When Jen Walker moved to the Del Ray section of Alexandria in 1997 she received a warm welcome and felt an immediate sense of community.
“The day I moved, neighbors came over to welcome me, offered to loan me a lawn mower if I needed one,” said Walker. “Del Ray is a small community in a big city. Being from the South, it reminded me of my small town in Georgia. You know your neighbors, their kids, pets. We help each other. You need something, just ask. Sometimes you don't even have to ask, it just happens.”
The sense of community she felt led her to community action.
“After moving to Del Ray, I wanted to get involved,” said Walker. “My colleague and mentor Nancy Dunning suggested I join the Potomac West Business Association [which is] now the Del Ray Business Association. The next thing I knew [I was asked] to join the marketing committee of the Del Ray Business Association. Next thing I knew, I was asked to chair First Thursdays. The rest is history.”
THAT HISTORY has culminated with Walker being named winner of the Marguerite Payez Leadership Award. Established by the Alexandria Commission for Women, the award is given to a woman who, through volunteer work, has exhibited leadership qualities and has trained other women to assume leadership roles in the community.
Marcia Call, CEO, TalentFront, a corporate recruiting company, and a friend and neighbor of Walker’s, nominated her for the award. “Jen says yes first to any request for help and then figures out what it is you need,” said Call. “We have a close-knit community because Jen invested her time and money in making it so.”
In addition to her community involvement, Walker is a real estate agent at McEnearney Associates, a locally owned real estate company. “Jen is an exceptional real estate agent,” said Dave Hawkins, Managing Broker in the Alexandria office of McEnearney Associates. “She lives and breathes it. She has the biggest following and the largest business in the Del Ray marketplace in large part because of her community involvement”
Friends say that she is a shining example of how women can become community leaders. “She is the perfect role model for my daughters,” said Call. “In addition to being very successful in business, she brings joy to people who know her. She always has time for her friends and neighbors. “
Hawkins said, “She is a big supporter of the organizations that do a lot of good. Jen is intimately involved in various charities, group and neighborhood activities that go on in the Del Ray area.”
Walker supports non-profit organizations and local schools to raise funds for important causes including the Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services, T.C. Williams High School’s All Night Graduation Party, First Night Alexandria, and Northern Virginia Aids Ministries (NOVAM).
WALKER’S OTHER HONORS include the Heart of Del Ray award from the Del Ray Business Association, an honor “given to a business that serves as the heart and soul of Del Ray.” In 2006, she created Cinema Del Ray, a free outdoor movie summer series for Alexandria families.
Friends also applaud her modesty. “She never talks about herself,” said Call. “She is always helping others. She is the kind of person I am raising my girls to be.”
Walker has volunteered to shovel snow for Alexandria Snow Buddies, served coffee during the Alexandria Turkey Trot and filled goodie bags for the Del Ray Halloween Parade.
“It's not just about events,” said Walker. “It's helping others, giving to a cause, being passionate about something besides yourself.”
Walker works to underscore the importance of community service. “Everything that happens in Del Ray event-wise is run by volunteers,” she said. “If we don't help things won't happen. ... What can you do to make things better for others. Help your parents. Shovel snow for the neighbors, hold a door, help someone unload their car.”
She has also served on numerous Alexandria boards and commissions including the Board of Zoning and Appeals, the Commission for the Arts, First Night, Senior Services and the Alexandria Police Association.
“Alexandria is a great city full of women and men who are generous with their time and money,” said Walker. “I'm just following in their footsteps and trying to do my part.”