OAR Celebrates Freedom and Liberation for Juneteenth

June 19, 2023

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, holds a profound historical and cultural significance in the United States. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and proclaimed freedom for the remaining enslaved Black people, nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Juneteenth represents the end of chattel slavery for Black people in the United States and highlights the enduring struggle for equality and justice.

Juneteenth has only been recognized as a federal holiday since 2021, but we at OAR of Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church have celebrated Juneteenth for many years now as we have been on the journey for racial justice and liberation for all. Throughout the entire year, but on Juneteenth especially, OAR gives special honor to and celebrates the achievements, contributions, cultural heritage, ancestors, and liberation of Black people. We are emboldened by their perseverance and resilience in the face of injustice and seek to honor their spirit in our work. We take today as another opportunity to affirm our commitment to dismantling racism in all systems, particularly the criminal legal system, and promoting justice, healing, and freedom for all, especially for OAR participants and their families. 

Although Juneteenth is also a call for community, radical love and joy, and celebration, it is also a reminder that our country has a deep-rooted history of anti-Black racism and calls us to take an explicitly pro-Black stand and emphasizes the importance of OAR’s work and fight for liberation. In order to celebrate freedom for all, we need to have freedom for all. 

Today, let us all recommit ourselves to the journey for racial justice and liberation. It is not enough to simply commemorate the past; we must actively work towards a future where all can thrive and be free. 

For more about Juneteenth: https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/jun/19 

For more about OAR’s Upstream and Downstream Work: https://vimeo.com/816714290

Project Winter Cheer 2021-2022

*Disclamer: If you have not already read our update on OAR’s Project Winter Cheer program from last year, please click here to learn more and read below. We will NOT be hosting a toy-drive and a wrapping party this year, please read below for more information.*

About Project Winter Cheer:

OAR’s Project Winter Cheer program supports children and families impacted by incarceration for the winter season. It is so important to us that family relationships are maintained while a parent is incarcerated and after their release, and that no child is forgotten during the winter/holiday season. We ask that you – members and organizations of the community – also keep these children in mind and get involved in supporting this amazing program!

Our goal for this program is to provide each child with a $50 gift card/e-gift card/cash/check/or direct deposit. This way, the families can choose to use these funds for whatever they need (holiday gifts, winter clothes, bills, food, etc). Along with the $50, each child receives a note from their parent (that has been kept safely for 2 weeks prior to sending out), letting them know that the gift is coming from them and wishing them love during the winter season. 

How to Support: 

We are still currently collecting donations of gift cards/online donations for Project Winter Cheer until the end of January 2022!

  • Donate gift cards (ex. VISA, Target, Amazon, Walmart are the most popular) in denominations of $25, $50, or $100 and mail them to the OAR office (1400 N. Uhle Street, Suite 704, Arlington, VA 22201).
  • Donate on the OAR website specifically to our children and family programs (Project Connection/Project Backpack/Project Winter Cheer) online here. We have this donation form up year-round.
  • Volunteer to help with guardian outreach, data entry, and purchasing and mailing gift cards on behalf of OAR (some virtual and some in-person). We especially need local volunteers for the purchasing and mailing of gift cards. Please email Stephannie Ku at sku@oaronline.org if you are interested in volunteering for any Project Winter Cheer related opportunities.
  • Help spread the word! Please help us share our social media posts about Project Winter Cheer, post on your own social media, send your friends and family the fundraiser link, etc.

Questions? Contact Stephannie Ku at sku@oaronline.org or call 703-228-7132

August 6, 2020                                                                                                  


For more information contact:

Elizabeth Jones Valderrama, OAR




On Friday, July 10, 2020, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran cited reentry programming provided by the PAPIS (Pre-release and Post Incarceration Services) Coalition across the the Commonwealth as a major reason why Virginia, for the 4th year in a row, has achieved the lowest recidivism (i.e., re-incaraceration) rate in the country.

