(Updated 3:45 p.m.) Local charitable organization Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (4511 Daly Drive J) welcomed Sen. Mark Warner through its doors last week.
On Friday, June 16, Warner toured WFCM’s food pantry and warehouse in Chantilly and participated in a roundtable discussion with WFCM leaders and partners, such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, Wegmans, Boy Scouts and Kings of Kings Lutheran Church.
WFCM primarily provides financial resources and free food and toiletries to residents of Fairfax County’s Sully District.
WFCM Executive Director Harmonie Taddeo says Warner had reached out to Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith to see how federal funding designated to the district during the COVID-19 pandemic has been used.
“What an opportunity for him to be able to see that this is how your money’s been spent, right?” Taddeo, who led Warner on the tour of WFCM’s facilities, said. “You approve these bills? Now, here’s literally the milk in the refrigerators that [those bills] paid for.”
In 2020 and 2021, WFCM received $1 million and $1.2 million respectively, from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Emergency rent assistance funds also granted WFCM $5.5 million in 2021, and the American Rescue Plan Act gave WFCM $257,588 in 2022 and $151,480 in 2023, according to a handout provided by the nonprofit.
These funds provided relief for WFCM, which saw a marked increase in need as soon as the pandemic hit.
“Before the pandemic, we were probably serving 300 families a month in the food pantry, and we spiked all the way up to 650,” Taddeo said. “Now we’re about 500 to 550 every single month…So the needs are just so much greater, and we think they’re going to take a long time to go back.”
With WFCM continuing to experience high demand for its services, Food Pantry Manager Kristine Hurt implored Warner to relay to Congress the significance of funding local food pantries like WFCM.
“I hope you see, beside our hearts, that we’re very efficient with money here,” Hurt said during the discussion. “And when you’re saying you need to cut things, I hope that you can go and share that this is a program that is using every dollar better than anybody else could in my opinion.”
Acknowledging the concerns over the potential decrease in federal funding for local food programs as emergency funds authorized during the pandemic dwindle, Warner told FFXnow that his office will continue to defend local organizations that had been assisted.
“How do we make sure that these great initiatives where we’re really stretching dollars don’t disappear because the Covid funds are going to run out?” Warner said. “…[We’re going to] see if we can do more in terms of direct investment, but also in terms of seeing if we can even give greater tax credit benefits.”
Warner also noted that he plans to continue using his platform to combat food insecurity locally through the Farm Bill, which he co-sponsored with Sen. Tim Kaine in 2018.
“Most of the food programs are actually funded through the Department of Agriculture and the Farm Bill,” Warner said. “[The Farm Bill] usually goes for five years — it sets up all the programs, things like these food relief programs…This is the year that it’s supposed to get renewed. So we’re trying to build in things like this challenge around food deserts.” Read More
The one-term Sully District representative announced her candidacy earlier today, saying she’s running to “stand up” to Governor Glenn Youngkin.
We are at a critical turning point as a Commonwealth where the lived experiences of our elected officials matter more than ever. The new 36th district deserves a Senator who has deep roots in the community with a long record of serving its residents and the bold energy it takes to stand up to Governor Youngkin’s extreme policies. As Chair of the School Board, I led the charge when we successfully sued Youngkin to protect our children against anti-science Executive overreach just days after he was sworn into office. I am focused on the future prosperity of the 36th district and its residents. It is critical that we protect abortion access, high quality public education, expanded voting rights, champion climate change solutions, and stand up for our progressive values. I look forward to talking with my neighbors in the weeks and months ahead as I seek to represent them in Richmond.
She also runs a local air charter company based in Manassas with her husband. She is also a first-generation immigrant, according to a press release.
The announcement notes that during her time on the school board, Pekarsky prioritized “closing opportunity gaps, increasing teacher and staff pay, improving title IX training for students, and requiring research-based literacy instruction.”
Last month, Pekarsky told FFXnow that she would make a decision in January regarding whether she will run for reelection to the school board.
This announcement now takes her out of the running for the Sully District seat, which will be on the Nov. 7 ballot with the school board’s 11 other seats. No candidates have come forward for the position yet.
However, with Pekarsky seeking the Democratic nomination for state senate in the 36th District, that could put her up against a long-time incumbent in the primary.
With redistricting, though, only about 6% of his former constituents are in the newly redrawn 36th District, where Barker resides and would potentially run for re-election. The district covers Chantilly, Clifton, Fair Oaks and Centreville right up to the Prince William County line.
Most of Barker’s former constituents are scattered across several other districts, including the 33rd District, the 34th District, the 35th District, and the 29th District, which is now mainly centered in Prince William County.
FFXnow has reached out to Barker about his intentions for the 2023 election several times but has yet to hear back as of publication, making Pekarsky the only confirmed candidate at the moment.
