Submit Content

A new business launched by Pacers Running has donated more than 100 pairs of sneakers to Arlington students from low-income families.

Relay, which sells second-hand and refurbished running shoes, donated 104 pairs of sneakers in April to The Clothesline for Arlington Kids, said Chris Farley, owner of Clarendon-based Pacers Running. Farley also promised to donate around 100 more over the summer and 200 in the fall.

The initial batch of shoes was given to Arlington Public Schools students who received outfits from the Clothesline, which donates clothing to children in need, the nonprofit’s co-founder Ben Sessions told ARLnow.

“I think if I can get some kids that might not be able to afford some of these shoes on their feet, that is pretty cool, I feel really good about that,” Farley said. “I think it’s really important to support the communities that you live in.”

Relay has previously donated shoes to track teams across the country, as well as to other nonprofits in Arlington like the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation, he said.

“We’re committed to donating 1,000 pairs this year,” Farley said. He added that he hoped one day the business could donate 10,000 pairs of shoes.

Relay receives from vendors shoes that had been returned by customers, then cleans the shoes and gets them ready for resale. In the case of the Clothesline donations, Farley said he donated pairs with a long remaining shelf life.

Shoe donations of this size are rare for the nonprofit, co-founder Ellen Moy said. She said her organization usually receives “one pair of new shoes once a month.”

“It’s very uncommon to get new shoes donated to us, so when kids get a new pair of shoes, they are so happy,” she said. “I just feel like it really makes a difference in their lives.”

Shoes from Pacers would normally be out of the price range of the families going to The Clothesline, Moy said. Each pair sells for between $80 and $150 in retail, Farley said.

“Most low-income families do not have the opportunity to get high-quality [shoes],” she said.

One of the nonprofit’s volunteers, who is also Farley’s former neighbor, introduced him to The Clothesline earlier this year, Sessions said.

“He was looking for an opportunity to help support local nonprofits in the community,” Sessions said. “So we started a conversation and that culminated in him donating about 104 pairs of shoes in April to us.”

The Clothesline has given away around 100,000 pieces of clothing since it was founded in 2018, Moy said.

“People are happy to have us in the community, so we’re a great place to donate clothes that are still in excellent condition and we’re a great place to distribute clothes,” she said.

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Twilight on the W&OD Trail (Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler)

Lots of Rain from Wednesday Storms — Most parts of Arlington saw 2-3 inches of rain from Wednesday’s onslaught of storms and downpours, with one weather station in a southwestern portion of the county reporting 3.41 inches. [National Weather Service, Twitter]

No ‘Missing Middle’ Cost Analysis — “Staff leading the effort acknowledge there has been no cost-benefit analysis of exactly how such a major zoning change would impact the local government’s bottom line. Nor is there likely to be one. ‘We typically don’t do analysis of this nature. It’s hard to even capture all of that,’ said Richard Tucker, one of a number of county-government housing personnel dispatched to the June 14 meeting of the Arlington County Civic Federation to address an issue that is fast becoming the most contentious Arlington battle since the Columbia Pike streetcar fight of a decade ago.” [Sun Gazette]

Millions for Local Housing Nonprofits — “Two Arlington-based groups will receive a total of $7 million in federal funding to help provide affordable housing and services to low-income people, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia announced Thursday… Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing Inc. will receive $5 million from the fund and Arlington-based AHC Inc. will receive $2 million.” [Patch]

ACPD Pride Event Next Week — “In recognition of Pride Month and the significant contributions of Arlington’s LGBTQ+ communities, the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) will host the 2nd Annual Pride with the Police… Pride with the Police will take place on: Wednesday, June 29, 20225 p.m. to 7 p.m. [at] Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, located at 555 23rd Street S.” [ACPD]

F.C. Outranks Arlington for ‘Healthiest Community’ — “The City of Falls Church has been recognized as the second healthiest community in the country by U.S. News & World Report… The City earned an overall score of 98, and is the only community to receive a score of 100 in both education and population health.” Arlington ranked No. 13. [City of Falls Church, U.S. News & World Report]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 83 and low of 63. Sunrise at 5:46 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

Cybercriminals are not the stereotypical teen in their mom’s basement wearing a hoodie.

