Alexandria, VA – This month we shine a light on a hidden pillar of Alexandria, Mrs. Beverly Anderson. Mrs. Anderson is a devoted wife and mother, and a retiree from the Social Security Administration where she served for 35 years.
Upon retirement, she was not ready to put down the torch of serving people, so Mrs. Anderson embarked on a new call to service as Business Manager for Saint Joseph Catholic Church. The church is located at 711 North Columbus Street in Old Town Alexandria. I spoke with Mrs. Anderson to gain more insight into the initiatives and programs that she has spearheaded at St. Joseph.
Zebra: St. Joseph was founded in 1915 as a Catholic Church for Alexandria’s African American community. Tell me about the achievements of the church throughout its history.
Beverly Anderson: Through the 105-year history we have kept the African American identity of the church. We are still an African American parish. We have a Black history ministry that focuses on African American achievements all year long. We always make a point to do outreach that is targeting the Black community.
Zebra: St. Joseph is an integral part of Alexandria. How has the church helped residents during the coronavirus pandemic?
Beverly Anderson: We have an emergency assistance line. We help with rent, utilities, and medication. The domestic violence rate is going up and St. Joseph helps to house families in hotels so they have a safe place to stay.
I am also responsible for the annual coat drive. We don’t ask you to verify anything. If you need a coat, you need a coat. If you need food, you need food. Winter is coming, and that is why we are doing the coat drive. All the coats are new or gently used.
I also work closely with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA). The staff and I ensure that if an Alexandria resident gets to the point of having to go to court or pay $200 to not be evicted, we are going to assist with paying the $200. I set up a system with ARHA staff to give [St. Joseph] a call if a situation like this occurs. During this pandemic, most of the people who are affected are essential workers who have been laid off from places like MGM National Harbor. A lot of people don’t have the luxury of missing a paycheck and they are completely out of income. St. Joseph is part of a network of Alexandria churches that are willing and able to assist.
Zebra: Before becoming St. Joseph’s Business Manager, were you a parishioner?
Beverly Anderson: I’ve been a parishioner at St. Joseph for 30 years. Before becoming Business Manager, I served as the director of religious education for 20 years and as a member of the Ladies of Peter Claver.
When I was working for the government, I would do some outreach for Meals on Wheels. I would take my hour lunch and drive to Alexandria to deliver meals and then drive back to the Social Security Administrative office building to go back to work. I used to love Meals on Wheels because you get to meet people and chit chat.
It is my motto that you can always find little things you can do to help. There is always something you can do even if you work full time. Give back to the community because it’s so important.
Zebra: Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced you in your work and life?
Beverly Anderson: Mrs. Phyllis Bickman, who is a parishioner at St. Joseph, got me involved with the soup kitchen at Christ House food pantry and the senior citizens that live down the street.
Also, Mr. Ferdinand Day was such an inspiration. Mr. Ferdinand Day and Mr. Lawrence Day (brother) just did so much for African Americans in Alexandria.
Zebra: What one piece of advice that your mentor gave you still rings true today?
Mrs. Anderson: Mr. Ferdinand Day always said that you have to continuously give back to the community. You have to preserve your culture. And most important, St. Joseph is still and will always be an African American parish.
Zebra: What are some of your favorite Alexandria establishments?
Mrs. Anderson: Of course, the Alexandria Black History Museum. And the Contraband & Freedmen Cemetery Memorial on Washington Street. This memorial has such a spiritual presence that you can feel the people buried there.
Zebra: What one thing are you excited about coming up in 2021?
Mrs. Anderson: The vaccine to get rid of the coronavirus. To see us get back to some type of normalcy.
Zebra: Does St. Joseph have any events/programs taking place this month?
Mrs. Anderson: There will be a Christmas event for the children. We will get toys for families that St. Joseph has been assisting all year long. All Alexandria residents can donate toys for the children. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in donating.
Zebra readers can stay informed about Saint Joseph Catholic Church events by signing up for their bulletin newsletter on their website: http://www.stjosephalexva.org/. Readers can attend Sunday mass via Facebook Live (www.facebook.com/StJosephChurchAlexandriaVa) or on the St. Joseph YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/channel/UC968uqqpaMKE3KGRTrBTFzw). The church is located at 711 North Columbus Street in Old Town Alexandria.