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A food donation drive is set for tomorrow at a Reston church (via Aaron Doucett/Unsplash)

A team of nonprofit organizations and a major, Reston-based company are partnering to bring food and other essentials to 400 families tomorrow (Thursday).

The tuna manufacturer StarKist Co., which recently relocated its headquarters to Reston Town Center, is working with Feed the Children and Cornerstones on a food drive from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. John Neumann Catholic Community (11900 Lawyers Road) in Reston.

Families will receive a 25-pound box of food, a 15-pound box of hygiene essentials, a box of Avon products, Disney storybooks and other items.

Starkist president Andrew Choo said the company looks forward to beginning an alliance with Cornerstones, which he called an “extraordinary organization” that has been serving Northern Virginia for more than 50 years.

“There will be more empty plates this summer season than ever before, and it is estimated that one in four children will be food insecure,” Choo said in a news release. “We believe that no child should go hungry in this country, and we are aware that the need is great.”

Cornerstones CEO Kerrie Wilson said that the lingering impacts of the pandemic, including the rising cost of groceries and gas, have lead to more insecurity for families.

“For our June Food Pantry Distribution event, we are proud to partner with StarKist and Feed the Children to help stabilize people living in crisis today,” Wilson said in a statement. “Their commitment to community engagement and volunteerism plays an essential role in helping Cornerstones ensure the economic and health stability, equity, and resiliency of Northern Virginia.”

Cornerstones’ food pantry has already seen a growing number of people in need of services.

“Having served 1,347 households with 10,480 bags of food/toiletries, benefiting close to 5,000 people in FY21 (an average of 450+ households per month), Cornerstones anticipates even more people — particularly low to moderate-income families with children and seniors — will seek food pantry assistance,” wrote Margaret Anne Lara, the organization’s vice president of marketing and communications.

During the pandemic, the number of food-insecure residents has doubled in Fairfax County, which houses the largest number of food-insecure residents in Virginia.

Tomorrow’s event will include remarks by local elected officials and community representatives, including Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Photo via Aaron Doucett/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Relaxing in the sun at Reston Town Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Annandale Subway Vandalized — “A rowdy group of youths vandalized the Subway on Heritage Drive in Annandale at about 10:15 a.m. this morning [Thursday]…It will cost $2,000 or $3,000 to fix the window, [owner Emil] Ranakusuma says. He plans to file an insurance claim.” [Annandale Today]

General Assembly Dumps Football Stadium Bill — “The state legislator who has led the charge to lure the Washington Commanders to Virginia gave up the fight Thursday…State Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said comments that Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio made this week about the Jan. 6 insurrection were the last straw for the stadium bill.” [The Washington Post]

Tysons Financial Company to Expand HQ — “Nodal Exchange, a Fairfax County-based derivatives exchange providing price, credit, and liquidity risk management solutions to participants in the North American commodities markets, will increase capacity at its headquarters located at 1921 Gallows Road in Tysons. The expansion will create 37 new jobs.” [Fairfax County EDA]

I-66 West Ramp to Close — “The ramp from I-66 West to Vienna/Fairfax/GMU Metrorail Station (Country Creek Road and Virginia Center Boulevard) is scheduled to close for about three weeks beginning on or about Monday, June 13, for continued construction of the new westbound I-66 express and general-purpose lanes…Drivers will be detoured around the closure via Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) and I-66 East.” [VDOT]

Flooring Store Opens in Tysons — “Floor & Décor, an Atlanta-based retailer of hard-surface flooring, has…signed a 10-year, 11,327-square-foot lease at the Tysons Corner Retail Plaza, a three-building, 22,000-square-foot retail center, and has already opened for business.” [Commercial Observer]

Vienna Approves Covid Relief Funds for Police Cameras — “The Vienna Town Council on June 6 unanimously approved the spending of $128,600 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to replace and upgrade in-car video systems for Vienna Police Department patrol vehicles.” [Sun Gazette]

Friends of Reston Library Officially Makes Donation — “We love our library branches in Fairfax County, but Reston is especially dedicated to the Reston Regional Library! I was honored to join in the celebration last night (6/9) of the Friends of Reston Regional Library donating $200,000 to the library for its book collection.” [Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Facebook]

FCPS Appoints New Ombudsman — Fairfax County Public Schools has named Dawn Clements as its next ombudsman, effective July 1. Currently the assistant ombudsman for special education, Clements will lead the office responsible for addressing student, family, and community questions and complaints. [FCPS]

