For anyone who feels strongly about whether or not Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway should continue to bear those names, the time to share that opinion has arrived.

The Fairfax County Confederate Names Task Force launched a survey yesterday (Thursday), kicking off the community engagement phase of its review of whether to rename the highways.

Open until Nov. 12, the survey is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Korean, and Vietnamese. Chinese and Urdu versions will be coming soon, and print copies will be available at county libraries and district supervisor offices starting next Wednesday (Oct. 20), according to the task force’s website.

According to the news release, the task force will send out a countywide mailer to all residents later this month encouraging them to weigh in on the issue, and four public meetings — three in person, one virtual — have been scheduled through early November:

  • Thursday, Oct. 28: Providence Community Center, 3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 30: Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 1: via WebEx, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 4: Sully District Governmental Center, 4900 Stonecroft Boulevard, Chantilly, 7-8:30 p.m.

Comments can also be sent to the task force by email, phone (703-877-5600), and regular mail (Fairfax County Department of Transportation, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033).

“Symbols matter and we want our community to feel welcome and reflect our values,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “Community feedback is a key part of the renaming of Lee and Lee Jackson Memorial Highways process and will determine our next steps forward. There are multiple ways to offer feedback including a survey and community listening sessions. I encourage everyone who can to join the discussion.”

The Board of Supervisors appointed the 30-member task force in July after getting a report from the county’s history commission that identified more than 26,000 streets and other local landmarks bearing names associated with the Confederacy.

The Fairfax County History Commission narrowed its inventory down to 150 sites named after well-known Confederate figures, with Lee and Lee-Jackson highways among the most prominent.

The county’s portion of Route 29 spans 14.11 miles from Centreville to Falls Church and was named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee in 1919, according to the task force. Lee and fellow general Stonewall Jackson became the namesakes for the 8.43-mile stretch of Route 50 from Loudoun County to the City of Fairfax in 1922.

While those monikers have stuck for around a century now, nationwide efforts to remove names linked to the Confederacy or slavery from public places have gained momentum in recent years. Fairfax County Public Schools alone has renamed three buildings in the past four years.

Neighboring Arlington County renamed its section of Route 29 this past summer, replacing Lee’s name with that of abolitionist John M. Langston, Virginia’s first Congressional representative of color.

Expected to present a recommendation on whether to rename the roadways to the Board of Supervisors in December, the Confederate Names Task Force has been meeting on a regular basis since Aug. 16. The agenda for its upcoming meeting on Monday (Oct. 18) includes a staff briefing on the cost implications of a name change and a discussion of criteria for street names.

If the task force recommends changing the names, it will then offer up to five possible new names for each road, and after holding a public hearing, the Board of Supervisors will vote on the recommendation, potentially early next year. The name changes would then have to get state approval and go through the county budget process to cover the costs.

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(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Fairfax County government workers must now show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. The vast majority have chosen the former option, the county says.

The county’s policy officially took effect yesterday (Monday).

As of today (Tuesday), 12,799 employees have been fully vaccinated, meaning it has been at least two weeks since they’ve received both doses of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to county government spokesperson Tony Castrilli.

Another 295 employees are partially vaccinated, and the county is currently reviewing 492 requests for a medical or religious exemption.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed staff to evaluate a possible COVID-19 vaccination requirement in July as part of the government’s return-to-office plan. The county confirmed that it would implement the mandate on Aug. 20.

The policy applies to all general county government employees. Fairfax County Public Schools has its own requirement that is expected to go in effect by the end of this month.

“Evidence shows that the COVID-19 vaccine continue to be safe and effective,” Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “As a County, we have to do all we can to protect our community. I’m encouraged by our high vaccination rate among county staff and pleased that we’ve put additional measures in place to help keep our employees and community safe.”

McKay added that the county will keep working to increase vaccination rates among its employees as well as the general public.

The percentage of county employees who are fully vaccinated is currently in the mid-80s, though it “fluctuates daily” due to changes in the overall workforce, Castrilli says.

In comparison, 62.8% of Fairfax Health District residents, or 740,791 people, are fully vaccinated, including 74.2% of individuals 18 and older, according to the Fairfax County Health Department, which serves the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church as well as the county.