Moran praised PAPIS and its nine member organizations in a briefing he presented to the members of the Senate of Virginia’s Committees on Judiciary and Rehabilitation and Social Services at a virtual Joint Meeting held in preparation for the General Assembly’s planned special session in August, much of which will focus on systemic racism and policing reforms.

“We’ve been a member of the Coalition since its creation more than 20 years ago,” said Elizabeth Jones Valderrama, Executive Director of OAR of Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church.  “It’s heartening to know that our efforts and those of the other PAPIS members are having a positive impact on the lives of individuals coming home from incarceration and on communities as a whole.”

Coalition members offering pre-release and/or post-release reentry services in the state include three other nonprofits using the OAR acronym: OAR of Richmond, OAR Jefferson Area Community Corrections (based in Charlottesville and operating across Central Virginia), and OAR NOVA, which works in Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Counties.  All four trace their origins back to the beginning of the restorative justice movement in Virginia in the early 1970s.

In addition to these organizations, the PAPIS Coalition also includes Colonial Community Corrections Transitional Services in Williamsburg; Northern Neck Regional Jail Reentry and Transition Services in Warsaw; Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Winchester; STEP-UP, Inc. in Norfolk; and Virginia CARES, Inc. in Roanoke.  Together the Coalition covers 65 percent of Virginia.

OAR of Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church typicially connects with more than 700 people each year who will be returning or have already come home to these communities after incarceration.  OAR’s pre-release services include reentry workshops in local detention facilities and the nearest State prison as well as one-on-one transition planning with individual residents and their families.

OAR also welcomes people home, providing direct services for individuals (including help with food, housing, transportation, and other basic needs) at the time of release and over their initial months back in the community.  The organization offers individual case management and a comprehensive job search coaching and assistance program as part of its post-release services.

Recidivism, which refers to individuals re-engaging with the criminal legal system after release from incarceration, is one measure of how that system fails People of Color in this country – especially Black and Brown people, who represent a disproportionate percentage of the prison and jail population in Virginia and nationwide.

“Virginia’s rate of 23 percent compares well with the national one-year recidivism rate of 50 percent, but it’s still too high,” said Jones Valderrama.  “We’d welcome the opportunity to expand our programming both before and after people are released so that more individuals enjoy a safe reentry.”

Founded in 1974, OAR journeys with individuals of all genders who are returning to the community after incarceration, manages an alternative sentencing program for the Arlington County and City of Falls Church courts that allows others to avoid that life-altering experience, and works to achieve racial justice in the criminal legal system and society at large.   The organization addresses incarceration, the legal system, and all systems “upstream” (calling out the racism that permeates these systems and seeking social justice) and “downstream” (providing services to specific individuals).

In fiscal year 2020, OAR worked with 766 individuals who were experiencing incarceration or who had recently come home to the community and their families as well as 1,285 adults and youth who performed community service under its supervision.  Since last fall, OAR has hosted four intensive two-day anti-racism workshops for some 180 members of the community, including law enforcement partners, and has presented its racial justice work to over 700 people.

OAR is the only nonprofit in the DC metro area that works with specific individuals of all genders impacted by the criminal legal system and also challenges the systemic racism responsible for mass incarceration and other structural inequities in our society.

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OAR of Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church is a community-based nonprofit that journeys with individuals of all genders who seek a safe reentry as they return to the community from incarceration.  We also offer alternative sentencing options through community service to youth and adults, reducing incarceration and helping individuals avoid the life-altering trauma of that experience.  We promote justice in the legal system and across all systems by addressing the systemic racism responsible for mass incarceration and other structural inequities in our society.  We envision a safe and thriving community where all people – including those impacted by the criminal legal system – enjoy equal civil and human rights.

To learn more about our work, please visit our website at www.OARonline.org or contact OAR Executive Director Elizabeth Jones Valderrama at 703-228-7441 or ejonesvalderrama@oaronline.org.