It’s Friday — Possible drizzle overnight. High of 77 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:35 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A spring dandelion (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Case Against Park Police Who Shot McLean Man Dropped — “Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) on Friday dropped the state’s federal appeal in the manslaughter case against two U.S. Park Police officers, effectively ending any attempt at criminal prosecution of the officers who fatally shot unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar in a Fairfax County neighborhood in 2017.” [The Washington Post]

Hundreds Help Pack Ukrainian Refugee Donations — “Hundreds of volunteers gathered this weekend in Oakton to help pack approx. 1800 boxes with donations collected for displaced Ukrainians. Huge thanks to our community members for donating, these wonderful volunteers, and to Paxton Co. for generously shipping these items.” [Chairman Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Mount Vernon Fire Started by Hair Dryer — A house fire in the 3700 block of Nalls Road on Wednesday (April 20) was started accidentally by an electrical event involving a hair dryer in the basement bathroom, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. There were reported injuries or displacements, but the fire caused an estimated $37,500 in damages. [FCFRD]

Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers Critical to Covid Response — “Since February of 2020, over 1,400 MRC members volunteered more than 65,000 hours at vaccination clinics and testing events, and assisting with outreach, isolation and quarantine efforts, logistical support, and so much more.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Merrifield Nonprofit Gets Boost from Football Fans — “Wolf Trap Animal Rescue keeps receiving donations from the public in honor of Dwayne Haskins, the former Washington quarterback who died in an accident on a Florida highway on April 9. Haskins…selected Wolf Trap Animal Rescue as his organization to represent for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign.” [Patch]

Turner Farm Observatory Seeks “Dark Sky” Designation — “To help reverse the trend of growing light pollution, the Great Falls observatory applied to become an Urban Night Sky Place with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)…If approved, the observatory would become the first IDA-designated place in the Washington region.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Construction Starts on Woodley Hills Park Playground — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will begin the installation of a new playground and removal of the existing playground the week of April 25, 2022. Construction access to the site will be from Old Mount Vernon Road. It is anticipated that the playground replacement will be completed by early June 2022.” [FCPA]

Reston Library Book Sale Starts Wednesday — The Friends of the Reston Regional Library will host its biggest book sale of the year, starting with a members-only night from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday (April 27). The sale will be open to all starting at 10 a.m. Thursday through Sunday (April 28-May 2) and include 35,000 to 40,000 books. [Friends of the Reston Regional Library]

It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 75 and low of 55. Sunrise at 6:19 am and sunset at 7:57 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Langley High School student Alex Pomper delivers donated books to the Latin American Youth Center in Riverdale, Maryland (courtesy Annie Kim)

The McLean Community Center is ready and willing to accept all your spare “Dog Man” and “Magic Tree House” books.

The facility at 1234 Ingleside Avenue is serving as a drop-off site for the latest donation drive by Give a Kid a Book, an initiative started by McLean teenager Alex Pomper to collect children’s books for kids in the D.C. area who might find them hard to come by.

“I grew up around books and realized how much I took that for granted,” said Pomper, a junior at Langley High School. “Many young kids in Fairfax don’t have access to books at home, and I think having books at home is especially important for helping kids get a good start reading, which will help them later in life.”

Launched in January, Give a Kid a Book has collected more than 4,500 books so far with monthly drives. The current effort at MCC started on Tuesday (April 19) and will last through May 20.

Driven by a passion for community service and education, Pomper has been conducting monthly book giveaways with the Arlington Food Assistance Center, a nonprofit food bank.

Donations have also gone to Second Story in Tysons, the United Way of the National Capital Area, D.C.’s Community Family Life Services, and the Latin American Youth Center in Prince George’s County.

Research indicates that access to books has a significant effect on kids’ educational success, and disparities in literacy are largely a reflection of socioeconomic inequality, following racial and financial divides.

According to Scholastic’s most recent “Kids and Families Reading Report,” children in the U.S. aged 6 to 17 have 103 books at home on average, but that ranges from 125 books for families with incomes of $100,000 or more to 73 books for families with incomes under $35,000. Hispanic and Black children also generally have fewer books in their homes than white, Asian, and other children.

Pomper says the need for books in many communities “really hit home” when he started meeting Give a Kid a Book recipients in person, including through the Arlington Food Assistance Center giveaways.

“In-person distributions…showed me how much interest there was in the books I was donating, and I think it’s one of the reasons I’m going to be continuing to run this drive,” Pomper said by email.

Give a Kid a Book accepts donations of new and gently used books for a range of ages, from toddler-geared picture books to young adult books. Donations can be made at MCC or through the organization’s Amazon wishlist and website.