819,482 residents — 81.8% of adults and 69.2% of the total population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

The Virginia Department of Health reopened its mass vaccination site at Tysons Corner Center on Friday (Oct. 8) to accommodate potential demand for booster shots and the eventual rollout of the vaccine to children under 12, which could come after Halloween.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Oct. 12, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Oct. 12, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

In the meantime, Fairfax County has seen its COVID-19 community spread dip back down to substantial for the past two weeks, reporting 86.5 new cases per 100,000 people and a 3.3% testing positivity rate for the week of Oct. 3-9.

That reflects a recent plateau in infections after the Delta variant pushed the county’s transmission levels to high at the end of August.

However, after getting just 44 new cases last Tuesday (Oct. 5) — the fewest since July 20 — the county’s seven-day average has started to climb back up, from 132.3 cases per day over the past week on Oct. 6 to 149.7 cases today, according to VDH data.

With a total of 128 new COVID-19 cases coming in today, the Fairfax Health District has now recorded 91,120 cases, 4,337 hospitalizations, and 1,193 deaths from the pandemic.

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Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams speaks at a union rally prior to a public hearing on a proposed collective bargaining ordinance for county government workers (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 6:45 p.m.) Scores of people called on Fairfax County to adopt a more robust collective bargaining policy for county government workers at a Board of Supervisors public hearing on a proposed ordinance yesterday (Tuesday).

At a rally before the public hearing and at the meeting itself, labor union representatives and other speakers stated that they want more workers to be eligible to participate in collective bargaining, more ability to negotiate working conditions, and more flexibility in discussing labor issues while they’re at work.

“This is a defining moment,” Fairfax County Federation of Teachers president Tina Williams said during yesterday’s public hearing. “Fairfax County can set the standard in Virginia.”

Williams and Fairfax Education Association President Kimberly Adams were among the educational leaders who gave their support to a county ordinance, even though it would not cover school employees. Fairfax County Public Schools needs to adopt a policy separately.

Fairfax County has spent months developing collective bargaining procedures after the Virginia General Assembly broke from a 1977 state Supreme Court ruling that banned public-sector unions from collectively bargaining. The legislature approved a law in April 2020 that gives localities the authority to develop ordinances to permit collective bargaining if they choose to do so.

County leaders have expressed support for collective bargaining, which is already permitted for government workers in most states as well as D.C. Some neighboring jurisdictions, including Arlington and the City of Alexandria, adopted their own ordinances earlier this year.

With labor groups representing a wide range of workers, from firefighters and police to public works, nurses, librarians, and social workers, weighing in, the Board of Supervisors decided to defer a vote on the ordinance to its next regular meeting on Oct. 19.

Board Chairman Jeff McKay said the postponement will let supervisors to absorb the testimony and respond to speakers’ requests to take more time on the matter. Written comments will continue to be accepted as part of the public hearing.

Most speakers during the hours-long hearing came in support of an ordinance, though a few raised concerns about the implications the matter would have on taxpayers.

The county projects that the ordinance will carry $1.9 million in annual costs to handle increased workloads.

At least nine full-time equivalent employees and additional support positions will be needed to address new work involving labor relations, legal support, policy administration, contract compliance and administration, according to a county staff report.

While there was broad support for collective bargaining, labor groups and other stakeholders voiced concerns about the most recent draft of the proposed ordinance. Read More

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Fairfax County officially has its first countywide strategic plan.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 yesterday (Tuesday) to adopt the document, which presents an all-encompassing, coordinated vision for the county’s operations, priorities, and services over the next two decades.

In the works since 2019, the strategic plan focuses on 10 “community outcome areas” that “represent the issues of greatest importance” to the community:

 

“The Countywide Strategic Plan will help guide our future together so the Board, residents and staff are working toward the same goals and outcomes,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a press release. “This plan will be a centralized, coordinated way for us to be even more efficient as a government so we’re more responsive to our community’s needs.”

The strategic plan was initially developed prior to the pandemic, but the county paused the process due to the public health emergency and reworked the plan to encompass new prioritizations from the last 18 months.

The main change was the separation of health and environment into two separate categories.

It’s intended to be a living document that integrates other broad planning efforts like the Fairfax County Public Schools’ strategic plan and the One Fairfax policy. It will also help the board focus its legislative efforts over the next several years.