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Click to support our mission!

Join OAR on April 2, 2020 for our 12th Annual “Second Chance Fundraising Breakfast”

RSVP is now closed for this event. Thank you for joining us!

Thank you to our sponsors:

Interested in learning more about OAR but can’t attend the Breakfast? We encourage you to sign up for a free 1-hour Tour of OAR’s mission. In just one hour, you’ll learn about programs and services, meet some of our staff, and get inspired by our participant’s stories. Click here to view a list of dates and to sign up.

Need more information or have questions about the Breakfast? Contact Stephannie Ku, OAR’s Director of Events & Communications and Race Equity Ambassador, at sku@oaronline.org.


For the second year in a row, OAR will be hosting a back-to-school drive to collect new backpacks and school supplies for children who have a parent incarcerated locally. OAR introduced this program, “Project Backpack,” last year in an effort to offer another way for parents who are incarcerated to connect with their child(ren). We were able to serve over 170 children through this program last year, and we are excited to continue Project Backpack to collect supplies for the 2019-2020 school year.

Project Backpack is such a crucial program because many children with a parent experiencing incarceration live in poverty and cannot afford even the basic necessities for their education. With the help of the community, we can ensure that these children get the supplies they need to succeed in school. Through this program, each child will receive a brand new backpack filled with age-appropriate school supplies as well as a handwritten note from the parent incarcerated, letting the child know that they are not forgotten. Children under the age of five will be given new backpacks filled with age-appropriate books.

How to get involved with Project Backpack:

  1. Donate new backpacks and school supplies! Donations can be made through our Project Backpack Amazon Wishlist and mailed directly to the OAR office (1400 N. Uhle St., Suite 704, Arlington, VA 22201) or visit any of the Project Backpack donation box locations set up at businesses, faith communities, and civic organizations throughout the community! (Donation box locations soon to come!)
  2. Host a donation box! We are currently seeking sites (businesses, apartment complexes, community centers, faith communities, etc) to host a donation box to help us collect items for Project Backpack. If you are interested in hosting a donation box, or if you know a business we should connect with, please let us know. We will provide all the materials you need (including the box). Email Stephannie Ku at sku@oaronline.org if interested.
  3. Make a financial contribution! Funding helps pay for things like mailing the supplies to children who live outside of the local delivery area and for purchasing extra supplies if necessary to ensure that each child in the program receives a new backpack filled with supplies. Donations can be made on our website here. Please list “Project Backpack” in the “Comments” section on the donation page.
  4. Donate books and gift cards! We will be collecting age-appropriate books and gift cards to give to children under the age of 5. Gift cards to Target and Amazon are most helpful!
  5. Volunteer for delivery/administrative needs! Volunteers are needed throughout the month of June and August to help deliver and pick-up donation boxes around the community and to assist with administrative duties such as calling guardians of the children to confirm delivery information. This can be arranged during OAR’s business hours or on weekday evenings. Contact Stephannie Ku at sku@oaronline.org for all volunteer inquiries.
  6. Volunteer at the Project Backpack Packing Party event! OAR’s Project Backpack packing party will be held on August 21, 2019 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm in Alexandria. We will be packing up all the backpacks and school supplies to send out for delivery at the event. Registration is now closed for this event! 

The deadline to send in any donations from our Amazon Wishlist is Tuesday, August 20th. Donation boxes in the community will be collected on August 12, 13, 14, and 20th! 

