This Tuesday, the fellowship hall at the historic Falls Church Episcopal was jammed to the hilt by members of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and invited representatives of over 30 City of Falls Church-based non-profit community service organizations for a festive kickoff to a holiday season of giving and sharing.
The event was organized by the Chamber as part of its now-annual “Live Local” initiative that was endorsed by the Falls Church City Council with a special proclamation encouraging the Falls Church public to do just that, to focus holiday gift buying but also dining and contributing to good causes to City of Falls Church-based institutions and opportunities. For a city of Falls Church’s size, 2.2 square miles and 14,800 people, there are a stunning number of such opportunities.
Recognizing this, the Chamber of Commerce, beginning with the inventive leadership of now-retired Sally Cole, set up a format to bring local businesses and local nonprofits together to optimize the potential for win-win situations. This is the first time since the pandemic interrupted everything that a full roster of local nonprofits were invited to set up display tables in the church’s large lobby area and adjacent fellowship hall, and to invite a dialogue between the local businesses and those nonprofit entities.
It was a lively affair, to say the least, and a lot of people from one general walk of life got to meet, talk and trade information with a lot from another.
The Rev. Burl Salmon, rector of the historic church, greeted everybody for the first of its kind event at the church, as did the Chamber’s executive director Elise Bengtson, board chair Emily Jenkins and Christopher Fay, the executive director of Homestretch, Inc., one of the City’s most effective and successful non-profits whose mission is to provide the whole array of services that are needed to lift and family with children out of homelessness and into a stable new environment.
A highlight was the news about the City’s “Little City Gift Card Program” that is using federal grant money provided through the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that is aimed at helping communities recover from the enormous array of dislocations and financial losses resulting from the pandemic. In Falls Church’s case almost $1 million is being made available for it and related programs, as designated by the City Council and the City’s Economic Development Authority (EDA).
The gift card program is aimed at helping local businesses as well as increasing the buying power of residents. It enables the City to provide a match for gift cards purchased by citizens. For example, a citizen buying a $100 gift card will receive a match from the City of $50, meaning the citizen can buy $150 at any participating local business, while the business receives the full value of the card.
Businesses wishing to participate can sign up with the City, and the cards will go on sale to the public on Saturday, Nov. 26, known as “Small Business Saturday” following Thanksgiving.
“We are thrilled to support this program and thank the City Council for its sponsorship and support,” the Chamber’s Bengtson and Jenkins said in a statement. “We cannot think of a better way for the City to encourage its friends and neighbors to support local business owners and the community.”
As the community careens toward the holiday season in full flower, and as the gift cards go on sale that Saturday after Thanksgiving, so will the annual “Very Victorian Christmas” event at the Cherry Hill Farmhouse, open from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., where costumed reenactors will welcome guests to enjoy period decorations and an 1860s Blaisdell family celebration.
The initial highlight after that kickoff will come on Monday, Nov. 28, when the annual Broad Street tree lighting celebration, launching the lighting of street trees on the City’s main street, Route 7, will commence, running for the first time this year all the way up the road from the Broad and Washington intersection to the new Meridian high school
The festive, lighted trees will make the City an even more desirable destination for families from throughout the wider District, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) region, giving the City’s businesses and citizens an added opportunity to both spread cheer and win business.
The lighting ceremony on Monday the 28th will occur at a new location, at the Modera Founder’s Row at the corner of W. Broad and N. West Streets at 6 p.m. There will be food trucks on hand, even as a half-dozen new restaurants at Founder’s Row prepare to open for the first time during December.
The Rock Star Realty group will provide hot chocolate and cookies, and the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department will bring Santa in on a fire truck.
Then, a holiday gift and craft show, with a children’s shoppe, will open up at the Falls Church Community Center on the weekend of Dec. 3 and 4. Over 40 local crafters and merchants will be selling unique handmade items, baked goods and more from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. that Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The Children’s Holiday Shoppe, hosted by the Friends of Cherry Hill, runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Community Center and volunteers will help children select gifts for $6 or less for friends and family, while free gift wrapping will also be provided.
Ample free parking will be available at the Kaiser Permanente garage, 201 N. Washington with an entrance on Park Avenue, only two blocks from the Community Center.
Keith Thurston of the Village Preservation and Improvement Society has promised that his group will pull off a Watch Night full of activities on New Year’s Eve, and the public should stay tuned for a lot more to come.