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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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A Sunoco gas station in McNair had unleaded gas surpass $4.41 per gallon on Sunday, March 13 (staff photo by David Taube)

Gas pump prices nationwide have been hitting record highs, with the average cost per gallon at $4.38 in Fairfax County today (Tuesday).

While there has been a slight dip since prices peaked on Friday (March 11), AAA reports that consumers “can expect the current trend at the pump to continue as long as crude prices climb.”

AAA attributes the soaring prices to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and President Joe Biden’s subsequent ban on Russian energy imports, leading to decreased supplies to meet rising demand for fuel.

The war and sanction have added pressure to a market already challenged by global supply chain issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

With drivers facing added expenses, Bruce Wright, president of the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, says he has noticed more people riding.

“I think it’s a continuation of the increase in ridership that occurred during the pandemic,” he wrote in an email.

He noted that Bike to Work Day is May 20. The annual event encourages people to avoid driving and cycle for short trips, not just commuting.

“I have seen a sharp increase in the number of people using e-bikes, which I think are transformative,” Wright wrote. “They allow people to travel further with less effort, extending those short trips to much longer trips by bike. Cargo e-bikes are also getting more popular and I think that popularity will continue to grow.”

For entrepreneur Abraham Ali, the gas prices have deterred him from his usual routine as well as habits at the pump. He ventured out for the first time this week since the gas prices shot up.

He makes deliveries to places such as Ashburn and Centreville for his fashion business, Frontline Variety Shop, because that’s cheaper than mailing them. Now, he questions if that’s still the case.

“It’s definitely affecting us,” he said outside a Sunoco gas station in McNair yesterday (Monday). “I don’t even want to drive at all.”

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