David and Rebecca Tax, owners of Clare and Don’s Beach Shack and Mike’s Deli in Falls Church, understand the importance of a good meal.
After all, the sibling duo has filled the bellies of hungry locals for over a decade.
But the Taxes also recognize that not everyone in the community has the means to eat well, even in a place like the Little City. So they decided to help.
Whether it’s serving meals to the homeless at the Safe Haven Day Shelter or providing Falls Church Public School students on free and reduced lunch programs with fresh, healthy food for the weekend, David and Rebecca feel compelled to do their part.
It’s not in any mission statement. It didn’t need to be talked about. It just makes sense, David says.
“It’s about just reaching across the street to help your neighbors when they need it,” he says. ”Do whatever you can for your neighbors when it doesn’t hurt that much. The Falls Church community has put us in the position where we’re fortunate enough to withstand helping people out and not really suffering too much because of it.
“So why not do it? It seems like the right thing to do.”
Rebecca got involved with the Safe Haven Day Shelter at the First Christian Church of Falls Church two years ago after one of her regular customers asked for a gift certificate for a fundraiser.
Rather than just give a slip of paper, Rebecca decided to go a step further, offering to provide the food and cook for the homeless constituents.
Now she goes once a month to whip up a hearty batch of jambalaya or pasta with sausage — “something a little different,” she says — for 100-150 homeless individuals. Often she’ll bring family members or staff from the restaurant to help out. After serving every month for two years, Rebecca now has a new group of regulars.
“It’s really fun,” she says. “The constituents over there are super nice, super grateful. Just an interesting mix of people.”
Even when they closed Clare and Don’s for a day in support of “A Day Without Immigrants” in February, David and Rebecca were at the restaurant as usual, cooking and packaging trays of food for their monthly visit to the shelter.
Joni Laurence, Safe Haven’s co-coordinator, says she’s never had another restaurant donate a full meal before. For a program that receives zero funding and relies exclusively on donations, the Taxes’ contribution is a true difference-maker.
“It’s huge,” Laurence says. “Not having to worry about finding funds or food to provide that meal — that’s a quarter of our monthly budget — it’s great. They’re so generous about it.”
All the folks who rely on Safe Haven, she added, “absolutely look forward to a Beach Shack Thursday.”
In addition to the shelter, David and Rebecca also work with the Falls Church Public School system on the Backpack Program, an initiative to provide students on free and reduced lunch with meals for the weekend or school break.
It may come as a surprise, Rebecca says, that “even though we’re a pretty affluent community here in Falls Church City, there is still food insecurity.”
These kids may have parents who are too sick to cook or work two jobs to get by. In these cases, the children may be home for the weekend without access to any healthy food.
So the Taxes help once a month by providing boxes of food for a handful of families, stocking them with fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats and starches. Rebecca also likes to toss in toothbrushes, toothpaste and bars of soap, “little things that are expensive and add up at the grocery store,” she says.
For David and Rebecca, these extra endeavors outside their normal business are part what makes a tight-knit community like Falls Church thrive.
“We worked a long time not making any money and barely paying our bills and now we’re in a position that we’re able to kind of pay it forward,” David says. “So we’re trying to do that.”