Roughly seven months after the 34-day federal government shutdown seems a fitting time to remind Alexandria residents that some of our neighbors have still not fully recovered from this economic shock. As the director for Outreach & Mission at Christ Church, I saw firsthand the ripple effect the shutdown had on our community: restaurant, retail, and hospitality workers whose shifts were reduced or eliminated because business was down; home improvement contractors whose jobs dried up as workers waited out the shutdown; ride service providers whose client lists dwindled as people stayed home.
We also saw frightened federal workers, people who never thought they would need to visit a food pantry or seek help to pay their bills. There are contractors who will never be paid. The shutdown swelled the ranks of those who needed our help, a population that regularly includes refugees and the working poor.
In the midst of this dark time, I saw a great deal of caring and a rapid response. The City of Alexandria promptly collaborated with ACT for Alexandria and Virginia Theological Seminary to create a fund to support our work with these residents. Eight churches and nonprofits were awarded grants from this fund. We tackled the immediate crisis; and together we helped our neighbors avoid eviction, keep the lights on, and pay medical bills. We offered $56,322.58 in assistance beyond what we normally distribute to pay 248 bills, distributed 26,000 pounds of supplemental food, and added to the operating funds of organizations that relied on Combined Federal Campaign donations.
I’m grateful to the City of Alexandria, ACT for Alexandria, Virginia Theological Seminary, and our outreach partners for mobilizing so quickly last winter. We continue to see people who feel the impact of this shutdown. There are hundreds of vulnerable residents whose financial cushion is even thinner. As we enjoy the end of summer, I want us all to remember that this work is not done.
Melanie Gray, MSW
Director for Outreach and Mission
Christ Church, Alexandria