Arlington, VA

(Updated at 6 p.m.) This year, Arlingtonians spread Christmas cheer in new ways to bring hope to people virtually or from a distance.

Choir directors at Arlington Public Schools and Bishop O’Connell High School spent hundreds of hours stitching together student videos to create virtual Christmas concerts. A troop of Brownie Scouts virtually judged a gingerbread contest for folks at a local retirement home. And Santa is making special stops in Arlington in his pickup truck, visiting with children from a distance.

Bishop O’Connell choir director Kyra Stahr burned the midnight candle to publish videos to replace the Christmas concert, which is normally the most well-attended performance, she said.

“I feel like I got more creative in how to make that excitement and cheer possible,” she said, adding that she and her students donned Christmas sweaters and watched all the performances on Zoom.

“It worked out better than I could’ve hoped for,” DJO choir student and junior Tommy Green said. “It was a nice way to exit the year.”

Fellow junior Melanie Greig said “it was almost like we were actually singing together in a concert.”

Meanwhile, Glebe Elementary student and Brownie Scout Leah Meder virtually judged a gingerbread decorating contest at the Sunrise Senior Living facility near the school, on N. Glebe Road, along with other members of Troop 60095. From 11 participants, the young judges awarded the most festive, most creative and most delicious-looking houses, and also created a special holiday greeting for the residents.

“I still felt the spark of holiday spirit when we did this online,” said Meder, who is eight years old. “Since [the residents] are living away from people they know, and can only see them a couple times a year, they can probably have more holiday spirit.”

The festivity creativity in Arlington extends to visits by the jolly one himself.

This afternoon (Wednesday), Santa is parading his sleigh — a converted pickup truck — through Arlington neighborhoods from Foxcroft Heights to Columbia Forest, the final route after two mobile Santa visits through Lyon Park and Ashton Heights.

“It’s a tough year for everybody,” said Lyon Park resident Paul Showalter, who is playing the role of Santa. “It’s really fun to see the faces of the little kids as they see Santa drive up in his sleigh.”

This morning (Wednesday), Showalter said he made a special delivery to a boy named Charlie, who had asked Santa for boxes, thread and tape for Christmas. Neighbors and Glebe Appliance donated the boxes, and Charlie will use the supplies to make a British fleet ship.

Also spreading joy is the Yorktown High School choir, which sent the musical videos it produced to faculty, friends and family, reaching an even greater audience this year.

“These videos are my Christmas gifts,” said Jocelyn Mullins, the Yorktown choir director, who directed renditions of “Holiday Road” and “The Sleigh.”

“That’s how it’s keeping my holidays alive,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Restaurants Get Ready for Winter — “On November 6, TTT’s expansive rooftop bar unveiled a permanent structure with a retractable roof and sliding glass walls that can be heated when the air is chilly. Iricanin hopes the addition will keep the rooftop in use during the winter months. The new structure can seat up to 60 diners with social distancing. Ambar, meanwhile, is poised to open a winter garden in its rear parking lot with a similar heated structure that can accommodate 60 to 70 guests, pending final approval from the county. ” [Arlington Magazine]

Leaf Collection Update — The second pass for Arlington County’s vacuum leaf collection is set to begin Saturday and run through Dec. 19. [Arlington County]

New YouTube Channel for 55+ Programs — “The Office of 55+ Programs at the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has launched a YouTube channel offering local presentations on everything from fitness to cooking to technology. In addition, members of the 55+ Programs staff host a bimonthly talk show on the channel.” [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Oldest House — “The Ball-Sellers House on Third Street South in Arlington is the oldest building in Arlington County, Va. It was built in the 1750s by farmer John Ball. Later, three generations of the Carlin family owned the house, helping save it from destruction. Today, it is owned by the Arlington Historical Society.” [Washington Post]

Library Offering Book Bundles for Kids — “The Arlington library system is offering ‘book bundles’ for young readers, part of the library system’s outreach effort as its branches remain shuttered. Bundles of 10 picture books or 10- early-reader books are available for pickup at Central Library during the hours of holds-pickup, with a limit of one per library card.” [InsideNova]

