“April is the cruelest month,” wrote T.S. Eliot, and the fits and starts of springtime this year certainly reflect that sentiment. What isn’t reflected, though, is that April also is Volunteer Month in Fairfax County. Our community depends on volunteers – in our parks and libraries, delivering Meals on Wheels, working with youth groups, and a myriad of other activities that serve our neighbors. Two special volunteers from Mason District honored this week demonstrate the variety of opportunities for service.
Diane Kilbourne is Mason District’s Community Champion for 2016. As president of the Stuart Educational Foundation for the past five years, Diane has provided inspiration and guidance to the Foundation, its board members, and the diverse students at J.E.B. Stuart High School, who are dedicated to furthering their education. During the 10 years since the Foundation started, nearly $900,000 has been raised in the community, supporting more than 390 Stuart graduates. Diane is a retired trial attorney, but has a rich history as a volunteer and advocate for children. She works quietly behind the scenes, but her contributions truly make a difference in many lives. Diane was honored at the annual Volunteer Fairfax breakfast last Friday. More information about how you can donate to the Stuart Educational Foundation is available on-line at http://stuartfund.com/about.html.
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter also depends on volunteers. In fact, in 2015, shelter volunteers provided more than 35,000 hours of service, equating to 17 full-time positions. One of those volunteers, Annandale resident Nancy Griffin, was honored Sunday evening for giving 605 hours, more than any other shelter volunteer, in 2015. Nancy focuses on the cats and kittens at the shelter, and manages the care and feeding, as well as socialization and fostering, of those pets. Congratulations, Nancy! For more information about volunteering at the Animal Shelter, log on to ASDVolunteer@fairfaxcounty.gov.
Volunteers who work with homeless persons also spoke at the community meeting Monday night to support the potential temporary relocation of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter to county-owned property behind the Lincolnia Senior Center. Not surprisingly, many more residents presented their reasons not to relocate the shelter there. A new plan to revitalize and redevelop several acres along Columbia Pike will require relocation of the shelter. Fairfax County’s 10-Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness was created in 2008, and endeavors to reach at-risk residents earlier in a regional and coordinated manner, and prevent them from becoming homeless. The effort is paying off – the Point in Time enumeration, done in late January each year – reveals a small, but steady, decline in the number of homeless persons in Fairfax County. Housing placements have doubled and tripled in recent years, but affordable housing, a crucial element needed for success, can be elusive. Shelters provide a safe, decent, and nurturing environment for each and every person, and families, who may find themselves homeless at a particularly difficult time in their lives. Responses to the many comments and questions raised Monday night will be posted on the county’s website on or before April 22. A public hearing date for Planning Commission action on the proposal has not been scheduled.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.