In the press release, County Executive Bryan Hill called Fairfax County’s first-ever “unified” strategic plan “a key milestone” in the government’s efforts to shape the county’s future.

“I’m grateful to the tens of thousands of residents and hundreds of staff who have developed this plan,” Hill said. “I look forward to the next steps, including reporting results to the community, aligning existing plans within this framework and further advancing our One Fairfax equity lens across all outcome areas.”

At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity was the only board member to vote against adopting the plan, citing insufficient community feedback.

He also argued that the plan should do more to address traffic congestion and that it will continue to allow taxes to be too high.

The other supervisors approved the strategic plan, despite several noting that they were not 100% pleased with the process and expressing concern that the document is too vague.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust criticized the lack of prioritization, information about implementation, or how the county is progressing based on over 150 metrics identified by the plan.

“I don’t think we are done, to say the least,” Foust said. “This is not, in my opinion, a roadmap for the county executive to prioritize and budget…We need to keep working, and the board has to stay involved to complete the process.”

Several supervisors observed that there was a lack of participation from a diverse set of voices.

As of September, the county had received nearly 22,000 survey responses in eight different languages. A fourth survey closed on Sept. 24, so that number will be updated later this month.

A feedback session held in July found that the attendees’ preferred focus areas were cultural and recreational opportunities, economic stability and mobility, financial sustainability and access to services.

Now that the plan has been adopted, the county will start implementing its guidelines, a process that will include further community engagement, prioritization, and identifying “headline metrics” in each of the 10 areas that will be used to develop the fiscal year 2024 budget.

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Fairfax County’s logo on the government center (via Machvee/Flickr)

(Updated at 2:10 p.m. on 10/1/2021) All Fairfax County employees will be required to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests by Monday, Oct. 11, FFXnow has learned.

County government employees who do not get vaccinated or are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 11 will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain employed, including if they receive a medical or religious exemption.

While the county has started providing booster shots to eligible individuals, people are still considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they receive the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Fairfax County announced that it will implement a vaccine requirement back in August, but no specific date was given for when the mandate would take effect beyond “this fall.”

The county announced its requirement the same day that Fairfax County Public Schools shared its own vaccine mandate for employees, which it said will take effect “late October.”

An FCPS spokesperson confirmed that the end of October remains the school system’s goal for when all employees are expected to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

Back in July, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to direct County Executive Bryan Hill to evaluate the possibility of a vaccine requirement for county employees.

“We know vaccinations save lives and that these vaccines are safe and effective,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay wrote in a statement back in August. “Throughout the pandemic we have focused on measures to keep our employees and our community safe, and this is another key piece of that effort. As one of the largest employers in Virginia, and one that has successfully and consistently stressed to our residents the importance of being vaccinated, we must practice what we preach.”

FFXnow has reached out to the SEIU Virginia 512, one of the unions that represent Fairfax County employees, but did not receive any comment as of publication.

The Fairfax Workers Coalition, which describes itself as “a viable alternative for workers seeking representation and a voice in Fairfax County Government,” told FFXnow that it is very supportive of the mandate.

However, the coalition is concerned about the lack of communication and education about the requirement to its workforce. “The county communicates via email and links, but our members are out in the streets working 5 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.,” says David Lyons of the Fairfax Workers Coalition. “They may not get the information.”

The county’s vaccine requirement falls in line with policies announced by other jurisdictions in the D.C. area, including Arlington County, which has had a mandate in place since the end of August, and Loudoun County, which has not set a timeline yet.

Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson said in August that the city anticipated implementing a vaccination requirement in the “September/October timeframe.”

D.C. announced on Sept. 20 that school and child-care workers in the city must get vaccinated with no option to produce a negative test instead. FCPS told FFXnow that it is not changing its plans to have a testing option for employees who don’t get vaccinated.

Virginia’s requirement for state government employees took effect on Sept. 1, and President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Sept. 9 requiring all federal government workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Photo via Machvee/Flickr

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Although Election Day is still more than six weeks away, Fairfax County residents can start casting their ballots when early voting begins tomorrow (Friday).

