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A local Christmas tree lot (Photo courtesy of Peter Golkin)

It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means it’s Christmas tree time here in Arlington.

As in past years, there are a number of tree sales going on in the county this holiday season. In fact, there appears to be more this year than in 2021. Many sales begin this weekend, right after the Thanksgiving holiday.

However, that perfect pine may cost you more this year.

The Knights of Columbus, for instance, is resuming tree sales this year after being closed for the last two seasons due to Covid and tree supply issues.

But the group is cautioning locals that the price of a Christmas tree will be higher this year compared to last year due to rising operating costs and inflation.

“This will remain a challenging year for us, as have many other tree lot operators, as we have experienced almost a doubling of the wholesale costs from our suppliers due to the continuing Christmas tree shortage and the impact of inflation on shipping charges,” a spokesperson wrote ARLnow in an email. “While we realize this may reduce the amount we can raise from the sale, we felt it important to reopen the lot this year, as we’ve heard from many of our customers over the last few years that they miss their family tradition of heading down to the lot to get their tree.”

While not every tree sale posts prices in advance, at least two other local sales have appeared to have raised tree prices by about 15% compared to 2021.

Below are the sales that ARLnow has confirmed are happening this year.

Optimist Club of Arlington

Starts: Friday, Nov. 25 at noon
Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road)

The lot will be open every day of the week until all the trees are sold out. All profits go towards Arlington youth sports and academic activities.

Clarendon United Methodist Church

Starts: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 9 a.m.
Clarendon United Methodist Church (606 N. Irving Street)

There will be 300 trees for sale this year. Pre-sale is open now, with pick-up at the church lot. The trees come from Canada and the six to seven-foot trees cost $85 this year, a ten-dollar increase from last year. All proceed are going to Arlington Thrive. This sale has been held annually since 2007.

Scout Troop 167

Starts: Friday, Nov. 25 at noon
Mount Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road)

The boys and girls of Scout Troop 167 are hosting a sale near Ballston again this year. It’s being held Thanksgiving weekend, on Nov. 25, 26, and 27. The sale starts at noon on Friday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. Saturday. It will go to 8 p.m. each night. The next weekend (Dec. 2, 3, and 4) are backup dates in case of inclement weather. Pre-sales are being accepted.

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Scouting For Food scouts (courtesy photo)

The Arlington Food Assistance Center is preparing for its largest single-day food drive.

As food prices continue to rise across the country, Scouting for Food — an annual event held in partnership with local Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs — has taken on new urgency.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, Boy Scouts will go door to door and distribute bags to houses in the county so that residents can gather non-perishable food inside of them. The scouts return the following Saturday to collect the donations and bring them to Savior Lutheran Church, to be sorted by volunteers.

The food is then delivered to AFAC, where additional volunteers prepare it for distribution.

The drive has collected over 1 million pounds of food since 1995, and AFAC CEO Charles Meng says in recent years it has brought in upwards of 55,000 pounds of donations.

“And that’s desperately needed by the families who come to us,” he said.

Even in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, thousands of families are dealing with food insecurity.

The Arlington Food Assistance Center distributes food six days a week at its 2708 S. Nelson Street location. Meng says there has been a sharp increase in need since January and the center currently serves around 2,500 families, or roughly 8,000 individuals. He says a third of them are children.

“At this time of the year, we’re normally serving closer to 2,000 families a week, but we were up to 2,468 families last week, and that’s been increasing at about 25 to 30 families a week,” he said, adding that if the trend continues for a few more weeks, the demand will exceed the peak of the pandemic.

AFAC pays for 60% of the food it distributes, and higher food prices and increased demand are just two reasons Meng says this event is essential to the center.

“More families are coming to us, and so we need more food to give to them, which means we’re buying more, but we’re also buying it at a far higher price.”

He says the center is somewhat unusual because it purchases food to give away, whereas most food pantries only donate food given to them.

“So the Boy Scout food drive, being a national effort, really helps everyone throughout this country, and especially those food pantries that really don’t have the resources to purchase food,” he said.

The Arlington Food Assistance Center also holds food drives in various locations across the county, including at Arlington public libraries. Meng says the drives are critical as the holiday season approaches.

“During the holidays, it’s really important,” said Meng. “It’s one of the best ways to get the kind of food that our families like and will eat.”