Grant to Fund Grocery Gift Cards — “A half-million-dollar grant to… Virginia Hospital Center will help struggling families with $1,200 in grocery store gift cards over the next six months. Health clinics and pediatric units on the front lines of the pandemic are finding a side-effect of the economic crisis: food insecurity and hungry children.” [WJLA]

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Morning Notes

Return of First Students Delayed — “As we have shared, we were aiming for an October 29 start for Level 1, which includes approximately 225 students with disabilities who need in-person support to access distance learning. We are now moving the start date back to Wednesday, November 4, to ensure all operational metrics are met and staff are well equipped and ready to support our students at each school.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Crushes Census Count — “You did it, Arlington County: With the Census Count completing on October 15th, 99.98% of Arlington was officially counted. Thank you to our Complete Count Committee for your tireless, infectious enthusiasm for ensuring that everyone counts!” [@kcristol/Twitter, YouTube]

Culpepper Garden Celebrates Renovations — “It wasn’t quite the kind of celebration that had been expected when, two and a half years ago, work began on a major renovation at the Culpepper Garden senior-living facility. But it was a celebration nonetheless – albeit ‘virtually’ – that was called for, and on Oct. 13, leaders of two non-profit housing providers and their partners held an online program to mark completion of the $58 million project.” [InsideNova]

Spirits of ’76 Closing Happy Hour Set to close on Nov. 1, Spirits of ’76 is holding a half-off happy hour from 4-6 p.m. until the closing date. “Everything must go!” the Clarendon bar said on social media. [Instagram]

Punch Bowl Social Restarting Happy Hour — “Punch Bowl Social, the ‘millennial-oriented’ adult playground in Arlington, reopened its Ballston location last week, and it plans to restart happy hour, Wednesday through Friday, beginning Wednesday, October 21. The ‘eatertainment’ chain says it will offer diversions like arcade games, bocce, darts, and more in a socially distant fashion.” [Washingtonian]

Overnight Closures Along I-66 — “Overnight ramp and lane closures are scheduled to occur this week, and possibly next week, on I-66 East in Arlington for asphalt paving and overhead sign replacement as part of the I-66 Eastbound Widening Project. Detours will be posted to direct traffic.” [VDOT]

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Morning Notes

Va. Coronavirus Cases Skewing Younger — “Gov. Ralph Northam said during a press conference today that local health officials are pointing to a “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19.” [Tysons Reporter]

Northam Announces New Restrictions — “Gov. Ralph Northam is rolling back reopening in Hampton Roads as cases there surge but stopped short of doing so statewide. Gov. Northam’s announcement came after a private meeting Tuesday with Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House. Virginia was her last stop on a five-state tour… she came to all of these states with the same message: put additional mitigation measures in place before things get worse.” [WAVY, InsideNova, Commonwealth of Virginia]

Bill May Tackle Local Helicopter Noise — “A local addition to the National Defense Authorization Act — a $740 billion bill approved through the House and Senate and headed to the White House — would require the Pentagon to establish a helicopter noise abatement group for the region… The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D) would also require the Pentagon to establish a noise inquiry website.” [ALXnow]

County Wants to Become More ‘Age Friendly’ — “With AARP’s recent approval of Arlington’s Age Friendly Action Plan, Building an Age Friendly Community, the County is now entering a three-year process to achieve the plan’s goals and objectives — and enhance the County’s standing as a livable community for people all ages.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Falls Church Unveils New Permit — “To help businesses and non-profits cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Falls Church Recreation and Parks Department has created the Temporary Outdoor Commercial Activity Permit. Certain parks and amenities can be rented for commercial activities like exercise classes and children’s entertainment.” [City of Falls Church]

Photo courtesy Geoff Collins

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Nearly three-quarters of coronavirus deaths in Arlington are attributable to long-term care facilities, new data from the Virginia Dept. of Health shows.

After long resisting calls to release such data, the state health department today published a list of facilities that have current or past COVID-19 outbreaks, along with the number of cases and deaths at each facility.

Among seven long-term care facilities in Arlington, there were a total of 489 cases and 92 deaths. That’s 20% of all cases (2,396) and 73% of all deaths (126) reported in Arlington as of Friday.

