By Elizabeth Bennett-Parker
I was born in Alexandria. Both of my parents were in the Navy and their service took us many places, but I chose to come back home to build my life here with my husband, Stephen. And while he’s part of the reason I’m running, a bigger reason is because of my mom. She used to always tell me, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
I’ve applied that belief to everything I’ve done, including starting my own business. I founded Fruitcycle to fight food waste. We bought fruit that would otherwise go to waste from local farmers and turned it into healthy snacks, while also hiring women who were formerly incarcerated or homeless. I wanted to fight not only the detrimental environmental effects of food waste, like its contribution to greenhouse gases, but also the paradox that we waste 40 percent of our food while one in six Americans are hungry.
As a small business owner, I’ve been responsible for hiring employees, making payroll and balancing a budget. I know the razor-thin line between profitability and survival. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy; in addition to attracting new industries to Alexandria, we must also build up and support our small businesses to ensure their success and survival.
I hired my first employee through the local nonprofit Together We Bake. Over time, I realized we were doing similar things and thought we could have a larger impact together; we joined forces a few years ago. We provide job training and personal development for women in need. The issues that face the women in our program affect a lot of Alexandrians – and there is only so much we can do as a small nonprofit. That’s why I’m running for city council: to elevate the work I do every day to the highest levels of Alexandria. I want your family and all families in Alexandria to succeed, alongside our businesses.
Many families are barely making it because housing is too expensive and affordable places to live are becoming increasingly scarce. This is not just the case for lower-income families. Seniors who have lived their entire lives in our city deserve the decency of retiring here. Young people who are starting their careers deserve to pay rent without worrying about whether they will make their student loan payment. If elected, I am committed to spending every available moment exploring alternative revenue sources and creative solutions to make an affordable Alexandria a reality for all – not just for some.
In addition to a place to live, our children also need a world-class education. We need to address our capacity issues and modernize our facilities. Alexandria has excellent teachers and we must work with ACPS to empower them to help close the very real and significant achievement gaps for low-income students. And more than anything, young Alexandrians need a strong start in life with high-quality pre-K for every family – no matter their financial circumstances.
In the nonprofit world, to help people you must build coalitions, collaborate, find consensus and constantly do more with less. In the small business world, you must make tough decisions to balance your budget and survive. I bring those skills to city council and respectfully ask for your vote on June 12.