With just three years of Reston residency, Susan Merk has already been described as “indispensable,” “a powerhouse” and “instrumental.”
When Merk, a paralegal by trade, began to join several community organizations after moving to Reston, she discovered a need for her professional know-how. But it wasn’t for her paralegal experience. Instead, Merk has made it common practice to donate another highly sought after talent — that of a webmaster.
“Mostly, I do Web sites for gratis,” said Merk. “I think it’s a good way to contribute.”
Her contribution, while not only appreciated, is often seen and visited. In the past few years, Merk has created or revamped Web sites for the Reston Citizens Association (RCA), the United Christian Parish of Reston, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Reston-Herndon branch and state site, the Alliance for a Better Community (ABC), the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH), and her condominium association. “I just like to get information out to people,” said Merk, who added jokingly that she should have been a librarian.
“ANY NON-PROFIT that could get her, would be lucky,” said Mike Corrigan, president of RCA, noting that many local organizations can’t afford Web creation services. Other RCA board members couldn’t agree more.
“She transformed our Web site,” said Debra Steppel, RCA board member, adding that the site is now a “tremendous resource for the entire community.”
For all of these organizations, Merk has become a beacon of information dissemination. “Almost by telepathy she seems to keep up with things. I don’t know how,” said Marion Stillson, who knows Merk as a fellow member of AAUW and as a fellow board member of RCA. “But she’s willing to put untold hours into it.”
Steppel said Merk’s underlying motivation is to help others. “Her commitment to making Reston a better place is unwavering,” said Steppel.
Earlier this year, Merk’s efforts were recognized when Volunteer Fairfax nominated her for a Community Leadership Award. While she did not receive the award, being nominated is considered a great honor.
WHILE TAKING on webmaster duties for so many groups, Merk has also found time to play a community leadership role. She is currently an at-large director for RCA, the organization that has taken the lead to make Reston a town.
“I think we could do so much more [if Reston were a town],” said Merk, who thinks there is no excuse not to incorporate. “Any other place in another state with 60,000 residents would be a town.”
A resident of the Reston Town Center area, Merk said it sometimes feels like Reston is split in two between two governing homeowners associations: the Reston Association and Reston Town Center Association. One day she hopes to see Reston united under town government.
Yet her web-slinging continues. This summer Merk will be paid to create a Web page for Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill). Hudgins asked Merk to create a site for her campaign for reelection.
Just this past week, Merk was asked to revamp the Web site for the Reston Farmers’ Market. It will be the latest of many jobs she’s volunteered to do.