifts of public funds to individuals we do not have contracts with.”

“My colleagues and I share the desire to address this,” de Ferranti continued. “We all, in our personal capacities, want to see this addressed. We tried creative ways to fix the problem, that were legally permissible, and in this unique situation we have been unable to address the problem.”

Arlington now has a contract with a different referee contractor, and new policies in place, he noted.

De Ferranti suggested that donations of $25 could make a big difference and help the campaign raise the needed funds “as quickly as possible.” He plans to further promote the campaign, which he launched today, via social media.

“I ask that you join me, as I care about making sure the young people and adults who refereed our County league games last year are compensated for their work,” the GoFundMe page says. “I’m proud that our community pitches in to help where there is a need. I promise if there was another way to get this done, I would do it. Please help.”

Image via Flickr/Karl Baron

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It’s time for another Cupid update! As you know, we had a goal to raise $6,500 for Cupid’s care. Now after two days, multiple interviews and Cupid’s story reaching across the country, we just found out our current fundraising total – but you’ll have watch the video below to see how much money we have raised so far because of Cupid! Cupid continues to do well today and is switching between naps, snacks, and snuggles. He now has his own Instagram account, @savingcupid, where we will post daily updates. From now on we’ll just post weekly updates here on Facebook. We are so, so, SO grateful to everyone out there who has supported and/or donated because of Cupid…we are completely overwhelmed by your generosity and could not be happier to be a part of this community. THANK YOU!

Posted by Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Update at 5 p.m. on 2/20/20 — AWLA now says more than $80,000 has been donated.

Earlier: People have fallen in love with Cupid, an injured kitten brought to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and opened their wallets to help pay for his care.

The shelter near Shirlington received a call from a fellow animal rescue group in West Virginia on Friday — Valentine’s Day — that they had a seriously injured orange tabby that they were unable to care for. Cupid, as he was named, had been shot in the head with an arrow.

The Animal Welfare League brough Cupid to Arlington, paid for his expensive surgery, then asked the public for donations to help defray the costs.

AWLA set out to raise $6,500. In a Facebook post yesterday evening, above, the nonprofit’s CEO announced that it had received $65,000 from donors.

“This is fantastic… this is beyond my wildest expectations,” said AWLA CEO Samuel Wolbert, while making the dramatic reveal. “Thank you guys, Cupid is a fighter and as long as he’s fighting we’re going to do what it take to give him the care he needs.”

“Anything that we don’t use for Cupid, we’re going to be able to help so many other animals,” added AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones. “We’re going to be able to say ‘yes’ when we get phone calls like this and to help when we need [to].”

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An Arlingtonian’s childhood friend is fighting to keep him alive.

Abel Yohannes has organized a fundraiser on GoFundMe, the popular crowdfunding platform, for his 23-year old friend, Alex, who’s fighting end-stage heart failure. The money will help cover Alex’s mounting hospital bills, Yohannes said in the GoFundMe post.

Alex, an Arlington native, is currently hooked up to a left ventricle assist device, which is keeping him alive, Yohannes’ post said. The only next step is for Alex to get a heart transplant.

“As we look towards the next steps, the only thing that will be able to save Alex is a heart transplant which has a median cost of $450k,” the post said. “We all know how complex the healthcare system is in the United States with insurance companies only covering a certain amount of total cost.”

Alex’s life has taken a turn for the worse since he was admitted to the hospital in mid-November.

“Alex was always very active and loved to play sports,” Yohannes said. “He was also very ambitious and even served in the military for several years, being stationed in different parts of the U.S. He decided to end his tenure in the military to be close to his family and follow his entrepreneurial dreams.”

Since his diagnosis, Alex has lost much of his muscle mass, Yohannes added.

Yohannes posted the fundraiser on the website a week ago today. So far, he has raised over $85,000 of the $200,000 goal.

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) The G.O.A.T. Sports Bar in Clarendon will be hosting a fundraiser to help animals affected by the recent, devastating wildfires in Australia next week.

The event will kick off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, and run through closing. Entrance to the event will cost $10, which includes two drink tickets. The proceeds will go to Animals Australia, an animal protection nonprofit.

“Animals Australia is providing resources and support to expert veterinarians and caretakers tending to needs of affected wildlife,” the sports bar said in a press release.

The sports bar and lounge is located at 3028 Wilson Blvd, across from the Clarendon Metro station.