Cyber crime has become a highly organized business, with people specialized in different parts of the process, nonprofit Cyber Threat Alliance President and CEO Michael Daniel said. And cyber threats, such as ransomware, have exploded as people are more connected to the internet and can move money more easily.

“We’ve entered a stage where cyber crime poses a very significant threat to the global economy and the global system, equivalent to what normally would only be associated with nation-states,” Daniel said. “And so that’s a big challenge and a big change.”

Based in Clarendon, Cyber Threat Alliance enables cybersecurity companies to share threat information with each other quickly to prevent and respond to these attacks.

“No individual company has a complete view of what’s going on in cyberspace, so in order to be able to protect your customers, or work with the government, law enforcement agencies or others to help disrupt the bad guys, you need more information,” Daniel said.

Cyber Threat Alliance CEO Michael Daniel speaks during a presentation (courtesy of Cyber Threat Alliance)

People who work in cybersecurity policy talk about information sharing a lot, but there wasn’t anyone dedicated to it for the industry until the nonprofit was formed five years ago with its six founding members — Palo Alto, Fortinet, Check Point, Cisco, McAfee and Symantec.

“The leaders of those companies really understood that talking about information sharing in cybersecurity, well, everybody talks about it, but it’s hard to do,” said Daniel, who worked in federal government for 20 years, including as former President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity adviser.

As for locating in Arlington, where Daniel and his wife had settled, the decision was simple.

“This is a great place for getting started and working in the cybersecurity industry because the Washington, D.C. area is the hub for policy and other kinds of development,” he said. “And this is really home for us. It’s not really more complex than that.”

Now, CTA has 34 member companies, which are required to share a minimum amount of threat intelligence each week, and employs seven people. Its members are headquartered in 11 countries around the world and run the gamut of household company names, like Cisco, to relatively smaller cybersecurity companies.

There’s a list of companies in the pipeline to become members, which opens up possibilities for hiring additional staff and offering more services, Daniel said.

In the upcoming year, CTA hopes to add technological capability to its sharing platform and is involved in projects, including one with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity to understand the criminal ecosystem so it can support government action against cybercriminals.

“Ransomware is a huge problem, cyber crime is a big problem, and it’s something we need to really tackle if we want people to be able to use the digital world in the way that we want,” he said. “Cyber threats are not a problem that we’re going to solve but it’s a problem that we’re going to have to manage. We are building for the long term.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Lunchtime in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Public Safety Watchdog Profiled — “Like a lot of people, Dave Statter got a bit bored when the pandemic hit and he was pretty much confined to his home. But unlike most of us, Statter lives high atop a Crystal City building overlooking I-395. Why binge Netflix when just outside the window is real-life drama, pathos, tragedy and comedy, all captured by the five video cameras Statter has trained on the traffic below?” [Washington Post]

Aquatics Center Struggling to Hire — “It’s been open for almost three-quarters of a year, but Arlington’s Long Bridge Park aquatics center is not immune for finding personnel that are plaguing the rest of the county government… The aquatics facility, which opened last summer after a lengthy and difficult birthing process, is still in need of a general manager and aquatics-program manager, and the 16 lifeguards on staff would require an infusion of eight to 10 more to bring it to a full complement.” [Sun Gazette]

APS May Add Some Instructional Time — “It’s a mystery: How does a school district that invariably has the highest (or close to it) per-student costs in the region also have the lowest amount of instructional time in a typical school year? Whatever the historical reasons for that anomaly, Arlington school officials are hoping to rectify the last half of that equation. Kind of.” [Sun Gazette]

Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Now at ANC — “A young sailor in the U.S. Navy who perished in Pearl Harbor has finally been laid to rest. U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class Walter Stein, 20, of Cheyenne, Wyoming was buried Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery. Stein was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor while serving aboard the USS Oklahoma… Stein’s remains were not officially identified until April 16, 2021 — about 80 years after his death.” [Patch]

Donation to Local Housing Nonprofit — “Arlington Community Federal Credit Union announced a $10,000 grant to local nonprofit, Rebuilding Together- Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church (AFF). The grant was part of a national give back program award from national credit union credit card vendor PSCU to be given to a local nonprofit of Arlington Community FCU’s choice. Rebuilding Together- AFF is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that serves low-income homeowners and nonprofits.” [Press Release]

