Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

As the East Coast hunkers down to await Hurricane Dorian’s potential blasts, the news reports are filled with stories about neighbors helping neighbors in the Bahamas, and boarding up structures in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina in the path of the storm. The vaunted “Cajun Navy,” Louisiana boat owners who responded to Hurricane Katrina and, later, Hurricane Harvey in Taxes, was credited with saving hundreds of lives in water rescues, and may be called into service again.

Volunteering takes many forms – tutoring students, coaching Little League teams, being a Girl Scout or Boy Scout leader, canvassing for a favorite candidate, delivering Meals on Wheels, and addressing emergencies — but, when you drill down, volunteering provides some of the fuel that makes our communities hum. And that fuel is all “human” power, not solar, not wind, not oil or gas, or even nuclear. It’s very basic: using human energy to help someone else without expecting benefit or remuneration has been practiced for millennia, across all communities. It doesn’t matter where you reside, or what you do for a living. Helping others knows no boundaries.

One of my favorite quotes is “volunteers are not paid— not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” New Year’s resolutions typically are made in January, but the beginning of the school year is a perfect time to consider volunteer opportunities you may have missed. The Grandinvolve Program puts retired Fairfax County residents into Title 1 elementary schools, and uses the experience and expertise of the retirees to help the younger generation. Volunteers may spend time each week helping with reading or math. A Grandinvolve volunteer started a knitting club at one school, and parents quickly joined, too. There’s no end to the special talents in our retiree community, so there just might be a school waiting for you. Learn more at www.grandinvolve.com.

Although volunteers do so without expectation of awards, several volunteers in Fairfax County parks have been selected for recognition at the annual Elly Doyle Park Service Awards event in November. This year’s awards highlight volunteerism in archeology, invasive plant management, and bluegrass concerts at Frying Pan Park. Some of the most popular park volunteer jobs are at golf courses and recreation centers, where you can help others and enjoy the park facilities at the same time.

A few years ago, residents of the Sleepy Hollow Run — Forest Hills Civic Association, adjacent to Mason District Park, noticed that the interpretive signage on the park trails had fallen into disrepair, and needed refurbishment and replacement. Willa and David Siegel, longtime residents who enjoyed walking in the park, decided to do something about the signage, got their civic association involved, and helped secure the resources (money) needed for the new signage. Park Authority staff installed the new signage earlier this summer. Thanks to the Siegels, and their neighbors, for identifying a need and stepping up to meet it, to the benefit of the entire community.

Whatever your talent, or interest, for children or older folks, for the environment, or your faith, or any other area, there are volunteer opportunities for you. If you need a start, log on to www.volunteerfairfax.org.


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov