Alexandria, VA – This edition of the Alexandria Noir column turns the spotlight on Ms. Cherie Furlow. Ms. Furlow is a 25-year resident of Alexandria and past president of the Continental Societies, Inc., Northern Virginia Chapter. As a legacy member, Ms. Furlow is deeply rooted in upholding the organization’s pledge developed in 1956 to foster, promote, and develop underprivileged children and youth’s welfare. During this interview, the Zebra looks into the impact Ms. Furlow and the Continental Societies, Inc. Northern Virginia chapter have in Alexandria.
Zebra: How long have you been affiliated with the Continental Societies Inc. Northern Virginia Chapter?
Ms. Furlow: I have been an active member of the Northern Virginia Chapter for 11 years. In actuality, I have been affiliated with the Continental Societies, Inc. my entire life. My mother was a dedicated member of the Newport News-Hampton, Virginia chapter. My sister was a member of the Raleigh, North Carolina chapter and my aunts were charter members of the Goldsboro, North Carolina chapter. With my family so involved for years, I finally decided to follow in their footsteps in 2010.
Zebra: In your role as the past president of the Northern Virginia Chapter, what are your responsibilities?
Ms. Furlow: It is my responsibility to provide guidance to the current president and ensure that the chapter aligns with the Continental Societies’ five-point programmatic thrust, including health, education, employment, recreation, and arts and humanities programs.
Zebra: The Continental Societies’ mission is to create environments in local communities that empower children to access quality and appropriate opportunities to reach their optimal potential. How has the Northern Virginia chapter contributed to the Alexandria community?
Ms. Furlow: The Northern Virginia chapter serves children in the Arlington and Alexandria community through a dental hygiene program, where we partner with the Colgate Van. Pre-Covid, we had a Colgate van visiting Woodley Mills Elementary school and Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School. This year, along with the Hopkins House, we had a Zoom program with a dentist to teach children proper brushing and flossing techniques.
Our chapter also partnered with Alexandria Community Shelter, Carpenter Shelter, and Hopkins House to provide hygiene products and school supplies for children and spearheaded a drive to supply scarves, hats, and gloves for holiday gift-giving.
Zebra: What’s your most successful program and why?
Ms. Furlow: The African American reading program during Black History Month is one of our most well-attended and successful initiatives. We collaborate with Alexandria and Arlington elementary schools. In the past, we have scheduled 20-minute reading sessions in which we reached over 800 students.
This year we will pre-record reading sessions based on a curated reading list provided by the Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School Librarian and Alexandria churches. These sessions will be online for easy access by all children. I am confident that sharing the African American reading program in this new format will be just as successful, if not more than in previous years.
Zebra: What do you most enjoy about being a part of the Continental Societies?
Ms. Furlow: I thoroughly enjoy working side by side with my fellow Continental Societies chapter members.
Overall, the most enjoyable reason for being apart of this organization is seeing the smiles of the children we serve. Just that small amount of validation reassures me that all the planning and hard work of putting together these events is worth it.
Zebra: What are your organization’s goals for 2021?
Ms. Furlow: The Northern Virginia Chapter is planning events that correlate with our five programmatic thrust initiatives. To meet our education initiative, we will be hosting a marshmallow toothpick tower event that will teach middle school students how to apply their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills in a fun way.
Zebra: What are some of your favorite Alexandria establishments and why?
Ms. Furlow: The historic St. Joseph Catholic Church, the Charles Houston Center, and the Alexandria Black History Museum are three of my favorite establishments. We have partnered with St. Joseph Church for many children’s events. I think it’s great that these three institutions are within walking distance of each other and allow children to visit each easily. I also love the fact that Alexandria has an abundance of historical tours and memorials that focus on African American history.
Zebra: This interview will run in the March issue of the Zebra. Are there any events/programs that will take place during this time?
Ms. Furlow: In March, we are continuing our African American reading program by partnering with schools in Alexandria and Arlington for Read Across America. We will also co-host a virtual employment fair with the National Council of Negro Women, Northern Virginia chapter.
Zebra: How can Zebra readers find out more about the Continental Societies, Northern Virginia chapter?
Zebra: Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Ms. Furlow: Only that we are always welcoming new members. If you are interested in working with children and looking for a way to give back to the Alexandria community, the Northern Virginia chapter of the Continental Societies, Inc. is a great organization to join.