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Winter weather, community outreach brings attention to homeless population in Prince William


The frigid temperatures of the past few weeks, and the work of community outreach groups are drawing attention to the growing needs of the homeless population in Prince William County.

The Dale City Civic Association has been working with their Homeless Outreach program tirelessly this winter to provide supplies for the homeless individuals in camps gathered in the wooded areas of the county.

“It would be easier to tell you where they’re not – they’re everywhere,” said Lucille Cahill, a coordinator for the Homeless Outreach program.

According to Cahill, the program services homeless individuals aged 17 to 65, with the goal of not only providing them with necessary supplies at drop-offs every Saturday, but getting them out of the woods altogether.

“Our goal is to get them out of the woods, and into housing – whether family take them in, or we get them jobs and find them a room until they can find affordable housing. If they need medical care, we try to work that out with the local free clinic,” Cahill said.

To get funding for the supplies and outreach work they do, Cahill said they look to the community and churches for assistance.

While there are a lot of ideas about the lifestyles and situations of homeless individuals, Cahill stated that a lot of the people that are homeless in these camps work one, and sometimes even two jobs. They simply can’t afford to pay the high rent prices in the area.

“People who work at Wal-Mart, or local businesses can’t afford to live here anymore, and they wind up in a tent,” Cahill commented.

Recently, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors donated 200 sleeping bags to the program, costing around $6,000.

“It was wonderful because we cannot afford that kind of sleeping bags. It actually saved lives,” said Cahill.

Cahill was appreciative of the sleeping bags they board donated, but she felt more importantly that the actual dialogue started between the homeless outreach and the board is what is going to help the homelessness issue in the county.

“I think there’s finally a dialog between the outreach groups and the county. There’s been a lot of dialogs lately. Low-income housing is the first step…90% of the people I service – they work. They have jobs. They just can’t afford to eat and pay rent,” Cahill said.

Potomac Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, who was involved in the board decision to donate the sleeping bags, said that something needs to be done, but that there isn’t an easy solution.

“[The board] is going to be doing what our human services is doing right now. We have people in place. We want to help – within reason,” Caddigan commented.

Caddigan stated that she has received requests from residents, asking that the county purchase a vacant Holiday Inn hotel in Dumfries to house the homeless. The hotel is currently being listed for $3.5 million, and for Caddigan, that is not a realistic option as the board moves forward to handle the budget.

There are several county buildings that are opened for the homeless on dangerously cold nights, by the county’s deputy director of Human Services, Elijah Johnson. But very few homeless individuals utilized the shelters, according to Caddigan.

“The thing is, that the people in the woods don’t want to leave their belongings. They don’t want to go into a shelter – some of them,” Caddigan said.

The Prince William County Committee of 100 has even recognized the homeless population as in issue in the community. The Committee hosted a forum on homelessness on February 19, where several panelists spoke with attendees about the issue, and potential steps to help the homeless community in Prince William.

There have been major successes for the Homeless Outreach program, in their goal to move the homeless into housing.

“We’re working [with] a couple right now…[one of the individuals] mother is elderly, and she has agreed to take them both in, in return for them caring for her. So we’re helping them get out of the woods and to New Jersey, which is no small feat when some of these people haven’t left the woods for several years,” said Cahill.

They have launched a Go-Fund Me page to help raise funds for the couple’s transport to the housing being offered to them in New Jersey.

If you’re a resident or organization that is looking to assist the Homeless Outreach program, they are currently looking for the following supplies, according to the Dale City Civic Association’s Facebook page:

McDonalds gift cards
Virgin Mobile phone cards
Verizon mobile phone cards
Trackphone cards
Cases of water
Cases of canned soups
Winter Gloves
Sleeping Bags
Rat Traps
Cases of Toilet Paper
Cases of Hand Wipes
Packs of Batteries – AA, AAA, C & D
Tarps & Ropes
Protein Bars
Toilet Paper
Canned meats
Boxes of crackers
Case of canned meat
Printer paper 
Marble notebooks

Manassas Superintendent presents budget, speaks to parents at Saturday meeting

As part of the Saturday with the Superintendent series, the Manassas City school’s superintendent, Dr. Magouyrk, spoke with parents about the school budget and took questions from the community last Saturday.