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Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

Tuesday, January 21

The Evolution of Political News
Westover Library (1644 N. McKinley Road)
Time: 7-8 p.m. 

Dr. Kimberly Meltzer, from Marymount University, will be speaking about her upcoming book as part of a two-part series on civic engagement. Registration is required and everyone is welcome.

Wednesday, January 22

Ballston Sip and Mingle*
Ballston Exchange (4201 Wilson Blvd)
Time: 5-7 p.m.

The Ballston Exchange invites people to a happy hour with food, drinks and a live band. The event will also include a non-profit expo where people can get involved by helping their community. Space is limited so RSVP is suggested.

Thursday, January 23

Low-Cost Rabies Vaccine & Microchip Clinic
Animal Welfare League of Arlington (2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive)
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington encourages people to bring in their cats and dogs for a $10 rabies shot or a $35 microchip implantation.

 Friday, January 24

Mount Olivet Players: Arrivals and Departures
Mount Olivet UMC (1500 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 7:30-9:30 p.m.

The Mount Olivet Players will perform a free show for the audience that tells funny stories about airports, flight and air travel. Donations are accepted and will benefit youth summer mission trips.

Saturday, January 25

Elementary/Middle School Open House*
Our Savior Lutheran School (825 S. Taylor Street)
Time: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Our Savior Lutheran School is host an open house, during which families can meet school leaders, tour the facilities and learn about program offerings for kids.

Phoenix Bikes CycleBar Fundraiser
CycleBar Columbia Pike (3400 Columbia Pike)
Time: 3-4 p.m. 

This event offers people the chance to take a cycle class for a good cause. Proceeds will go to Phoenix Bikes, which teaches local youth life skills through bicycle repair. Tickets are $25 and attendees can donate more if they choose.

Sunday, January 26

Transgender Conversation Sponsored by Equality Virginia
Congregation Etz Hayim (2920 Arlington Blvd)
Time: 10:15-11:45 a.m. 

Interested members of the public can speak with people from the Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau. Speakers will talk about how people can live their best lives and have productive conversations with members of the LGBT community.

Burt Solomon, The Attempted Murder of Teddy Roosevelt
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street #101)
Time: 4-5 p.m. 

Author Burt Solomon will discuss his experience writing his new book, about an incident that looked like and accident but might have been been a presidential assassination attempt.

*Denotes featured (sponsored) event.

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Arlington’s culinary school La Cocina is planning to add a cafe and a business incubator — as well as triple the number of students it teaches.

The bilingual non-profit donates healthy meals and trains Hispanic immigrants for culinary jobs. But now La Cocina is planning to move from the basement of a church near Ballston to a 5,000-square-foot space in the affordable Gilliam Place housing development at 3507 Columbia Pike, where the organization’s CEO and Founder Patricia Funegra says La Cocina will help residents cook up new businesses.

“We call it the zero-barriers training and entrepreneurship center,” Funegra told ARLnow today. “The new center will triple our capacity.”

For the last two years, she said she’s worked to raise money ($2.5 million so far) for the new space where La Cocina will continue training residents for culinary jobs — but also rent out its kitchen space and offer micro-lending to low-income entrepreneurs looking to start their own food businesses.

Funegra says the plan is also to launch a “pop-up cafe” with space for 40 seats where these burgeoning business owners can sell their offerings.

Also planned for the new space is an in-house catering business to help pull in revenue for the nonprofit.

The kitchen space itself will include six to eight prep tables and industrial ovens, fridges, and a walk-in freezer. All together, she hopes to quadruple the number of students a year from around 30 to 120.

“We are moving from a workforce development nonprofit in the food service to becoming producer of food,” Funegra said of the ambitious plans. “So there is some learning process we are going through as well.”

Funegra also hopes the new location on Columbia Pike will also allow Cocina to better reach low-income individuals who need access to healthy meals. She said the organization’s existing food donation program has given out 12,000 such meals, but they hope to give out 40,000 in the new location thanks to the bigger space and larger staff.

Currently, Cocina employs six full-time staffers. It now plans to hire another six come January, including cooks, a manager of operations for the cafe and catering service, and a social worker.

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When the Washington Post’s Express commuter tabloid abruptly shut down last week, dozens of distributors who hawk the papers around Metro stations were left without a job, their futures uncertain.