The county will have three sites open for voting in the Nov. 2 general election for Virginia’s governor and other state offices: the Fairfax County Government Center, the Mount Vernon Governmental Center, and the North County Governmental Center.

The county anticipates a turnout of about 50% for this year’s general election, according to county spokesperson Brian Worthy. But the Office of Elections is prepared for a turnout of 75%.

In the last governor’s race in 2017, turnout stood at around 56% when Gov. Ralph Northam — who cannot seek re-election due to term limits — ran against Republican nominee Ed Gillespie and Libertarian Party candidate Clifford Hyra.

Worthy tells FFXnow that the county is now adept at running elections during the pandemic.

“We have been holding elections since the pandemic and there is no significant impact on our operations at this point,” he said.

The Ballot

Terry McAullife (D) and Glenn Youngkin (R) are running to succeed Northam as governor, while Hala Ayala (D) and Winsome Sears (R) are running for lieutenant governor. Republican Jason Miyares is challenging incumbent Mark Herring, who is a Democrat, for attorney general.

All 100 House of Delegates seats are also up for grabs, with Democrats seeking to maintain a majority in the legislative chamber for the first time since 1999. Sample ballots for each of the Fairfax County races can be found on the Office of Elections website.

Finally, the ballot includes a bond question concerning $360 million in capital improvement bonds for Fairfax County Public Schools.

How to Vote

The Fairfax County Government Center will be open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while the other sites will be open from noon to 7 p.m. on weekdays. All sites will be open on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All registered Fairfax County voters can vote early. The last day of early voting is Oct. 30.

This year, county officials are encouraging residents to vote early using an electronic ballot-marketing machine called an ExpressVote.

The system allows voters to use the machine’s touchscreen instead of filling out a ballot by hand. Ballots are then printed by the machine, a system that county officials say will prevent voters from missing any races on the ballot or accidentally voting for more than one candidate per office.

An additional 13 early voting locations will open up on Thursday, Oct. 21. Those sites will operate from noon to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Weekend hours will be added later: from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 23 and 30, and from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24.

Voters must bring identification when they vote, though a photo ID like a driver’s license is no longer required. Accepted forms include a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or another government document with the voter’s name and address.

Voting by mail, an option now open to all registered voters, will also kick off tomorrow. Requests to receive a mail-in ballot must be received by Oct. 22.

Masks are required for voters and poll workers at polling places, according to Worthy. Voters who do not wear masks will be able to vote outside.

“Everyone will be given the opportunity to vote,” he said.

The county is still looking for bilingual election offices who speak Korean or Vietnamese in addition to include. Bilingual speakers can apply online to become election officers until Oct. 8.

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In a meeting room that more resembles a college classroom than the stateliness of the board auditorium just two floors down, 20 volunteers are redrawing the lines that divide and define Fairfax County.

Appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on June 22, the 2021 Redistricting Advisory Committee (RAC) has been meeting regularly since late July, but members got their first opportunity on Monday (Sept. 13) to present the district maps they’ve created to determine the county’s leaders for the next decade.

Some members suggested limited changes, moving the Fort Buffalo precinct across the district line from Providence to Mason, for example. Others crafted entirely new districts around Lorton or a swath of Herndon and Chantilly east of Dulles International Airport.

Fairfax County has developed a publicly available mapping tool that allows communities to be realigned with a simple click of a button, but each alteration could have significant implications for what the county will look like in the future.

“These are not just lines on a map,” said Linda Smyth, who now represents Providence District on the RAC and previously represented it on the Board of Supervisors. “It’s about neighborhoods. It’s about people.”

Redistricting Advisory Committee Mason District representative Alis Wang added a Dulles district to her Fairfax County map (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The pressure on this year’s redistricting effort is even higher than usual as the county races to complete a year-long process that has been condensed into roughly five months, thanks largely to coronavirus-related delays in the release of data from the 2020 Census.

The RAC voted on Monday to request a timeline extension after complications in getting adjusted Census data from the Virginia Division of Legislative Services further delayed county staff’s ability to build the online mapping tool that the committee needs to do its work, according to Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw.

Under the schedule originally approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 8, the RAC was expected to finish its work and turn in all the map options they think the board should consider on Friday (Sept. 17).