The meeting was well attended despite the snow, according to Magouyrk.

“We had great attendance, even though the snow was coming down like it was,” Magouyrk said.

The Saturday with Superintendent events take place about every six weeks and serve as a primary way for parents to interact with administrators.

“It’s just an opportunity for the community – for families – to know what’s taking place,” Magouyrk stated.

One of the main topics for this meeting was the budget, which is currently in progress for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We talked about the Superintendent budget presentation – that is right now what the school board is working on. We talked about the new Baldwin [school], and our school calendar for next year,” Magouyrk said.

Magouyrk also spoke to parents about the Career and Technical (CTE) initiatives taking place in Manassas City schools.

Overall, Magouyrk stressed that the meetings are an opportunity for parents to ask questions and get information they need from their children’s schools.

“We had a parent of a gifted student [at the meeting], and she wanted to get more information about our gifted program. So they were able to ask me questions,” Magouyrk commented.

For the remainder of the school year, two more of these meetings are scheduled – one on March 21 at Jennie Dean Elementary and one on May 16 at Baldwin Elementary.

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Suspect in Tuesday’s shooting in Manassas apprehended

On Tuesday night, the Manassas City Police responded to a call for a shooting that took place at the intersection of Stonewall Road and McKenzie Circle in Manassas.

The suspect in the shooting, who was in a vehicle at the time of the incident, fled the scene.

Last night the Manassas City police took the suspect, Paul David Thomas, into custody after a traffic stop near Liberia Avenue.

The victim of the shooting experienced non-fatal injuries.

More from a police release:

Manassas City Police Department

Shooting – Arrest

An investigation by Manassas City Police following the February 24th shooting at the intersection of Stonewall Rd and McKenzie Cir have resulted in the identification of Paul David THOMAS (18), of 8522 Piney Point Cir, as the primary suspect in the case.  At approximately 8:35PM on February 25, 2015, THOMAS was taken into custody without incident on a traffic stop in the area of Liberia Ave and Stonewall Rd and charged with aggravated assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and discharging a firearm in public.  THOMAS was held without bond and has a pending court date of March 19, 2015.  The victim, an adult male of Manassas Park, sustained non-life-threatening injuries as a result of the initial incident.


Prince William Police Seeking Help for 2014 Murder

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – According to Prince William police, homicide detectives are still seeking any information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of the individuals connected to the murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero.

The murder occurred at Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry in Woodbridge, VA on February 21, 2014.

The local police and the FBI Washington Field Office are working together to offer a reward of $20,000 for information that can lead to the arrests and convictions of these individuals. Additionally, there is a $1,000 reward being offered by the Prince William County Crime Solvers.

Glenda Coca-Romero was one of two victims (both employees) caught in the shooting at Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry, located in Woodbridge on 14342 Jefferson Davis Highway. The second victim was a 42-year-old store clerk who had also been shot and wounded. According to the police, the murder happened before 9:00 pm when three males entered the store in dark clothing and covered faces caught by the surveillance video footage. Following the shooting, the men fled the scene, most likely on foot.

Another employee, as well as a customer, was also inside the store when the murder happened but were unharmed. Prince William police also reported that no money or property was taken from the scene. Prince William police have released the surveillance footage from the night, and it is available for anyone to watch. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Prince William County Crime Solvers anonymously.

Below is the latest from Prince William police;

Reward increased to $21,000 in the 2014 Murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero

Prince William County, Va. — Prince William County Police Homicide Detectives continue to seek any information related to the murder of Glenda Marisol Coca-Romero, which occurred on February 21, 2014 at the Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry in Woodbridge, Va.

