Ambassador Reflections – Free Hugs for Volunteers

Marilyn Whitehurst loves her kids. Her kids include her own child, the children she cared for as a pediatric nurse, and now the second graders enrolled in Community Lodgings’ Youth Education after school program and summer programs, where she volunteers once or twice a week.

“When I first met the kids, I fell in love with them,” Marilyn, the 2016 Community Lodgings Volunteer of the Year, recalled. She was especially concerned for the kids in the program whose parents did not speak English and could not help them with their homework, so the Youth Education volunteer role was a perfect fit. Now working full time as surgical sales consultant, Marilyn was especially pleased that the Community Lodgings staff would adjust her volunteer schedule to accommodate her work commitments.

Marilyn tutors the same 12-14 kids that she met last year when they were first graders and she was a new volunteer, and already has seen them grow academically and socially. She is amazed at how fast they can read a book now, and she encourages them to take their books home and read to their younger siblings. That, she believes, helps both children with reading and English language comprehension, and also helps their mother, who may be caring for other children.

Volunteering with the Community Lodgings’ kids is Marilyn’s Red Bull. She misses them when she is not with them, and they refresh her, even after she has worked an eight-hour shift. “It energizes me to know that we are making a difference with these children and these families, especially at such an early age,” she said. “It really makes me feel like we are offering something beneficial for them. You can have a crazy schedule and be totally exhausted, and when you get there they just give you that energy.”

She cherishes the one-on-one time she has with each of her students, and knows that praising them and saying, “I’m amazed at what you are doing and how great you are” gives them the self-assurance that translates to success in school.

“Having that relationship with them helps them realize the importance of school and doing the best they can,” she said. She also hopes to reinforce the value of education and strong family ties.

And then there are those hugs. Marilyn watches the kids to get off bus and run into the Fifer Family Learning Center, then rush up to her for a hug. Once, she recalled, she had to leave early and tried to discreetly slip out of a side door. She turned around and saw her second graders wave to her, then spontaneously rush out of the door, insisting on hugging her goodbye.

“They’re great kids,” Marilyn says of her young charges. “The kids are always so respectful and well-behaved. You get more than you give. It’s just a blessing.”

Ambassador Reflections – Leading with Passion

Ambassador Reflections – Leading with Passion

Marie Muscella met Community Lodgings completely by chance. Her lawyer and Community Lodgings board member George Tuttle invited her to a board meeting one evening. It was 2009 and Marie was re-evaluating her life. What was important? What mattered? Volunteering was always a part of her family’s life growing up, and somehow she had drifted… Continue Reading

Naydelin – A Youth Programs Success Story

Naydelin, a first grader at George Mason Elementary School, enrolled in Community Lodgings’ after-school programming in the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. At registration, we learned she had been in public school system for less than a year after moving from Honduras, and was an English Language Learner with a Special Education Plan to… Continue Reading

We’re breaking ground…

On May 9th, we officially held a groundbreaking for our property at 607 Notabene Drive! We are so excited to begin renovations to the building which will allow us to increase our supply of affordable housing by one additional unit. Renovations are expected to be completed by September and will result in six fully renovated… Continue Reading

Spring Forward was a Blast!

Many thanks to those of you who came and celebrated with us for this year’s Spring Forward Fundraiser! We hope you had as good a time as we did! Here are a couple of snapshots from an evening full of fun and giving back, courtesy of guest photographer Dan Horsey. Enjoy! Continue Reading

BB&T Lighthouse Project: providing kids with emergency food in a time of need

Spring Break is meant to be a fun time for students to kick back and relax… but that’s hard to do when you don’t have enough to eat. For the families in our housing and education programs, Spring Break can be a challenge, because most of the kids in these programs normally receive free or reduced-price lunches… Continue Reading

Volunteers: the Question and Answer to Our Success

When you hear the word “volunteer,” what do you immediately think of?  Event organizers in neon shirts or running around with clipboards? Folks in aprons and hairnets ladling soup? People sitting at desks, stuffing envelopes and making cheerful-sounding phone calls? If any of these images sprang to your mind– among many, MANY more– you’d be right.… Continue Reading

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3912 Elbert Ave. Suite 108

Alexandria, VA 22305


The New Brookside Learning Center

601 Four Mile Road

Alexandria, VA 22305


Fifer Family Learning Center

607 Notabene Drive

Alexandria, VA 22305


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