Donation Box Site Locations: 

  • Arlington Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU) Ballston Branch
    • 4121 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA
  • Arlington Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU) Columbia Pike Branch
    • 5666 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, VA
  • Arlington Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU) Glebe Branch
    • 2130 N. Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA
  • Arlington County Sheriff’s Office(NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 1425 N. Courthouse Rd, #9100, Arlington, VA
  • Advantage Trainers (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 100A E. Fairfax St, Falls Church, VA
  • Arlington Central Library (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 1015 N Quincy St, Arlington, VA
  • Aurora Hills Library(NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 735 S. 18th St, Arlington, VA
    • 300 N. Montague St, Arlington, VA
  • Christ Church of Arlington (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 3020 N. Pershing Dr, Arlington, VA
  • CoCreate Studios (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 3140 Washington Blvd, STE 222, Arlington, VA
  • Columbia Pike Library (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 816 S. Walter Reed Dr, Arlington, VA
  • EagleBank Ballston (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 4420 Fairfax Dr, Arlington, VA
  • Eagle Hill Consulting(NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 241 18th St S., Suite 615, Arlington, VA
  • Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church
    • 6201 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA
    • 5010 Little Falls Rd, Arlington, VA
  • Presto Valet (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 1623 N. Quaker Ln, Alexandria, VA
  • Segue Technologies(NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 2300 Wilson Blvd, #420, Arlington, VA
  • Shirlington Library (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 4200 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206
  • Strategic National Title Group (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 6870 Elm St, #100, McLean, VA
  • Trinity Presbyterian Church (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 5533 N 16th St, Arlington, VA
    • 400 S. Washington St, Alexandria, VA
  • Walter Reed Community Center (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 2909 16th St. S, Arlington, VA
  • Woman’s Club of Arlington(NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
    • 700 S. Buchanan St, Arlington, VA

You are directly supporting children and families impacted by the criminal justice system through your support of Project Backpack. Please help us spread the word about this program!

OAR’s Annual Toy Drive will kick off on Monday, October 8, 2018! 

Every October to December, OAR hosts a Toy Drive to collect new, donated toys and gifts for children of incarcerated parents, ages newborn to 18 years, as a part of OAR’s Project Christmas Angel Program in December (more info on this event will be released in November). OAR does this in an effort to bridge the gap between those involved in the criminal justice system and their children, as these relationships are often strained and challenged during and after incarceration.

Who is eligible?

Parents in the Arlington County Detention Facility, as well as parents who have been recently released, are on probation, are staying at Guest House, or are active in OAR’s programs may be eligible to send gifts to their children in this program. The parent wishing to send gifts to their child must be referred to the program. If you are a parent who is interested in learning if you are eligible, please contact volunteer@oaronline.org.

What kinds of toys can be donated?

Donated toys and gifts should be new and unwrapped and appropriate for children ages newborn to 18. OAR does not accept donations of clothing or stuffed animals. We especially need gifts for teens, as most of the children eligible to receive gifts are between the ages of 12 and 18. We also accept gift cards to Target and Amazon in denominations of $20-$25!

How/Where can you donate?  

There are several ways to help:

