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Small-Town Values Drive Ritchey

Best of Reston

Joseph Ritchey makes his living talking up Reston. As the exclusive agent selling and leasing commercial properties for Terrabrook and Boston Properties in the Reston Town Center district, Ritchey is used to highlighting the positives of the area. As an active supporter of such community ventures as the Fairfax County YMCA in Reston, the Reston Challenger baseball league for children with disabilities, and the Friends of Reston for Community Projects, Ritchey is more than willing to talk about the good works these organizations accomplish, but ask him about himself and well ….

“Try not to focus too much on me. Focus on the organizations,” Ritchey said during an interview for his Best of Reston profile.

“THAT’S JOE,” said Bob Conklin, the district executive director at the YMCA. “He likes to work quietly behind-the-scenes.”

Conklin said he has known Ritchey for about three years and credits him for helping bring the YMCA to Reston.

“Joe is one of the leadership that brought the Y here,” Conklin said. “He has been active in every way. He’s the chair of the strategic planning committee and is a prime mover for getting the Y board to look at what the facility needs five, 10 years from now. He’s brought on six new board members pretty much by himself.”

Ritchey said the YMCA has been so successful, it has already outgrown its facility. It is his job to find ways for the community to be able to use the facility although it is at capacity. He is also involved in fund-raising efforts, which help community members take advantage of the programs at the center, when they may not otherwise have been able to afford it.

“It’s not a health club,” Ritchey said. “It’s kids and families. Nobody is turned away because they can’t afford to pay for a membership, daycare or summer camp.”

In addition, Conklin said Ritchey created the Y’s Triangle Awards. “It recognizes a local high-school student not necessarily for sports or academics, but their efforts in volunteering and for being well rounded,” Conklin said. “It’s Joe’s brain child. He is very passionate about kids.”

THAT PASSION is evident in his other community ventures. As a member of the Friends of Reston for Community Projects, which is raising funds to create Nature House, located on the 72 acres that make up the Walker Nature Educational Center. The facility, said Ritchey, will provide a space for school children and other visitors to learn about nature on a year-round basis.

“We have tens of thousands of kids who come through here and other groups use the natural areas. All the activities have to be compressed into spring through fall. Nature education is a year-round process,” Ritchey said. “Nature House provides a space when it’s not so good to be outside. This is very important to me.”

In addition, Ritchey, through the Friends, has purchased an all-terrain wheelchair and an aqua wheelchair. He is also a supporter of the Reston Challenger baseball league for children with disabilities.

“The league is for people who are physically or mentally challenged. We have people from 5 to 37 years old participating. They participate every Sunday,” Ritchey said. “We have six teams, which is the largest participation in Northern Virginia.”

Ritchey credits his parents for his sense of community giving. He grew up in a small town, Kurtwood, Mo., which he describes as being small enough that a “couple of 8 or 9 year olds can hop on their bikes in the morning and ride around town, come home for lunch or not come home until dinner and your parents feel comfortable with it.”

“My mom and dad grew up in a small town and instilled in me a lot of small-town values and virtues,” Ritchey said.

RITCHEY CAME to Northern Virginia in 1981, working in commercial real estate for Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services. In 1984, he went to work for Hazel/Peterson Companies to develop and lease the office component of Fair Lakes in Fairfax. He started becoming active in the Reston commercial real estate market in 1989.

He has been a Reston resident since 1992, when he moved into the then newly opened Oak Park condominium development, where he still lives.

“Reston is a natural to gravitate to. Look at Northern Virginia, there aren’t so many areas that have a sense of community,” Ritchey said. “And Reston has a sense of community.”

Conklin said one of the reasons Ritchey has been so successful, professionally and in his community endeavors, is because he is a man of integrity. Ritchey, he said, genuinely cares about people. Conklin remembers that after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Ritchey went out and bought 1,000 American flag lapel pins and just handed them out to people.

“Everything he is involved in, he backs up 115 percent,” Conklin said. “I wish I had 15 Joe Ritcheys.”