One year ago, as the first area residents were infected with coronavirus, ALIVE! started getting calls asking if we were “ready” to respond. Shortly after that, many more became sick and the need for basic assistance suddenly soared for those already living at or near poverty and for many just getting by. Thankfully, the next round of calls was from people asking, “How can I help?” And over the last year, your help has been essential, since the pandemic has hit low-income families hardest with jobs loss and illness, as well as creating disruptions in their lives from delays in supply chain and school closures.
Since the earliest days of ALIVE!, supporters like you have found motivation to help those in need through faith or love in community and humanity. Our supporters have always come from a variety of backgrounds but have held a shared belief that through our collective abilities, we are a community bound, enabled, and empowered to respond with love to calls for help. For years, our operations have depended on volunteers waking up early, staying long hours, and standing in bad weather. This last year, they have continued to serve while wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
ALIVE! distributed over 1.5 million pounds of food to our community since last year. Bag after bag of food is packed by volunteers, working for a united purpose, but safely at stations 6-feet apart in the open-air Food warehouse. The Food staff works diligently to ensure bags of healthy groceries get to our clients through ALIVE! public food distributions or home delivery to quarantined individuals.
Residents of the ALIVE! House transitional shelter have coped with COVID testing, quarantines, job loss, and childcare needs in a virtual learning environment. We are glad to be able to continue to provide them shelter, childcare, training, education, and virtual mentoring while adapting routines and practices to follow health safety guidelines.
To address economic impacts of the pandemic, ALIVE! Family Assistance increased the number of clients served each month. In the last year about 1,500 families have been helped, and in that time, we saw a switch from calls to help pay utility bills to calls for rental assistance. Additionally, requests to the program’s grocery home delivery service increased significantly.
In response to the growing concerns about eviction, ALIVE! worked with partners to create the Alexandria Eviction Prevention Program, a vital resource for people at-risk of losing their housing. In the first weeks of this program, more than 400 families came with questions about how to stay in their homes. We now receive about 25 calls per day and are working directly with tenants and landlords, sometimes meeting in the parking lot or building lobby, to ensure everyone is connected to resources.
We sadly closed our Child Development Center of 40 years, when pandemic-related circumstances made it untenable to operate a preschool. The ALIVE! Early Childhood Development Committee continues to search for new ways to serve the children and families that traditionally attended the CDC who now need access to learning tools at home. In December, we provided gifts of blocks, books, and other learning toys to over 100 children in Alexandria with low access to learning resources.
ALIVE! is looking forward while continuing to assess client needs. We reopened our Housewares program by kicking off with a community collection day. Thanks to your generosity, we collected enough donations to fill two trucks and the storage rooms of three church basements. These items provide the basic necessities to cook, clean, and sleep comfortably without spending valuable resources that could go toward medical bills, food, or rent. As the vaccine continues to roll out, we hope to reopen our Furniture program later this year.
Those who called and asked, “How can I help?” continue to follow-through. Help has come to us in the form of refrigerator containers and trucks, financial resources, rental space, advice from City experts in emergency operations, volunteers, and many partners. Because of your help, ALIVE! continues to serve Alexandrians in need during the pandemic. Thank you!
Eric Winakur, President
Jennifer Ayers, Executive Director