Careful readers have likely noticed that the Times has run a number of feature stories in recent months about local institutions celebrating significant milestones. Nonprofits, restaurants, shops and schools have all been lauded for their longevity and accomplishments.
While a cynic might grumble that any entity still in business is going to mark an anniversary each year, we think it’s important to highlight significant milestone markers – now more than ever. Here’s why:
– Longevity is a real accomplishment. Nonprofits and businesses struggle for survival during economic downturns. Technology and trends mean that constant innovation is necessary for survival; today’s hot restaurant could be tomorrow’s has-been unless the proprietors keep the concept fresh.
It takes courage to start a business, nonprofit or school. There’s often years of treading water before the concept fully takes root and the entity takes off. St. Paul’s Nursery and Day School, spotlighted on page 1 of this week’s Alexandria Times, is an example of this. After three years, the school only had 12 students. But 67 years later it’s at maximum capacity with 60 students – and has been for years.
Long-term survival in the business or nonprofit world means hiring the right people, and then when they leave, hiring the new right people. Going from startup to established to community institution requires an ongoing investment of time and money.
– Longstanding institutions build community. As an entity rides out the tough early years, grows during its adolescence and becomes entrenched, wonderful things happen. Multiple generations of families identify with and benefit from the institution, such as the Nelson E. Greene family at the Departmental Progressive Club. The club recently celebrated its 90th anniversary (see page 1 of the Sept.
28 Times). A nonprofit like Community Lodgings, which recently marked 30 years, (see page 1 of the Aug. 17 Times) helps build community by working with entire families on housing, education and employment.
– Our city and society need unifying pillars. As symbols that used to unify us – from the American flag to George Washington – have at least partially lost their ability to unite, we desperately need reinforcements. That can most easily happen at the local level.
We can rally around our schools, and the longstanding bonds with classmates and teachers that endure, such as those recently celebrated at Francis C. Hammond, where graduates of the former high school gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their graduation (see page 7). Establishments like the Evening Star, which just had a bash for its 20th birthday, (see page 1, Oct. 26 Alexandria Times) also bring people together because they decide from the start to play an integral role in their neighborhood rather than to just sell food and drink.
So, when groups of people gather together to honor the Departmental Progressive Club’s 90-year history of being a safe haven for and an incubator of several generations of black leaders in Alexandria, that history and those accomplishments are reaffirmed.
When patrons gather to mark a milestone at Evening Star or at Chadwick’s, which is about to celebrate 50 years in business, the communities of Del Ray and Old Town become just a bit stronger.
Look for more articles about anniversary celebrations on these pages. Each business, nonprofit or school has a unique story of going from vision to reality. We love to tell their tales of success.