Arlington, VA

An new tenant in Ballston helps adults in need of a boost to establish foundational computer skills, ultimately expanding their career opportunities.

Called Computer CORE, the educational nonprofit offers courses in Google Suite, email, internet basics, computer security, community college math and similar fields to underserved adults. The classes help workers increase their salary by $10k on average.

The new educational facility will be located in a 3,500 square foot space in the Ballston Exchange complex, across Wilson Blvd from Ballston Quarter mall. The Ballston Business Improvement District coordinated the agreement between Computer CORE and Jamestown, the building’s owner, a press release said.

Overall, Computer CORE has around 150 students, roughly 70 of which will be able to use the new space, according to a spokesperson. In terms of group demographics, around 70% of all enrolled students identify as women and 95% are people of color, according to the organization’s website.

Though the center is only set to remain in the Ballston Exchange through the end of 2020, there is a possibility to extend the agreement, according to a spokesperson.

The location was partially chosen because of its proximity to a Metro station and Ballston’s nearby amenities, Tina Leone, the Ballston BID’s CEO said in the press release.

Computer CORE also offers help with resume review, the job search process and interview prep. Program applicants must live in the Northern Virginia area, be at least 18 years old, be motivated to find a job and have demonstrated need for the classes, according to the website.

Currently, 350 other students are on a waiting list to attend classes, the spokesperson said.

Photo courtesy Ballston BID

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Morning Notes

About Last Night’s Flyover — The two fighter jets that flew low and loud over Arlington last night, startling many, were participating in a flyover for the dedication of the new Eisenhower Memorial in D.C. [Twitter, Twitter]

Big Crane Coming to Amazon HQ2 Site — “There will be tower crane erection work this weekend, starting at 5 a.m. on Saturday, September 19 and 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 20. Work will be completed no later than 9 p.m. each day.” All southbound traffic on S. Eads Street will be detoured. [Twitter]

No PARK(ing) Day — “Arlington County will not be hosting annual PARK(ing) Day events tomorrow due to COVID-19 precautions. But feel free to imagine the possibilities of drab, curbside asphalt turned into unique community spaces.” [Twitter]

Barr Speech in Arlington Makes News — “Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that the Justice Department has recently acted ‘more like a trade association for federal prosecutors than the administrator of a fair system of justice’ and equated some prosecutors to preschoolers and ‘headhunters’ […] in a speech at Hillsdale College’s annual Constitution Day Celebration, which this year was held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.” [NBC News]

New Fire Engines for ACFD — “The Arlington County Fire Department recently took delivery of two new Pierce Manufacturing pumpers, which went into service with Engine 105 and Engine 109. The twin pumpers have a 1,500-gallon-per-minute pump and carry 750 gallons of water and 30 gallons of firefighting foam.” [InsideNova]

Virtual Award Gala Next Week — “Please join us for the 2020 Spirit of Community celebration on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM. This year, the Arlington Community Foundation will be honoring Arlington’s front-line human service workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic with the 2020 William T. Newman, Jr. Spirit of Community Award.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

Fairlington 5K Goes Virtual — “Having canceled its traditional event in April, organizers of the Fairlington 5K have announced plans for a ‘virtual’ race on Saturday, Oct. 3. Participants will have one week to compete in the event, which will support Fairlington resident Ellie McGinn, a young girl born with the rare brain/spinal cord disorder LBSL. Additional funds raised from the event will support Abingdon Elementary School.” [InsideNova]

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(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Phoenix Bikes, a bike shop and nonprofit located inside the Arlington Mill Community Center, will hold a scavenger hunt across Arlington between October 16-19.

Meant to be a pandemic-conscious alternative to Phoenix Bikes’ annual Arlington Fun Ride, the hunt will take bike riders to little-known sites around the county as they follow a trail of clues.

“We’re inviting people to discover the new, quirky and fun things that have always existed in Arlington, but maybe residents who have even lived here for many years just don’t know exist or have never had a reason to go find them,” Emily Gage,  executive director of Phoenix Bikes, said.

The hunt’s full route will be about 20 miles long, but an option to complete half and a family-friendly route will also be included. Riders can win prizes from Phoenix Bikes as they solve clues at each stop that lead to the next location.

Gage said Phoenix Bikes looked for locations that are visually interesting and not widely known when choosing stops along the route.

