Virginia Task Force One, Fairfax County’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, is home safely from its mission to assist areas of earthquake-ravaged Turkey and Syria, but the devastation that killed nearly 50,000 people and affected millions will last for months, perhaps years. On Friday, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) announced the launch of a local aid program to collect money that will be used to purchase food packages for earthquake victims. This approach is different from previous international humanitarian efforts organized by NVRC, a coalition of Northern Virginia jurisdictions, when residents literally donated tons of blankets, coats, socks, and gloves which were shipped to Ukraine in 2022, and to Turkish refugees several years earlier.
The most important, and immediate, needs are for food and shelter. Northern Virginia leaders have set a goal of $25,000 and encourage residents and businesses to visit www.helpearthquakevictims.org to donate. Northern Virginia is a very generous community, so the $25,000 goal should be reached quickly and, hopefully, exceeded many times over. At the press conference announcing the effort, NVRC Chairman John T. Chapman, a member of the Alexandria City Council, noted that Northern Virginia residents and businesses “have always stepped up to the plate to help those in need. This time is no different.” Fairfax County Board Chairman Jeff McKay added that the news is heartbreaking, but that our community always rallies to help those in need, both regionally and internationally. Mustafa Akpinar, a 20-year resident of Fairfax County, said that more than 67 percent of his hometown in Turkey was destroyed, and he expressed deep thanks to “our wonderful NOVA community” on behalf of the American Turkish community.
Saturday was breezy, but bright and sunny, when the opening of the new Annandale Community Center was celebrated by an enthusiastic crowd of nearby residents. The new center will feature youth programs by the Greater Washington Boys and Girls Clubs, and is located in the Heritage Mall in the Braddock District. It is immediately across Heritage Drive from Ossian Hall Park and Annandale High School, which are in the Mason District, so the new space will serve youth from both magisterial districts. The center features two spacious activity rooms, a small serving kitchen, accessible restrooms, and lots of natural light. The most popular dedication speaker was Braddock Elementary School fifth grade student, Pedro, who wore an elegant straw hat and an embroidered red vest from his native Guatemala. Pedro had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone, but his message was more poignant than any of the elected officials on the program. Pedro, who speaks three languages, said he came to the U.S. when he was four years old, and he has worked hard to adjust and succeed in his new home. He said he really likes his principal, and is looking forward to participating in programs at the new center.
The Mason District Budget Town Meeting, in-person, will be held this Thursday, March 9, 2023, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Fairfax County Chief Financial Officer Christina Jackson will present an overview of the proposed FY 2024 county budget, and there will be a question-and-answer period after. I look forward to seeing you there!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.