The FBI Washington Field Office partnered with the Prince William County Police Department to offer a reward for the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the murder of Coca-Romero. On February 20, 2015, the reward amount was increased to $20,000. This reward is still being offered in conjunction with a reward of up to $1,000 from the Prince William County Crime Solvers.

Anyone who has information regarding this case is asked to call Crime Solvers at 703-670-3700 or 1-866-411-TIPS. You do not have to give your name, just the information.

Glenda Coca-Romero was murdered at the Platanillos Grocery and Jewelry located at 14342 Jefferson Davis Highway in the Woodbridge area of Prince William County on February 21, shortly before 9:00p.m. A second store clerk, a 42-year old woman, was also shot and wounded during the attack.

Three male suspects wearing dark clothing with their faces covered were seen on surveillance entering the store. The suspects immediately fled the business following the shooting, possibly on foot. Two additional individuals, a customer, and another employee, were also inside the store at the time of the incident and were unharmed. No property or money was taken during the incident. Both victims were identified as being employees of the business.

The FBI and Prince William County Police encourage the public to continue viewing the video surveillance taken during the attack.

The Prince William County Police Department is the lead agency for this investigation. The FBI has been providing investigative assistance.

FBI Bulletin seeking information: http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/glenda-marisol-coca-romero/view

Surveillance footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i07VFaj8RL8


Glenda Marisol Coca-RomeroGlenda Marisol Coca-Romero




Qarni to run for 29th district Senate seat

Atif Qarni, a teacher in Prince William County and a veteran, has decided to run for the 29th District Senate seat currently held by Senator Chuck Colgan.

Colgan has made the decision to retire, after almost 40 years in his seat.

Qarni previously ran for Delegate Bob Marshall’s seat back in 2013 and lost by a slim margin of votes.

Before working as a teacher in Dale City at Beville Middle School for six years, he served in the Marine Corps for eight years. He has his Master’s degree from George Mason University. Qarni currently lives in Manassas with his wife and two children.

During his candidacy, Qarni has three main issues he hopes to address – education, transportation and strengthening small businesses.

“I want to restore the funding for public education. With the transportation bill that was passed, the state is looking at where to invest money – I want to really fight for those dollars to be focused on Prince William County – really fixing some of the infrastructure issues that we have,” Qarni said.

According to Qarni, the way to deal with the growing issue of residents having to leave the area to find jobs is by investing in small businesses.

“A lot of people are leaving the county – I want to bring jobs back to the county – and I think that the best way to do that is really strengthening our small businesses,” said Qarni.

Governor McAuliffe appointed Qarni to the Small Business Commission. He is also the chair of the Teacher’s Caucus for the Prince William County Democrats.

While he did not win the delegate race against Marshall, Qarni stated that the race taught him things that he will bring into this Senate race.

“I had a good grasp of running prior to [the delegate race], but I feel that I’m even stronger in that area. I can really represent the concerns the folks have in our district,” Qarni commented.

Qarni feels that he and Colgan share some core values that will allow him to continue that political legacy.

“Senator Colgan has done a lot for our district – with his 40 years of service, especially with the community colleges…and I’m big on education. So one of my hopes is to really continue in that regard, but focus more on K-12 education,” said Qarni.

Before entering the general election race, Qarni will have to primary against two other Democratic candidates – Delegate Michael Futrell and former delegate candidate Jeremy McPike.

“What sets me apart [from the other primary candidates] is my service background. With my military service, having served my country for eight years, and having gone to combat in Iraq…and my service as a teacher. I understand this district better than anybody.”

The primary will take place on June 9.

Qarni mentioned during his interview that he felt a candidate forum with Futrell and McPike would be an appropriate venue for voters to assess the candidates.

Meeting tonight on new police and fire station in Prince William

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.34.57 AM

Occoquan Supervisor Michael May is hosting a meeting tonight to discuss the upcoming Central District Police Station and Bacon Race Fire Station projects in Prince William County.

