Arlington, VA

A food pantry operating out of a residential garage in Lyon Village is closing down, after exactly a year of providing food to needy families.

On March 22, 2020, David Knepper was like many of us when the world shut down — housebound and unable to focus.

The 75-year-old had recently retired from being a home remodeling contractor and was using his garage near the corner of N. Cleveland and 18th Streets as a workshop for small projects.

But he was growing restless and wanted to help others who were struggling. So, he turned his garage into a makeshift food pantry.

“I decided… to share what I have with the people who are losing their jobs and can’t afford food to put on the table,” he tells ARLnow.

Knepper filled his garage with beans, rice, canned vegetables, peanut butter, tuna, oats and other non-perishables. He put out signs written in English, Spanish, and Arabic (thanks to a tenant from Saudi Arabia). People came immediately.

“Quite a few people came to pick up food right from the start,” he says. “Word just spread.”

Over the past year, he estimates that he’s gone through about 950 pounds of rice and hundreds of cans of vegetables.

Knepper declined to share exactly how much money he spent on the food, but estimates it was about the same amount he would have spent if he was feeding a family of seven or eight on a regular basis.

Despite its start as an individual initiative, the food garage became a community effort.

Knepper says dozens of people have dropped off food for donation, including a core group of 15 or 16 who did it on a regular basis.

“They would bring food, sometimes quite a lot of it,” he says. “I’d go out there and the shelves would be absolutely loaded with food.”

There’s one story of the man who caught sight of the garage on the way to visit his daughter. He worked at a Chevy Chase soup kitchen that was getting regular shipments of food but wasn’t using all of it. So, he dropped some off at Knepper’s garage.

Over the last year, Knepper has gotten to know a number of families who regularly picked up good.

“They are always so grateful,” he says.

David Knepper and his food garage (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

More than once, a family would come get food and then, a bit later ,would come back after they’ve gotten a paycheck and donate food themselves, Knepper said.

Knepper has lived in his house with his wife Sally for more than three decades but has never seen his neighborhood come together like they have during the pandemic.

“The neighborhood is very supportive,” he says. “My neighbors are great and even better during the pandemic. I’ve gotten to know neighbors I’ve never known before.”

After 365 days, however, Knepper is finally shutting the pantry down. He believes it’s time: the pantry is not being used as often and economic impact payments are in the midst of being sent.

“The last two months, I’ve noticed people are not picking up as much stuff as they did before,” he says. “One year is a good time to close it down.”

He started taking down signs and reclaiming his garage on Monday. All the leftover food is being donated to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

Knepper says he feels good about the community banding together to help to those in need.

“It’s been such a heartwarming experience,” he says. “Everybody pitched in.”

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Sometimes, things are not as they first appear. That seems to be the case with an incident in Clarendon early this past Saturday morning.

Police say an officer patroling the bar district “observed a subject with a knife and detained him without incident” around 2:15 a.m. But soon, police say it became clear that the man with the knife was actually a would-be Good Samaritan and the victim of a crime.

“It was determined that two males were involved in a verbal altercation when the subject attempted to intervene,” the Arlington County Police Department said in a crime report. “Upon doing so, he was physically assaulted by one of the involved males and fell to the ground. He stood up, brandished a knife in an attempt to stop the assault, and walked away from the incident.”

“During the course of the investigation, the predominant aggressor in the assault was identified,” the crime report continues.

A 22-year-old man from Wareham, Massachusetts “was arrested and charged with Malicious Wounding and Drunk in Public,” ACPD said. “He was held on no bond.”

Also early Saturday morning, police responded to an armed robbery at a 7-Eleven store on Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. More from the crime report:

ROBBERY (late), 2020-10310075, 1600 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 5:00 a.m. on October 31, police were dispatched to the late report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that at 4:24 a.m., two suspects entered a business. Suspect 1 approached an employee and brandished a firearm while Suspect 2 demanded cash from the register. The suspects fled the scene on foot after stealing an undisclosed amount of cash. Suspect 1 is described as a White male wearing a black puffy jacket with a red shirt underneath, black ski mask and khaki pants. Suspect 2 is described as a White male wearing a black jacket, light blue ripped jeans and a black ski mask. The investigation is ongoing.

