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Colorful balls of yarn (via Margarida Afonso/Unsplash)

There’s no gift like one made by hand.

That sentiment inspired Fairfax County Public Library’s new “Knitting for Charity” initiative, a pilot project launching next week that encourages community members to craft winter hats for those who will need warm clothes as temperatures drop.

“We were thinking about some type of community-driven project, and [my programming assistant] felt that this was taking giving to the next level, because we are asking people to spend time creating something that other people will use,” FCPL Program and Educational Services Director Renee Edwards said.

Starting on Monday (Sept. 12), the City of Fairfax, Chantilly, Tysons-Pimmit, Patrick Henry and John Marshall libraries will have a limited supply of yarn available for pick-up. The bags will also contain a sewing label and instructions.

However, anyone with yarn can participate. The yarn must be new, washable, and made out of wool/wool-blend or 100% acrylic, according to the FCPL website, which says to specifically avoid angora or mohair yarn since people may be allergic.

Donations will be accepted at those five libraries until 6 p.m. on Nov. 18. All of the hats will go to the nonprofit Shelter House, which provides crisis intervention, permanent and emergency housing, and other services for families experiencing homelessness and victims of domestic violence.

Since it’s a new initiative, FCPL wanted to start small, but when administrators contacted each library branch to gauge its interest in serving as a collection site, “the response was tremendous,” Edwards says.

“We looked at all of the branches that responded positively, looked at where they were located geographically on the county map, and then we chose,” she told FFXnow. “If this initiative is successful, the hope is that next year, we would expand it.”

Edwards says the initiative’s name is intentionally broad so it can evolve going forward. Though the current focus is on hats, other clothing items like scarves and mittens will be accepted too, as long as everything is hand-knit.

Reflecting the modern expectation of libraries as providers of public resources beyond books, Knitting for Charity is a continuation of FCPL’s efforts to address a variety of community needs, whether through donation drives, classes that teach technology skills, or its promise of an escape from the summer heat.

“We always are looking for events and initiatives that continually demonstrate to our community that we are more than just books,” Edwards said. “Not that we don’t have book discussions and author events and story times — that’s our bread and butter — but we also take it a step further, and we do a lot of other different programs and initiatives for our community members.”

Photo via Margarida Afonso/Unsplash

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The inaugural JeanFest22 in Vienna will celebrate the life of Jean Buttecali, a resident, business owner and volunteer who died in 2020 (photo by Pete Buttecali)

This weekend, Vienna will celebrate a longtime resident the way she would’ve wanted: with a party for a good cause.

The Rotary Club of Vienna will stage its inaugural JeanFest22 Charity Benefit Concert at the Town Green and Jammin’ Java on Saturday (Sept. 10) in honor of Jean Buttecali, a local business owner and frequent volunteer who died suddenly from an unknown heart issue in summer 2020.

Conceived by Buttecali’s husband of over 30 years, Pete, the concert will supplement the ViVa Vienna festival that the rotary club organizes every Memorial Day weekend as a fundraiser. All proceeds will be added to those funds for donation to community groups and charitable causes.

“She had a huge heart, big smile, and also really did a lot of stuff behind the scenes philanthropically with different organizations,” JeanFest22 Chair A.J. Oskuie said “…When we lost her, we wanted to celebrate her in some way, and this was the best way to sort of commemorate her memory and also have a good time. She would want to do the same thing.”

In a video about JeanFest, Pete Buttecali calls his wife’s death a “devastating” tragedy in a year already made challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to their marriage and two children, the couple shared ownership of Woodpile Studios, a design firm noted for creating the logo for the 2005 Grammy Awards.

Yet, Jean “was an optimist” who wouldn’t “tolerate a collapse into grief,” he says. They had promised each other that “if one of us passed away, don’t put on a funeral, throw a party.”

In that spirit, JeanFest will kick off at 11:30 a.m. on the Vienna Town Green with food, retail vendors, and family-friendly entertainment:

Admission to the outdoor concert is free, but there will be buckets and QR codes that attendees can use to make donations.

The festivities will move to Jammin’ Java (227 Maple Avenue East) from 7-10 p.m. for live music from the Arlington-based FBI Band, whose frontman was one of Jean’s best friends, according to Oskuie.