“Both of these projects are projects we’ve tried to fund for a number of years. As the community has grown, 43% in 10 years, obviously the demands on infrastructure have increased,” said May.

The two projects have already been a part of the Capital Improvement Plan for Prince William County. The fire station, which is set to cost $11.2 million, will be paid for out of the county levy funds. The police station, set to cost $28.6 million, is being paid for from the county’s general fund.

According to May, the fact that the county’s two current police stations are on opposite ends is not the most efficient setup for public safety.

“The [current] police station essentially operates as a central district police station, out of the eastern district station…There are a lot of jurisdictions of our size, which have as many as 4 stations,” May said, continuing, “…if every [police officer] has to go and check in at the far end of the county, and then spread out to their beats – that’s not an efficient way to spread out your public safety resources.”

When the stations are complete, officers will be able to check into the centralized station and then go out to their beats in the community.

“It doesn’t directly affect response times, [but] I think having that central station there…does help improve public safety response overall,” May commented.

May stated that the additional fire station was also needed, given the growth of the county, to ensure firefighters and medics can get to incidents quickly.

“With an increase in the population, you want to have those kinds of facilities spread out [across the county], to get to incidents more efficiently,” May said.

May said that the purpose of the meeting is to get feedback from the community about features and things residents want to see, to help the facilities blend in with the community.

“The purpose of these meetings are – these buildings are coming in, and they’re coming into our community. We want to hear from you on how you feel about where we’re looking at placing them, the architectural renderings, to make sure they complement the neighborhood.”

The county owns a parcel at the corner of Davis Ford Road and Prince William Parkway and intends to build both facilities on the site.

The construction of the police station and fire station are slated to begin this fall, and will be completed within the next two years, May said.

Attack the Fat uses the most effective equipment in the industry

freedom aqautic fitness center

The Attack the Fat challenge at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center uses a variety of different work outs to keep participants inspired and burning as many calories as possible.

Director of the Attack the Fat, Robin Frey says that for the strength component of the program they use everything from Technogym strength equipment, free weights, various weighted equipment, and many times functional body weight exercise, without any equipment.

Frey highlighted their use of TRX suspension training, which involves suspension straps weighed down by body weights. She said, “It’s very functional because you have to control every part of your movement with your body itself. You can do all different movements that require balance and stability so you’re getting a more integrated effort at that point.”

The center’s Olympic sized swimming pool is also used for strength training because of the natural resistance the water creates.

In addition to more strength based training, Frey says that they do a lot of cardio work.

“It’s by creating a metabolic effect where you’re keeping the heart rate elevated is where you’ll see calories burned,” said Frey. She explained that their goal is to create this metabolic effect, where both the heart rate and the metabolism increases.

Frey said, “Our most recent research shows us that when you bring the body up to that level and maintain it, it takes calories afterwards, a sufficient amount of calories, to bring it back to a resting state. So your body continues to metabolize and stay at a certain level after exercise.”

While the variety in these Attack the Fat workouts helps to burn calories and shed pounds, it also keeps the participants in the program engaged. With so many different resources available, trainers are able to help participants explore a variety of options for reaching their weight loss goals.

Snow ending across area, warmer temps to look forward to on Monday

022615 snow flower

It started snowing overnight and it piled up quickly.

All school systems in our area canceled classes today, governments delayed their opening, and Quantico Marine Corps Base closed altogether.

The National Weather Service just released some unofficial snow totals that measure what snow fell overnight:





A winter storm warning in effect for Stafford County expires at noon. Expect more snow showers this afternoon and evening ending before 2 a.m.

There’s another chance of snow showers Friday, and high temperatures will only be in the low 30s, according to the weather service. It’ll be sunny and cold on Saturday, and cloudy and in the low 40s un Sunday.

We could see highs in the low 50s on Monday – hello winter warm up.

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