E-CARE Returning Next Month — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Saturday, April 23, Earth Day weekend: E-CARE returns to Yorktown HS for fast, safe drop-off of household hazardous materials, old electronics, bikes and much more. Fun fact: Folks arriving by foot and bike get through even faster.” [Twitter]

Pair of Missing Persons — Arlington County police are looking for two missing people: a 16-year-old boy last seen in the Rosslyn area, and a 31-year-old woman last seen near the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center. [Twitter, Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — A chance of shower in the morning, then mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 58 and low of 36. Sunrise at 6:57 am and sunset at 7:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Blossoms in bloom along Long Bridge Park in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Giant Spiders May Drop In — “An invasive species of spider the size of a child’s hand is expected to ‘colonize’ the entire East Coast this spring by parachuting down from the sky, researchers at the University of Georgia announced last week… Andy Davis, author of the study and a researcher at Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology, tells Axios that it isn’t certain how far north the spiders will travel, but they may make it as far north as D.C. or even Delaware.” [Axios, Fox 5, NPR]

Anti-Growth Group Decries Route 29 Planning — “On March 6, ASF wrote to the Arlington County Board expressing concerns that significant new land use and zoning plans will cause seismic shifts for the communities now lining Langston Blvd. We believe the process — which will soon produce a new Preliminary Concept Plan that likely will be fast-tracked like other county planning processes — will neglect or defer costs of critically-needed new infrastructure, will displace those earning 60% or less than the Area Median Income, and will make it difficult for local entrepreneurs to stay in business.” [Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future]

Polish Pike Pierogi Purveyor Praised — “‘Oh my god, it smells so good it’s driving me crazy!’ my husband reported after picking up a pierogi order from chef Ewa Fraszczyk, who shares kitchen space with La Cocina VA, selling her pan-fried Polish dumplings from the nonprofit’s Columbia Pike café every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Arlington chef’s pierogi, all delicate and delicious, come six to an order ($10-$12) in four varieties.” [Arlington Magazine]

Apartment Child Care Bill Advances — “House members voted unanimously on March 8 in support of a measure by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington-Fairfax-Loudoun) to amend the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and permit child-care facilities in apartment units. That followed earlier, also unanimous, support in the state Senate.” [Sun Gazette]

Teen Stabbed in Va. Square Area — “At approximately 6:28 p.m. on March 8, police were dispatched to the report of a fight involving a group of approximately 6 – 10 juveniles. Upon arrival, the juveniles were no longer on scene and officers canvassed the area and located evidence of an injury in the 500 block of N. Quincy Street. At approximately 7:14 p.m., the juvenile male victim arrived at Virginia Hospital Center for treatment of stab wounds suffered during the fight. The victim’s injuries are considered serious but non-life threatening.” [ACPD]

Bus Driver Nearly Causes Wreck on I-395 — From public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Watch: A ‘professional’ driver does no better trying to quickly get across 4 lanes of interstate highway. This one almost takes out a car–twice!! Must have been a fun bus ride.” [Twitter]

Takeout for a Cause at Four Courts — From Ireland’s Four Courts: “Stop in or order takeout on Thursday for dinner. We are donating 20 percent of our food sales to @PathForwardVA help #endhomelessness in Arlington.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 52 and low of 35. Sunrise at 6:28 am and sunset at 6:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

0 Comments
Gavel (Flickr photo by Joe Gratz)

The philanthropic arm of the Arlington County Bar Association is looking to support local nonprofits with a connection to the legal community.

From now through the month of April, the Arlington County Bar Foundation is accepting grant applications from organizations promoting or improving the justice system in Arlington and the City of Falls Church. The foundation helps local charities through grant funding and personnel support, says Paul Ferguson, the Arlington Bar Foundation Grants Committee Chair.

Grants are largely funded by members of the legal community through tax-deductible donations to the Bar Foundation, said Ferguson, the elected Clerk of the Circuit Court in Arlington, a former County Board member, and a GMU law alum.

“The Arlington County Bar Foundation is a charitable board made up of mostly attorneys,” he said. “Grants are awarded to organizations that have a connection to the law [or] legal community. Sometimes the grants go to specific projects or initiatives but they also can be non-specific.”