Tickets to the indoor, more adult-oriented “JeanFest Night Jam” start at $22 and can be purchased through Jammin’ Java. Ticket, merchandise, food and drink proceeds will go to charity.

Oskuie says the 2022 ViVa Vienna alone brought in about $240,000. Over the next year, the rotary club will support over 70 different organizations nominated by its members this fall, with distributions starting in November.

Among the beneficiaries will be So Others Might Eat, a D.C. nonprofit that helps people experiencing poverty and homelessness. Jean Buttecali was a supporter, and her family set up a GoFundMe page after her death that raised over $16,000 for the group.

Oskuie estimates JeanFest could draw a total of 4,000 to 5,000 people, making it smaller than ViVa Vienna, but the organizers hope it can have as outsized an impact on others’ lives as its namesake had on theirs.

“It’s a lot of folks who were in awe of Jean and knew her quite well that are running behind the scenes and doing different things,” Oskuie said. “So, it’s a celebration of her life and the proceeds…will benefit local charities that we’ve been giving to through Viva Vienna for years.”

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A fundraiser prepares to rappel down the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center in 2021 (courtesy Sweetheart Photography by Tammy)

For those who find the prospect of being 14 stories in the air exciting instead of terrifying, the Hyatt Regency at Tysons Corner Center has some available views without the rooms.

Dozens of rappellers will descend down the side of the hotel later this month for a charity fundraiser to support the nonprofit Helping Haitian Angels (HHA), which runs a school and orphanage in Delke, Haiti.

Now in its second year, the event is a partnership between the nonprofit and Over the Edge, an adventure company that was also behind a rappeling fundraiser at the Hilton in Arlington. That raised over $200,000 for the local nonprofit New Hope Housing in May.

“Hyatt Hotels has a long-standing history of supporting local nonprofit and global organizations,” said Jon Davenhall, the hotel’s general manager. “…Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center is excited to be the Presenting Sponsor and help make a lasting impact in the lives of children who are left vulnerable without the care of loving parents.”

The fundraiser has been split into two days, starting at 4 p.m. on Aug. 26 with a kick-off reception, media day, and local celebrity and sponsor participants. All of the fundraisers will then rappel down the hotel between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Aug. 27, according to a news release.

Funds raised by the event will go toward the construction of a secondary school and trade school at HHA’s Kay Anj Village campus in Haiti, HHA board member and Over the Edge event lead Carol Wallace says.

Founded in 2008 by a Christian missionary couple, HHA opened the Lekol Harvey Christian School for the children in its orphanage in October 2014 and now provides education and summer camps for up to 150 elementary school students and their parents, according to its website.

The new secondary and trade schools will serve older children as a complement to the existing school, which Wallace says “is thriving.”

“Children in the neighboring community of Dekle will also be invited to attend the secondary school once constructed,” Wallace said.

After landing 85 participants in 2021, HHA has upped the ante for this year’s Over the Edge event with a goal of 110 individuals. There are currently 44 people signed up, according to the event page.

Registration costs $50, which counts toward the minimum of $1,250 that aspiring rappellers must raise in order to participate.

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Dozens of people will rappel down the Hilton in Crystal City for charity (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Later this afternoon (Thursday), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay will descend by rope down a 14-story hotel in Arlington County.

McKay is among over 70 volunteers and VIPs participating in a charity rappeling event at the Hilton (2399 Richmond Highway) in Crystal City to raise money for New Hope Housing, a Northern Virginia nonprofit that provides assistance for people experiencing homelessness.

The event will unfold over two days, with elected officials and other VIPs rappeling down starting at 4 p.m. today. Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti has also been confirmed as a participant.

Donors from the general public will rappel down the hotel from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday). Food, drinks, music, and vendor booths will be available at a “Landing Zone” for those who want to watch.

In a media advisory from his office, McKay highlighted Fairfax County’s recent efforts to prioritize affordable housing, including its recently doubled goal to build 10,000 new units in 12 years and the Dominion Square West project in Tysons that announced full construction funding on Tuesday (May 3):

Access to affordable housing is a signature issue in Fairfax County and the region, and is my personal focus. We have seen, especially over the last two years, the tremendous struggle that comes from the lack of access to affordable housing. During my time as Chairman, I have worked nonstop to direct Fairfax County’s efforts to build at least 10,000 affordable units over the next 12 years, including more than 500 just announced in the heart of Tysons, and this is only the beginning. Affordable housing leads directly to jobs and leads directly to a significant enhancement to the quality of life and community for everyone.

