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A Big Welcome to Your New Home

Welcome to Great Falls! When my husband and I moved here in 1991, we wanted a family-oriented community with the best schools. My husband's family lived here in the 1970s. So, for Jeff, it was a move back home. For me, it was unknown territory. Every time we walked into the Old Brogue, someone would say, "Hey Jeff," It became a joke between us of how long we would be someplace before Jeff would run into someone he knew. I, on the other hand, knew no one. I am, by nature, an introvert. Being assertive and introducing myself to others is honestly, quite difficult for me. So this wasn't a big surprise. But it definitely added to my feeling of loneliness and isolation.

With the low density that Great Falls zoning requires, it can sometimes be difficult to get to know our neighbors, to feel connected within the community. Luckily, Great Falls works hard to offer opportunities for us to get together and know one another.

The simplest avenue for parents is often the local schools. Committees always need chairs and the classrooms can use volunteers.

If you are still unpacking, but looking for a pediatrician or a painter, the local Neighbors network, www.neighbors-gf.com can share who your local neighbors use, like, and refer. It's not just a list-serve or phonebook. You can pose any question and get insight from our 1600+ members (disclaimer here: I own Neighbors).

One of the most helpful organizations in our community is the Great Falls Newcomers Club, www.greatfallsnewcomers.com. Newcomers offers a myriad of activities for residents to participate in almost on a daily basis. Newcomers is a great way to actually meet your neighbors face to face and to form some valuable long-term friendships.

There are numerous non-profit organizations based in Great Falls who would love new members and volunteers. If you have trouble finding them, give me a call and I will connect you.

Even Arby's, our only fast food restaurant, hosts a daily, unusual, unofficial Breakfast Club, anywhere between 7 to 10 a.m. Many colorful citizens show up once or twice a week for bantering and exchanges and updates of the "latest."

When you see a local police officer or fireman, stop, wave, tell them your name. They are here for our protection. It is our job to make them feel welcome, appreciated, and comfortable. Tell them where you live and what safety issues concern you. Our fire department knows our son has a nebulizer for his asthma. You can't get much more small-town than that.

Some of our residents joined together creating a delightful playground by the Great Falls Grange. Every sunny day offers more children, more squeals, more laughter.

We have a few local studios that offer hip-hop dance, ballet, jazz, tap, yoga, and tai chi. They have classes for adults and children.

The Great Falls Studios, www.greatfallsstudios.com will have an artist reception in September at the Re-Max office. They also have an annual tour Oct. 14, showcasing 15 incredible artists. Some of these artists also offer lessons to adults and children.

Try each of our numerous eateries. Offerings range from fast food, to pub fare, to nationally ranked award-winning restaurants. Yes, all this in Great Falls.

Great Falls also has an active ecumenical council networking eight of the local churches. Pastors and representatives meeting monthly, sponsoring events through the year including the July 4 Fun Walk/Run, Easter Sunrise Services at Great Falls Park, and a choir festival.

Our library is luxurious in comparison to our previous building. It took us many years to get the modern facility. Take advantage of its offerings including the children's story hours, career discussions, and book club.

Be sure to frequent the local businesses. See what fits your style; what piques your interest. By shopping at local businesses, we ensure their ability to stay in Great Falls. There are many vendors and offices offering a variety of services and goods at Colvin Run Corner, Seneca Road, Great Falls Business Center, Great Falls Center, and the Village Centre.

For outdoor fun, try visiting historic Colvin Run Mill. Their summer ice cream-making on Fridays is yummy.

Great Falls Park is a spectacular place for picnics, walks, rock climbing, kayaking, and lazy romantic afternoons. Soak in the cool breezes and warm sun rays at the park. Riverbend Nature Center offers trails and exhibits for learning and exploring.

Great Falls sports associations offer just about anything for our children: soccer, baseball, flag football, basketball, and our newest and fastest growing sport, lacrosse.

I encourage you to attend our community events even if you don't know anyone initially. It was only through attending our community events that I felt the loneliness assuage and the connectedness increase.

The Village Centre offers free summer concerts on Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. Bring a picnic dinner and listen to some great tunes. Families and couples come, set a blanket, and pass the time.

We also have our annual trick or treating around the Village Centre and Great Falls Center on Halloween. Parents and children display their costume creativity as local merchants pass out candy and apple cider.

The first Friday in December is our annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony across from the fire house with a visit from Santa and a live nativity scene to boot. The Boy Scouts usually pass out hot cider.

Springtime brings the annual Easter Egg hunt at the Village Centre.

July 4 is probably our community's biggest day with everything from a baby parade to our incredible fireworks display. Our fireworks display is the finest in Northern Virginia. Be sure to mark your calendar for 2007.

Great Falls is a small community by comparison to our neighboring towns, but we are filled with opportunities to get to know one another. More importantly, it is a town where we can, and we do, get to know our neighbors.

The contest has changed between Jeff and me. Now, instead of seeing how long it takes for him to see someone he knows, we take bets on how many people we each know.

It takes time to feel like a part of the community rather apart (pardon the pun). But the more you get involved and the more events you attend, the more quickly Great Falls will become a true home for you.

Sharon Rainey

President, Neighbors International

Great Falls