  • Host a donation box! We are currently looking for businesses, organizations, and faith communities in the area to host donation boxes for the Toy Drive! Please contact Heather Pritchett at hpritchett@oaronline.org if you are interested in hosting a donation box on behalf of OAR!
  • Purchase gifts for children via OAR’s Amazon wish list and have the items shipped directly to OAR’s office. Please include your name and contact info so we know who the donations are from.
    • We especially need gift cards for teens. Denominations of $20-$25 to places like Target and Amazon are most needed!
  • Purchase gifts and drop them off at OAR’s office during business hours (1400 N. Uhle St, Suite 704, Arlington, VA 22201; Monday through Friday 8:30am – 12:00pm and 1:00pm – 5:00pm).
  • Donate via OAR’s website to help fund the project. Your donations will go towards purchasing items such as wrapping supplies and postage to mail gifts to children that live outside of the DC area. Be sure to specify on the “Message or Comments” line that you’d like your donation to go towards Project Christmas Angel!
  • Volunteer as a driver to help OAR pick up donated items from sites around Arlington and the D.C. metro area. To volunteer, please contact volunteer@oaronline.org.
  • Donate gifts at any one of our toy donation box locations set up at businesses, faith communities, and civic organizations throughout the community! Please remember to check the business hours of all locations to make sure you are able to drop off donations when they are open! Locations of all the donation boxes are below:
    • American Chemical Society, 1155 16th St NW, Washington, DC COLLECTED!
    • Arlington Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU) COLLECTED!
      • Ballston Branch, 4121 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA
      • Columbia Pike Branch, 5666 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, VA
      • Glebe Branch, 2130 N. Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA
    • Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, 1425 N. Courthouse Rd #9100, Arlington, VA COLLECTED!
    • Ashleigh Diserio Consulting, 5501 Seminary Rd, Suite 704S, Falls Church, VA COLLECTED!
    • Christ Church of Arlington, 3020 N Pershing Dr, Arlington, VA 22201 COLLECTED!
    • Eagle Bank, 4420 N. Fairfax Dr, Arlington, VA COLLECTED!
    • Eagle Hill Consulting, 241 18th Street S, Suite 615, Arlington, VA COLLECTED!
    • Faith Lutheran Church, 3313 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA COLLECTED!
    • Greenbrier Baptist Church, 5401 7th Rd S, Arlington, VA 22204 COLLECTED!
    • Madison Community Center, 3829 N. Stafford St, COLLECTED!
    • Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church, 6201 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA COLLECTED!
    • Robcyn’s, 3660 King St, Alexandria, VA 22302 COLLECTED!
    • Walter Reed Community Center, 2909 16th St S, Arlington, VA COLLECTED!
    • Worden Tech Solutions, 2011 Crystal Dr, Suite 400, Arlington, VA COLLECTED!
    • Woman’s Club of Arlington, 700 S. Buchanan St, Arlington, VA COLLECTED!

Stay on the lookout for more information about ways in which to get involved with OAR’s Project Christmas Angel in December! The event will be held Wednesday, December 12, 2018 from 6:30 to 9:30pm in Arlington. RSVP information will be posted to OAR’s website in November.

If you have any questions, please contact Heather Pritchett, Director of Development and Outreach, at 703-228-7435 or hpritchett@oaronline.org.

OAR will host the third annual “Sing Out for Second Chances” event on Sunday, October 28, 2018. “Sing Out for Second Chances” was created to raise awareness of the value of giving second chances. This event will feature several choirs from local faith communities who will perform musical selections and OAR will provide information about our programs and participants between performances. This event is a fundraiser for OAR and all of the proceeds will directly benefit OAR’s programs.

Details of the event:

Sing Out for Second Chances

Sunday, October 28, 2018

4:00PM – 6:00PM (including a short reception) 


St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 711 N Columbus St, Alexandria, VA

Click here to RSVP!

Questions about this event?  Please contact Heather Pritchett, Director of Development and Outreach, at hpritchett@oaronline.org or 703-228-7435.

OAR Asks Local Businesses to Pledge Support of Fair Chances

OAR of Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church, VA is asking local businesses to consider signing the “Fair Chance Business Pledge” as a way to demonstrate commitment to offering second and fair chances to individuals with criminal charges. When almost 70 million Americans – nearly one in three adults – have a criminal record of some kind, it is important to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these individuals from gaining access to employment, training, education, and other basic tools required for success in life.

OAR’s “Fair Chance Business Pledge” states: “We are committed to providing individuals with criminal records, including individuals formerly incarcerated, a fair chance to participate in the American economy.” By taking OAR’s pledge, businesses are joining a community of local partners that believe in giving second chances. Several businesses in the D.C. Metro area have already signed the “Fair Chance Business Pledge,” and OAR is seeking other local businesses willing to make a commitment to giving second chances and fair chances of employment to individuals formerly incarcerated. The idea behind the “Fair Chance Business Pledge” came from the national pledge, which is now inactive, but had over 100 businesses sign onto the pledge, including Best Buy, CVS, Facebook, Target, Uber, and many others. Please note that signing this pledge does not guarantee employment for any individual. It represents that these businesses support second chances.