This is why I am glad to be at this event today to help promote this vital cause and the great work New Hope Housing and all our non-profits do to alleviate this crisis — even if it means rappelling off a building! The more attention and effort we can bring to this critical issue of inequity, the more we can build the needed coalitions between the public, private, and non-profit sectors to give everyone the dignity of a safe, secure, and affordable home.

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Morning Notes

American flag blows in wind at Wolf Trap National Park (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

FCPD Officer Found Not Guilty in Taser Incident — “A jury found a Fairfax County, Virginia, police officer not guilty of using excessive force against a man in a June 2020 incident caught on body camera. The officer, Tyler Timberlake, who is white, had faced three misdemeanor assault and battery charges for tasering Lamonta Gladney, who is Black.” [NBC4]

Community Members Rally in Support of FCPS Librarians — “Nearly 70 people participated in a rally to support school librarians March 24 before a school board meeting at Luther Jackson Middle School. At the meeting, several people attacked librarians for supporting LGBTQ students’ rights.” [Annandale Today]

Fairfax County Plea Deal for Shootings Suspect Scrutinized — Recently arrested for allegedly shooting five homeless people, Gerald Brevard III previously faced charges in Fairfax County for assaulting a hotel worker and breaking into an apartment. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares argues that county prosecutors’ plea deal was too lenient, while Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano says weaknesses in the case meant it was the ‘best outcome’ his office could’ve gotten. [The Washington Post]

Armed Carjacking Reported in Mount Vernon — “Detectives on scene of armed carjacking in 3700 blk of Rolling Hills Ave. 4 suspects described as black men 18-20 yo in dark clothing driving bro Nissan Altima. Suspects displayed firearm, assaulted the victim & took a 2017 gray Toyota Corolla. Call 911 w/info.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Capitals Star Relocates Within McLean — “Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie…and his wife Lauren paid $7.5 million earlier this month for a newly constructed 9,890-square-foot home on Dogue Hill Lane, according to public records. The five-bedroom, eight-bath home is within the exclusive Langley Farms community.” [Washington Business Journal]

Crumbl Cookies to Open Reston Store Friday — “To celebrate the April 1 grand opening of [its] new location in Reston, Crumbl Cookies will be giving away a year’s worth of free cookies to one lucky person.” [Patch]

Tysons Corner Center Announces Spring Events — “Easter festivities have begun as April approaches. Families can get the traditional Easter Bunny photos, and there’s even an adults-only egg hunt…From May to September, shoppers can find events like monthly outdoor movies, game night tournaments, live music and more.” [Patch]

Fire and Rescue Department Wins Charity Hockey Game — “A hard fought 6-2 victory for #FCFRD @FairfaxCountyPD Chief Davis will look good in an FCFRD hockey jersey! Great game for great causes! Fantastic crowd! In the end, #FCPD and FCFRD remain one public safety team!” [FCFRD/Twitter]

It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 32 and low of 23. Sunrise at 7:01 a.m. and sunset at 7:30 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

I-495 South under Route 7 overpass in Pimmit Hills (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Woman Dies in Crash on I-495 — Virginia State Police are investigating a fatal crash on I-495 near the Eisenhower Avenue Connector in the Rose Hill area. The crash occurred at 9:27 p.m. on Saturday (March 5) when a sedan hit a disabled vehicle, causing it to catch fire. The driver of the disabled vehicle died at the scene, while the sedan driver suffered minor injuries and was arrested on multiple charges, including driving under the influence. [Virginia State Police, InsideNova]

Trial for McLean Murder Suspect Begins — “Fairfax County police quickly announced that what unfolded inside the large, yellow home in McLean in 2017 appeared to be a tragic murder-suicide…But after a 16-month investigation, police offered a stunning turnabout: what initially appeared to be a murder-suicide was allegedly a double killing. They claimed the scene had been carefully staged by the real perpetrator.” [The Washington Post]

I-66 to Close Overnight in Fairfax This Week — “All lanes of I-66 West approaching Route 50 will close nightly, March 9-12, to allow for installation of bridge beams for a new access ramp from the future westbound I-66 Express Lanes to Route 50 West as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project.” [VDOT]