However, the committee didn’t get the new Census population and demographic data until last Friday (Sept. 10). Prior to that, members had been using old data for training purposes, RAC Chairman Paul Berry says.

“We got the numbers much later in the calendar year than we expected. We would’ve been doing this in the spring if not for the pandemic,” Berry said Monday night. “…The board and Chairman [Jeff] McKay felt it was prudent to give everyone more time to do the work, because we’re all volunteers at the end of the day.”

After a motion put forward by Walkinshaw, the board voted unanimously on Tuesday (Sept. 14) to give the RAC until Sept. 28 to finalize its maps. The initial Sept. 10 deadline for members of the public to submit their own proposed maps has also been extended to this Sunday (Sept. 19).

Board members acknowledged that the new timeline remains less-than-ideal, giving the RAC under two weeks to evaluate its own maps and those from the public, but flexibility is limited by state law, which requires localities to send a redistricting plan to the attorney general for approval by the end of the year. Read More

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Plastic bag on ground (via Ivan Radic/Flickr)

Fairfax County will require certain businesses, but not all, to pay taxes on disposable plastic bags in a move to encourage customers to use reusable bags.

The Board of Supervisors passed the measure yesterday (Tuesday) after a new state law gave counties and cities the authority to begin imposing a 5-cent tax starting in 2021. The tax will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022 for Fairfax County.

In a statement released after the vote, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay acknowledged the challenges of introducing a new tax while the county continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, but he says the impact of plastic bags on the environment “is too great” to not act.

“There are simple steps residents can take to avoid the over-use of disposable plastic bags,” he said. “A small fee on plastic bags is an opportunity for residents to look at their habits while providing the County with avenues for environmental cleanup, education, and access to environmentally friendly alternatives.”

Fairfax County is the first locality in Northern Virginia to adopt a plastic bag tax, according to Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw’s office. Walkinshaw initiated a board motion to pursue the issue in July as part of a joint effort with McKay and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck.

Consistent with the state law, the tax applies to grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores, but there are exemptions for reusable plastic bags, bags used for perishable food to prevent damage or contamination, bags that carry prescription drugs or dry cleaning, and bags sold in bulk, such as garbage bags.

“Plastic bags frequently end up in a landfill, where it can take more than 500 years for the bag to disintegrate. Many plastic bags end up in our streams,” Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination Deputy Director Susan Hafeli said. “While the impact on human health is still being addressed, there is evidence that humans ingest and inhale thousands of microplastics per year, which result in the breakdown of disposable plastic bags and other plastic products.”

The Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination says the tax is intended to influence consumer behavior by discouraging consumers from using single-use disposable plastic bags.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. uses over 380 billion plastic bags and wraps yearly, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to create. Turtles, one of several aquatic creatures that suffer from the trash, die of starvation after eating them.

The Board of Supervisors approved the measure 9-1 with Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity — the lone Republican member — opposing it. He said food banks reported relying on the bags to distribute food and argued that it’s the wrong time to add any tax. Read More

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A nurse treats an inmate in an opioid prevention program (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County has provided drug or mental health treatment services to more than 2,100 people who would have otherwise wound up in jail since launching a diversion initiative five years ago, a recent report on the program says.

Released in August, the 2020 annual Diversion First report suggests the county’s efforts to emphasize support services over incarceration for people with mental health and substance use challenges are starting to pay off.

According to the report, Fairfax County’s jail population saw a 28% decrease from 2015 to 2020 in the number of people with behavioral health issues and misdemeanor charges, while the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board’s Merrifield Crisis Response Center received 37% more cases per year between 2016 and 2020.

Since Diversion First launched on Jan. 1, 2016, total calls for service involving mental illness with police response have risen every year, from 3,566 calls in 2016 to 9,989 in 2020. It wasn’t immediately clear whether that means the number of cases has increased or they are receiving more attention.

“Over the past several years, there has been increased attention on people with mental illness, co-occurring substance use disorders and/or developmental disabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system for low-level offenses,” Diversion First Director Lisa Potter said in a statement. “In addition, training and screening has increased, allowing for greater opportunities for identification, diversion, and referral and engagement in services.”