Morning Notes

Possible Microwave Attack in Arlington — “Shortly after Thanksgiving 2019, according to three sources familiar with the incident, a White House staffer was hit while walking her dog in Arlington, Virginia… the staffer passed a parked van. A man got out and walked past her. Her dog started seizing up. Then she felt it too: a high-pitched ringing in her ears, an intense headache, and a tingling on the side of her face.” [GQ]

Arrest in Arlington Mill Shooting — “Charges have been sought against a juvenile suspect related to the shooting that occurred on October 21, 2020. The suspect has been charged with Aggravated Malicious Wounding and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony.” [Arlington County]

‘Headlines’ Mobile Art Project in Arlington TodayUpdated at 10:30 a.m. — Per a press release: “The exhibit is called #HeadlinesAreFrontlines, a multimedia show deployed on mobile trucks featuring 12-foot screens of 1,460 daily news headlines, in order, about Donald Trump. The traveling exhibit moves through the streets of DC and Arlington on October 26th at 9am. Look for the multimedia truck in Rosslyn and Crystal City.” [Instagram, BYT]

Locals Recognized for Good Works — Two Arlington residents were recently featured on ABC 7’s local news broadcasts: 26-year-old Dominique Cross, an abuse survivor writes song to uplift victims of domestic violence, and 15-year-old Chip Nordlinger, who spends his free time helping homeless veterans.

Boy Gets Award for Saving Ailing Mom — “On October 13, 2020, tragedy struck one of our own. While playing outside, Aiden, son of Firefighter Josh Wise, noticed that his mom began suffering from a serious medical emergency. He recognized the situation and courageously called 911, providing his address and full details… Aiden was awarded an honorary Lifesaving Award, one of the department’s highest honors, for his efforts in saving his mother’s life.” [Facebook]

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A former intern in Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services has helped the county obtain 1,400 masks for workers.

The intern, Lucie, interned for DES in 2016 and has since been attending school in Hawaii, though she is currently back in her native China amid the coronavirus outbreak. Through a friend who runs a trading company in Hong Kong, she heard about a shipment of 1,400 face masks sitting in Los Angeles and immediately thought of her former colleagues.

Lucie reached out to DES, according to department spokesman Peter Golkin, to see if the masks might be of use. When she was told they were, she and some other friends — including a George Mason University grad student — raised money to cover the cost of the shipment to Arlington, Golkin said.

Now, frontline workers in the Water, Sewer, Streets Bureau, one of the bureaus in which Lucie interned, have access to construction-grade face masks that can help them stay healthy while on the job patching potholes, fixing water main breaks and maintaining other essential infrastructure. And the shipment came at a time when personal protective equipment of all types is in short supply.

“Thanks Lucie and company!” DES said via social media on Monday.

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It started with a post on Nextdoor, which was then cross-posted on a popular local Facebook page.

“In need of a MAJOR favor from all who are willing!” wrote the poster, Columbia Pike resident Ashley Johnson. “I have a sweet sweet kid I met while volunteering at a homeless shelter 4 years ago. The shelter closed and his family was forced out but I still pick him up and try to give him good experiences.”

The post continued: “His 6th birthday is today and sadly I didn’t get to host a party this year BUT I just got a last minute reply from the fire station, and they’re willing to do a drive by and lead the way for a mini birthday parade… My family all lives out of state, but if anyone is free and willing to line up tomorrow around 5:15p, on 16th Rd. and Walter Reed, next to Pupatella, to jump in behind the fire truck when it passes to do the drive by Walter Reed Community Center, where we’ll be waiting, please let me know!”

Little did Johnson know, but Arlington residents and first responders would show up in a big way for 6-year-old Jessiah.

Friday night, several fire department vehicles, 16 Arlington County police cruisers and about 50 cars full of local residents paraded down the street, in perhaps the biggest traffic jam the Columbia Pike corridor has seen since the start of social distancing.

ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott was there to capture the moment.

The coronavirus outbreak may have curtailed traditional birthday parties, but it could not curtail kindness among neighbors and the big smile on Jessiah’s face.

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Morning Notes

Pentagon City Redevelopment on Pause — “Brookfield Properties has suspended plans to launch a major redevelopment of the Transportation Security Administration’s headquarters in Pentagon City once the federal agency moves to its new home in Springfield in mid- to late 2020… it’s a reflection of the new reality that Amazon’s HQ2 has created in the neighborhood.” [Washington Business Journal]

Vote on Add’l Speeding Fine This Weekend — “Currently, a ticket for going 10 mph over the speed limit in a residential zone is about $80. The additional fine would bring that ticket to $280. ‘People drive like maniacs around here. It’s about time they got some punishment,’ Arlington resident Jack Feegel said.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Resident Helps Return Lost Dog — “A lost dog was reunited with its owner thanks to a passing motorist, who noticed something unusual on their way to work, and a fellow driver farther along the road. Dashcam footage shows the unnamed motorist, from Arlington, Virginia, driving to their workplace in Silver Spring, Maryland, on January 13.” [Daily Mail]

