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Sandy Modell

Posted on | September 14, 2016 | No Comments

The Mother of DASH Is Starting a New Chapter

By Kris Gilbertson

Tripp, Charlie, Kay K, Henry, and Scarlet with Sandy Modell. (Photo by Steven Halperson/Tisara Photography)

Tripp, Charlie, Kay K, Henry, and Scarlet with Sandy Modell. (Photo by Steven Halperson/Tisara Photography)

This is the story of how a young girl from Brooklyn, New York, grew up to create DASH, “the best bus system in the world,”—and where she’s going from here.

Sandy Modell was raised in the most urban of American environments, but on summer vacations upstate, she came to love the mountains, the animals, the tranquility of the countryside. Back home, she fed this love by collecting farm catalogs that promised a different life. Her dad encouraged her, but she says, “he was just placating me.”

This was the mid-1970s. New York City teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. Graffiti covered everything, fixed or moving. Sandy’s bike was stolen three times. “I decided one day that I really wanted to live in the country,” she says.

During her freshman year at Brooklyn College, the brother of a high school friend and his new wife set off on a cross-country quest to find the “perfect” place to live. When they reached Harrisonburg, Virginia, a town of fewer than 20,000 in the Shenandoah Valley, they went no farther. Over spring break, Sandy and her friend went to visit.

“I was in awe of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the farms. Even in upstate New York you don’t have that feeling of being surrounded by the mountains. I thought I died and went to heaven,” she says. “I made a goal that within a year, I wanted to live there.” Read more

To Grow a Bus System

Posted on | September 14, 2016 | No Comments

by Kris Gilbertson

Sandy Modell’s strategy for growing DASH has always included community involvement. Following are a few highlights of DASH/community projects through the years.

Paratransit Service

Just days on the job, Modell was asked to create a door-to-door paratransit system. She’d done this in Harrisonburg with cabs. Here, Diamond Cab Company provided senior taxi service, administered by Senior Services of Alexandria. She met with Mary Ann Ormes (SS) and Robbie Werth (DCC) and asked, would you like to run it? And would you like to take the calls? In three months, DOT service was established. “People think it’s called DOT for Department of Transportation,” says Modell, “but it was DASH and DOT. I was making a joke about us being Morse code.”

Through clever handling and vision, DASH now operates the King Street Trolley group of six hybrid trolleys that offer free rides up and down King Street to residents and tourists. (Courtesy of DASH)

Through clever handling and vision, DASH now operates the King Street Trolley group of six hybrid trolleys that offer free rides up and down King Street to residents and tourists. (Courtesy of DASH)

King Street Trolley

In 2008, Modell was part of the  task force planning how to deal with visitors from National Harbor flowing into Old Town. The consensus was to run a trolley up King Street—a red trolley—from the riverfront to Metro. And it would be free.

“We were still in the old building,” says Modell, “and didn’t have room for trolleys, so the City contracted the service with a private company that brought in these old rickety trolleys. They were never on time; they were not reliable. One smoked so bad, it turned the whole street into a fog. It just wasn’t quality service.

Read more

Fine Art Dolls to Visit Alexandria in July

Posted on | July 14, 2016 | 5 Comments

And Bring a Touch of Fantasy to Our City

By Kris Gilbertson

“Earth, Sky, Moon, Sun” by Karin Burfict (Austin, TX), (Photo courtesy of NIADA)

“Earth, Sky, Moon, Sun” by Karin Burfict (Austin, TX), (Photo courtesy of NIADA)

On July 18, the National Institute of American Doll Artists will convene its 2016 Conference and Doll Making School at the Sheraton Suites Old Town at 801 N. St. Asaph Street. Doll making classes, open only to conference attendees, are scheduled for the first three days. But what happens after that will bring a measure of magic to Old Town.

NIADA was founded in 1963 by a small group of doll artists, led by Helen Bullard of Tennessee. The doll community at that time only considered antique dolls to be art. Bullard organized her colleagues who were creating new dolls, and the group aimed to work together toward a common goal: recognition of original handmade dolls as fine art.

In the half century since, NIADA membership has grown to include more than 60 peer-elected artists from Europe, Japan, Korea, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and U.S. states from New York to Hawaii. Subject matter ranges from realistic figures to anthropomorphic creations to somewhat abstract pieces that merely suggest the human form. But from the beginning in 1963 to present, every element of a doll must be created by the artist. Read more

2016 Finalists for “Best Decorated House” in Del Ray, Alexandria

Posted on | October 28, 2016 | No Comments

Finalists Announced in Decorating Contest Part of 20th Annual Del Ray Halloween Parade Festivities

The Del Ray Halloween Parade Committee released the list of the ten finalists for the 2016 Best Decorated House award.  All the houses are located in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria:

  • 102 West Alexandria

    102 West Alexandria

3 East Nelson Avenue

3 East Nelson Avenue

  • 1418 Mt. Vernon Avenue

    1418 Mt. Vernon Avenue

  • 8 E. Bellefonte Avenue

    8 E. Bellefonte Avenue

  • 4 West Custis Avenue

    4 West Custis Avenue

  • 106 Stewart Avenue

    106 Stewart Avenue

  • 2215 Russell Road

    2215 Russell Road

  • 214 West Mount Ida Avenue

    214 West Mount Ida Avenue

  • 26 Forrest Street

    26 Forrest Street

  • 2930 Hickory Street

    2930 Hickory Street

A Google Map with all the nominees is available at

The winner of the Best Decorated House Contest will be announced at the awards ceremony following the 20th Annual Del Ray Halloween Parade on Sunday, Oct. 30.  The 2016 Best Decorated House contest will be judged by former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and former state Delegate Rob Krupicka and his daughters.   The contest is sponsored by Jen Walker, The Realtor for Del Ray and beyond!, of McEnearney Associates.

