Citizen Groups in Mount Vernon

Citizen Groups in Mount Vernon

Part Two: Mount Vernon Community Coalition, Inc.

Throughout the Mount Vernon area, citizens organize to make their community a better place to live. A group that organized in July of 1992 is a good example. They wanted to have a parade, a Fourth of July parade, to be specific. So they organized and put on a show July 4th.

This group of citizens was part of the Mount Vernon Community Coalition, Inc. Earlier that year, David Shaw held the first meeting of the coalition. Among other things, the bylaws stated "The Coalition shall fulfill its charitable purposes by promoting patriotism and civic pride and spirit in the Mount Vernon Community by the holding of Fourth of July celebrations and other community functions for the benefit and common good of the Mount Vernon Community.

"The Coalition shall work to heighten public recognition of the Mount Vernon Community, to bring about greater cooperation among the residents and organizations within the Mount Vernon Community and to improve the appearance and quality of life within the Mount Vernon Community."

Long-time member Ginny Weber said, "He [David] saw the need for communities to come together."

That need is still a vital part of the group, currently served by Lou Kobus as president, Paige Weber as vice-president, Katy Fike as treasurer and Susan Clay as secretary. Membership is comprised of citizen and community associations along with faith-based organizations designed to promote inclusiveness and a superior quality of life for the Mount Vernon area.

According to Clay, the festival and parade were moved to May when the coalition created the Mount Vernon Community Day in 1995. She said that this year's Community Day, which will be held on Saturday, May 22, at Walt Whitman Middle School, will have a parade, exhibits, games, foods and awards. Crafters can also pay a small fee for a table.

In addition to Community Day, Clay said the coalition also sponsors the Route 1 Cleanup and the Student Health Fair.

"I'm involved because I like to give back to the community. I want to see how we can help each other and how people can get to know each other," said Clay.

THIS YEAR'S Route 1 Cleanup, now known as Green Day, will be held on Saturday, April 17, from 8 a.m. to noon. Volunteers are asked to meet at Hybla Valley Shopping Center for bags and instructions. This year, Green Day coincides with Virginia's 2004 Statewide Spring pick-up, so residents will be cleaning up not just in Mount Vernon, but throughout the state.

When the coalition took over the Cleanup in 1993, it had already been in place for a few years; Ginny Weber started the first Cleanup in 1990. She initiated the Cleanup when she realized that the budget for the county cleanup crews had been cut.

"I went to [Supervisor] Gerry Hyland and said, 'how would if be if citizens pitched in to help,'" said Weber.

Hyland, of course, agreed, and that first year, more than 300 volunteers collected 10.1 tons of trash. While the numbers of volunteers and trash have diminished over the years, there is still a need for the annual event. And while Weber is no longer an active member of the coalition, her daughter, Paige Weber, now serves as the vice-president.

"This is my first year as an officer," said Weber. "We're hoping to make Community Day the biggest and best."

Among other things, Weber said that they will have the RE/MAX balloon, Fort Belvoir Mash Unit, troop tents, police helicopter, hayride and maybe a Humvee. Marching in the parade will be high school bands, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and others.

As they grow, the coalition will take on more activities; for example, they have already committed to participate in this year's Oktoberfest which is held at Fort Belvoir.

"I want to get more people involved," said Weber. "We still have good support, but volunteers are needed."

AS TREASURER, Fike is responsible for sending out the renewal letters to members. She said that she hasn't sent them out yet this year, but will be soon. With the loss of two of their key players: Jack Knowles, who died in 2003, and David Shaw, who moved out of the area, they are using this as a rebuilding year.

"The coalition is a good thing and we need the help. Everything would work so much better if we worked together," said Fike.

Fike said that she would like to see more cooperation with the community associations. "So much disparity exists in the Mount Vernon magisterial district. We need to raise awareness of what people need and how we can help. The coalition can act as an umbrella organization to focus on their issues."

Fike especially likes the essay contest that the coalition sponsors as part of the Community Day.

"It gives youth a reason to think that it [Mount Vernon] is their hometown," said Fike.

She also likes the health screening that is done during the Student Health Day in August.

"It really helps the kids," she said.

Kobus said that the health fair has gotten a great deal of support from Fort Belvoir and Inova. In addition, the Eagle Scouts will be helping to get the bags [of school supplies] together.

"I'm very excited. It's a great program, the community has really come together," said Kobus. "We're looking for other ways to assist and make it the best it can be."

Kobus said that there was a lot of interest in Community Day at the monthly meeting which was held this week.

"We're interested in making sure that all organizations get representedóScouts, sports teams, etc.î he said. "We're hoping to have all the Little Leagues [teams] represented."

This is the seventh year that Kobus has been involved in the coalition.

"I believe in community action and the things that they do," he said. "Plus I like having the tractor in the paradeóit shows the humble beginnings of Mount Vernon and that thereís at least one dirt farmer left in Mount Vernon."

For more information on the Mount Vernon Community Coalition, Inc., call 703-765-3100 or visit their website at Meetings are held the second Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m., Walt Whitman Middle School.