While a full list is yet to be announced, Gage said there will be a mix of artistic sites and places with more historical meaning, a number of which will relate to Black history in Arlington.

Donors to the hunt include Lyft, the National Landing Business Improvement District and D.C-based Game Genius.

Riders can complete the route at any time over the event’s four days. Gage said this will decrease traffic and help maintain social distancing at each stop.

Locations can also be reached by scooter, car or walking, but Phoenix Bikes hopes participants will take advantage of the county’s bikeability.

“We want people to understand all of the places in Arlington that they can access by bike,” Gage said. “There’s a lot that’s hard in the world right now, and I think that there are some wonderful things to just enjoy and appreciate about this community.”

Registration for the event is open through October 15.

File photo

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The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to consider allocating $133,413 to provide refunds to one of the county’s summer camp contractors.

The contractor — American In-Line Skating, Inc. — went bankrupt after the county cancelled summer camps this year on account of the pandemic, a county staff report says. More from the report:

The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) provides a variety of summer camp programming each year, delivered through a combination of DPR staff-led camps and contractor-led camps. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all 2020 summer camp programs were canceled by Arlington County in late May. Registrants that signed up for camps that are delivered by DPR-staff were refunded in full; registrants that signed up for camps that are delivered by contractor-led camps were refunded according to the individual contractors’ refund policies. One contractor filed for bankruptcy and denied any form of refunds to registrants.

To facilitate the promised refunds, the county is taking a somewhat unorthodox step: making a charitable donation to a local nonprofit, which will then provide the refunds.

“Arlington County has identified Arlington Thrive, a 501(c)(3) organization with a long-standing relationship with Arlington County, to provide refunds in accordance with the camp contractor’s original refund policy that is not being honored,” the staff report says. “Arlington County will provide the funding to Arlington Thrive in the form of a charitable donation of $133,413 from existing funds available in the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) existing donation balances in Trust and Agency accounts.”

Arlington Thrive, which has also been working with the county to help those having trouble paying their rent during the pandemic, will receive a 5% fee for administering the donations.

The situation is reminiscent of the year-long saga of local youth basketball referees who went unpaid after a contractor suffered a serious medical issue. In that case, Arlington officials insisted that there were no legal remedies for paying the refs with county funds; after a year of discussions and efforts to find other remedies, a County Board member launched a GoFundMe campaign.

Susan Kalish, spokeswoman for the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, said the two situations are different.

“In the case of the referees, the County paid the contractor (a company that provides referees for indoor basketball games); however, the contractor, in turn, did not fully pay its subcontractors, the referees,” she said in response to an inquiry from ARLnow. “It is not an appropriate precedent for the County to set to pay subcontractors for work that the County has already paid the contractor.”

“In the case of the camp refunds, the contractor did not honor their stated refund policy,” she continued. “In its communication materials regarding its bankruptcy, the contractor named the decision by the County to cancel camps as the driving factor in its bankruptcy filing… As a result of the bankruptcy filing, the County has a complete list of individuals who were denied refunds and the amount owed.”

Kalish said the county will be making changes to prevent such issues from happening again.

“The County is in the process of amending summer camp contracts to shift the registration and payments from camp contractor’s responsibilities to the County, to ensure that all aspects of the payment, cancelation and refund experience for camp participants are managed by the County,” she said.

“Both of these issues, a camp contractor not honoring its refund policy and a referee contractor not paying its subcontractors, are troubling and not how Arlington County expects its contractors to manage their businesses,” Kalish added. “Neither contractor will be able to do business with Arlington County in the future.”

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Morning Notes

School Year Starts Today — “While the start of this year will certainly look and feel different than previous years, we are all excited to welcome students back for distance learning and to start connecting and building relationships in new ways. Our first days of school will be focused on helping students get to know their teachers and classmates and creating new routines.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Many Still Uncounted by Census — “To have a complete understanding of our community, everyone needs to be counted. Currently, Arlington stands at a 75.2% self-response rate, meaning that a significant portion – almost one-fourth – of the County still needs to be counted.” [Arlington County]

Overturned Vehicle on Route 50 — “[On Saturday] crews freed a driver from an overturned vehicle on Route 50 near Abingdon St. The patient was transported to a trauma center with non-life threatening injuries.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]