Pomper has seen a particular demand for board books and ones for early elementary school-aged readers, and books in Spanish and other languages outside of English are especially appreciated, according to his mother, Annie Kim.

Pomper, who often gets an assist from his younger brother in collecting and sorting donations, is currently focusing on the AFAC giveaways and obtaining books to give to elementary schools, but he is open to working with any organization that can help get books into kids’ hands.

“I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of organizations that need the books that I am collecting,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Prices at a gas station in Tysons (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Regional Winter Clothing Drive for Ukraine Now Accepting Donations — “Northern Virginia localities are partnering together to collect donations for Ukrainians who fled their country amid the Russian invasion. Dozens of locations around Northern Virginia will begin accepting donations Wednesday [March 23] through April 15.” [Patch]

FCPD Officer Faces Trial for Taser Use — “Day two of the trial of a Fairfax County police officer accused of assaulting an unarmed and incoherent man has concluded…Defense attorneys insist Officer Tyler Timberlake was well within department guidelines when he tasered La Monta Gladney in Mount Vernon. Prosecutors call it a crime.” [WUSA9]

Youngkin Calls for Special Session — “The Republican governor issued a proclamation Wednesday saying that a special session will commence April 4. The move comes after the clock ran out during the regular General Assembly session without the Democrat-controlled Senate and GOP-controlled House reaching agreement on the state budget.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

FCPS Tests iPads for Kindergarteners — Fairfax County Public Schools began a pilot program this week to provide iPads for pre-K and kindergarten students in lieu of the heavier laptops currently used in those classrooms. The schools participating in the pilot are Lake Anne Elementary, Riverside Elementary, and Bailey’s Primary. [FCPS]

Fairfax Dems Call for Special Elections — At a March 22 general body meeting, Fairfax County Democratic Committee members voted 86% in favor of a resolution calling for special elections for the House of Delegates in 2022. The entire chamber was up for grabs last year, but a delayed redistricting process meant those legislators were elected based on now-outdated district maps. [Fairfax County Democratic Committee]

Michelin Starred Chef to Plans Mystery Tysons Restaurant — Chef Pepe Moncayo and his partners have leased for about 7,000 square feet at Capital One Center. He shared few details about the upcoming eatery except to say “it won’t be a carbon copy of Cranes,” the Japanese and Spanish fusion restaurant and lounge he opened in D.C.’s Penn Quarter in 2020. [Washington Business Journal]

GMU Performing Arts Venue to End Vaccine Mandates — “George Mason University will soon no longer require proof of COVID-19 vaccines or negative tests for those attending events at the Center for the Arts in Fairfax and the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. The policy change begins May 2.” [Inside NoVA]

Colvin Run Miller’s House to Reopen — “The public will be able to experience a slice of 19th-century middle-class life…when the Fairfax County Park Authority reopens the newly renovated miller’s house at Colvin Run Historic Site…The April 3 event will kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m., followed by refreshments in the garden, and festivities will continue until 4 p.m.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Park Authority Plans “One Dark Hour” Event — To kick off International Dark Sky Awareness Week next month, the Fairfax County Park Authority will encourage all residents to turn off any outdoor lights between 9 and 10 p.m. on April 22. The event is intended to demonstrate the importance of using light only when and where it’s needed, so that wildlife and plants can thrive. [FCPA]

It’s Thursday — Light rain throughout the day. High of 66 and low of 56. Sunrise at 7:07 a.m. and sunset at 7:26 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Flyer calls for help for Ukrainians (via Northern Virginia Regional Commission)

Northern Virginia is coming together to help Ukrainians struck by war.

Local leaders and community members, organized by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, will launch a donation drive at the Fairfax County Government Center on Wednesday (March 23), collecting items through April 15 to send to refugees in Ukraine and Poland.

“Fairfax County has joined the rest of the world in watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine bring violence and war to millions of innocent people,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement.

The donations will be accepted at over 30 locations — from libraries to supervisors’ offices and more — starting Wednesday (March 23) as officials kick off the campaign. The event will be broadcast at 10 a.m. on the Fairfax County government’s Facebook page.

Requested items include new and gently used coats as well as new blankets, gloves, and pairs of sweat or heavy socks. More information about the drive, including a list of collection sites, can be found at helpukrainenova.org.

The items will be boxed together with help from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Oakton congregation. Paxton Companies, a North Springfield moving business, will then shrink wrap boxes and transport them to Wilmington, North Carolina.