Photo via StellaPekarsky.com
Fairfax County has opted not to move forward with a potential Sully District renaming.
Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith announced at yesterday’s board meeting that she believes “the best step forward at this time is to retain” the name of the magisterial district, which encompasses the southwestern corner of Fairfax County.
Based on input from virtual town halls, emails, and community conversations, she proposed instead finding new ways to educate residents and visitors about the area’s history, particularly at the plantation in Chantilly that gave the district its name and is now the Sully Historic Site.
“In working on a path forward, I am actively talking with the NAACP, the county’s equity officer and the Fairfax County Park Authority executive director about ways we can have a more honest conversation about the history of our country, county and the Sully District,” Smith said in her board matter.
Supported without further discussion by the full Board of Supervisors, the decision concludes a months-long effort to gather public feedback after the county’s 2021 Redistricting Advisory Committee (RAC) recommended name changes for Sully and the former Lee District earlier this year.
After completing its primary task of redrawing the county’s electoral district maps, the committee was charged in January with reviewing whether to rename any districts based on possible historical ties to the Confederacy, slavery or racism.
According to a report finalized in March, Sully District was named after the plantation built by Richard Bland Lee, the first person to represent Northern Virginia in Congress. It said four generations of humans had been enslaved and trafficked at the property, including over 100 people during Lee’s tenure as owner.
When Lee inherited the land from his father in 1787, he received 29 enslaved people, according to the park authority’s history of the site, which features Lee’s 225-year-old house as well as 120 acres of park, gardens, a smokehouse and other structures.
While the website acknowledges the presence of slavery, it refers to the property as Lee’s “country home.” Smith’s board matter suggested that the county be more active and creative in providing information and programming about that aspect of the site’s history.
Smith said people weighed in with a variety of perspectives on whether to rename Sully District, including at town halls held on June 2 and Sept. 1, but the “most important thing I heard in these conversations was the need to heal our community.”
“The best way to do this is to work on ways to tell the true story of our sometimes complicated and misunderstood history and that of the Sully District specifically,” she said. “One way to do this is to educate the public about how land was developed, who benefitted and who was marginalized in the process.”
In addition to reevaluating what stories are told at the Sully Historic Site, the county could highlight historically Black neighborhoods affected by its westward expansion, similar to efforts to preserve Gum Springs in the Mount Vernon area. Read More
The public engagement process regarding a possible name change for the Sully District is kicking off next month.
A virtual meeting to discuss changing renaming the district is set for tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 p.m. A brief presentation by county staff will be followed by an online forum. Interested participants can email email@example.com to receive a meeting link.
The discussion follows a March recommendation by the Fairfax County Redistricting Advisory Committee for a name change. The committee recommended renaming the Lee and Sully districts because of the names’ historic ties to the Confederacy and slavery.
In late June, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to change the name of the Lee magisterial district to Franconia.
A spokesperson for Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said she has not reached a decision on whether a name change is warranted.
“Her goal is to make a decision after the meeting but doesn’t have a specific date to make a decision,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement to FFXnow.
Residents are also encouraged to share their comments and feedback by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 703-814-7100.
A decision is not expected at the forum, according to event organizers.
— Sully Supervisor Kathy L. Smith (@SullySupervisor) August 15, 2022
A grand opening for the new Sully Community Center is set for Sept. 17 at noon, celebrating the conclusion of a nearly $22 million project by Fairfax County.
County board members and county officials will celebrate the opening of the nearly 36,000-square-foot center, which is located on five acres at the intersection of Wall Road and the Air and Space Museum Parkway in Chantilly.
The facility is the new home for the Sully Senior Center, which formerly operated in leased space in Chantilly. It also includes a 4,000-square-foot healthcare suite managed by HealthWorks for Northern Virginia.
“I am pleased the new Sully Community Center will be opening to provide a wide array of accessible programs and services for the surrounding communities,” Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said in a statement to FFXnow. “The exciting addition of the healthcare suite will provide closer accessibility to primary healthcare for those who have faced barriers in healthcare access.”
Are you ready to celebrate the new Sully Community Center? Join us for the Grand Opening Saturday, Sept. 17th beginning at 12 pm with the ribbon cutting! Then stick around and enjoy food, performances, family activities, and more! #sully #community #communitycenter #grandopening pic.twitter.com/Vqn3T3w65P
— CelebrateFFX (@CelebrateFFX) August 30, 2022
Programs include after school classes, facility rentals, fitness classes, gym sports, and meeting spaces. The Fairfax County Park Authority is also offering specialty camps, garden plots, school-aged child care, youth camps and recreation services.
Smith noted that the county’s partnership with the park authority also resulted in additional gym space and pickleball courts.
The center cost roughly $22 million to construct. Overall costs are pending because the project is still being finalized, a county spokesperson told FFXnow.
Construction on the project began in October 2020.