Awards typically range between $250 and $2,000, although the foundation has given out larger amounts in years past.

Traditionally, Ferguson says, the highest-dollar grant recipient is Legal Services of Northern Virginia, which provides legal advice and services to the region’s neediest populations, including veterans, human-trafficking victims and people with disabilities.

Other past recipients used the funding to tackle domestic violence and homelessness, including SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia and Doorways, or to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society, such as Offender Aid & Restoration and Arm & Arm.

Many recent award-winners work with Northern Virginia’s immigrant population: Ayuda, the Borromeo Legal Project, the immigrant advocacy program at Legal Aid Justice Center and immigration attorney James Montana, who used the money to cover citizenship costs for his pro-bono clients.

Grant applications — which can request up to $5,000 — are due by Friday, April 29. They must be no longer than one page and include the following information:

  • Name of the organization, name of the person submitting the grant and a primary address, phone number and email
  • Purpose of the organization and how it serves Arlington and/or Falls Church
  • Connection to the legal community and/or how the project promotes and improves justice system
  • Amount requested
  • Specific project and/or what grant funds will be used for
  • Tax ID # and IRS Tax Status

Those who are interested in applying are asked to email Ferguson.

Applicants will be notified of the foundation’s decision by the end of May with grant payments available in July.

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Rain and fog looking into Georgetown from Freedom Park in Rosslyn (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

New Covid Testing Location — “Arlington County is opening an additional no-cost COVID-19 testing kiosk at Sequoia Plaza. The kiosk is in partnership with Curative, which operates four additional sites in the County. The kiosk is located at 2100 Washington Blvd, on the service road behind the Stambaugh Human Services Center building (Sequoia 1). Beginning on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, the kiosk will operate Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.” [Arlington County]

Va. Changing Covid Tracing Efforts — “Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced it is changing from attempting to investigate every case of COVID-19 and trace all contacts to focusing on follow-up of outbreaks and cases in high risk settings. This response is more effective when a virus spreads very easily and quickly and many infected people do not have symptoms.” [Virginia Dept. of Health]

Hurt Hiker Rescued Along Potomac — “First responders from three agencies worked together to come to the aid of an injured hiker along the Potomac River Wednesday morning. DC Fire and EMS deployed fireboats to work with DC Police in assisting Arlington Fire and EMS. DC Fire’s Fireboat 1 used its ice breaking capabilities while DC Police sent an airboat… The injured hiker was taken to Roosevelt Island and an Arlington EMS unit took the hiker to be treated.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Another Arlington Reference on Jeopardy! — Arlington and its first-in-the-state school integration effort on Feb. 2, 1959 was the subject of an answer on quiz show Jeopardy! last night. [Twitter]

Big Donation to Local Nonprofit from Bezos Ex — “The Arlington, Virginia-based National Council on Aging has received an $8 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, its largest single gift in the nonprofit’s 72-year history. The council [said] the donation is unrestricted, and will be used to support its work addressing inequities that make it difficult for women, minorities, LGBTQ, low-income and rural Americans to age with dignity.” [WTOP]

Betty White Posthumously Helps AWLA Fundraise — “She died three weeks earlier, but the centennial of the birth of Betty White still allowed animal-welfare agencies across the nation to raise funds. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington received more than $37,000 from 740 donors during the “Betty White Challenge” event on Jan. 17, which would have been White’s 100th birthday.” [Sun Gazette]

W-L Gymnasts in Regional Tourney — “Winning a fourth straight district title would have been the ultimate [prize] for the Washington-Liberty Generals. But since the girls high-school gymnastics team was far from being at full strength, a more realistic goal was to at worst earn a region-tourney berth by finishing among the top three. Mission accomplished.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Rain today, mainly before 1 p.m. High near 54. South wind 7 to 9 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Sunrise at 7:11 a.m. and sunset at 5:32 p.m. Rain tomorrow before 4 p.m., then a mix of rain and snow likely, possibly mixed with sleet. High near 47. Northwest wind 11 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. [Weather.gov]

0 Comments

When the Taliban took over his native Afghanistan in August, Mir knew that he and his family needed to get out.

He was confident they would be a target because he was a contractor assisting the United Kingdom, United States, and NATO with communications and information technology.