Why Marymount Is Back in Person — “There are a number of schools that are going entirely online… That’s not what the students wanted, Becerra told the Washington Business Journal. A university-conducted survey found that the majority of students said they felt like they didn’t learn as well remotely as they did in person.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Nonprofits to Merge — “Bridges to Independence, a Northern Virginia provider of housing and vital services for at risk families and individuals, today announced its intent to merge with the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation (BAJCDC), a community-based non-profit with a mission to address the health, education, financial empowerment and social service needs of people living in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood.” [Press Release]

Rosslyn Firm Makes Acquisition —  “Innovative Discovery (ID), a trusted partner for law firms, corporations, and government agencies that provides service, guidance, and consultation throughout the information lifecycle, is pleased to announce that it has acquired Integro, a leading provider of information governance and content services solutions.” [Innovative Discovery via Potomac Tech Wire]

Amazon Adding New Jobs in Seattle Area — “Amazon is adding 10k jobs in the Seattle region, aka HQ1. Unclear what this means, if anything, for HQ2 in Arlington. At last check, Amazon was sticking to its original plan of 25k jobs and a second construction phase for another 2m square feet of office.” [@ARLnowDOTcom/Twitter]

Photo courtesy @ArlDuder/Twitter

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Courthouse’s Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar and Eatery has reopened after its storefront was remodeled with COVID-19 precautions in mind.

During the restaurant’s nearly five month closure, its kitchen was remodeled to allow for physical distancing between employees and to minimize the amount of germs in the air. With the changes in place, Bayou opened its doors on Monday for takeout and patio dining.

Shelves now hang 10 feet above the floors, a new ventilation system whirs between the walls and an industrial fan maintains air flow throughout the space. A touch-free faucet was also added to the store’s bathroom, and a hands-free mechanism was installed to open its door.

The restaurant’s landlord provided funding in recent lease negotiations to make the remodel possible. Owner and chef David Guas said these changes were a must for Bayou Bakery to operate amid the pandemic.

“I feel it would have been negligent to not have put these measures into place before reopening our doors,” Guas said. “These newly adopted practices are going to be necessary moving forward — our industry now carries a very important responsibility when it comes to safety.”

Bayou Bakery originally closed its in-person dining on March 16, following a statewide order from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. According to Guas, sales dropped by 70% between March 16-31 and the restaurant cut its 2o person staff to 10.

While Bayou Bakery still offered takeout, curbside pick-up and delivery during this time, Guas said staying open became unsustainable. On April 1, the restaurant fully closed.

Despite not serving customers, Guas used his facilities to support Chefs Feeding Families. He co-founded the project, which provides free grab-and-go meals to local school children and their families impacted by the pandemic, with McLean-based group Real Food for Kids in March as schools began to close.

“Key Elementary Schools is near my restaurant — there were about 300 kids on the meal plan when the school shut down,” Guas said. “I looked at my employees in the kitchen and thought of their children who went to that school. I asked myself how would they and so many others be fed? How many more would be affected?”

Guas said the project allowed him to keep four employees working, and Bayou Bakery has served about 400-500 meals a day to families impacted by school closures and job losses.

Since March 17, six other restaurants including Silver Diner, Rasa Grill and Pizzeria Paradiso have joined the effort. According to Bayou Bakery, Chefs Feeding Families has served over 90,000 meals at its 21 D.C. region pickup locations as of August 25.

All meals are vegetarian and no ID or proof of need is required to pick one up.

“It was important to us that we were presenting healthy and inclusive options that would appeal to as many people as possible,” Guas said. “I have faith in people and those who came out of their way to get a meal, so the honor system is the way we approached [giving out meals]. By not requiring ID, it opened the doors for us to reach so many more families in need.”

Now, while continuing to support Chefs Feeding Families, Bayou Bakery is open for “Grab N’ Geaux” takeout, delivery and socially distant dining on its patio. Meals like buttermilk biscuit sandwiches and chicken and smoked gumbo are available on an abbreviated menu.

Photos courtesy Bayou Bakery

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This article was written by Michael Stiefvater, Business Development Manager for Arlington Economic Development.

Last week marked National Nonprofit Day, founded on August 17, 2017, the goal of the day is to educate, enlighten, and empower others to make a difference, as well as acknowledge the industry’s dedicated workforce.