Two houses, located at 210 E. Monroe Ave., and 311 Clifford Avenue, are in the Del Ray Halloween Hall of Fame after winning the award multiple years.

One of Del Ray’s favorite traditions, the 20th Annual Del Ray Halloween Parade takes place along Mount Vernon Avenue; it begins at E. Bellefonte Ave., ends with a party at the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center fields featuring live music, goodie bags for children, free refreshments, children’s games, awards for Best Decorated Stroller, House, Business & Best Pet Costume, and more.  The event is free and open to all.

Last year’s parade had more than 7,500 participants, which included over 2,500 children, special dignitaries and elected officials.  Leading this year’s parade as Grand Marshall is Berhaane Wobante, an outstanding student selected to represent Cora Kelly School for Science, Technology, and Math.

Among the events on the day’s program:

  • Pet Costume Contest and Stroller Decorating Contest:  Registration for the Pet Costume Contest and Stroller Competition will be done prior to the parade start. Stroller and pet entries must register by 1:30 the corner of Mt. Vernon and E. Howell Avenues; look for signage. Once registered, strollers will line up on Howell to be judged prior to the parade. Pets will be judged immediately at the end of the parade route. There is no fee to register.  For complete details and categories, visit
  • Spooky Bean Halloween Haunted Graveyard: After the parade from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., families can enjoy the Spooky Bean Haunted Halloween Graveyard, constructed by Bean Creative. This is a free event and appropriate for all ages, located in the 2200 block of Mount Vernon Avenue.  Donations are accepted at the gate to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
  • Costumes for Children In Need: The Del Ray Business Association collects and distributes Halloween costumes for children who would otherwise go without.  New or gently used costumes can be dropped off at collection bins at the Del Ray Farmers Market, Caboose Cafe, and the porch at 110 E. Del Ray.  Costumes are distributed the day before the parade from 2-4 the  Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Ave. In 2015, over 200 costumes were distributed.

Held each year on the Sunday before Halloween, the Del Ray Halloween Parade is sponsored by the Del Ray Business Association, which represents the independently-owned shops, retailers, and businesses in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.  For more information, visit


Bike Rides Dead at Arlington Cemetery

Posted on | October 26, 2016 | No Comments

It’s true. No more bike riding through the cemetery, without a family pass. It’s disruptive to the purpose of the grounds, say cemetery officials and mourners.

(Photo courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery.)

(Photo courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery.)

“The primary purpose of ANC’s roads are to facilitate funeral services, vehicles operating in the daily care of the cemetery, and families visiting the final resting place of loved ones,” states the Arlington Cemetery website. “While we know that riders intend no disrespect, bicyclists traversing the cemetery grounds do impact funeral services and the experience that families expect and deserve as they visit their loved one’s grave.”

Citing “legitimate safety concerns” and the fact there are no bike baths on the grounds, mixing cyclists with pedestrians and vehicles creates a safety hazard.”


Posted on | October 25, 2016 | No Comments

ODBC First 8 Rowers Fight Blustery Winds in Boston

odbc-first-8s-at-hocr-002In weather better suited for sailing than rowing, the Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC) women’s and men’s crew teams competed with some of the world’s fastest boats on October 22-23 at the 52nd annual Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) in Boston.  As the largest two-day rowing competition in the world, this year’s event on the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge included over 2250 boats from 820 schools and clubs.  Read more

Halloween Doesn’t Have to Be Scary to Your Dog

Posted on | October 25, 2016 | No Comments

By Sandy Modell

It’s that time of year again . . . Halloween!! — when children and adults alike dig out those spooky costumes and get ready for tricks and treats.  For many dogs, Halloween is not a fun time and can be a really scary night, unless you prepare ahead of time to keep them safe and calm.

training-time-october-halloween-tips-2016Remember, dogs can easily be spooked by all the commotion:  ringing of the doorbell, scary costumes, constant knocking and cries of “Trick or Treat!” from those little ghosts and goblins.  Your dog may dart out the door to make an escape when you open it to hand out candy.  Fearful dogs may be triggered by kids in costumes and do something they normally wouldn’t do — such as bite.  Read more

Local GirlTrek Organization Awarded $100,000

Posted on | October 20, 2016 | No Comments

D.C. Group Wins Grand Prize
Vanessa Garrison & T. Morgan Dixon, Co-Founders GIRLTREK, Washington , DC, (Courtesy photo.)

Vanessa Garrison & T. Morgan Dixon, Co-Founders GIRLTREK, Washington , DC, (Courtesy photo.)

Local Washington, DC organization GirlTrek: Healthy Black Women and Girls, whose mission mobilizes African-American women to live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives through a habit of daily walking, is the proud grand grant recipient of this year’s Third Annual Roslyn S. Jaffe Awards.

Read more

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