A business that wishes to remain anonymous will ship the donations overseas, bringing the supplies to trucks in Antwerp and a non-governmental organization that has a supply chain on the ground, NVRC executive director Bob Lazaro said.

The campaign came together after local elected leaders reached out to NVRC, seeking to replicate a similar effort by the area in 2013 to help Syrian refugees who fled a civil war that’s still continuing.

Fairfax County now hosts an annual blanket and coat drive for Syrian refugees.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24. The war has now killed thousands of people — including at least 902 civilians — destroyed cities, and threatened the country’s sovereignty.

The United Nations’ human migration agency has reported that over 3.4 million people in Ukraine have fled the country. Every minute, 55 more Ukrainian children become refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund has estimated.

“Our residents don’t want to stand by — they want to help,” McKay said. “As we uplift and offer support to our residents of Ukrainian descent here in the County, we can also aid in efforts abroad, sending much needed supplies to the millions of displaced Ukrainians taking refuge in Poland.”

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Morning Notes

A puddle on the path along Kingstowne Lake after a day of rain (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Stuff the Bus Drive Returns Tomorrow — “Since inception, Stuff the Bus has collected over 220 tons of food to feed people experiencing food insecurity in Fairfax County. Donate to Stuff the Bus at any of these locations on Saturday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.” [Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services]

Reston Cooking Class Raises Funds for Ukraine — A borscht-making class raised nearly $179,000 to become one of the top fundraisers in World Central Kitchen “Cook for Ukraine” campaign, Reston Patch reported. Radhika Murari, the founder of Reston-based OmMade peanut butter, came up with the idea by helping two Ukrainian sisters promote their class. [Fairfax County EDA]

Fort Belvoir’s Name to Remain for Now — “The Naming Commission, tasked with choosing new names for Army installations that had been named for Confederate generals, has removed Fort Belvoir from consideration, according to a commission announcement this morning.” [Inside NoVA]

WeWork to Subsidize Rent for Local Startups — “Companies must commit to a six or 12-month lease in one of four WeWork D.C.-area locations — Metropolitan Square at 655 15th St. NW, the program’s hub, 1775 Tysons Blvd., 200 Massachusetts Ave. NW and Midtown Center — between now and the end of August, according to the terms and conditions.” [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Community Center Board Candidates Announced — “Early voting has started for the annual McLean Community Center governing board election. There are 12 candidates running for seats in 2022. The candidates include nine adults and three teens running for three adult positions and two youth positions.” [Patch]

British Consulting Firm Opens Tysons Office — “Buro Happold, a global engineering consultancy firm, has set up shop in the Washington, D.C. area, among five new cities the firm has entered. Roger Chang has been named principal and will head up the D.C. office, which is currently at 1775 Greensboro Station Place in Tysons, Va., with plans to operate space in the District as well.” [Commercial Observer]

Herndon Police Officers and Volunteers Recognized — “With community spread of COVID-19 remaining at low levels, the Herndon Police Department decided it was safe to finally host a public ceremony to recognize all of the officers and volunteers who’d received awards from 2019-2021.” [Patch]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 48. Sunrise at 7:16 a.m. and sunset at 7:20 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

The Tysons Metro station across Chain Bridge Road at night (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Metro Gets More ARPA Funding — “Another $120 million in federal pandemic relief money is being released to Metro to keep the transit system running and its front-line workers on the job, congressional leaders announced Thursday.” [The Washington Post]

Multiple I-66 Closures Start Today — Construction on a new I-66 East access ramp will reduce the highway to a single travel lane approaching Cedar Lane in the Dunn Loring area during overnight hours, starting at 10 p.m. today (Friday) through Wednesday (March 9). Construction will also close the I-66 West ramp to Nutley Street in Vienna from 10 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Monday (March 7). [VDOT, Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Local Bakers Fundraise for Ukraine — “Sarah Marshall, owner of Vienna-based The Sweet Life NoVA, knew baking was a way to help when seeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the news…The [14] bakers each contributed desserts for boxes of baked goods with all proceeds supporting humanitarian relief in Ukraine.” [Patch]

McLean Restaurant Adds Second Location — The Union, an Asian fusion restaurant that opened in McLean in January 2020, is expanding to Arlington County with a new location in Virginia Square. Owner Giridhar Sastry says construction is nearly done, and the venue could start serving food by the end of this month. [ARLnow]

