For one night this fall, Dr. Jeffrey Kretsch will get to bask in the spotlight as well as the starlight that more regularly illuminates his work at the Turner Farm Observatory Park in Great Falls.
Kretsch is one of three volunteers — and the only individual — who will be honored by the Fairfax County Park Authority with its 2021 Elly Doyle Park Service Awards, which recognize community members and organizations that contribute their time and expertise to support the county’s park system.
As a member of the Analemma Society, a nonprofit that promotes astronomy, Kretsch has logged more than 1,784 hours of volunteer service at Observatory Park since 2012, according to the park authority’s news release.
“I was surprised to hear of getting the award, and greatly appreciate the recognition,” Kretsch said in a statement to Reston Now. “I enjoy doing this, and get satisfaction helping bring our programs to the public. I work with a lot of volunteers and park staff who make this possible.”
The Analemma Society works with the park authority to host public, after-hours viewing sessions at Turner Farm’s roll-top observatory and classroom almost every Friday. The group also organizes special sessions for celestial events like the Perseid meteor shower that filled the sky earlier this month.
When the observatory shut down last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kretsch helped the park authority pivot to virtual programming, including by leading lectures and encouraging other volunteers to follow suit.
According to the park authority, he also “spent considerable time” helping the park authority fill out an application to get Observatory Park designated as an International Dark Sky Place, a program that started in 2001 to recognize parks, communities, and other sites that preserve the night sky for scientific, natural, educational, or recreational purposes.
When Observatory Park reopened for the public viewing sessions on June 18, Kretsch could once again share his interest in stargazing and astronomy with other community members in person, rather than from behind a computer screen.
“Interacting with families and the kids is the best part,” he said. “I have been doing this awhile now, long enough that every once in a while an adult comes up to me and says they remember coming as a child and how it inspired them to go on. That is what is the most rewarding.”
The other recipients of this year’s Elly Doyle awards are:
- The Friends of Accotink Creek, which helps protect the local watershed by removing trash, planting native trees, and supporting educational programs
- Volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ D.C. South Mission, who spent the past year clearing invasive species from an area at Lake Accotink Park in Springfield and replaced them with native plants
Established on Dec. 20, 1988, the awards are named after former Park Authority Board of Directors Chairman Elly Doyle for her “years of outstanding service toward the preservation of parkland and establishment of natural and recreational areas for the benefit of Fairfax County residents,” according to the FCPA news release.
This year’s winners will be recognized with a virtual ceremony in November. Their names will also be added to a bronze plaque at the Fairfax County Government Center.
(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) While most schools are wrapping up and kids are headed into vacation mode, Flint Hill School junior Zoe Bredesen is making her mark on Reston’s environment by organizing tree plantings.
A Girl Scout since she was 5, Bredesen is now pursuing the organization’s highest award with her goal to plant at least 400 trees throughout Fairfax County, and she is working with Reston Association to achieve it.
The Girl Scout website says scouts can earn the Gold Award by finishing at least 80 hours of community service and showing “proof that not only can she make a difference, but that she already has.”
Bredesen has been passionate about the environment for as long as she can remember.
“I grew up in a very forested area,” she said. “So, I’ve always just really loved trees and nature, and climate change is something that I’m very concerned about. It’s one that I think demands radical, substantial effort to combat.”
Bredesen recognized that her ability to bring about the large-scale changes necessary to address climate change on a global level was limited, so she decided to focus on a project that would make an impact in her local community.
“I can’t shut down BP Oil or make every county use sustainable energy,” Bredesen said. “…One thing that I can just do as just me is plant trees to take in some of the [carbon dioxide] and put out fresh oxygen to combat atmosphere pollution. So, that’s just what I’m doing as a single person trying to make a difference.”
Bredesen has now been working on the project for two years with assistance from fellow students in the environmental club that she leads at her school. The group has planted 250 trees to date.
While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed their work due to the need to minimize the risk of close contact in large groups of people, Bredesen and her team have stayed committed to her goal.
Most recently, she worked with Reston Association volunteers and environmental resource staff to plant 40 trees along Moorings and North Shore Drive.
The next planting event will take on June 26 at 10 a.m., again in collaboration with RA.
Bredesen says she started working with RA, because she needed to get permission to plant on the grounds of their facilities. She has collaborated with other organizations as well, including Claude Moore Park and a homeowners’ association in Ashburn.
During her project, Bredesen has been helping train volunteers on how to plant and take care of the trees. She will be turning to the Reston community for help at the next planting, since many of her usual helpers from the school environemntal club will be away on summer vacation at that time.
Bredesen says spring is typically the best time to plant trees because that’s when they have the best chance of surviving. Summer into the early fall works as well, but trees have the “lowest chance of succession” during the winter months.