While National Nonprofit Day is a recent addition to the national day calendar, the positive impacts of the nonprofit industry trace back over a century to the Tariff Act of 1894’s passing on that same date. The Act imposed the first federal income tax on corporations, while including exemptions for nonprofit corporations and charitable institutions.

Over one hundred years later, the nonprofit industry has grown to employ 12.3 million people and is supported by 64 million board members and volunteers, according to the National Council of Nonprofits.

Given the proximity to the Nation’s capital and access to a talented workforce, Arlington has been a magnet for nonprofits as the County is currently home to nearly 300 organizations and their 8,700 employees. While the missions of these organizations cover a diverse set of issues, several nonprofit clusters have emerged in Arlington focusing on the following issues:

Environmental

From leading conservation efforts that improve fishing in the country’s streams and rivers to protecting millions of acres of land worldwide, Arlington nonprofits are ensuring the planet’s health for future generations. The environmental cluster is home to Arlington’s largest nonprofit, The Nature Conservancy, which employs nearly 500 people at its Ballston headquarters and has protected more than 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide since its founding in 1951.

Health and Wellness

As the world grapples with the effects of COVID-19, several Arlington nonprofits are addressing the needs of their target communities through creative initiatives. The National Council on Aging is combating social isolation for older adults by partnering with Airbnb to provide free online experiences to connect seniors with others and travel virtually during the pandemic.

International Development

The impact of Arlington’s nonprofit community reaches well beyond the borders of the United States, as a handful of organizations are improving lives around the globe. Following a devastating drought in 2017, Counterpart International is implementing a food security program in Senegal that will improve infrastructure and train individuals for a sustainable future.

Local Aid

Whether ensuring access to meals and shelter for individuals who are facing homelessness, or facilitating adoptions for thousands of animals annually, several nonprofits are dedicated to serving our local community. Over the past year, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network provided 38,000 meals and offered overnight beds to 1,000 people through their shelter program.

In honor of National Nonprofit Day, Arlington Economic Development highlighted over two dozen nonprofits within these clusters, while connecting the Arlington community with opportunities to get involved, whether in our local neighborhoods or in the furthest reaches of the globe.

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Morning Notes

Business Concerns About Mask Mandate — “Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol says she’s heard concerns from businesses owners about enforcing the mask policy. ‘We’ve definitely heard from some grocers and some others that they don’t want to be in the business of enforcing and I think you’ve seen, nationally, examples of altercations between grocery employees and individuals who don’t want to wear masks and get belligerent about it,’ Cristol said.” [NBC 4]

More Local COVID Grants — “The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has approved $280,000 in Round 4 grants from its COVID-19 Response Fund for Northern Virginia to five organizations, including ALIVE!, Arlington Thrive, CASA de Virginia, and Northern Virginia Family Service.” [InsideNova]

Interview with Gillian Burgess — “Why hasn’t Arlington closed some streets to cars, to make more room for pedestrians and cyclists? What can be done about overcrowded trails? Should the Arlington Way move mostly online? Those are a few of the things we discussed tonight with Gillian Burgess, a local civic leader and cycling advocate.” [Facebook, Apple Podcasts]

Photo courtesy James Mahony

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(Updated at 8:10 p.m.) More than 3,500 local residents are having trouble paying their rent during the pandemic, according to a survey of nonprofits conducted by Arlington County.

The figure was included in a staff report for an item to be considered by the County Board later today.

“Arlington County conducted a survey to assess community needs related to the COVID-19 public health crisis and to inform staff recommendations for the use of funds being made available through the federal CARES Act,” the report says. “The survey was sent to 73 nonprofit organizations that serve low and moderate income residents in Arlington, with 26 responses… Of the clients served during the past month, service providers reported that over 3,500 clients were having difficulty paying the rent, with many others unable to pay utilities or access resources or school because of internet/technology issues.”

Lower-income workers have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, which has prompted mass layoffs in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries, among others.

The county is citing its community needs survey in a plan for how to allocate supplemental Community Development Block Grant and Community Services Block Grant funding under the CARES Act — the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus and recovery bill passed in March.

The County Board is set to vote tonight on a staff proposal for allocating around $1 million in federal funding — intended to help localities respond to the coronavirus crisis — to “provide emergency rent, utility and internet assistance to prevent 200-600 households from becoming homeless.”

