The Twig, aka the Junior Auxiliary of Inova Alexandria Hospital, has deep roots in the community.
story by DAWN KLAVON | photography courtesy of THE TWIG
ALX IMPACT IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY McLaughlin Ryder Investments
Inova Alexandria Hospital has a huge ally with a tiny name: the Twig. The Junior Auxiliary for the healthcare facility was formed 90 years ago and adopted the name ‘the Twig’ to signify being a small branch supporting Alexandria Hospital.
The committed group has been spectacularly successful. In its earliest time, the Twig’s donations to the hospital included a $250 microscope, a $55 food purveyor and a $175 centrifuge — big money back in the day. In the 1940s, the creative volunteers at the Twig sold 10-cent carnations on the streets of Alexandria to support a hospital blood transfusion program.
All these years later, the non-profit group is stronger — and busier — than ever, providing financial aid, volunteer service and support to the hospital. The Alexandria City Council even issued and read a proclamation commending the philanthropic group back in January.
To garner support and with the ultimate goal of helping the Inova Alexandria Hospital provide the highest quality medical service, the Twig operates a successful thrift shop in Old Town Alexandria and hosts the Historic Alexandria Homes Tour.
“We are dedicated to our mission to support Alexandria Hospital and other charities because of our compassion and love for our community” says Starlet Zarek, a former Twig president, on the Twig’s website.
In addition to fundraising on behalf of the hospital, the all-volunteer organization participates in numerous events to support hospital staff and the local community.
By the Numbers
Since its founding 90 years ago, the Twig has contributed more than $4.5 million to Inova Alexandria Hospital, according to its website. Even through difficult times in American history, the organization persevered.
“The Twig managed to meet its pledge obligations to Inova despite COVID's best efforts to hinder us,” says Twig President Michele Cumberland. “Coming through that period successfully is a point of pride to our 90-year-old organization.”
Just a few of its incredible financial accomplishments:
Its current pledge of $500,000 over three years will be used to purchase a Leica Breast Reconstruction Microscope and to fund a Level III trauma program at the hospital.
In 2022, the Twig provided $125,000 toward funding the on-site Simulation Skills Lab and the Patient Financial Assistance Fund, according to its website.
A $1 million pledge initiated in November 2015 funded renovations of the Cardiovascular Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit including upgrades, a state-of-the-art clinical space, private patient rooms and attractive surroundings with space for patients, families and caregivers.
On top of that, the Twig provided $1 million for the Twig Surgical Center, completed in June 2015.
Finally, in 2010, the Twig completed a $750,000 pledge for the Twig Pavilion, an intermediate care unit.
Long before ‘thrifting’ was a thing, the Twig Thrift Shop offered affordable treasures. Located in Old Town Alexandria, the shop specializes in quality clothing and accessories for women and men, as well as housewares and books. Proceeds benefit the Inova Alexandria Hospital.
“Our thrift shop at 106 North Columbus Street is our primary fundraising avenue,” Cumberland says. “The thrift shop has a wide variety of customers — some are resale vendors who come in and then offer their purchases in various online venues. Others are just members of the community looking for a great deal. We are seeing an increase in younger people coming into the shop; they seem to view thrifting as a form of recycling.”
The Twig Thrift Shop offers men’s and women’s designer and name-brand clothing (Prada, Escada, Chanel, Ann Taylor, Chicos), estate items, handmade items and distinctive dime store jewelry. It also carries out-of-print books, upscale housewares like Limoges platters and sterling silver ice buckets, home accessories, small furniture and seasonal items.
Staff stock new merchandise daily and the shop accepts donated merchandise (except no children’s clothes, bedding or large pieces of furniture) when it is open. The shop is closed from mid-June through August.
“The Twig is 100% volunteer [operated], all of the items sold in the shop are donated and the proceeds all go to benefit Inova Alexandria Hospital,” Cumberland notes.
In addition to selling merchandise, sometimes donated clothes are farmed out to other non-profit organizations that could use the help.
“The Twig Thrift Shop provides us clothing, which we distribute to families, single mothers, grandparent caregivers and isolated seniors through our Family Ministry Center — changing the lives of more than 4,000 people per month,” says Deborah Chambers from Central Union Mission in Washington DC, as posted on the Twig website.
The Twig has proved to be a helpful resource for Alexandria organizations like St. Paul’s Lazarus Ministry, which provides emergency financial assistance to residents of Alexandria.
“[The] Twig provides free clothing when we identify a client in need. It is especially helpful for clients getting back into the workforce,” says Laura Simmons from the Lazarus Ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, on the Twig's website.
Homes on Parade
Ever wonder what those gorgeous historic homes look like inside? The Twig hosts a fundraiser, the Historic Alexandria Homes Tour, every September. The self-guided walking tour of picturesque homes and gardens in Old Town Alexandria features original and preserved structures, curated artwork and historical collections.
“I think people like it because they see these homes when walking around Alexandria and are curious as to how the historic properties have been adapted to modern living,” Cumberland says. “Quite a few of the homeowners who generously offer their homes for the day have traveled extensively and so the furnishings tend to be very eclectic.”
Support the Twig
The Twig has been a philanthropic force in Alexandria since 1933 and is always looking for new individuals and organizations to support the mission. The Together We Ignite Giving campaign offers an opportunity for companies, organizations and individuals to donate to the Twig to support its mission to provide volunteer services, offer financial aid and purchase equipment in support of Inova Alexandria Hospital.
Those volunteers who have stepped up and served in the Twig testify to how gratifying it can be.
“I attended a Twig Coffee in 1990 and was impressed with the energy, commitment, loyalty and dedication; as well as their love for one another and their pride in Alexandria Hospital,” says Zarek, on the Twig’s website.
90 Years and Beyond
The Twig continues to persevere, creating funding and support that raise the bar for healthcare in Alexandria. Through its popular thrift store and highly sought-after home tour, the organization succeeds in carrying out its mission, established in 1933. The people of Alexandria are the ultimate benefactors, says Twig volunteers.
“I think it is important for communities to maintain an excellent local hospital,” says Cumberland. “Virtually everyone in Alexandria, at some point, will require services at Inova Alexandria.”