The individual figures for each facility are below.

  • Brookdale Assisted Living: 49 cases, 10 deaths
  • Cherrydale Health and Rehabilitation Center: 143 cases, 28 deaths
  • Manor Care Health Services: 87 cases, 15 deaths
  • Regency Care of Arlington: 137 cases, 30 deaths
  • Sunrise at Bluemont Park: 14 cases*
  • Sunrise of Arlington: 21 cases*
  • The Jefferson: 38 cases, 9 deaths

For both Sunrise facilities in Arlington, VDH did not list a death count “to preserve anonymity.”

Federal data for nursing homes, released at the end of May and reported by ARLnow earlier this week, mostly contained lower counts than that just released by VDH, with the exception of an erroneous overreporting of deaths at Pentagon City-based Regency Care.

In Arlington, all but 10 of the coronavirus-related deaths have been among those ages 60 and above, though those younger can still face serious, potentially long-term health consequences from infections.

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Update on 6/19/20 — Based on new data from the Virginia Dept. of Health, the actual number of deaths at Regency Care is 30.

Earlier: Local nursing homes have reported dozens of coronavirus cases and deaths, federal data shows.

As the number of new COVID-19 cases in Arlington continues to rise at a relative trickle — nine new cases and no new hospitalizations reported overnight — a look back at data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shows the outsized role some nursing homes played during the peak of Arlington’s outbreak.

As of May 31, four nursing homes alone contributed 178 cases and 98 deaths to Arlington’s total, according to the CMS data, though there are some questions about the numbers, as noted below. The county’s cumulative total currently stands at 2,372 cases, 407 hospitalizations and 124 deaths.

The four Arlington nursing homes for which CMS data was available:

  • Cherrydale Health and Rehabilitation Center (3710 Lee Highway): 82 confirmed cases, 8 related deaths
  • The Jefferson (900 N. Taylor Street): 10 confirmed cases, 6 related deaths
  • Manorcare (550 S. Carlin Springs Road): 13 confirmed cases, 1 related death
  • Regency Care (1785 S. Hayes Street): 73 confirmed cases, 83 related deaths

The numbers for Regency Care seemingly do not add up, with more COVID-related deaths (83) than confirmed cases (73). Multiple attempts by ARLnow to reach an administrator at the Pentagon City facility prior to the publication of this article were unsuccessful and Arlington’s health department declined multiple requests for clarification, citing “patient privacy laws.” Other news reports suggest that the CMS data is “riddled with errors.”

However, ARLnow has received numerous tips about the facility since the start of the pandemic.

“Thought the public should know… the nursing home Regency Care of Arlington had a huge COVID outbreak on the 5th floor,” said one tipster in early April. “This is something terrible.”

“Regency Care of Arlington nursing home has the highest amount of COVID cases in Arlington with well over 100 cases,” another tipster said, in May. The assertion of over 100 cases could not be confirmed and is not shown in the CMS data, which was last updated on May 31.

On Wednesday afternoon, a woman identifying herself as the administrator of Regency Care called ARLnow and asserted that the number of deaths reported by CMS was inaccurate. She chastised ARLnow for publishing this article and for taking photos of the outside of the facility without the company’s permission. She declined numerous requests to provide the accurate number of deaths at the facility and abruptly hung up the phone.

Local and state authorities in Virginia have repeatedly declined to provide data on specific facilities.

“As a health district under [the Virginia Dept. of Health], we are unable to provide or confirm patient data at individual long term care facilities due to patient privacy laws,” said Arlington County spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. She noted that the county has been working with nursing homes, assisted living centers and other such facilities to mitigate outbreaks.

“Working with long-term care facilities is an ongoing priority for Arlington Public Health, and our team works with skilled nursing and assisted living facilities throughout the year to control and prevent outbreaks, such as norovirus and the seasonal flu, even prior to COVID,” O’Donnell said. “Arlington Public Health has been working with these facilities to implement CDC and VDH guidance for COVID-19 infection control and prevention measures, including things like monitoring residents and staff for signs and symptoms of COVID, providing guidance on proper PPE and cleaning/disinfecting protocols.”

