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A Bench to Mark

There is a new bench in front of Alexandria Fire Department's Cameron Street Station. It probably won't even be noticed by most pedestrians walking by, but it symbolizes the heart of this city.

The inscription on the new bench reads "In grateful recognition of the Alexandria Fire Department." It was a gift from John H. Marino Jr. and his mother, Ann Dozier Michael.

"I wanted to recognize the Fire Department for all they have done. I walk past this station every night as I walk my dog, and I kept looking at this old rickety bench out front and wanted to change that," Marino said.

In order to accomplish his mission, Marino contacted the city's Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. Through its Living Landscape Program, he was able to make a donation and specify how he wanted that to be used.

Aimee L. Vosper, landscape architect supervisor with the department, said, "This program dates back to 1983, but many people don't even know it exists."

According to the department, the program "offers citizens a personal opportunity to participate in the ongoing endeavor to beautify Alexandria while remembering an important occasion or individual."

DONATIONS ARE USED for a variety of endeavors, such as planting trees, establishing gardens, installing play equipment throughout the city, buying city trash receptacles and placing park benches. Contributions may be made in honor or memory of a person or important occasion.

In Marino's case, he viewed it as a small token of thanks "for all the firefighters have done for us and continue to do every day." As listed on the department's Living Landscape Donations form, a recreation park bench with a memorial plaque requires a minimum donation of $764.

OTHER FUND guidelines specify the following:

* Donors may designate a specific use for the money and a preferred location;

* Any dollar amount is appropriate, and donations are tax deductible;

* Accompanying the donation should be information giving the donor's name, address and phone number; the name and address of the person or organization being honored; and a brief explanation to acknowledge the purpose of the donation;

* The donor is acknowledged with a note of appreciation. The honoree is acknowledged with a certificate;

* The honoree and the donor are listed in the "Living Landscape Memory Book," on display at the Lee Center, 1108 Jefferson St.

Marino also re-landscaped the brick planter behind the bench. "It was just terrible, so I put in some new plants," he said.

Upkeep falls to the firefighters at Cameron Street Station.

For further information on the Living Landscape Program, contact the department at 1108 Jefferson St., 703-838-5041.