Alexandria, VA – The Kathleen Arthur Community Assistance Fund associated with Grace Episcopal Church on Russell Road in Alexandria has started a new partnership with neighborhood nonprofit Casa Chirilagua. While the fund is relatively new, founded in March 2019 by Ed Arthur (whose mother is the fund’s namesake), partnerships between Grace and Casa date back decades.
“Casa very much relies on church partners as a community-based ministry,” says Marissa Salgado, Programs Director at Casa Chirilagua (casachirilagua.org). With Casa just a two-minute walk down the street from the church, it is no wonder that their mutual relationship has deep roots.
“Grace is so close,” says Salgado, “that in the past, we’ve recruited volunteers and mentors from them, and they have been wonderful in hosting our annual Christmas celebration, as well as supporting us with their food pantry.”
Now, Ed Arthur hopes to continue support for Casa into the future with the Kathleen Arthur Community Assistance Fund (www.gracealex.org/service/local-missions/crisis-assistance-fund/). Kathleen Arthur was a devout and generous member of Grace Episcopal. When she passed in 2019, her son Ed began the fund to ensure she would continue giving back to not only her church but also her entire community.
So far, the fund has raised over $86K, but what is more, the outreach program at Grace Episcopal has been able to give out over $60K from the fund, some of which has gone and will continue to go to Casa Chirilagua.
Jon Paramore, who became Development Director at Casa Chirilagua in April 2021, was pivotal in garnering this renewed partnership with the church. “I was delighted when I got a call from Ed,” he says. “After a lot of staff changes, Casa and Grace had a desire to renew our past relationship and ask questions about what that relationship looks like moving forward. This neighborhood is both of our homes, so what does it look like to serve together?”
To answer that question, Jon and Ed got to know each other. “When we identify a partner,” says Ed, “I want to be different from most of the other places they partner with, so my goal and the church’s goal is to get in and really know the organization. The deeper you are, the more you can help.”
Ed and Jon meet regularly to discuss their respective organizations and how they feel they can help the neighborhood. One way is through Casa’s youth leadership programs, in particular the Casa to College program (casachirilagua.org/en/youth/).
Casa to College is a strength and leadership development program for high school students. It supports them through their studies and gives them the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need post-graduation. The Kathleen Arthur Community Assistance Fund has helped bolster this program by funding salaries for more full-time team members. This allows the program and the students to flourish.
Casa has programs for individuals from elementary age to adult. With support from funds like the Kathleen Arthur fund and partners like Grace Church, Casa has watched its students grow into well-equipped adolescents and adults and into leaders. Some of them have returned to the programs as volunteers to mentor other students.
“The church is so excited to be able to support a program that is sustainable and lifts young leaders in the community,” says Reverend Nina Bacas, Interim Associate to the Rector at Grace Episcopal Church. “The young leaders then reach out to younger children and lift them in a cycle. In this way, it becomes a perpetual path of moving forward and giving back.”
Sustainable, long-term, cycle, perpetual: these are all words mentioned regarding the missions of the Kathleen Arthur Community Assistance Fund and Casa Chirilagua. Their intersecting missions are part of why the two programs make perfect partners, now more than ever. The need for sustainability and long-term support is critical now, unshrouded by the effects of the pandemic. Most people are still just trying to make ends meet, particularly in neighborhoods like Chirilagua in Del Ray.
Ed notes, “The mentality among many youths is just pay the bills, but now they can better themselves with an organization [like Casa]. They can be an attorney or a doctor because we will give them the support and motivation they need. Long term, we are helping people, and my hope is that they will be better people as they grow.”
And as they grow, Casa, Grace, and the neighborhood are growing with them, especially after a year like this. Salgado asks one final question, “We want to take all we’ve learned and seen and experienced and say, What good can come from this? With Grace we will answer that question together.”