“Now that more people are getting vaccinated and covid restrictions are loosening, if we could get more people coming together to plant trees with the common goal of reducing our carbon footprint, I think that’d be awesome,” Bredesen said.
Photo via Volunteer Reston/Facebook
No South Lakes HS Vaccine Clinic Next Week — Contrary to notices from Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay’s office and Dogwood Elementary School, there will not be a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for students at South Lakes High School next Wednesday (May 26). FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told Reston Now that the site was changed and will be at Langley High School in McLean, as previously reported. “We are adding sites as needed and as school space availability/staffing allow,” she said.
Amazon Hiring for Hundreds of Jobs in Herndon — “Amazon.com has more than 3,000 job openings in Northern Virginia. More than 2,100 of those openings are in Arlington, many attached to HQ2…Almost 800 are in the Herndon area, where [Amazon Web Services] has its East Coast headquarters.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]
Reston Man Raises Money to Send Oxygen to India — A GoFundMe started by Reston resident Afzal Memon and five other organizers has raised over $36,000 to buy and ship more than 100 oxygen concentrators to India on behalf of The Saiyed Foundation, a nonprofit that provides health care and emergency aid to remote villages. India is in dire need of oxygen and other medical supplies as the country struggles with a COVID-19 surge that claimed a reported 4,329 lives just on May 17. [Patch]
Elden Street Business Burglarized — The Herndon Police Department is investigating a burglary that reportedly occurred in the 1100 block of Elden Street overnight between May 15 and 16. Police say “an unknown number of subjects gained entry” to the business through a rear door and took “cash and various equipment.” [Herndon PD]
Litter Clean-up Coming to Glade Drive — “Reston Association, @FairfaxCountyPD, Southgate Community Center, & Dogwood Elementary School, FCPS will be hosting a community cleanup May 26-29th along Glade Drive from Reston Parkway to Sunrise Valley. For more information or to get involved contact Ha Brock at [email protected]” [RA/Twitter]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Fairfax County is changing up its Stuff the Bus food drive this winter to support increased demand for food while accommodating challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Typically held twice a year, Stuff the Bus will kick off its 10th year of existence with buses parked at select locations throughout the county from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.
During the two-day food drive, community members can stop by the buses to donate nonperishable food that will help restock local food pantries, which have reported an uptick in the need for food and drops in volunteer rates during the pandemic.
To prevent the potential transmission of the novel coronavirus, donors should wear a mask or other face-covering when at a Stuff the Bus site, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) is directing people to place their donations directly inside the buses through their rear doors, rather than approaching the front door or the bus drivers.
Fairfax County is also encouraging people to make online monetary donations to the participating nonprofits in lieu of donating food in person.
According to the county, virtual donations give food pantries more flexibility, allowing them to purchase in bulk, stock up on fresh food, and obtain “culturally appropriate foods, which better meet the needs of the diverse communities they serve.” It is also less labor-intensive.
“Nonprofits often rely on the work of volunteers to sort and shelve donations,” NCS says. “The COVID-19 virus has greatly impacted volunteers’ ability to serve, especially older adults or those with pre-existing conditions.”
The Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office will accept donations at 1801 Cameron Glen Drive. A complete list of all locations is available online.
Donations at the McLean Government Center will benefit LINK, which provides emergency food to people in the Herndon, Sterling, and Ashburn communities. The Patrick Henry Library drive will support Western Fairfax Christian Ministries on Jan. 30 and Cornerstones on Feb. 6.
The two Providence District locations — the supervisor’s office and James Lee Community Center — will support the Annandale Christian Community for Action on Jan. 30 and the Falls Church Community Service Council on Feb. 6.
A list of the most frequently requested food items can be found on the Stuff the Bus website.
Based on unemployment and poverty data, the Capital Area Food Bank estimates in its October 2020 Hunger Report that there has been a 48% to 60% increase in food insecurity in the D.C. region since the pandemic began.
Image via Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services
Reston Association Offers Update on Capital Projects — Chris Schumaker, RA’s director of capital projects, offers an update on recent capital projects, including the roof replacement at Uplands Pool and concrete repairs at Lake Newport Pool. [Reston Today]
County Offers Recommendations on Celebrating Winter Holidays — “Recommendations shared for Thanksgiving apply to December holidays as well. Remember: the safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is with people in your household. Therefore, we recommend making the holidays more leisurely this year. Stay home, stay cozy, and keep it small and simple.” [Fairfax County Government]
Local Volunteer Wins Elly Doyle Award — Leslie painter, who frequently volunteers at Frying Pan Farm Park and also serves on the board of directors, has been selected for an Elly Doyle Award. [YouTube]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The county is seeking volunteers for several watershed cleanup days in Fairfax County.