No Injuries Reported in Reston Shooting Incident — Police responded to the 2200 block of Castle Rock Square around 11:17 p.m. last Tuesday (March 1) after members of the Shadowood Condominium complex community reported hearing gunshots. Officers found damage to a buildings and numerous cartridge cases in the area. [Patch]

Lorton Pizza Restaurant Robbed — According to Fairfax County police, a man entered Antonelli’s Pizza (8212 Gunston Corner Lane) around 9:53 p.m. on March 1 and assaulted an employee. The man walked behind the counter, discharged a firearm, and took property before leaving. The employee was treated for injuries considered not life threatening. [FCPD]

Sheriff’s Office Expands Mental Health Services for Staff — “Dr. Grace Davidson, Licensed Professional Counselor, recently joined the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office under contract full-time to provide behavioral health services for the agency’s 550 employees and their families.” [Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office]

McLean Teacher Gives Art Class to Support Ukraine Relief — “During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pamela Saunders has used art as a way to keep children engaged during virtual learning. Now she can use her platform as a way to show support for Ukraine after the Russian invasion.” [Patch]

Work Begins Today on New Lorton Playground — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will soon begin work on a new playground at Laurel Hill Central Green. Construction is scheduled to start the week of March 7 and is anticipated to be completed next month.” [FCPA/Twitter]

New Sidewalk Built to Park in Groveton — “The Telegraph Road Walkway project features more than half a mile of new sidewalk along the south side of Telegraph Road from 500 feet north of S. Kings Highway to the entrance of Lee District Park and Rose Hill Road. Watch the ribbon cutting ceremony.” [Fairfax TV Channel 16/Twitter]

It’s Monday — Showers are likely and possibly a thunderstorm, mainly after 4 p.m. Today will have a high near 80 and low near 42. It will be breezy, with a southwest wind 11 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 34 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms. Sunrise was at 6:30 a.m. and sunset will be at 6:08 p.m. [weather.gov]

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Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce members organize food donations for their monthly “Third Thursday” backpack drive on Feb. 17 (courtesy Andrew Clark)

The inspiration for the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce’s new monthly backpack drive came to Andrew Clark on the Saturday before Christmas.

“I’m at home and realized — really, an epiphany of how good my life is,” the chamber’s board of directors chairman recalled last Friday (Feb. 18).

Clark has been volunteering for the Merrifield-based nonprofit Food for Others since before COVID-19, but while assisting the food bank with distribution, he saw how much the pandemic exacerbated food insecurity in the area, especially among children, he told FFXnow.

Turning his personal volunteer work into an organizational practice, he decided to take advantage of the chamber’s resources and influence within the Tysons business community to support Food for Others’ Power Pack Program, which provides backpacks with a weekend’s worth of meals to local students.

The idea was received enthusiastically by the chamber’s Community Engagement Committee, which focuses on fostering partnerships between businesses and the rest of the Tysons community, including nonprofits.

Supported by an ongoing GoFundMe, the Third Thursday backpack initiative launched in January, with collections taking place at the chamber’s home at Intelligent Office (1934 Old Gallows Road) in Tysons on the third Thursday of every month — hence the name.

The chamber has collected about 550 food-filled backpacks across its two drives so far, the most recent coming on Feb. 17, according to Clark.

“On Facebook, [we’re] getting reach out from the community: how can we help? And I love that,” he said. “I love the area, the mindset, the give, and from that, the core team is growing. The donations…keep growing.”

While Fairfax County has a low food insecurity rate, it was home to the highest number of food-insecure people in Virginia even prior to the pandemic, according to the Fairfax Food Council, which says that approximately 58,000 residents, including over 23,000 children, lack access to quality, nutritional food.

The nonprofit Feeding America estimates that the rate of food insecurity in the county jumped from 5.8% in 2019 to 7.4% in 2021.

Through its Power Pack Program, Food for Others provides weekend meals to more than 2,500 children at 34 participating elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school, according to its website.

Each backpack contains two types of food each for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with two snacks and two drinks.

The food bank is currently delivering about 3,400 backpacks each weekend, according to the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce, which seeks to collect 100 packs with each monthly drive.

“We’re so grateful for the help of the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce!” Food for Others said in an emailed statement. “The need for weekend food is really high among Fairfax County students right now, and the work of local organizations to build packs makes a tremendous difference in how many we can serve.”

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