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People in line for Covid testing in Courthouse, where the line wrapped around the block (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

On Tuesday Arlington’s seven-day moving average of Covid cases set another record.

Just shy of 200 people are testing positive for the virus in Arlington each day, on average, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. Lines for local Covid testing sites stretch around multiple blocks. And yet, people are (mostly) still traveling for the holidays, dining at restaurants and generally living their lives.

Also, while local cases are skyrocketing — amid the Omicron variant wave that’s sweeping across the country — Covid-related hospitalizations remain at modest levels: just over one per day, on average, in Arlington. Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, but the lack of a big spike is an encouraging sign that the vaccines are working and, perhaps, Omicron is not as deadly as past variants.

Meanwhile, there’s another worry on the minds of people this holiday season: inflation. Rising prices in the grocery store, at the gas pump and even the pizzeria elsewhere have put a squeeze on many people’s finances.

“U.S. inflation is at its highest rate in nearly four decades this fall, reaching 6.8% in November from a year ago,” the Wall Street Journal recently reported. “Consumers are seeing prices rise sharply for a variety of goods and services because of persistent supply and labor shortages and strong demand.”

Some of the price increases are being partially offset by rising wages, but there are still worries that inflation could continue and, together with rising real estate prices, make it tough for some households to make ends meet.

Given all of that, we’re wondering this morning — while acknowledging the incredible human toll of the pandemic overall — whether Arlington residents are currently more worried about the rises in Covid or inflation.

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Morning Notes

The sun shines over Crystal Drive and the Crystal City Water Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington Is Getting an Eruv — “Two ritual enclosures that allow Shabbat-observant Jews to carry items beyond their homes are nearing completion in Northern Virginia. Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown is expanding its eruv, or ritual enclosure, into Arlington. Rabbi Hyim Shafner said the completed eruv will enclose Congregation Etz Hayim, Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington and Kol Ami: Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community, as well as Arlington National Cemetery and The Pentagon.” [Washington Jewish Week]

County Leaders Reject ‘Defund’ Call — “At the Nov. 13 Arlington County Board meeting, speaker Evangelia Riris called on elected officials to eradicate much or all of the police department and sheriff’s office, rerouting the $119 million in annual funding to other uses. ‘We could put the money into social services that would provide a more meaningful effect onto people’s lives,’ said Riris… Arlington board members and County Manager Mark Schwartz said, in effect, thanks but no thanks.” [Sun Gazette]

Activists Want New Tree Study — “Activists are continuing to press their effort to get the Arlington County government to initiate another study of tree canopy in Arlington, but seem at best to be receiving a lukewarm response. ‘There are surplus funds available” to conduct a new study,’ said Mary Glass of the Arlington Tree Action Group, who wants the county government to move beyond a 2016 study that showed a largely stable canopy of trees in the county.” [Sun Gazette]

HQ2 Honcho Meets Governor-Elect — From Amazon’s Brian Huseman: “As part of the Team Virginia econ development effort, today I met with Governor-elect @GlennYoungkin about his vision for Virginia. He will be a great leader for VA and Amazon looks forward to working with him as we invest & grow across the Commonwealth and in our Arlington #HQ2.” [Twitter]

Fill the Cruiser Tonight — “Our next Fill the Cruiser event is [Wednesday] evening at Lee-Harrison Shopping Center (2425 N. Harrison Street)! Help us brighten the holidays for children in need and Stop by from 5-7 p.m. to donate new, unwrapped toys for kids aged newborn-17.” [Twitter]

Inflation Hits Local Food Bank — “All this week, @AFACfeeds is giving free turkeys to families in need ahead of Thanksgiving. Last year, the nonprofit spent $37,000 on about 2200 turkeys. This year? That same order cost them $47,000.” [Twitter, WJLA]

Road Closures for Weekend 5K — “The 7th Annual Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5k & Family Fun Day will take place on Saturday, November 20th, 2021. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures from approximately 8:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in order to accommodate the event.” [ACPD]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny and warmer, with a high near 66. Sunrise at 6:53 a.m. and sunset at 4:52 p.m. Tomorrow will start off sunny and warm, with a high near 72, before rain moves in later in the afternoon and evening. Wind gusts as high as 26 mph on Thursday. [Weather.gov]

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