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Lorton Hope and Health Festival a Fun-filled Success

Lorton Community Action Center meets goals set.

From left, volunteers from South County Cares, Kyle Fischer, Hebron Yohannes and Ian Kraft hand out bags of basic groceries to festival attendees.

From left, volunteers from South County Cares, Kyle Fischer, Hebron Yohannes and Ian Kraft hand out bags of basic groceries to festival attendees. Photos by Andrea Worker

The Lorton Hope and Health Festival was scheduled from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, but a good-sized crowd had

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Lorton resident Al Armando gets help from 3-year-old Addison choosing fresh strawberries from the non-profit Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture Mobile Market bus at the Lorton Hope and Health Festival. “We were at the Library and Addie saw the moon bounce. That was it. We had to come on over. This is great,” said Armando.

already gathered in the park venue located behind Lorton Public Library and alongside the headquarters of festival organizers Lorton Community Action Center (LCAC) quite some time before the first words of the official welcome were spoken.

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Haniya Mehmood, 5, lives right next door to the park. After spending a few minutes considering the height of that inflatable slide at the Lorton Hope and Health Festival, she climbed right up and slid right down. When she reached the bottom, she declared, “It’s not really scary!”

Linda Patterson, executive director of LCAC, was pleased by the early turnout. “We really have two goals for the day—to provide free access to some health-related services to the community, and to provide a fun, safe environment where people can meet one another and enjoy an outing.” The non-profit organization seeks to provide low-income individuals in their service area with access to basic needs and empower them through self-sufficiency programs.

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South County Cares volunteer and licensed hair stylist Miriam Luna goes to work on a new haircut for Lorton resident Beenish Mehmood. Volunteer Norma Gunter did assistant duty. “Oh, no,” laughed Gunter. “They let me hold the pen, but not the scissors!”

“A key component of our work is to connect people with the programs that are out there that will have a positive impact on the individual’s or family’s long-term health and well-being,” Patterson said. To accomplish the goals of the day, LCAC began a dialogue about six months ago with South County Cares, the community service arm of South County Church in Lorton, and Sentara Healthcare. The groups put together an educational and fun-filled event, with something of interest for all ages.

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Auxiliary Policemen Bob Reece, Jr. and Howard Bishop from the Franconia Station had children and parents alike interested in a look-see inside their patrol cars, (with stickers and other giveaways for the youngsters.)

White tents were scattered throughout the park, each housing a service station, an information booth, or a dining area where the festival goers could relax in the shade while feasting on free hot dogs, snow cones and other goodies being prepared by the volunteers of South County Cares. The Sentara folks conducted screenings for high blood pressure, performed Body Mass Index tests, and offered information about stroke prevention, diabetes and heart health. They even offered tours of their mobile mammography van, scheduled soon to offer screenings at LCAC. INOVA offered on-the-spot cholesterol checks and the Maon Neck Lions Club provided vision and hearing tests in their mobile lab. Representatives from the Health Department, The Medical Care for Children Partnership, the Office for Women and Domestic and Sexual Violence Services and Child Find, which helps identify children with potential special education needs, were also on hand. Gold’s Gym and Total Lifestyle Fitness got everyone moving with Zumba demonstrations, Yoga and even mini fitness bootcamps.

Sounds like the first goal, to provide free access to some important basic services, was well met by this caring army. What about the second goal? Just ask the children. The Kids Zone, manned by South County Cares youth volunteers, included games, a moon bounce and inflated slides and mazes. A number of moms looked as thrilled as their young ones, availing themselves of free haircuts and chair massages.

This was LCAC and partners’ first Hope and Health Festival. Judging by the turnout and the smiles and laughter, it probably won’t be their last. Mission accomplished. Check out the LCAC website at www.lortonaction.org to see what might be up next.