A Night in The Caribbean!

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On Friday, February 23, contributing writer, Aubrey Shaffner, joins young professionals at the Embassy of Bahamas for a ThingstodoDC Culture event that delivers the Spirit of Nassau and Paradise Island with a diplomatic touch!

This past weekend I decided to take a step away from the hustle and bustle of reality and head to the Bahamas! Well, actually it was the Embassy Consular Annex of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, but close enough! Between the live music, the food, and the atmosphere, it really felt like I had stepped out of DC and into the Caribbean for the evening.

Held on Friday night, the Embassy hosted a networking event for young professionals in the DC region. The evening started with an insightful speech from the new Consul General of the Bahamas, Mr. Theo Neilly, who not only was so welcoming, but also expressed opportunities for all in attendance to succeed in their business, investment, and networking growth.

His speech was followed by a short video to help get to know the Bahamas a little bit more. It was a great way for everyone there to understand the common wealth and anticipate in finding professional opportunities within the Bahamas. I was lucky enough for a chance to speak one-on-one with Consul General Neilly after his speech. He was wonderful and so approachable. I really appreciated how down to Earth he was. We not only talked about the event but about his time so far in DC, where he described his love of all the “characters “ he found around the city. We also discussed about him coming up to my home city of Baltimore, which I do hope he will soon come to visit!

 

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Afterwards everyone was free to mingle! Set to the mood of live steel drums, provided by Peter Humphrey from Oasis/Island Sounds, groups began to form around the room as individuals got to know each other. I made many connections and learned about everyone’s different positions. The first gentleman I spoke to helped refugees apply for Asylum in the United States. Especially considering the current tension on the subject these days, it was wonderful learning from someone first hand the steps of the process in which refugees go through. I also met another gentleman who was a medical resident, focusing on Oncology, and two wonderful women who work at Johns Hopkins University focusing on Bioengineering. It was a great mix of individuals and professions.

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Consul General of the Bahamas, Mr. Theo Neilly, and Aubrey Shaffner. Photo courtesy of Hannah Smith.

Quickly after the Consuls speech the buffet opened. Caribbean food is an absolute hit with everyone! All around me quickly moved in to grab a plate of the authentic meal. A selection of spicy cucumber and tomato salad, conch fritters, rice with beans, plantains, and my favorite, curried chicken.

Towards the end of the night, I briefly spoke to the chef in charge of our meal and was  fascinated to learn about how he made some of the dishes. I could have stood there and talked to him all night had we had the time. I even tried to get some recipes but unfortunately he didn’t have them with him. Even dessert was amazing! There were two options: a classic chocolate and cherry cake, as well as a festive coconut and banana bread pudding. I chose the latter and it happened to be the best selection of the entire night! Served warm, the bread pudding was perfectly soft but still provided texture with the crunchy flakes of coconut baked right in. A creamy vanilla rum sauce on top gave it the tropical flair! All together it melted in my mouth and I immediately went for seconds!

To pair with the great meal was a glass of tropical rum punch, that really had everyone in a great mood! Classic options such as red and white wine, and a light beer were also provided. Needless to say the Embassy did an amazing job of hosting; making us feel like we truly were all friends hanging out on an island with no cares in the world. As the event was winding down Mr. Humphrey even gave me a quick lesson on how to play the steel drums! He explained to me how it was similar to learning piano, that both had the same musical scales.

I, along with everyone I connected with, enjoyed the night! Few attendees even shared details about their Embassy event trips through Things to do DC. These events provide a great opportunity to “travel” and truly experience almost anywhere in the world right at home. I do encourage anyone in, or around, the DC area to attend a similar event in the future. My only complaint was that time went by too quickly!

Be sure to head to Islands for the Next ThingstoDoDC Cultural Event at the Embassy of Bahamas: Caribbean Celebration on May 4! 

 

Pearl Gala : 30 Years and More to Come!

