VolunteerFest 2005

VolunteerFest 2005

Cold, rainy weather may have cast a pall over Providence District's VolunteerFest 2005 last Saturday, but the event, which took place on National Make a Difference Day, would not be extinguished.

At Borge Street Park in Oakton, the mulch-laying project was initially canceled, but after a break in the weather, three volunteers showed up to help John Hopkins of the Park Authority lay wood carpet mulch on the playground for safety purposes.

"We're going to get what we can knocked out today, and a Park Authority crew will finish next week," said Hopkins.

Helping him were Owen Chesser and Michael Kirkpatrick, eighth-graders at Luther Jackson Middle School who were earning three of the 15 community service hours required by the school. Helping out was Owen's stepmother, Stacy Anderson. On hand were 80 cubic feet of mulch.

Meanwhile, at Unity of Fairfax Church, also in Oakton, Friends of Oakton Library held its third annual used-book sale to raise money to build the proposed Oakton Library, which would sit next door to the church.

"It will be a very community-oriented, walking-friendly library," said Oakton resident Linda Byrne, who volunteered at the sale.

The Oakton Women's Club, including Byrne's mother, Charlotte Wineland, worked the checkout counter.

The Friends of Oakton Library donated books that day to some one who was starting a library in Sierra Leone and planned to donate books to a formative Cherokee Indian library, said Byrne.

Also at Unity Church was a Health Fair, staged by Inova Health Systems and the Fairfax County Health Department, which included testing for skin damage, cholesterol and blood pressure.

At Luther Jackson Middle School, the first-ever Merrifield Festival, or "Merrifield Make a Difference Day," was persevering, although many activities had to be moved inside. The moonbounces were moved to a gym, and the Showmobile performances, which included a puppet show, a children's sing-along, the Patchwork Dancers and the Rob Hornfeck Band, among others, were moved to the school's auditorium.

Some of the other activities included pumpkin painting, arts and crafts provided by Home Depot, health screenings provided by the Lions Club, a basketball clinic with former Washington Bullet Kevin Grevey, and performances by Ronald McDonald, the Country Steppers and the Cardinal Cloggers. There was also a business expo featuring about 20 local businesses.

The festival was presented by a team of volunteers from the Greater Merrifield Business Association (GMBA). Festival coordinator Moira Quinn Leite, of the GMBA, explained that businesses in the Merrifield area have had few opportunities to work together. "What this festival is, is a chance to tell the community we're coming together," she said.

Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth was present with her husband, Nigel. "Merrifield is becoming a real community, not just a place where we have equipment yards," said Smyth. "We need things like this to make Merrifield feel like a neighborhood."

State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34), who also made an appearance, said that as a former member of the GMBA board, she thought the festival was "a wonderful way to introduce people to the Merrifield community and let them know what's going on here." She pointed out that Merrifield has been industrial for decades and "needs to be re-branded" now that much of it has become office and retail space.

Other VolunteerFest activities in the Oakton/Merrifield area included a food drive by Food for Others and Supervisor Smyth's office and a "spruce-up" at Merrifield's Alternative House for young mothers and their children.

Cancelled because of weather were an invasive plant species removal project on the W&OD Trail and a Computer Recycling Day and Meditation Walk by the EcoStewards Alliance.