A county webpage on the topic says that the majority of COVID-19 deaths in Arlington have occurred at long-term care facilities.

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A contingent of National Guard members, some in camo and others in full protective gear, descended on the Sunrise at Ballston Park senior living center today for mass testing of staff and residents.

The coronavirus testing comes amid a worsening outbreak at the facility, located at 5910 Wilson Blvd. While Sunrise had for weeks avoided the kind of large outbreak that has sickened dozens at Regency Care of Arlington in Pentagon City and Brookdale Senior Living in Virginia Square — and possibly others — on Tuesday the facility’s executive director informed families that it had just confirmed the first cases among residents.

“We unfortunately need to report that we currently have three (3) residents who have tested positive for COVID-19,” Sunrise said in an email, obtained by ARLnow. “We continue to serve residents in our community and are working closely with impacted families to support them during this challenging time.”

“We now have had a total of four (4) team members who have tested positive for this virus, 2 more than from our last update,” the email added. “We continue to have ample staff to appropriately serve our residents and are following CDC guidelines to determine when a team member is free to return to work following any exposure, symptoms or diagnosis.”

Sunrise said in the email that it was participating in a state program to test everybody, all at once, at nursing homes and senior living centers that request it.

“We are pleased to confirm that we will be participating in the State of Virginia’s Point Prevalence Survey this Thursday, May 21,” the company told family members. “Virginia’s National Guard will administer COVID-19 testing for all residents and team members… The results are expected back in approximately 72 hours and we will be reaching out to any families where a COVID positive outcome is the result.”

The Point Prevalence Survey (PPS) program was announced by Virginia officials last month as an early intervention tool for slowing outbreaks that spread quickly at long-term care facilities. PPS testing has been conducted in at least one other such facility in Northern Virginia, as reported by NBC 4. A county spokeswoman declined to say whether other facilities in Arlington have received the wide-scale testing.

“The Commonwealth receives and approves the requests for point prevalence surveys at facilities,” said Cara O’Donnell. “Arlington Public Health has encouraged all facilities to conduct point prevalence surveys, and submits the requests from the facilities to the state. We cannot provide information on which facilities have requested this due to health privacy laws.”

As of this morning, the Virginia Dept. of Health reported 14 known COVID-19 outbreaks in Arlington, including nine in long-term care facilities and three in healthcare settings. The county has 1,763 known cases, 346 hospitalizations, and 89 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the latest VDH data.

Nearly half of the 89 deaths were among those ages 80 and above.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Coronavirus is disproportionately sickening Arlington’s Hispanic community, while disproportionately killing the elderly.

New demographic data from the Virginia Dept. of Health shows that 51% of COVID-19 cases in Arlington are among those identified as Hispanic or Latino, while according to the county only 15% of the population is Hispanic or Latino. That data only includes instances in which ethnicity was reported.

That disparity seems to be reflected in the geographic distribution of cases in Arlington. The two zip codes with the highest number of coronavirus cases and the highest test positivity rates are 22203 and 22204, both of which are home to sizable populations of Hispanic immigrants.

The demographic disparity is also reflected in statewide numbers: 46% of cases in which ethnicity is reported involve Hispanic or Latino residents, while only 9.6% of the state is Hispanic or Latino, according to U.S. Census data.

The spread of the virus among the Hispanic community is attributed, at least in part, to the fact that many are working in jobs deemed essential, in industries like cleaning, food production, retail and construction. The pandemic has also caused economic devastation for many lower-wage workers, leading to scenes like that pictured above, when on April 17 a huge crowd gathered for a food giveaway at a store on Columbia Pike.

“We have a problem, a big problem, with the level of assistance that the vulnerable Latino community is getting right now in Virginia,” former Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada told the Virginia Mercury. Tejada is president of the Virginia Latino Leaders Council.

“These are frontline workers — frontline heroes — who do not have the luxury of staying home and making a living doing Zoom conferences or teleworking. They wipe our floors, pluck feathers, pick crops, clean our rooms,” Tejada said. Other leaders quoted by the Mercury were similarly critical of the level of outreach and aid to Latinos in Virginia.