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On February 17, 2018, Sharing the Details contributor, Aubrey Shaffner explored a lavish gala in the heart of Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria Virginia. She wore a stylish black dress with a deep v neck, had her hair tied up to the side, and wore golden, circle, earrings to match the sparkle of the room.

“Despite an intense winter storm hitting the tri-state area Saturday night, the Community Lodgings 30th Pearl Gala Event was a huge success! The gorgeous ballroom of the Belle Haven Country Club was buzzing with conversation and excitement as friends came together to celebrate the non-profits monumental anniversary.

Community Lodgings was founded by 8 Episcopal churches in the Alexandria Virginia area in 1987. Per their website, “Community Lodgings’ mission is to lift families from homelessness and instability to independence and self-sufficiency through transitional housing, affordable housing, and our Youth education programs… to have a world where all families have access to housing, education and resources to achieve and sustain independence and productivity.”

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Contributors: Aubrey Shaffner and Chloe Shaffner.  Picture by Mark Soriano

Since opening, the churches have been able to purchase 44, soon to be 45, apartments that they are able to provide at below market rent to families in need. Beyond housing the program also works with underprivileged community youth.

In 1998, the organization expanded by opening computer literacy and English Language Learner (ELL) classes for adults to combat the risk of homelessness, gang involvement, substance abuse, inappropriate sexual activity and emotional, physical,and/or sexual abuse. In 2002, the organization again expanded, opening the community-based Fifer Family Learning Center. Built to meet the needs of the surrounding Arlandria-Chirilagua community as well as introducing their Youth Education Program. Elementary, middle and high school students, all living below the poverty threshold, could now attend free daily afterschool programs and summer programs, meet with tutors and mentors, learn valuable life skills, and participate in various enrichment and recreational activities. In 2008 Community Lodgings expanded the center, increasing instructional time for at-risk children and their parents. Community Lodgings was also named “Non-profit service provider of the year” by HomeAid Northern Virginia.

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Pictures by Mark Soriano

The Gala is an annual fundraiser for the non-profit. The night was celebrated to the music and flair of the 50’s and 60’s classic Motown group, The Intruders, who had everyone excited to get out on the dance floor! A wonderful buffet dinner was provided by the Country Club. Filled with selections such as fish, and chicken, with a variety of sides like green bean salad, corn, and squash as well. Also available was a dessert display of cannolis, tiramisu, and chocolate cake.

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Pictures by Mark Soriano

The staff of Belle Haven were so quick and courteous. I had found a high top table off to the side to be able to observe the general splendor of the evening that happened to be near one of the bar stations. The older gentleman behind the bar kept an eye on me all night, making sure I was well and never without a drink, I do wish I would have caught his name. A silent, and live auction also took place to help raise money for the families in need. Some of the prizes included were a trip to Cancun, a private chef for an evening, and tickets to sporting events. To increase the funds raised some anonymous donors even matched individual’s bids. I watched as thousands were brought in to help such a worthy cause.

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Pictures by Mark Soriano

In honor of the 30th Anniversary a special awards ceremony was also held, honoring the contributions of several long-time board members, founding faith partners and other community partners. One stand out award was the “Community Hero,” given to John Porter. Everyone involved in the non-profit, whether they were from the beginning or a more recent addition, were genuinely happy to be a part of helping the cause, and working as a cohesive unit to help the individuals and families in need.

Overall, the night was full of success and happiness in the honor of helping those in the community who need it most. I love that Community Lodgings not only knows that their community is stronger together, but really makes it happen. I wish them nothing but the best for another 30 years of success and happiness helping those that truly need it in the Alexandria Virginia area.”

Click here to donate to Community Lodgings, Inc.

About Community Lodgings, Inc.

For the past 30 years, Community Lodgings has helped homeless and low-income families by providing a variety of affordable and transitional housing options. In addition they offer Youth Education programs and Community Outreach. Community Lodgings’ mission is to lift families from homelessness and instability to independence and self-sufficiency through Transitional HousingAffordable Housing and our Youth Education ProgramsLearn more about our history and values.