Senator Bearing Gifts

Senator Bearing Gifts

Sen. John Warner visits Alexandria to discuss funding for the Urban League and the Boys and Girls Club.

When Republican Sen. John Warner was growing up in Depression-era Washington, D.C., his father was a gynecologist who would frequently donate his services to those in need. The senator remembers waiting in his father’s car parked outside Washington clinics while his father was inside providing public service.

“He told me to do my homework while I waited,” Warner said in a meeting last week with the Urban League. “If I did it well, he would get me an ice cream.”

The public spiritedness of Warner’s father was inherited by the son, who made two appearances in Alexandria last week at the Boys and Girls Club and the Urban League. As the budget for the federal Department of Health and Human Services comes closer to completion, Warner is fighting to secure $300,000 for the Boys and Girls Club and $100,000 for the Urban League. The bill has cleared the Senate but a different version without that specific funding has passed the House. The senator hopes to add the funding as the bill goes to conference.

“It’s not everyday we get a senator in here,” said Ronald Rust, program director for the Boys and Girls Club. “I think the kids were happy to see him.”

The club is housed in a 1936 building, and its leaders have been trying to raise money for a major renovation. When Warner arrived on Wednesday morning, the kids scrambled to greet him. Rust said that if the senator is able to secure the $300,000 appropriation from the Health and Human Services budget, the club would benefit tremendously.

“I was glad to see a senator come here and see what kind of needs we have,” Rust said. “I feel very positive about the whole thing.”

At the Urban League, Sen. Warner heard a presentation on the group’s Resource Mothers program. Since 1983, the program has promoted healthy pregnancies for women with limited support systems. Urban League President Lavern Chatman said that if the senator was able to deliver a $100,000 appropriation from the Health and Human Services budget, the Northern Virginia Urban League would be able to greatly expand the program.

“As an Urban League, our mission is to get African Americans and disadvantaged people into the mainstream,” Chatman told the senator. “This $100,000 would really help us fill a gap in this program.”

The senator was obviously impressed with both organizations. After touring the 1830s slave pen in the basement of the Urban League’s headquarters, he posed for pictures with the staff and then headed back to Washington.

“You’re doing the Lord’s work,” he told Urban League employees.