“If I stayed in the country, the [Taliban] probably would have killed me,” he tells ARLnow (we are withholding his last name for privacy reasons).

After obtaining a visa, the family embarked on a harrowing journey that took them from the place they called home their entire lives to Northern Virginia. It was the first time that Mir had ever left Afghanistan.

While Mir, his wife, and his nine-month-old baby are now safe in America, they arrived here with nothing.

“I didn’t even have one dollar to buy a diaper for my son,” Mir says, speaking via Zoom from his Alexandria apartment.

That’s when Arlington Neighbors Welcoming Afghans (ANWA) got involved, a Facebook group created by military veteran Ryan Elizabeth Alvis to help Afghans resettle in the area.

“When Afghan families arrive, they [come] with nothing but the clothes on their back,” says Alvis, who lives in the Bluemont neighborhood. “We want to welcome these families in the way they deserve to our community. And that takes the involvement of the average citizen.”

This was all a grassroots effort. After seeing the images on television and knowing from her own experience serving in Afghanistan as a Marine in the early 2010s, Alvis knew she needed to help.

She reached out to other nonprofit groups that were organizing efforts. While waiting for a response back, Alvis created the Facebook group. Soon after, she got a tip about a newly arrived family in Reston who was looking for help and supplies. So, she organized an effort through the group to get the family what they needed.

Quickly, word spread.

“I got a phone call from another Afghan family who had been given my phone number,” she says. “And that’s how it grew… with cold calls.”

Since starting in October, about 500 ANWA members have helped 58 families resettle in Northern Virginia in ways big and small, everything from providing furniture to contributing money for food to navigating how to set up Wi-Fi.

In all, more than 4,000 Afghan refugees have resettled in Virginia over the last year, according to InsideNoVa.

When a new request comes in from a family, Alvis assigns “team leads” to help that family. In turn, those team leads post in the group asking for specific things the family needs. Alvis anticipates the group continuing to be active until at least April.

So far, the group has raised about $20,000 for food and household items and is raising more through GoFundMe.

It’s not simply dollars, though, that Arlington community members are contributing. It’s their time and effort.

Volunteers Karen Penn and Christy McIntyre are Mir and his family’s “team leads.” They make requests on the family’s behalf in the Facebook group for household items, organize drop-offs, and generally assist with anything that’s needed.

That includes helping to navigate the Metrobus system, which was understandably daunting for Mir.

Both Penn and McIntyre note how rewarding, humbling, and inspiring it is to spend time with the recent American arrivals.

“[Mir and his family] are really starting over. It’s just amazing how resilient they are,” says Penn, who lives in the Leeway-Overlee neighborhood.

McIntyre, who lives in Arlington Forest, says the experience has been eye-opening, realizing that something that may seem tiny can make a huge difference for someone.

“If everybody does something small, if a lot of people come together, we can do amazing things,” she says. “The Arlington community stepped up big, really big. And they continue to do so for other families. I’m just so proud of our community.”

Read More

0 Comments
Arlington’s “Covid heroes” (screenshot via Youtube/Arlington County)

Seventy-eight local individuals, businesses and organizations were recognized as “Covid Heroes” at yesterday’s County Board meeting.

More than six dozen locals were honored for having “demonstrated exceptional service throughout the pandemic” in three categories: community resilience, outstanding community service and individual service.

The presentation included a short video with all the honorees’ names, photos and upbeat music. It was followed by comments and thanks from the County Board members.

In all, more than 160 were nominated for the honor, so about half were chosen for recognition.

Chairperson Katie Cristol acknowledged that, under normal circumstances, there would have been an in-person gathering, but even with Covid cases falling, honorees were asked to watch the presentation at home.

Honorees for community resilience include ICU nurse Lee Harper Chen, Rosa Dunkley of the NAACP Arlington Branch and community activist Janeth Valenzuela, who has helped local immigrant communities sign up to get the Covid vaccine and played a part in exposing the unacceptable living conditions at Serrano apartments.

“I’m humbled for this nomination, but it wasn’t only me who worked hard, this was made possible [by] the committed residents who helped me and we worked together as a team,” Valenzuela tells ARLnow. “I am not sure if I will be able to give everything that this community has given me, but I will always do everything that I can to represent them with pride and respect.”