Arlington County, for its part, has been providing some of its coronavirus information in Spanish, and last week opened a new walk-up testing site on Columbia Pike.

“At the County-level, there has been a concerted effort to deliver our messages in multiple languages,” said county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “In early April we sent a mailer to every household in Arlington providing information on steps our community needs to take to slow the spread of the virus and made it available in Spanish, and 7 other languages on our website. Public Health, along with other departments, has been using the County’s network of trusted partners to help disseminate key information.”

“Public Health also dispatches volunteers to ensure individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 can meet their basic needs while under isolation,” Baxter added. “This includes having groceries picked up, prescriptions refilled and delivering cleaning and medical supplies, as needed and as available.”

Baxter said that while those who are Hispanic or Latino are overrepresented in the data, it’s not as bad as it currently looks due to issues with the information reported to the state health department. As of Monday, “Hispanics represent 28% of the confirmed cases” in Arlington, Baxter said in an email sent after the initial publication of this article.

“For half of our cases, Hispanic origin is not reported,” she said. “Original information about the ethnicity (Hispanic origin) of reported cases was missing from the doctors and laboratories that submit case reports to the Virginia Department of Health. Arlington, during its case interviews, has captured this information and is backfilling the missing information.”

“Unfortunately, the disparities and the inequities existed prior to this emergency and are being reflected in the communities being hit the hardest,” Baxter added.

Those who are dying from COVID-19, meanwhile, are disproportionately the elderly.

As of Tuesday morning, the state health department reported 1,688 cases, 331 hospitalizations and 79 deaths in Arlington. Of those 79 deaths, all but five — or 94% — were among those 60 years of age or older. More than half were among those 80+.

Statewide death statistics were similarly skewed heavily toward those 60 and older.

When ethnicity was reported, only 13% of deaths in Arlington were among Latinos, despite the much higher proportion of cases.

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(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) The total reported coronavirus cases in Arlington are now one shy of 1,500, while statewide data shows a mixed picture one day ahead of a partial reopening of the Commonwealth.

The latest Virginia Dept. of Health data shows 1,499 cases, 305 hospitalizations and 70 deaths in the county. That’s a one-day increase of 39 cases, 5 hospitalizations and 1 death.

Statewide, VDH reports 27,813 cases, 3,592 hospitalizations and 955 deaths. The state health department also has released some new data showing testing and hospital-related statistics.

On the testing front, Virginia has come in for criticism over the past week for a relatively low testing rate, a relatively high test positivity rate, and for mixing diagnostic and serological tests in its reporting. Today, the health department broke out its testing data to show just diagnostic testing, which account for 169,340 test results compared to about 15,000 serological test results in the aggregate testing number.

The current stats from VDH show an increasing rate of testing and decreasing rate of test positivity.

For Virginia’s hospitals, the statistics show the number of currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients holding relatively steady over the past month, with just over 1,533 hospitalized as of today.

On the plus side, it has been two weeks since a Virginia hospital has reported difficulty obtaining personal protective equipment for its staff.

The number of reported outbreaks in Arlington is holding steady at 12, but outbreaks in long-term care facilities remain a concern.

In addition to a sizable reported outbreak at Regency Care of Arlington in Pentagon City, Brookdale Senior Living in Virginia Square has one of the county’s larger outbreaks. As of Friday, Brookdale told families that it has 31 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 9 coronavirus-related resident fatalities.

Another senior facility, Sunrise at Bluemont Park, told families on Monday that it has no COVID-19 cases among residents, but two among staff.

Sunrise said in the email that it’s working to prevent the spread of disease by delivering meals and activities to resident’s rooms, testing residents and staff twice a day for fevers and COVID-19 symptoms, providing personal protective equipment for residents and staff, and prohibiting all visitors “except for those professionals necessary to provide critical resident care.”

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Sylvia Louise Jenkins was born in D.C. in 1936 and made a mark on the area through her faith, her volunteer work, and her family.

She lived in the District most of her life, but passed away in Arlington the Sunday before last, one of numerous assisted living facility residents in Arlington to succumb to the coronavirus.

