A Penny for Your Thoughts: May 18-24, 2023

Volunteers are not paid – not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless! That was the sentiment at the Volunteer Fairfax Community Champions award ceremony last week as 10 community champions were honored for their service, ranging from children’s issues and food pantries to parks and the environment. Each Community Champion was nominated by their district Supervisor. It was
my pleasure to nominate Mark Tonkovic, who lives in the Culmore/Bailey’s Crossroads community as Mason District’s 2023 Community Champion.

Mark grew up in his Culmore/Bailey’s Crossroads community, and moved back to his childhood home as his parents aged. He is a natural steward of his community, and is known affectionately as the “mayor.” Mark keeps a watchful eye on his neighbors, assisting with everything from computer glitches to solving
parking problems. Mark never hesitates to assist others who may not have the means, the language ability, or the knowledge to seek assistance from local or state government agencies. When over-parking on neighborhood streets presented access issues for his elderly neighbors, Mark went to work on expanding the existing Culmore Residential Permit Parking District (RPPD), to include several streets in Aura Heights. He spent several years working with neighbors along both sides of the roads until they met all of the RPPD acceptance requirements.

When aggressive driving and stop sign violations became a daily occurrence in his neighborhood, Mark collaborated with local police enforcement to stem it, improving pedestrian safety, especially for youth walking to school. And now he has volunteered to collect signatures for a new project to install additional streetlights for safety. Mark is an example of a “hyper-local” community champion, who stayed in the area where he grew up, and continues to be a dedicated volunteer and steward in and for his community. Congratulations, Mark!

Volunteer opportunities are abound in this region. The Volunteer Fairfax online portal has 63,000 people signed up for service, who will be deployed as needs and skills are identified for the best match. It maybe a few hours on one day, or the volunteer opportunity may expand into a daily, weekly, or monthly routine of service. Commitment, enthusiasm and dependability are key; the tasks may be in the parks, working with children or adults, combatting food insecurity, helping with small home repairs for the elderly, or administrative tasks. You name it; Volunteer Fairfax has it! Email VolsRUs@volunteerfairfax.org for more information. You also can contact local schools, faith communities, and non-profit organizations on your own to find a volunteer opportunity uniquely suited to your talents and skills. Or, like Mark Tonkovic, you can assist your neighbors without even leaving home. Remember, volunteers are priceless!

For those who saw the video of the horrifying near-fatal crash on the Fairfax County Parkway last week, there is good news. The officer is doing fine, although his cruiser isn’t, and the youthful driver and passengers are recovering, although the powerful BMW was totalled. The Police Department’s “50 Means 50” campaign, a crackdown on reckless driving, ran from May 8 to 15, 2023 in all police districts and, in just one week yielded 890 traffic summonses and 163 warning tickets, which means that there were more than 1000 speeding violations observed by police officers.
A good reminder to all – 50
means 50!


  • 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