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Women With Passion Achieve Their Goals

Gale Curcio
By Gale Curcio
Posted on Aug 10,2011
Filed Under News , Community,
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Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks<br />Attorney Mark Hubbard with Cindy Colasanto at the signing of
Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks
Attorney Mark Hubbard with Cindy Colasanto at the signing of "Ashley's Law."

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - A few months ago, Allison Silberberg went to Home Depot and asked for a bucket of paint. As Chair of the Economic Opportunities Commission, she was responsible for getting supplies for the “All Hands on Deck” project at the Alexandria Community Shelter.

Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks<br />Cindy Colasanto receives the pen from Governor Bob McDonnell after he signs
Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks
Cindy Colasanto receives the pen from Governor
Bob McDonnell after he signs "Ashley's Law."

What she got from Home Depot was so much more. Early Tuesday, July 12, 2011, over 40 employees from Home Depot showed up with a truckload of mulch, flooring, paint, tools and other things needed to fix up the aging shelter

“Home Depot really stepped up to the plate with nearly $6,000 worth of paint supplies, flooring, lighting, blinds and landscaping material,” said Silberberg. “Plus, they went so out of their way and had about 40 staff members that volunteered and brought their expertise!

“All told, thanks to our 100 volunteers and two dozen donors, especially Home Depot, our community-wide effort was a remarkable success. Among those 100 volunteers were about a dozen of the shelter's residents who made a big difference in our success. On behalf of the EOC and the City of Alexandria, we are all so grateful to each and every donor and volunteer for being part of our "All Hands on Deck" project to make the shelter feel like a home, to show the residents of the shelter how much the community cares, and to raise awareness about unmet social needs in our community.”

In addition to Home Depot employees, the Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC),
which serves as an advisory commission to Alexandria’s Community Action Agency, brought together more than two dozen other businesses, organizations, individual donors and volunteers for a day of community service called “All Hands on Deck” to make over the Alexandria Community Shelter, located at 2355-B Mill Road in Alexandria, VA.

Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks<br />Governor Bob McDonnell signs
Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks
Governor Bob McDonnell signs "Ashley's Law."
Ashley's mother, Cindy Colasanto, looks on.
Behind them are (left to right) Del. David Albo,
Del. David Englin, Fairfax Police Chief David
Rohrer and Fairfax Police Lt. Col. Edwin Roessler.

Managed by the nonprofit organization New Hope Housing, Inc., the shelter serves vulnerable residents of Alexandria with a 65-bed emergency shelter for the homeless.

The EOC selected the shelter for a mini-makeover even though it has no budget and therefore has no funds to support this project. But through the use of collective networking and the generosity of the business community and residents of Alexandria and others in the metro area, donations of furnishings and supplies have come from across the community.

Double R Productions donated time and talent to create a short video about the event.  Other donors include: Hooray for Books! NextDay Blinds, Barstons Child’s Play, Dunkin’ Donuts, Honest Tea, Trader Joe’s, Atlantis Pizza, La Casa Restaurant, MOM’s Organic Market, Hungry for Music, Los Tios, Starbucks, Whole Foods, the Hoffman Company, AMC Theatres, the Ladies Group at the Bethlehem Baptist Church, and the Calvary Chapel.

Donations were also received from individuals in the community, including: Chante Bowser-Neal, David and Cheryl Anne Colton, Michelle Jannazo, Eileen Kuglar, Anne Seidlitz, Amanda Snow and U.S. Air Force families.

Through these generous donors, the shelter received bookcases, children’s books, adult books, DVDs, chairs, a children’s table and chairs, new high chairs, musical instruments for the children, and much-appreciated food and drinks for all the volunteers on the day of the makeover.

Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks<br />Workers paint, prime, sheetrock and get the room ready for new visitors.
Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks
Workers paint, prime, sheetrock and get the room
ready for new visitors.

Allison Silberberg stated, “Together, through “All Hands on Deck,” we are reaching out to the most vulnerable and showing how the community cares deeply, and that we want to see everyone thrive, especially during these tough economic times. We are also raising awareness about unmet social needs in our community. The City of Alexandria is a compassionate, beautiful, historical city that has a very generous spectrum of caring services for those in need.

“While most of Alexandria's families are doing well overall, today, as in cities all across our country, far too many families are struggling more than ever. In addition to the economic downturn, the City has lost thousands of affordable housing units in the past decade to new or renovated development.

“This is a city where one in two schoolchildren at T.C. Williams, our only high school, is receiving the free or reduced-price lunch program. There is real need here in Alexandria. With “All Hands on Deck,” we are taking a step toward doing something as a community to help families and individuals get back on their feet. Together with our very generous donors and incredible team of volunteers, we are doing what we can to make ours a better community for all. As we know, however, the work continues day in and day out. The EOC hopes that the outreach and can-do spirit will carry on."

On the other side of Alexandria, Cindy Colasanto achieved her goal of getting “Ashley’s Law” signed into law. The bill now requires emergency responders to use their flashing lights and siren when entering an intersection, or else yield to traffic.

Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks<br />DeWayne Hall, a resident of the shelter and volunteer for the renovation, with Allison Silberberg, the Chair of Alexandria's Economic Opportunities Commission and chair of
Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks
DeWayne Hall, a resident of the shelter and
volunteer for the renovation, with Allison
Silberberg, the Chair of Alexandria's Economic
Opportunities Commission and chair of "All
Hands on Deck."

This was the result of a long, painful process, following the death of her daughter, Ashley McIntosh, on February 12, 2008.

The bill was signed by Gov. Robert McDonnell at Sherwood Hall Regional Library last month and attended by Del. David Albo, Del. David Englin, Fairfax police Chief David Rohrer and Fairfax Police Lt. Col. Edwin Roessler. The emergency vehicle law was enacted to prevent automobile fatalities similar to the one that killed Ashley McIntosh.

McIntosh was hit as she drove into the intersection at Boswell Avenue and Route 1 after exiting the Hybla Valley shopping center. The intersection light was green but she was hit by a police officer in a cruiser who went through the light without her siren on while responding to an emergency call. McIntosh died from injuries sustained by the crash. She was a 33-year-old teaching assistant who was engaged to be married.

After the tragic accident, Colasanto began a three-year effort to enact a Virginia State law designed to establish new State emergency response procedures to prevent future auto accidents such as the one that killed her daughter. Along the way she collected thousands of petition signatures of people who joined her in the fight to change Virginia law.

The Fairfax County police union and other police organizations initially objected to her proposal on the basis that more specific emergency response procedures would hamper police effectiveness. Colasanto pointed out that 23 states had already enacted similar laws. Despite the opposition, she convinced a variety of individual local and state officials and the State Crime Commission of the importance of changes in the law. “Ashley’s Law” was passed by the General Assembly this past session.

Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks<br /> (Back row, from left to right): Home Depot Team Leader and Store Manager Joe Hand, Home Depot Department Manager Paris Sachek, Chair of the Economic Opportunities Commission Allison Silberberg, and EOC member Karin Riley.<br />(Front row, from left to right): New Hope Housing Executive Director Pam Michell, Director of Alexandria's Office of Community Services Ann Moore, New Hope's Director of the Alexandria Community Shelter Kavita Mirchandani-Saini, and EOC member Gila Harris.
Photo by Gale Curcio/Local Kicks
(Back row, from left to right): Home Depot
Team Leader and Store Manager Joe Hand,
Home Depot Department Manager Paris
Sachek, Chair of the Economic
Opportunities Commission Allison
Silberberg, and EOC member Karin Riley.
(Front row, from left to right): New Hope
Housing Executive Director Pam Michell,
Director of Alexandria's Office of Community
Services Ann Moore, New Hope's Director of the
Alexandria Community Shelter Kavita
Mirchandani-Saini, and EOC member
Gila Harris.

Chief Rohrer said, “It’s a fitting way to honor her [Ashley’s] memory.”

McDonnell said, “It’s great to see so many young people here. This is what democracy is all about. It is a culmination of hard work.

“We have a terrific police department – well motivated and highly trained. Public safety is the top priority of the government, but you can see that this victory found a way to look at the law and prevent this from happening to somebody else.

“That’s what Cindy has done.”

McDonnell continued, “There were tough policy decisions, but this law balances public safety with the needs of law enforcement.

Puller gave a background of what had transpired by saying, “Cindy came to me late 2008/2009 and asked what can we do? I put the bill in front of the transportation committee in 2009, but with ongoing litigation, they didn’t act on it.

“We then sent it to the crime commission. At first, all the sheriffs and chiefs were against the bill.”

Albo said, “The language was clear and simple. I was delighted that we were able to do this, not only for Cindy and John, but for everybody. Most people hear sirens before they look for lights.

“When you have one dedicated citizen with a good idea and the ability to compromise, a normal person can pass a bill in the political system.

“This bill was not easy to pass, but Cindy never gave up. She achieved her goal and compromised to get it done. I am so impressed – they took a tragedy and made something wonderful out of it.”

And then it was Colasanto’s turn to speak. Feeling a little lightheaded, she nevertheless spoke true and strong.

“This bill will improve public safety and make sure that this will never happen again. I met with lawmakers over and over again. I asked the news media to share Ashley’s story.

“I had a legislative champion in Toddy Puller and she helped with the language of the bill and bi-partisan support. Sharon Bulova was instrumental in helping with the strategy and keeping up morale. Dave Albo pushed it along – he is experienced in the courts system and was invaluable.

“Retired Virginia Police Superintendent Col. Gerald Massengill listened to the case and was a vocal advocate. I give Janet Howell equal credit.

“Mark Hubbard, Mark Bowles and Tyler Bishop from McGuire Woods were amazing.

“Above all, Ashley was a wonderful daughter – so full of life. She would have been proud of what we are doing here today.”



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