Also recognized was chef David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse, for his “Chefs Feeding Families” program. He also provided meals to security personnel at the Capitol last January after the insurrection.

“I am humbly honored to be the recipient of the Arlington COVID-19 Hero Award. I accept this accolade not only for myself, but also on behalf of all those who dedicated their time and efforts to the Chefs Feeding Families initiative, including my team at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery and our chef partners,” he writes to ARLnow. “Together we found a way to restore hope and foster a commitment and connection to the community, one meal at a time.”

More than 30 individuals were given accolades for their service, including Jennifer Toussaint of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Susan Thompson-Gaines who ran a “kindness yard sale,” county public health director Reuben Varghese, and Arlington Parents for Education (APE) founder Chris Myers. APE is a bipartisan community group that has advocated for more transparency from Arlington schools.

“The award is quite an honor, but the recognition should not be mine. It goes to all the parents and teachers of Arlington Parents for Education that helped create a unique collaboration that crossed political and social divides to advocate for the needs of our children,” Myers told ARLnow.

Thirty-three local organizations were honored, including the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (now, the Columbia Pike Partnership), Arlington Free Clinic, Macedonia Baptist Church in Green Valley, Arlington Food Assistance Center and Freddie’s Beach Bar.

“The superpower of these people and organizations… is to engage the entire community and all of Arlington,” County Board member Takis Karantonis said at the meeting about the Covid heroes. “Their work actually saved lives.”

Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey noted that this probably won’t be the last time the board will be honoring those who served the community during the pandemic. He also said that there are plenty of other heroes out there who deserve recognition as well.

“Within our community, there are untold stories of heroism that occur every single day with neighbors checking in on neighbors [and] parents attending to the emotional well-being of their children,” Dorsey said. “We know that the stories of heroism from the pandemic will be a rich tapestry… we can look at this period as not just as a crisis we endured, but a demonstration of the resilience we all showed.”

The full listing of all the honorees is below.

Read More

0 Comments
Cash (via Pepi Stojanovski/Unsplash)

A local pilot program to give up to 200 qualifying low-income residents $500 a month for two years, no strings attached, will move forward without any public funding.

For a few months last fall, Arlington County was poised to spend either federal or county money on “Arlington’s Guarantee,” a guaranteed income pilot program launched by nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation.

This commitment fell through, however, when the county and ACF realized any infusion of public funding would have put participants at risk of losing their government benefits, such as child care subsidies or food stamps.

“It would put them back instead of putting them forward,” says Anne Vor der Bruegge, ACF’s Director of Grants and Initiatives.

She and Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick call this income precipice the “benefits cliff.” The little additional income would make the fall particularly painful in Arlington given its high cost of living.

“The issue was that in order to give money to recipients and then not push them off the benefits cliff — where, for example, they lose SNAP because they make too much income — and to make the net effect of receiving the cash zero, we had to get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS),” Larrick said.

He added that with the waiver, the monthly stipend “would not count as income in the calculation of benefits, and no one who joined the program would lose benefits by being ‘over income.'”

But this waiver only works if the program is 100% privately funded. Last year, the county and ACF learned that neither the county’s original plan to use American Rescue Plan Act funding nor its revised plan to use unspent funds from the 2021 fiscal year would have worked.

“The County decided to rescind the plan to give ARPA money so as to not negatively impact the recipients,” he said. “Using closeout funds would have created the same issue.”

ACF’s wide donor base ensures this loss of funding won’t impact the program’s trajectory, says Vor der Bruegge, but it may slow it down slightly.

“We had intended all along for it to be privately funded from the get-go: that is, through individual people, philanthropic organizations and corporate dollars,” she said, adding that the ARPA funding “evolved as an opportunity we didn’t plan for or seek out.”

County contributions would have allowed ACF to enroll all 200 participants immediately, she says. Now, ACF will resume its plan to continue accepting donations until it reaches 200 participants.

So far, 105 residents are receiving money directly onto debit cards through the program. ACF will continue expanding enrollment in groups of 25, as funding becomes available, up to 200 people. Donations benefit participants directly, says Vor der Bruegge, as ACF obtained a grant to cover the program’s operating costs.