Express’s 16-year run was made memorable by the friendly men and women who would greet commuters each morning, papers in hand. Now one reader is trying to ensure they’re not forgotten.

While the Post’s Union works to try to make sure the 20 laid off Express staffers are hired elsewhere, amid a tough time for local media employment, a local IT project manager has organized a GoFundMe campaign for the 75 Express distributors, who worked for a third-party company contracted by the Post.

“In order to help these kind-hearted individuals who brightened the day of thousands of commuters for many years, we would love to see the greater community come together and offer support in order to keep them on their feet while they look for new opportunities,” wrote fundraiser organizer Annie D’Amato.

So far, more than $5,100 has been raised from nearly 150 donors.

Word about the campaign is being spread at local Metro stations, including the Courthouse station where flyers and posters were placed around the entrances Monday.

D’Amato is seeking volunteers to print the flyers and post them at more local stations. In addition to the Courthouse station, flyers were found at a number of stations in the District yesterday.

Meanwhile, some Express distributors are still working on behalf of the Post — passing out coupons for free digital subscriptions to the Post itself. At least one other returned to his usual Metro station, asking for help.

The GoFundMe campaign remains far from its fundraising goal, but donations continue flowing in.

“Raising $75,000 would be enough to give them each $1,000, but any amount collected above or below that goal will be distributed evenly between all of the workers,” wrote D’Amato. “Whether your commute has been made better by the friendly face and greeting of an Express worker, or you just want to help and support those in need, please consider donating to this campaign.”

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Morning Notes

APS Students Now Can Identify as Nonbinary — “Students enrolling in schools in the District, Alexandria City, Arlington and Montgomery Counties now have the option to mark their gender as ‘X’ meaning nonbinary or unspecified. That’s in addition to male or female gender categories.” [WAMU]

Traffic Delays ACFD Response to I-395 Crash — “The I-395 incident happened shortly after 1 p.m. near the Duke Street overpass. Blunt said a crash left a woman trapped inside her car, but because of bumper-to-bumper traffic and other vehicles not moving out of the way, it took crews 24 minutes to respond when it would’ve taken them just eight minutes otherwise.” [Fox 5]

Pedestrian Tunnel Closure Date Set — “The 23rd Street tunnel is scheduled to close permanently on Tuesday, Sept. 3. The Virginia Department of Transportation will mobilize its contractor to begin deconstruction of the tunnel’s above-ground structures.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Nonprofit’s Student Program Deemed Success — “AHC Inc.’s college- and career-readiness program had a 100-percent high-school-graduation rate for participating students this year. A total of 24 students living in AHC’s local apartment communities participated in the non-profit housing provider’s readiness program.” [InsideNova]

Kiwanis Sell Lots of NJ Blueberries — “Those who purchased blueberries from the Kiwanis Club of Arlington earlier in the summer weren’t alone. Nearly 10,000 pounds of New Jersey berries were sold in the fund-raiser, netting nearly $10,000 that will be used to support grants aimed at serving children.” [InsideNova]

Storm Last Week Cast a Shadow — “A storm on the western horizon is casting a shadow on a storm on the eastern horizon. It doesn’t happen often. These are photos from last Wednesday.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Scooters Face Opposition in Alexandria — “Why scooters have drawn so much ire is among the most enduring mysteries of Alexandria ‘historic character’ activism. Alexandria’s history is replete with lots of vile historic character, like being a major center in the trade of enslaved people.” [Washingtonian]

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Arlington public safety personnel are again organizing a 5K race for a good cause, in memory of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

The 18th annual Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K will be held on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 7. This year, the race will raise money for two organizations:

  • HEROES, which is “dedicated to aid families of law enforcement officers and firefighters who have died in the line of duty in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.”
  • The Pentagon Memorial Fund, which is working to build a new visitor center.

The race will be held at 6 p.m. on Sept. 7, with a start and finish near the DoubleTree Hotel in Pentagon City (300 Army Navy Drive) and a course that winds around the Pentagon. Registration is $40 through Sept. 4.

“Since its inception, the Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial Race has had over 40,000 runners cross its finish line and has raised over $800,000 for 9/11-related charities,” the race’s website says. “Our goal is to donate over 1 million dollars and to host the 20th Anniversary 9/11 Race on Saturday, September 11, 2021.”

The post-race festival, in front of the DoubleTree Hotel, includes music and free food and drink for participants.

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