Reston Nonprofit Calls for Donations — “The Embry Rucker Community Shelter needs supplies, specifically toilet paper and bottled water! No need to schedule, just drop off at the back door. 11975 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston, VA 20190. Thank you in advance!” [Cornerstones/Twitter]

Deadline for Lorton Vision Survey Extended — Fairfax County has extended the deadline for its community survey on the future of the Lorton area to Tuesday (March 8). The Lorton Visioning 2040 study will update the county’s Comprehensive Plan to guide land use, public facilities, transportation infrastructure, and other needs over the next 20 years. [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Reston Company Lands Huge Defense Contract — Leidos announced on Monday (Feb. 28) that it has been awarded a Defense Enclave Services (DES) contract worth an estimated $11.5 billion by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). The contract will last at least four years with three two-year option periods. [Intelligence Community News]

County Board Celebrates GMU — “George Mason University’s president Dr. Gregory Washington, received a proclamation recognizing the university’s 50th anniversary. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay presented the proclamation to Washington on behalf of the board at its public meeting on Feb. 22, 2022.” [The Connection]

It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 46 and low around 34. The sunrise was at 6:35 a.m. and sunset will be at 6:05 p.m. [weather.gov]

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Two days before Thanksgiving, the 29 Diner was decimated by a fire. The next day, owner John K. Wood got back to work.

“It was a total loss,” Wood told FFXnow of the damage to the iconic, 74-year-old Fairfax City eatery. “But there’s nothing to be sorry about. It’s time to celebrate what this diner means to the community. I’m going to be here every day that I can — rain, sleet, snow — to watch the rebirth of the 29 Diner.”

Firefighters got a call around 6 p.m. on Nov. 23 about an explosion in the back of the building, WJLA reported. When crews arrived, a fire had spread from a storage room where chemicals were being stored to the kitchen across the way.

“It was a chemical fire that reached about 700 degrees,” said Wood, a Robinson High School graduate who has owned the diner since 2014.

Thankfully, no one was in the building at the time, but the fire rendered the kitchen completely unusable. Wood estimates it could take six months for the kitchen to be restored so the diner can reopen.

He’s already getting significant help from the community to do just that. A GoFundMe campaign set up to help Wood rebuild and support the employees that have lost their jobs has amassed over $54,000 in just a week’s time.

“I’m on the wings of the community and I feel the love,” Wood said.

A cozy spot to get a short stack and two eggs over easy, 29 Diner is also a historic landmark. In 1992, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for being a “uniquely American form of roadside architecture.”

The pre-assembled metal, glass, and double-wide diner was considered the “Cadillac of diners,” Wood says, when it emerged in 1947. The building was manufactured in New Jersey and purchased by original owner D.T. “Bill” Glascock, who placed it along Fairfax Boulevard, which was called Lee Highway then, like Route 29 still is (for now) in Fairfax County.

Wood reveals a little-known secret about the restaurant: a 1,500 square-foot basement, the dimensions of a good-sized townhouse, runs the entire length of the diner.

29 Diner grew with the region, becoming a hub of community in Fairfax. It did go through several owners, including Fredy and Virginia Guevara, who was a server there in the 1960s. When the couple retired, Wood took over.

“You step into that diner, and it just takes you back to when you were 9 years old and you got your first milkshake,” Wood told The Washington Post when he became the owner in 2014.

Wood has been a proud steward ever since. Open 24 hours, six days a week, the diner has become a headquarters of sorts for a number of charitable endeavors, raising money for causes from feeding those in need to supporting families with cancer and veteran suicide prevention.

Not even a destructive fire can dim Wood’s perpetual optimism and commitment to giving back.

“This is going to give us a chance to remodel, in the way the Lord wanted us to have,” he said.”We are going to set up a more inclusive kitchen, [better] wheelchair access, and help disabled veterans.”

Wood is planning a number of events in the coming weeks to help raise money, including runs and a motorcycle rally.

He says a big chunk of donations will also go toward providing for his employees and their families while they wait for the diner to reopen.

Rich Berkwitz, who set up the GoFundMe campaign, appreciates everything Wood has done for the diner and community. A teacher at Mark Twain Middle School in Alexandria and an assistant wrestling coach at John Lewis High School, he says he eats at 29 Diner “pretty much every week” because “it feels like home.”

“I’m so happy that the community is backing him as much as he’s back to the community,” he said. “He’s just so giving.”

It’s unlikely that 29 Diner will reopen prior to June 2022, but Wood has faith in the future.

“It’s going to come back better than it was,” he said. “That wasn’t a fire. That was the Lord paying a visit to the 29 Diner.”

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