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Northern Virginia Family Serviceswhich operates the SERVE homeless shelter and food bank in Manassas, has been slated to receive a $2.5 million grant from a foundation launched by Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.  

The Day One Fund, established by Bezos and his wife MacKenzie to address homelessness across the nation, recently announced $97.5 million in awards to 24 organizations, including two in Virginia and two in Washington, D.C. Each will receive grants of $2.5 or $5 million. 

NVFS, based in Oakton, Virginia, has been working to alleviate homelessness since 1924, according to its website. The nonprofit has an annual budget of about $38 million and runs 30 programs that serve about 35,000 peopleincluding residents of Prince William County.  

In addition to the SERVE campus in Manassas, NVFS operates two Head Start early-childhood education programs in Woodbridge. 

The nonprofit, which defines its model as “people-centric” and “holistic,” says it will use the money to continue its best practices in ending family homeless and to “develop new solutions that help address systemic inequities, President and CEO Stephanie Berkowitz said in a press release. 

Housing Families First, in Henrico County, will also receive a $2.5 million Bezos grant. 

Beth Vann-Turnbull, its executive director, said the money will allow the nonprofit to expand its housing offerings, “moving an additional 500 children and adults into a permanent home over the next four years.”  

The organization, which has an annual budget of $1.2 million, will also repair and improve its emergency shelter to accommodate 40 more adults and children, bringing its total served to 250 a year. 

“Homelessness is multi-faceted and complicated,” Vann-Turnbull added in an emailBut it is certainly not a hopeless, intractable problem.”  

She said the region could “dramatically reduce homelessness” were it to focus upon “living wages, increased transportation options and an ample stock of housing in a variety of price points.” 

The Bezos’ Day One Fund consists of two nationwide programsThe Day One Families Fund provides grants to nonprofits fighting homelessness. The Day One Academies Fund will boost a network of low-income community preschools.  

Its website says the grant recipients are doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter for young families in communities across the country.” 

The Day One Fund press release commended the assistance of 12 experts in family homelessness who helped choose this year’s recipients, which included the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Martha’s Table, the Melville Charitable Trust and the U.S. Department of Human Services. 

Other local award winners were Community of Hope and District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), both in Washington, D.C.  

The 24 grants went to 16 U.S. states and the District. For a full list of grant recipients, visit www.BezosDayOneFund.org. 

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