Heather Peeler, President & CEO, ACT for Alexandria
As I consider the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I’m drawn to parallels between then and now. After 9/11, new public safety measures changed how we travel with new screenings and protocols; and today, public health measures add a new layer of precautions. Fear and racism sparked violence against Muslims and people of color; sadly, these currents continue today.
And yet, both events catalyzed new possibilities and optimism. The horrific events of 9/11 sparked unity, love, and generosity. In fact, it led to the founding of ACT. Today, compassion and care for our friends and neighbors intensify as we all find ways to support one another throughout the pandemic.
This past year, I have been especially grateful for ACT’s founders and the foresight they had to establish ACT. Their dedication and efforts enabled ACT to be an indispensable resource for Alexandria in the fight against the pandemic. They instinctively understood that a home for philanthropy was an essential resource and that it would tap into a hidden resource: Alexandrians’ generosity and love.
The spirit of action and giving back are the foundation for what my colleagues and I call Team Alexandria. Over the past year, Team Alexandria (the hundreds of Alexandrians, businesses, faith communities, nonprofit organizations, and City government) worked together to address the basic human needs of our neighbors. Alexandrians from every neighborhood supported each other, found creative solutions to challenges, and donated time, money, food, and more.
Team Alexandria continues to organize, respond and assist our community. Back-to-school drives, assistance for refugees, and aid for those navigating natural disasters are recent efforts led by community members. The Alexandria Resilience Fund and Sleeves Up ALX, a partnership between ACT and the Alexandria Health Department, are supporting vaccine outreach efforts led by community organizations that have trusted relationships with residents.
As we look to the future, we are focused on ensuring a just recovery from the pandemic. We are working with partners to make investments in solutions that address the underlying issues of inequity that were exacerbated by the pandemic. Income inequality, economic mobility, housing affordability, and educational opportunity are top priorities. For example, the City of Alexandria’s Guaranteed Income Pilot is an exciting opportunity to think differently about how we help all Alexandrians thrive.
Finally, we are also thinking differently about who is at the table and how we can be more inclusive in our work. That is why ACT is forming a Youth Philanthropy Council to ensure that young people are at the forefront of philanthropy and community solutions in Alexandria. Designed by youth for youth, the Youth Council will provide workshops, training, mentorship, and resume-boosting skills to youth who want to make a difference. Visit www.actforalexandria.org to learn more.
ACT’s founders could not have predicted the needs of our community today and how ACT as an institution would respond. They had faith that Alexandrians would deploy their generosity and creativity in big and small ways to make a difference. Thank you, Team Alexandria! We celebrate you and all you do to make Alexandria a vibrant place for all.