The “benefits cliff” issue is not exclusive to Arlington.

Vor der Bruegge says it hurt nascent guaranteed income programs across the state and nation that were counting on ARPA funding, she said. These programs are proliferating right now because federal stimulus checks normalized the idea of automatic payments to residents — and many were latching onto ARPA funding.

Now, they’re having to “go back to the drawing board,” she said, adding that some states are introducing legislation to override this unintended consequence.

“It is pretty prevalent across the country,” she said.

0 Comments
Jennifer Sauter-Price with R.E.A.D’s book bus (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Kids dance around tables full of books outside of Arlington Science Focus Elementary School on an overcast December afternoon. There are stories in Spanish, books about Black history, and novels about being the next president, all waiting to be picked up and read.

And parked a few feet away from the book fair is a bright blue “book bus” with a dragon painted on the side.

In the middle of it all is “Pajama Mama,” aka Jennifer Sauter-Price, dressed in her best dog pajamas. She’s the executive director of the Arlington-based nonprofit R.E.A.D. with a mission of providing brand new books to young children who may not have access to them.

R.E.A.D stands for “read early, and daily” and it’s the brainchild of Sauter-Price.

“We want to help [kids] grow libraries and encourage their families to read to them on a daily basis,” she tells ARLnow.

There’s ample research that there’s immense benefits in constantly reading to kids prior to them entering kindergarten. It improves their vocabulary and helps them associate words with feelings along with a number of other benefits, studies show.

Sauter-Price’s R.E.A.D program is simple: Families sign up and get to choose one new book a month for each kid under the age of five in their family.

“It would be really easy for me to just hand them a book, but we learned that families are more engaged when they choose their own book,” says Sauter-Price, who is a mom herself and lives in the Arlington Forest neighborhood. “They feel more empowered.”

Currently, there are about 200 children enrolled.

The books available, Sauter-Price notes, are intentionally chosen to reflect Arlington’s community.

“We have a diverse population of young children here. We have kids who speak English, Spanish, Arabic, Mongolian,” she says. “I search high and low to find those books as well as one that have a diverse set of families.”

Two bilingual books inside of R.E.A.D’s book bus (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

These are what are called “mirror and window” books, ones that reflect the child themselves (mirror) and ones that show the community they live in (window).

Sauter-Price describes a time, pre-COVID, when she showed up to a community event with a book featuring a mom wearing a hijab.

“There was a group of Muslim moms and when one of them saw [the book], they started crying,” she says. “She was like, ‘I’ve never seen this before. Thank you.'”

When asked what are the most popular books, Sauter-Price says that’s universal.

“I would probably say anything about transportation or things that go ‘vroom’,” she laughs.

The book fairs across the county that Sauter-Price puts on, like the one held at Arlington Science Focus Elementary, are revenue generators for R.E.A.D, allowing her to buy more books for more families who are in need.

In 2021 alone, Sauter-Price says the fairs have done about $125,000 in sales, much of which goes back to the program. The hope is to double those sales numbers next year.

Community donations and grants also help to finance R.E.A.D. In the summer of 2019, the program received a $50,000 grant from the newspaper publisher Gannett to spruce up an old school bus.

R.E.A.D’s book bus (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Sauter-Price drives this bus around, brings it to fairs, while families can also shop out of it. She always dress in pajamas because, she says, “it breaks down barriers.”

Future aspirations for R.E.A.D. are high. Sauter-Price just got her peddler’s license meaning she can do “pop-up” book fairs on weekends in commercial areas like Ballston and Clarendon. She’s planning to start doing that this month. Additionally, beginning sometime early next year, the nonprofit is partnering with Virginia Hospital Center to provide a bag of books to uninsured and underinsured moms-to-be.

If R.E.A.D. is able to reach all of those moms, Sauter-Price estimates that it could mean the program could be working with as many as 1,800 babies and young kids a year.

That’s okay by Sauter-Price, who says some of her best memories are reading to her own kids. While they are both grown now and likely don’t want their mom reading to them, reading remains a huge part of Sauter-Price’s life.

She says, “I just feel like my whole life has just been sort of leading to this.”

This feature article was funded by the ARLnow Press Club and was previously published in the Press Club’s weekend newsletter.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list