Home Is Where Your Heart Is: Daria’s Story

Daria at a shopping center near her home.

Daria G., age 62, has lived at Leckey Gardens in north Arlington since 2002. She lives in an apartment with her daughter Robin and son Brian. Originally from Washington D.C., Daria grew up in the Southeast quadrant of the city, just off Pennsylvania Avenue. After becoming pregnant at age 16, Daria focused her attention on being a mother and later decided to go to technical school. She worked to get her clerical certification, so she could pursue a career with the government. However, as Daria’s young marriage fell apart and she again became pregnant, her career aspirations took a backseat as her family began to grow.

At the time, her three children- Stephanie, Robin, and Brian- were in elementary school, and Daria was working odd jobs in retail and security as a single mother. At this time, she was introduced to an organization known in Southeast as “The Little White House” – officially, The DC Dream Center – which is a neighborhood center that offers mentoring, counseling, legal support, and a variety of other community support services for families in need. All three of Daria’s children were each paired with their own mentors, who would help them with school activities and stay in touch regularly.

Over time, life as a single mother just became too much for Daria. As she struggled to make ends meet, she was evicted from her apartment in D.C.  Luckily, her daughter Stephanie’s mentor (who had become a close family friend) stepped up and offered to take care of Daria’s children while she got her affairs in order. In 2000, Stephanie, Robin, and Brian all moved into Arlington with Stephanie’s mentor as their guardian.

Daria visited her children every weekend. She knew this was a temporary situation and that one day they would be reunited. And while Daria worked to find the financial stability that would support her family again, her children were flourishing in elementary school in Arlington. “I loved the way they were coming up- they could just be themselves, just thrive,” she said. So, after waiting some time to secure a housing voucher, Daria knew she wanted to search for an affordable home in Arlington so Stephanie, Robin, and Brian could continue in Arlington Public Schools. After being provided with a list of affordable properties she found Leckey Gardens. Finding Leckey Gardens was “like a gift from God. I could not believe the way things were falling into place.”

Volunteers from the DC Dream Center assisted the family with moving. Donated furniture, clothes, and other household goods helped the family start on their new path. It was a long two years, but her family was finally reunited. Daria had a job working as a switchboard operator for George Washington University, and the first few years in their new apartment were comfortable and stable. Unfortunately, after several years of working at GW, the phone systems were automated and most people from her department were let go. With her severance pay, Daria purchased a car and began to work a few odd jobs. “I felt a bit of a panic set in- we were so used to living a certain way with my job at GW, and now things were up in the air,” she said. Luckily, things again stabilized for the family over time, and her children continued to excel in the Arlington County school system. They played sports and were involved in music programs.

Today, things are peaceful and joyous at home. Stephanie has graduated college, moved out, and is working a corporate job. Daughter Robin just graduated Suma Cum Laude from George Mason University and is about to take the MCAT. She hopes to become a physician’s assistant. Brian is working at a local Safeway and produces rap music in his down time. He is also on the college path and is considering a bachelors in the music field. Daria herself is working as a leasing consultant at a local apartment complex. At home, she manages an aquarium with over 50 fish and loves the joy they bring to her day. She also loves to snuggle up and watch old movies with her children. When reflecting on her journey to Arlington, she is happy with where her family has landed. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better, in terms of neighborhood and community.”