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Getting To Know … Toni Annette Thomas

A native of Rockingham, N.C., Toni Annette Thomas has lived in Alexandria since 1997. Thomas is a senior grants specialist for the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and a member of the board of directors for Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services, which hosted its annual Cinco de Mayo fund-raiser last month at Jack Taylor Toyota.

<b>How did you get involved in Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services?</b>

About three years ago, I was a contractor and I did not have health insurance. I found out that the Arlandria Health Center was in my neighborhood, so I scheduled a visit for a physical. I have high blood pressure, and I knew that I needed medication. Because they are a federally qualified health clinic, I knew that I would have to pay according my income — and that was still cheaper than going to the doctor.

<b>How did you end up on the board?</b>

I was there for a visit one day, and they were filming a documentary. Doctor Chinery asked me if I wanted to be in the documentary, and then Kristin Langlykke asked me if I wanted to be on the board. I know what federally qualified health centers do because I am a federal grant reviewer for the Bureau of Primary health Care. I didn’t end up in the documentary, but I’ve been on the board since November.

<b>What does Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services mean to you?</b>

They have provided me with excellent health care when I could not afford doctor’s visits for my condition, which is high blood pressure — the silent killer. The staff really cares about what they do, and they are experts in what they do. Most of them could go somewhere else and make much more money. But they stay to make a difference in the community. Everybody deserves to have health care, regardless of what your income is. That’s what this organization does, and more than 80 percent of the people who come to the center do not have health insurance.

<b>What is your favorite movie?</b>

Even though I don’t like musicals, I love "The Sound of Music" because I like the story and like the songs. And I like Julie Andrews. Go figure. I’m also a fan of "Love Jones" because it’s funny, it’s light and everything works out in the end. It’s a nice romantic movie.

<b>What is the best book you read in the last year?</b>

The best book I read in the last year was "On Beauty" by Zadie Smith. Although she can be wordy, I like the way she tells the story. It’s kind of a modern-day version of "Howards End" by E.M. Forster.

<b>What are your achievements?</b>

A couple of years ago, I did a Marine Corps Marathon. So that’s an achievement. I’m proud that I have a master’s degree and a good job, but a lot of people have that. The physical achievements take heart because you have to have mental toughness get through and finish. It’s your mind and your will to get you through.

<b>What are your interests and hobbies?</b>

Right now I’m interested in Pilates, boxing and learning Spanish.

<b>What is your favorite local restaurant?</b>

Hands down, it’s Bombay Curry Company on Mount Vernon Avenue. I like the butter chicken, cucumber raita, jeera aloo and naan. I love Indian food, and they know me because I go there every other weekend. If I don’t go, they’ll say "You haven’t been here in some time." I also like Fireflies, Los Tios and Mancini’s.

<b>What concerns do you have about the community?</b>

My major concern with Alexandria is that I don’t want it to be too commercialized and overdeveloped. I like the charm and the quaintness, especially in Del Ray.

<b>What are the community’s hidden treasures?</b>

I would say the people because they’re always out, and they’re very friendly. That’s what I like about Alexandria. Plus I have a dog, and Alexandria is known as being a dog-friendly town.

<b>What are your personal goals?</b>

To be self-employed. To be a homeowner. To travel more. And to stay healthy because I want a nice photo for my passport because you have to keep it for 10 years.