ACFD Responds to Calls in Maryland — It’s rare for the Arlington County Fire Department to respond as mutual aid to an incident in Maryland, but it happened Wednesday morning, with several units dispatched to Prince George’s County. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington Tourism Tax May Be Made Permanent — “The Arlington County government looks ready to get a major present from the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly. The state Senate has passed and sent to the House of Delegates a measure that removes the sunset provision on Arlington’s authority to impose a 0.25-percent surcharge on hotel taxes to support tourism promotion.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: No Streetcar in Georgetown — “Plans to extend the DC Streetcar to Georgetown have been effectively scrapped. The District Department of Transportation is halting all work on the project ‘for the foreseeable future,’ according to documents submitted to the D.C. Council.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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Morning Notes

Developer Pitches New Clarendon Apartment Building — “Orr Partners is pitching a new mixed-use building in Clarendon, seeking to redevelop a small property behind the neighborhood’s popular Silver Diner… the project will not include the redevelopment of the nearby The Lot beer garden or the Silver Diner, though rumors have long persisted that those have been targeted for changes.” [Washington Business Journal]

Most County Offices, Facilities Closed Today — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed Tues. Dec. 24 – Weds., Dec. 25, 2019, for Christmas, as well as New Year’s Day on Jan. 1, 2020… Metered [parking] areas not enforced.” [Arlington County]

Story of a Neighborhood Christmas Tree — This year, the Williamsburg Traffic Circle Christmas tree is back, thanks to contributions from local merchants. [Washington Post]

What Local Papers Were Reporting on in 1957 — “The Arlington Council of Churches was deploring grocery stores open on Sundays. A teen advice column titled ‘Help Unpopular Girls When They Cling’ was published alongside a puzzling comic strip called ‘Scorchy Smith.’ Ads touted ‘Exciting new rambler and split-level’ homes for $14,250 and 1957 Ford sedans for $239.50.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Media Spotlight on Arlington Buttigieg Supporter — “In a recent email exchange with a wealthy prospective donor, a top fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg made an offer that was unusually blunt — even by modern pay-to-play standards. ‘If you want to get on the campaign’s radar now before he is flooded with donations after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, you can use the link below for donations,’ the fundraiser” wrote. [Axios]

UPS Driver Saves Christmas — “Darryl found my son’s phone and saved Xmas! He reminded my son to have faith in the many good people in the world.” [Twitter]

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When given a daunting task, like vacuuming up the leaves in front of every home in the county, one might be tempted to try to rush through it as quickly as possible.

But for one of Arlington County’s leaf vacuum crews, helping out residents and getting the job done right is the priority.

On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, a resident of the Rock Spring neighborhood near Yorktown High School posted on social media that a leaf collection crew was helping an elderly neighbor rake the leaves from her yard to the curb, where they could be vacuumed.

“Hats [off] to these guys,” she said, in a post that scored more than 100 likes on Twitter.

The resident, Kathie K., tells ARLnow that there’s even more to the story.

“I went to get coffee… as I was pulling out I noticed someone in a work uniform raking a pile of leaves on my street. He gave me a big wave as I drove by,” she recounts. “When I pulled back into my cul-de-sac he and the truck had made their way around the circle and were now at the end.”

The crew of two were now working in the yard of two older sisters who live together, going above and beyond even what was seen in the photo, Kathie said. They were raking and talking to one of the sisters, as well as a father and son who were out raking and had brought the crew some water.

“The leaf collector that gave me a big wave was in their yard raking leaves. Not just on the curb, he was all the way to her front door raking leaves to the street. She was helping, they were all chatting,” she continued. “I took a picture because the guys were just being kind. They changed my day and I’m sure everyone else who has seen the picture. I thought it was a nice way to start the holiday season.”

Peter Golkin, a spokesman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services, which handles leaf collection and other public works in the county, tells ARLnow that leaf collection crews are not required to help residents rake, but are often happy to help someone in need.

In this case, Golkin says driver Michael Hendricks, a permanent staffer in the Solid Waste Bureau and former Arlington Public Schools bus driver, and veteran seasonal crewperson Anthony Leftwich decided to help out — despite having a schedule to keep as they worked to wrap up the first leaf collection pass around the county by the end of the next day.

Hendricks “hopes someone would do the same for his own grandmother,” Golkin said.

With the second leaf collection pass now underway as of Monday, Hendricks offered some tips for residents.

“Try to keep cars away from the piles and don’t pile near cars to make it an easier reach for the vacuum hose,” he said. Also, Golkin noted, dry leaves can be a potential fire hazard when vehicles with hot catalytic converters park above them.

