Our History

Casa Chirilagua began in 2007, when three young women moved into the heart of the Chirilagua (also known as Arlandria) neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia with the goal of listening to the stories and wisdom of their Latino neighbors. After two years of life in the neighborhood, Julia, Emily, and Dawnielle decided to respond to neighbors’ concerns about their kids’ academic progress by opening a reading club in their own apartment.

This seedling form of Kids Club grew for two more years before the three ladies established Casa Chirilagua as an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit. Now, Casa Chirilagua is a community of parent committee officers, staff members, board members, church partners, children and their families, and many weekly volunteers working together to see the Kingdom of God established in the neighborhood surrounding that little apartment.

From that small beginning in 2007, the community has achieved incredible success at a rapid growth rate. Here are some highlights through the years:


Dawnielle Miller, Julia Simerly, and Emily Mancia relocate to a Presidential Greens apartment in the center of Chirilagua with the sole desire to relationally love their neighbors as themselves.


Kids Club launches in a donated basement room on Bruce Street with 10 children.


Casa Chirilagua is formed under the umbrella of Truth & Grace Ventures; Mentoring program is established via Wright to Read.


Casa Chirilagua launches as an official 501(c)(3) non-profit with Dawnielle Miller as the Executive Director.


Kids Club alumni form a new middle school program, Teens Club.


The Local Leaders pilot program, a community led and community informed 3-year strategic direction to develop community leaders, successfully completes its first year of operation.


Casa Chirilagua’s community center opens in the heart of Chirilagua and an English Language Learning class (Yo Hablo Inglés) is added to our adult programs.


Casa to College is launched to help remove barriers to higher education for 1st generation college students.


Casa Chirilagua transitions Executive Director leadership from Dawnielle Miller to Adriana Schellhaas.


Casa pivots towards COVID-19 related emergency community relief by distributing 900K lbs of food, creating an in-house food/cleaning items pantry, distributing $162,000 of financial assistance for rent and utility expenses, and opening our doors as a Kids Club and Teens Club learning hub for virtual schooling.

Get Involved

Our relational network of volunteers and donors reflects a diverse group of individuals from all over the Washington, D.C. metro area. As a non-profit, we rely on the community for assisting program directors on-site, being mentors, supplying the needs of our food pantry, and everything in between. Each member of our Casa community holds a unique gift, whether time, talent or treasure.