Concerned citizens in and around Falls Church are teaming up to help the area’s most vulnerable by dropping off medicine, delivering groceries, taking out the trash and more during the coronavirus pandemic.
At least two separate groups of residents have created teams of volunteers offering their services to assist the elderly, those with health issues and other at-risk members of the community with once-ordinary tasks that have not only proved increasingly difficult during this time but can also be life-threatening.
With more than 125 members, the Facebook group “Falls Church Community help during covid-19” was started by the crew at the City’s Neighborhood Barbershop after barber Will Armstrong got the idea when he was inspired by a similar group from another state.
Shop owner Dustin Foley, who has been spreading the word and soliciting volunteers by promoting the group through his personal and business social media accounts, says everyone is welcome to join and participate.
“It doesn’t take a special skill set to help out your neighbors,” Foley told the News-Press. “Taking trashcans to the curb, mowing lawns, moving cars to avoid parking violations, grabbing grocery items, or cooking a meal for an elderly person could be life changing for some folks.”
Foley knows full well the damage the pandemic has had on the Falls Church community, having seen his friends’ businesses temporarily closed down and the ensuing efforts made via GoFundMe and other campaigns to help affected employees. Last night, his barbershop was forced to close its own doors when Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order shuttering certain non-essential businesses went into effect at midnight.
“My nerves have been on edge,” Foley said. “It’s been a roller coaster of emotions watching my shop and other businesses in the area face the challenges this pandemic has caused.”
So far, the group’s runs have included procuring and delivering hard-to-find items like tissues to people isolated at home with flu symptoms, with Foley anticipating greater demand for groceries and medicine in the days ahead.
The duo behind another group, “Falls Church Area COVID-19 Aid,” came together after F.C. residents Mike Michener and Ally Bernstein made similar posts on the neighborhood social networking site Nextdoor, seeking to help those in need.
Michener got the idea to help after he was travelling in Italy last month, just before virtually all services in the country were shut down in an effort to stem the tide of the virus.
“I visited some of my friends right before the whole country was put on lockdown,” Michener said in a news release. “I have heard some heartwarming stories about how young Italians are checking on their elderly neighbors and doing their shopping so they can stay home and safe.”
Bernstein said “Ensuring that the most vulnerable people in our community do not feel forgotten or left behind is our main priority. That would include the elderly, healthcare workers on the front lines who get off duty too late to shop for groceries, low-income families who already face food insecurity, or people with mobility issues and disabilities.”
Michener told the News-Press his group has been delivering groceries to a client with a compromised immune system and who recently suffered a stroke.
“Both her mobile phone and truck were not working, she couldn’t leave her apartment, and her weekly grocery delivery from Safeway was canceled last Monday with only an hour’s notice due to lack of inventory from panic buying,” he explained. “She filled out on online form that one of our volunteers created, and I reached out to her to ask what she needed.”
Michener and Bernstein’s operation has weekly logistic coordinators fielding calls and then assigned runners to shop and deliver groceries via non-contact drop-off. Foley says his group is also taking the proper precautions during runs to ensure safe delivery.
“Hands are properly sanitized, the items are being disinfected and are left on porches to ensure contact-less delivery,” he told the News-Press.
Requests to the Falls Church Area COVID-19 Aid group can be made by filling out a form, linked here, or by calling 703-982-0736. For assistance from Foley and Armstrong’s volunteers, a request can be made by making a post in their Facebook group.
“The community thus far has been ready to jump on any need,” Foley said. “The selfless outpouring of support has been overwhelming and uplifting during these challenging times.”
In addition to the citizen-led groups, the City of Falls Church also has its own list of resources available for residents seeking assistance.
“We recommend those who want to volunteer to view the list of established resources on our website, www.fallschurchva.gov/help,” City of F.C. Director of Communications Susan Finarelli told the News-Press in a statement. “Please be safe and practice social and physical distancing as much as possible. We wish everyone well and thank them for their big hearts.”