Fairfax County created the initiative in the wake of Natasha McKenna’s death at the Adult Detention Center in February 2015. Multiple sheriff’s deputies at the jail hit and used a Taser on McKenna, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, when attempting to transfer her to another facility.

While prosecutors declined to press charges in McKenna’s death, the county admitted that its jail had “become a warehouse for people with mental illness.”

“Diversion First offers alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness, co-occurring substance use disorders and/or developmental disabilities, who come into contact with the criminal justice system for low-level offenses,” the initiative’s website says.

Diversion First has expanded from its initial focus on transferring individuals from police custody to the Merrifield Center, which provides behavioral health and substance abuse services, to also encompass housing and judicial components.

Introduced in 2017, the housing aspects of the initiative include money to assist with initial rents and deposits for Oxford House group recovery homes as well as a partnership with the nonprofit New Hope Housing to provide permanent housing.

“The [New Hope Housing] program has been successful in keeping 30 individuals housed while helping to decrease their rate of psychiatric hospitalization and time spent in jail. This program costs considerably less than what it does to house an individual in jail — more than 50% less,” the 2020 report says, adding that 39 people have been served with this outreach throughout the program’s history.

The county has also added specialty dockets to its court system for veterans, mental health, and a drug court.

Fairfax County Chief Public Defender Dawn Butorac says all three dockets have been going well, as the courts are looking to expand the number of accepted individuals. But she notes there’s room for improvement. Read More

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A Volunteer Fairfax member carries Valentine cards for Inova workers earlier this year (staff photo by Jo DeVoe)

As the country reflects on the 20 years that have passed since the 9/11 attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon, volunteers in Fairfax County will spend this Saturday (Sept. 11) giving back to the community.

Volunteer Fairfax, the county’s volunteer network, has hosted a countywide day of service each fall to support local nonprofits for over 25 years. The 2021 VolunteerFest has been timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and will involve over 30 volunteer projects, including ones that can be done at home.

The proceedings will begin at 9 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway) with a Chalk4Peace.org art project for youth to create positive messages of peace using art and sidewalk chalk.

Fairfax County will also host a remembrance ceremony for those lost on 9/11 at the Bailey’s Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department (3601 Firehouse Lane) in Falls Church, though members of the public are being encouraged to watch online through Facebook or the county government’s cable channel.

Scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., the event is expected to have a number of public safety and elected officials in attendance, including Rep. Gerry Connolly, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay, Fire and Rescue Chief John Butler, and Police Chief Kevin Davis.

Additionally, the Department of Public Safety Communications will make a special, countywide announcement over Fire and Rescue radios at 10:28 a.m.

Starting at 10 a.m., the county will also hold its first Stuff the Bus food drive of the fall with sites at the government center and 22 other locations around the county, including Fairfax, Chantilly, Reston, Lorton, and McLean.

Now in its 10th year, the program organized by the county government and local nonprofits collects donations for local food banks to address hunger in the community. Volunteer Fairfax has also been accepting monetary donations online during the pandemic.

Registration is still open for a range of VolunteerFest projects.

In-person projects include removing invasive plants at Difficult Run Stream Valley Park in Oakton, cleaning up Centreville Elementary School’s gardens, and helping prepare a large garden bed for planting several trees to beautify South Run RECenter in Springfield.

Those looking to participate in an at-home project can create “homeless survival kits” to be distributed across Northern Virginia, make fleece blankets or toys for rescue dogs and cats, and craft face masks for people with mental health, substance use and homelessness issues at Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia centers.

There will also be a gratitude station at the government center for community members to compose messages of remembrance and thanks that will be distributed to local fire and police stations. The station is co-hosted by Kids Give Back, a local nonprofit that supports youth volunteering.

Originally called the Voluntary Action Center of Fairfax County when it was created in 1974, Volunteer Fairfax took on its current moniker in 1992 as the organization’s focus evolved to accommodate more volunteers looking to serve, including youths.

Volunteer Fairfax now works with almost 14,000 volunteers who have contributed more than 54,000 service hours to over 650 nonprofits and public agencies, according to its site.

According to a news release, this year’s edition of VolunteerFest is supported by AT&T, NetApp, Kaiser Permanente, Accenture, Deloitte, Virginia Service Foundation, and The Williams Foundation.

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