For most local residents, pets are part of their family. The Covid-19 pandemic reinforced the therapeutic effect of pets. Animals can help ease stress and loneliness, and most neighborhoods saw an increase in people walking their pets along local streets. Sadly, elderly residents who live in nursing homes became even more isolated during the pandemic, partly because the volunteer therapy teams from Fairfax Pets on Wheels (FPOW) were not able to visit.
Visiting pets truly makes a difference. Years ago, I was present when FPOW hosted a program at a local memory care center. The day room was occupied by several senior citizens, who came alive when a dog on leash walked into the room with its owner. People who had been listless or dozing reached out to pet the dogs, and I remember one woman telling me about growing up with her favorite pet. Until the pooch came in, she had been slumped in her chair, seemingly not aware of activity around her, but her eyes sparkled as she petted the animal. Pets really do put a smile on someone’s face.
Since 1987, the all-volunteer FPOW, in its own words, “has been licking loneliness by bringing companionship and improved quality of life to residents of participating nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult day health care centers in Fairfax County.” FPOW is sponsored by the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, and is an American Kennel Club recognized therapy dog organization.
But FPOW can’t meet the demand for visits without more people and pet volunteer teams. If you have a lovable dog, cat, or bunny (this is the Year of the Rabbit, you know), FPOW wants to hear from you. Volunteers must submit an online application, attend a one-hour volunteer orientation, and have a pet behavior assessment. Visit www.fpow.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 703-324-5424 for more information. FPOW says you’ll touch someone’s life AND change your own!
The Clean Fairfax Council, Inc. (Clean Fairfax) is a 501 (c ) (3) non-profit organization that operates in partnership with the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. Clean Fairfax issued its latest report at the end of 2022, and notes that it supported more than 200 neighborhood cleanups with more than 2000 volunteers. Those volunteers donated more than 5500 hours of work (worth $165,000), and picked up 90 tons of trash. Clean Fairfax also supports Earth Day events; more than 2200 people attended the events last year.
Clean Fairfax plans to advocate for more policies around plastic pollution, perhaps the most vexing part of its work. You can help by eliminating your use of bottled water (use a refillable bottle/thermos) and properly recycling plastic containers. Reusable bags for groceries and other shopping eliminate the need for plastic bags, but many customers still are paying the five cents per plastic bag tax that was imposed in Fairfax County in January 2022. Tax revenue, which must be used for recycling and environmental programs, exceeded $600,000, which means that millions of plastic bags still are being used in the county. As more people use recyclable bags, the amount of revenue will decrease, which is a good thing!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.