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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

ACCA celebrates 50 years of good works

Don DiSpirito speaks at ACCA's 50th anniversary celebration.
For the past 50 years, Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA) has served our neediest residents, providing assistance with food, furniture, childcare, and emergency funding.

The nonprofit organization – a coalition of 26 churches – commemorated its 50th anniversary Oct. 3 at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Lincolnia.

ACCA got its start when Fred and Emily Ruffing learned that rule changes for the Head Start program meant many working families would be excluded, so they worked with other church members to launch the Child Development Center (CDC).

It was originally based at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church and is now housed in the former Annandale Elementary School on Columbia Pike in Annandale.

Later on, ACCA expanded its work to help the needy by maintaining a food pantry, restoring and delivering furniture, providing emergency funds, transporting people to doctor’s appointments, bringing people food via Meals on Wheels, and funding college scholarships.

Don DiSpirito, chair of ACCA’s Furniture Committee, spoke about how that program relies on donated furniture, donated trucks, and volunteers who donate their time. “It’s a transaction accomplished without any money being exchanged,” he said, and that’s what drew him to volunteer for the program 35 years ago.

Volunteers have so far made 11,450 furniture deliveries and helped about 22,400 people, he said. Among the 200 volunteers was someone whom he learned later was a retired four-star admiral. “He never told us. That’s the kind of person that this organization is all about,” DiSpirito said.

He spoke about the immediate impact ACCA has had on many lives – as when the group was able to help a disabled couple who moved into a basement apartment but couldn’t afford furniture and provided emergency funds to help people avoid eviction or pay a utility bill.

ACCA also has a far-reaching impact on people’s lives, he said, through programs like the CDC and the Rebuilding Together program, in which volunteers have made repairs to about 100 homes for seniors or people with disabilities.

ACCA’s guiding principle, DiSpirito said, is “Do what Jesus would do.”

Joshua Anton, the recipient of a Ruffing Scholarship from ACCA, told how that gift transformed his life.

In high school, Anton had a difficult relationship with his mother. When she kicked him out of their home in 2009, his best friend’s mother took him in but he worked at three jobs to save for the future. The scholarship enabled him to attend Northern Virginia Community College, where he excelled and got a free ride to the University of Virginia.

While in college Anton created the Drunk Mode app, which prevents intoxicated people from drunk dialing and helps friends find one another and stay safe on a night out.

After he graduated – with degrees in marketing and information technology – Anton founded X-Mode, a company that adapts geo-location data for advertising, real estate, and other uses. The company has 26 employees and raised $2.5 million from angel investors.

The aid from ACCA was critical to his success, Anton told the audience. “You believed in me.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution commemorating ACCA, and Mason Supervisor Penny Gross expressed her appreciation to ACCA for doing so much for the community that the county can’t do.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, although not able to attend the ceremony in person, presented a congressional proclamation stating, “Civic engagement is the foundation of a healthy community” and commemorating ACCA’s many contributions to benefit the community.

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