Community Stakeholders (Courtesy Photo)

The Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria teamed with Saint Joseph Catholic Church to host a working breakfast for community stakeholders.  Discussions quickly became passion filled and ended with the call to establish an Alexandria Coalition to tackle the tough challenges facing an increasing number of residents today.  The attendees, who included a wide swath of the community, believe that by joining forces they can accomplish more.   

Welcoming breakfast guests, Beverly Anderson, St Joseph’s Business Manager and new award recipient from the Arlington Diocese Multicultural Ministries, stated: “We are very pleased to host this excellent event.  We need to do this more often and invite more citizens to join us.”  In advance of the breakfast, via email, ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings Jr. stated:  “I just wanted to express my sincere gratitude to CCNA for your hard work and dedication to engage our community stakeholders in this important work regarding the future of our young people. Unfortunately, I will be traveling to Chicago for a Minority Student Achievement Network governing board meeting where I serve as president and (therefore) unable to attend this wonderful event.” 

Chapman, Perriette Peters, Principal, Hammond Middle School, Gwendolyn Lewis, CCNA Executive Director & Mayor Silberberg attend the breakfast (Courtesy Photo)

Over the two-hour period, participants - which included representatives from the Alexandria Public School System, the interfaith community, parents, businesses, nonprofit organizations, the health department, the City Council, the Mayor, and other concerned citizens - discussed a variety of difficult and thorny issues.  The need for funding topped the list of concerns, as nonprofits scramble for grants and other monetary resources which are being severely cut back.  Some participants called for an educational and/or civic foundation to engage donors directly and address funding needs.  Other areas of concern included the high school dropout rate, the impact of Amazon’s new facility, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, housing, hunger, transportation, and the list went on and on. Pierrette Peters, Principal at Hammond Middle School, noted that, “Partnerships with CCNA and other community stakeholders are vital and key for success.” 

While thanking Mayor Allison Silberberg for her leadership on dedicated funding for affordable housing, City Councilman John Chapman said, “People are being priced out of the City. That’s just one of many crucial challenges facing Alexandria today.” Other issues, he said, include the City’s infrastructure with its large sewer bill and ever increasing traffic. Hunger is of growing concern.  The focus, he stressed, has to be about the children and their future.  

“We have so many differing, yet related concerns touching our community,” said Brenda Adams, lifelong Alexandrian and CCNA Board Vice Chair.  “We definitely need to partner with others to tackle the tough issues.”  With so many challenges, everyone agreed that a formalized coalition, one where all groups are represented, may present the best way forward to tackle these growing concerns. 

Church Members, Anthony Johnson, Beverly Anderson and Father Fest present $5000 check to Gwendolyn Lewis, CCNA Executive Director (Courtesy Photo)

As the session closed, St. Joseph presented CCNA with a five-thousand-dollar donation. Thanking the church for its continual generous support, Gwendolyn Lewis, CCNA Executive Director, noted, “we will use the money to support our Reach and Rise for Excellence (RARE) mentoring and tutoring program at Hammond Middle School.” 

“If you are in a position to help, we want to challenge you and encourage you to do so,” said Father Donald Fest, Pastor of Saint Joseph Catholic Church.   

The Community Stakeholders Breakfast is part of an ongoing series of community forums, led by CCNA.  The next forum, still to be scheduled, will look to address even more critical issues and next steps.