Neighbors Serving Neighbors
ACCA Celebrates Fifty Years of Service to Annandale
It all started in March of 1967 when federal regulations deemed that 13 children — 4 of whom were African American — were no longer eligible to receive subsidized day care because their parents’ income exceeded the federal poverty level.
Distressed about the children’s plight, community activist Fred Ruffing, president of the Higher Horizon Day Care Center (housed at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church), vowed to do something to help these families. His first stop, with his wife Emily, was a meeting at Peace Lutheran Church with ministers and laypersons from eight Annandale area churches. These churches pledged money to help place the children in new day care centers and appointed a day care action committee to find places for the children.
However, despite the funding support, they were not able to place all the children, since only two of the centers contacted would accept African American children, and they were full. In addition, the fees at many of the centers were too high for the group’s limited resources.
It became apparent they might have to start their own day care center — a daunting prospect. But they were determined and out of that determination, the Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA) arose.
John Calvin Presbyterian Church (Columbia Pike) volunteered to allow ACCA use of their building for the center. The group received a grant from the County of Fairfax and participating churches, which now numbered 12, and then incorporated in November 1967. The ACCA Day Care Center officially opened on January 3, 1968 with an enrollment of 32 children, paid staff, a small bus, and great joy. Parents paid tuition based on a sliding scale, depending on their income and family size.
The day care center remained at John Calvin Presbyterian Church until 1977, when it moved into the building that previously had been the Annandale Elementary School on Columbia Pike. The ACCA Child Development Center (CDC) remains there today, with a staff of 60 employees to watch over and educate close to 200 children. In addition to the Child Development Center, ACCA provides food, rental assistance, furniture, and other services to low-income families in the Annandale/Bailey's Crossroads area. In particular, the local Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, and a Used Furniture Program for those in need are vastly utilized, and donations are always most welcome.
This year on Saturday, April 29th, ACCA will sponsor two houses in Annandale as part of the National Rebuilding Together Day. ACCA first became involved with the program in 1990 when a group of about 25 volunteers from 5 churches repaired one home. Since then, ACCA volunteers have repaired 117 homes, raised over $162,000 and provided more than 33,000 hours of volunteer service.
The Rebuilding Together program is held each year on the last Saturday in April from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. The work consists of repairing owner-occupied homes of low-income individuals and families, primarily the elderly and disabled, and group homes. Over 70% of the homes repaired have had at least one disabled person. The average age of the homeowners is 69.
At a time of increased economic stress, many homeowners are faced with choosing between necessary home repairs or paying for health care, food or utilities. Over the next four weeks, the ACCA house captains will be working with two such home owners to review the work to be done and recruit volunteers. They need painters, people with basic carpentry and home repair skills, and generalists who are willing to help where needed. The skill levels and number of volunteers required vary with the work to be accomplished. If you would like to help, or if you would like more information, please contact Marie Monsen at 703-354-9408 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You will take far more away than you give!
HIGHLIGHTS: Through the efforts of 26 local churches and more than 500 volunteers ACCA was able to serve nearly 6,500 people in our community last year.
The Food Pantry made deliveries to 77 households in February, assisting 292 individuals. This was more than twice the level of assistance provided in January. Girl Scout Troop 675 brought a donation of canned goods that they collected at their Thinking Day Celebration on February 24. Volunteers from Cornerstone Church helped stock the shelves in March and a local soccer club held its fourth Kicks for Cans tournament benefiting the Food Pantry on March 26th. As a result, and following on the heels of the Stuff the Bus campaign in January, donations remain high for now.
Some businesses have organized food drives at their offices offering pizza or an extended lunch hour to anyone who participates. To show your strength as a corporate citizen, organize a food drive once or more a year. Donations are the lifeblood of this Food Pantry, and this is an opportunity to make a significant contribution to those right in the Annandale community while providing a positive learning experience for your kids or employees.
Homeowner Associations have made a difference as well. The Lafayette Village HOA has hosted a food drive each Martin Luther King Day since 2009. This year they collected 388 pounds of pantry items donated by their residents. Ask your HOA to set up a similar food drive.
The Furniture Donation volunteers collect, warehouse, and deliver donated furniture, free of charge, to needy families in the Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads, and Culmore areas. The furniture is stored in a building near the Historic Church at 6935 Columbia Pike. Volunteers work there on Saturday mornings receiving and sorting donations. Guidelines for donations can be found at: www.accacares.org/acca-furniture-donation-guidelines
Annandale Meals on Wheels provides meals to homebound elderly, disabled, or convalescing individuals unable to cook for themselves. ACCA helps recruit volunteer coordinators and drivers for routes serving people in the Annandale area. Volunteer drivers pick up the meals at United Baptist Church in Annandale at 11 a.m. and deliver them Monday through Friday. The time commitment for each delivery route is about 1 ½ hours. During FY 2016, volunteers made 4,674 deliveries of 9,348 meals. Besides the vital need for these meals, the elderly clients served by this program benefit from the socialization provided by the delivery volunteers. To request to receive Meals on Wheels, call the Area Agency on Aging (703) 324-5411. The Transportation Program is a joint venture between the Shepherd’s Center and ACCA aiding persons 50 years of age or older who need rides for medical transportation. In February alone 43 rides were furnished. In addition, Holy Spirit Catholic Church continued to provide rides for an ACCA client under age 50 who needed multiple rides for physical therapy. Many thanks to Holy Spirit for helping out with this and to our partner The Shepherd’s Center! (see page 20) For more information on this program see page 20 of this issue or contact the SCAS office at (703) 941-1419 or email: email@example.com
ACCA is an alliance of 26 churches in the Annandale community and adjacent areas. Each church appoints an Official Representative (OR) who serves as a member of the ACCA Board of Directors.
The Annandale Chamber of Commerce
This article was first published in the April 2017 issue of the ENDEAVOR News Magazine. Reproduction of this article, in whole or in part, requires written permission of the author.