My View: What makes a community vibrant?

My View: What makes a community vibrant?
Heather Peeler. (Courtesy photo)

By Heather Peeler

When we lift our voices, share our stories and speak out about what’s important to us, we can create change in our communities. Just ask Naomi Wadler, the Alexandria fifth grader who spoke at the March for Our Lives this past March. She sparked a call to action to remember the African American girls and women that are the victims of gun violence.

In a more recent example, on April 25 during Spring2ACTion, 9,300 people raised their voices through their pocket books and donated more than $1.8 million to nonprofit organizations in Alexandria. These donors sent a powerful message: Nonprofit organizations are critical to our community. Organized by ACT for Alexandria, Spring2ACTion, Alexandria’s Giving Day, shows what can happen when we come together.

ACT for Alexandria is a community foundation. We work with donors, nonprofits and civic leaders to improve the lives of Alexandrians by turning ideas into action and resources into results. As a community foundation, we are accountable to you – the community. This summer we are engaging Alexandrians in a conversation about our collective vision for the city. Your voice will inform our priorities in the years to come.

By many measures, Alexandria is a wonderful community. Earlier this year, the City of Alexandria released its findings from the National Citizen Survey, an assessment by residents about the quality of life in Alexandria. Nine out of 10 survey respondents rated Alexandria as an excellent or good place to live. We value the safety, walkability and cultural activities that make Alexandria unique.

However, residents also expressed concerns about affordable housing, the cost of living and K-12 education. Nearly 30,000 Alexandrians live on incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line – $40,840 for a family of three. Many families of color are disproportionately affected; they are not able to enjoy all the things that make Alexandria a good place to live.

Making positive change is within our reach. For example, the recent homelessness census conducted by the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness counted 226 people, including 53 children, experiencing homelessness in Alexandria. As a community of 160,000, we can close this gap and eliminate homelessness in our city.

Do you think housing, economic opportunity and education are keys to a vibrant community for all? This summer ACT for Alexandria invites you to join us in conversation about our community. Tell us what you believe makes Alexandria a special place to live and work, and how we can all work together to address the most critical issues that affect our community. For more information on this initiative, visit our website at

The writer is president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.