Commentary: Spending Time with Nonprofits in Alexandria

Commentary: Spending Time with Nonprofits in Alexandria


CAC Executive Director Giselle L. Pelaez

People say the summer is a slow time in Alexandria, but there are people working tirelessly every day to improve the lives of others in our community. We may not know it, but we are blessed by the amazing work they do and the people they serve. Being new to my role at ACT, I wanted to learn more about the incredible organizations that serve our community on a daily basis so I’m starting a tour and invite you to join me.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Center for Alexandria’s Children. The CAC is located on the West End of Alexandria and the organization has been serving children and their families for more than 10 years. They organize playgroups for those communities in Alexandria where preschool is not the norm, engaging parents and their children in a curriculum that helps prepare these little ones to be ready for school. The CAC also works with families in cases of child abuse. There is incredible coordination among city social workers, law enforcement, counselors, and others to identify abuse, prevent it, and help those who are affected. This child advocacy center is a best practice model doing amazing things for our city. I was humbled by the work they do and the collaboration that makes it all happen.

The next stop on my tour was Casa Chirilagua, located in the Arlandria neighborhood of Alexandria. I was struck by the intentionality of the organization and how it began informally 10 years ago when three young women moved to the neighborhood with the goal of listening to the stories and wisdom of their Latino neighbors. These women decided to respond to their neighbors’ concerns about their children’s academic progress by starting a reading club in their own apartment. The organization soon grew to include Kids Club, Teens Club, a mentoring program, and much more. Casa Chirilagua also partners with parents to help equip them with the tools and resources they need to help their families succeed. They recently moved into a new building on Mount Vernon Avenue and it is quickly becoming the go-to community center for the neighborhood.

You may be wondering how I decided which organizations to visit. Each of these groups received a Spring 2017 Capacity Building Grant from ACT for Alexandria. They, like so many others, are doing amazing things right here in our community. In both of these cases, I was impressed at the public-private partnership and community support that happens to make it all work. Both groups actively participate in ACT and City of Alexandria led initiatives like the Alexandria Council of Human Service Organizations and Spring2ACTion – Alexandria’s Giving Day.

Want to learn more? I will be continuing my nonprofit tour and I encourage you to join me and meet those who are doing life-changing work in Alexandria.

Betsy Micklem is the director of development at ACT for Alexandria, the community foundation for Alexandria. ACT works with local nonprofits and the donors who support them to keep charitable dollars at work in Alexandria. To join Micklem on her nonprofit tour, contact her at