From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!


While we love hearing about all of our exceptional businesses around Alexandria, we were especially looking forward to this month’s interview with the Child and Family Network Centers because of what they do in and for Alexandria. The organization fills such a crucial need in our community! We sat down in July with Lisa Ferrari Carter, CFNC’s Executive Director, to learn more about their mission and goals.


AEDP: For those who don’t know about CFNC, can you please tell us a little bit about the organization?

Lisa: The Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC) is an Alexandria nonprofit that provides caring, high-quality, free education and related services to at-risk children and their families in their own neighborhoods in order to prepare them for success in school and life. We provide free early education to 139 children in 8 neighborhood classrooms each year and work with their parents to help them become more self-sufficient. 


AEDP: How did you get started?

Lisa: I joined CFNC in 2014 as their Director of Development and was promoted in 2017 to Executive Director. I am passionate about giving children in underserved communities the early education they need to start Kindergarten ready to learn because I know that if they start kindergarten ready it will set them up for success in life.  I oversee a staff of 23 and a Board of Directors of 15. I am responsible for guaranteeing a high-quality program, as well as ensuring enough dollars are raised to support the mission. Prior to CFNC, I was part of the development team at USO World headquarters, a $265 million nonprofit that supports America’s military. I also served as Development Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area chapter and as the Director of Events for the Alzheimer’s Association Central and Western Virginia chapter.  Before embarking on a career in fundraising for deserving nonprofits, I was a television reporter at WTVR CBS 6 in Richmond, VA and at the Charlottesville Newsplex in Charlottesville, VA.


AEDP: We can imagine that there are lots of great moments, and some challenges, when running an organization with this kind of mission. For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of running CFNC?

Lisa: I find this time of year so rewarding. All of our 139 preschool students will leave ready for Kindergarten. When I walk into the classroom, I can see the amazing growth in these kids that happens in just 10 short months. They have the math, literacy and social and emotional skills they need to be successful in school and their assessment results prove it. But you don’t need to see a test score to know they are ready; you simply observe what’s happening in the classroom for a few minutes and you know.


AEDP: Looking out at the horizon- what’s the next big project or goal you’re working on?

Lisa: There are many more kids in Alexandria that we are not serving. We know we want to be able to reach these kids. It takes finding classroom locations in most in need neighborhoods.  It takes money and it takes resources. We were fortunate to work with Alexandria Economic Development Partnership to locate a classroom space in the West End of Alexandria at Landmark Towers on S Whiting Street. We were also fortunate to have many local businesses and foundations come together and donate time, talent and money to help us get into this space and serve this community. We couldn’t have made this happen without The City of Alexandria, The Brian- Morris Foundation, Biscayne Contractors, Cole and Denny Architects, Make Kids Smile Foundation and so many more. This is a huge challenge because it’s June and we just signed the lease and plan on opening two classrooms there in September. So, we will all be working hard over the next few months to demolish and build out the classrooms and build a playground but we will be ready in September.


AEDP: Would you share the best piece of professional advice you’ve received? What’s your favorite quote?

Lisa: Best advice? We are all learning and growing every day- no one’s perfect. Just do your best every day. Learn from your mistakes and do better tomorrow. For the quote, I heard a mom on the Today show tell her son who was in a wheelchair “Limits are for credit cards. There is no limit to what you can do.” I love that. There is no limit to what we can do.


AEDP: And our favorite way to end an interview: what’s your favorite thing about Alexandria?

Lisa: The people here have big hearts. They are so caring and giving. It’s an amazing community to live in.


To learn more about the Child and Family Network Centers, visit their website or stop by their office at 3700 Wheeler Avenue