From left, members of the team: Stephanie Barber, administrative associate; Christine Bartell, resource manager;
Lynne Giordano, volunteer; and Jade Leedham, development manager.
Russ Ugone/The Connection
Driving on Gallows Road near the Dunn Loring Fire Department, you will pass a well maintained split-level home with purple doors with a sign in front titled “Alternative House.” Located at 2100 Gallows Road, the Alternative House has been providing support, since 1972, to at risk youth and their families. Christine Bartell, resource manager, said, “It is the only organization in the area offering emergency shelter to young people,” and added “that estimates have shown that there are 7,000 homeless kids in Northern Virginia.” In the predominantly affluent Fairfax County, the number of at risk youth is not visible to many, making it an even greater challenge for Bartell and other staff when conducting community outreach efforts. The Alternative House views their Open Door Information Sessions and their Ambassador program as key efforts to obtaining community engagement and support. Bartell manages resources, such as property and donations that support their initiatives. The Alternative House is supported by a dedicated staff of 40 employees and 1,350 volunteers.
The Alternative House has four major programs: an Emergency Shelter for Teenagers, a Homeless Youth Initiative, Community-Based Youth Services and Assisting Young Mothers. Services that are provided include voluntary three-week emergency shelter for youths; a 24-hour crisis hotline; individual, group and family counseling; and safe shelter for at risk and pregnant women. The Alternative House also sponsors two teen centers that offer food, counseling, workshops and life-skills education. Half of the funding comes from public sources with the remaining half through private donations from individuals and companies. They include the Rotary Club of McLean, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chipotle, and Vienna Inn, just to name a few.
Jade Leedham, development manager, said that Open Door Information Sessions are their primary means to reach out to the community, and are conducted on the second Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m., 3 p.m., and 6 p.m. The purpose of the sessions is for the community to become more aware of and support the initiatives undertaken by the Alternative House by observing and talking with the coordinators and the youths. Leedham said her development goals for the upcoming year are “to host more events like these to show results to donors and obtain more support so that they can do more projects” to support the kids. To further accomplish community engagement, Leedham wants to enlist “Ambassadors,” as short-term volunteers who will introduce more people in their respective communities to the Open Door Information Sessions.
Lynne Giordano, a volunteer, manages the “household” by keeping everything on schedule. Giordano’s children are in college and she wanted to help other kids, remarking that “It is great to meet and interact with the kids!” Bartell, Leedham, and Giordano said volunteers are always needed and require background checks and training. To find out more about the Alternative House, visit their website www.TheAlternativeHouse.org. If you would like to contribute to their wish list of donations, which includes basic items such as food, paper products, detergent, diapers or gift cards, contact Christine Bartell, Resource Manager at 703-506-9191 ext 2009. Also, if you are a Federal employee, the Combined Federal Campaign number is 41814.