The businesses who have already signed the OAR pledge include: Beach Geeks, Inc., Canoe Media Services, City of Alexandria, CruisePlanners, Eagle Hill Consulting, Kingsbury Chocolates & Confections, Rachel E.H. Photography, VanderPoel Architecture, Volunteers of America Chesapeake, and Wendroff  & Associates.

If you are a business/part of an organization that is interested in signing OAR’s pledge, click here.

McAuliffe looks to roll back driver’s license suspensions as part of criminal justice reform package

See the full article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Tuesday that he’ll push legislation this year to end Virginia’s practice of automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of people who fail to pay court costs and fines after a criminal conviction.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, called his proposals “common sense” reforms, but he demurred when asked how much support he expects to have in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. The governor’s office did not reveal specific legislative language and indicated some details have yet to be worked out.

McAuliffe’s proposal on the driver’s license issue, already the subject of a class-action lawsuit and constitutional scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department, would also end suspensions for offenses unrelated to driving.

The nonprofit Legal Aid Justice Center is challenging the suspension policy in federal court, arguing it punishes the poor by stripping them of the ability to drive to work and earn money to pay off their fees. More than 900,000 Virginians’ licenses were suspended last year because of unpaid costs or fines, according to the group. In roughly 40 percent of those cases, the underlying offense had nothing to do with driving, the group says.

In a brief filed in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the suspension policy, the Justice Department said people facing license suspension over unpaid fines should be afforded due process in an inquiry into their ability to pay.

The state is contesting the Legal Aid lawsuit, saying the debate should be settled by policymakers, not the courts. The Supreme Court of Virginia has also moved to address the issue, approving a new rule that instructs courts to allow poor defendants to pay what they owe in installments or under a deferred plan and urges courts to use community service for those who can’t pay.

On Tuesday, McAuliffe echoed the argument that the suspensions impede many Virginians’ ability to work.

“That means that that factory worker from Floyd County whose job is 30 miles away in Christiansburg cannot lawfully drive to work and earn money to pay off those fines,” McAuliffe said. “It makes no sense.”

In a statement, House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said the legislature will review the governor’s proposals, while urging caution on the license issue due to the pending lawsuit.

“I am very sympathetic toward individuals who get trapped in a vicious cycle of having their license revoked, not being able to drive to work, losing their job, and not being able to pay off court costs,” Howell said. “However, the General Assembly must be very careful as this issue is currently being litigated in court.”

Last year, Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, won approval for a study of license suspension as a financial collection method. A joint subcommittee is scheduled to submit findings and recommendations by the first day of the 2017 session.

There have also been past bipartisan efforts to raise the grand larceny threshold. All have failed, leaving the number unchanged since 1980.

As he made the case for an increase, McAuliffe said a pair of Nikes that cost $65 in 1985 goes for $250 today, a price that means stealing the shoes could lead to a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

“I’m not here to excuse theft,” McAuliffe said. “But I am here to say that there has to be some proportionality in the punishment our courts hand out.”

Though some Democrats want to raise the threshold to $1,000 or more, a more modest increase to $500 has passed muster with some Republican lawmakers. The GOP-held Senate passed an increase to $500 last year, but the bill died in a House of Delegates subcommittee.

Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, who chairs the House subcommittee on criminal law, has opposed bumping up the grand larceny threshold, saying it amounts to a “cost of living” increase for thieves.

In an interview Tuesday, Bell sounded similarly skeptical of the governor’s driver’s license proposal. He said “openness” exists for making allowances for defendants who may struggle to pay, but said fines are often the only penalty people face for breaking the law.

“The primary punishment for many criminal charges is the fine that the defendant pays,” Bell said. “If he doesn’t have to pay that, it’s hard to see how he’s being held accountable.”

McAuliffe declined to outline what efforts he has made to build Republican support.

“Until I get into the session, I don’t talk about who we’re meeting with,” McAuliffe said.


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