Virginia’s attorney general met with local nonprofit groups in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday for a roundtable listening session about addressing poverty and community needs.
“Virginians helping other Virginians, from all backgrounds. The very, very best, they’re here,” said Attorney General Jason Miyares. “They’re helping people who are the victims of both extreme poverty, and a lot of them are individuals coming out of horrific situations, [such as human] trafficking or addiction or depression, or mental health challenges.”
The visit centered around community outreach and engagement, as well as “how addressing poverty can also prevent crime,” according to a news release.
Miyares was joined by representatives from the Office of the Attorney General and the Arlington County police in sitting down with members of various faith organizations and nonprofit programs, including Arlington Bridge Builders, a local community coalition with the mission of helping people in need.
Carlos Dimas, executive director of Arlington Bridge Builders, said they take pride in “individually catering to the particular need of the person to be able to help them the most with what they need,” which can range from food to what Miyares called “life services.”
Arlington Bridge Builders provides people with 2,000 pounds of food weekly, and Dimas said it has distributed more than $150,000 in rental assistance. It also offers counseling and life skills and educational classes.
“Our mission is to be able to provide assistance — a wraparound ministry to surround them with churches that care and individuals that want to meet them where their need is,” Dimas said.
But more than anything else, he said, people need support and community.
“We serve as a bridge to a community of faith or to tangible opportunities,” Dimas said.
With Miyares’ visit, he hoped to elevate the visibility of opportunities for community-based partnerships.
“We mentioned 30,000 people live in extreme poverty in Arlington,” said Joel White, president of Arlington Bridge Builders. “And that’s not going to be solved by any one government or entity or nonprofit. And so coming together in these relationships and building bridges to transform lives, one person at a time is really, really important.”
Arlington resident Mae Stilley volunteers with Arlington Bridge Builders, tidying up the food bank and stocking shelves on some Fridays. She’s been doing it for more than 20 years.
“I love doing things for people,” Stilley said. “It’s a great joy for me and I feel like reaching out to help others gives me more strength.”