Monday’s Day of Service to commemorate the example set by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was successful, by most accounts. Thousands of volunteers in the Metro region spent the day, or a good portion of it, helping others, such as collecting food to restock food pantries, packing boxes of needed items for troops overseas, and filling reusable bags with non-perishable food items for distribution to needy schoolchildren and their families. One well-attended effort, held at the First Christian Church of Falls Church in Seven Corners, was organized by health-care provider Kaiser Permanente (KP), and focused on family health. More than 200 reusable shopping bags of food were packed for distribution, and KP physicians provided preliminary medical screening for children and adults.
A mobile dental van from the Medical Care for Children Partnership (MCCP) was on site for dental exam services for children. One little girl sat comfortably in her mother’s lap in the dental chair as the young volunteer dental hygienist taught her (the toddler, not the Mom!) to open her mouth wide for a brief exam. Not a whimper was heard as the hygienist performed what probably was the child’s first dental experience. The MCCP van, which has two dental suites, and is fully accessible via a wheelchair lift, is so popular that there is a waiting list for community events. More than 1,000 children have received dental exams at the van, just since August! Also on site was a larger van, operated by KP and fully accessible, with two medical exam rooms and separate space for immunizations and medical counseling. The vans represent significant investments ($500,000 for the fully outfitted MCCP van) in community health; MCCP volunteers must raise a lot of money to support their programs.
Participants in Monday’s Day of Service agreed that their service was all about partnerships and the community. Indeed, other participants at First Christian included the Culmore Clinic, which provides medical care to uninsured residents and works to connect patients to a medical home; the MAPS clinic, a partnership with nursing students at George Mason University that provides complementary services; Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, whose Social Services Department provides food, rental assistance, sewing classes, and other activities to help needy families across the community; and the Fairfax County Police Department, an important partner in ensuring that our community stays the safest jurisdiction of its size in the nation. When police officers get to know the community they patrol in peaceful times, they are better able to respond to calls for service in not-so-peaceful times. Just like in any neighborhood, getting to know who’s who makes for a stronger bond and a friendlier, more cohesive, community.
Community celebrations are ongoing in our diverse community. This weekend features the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rat. Celebrations are being held at the Eden Center, Luther Jackson Middle School in Merrifield, and other locations. The rat is the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac, and is considered to be clever and a quick thinker. Not the reputation of rats!