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FairfaxNewsArc of Northern Virginia taps new executive director

Arc of Northern Virginia taps new executive director

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Melissa Heifetz, described as an experienced leader of non-profit organizations and a passionate and dedicated advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, has been tapped as the next executive director of The Arc of Northern Virginia.

Heifetz will assume her new duties on Jan. 1 upon the retirement of The Arc’s current leader, Rikki Epstein.

“Melissa’s proven executive leadership, her exemplary success generating support and affinity for causes, demonstrated skill in building strong relationships and collaborations, and enthusiastic passion for our mission make her the ideal leader for The Arc of Northern Virginia at this exciting and important moment,” said Mark Albert, the organization’s board chair.

“We are looking forward with optimism to Melissa’s leadership of our organization,” Albert said.


Heifetz previously served as the executive director of The Arc of Loudoun and at Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon. In 2018, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce awarded her its Non-Profit Leadership Award.

She founded Advocacy Partners LLC in 2020 to provide advocacy services to individuals with disabilities and their families. In her role at Advocacy Partners, she contracted with The Arc of Virginia to represent its state chapter on General Assembly-created policy workgroups, conducted numerous training programs, and has been an invited guest speaker at disability conferences throughout the Northern Virginia community and at state and national conventions.

“I have very big shoes to fill,” said Heifetz, an attorney, “but I am thrilled to be joining the talented and dedicated team.I am looking forward to leading this organization that shares my same values of advocacy for human rights, full inclusion, equal participation in the community, fairness and justice for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The Arc of Northern Virginia was founded in 1962 and today serves over 39,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities – such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and rare chromosomal disorders – and their families in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church. The Arc of Northern Virginia is an organization that builds community opportunities for citizens with disabilities so that they can live “A Life Like Yours.”

Epstein has served as executive director for 11 years.

“Under her leadership, The Arc of Northern Virginia has expanded programing to better inform, educate and serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families; matured into a recognized force for advocacy among local and state governments; and grew to become the highly regarded and respected organization it is today,” the organization said.

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