“I would like to share her story, as she was such a remarkable woman and touched many lives,” LeVale Jenkins, her grandson, told ARLnow. “My grandmother… used her voice and influence to inspire many.”

Sylvia died at Virginia Hospital Center on April 19 from complications from COVID-19, which she contracted while a resident of the memory care section of Brookdale Senior Living in Virginia Square, Jenkins said.

Jenkins described, as others have, a significant outbreak at the facility.

“Upon our last knowledge, there were seven deaths of residents from Brookdale related to the coronavirus,” Jenkins said. “There were nine other residents from the memory care section that tested positive, as well as staff and others who have either tested positive, recovered from the virus, and/or have pending results.”

Nationally and locally, assisted living facilities have been hit particularly hard by the virus. Arlington has six reported outbreaks in long-term care facilities, though the county has thus far not publicly revealed additional information about the outbreaks, citing concerns about privacy and creating “a false sense of security if people think there are more cases in a certain part of the Arlington Health District than in others.”

As of Wednesday, 32 people in Arlington have passed away from COVID-19.

Jenkins says Sylvia, a native Washingtonian, “was an extraordinary woman of God” who will be dearly missed by friends and her large, loving family, including a great-great grandson.

The full obituary is below.

Sylvia Louise Jenkins, 83, was born June 4, 1936 in Washington, DC. She was widely revered as Mother Jenkins and personified every aspect of a virtuous woman. She was a notable wife and the crown jewel to her beloved husband of sixty-one years, Deacon Kenneth Jenkins, Sr. Deacon and Mother Jenkins continued in a partnership of unity, love and worship until June 25, 2019 when he preceded her in death. She was never bashful in her declaration that one eventful day she would meet her Heavenly Father. On April 19, 2020, she departed this life to receive her long awaited heavenly reward.

Mother Sylvia Jenkins left an indelible mark on many lives as she plainly shared the depth of her spiritual journey of trials, triumphs, victories and the relentless joy that inspired her daily devotion to Jesus Christ. She had a missionary ministry and used her voice and influence as a source of strength, prayer and inspiration. She was known to uplift, counsel, spiritually motivate and compel countless people to discover the joy, peace and comfort of knowing Jesus Christ. Her spiritual journey began, March 17, 1966, over fifty-four years ago, when she described being baptized and experiencing one of the most miraculous and joyous encounters of the Holy Ghost. Her husband and children joined Bible Way Temple through the ministry of the late Bishop Smallwood Williams. This spiritual experience led to her many years of dedicated service across many clubs and ministries at Bible Way Temple.

In 1982, along with her husband and family, she joined the Holy Temple Churches of Christ, where for over thirty-five years, she worked in numerous auxiliaries, serving as a Senior Missionary, President of the New Members, Junior Church teacher, Assistant Director of Vacation Bible School and Advisor to the Usher Board. She was most proud of her unrelenting work with the churches newest members. She spent countless hours inspiring many members of the church. Graceful, elegant, and guided by wisdom, Mother Jenkins opened her hands to those in need and was an avid counselor to many. She was the 911 emergency telephone number for many to call, and a trusted source for prayer and spiritual guidance. She was an inspirational writer, musical directress, and even formed a musical group of her children and grandchildren that performed in churches and venues under her direction. She was artistic, and loved drawing, writing, singing and cooking. She was a devoted and faithful mother who nurtured divine life in her children and left a life-lasting imprint on them. She relished all of her grandchildren and made each one feel individually special. She was an extraordinary woman of God who sacrificed her vocation to assume the noblest role as the matriarch of the family.

She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Kenneth Jenkins, Sr.; parents, Virginia Liu and Douglas Vance; brother, Clifton Lean. She leaves to forever cherish in her loving memory, her children; Sherrell Jenkins, Valerie Falade, Kenneth Jenkins, Jr. (Yvette), Vincent Jenkins (Lori), Michelle Mungo (Jamal) and Marisa Jenkins; brother, Wendell Liu; many grandchildren, great grandchildren, a great-great grandson, and a host of other family members and friends.

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