Leaf collection season is set to end on Dec. 18. That may seem like a relief to the crews, but Golkin said getting out into the residential neighborhoods and interacting with residents is usually a highlight of the season.

“The leaf crews especially enjoy sweeping through neighborhoods on Saturdays because kids are home from school and love watching the truck from a safe distance,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Hospital CEO Retiring Next Year — “Virginia Hospital Center President and CEO Jim Cole is stepping down after more than three decades with the organization. Cole, chief for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, announced his retirement internally Monday. It’s set to take effect Sept. 1, 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Crew Rescues Phone from Storm Drain — “So they got specialized shovels. And then the guy GOT INTO THE DRAIN and dig through the leaves, following the pinging and vibrating and found the phone! The phone was at 1% power when it came out. Still can’t believe it. Above and beyond. Kudos to Arlington County.” [Facebook/Arlington DES]

Bijan Ghaisar 911 Call Released — “Police in Arlington County, Virginia, have released part of a 911 call that set in motion a chase that ended when U.S. Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar in 2017… a caller tells Arlington County police that she is an Uber passenger whose ride-share was just involved in a crash, and the other driver, Ghaisar, has left the scene.” [WTOP, Fox 5]

It’s Giving Tuesday — Among the local nonprofits to consider donating to today, on Giving Tuesday, are: Doorways for Women and Families, Melwood, Arlington Thrive, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance CenterOffender Aid and Restoration, the Arlington-Alexandria Gay & Lesbian Alliance, and Culpepper Garden. [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Del. Alfonso Lopez Named Co-Whip — “Majority Leader-elect Charniele Herring has appointed key leadership positions within the House Democratic Caucus. The whips and policy chairs will help guide the new Democratic majority through the 2020 legislative session.” [Press Release]

Ballston BID Holding ‘Cupcake Wars’ Event — “Join BallstonConnect Club and Cookology for a fun and interactive day of cupcake baking and decorating. Based on the popular Food Network show of the same name, guests will compete to create the most unique cupcake and take home the title of Cupcake Champion!” [Ballston BID]

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Morning Notes

A Few Flakes Expected Tonight — “In the evening, precipitation will probably take the form of scattered snow showers over most of the region, ending before midnight. Little to no accumulation is expected.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter/@NWS_BaltWash]

Kudos to the Leaf Collectors — “Hats of to these guys. Leaf collectors jumping out of their truck to help my elderly neighbor rake her leaves.” [Twitter/@KathieNotnow]

Heavy Traffic at DCA — Sunday, which was said to be the busiest travel day of the year, saw big backups on the roads at and around Reagan National Airport. [Twitter/@LukeBerndt, Twitter/@EvanLambertTV]

Arlington Seeking Park Ranger — “Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) currently has a vacancy for Park Ranger… Park Rangers patrol designated Arlington County Parks; provide visitor information and programming services; support other County programs (maintenance, sports, recreation); and… help ensure park security and visitor safety.” [Washington Post]

Yorktown Falls in Regional Final — “It was no easy path for the Yorktown Patriots finishing second in the region tournament. After a five-point first-round victory, third-seeded Yorktown (11-2) knocked off the host and second-seed Madison Warhawks, 25-10, in the semifinals. Then Nov. 30, Yorktown fell to the juggernaut, top seed, host and undefeated Westfield Bulldogs, 35-7, in the 6D North Region Tournament high-school football title game.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Arlington County Police are looking for a man who allegedly stole money from a tip jar and then bit a would-be Good Samaritan who tried to stop him.

The incident happened this past Thursday at Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters in Pentagon City, according to scanner traffic at the time.

“At approximately 1:47 p.m. on November 7, police were dispatched to the report of a fight,” an ACPD crime report says. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business in the 500 block of 12th Street S. and stole money from a tip jar before fleeing the scene on foot.”

The suspect was “tackled” by a bystander after running out of the business, according to police radio traffic, but after a brief struggle was able to get free and flee the scene.

More from the crime report: “Two employees of the business began following the suspect and called for help. Two bystanders caught up to the suspect and became engaged in a struggle with him. The suspect bit one of the bystanders, broke free and fled on foot prior to police arrival. The bystander sustained minor injuries.”

Because the bite reportedly drew blood, the suspect is now wanted on a charge of malicious wounding.

“The suspect is described as a black male, 25-29 years old, with facial hair and dreadlocks, wearing a gray sweatshirt with a black hood, gray sweatpants and red headphones,” the crime report said. “The investigation is ongoing.”

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