The funds will be dispersed by Arlington Thrive, the staff report says. Andrew Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit, tells ARLnow that needs in the community are rising.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Thrive has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of requests,” Schneider said. “We have had approximately a 150% increase in request for basic financial needs like rental assistance, utility assistance, and medical and dental assistance. We anticipate this increase in demand to continue through the summer.”

More from the report:

Based on the survey results and consultation with staff from the Department of Human Services, Department of Libraries, and Department of Technology Services, Arlington County proposes utilizing CARES funding to support an emergency assistance program to include rent, utilities and internet costs for low- and moderate-income Arlington renters who have experienced loss of income directly related to COVID-19. Monthly payments will be based on need, and will not exceed $1,500 per month per household, for up to three months. The program will be administered through Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit emergency assistance organization that will conduct outreach, handle intakes, and make emergency payments directly to landlords and/or utility companies. An estimated 200-600 Arlington households will be served by this program and may avoid eviction as a result. Additionally, Arlington Thrive will provide information on food resources to clients and community partners.

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Morning Notes

Social Distancing Decline in Arlington? — “On April 20 in Arlington County, Va., nearly half of cellphones that SafeGraph provided data for were staying at home. Over the next couple days in that suburb of Washington, D.C., the number declined to one-third — as low as it was during the middle of March. It has since increased but is still down from its peak.” [NPR]

Masks Now Required at Costco — “Costco has announced new guidelines for its stores and is requiring all customers — age 3 and older — to wear masks before entering stores beginning Monday, May 4.” [MSN]

MU Launches Program for New Economy — “Marymount has launched ‘Upskilling for the What’s Next Economy,’ a unique and comprehensive range of modular graduate certificates and degree qualifications that will provide students with technical, management, entrepreneurial and leadership skills and get them back to work.” [Marymount University]

Most of Foundation’s COVID Funds Exhausted — “Sixty-five Arlington nonprofits have received a total of nearly $800,000 in emergency response support from the Arlington Community Foundation COVID-19 Prompt Response Fund. On Giving Tuesday Now and throughout the week of May 4, the Community Foundation hopes Arlington residents and businesses will help replenish the fund to meet continuing urgent, crisis-related needs.” [Press Release]

Progress on I-66 Sound Walls — “Glad to see @VaDOT making progress on the installation of new noise barrier walls along I-66E in Arlington and Falls Church.” [@HopeforVirginia/Twitter]

School Board Candidates Worry About Accessibility — “Arlington Public Schools needs to do a better job of designing facilities that provide improved accessibility, candidates for School Board say, and should go well beyond consideration of physical disabilities in its design process.” [InsideNova]

Sims Scores Second Sitting Senator’s Support — “U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Cory Booker have announced their official endorsements for Arlington Virginia School Board candidate Terron Sims II.” [Press Release]

Campbell Elementary Teacher Featured on TV — “An Arlington County teacher is coming up with creative ways to keep her students engaged during distance learning. News4’s Leon Harris introduces Nicole Croce.” [NBC 4]

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A pair of local nonprofits have joined with Amazon to help families in Arlington’s affordable housing get access to science, technology, engineering and math resources during the pandemic.

Rosie Riveters, an Arlington-based non-profit that focuses on getting girls between 4-14 years old interested in STEM, partnered with Arlington Housing Corporation (AHC) Inc. — a local affordable housing nonprofit — and Amazon to deliver STEM kits to some families. These are kits put together by Rosie Riveters and include the materials for six different projects, access to online lessons, and additional materials like notebooks, pencils and rulers.

Rosie Riveters said Amazon donated gift cards and the supplies to assemble the kits, as well as helped to deliver them to AHC.

An initial 15 kits were given out in the first round, with 30 more planned to be delivered over the next few weeks, Rosie Riveters told ARLnow, adding that the boxes are delivered with Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) distributions.

Eight boxes were also sent to community center participants and the supplies for 60 more boxes will be delivered over the next few days and distributed to other program partners.

“Rosie Riveters is proud to work with Amazon and AHC Inc. to bring fun and engaging STEM kits and essential learning materials to children in need,” said Brittany Greer, Executive Director of Rosie Riveters, in a statement. “Now more than ever enrichment opportunities like these are vitally important. We can not thank Amazon enough for helping to provide the resources and logistics needed to allow Rosie Riveters to continue our mission to engage and inspire girls aged 4-14 in STEM.”

Photo courtesy Rosie Riveters

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