Volunteers will gather at a park or recreation center to help “clear Earth’s arteries by removing tires, bottles, cans and other debris dumped in local waterways,” according to the county.
The service opportunity is open to residents age 12 and up.
The first local cleanup is set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 24 at Lake Fairfax Park followed by a clean-up at Riverbend Park on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Volunteers can register online. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, volunteers must ream six-feet apart, wear cloth face coverings in public settings, and limit group sizes.
Photo via Fairfax County Government
Cornerstones Chats with Town of Herndon Candidates — The Reston-based nonprofit organization interviewed candidates for the Herndon Town Council and Mayor. Interviews were conducted by Stephen Smith Cobbs, a member on the Board of Directors and a pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon. [Cornerstones]
Volunteers Build Reston Girl with Leukemia a Playset — Volunteers from Dominion Team Energy team u with the ROC Solid Foundation to build a four-year-old Reston girl with leukemia a playset in her backyard. [WJLA]
Around Town: Judge to Hold Trial on Plans to Remove Lee Statue — “A lawsuit seeking to prevent Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from removing an enormous statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond is scheduled to go to trial Monday.” [WTOP]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Volunteers Needed at Fellowship Square — The Reston and Lake Anne location need volunteers who can call seniors and deliver food to senior apartments. Sign up is available online. [Fellowship Square]
Hoskins Reflects on Year One — “Victor Hoskins took the helm of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) on August 5, 2019, after leading economic development in Arlington County for almost five years and winning the biggest economic-development competition in history: Amazon’s second headquarters, aka HQ2.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]
Sales Tax Holiday Returns — The three-day holiday starts today and ends on Sunday. Residents can buy qualifying supplies, clothing, footwear, emergency preparedness items and Energy Star products without paying sales tax. [Virginia State Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Leslie Painter, a volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park, is one of three recipients of an award honoring volunteers at Fairfax County parks.
The county announced the winners of the Elly Doyle Service Awards last week. “The purpose of the award is to publicly recognize a volunteer or group of volunteers for outstanding contributions to Fairfax County parks,” the announcement noted.
From the announcement:
Leslie Painter has been a volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park for more than a decade. As secretary of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park Board, she has provided a wealth of technology support for the Board and park staff.
The avid horsewoman also teaches equestrian sessions, helps manage shows at the park, and is quick to volunteer when any work needs to be done — from serving meals to cleaning the barn to running major events. She has made a major impact on the Friends’ fundraising efforts by increasing participation and managing the paperwork and responses to the group’s many donors.
The other winners included volunteers with Colvin Run Mill and the Olander and Margaret Banks Neighborhood Park.
The award is named after a former Fairfax County Park Authority board chairman, who helped preserve parkland and create natural and recreational areas in the county.
The county plans to honor the three winners during a virtual ceremony in November.
Photo via Fairfax County
Alcorn to Host Budget Town Hall — Hunter. Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is hosting a town hall on Friday at 12:30 p.m. to discuss the updated budget for the next fiscal year. Residents can take part by submitting Facebook Live comments, emailing video, and calling in during the meeting. [Patch]
Letter from Reston Association Hank Lynch — Lynch says that the core business of the association continues. Work on capital projects, including the dredging and dock replacement at Lake. Staff are making contingency plans for later starts for various events and activities. [Reston Association]
Herndon Village Network Answers the Call — The network, which is part of the county’s Neighbor to Neighbor program, has offered volunteer rides for older adults. Recently, the network coordinated grocery drop-offs for residents. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Roughly 1,400 individuals contributed 6,900 hours of volunteer time to community projects last year, according to the website. The RA chose to recognize several individuals for their work in 2019 with the annual Reston Service Awards.
Instead of an in-person reception due to concerns over COVID19, the RA said it will celebrate award winners by highlighting their “outstanding” work on social media accounts and electronic campaigns.
All of the winners are a part of Volunteer Reston. “The mission of Volunteer Reston is to enhance Reston Association’s services and programs by matching the talents of individuals and groups of all ages, interests and skills to a variety of engaging projects and endeavors,” the website said.
Detailed bios of award winners can be found online.
Individual award winners include:
- Surekha Sridhar for Volunteer of the Year
- Kevin Alegre for Youth Volunteer of the Year
- Susan Beffel and Irwin Flashman for Volunteers Over 55
Group award winners include:
- George Mason University Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL) for Group Volunteers of the Year
- The Bike Lane for Community Partner of the Year
- Lakes, Docks and Boats Working Group for Work Group of the Year
“Volunteerism is deeply rooted in Reston’s history and was one of the core principles of Reston founder Robert E. Simon Jr.,” the RA press release said.
Photo via Reston Association
Despite its temporary closure, a Reston-based makerspace challenged volunteers to supply hospitals and medical staff with lifesaving personal protective equipment.
Nova Labs, a local volunteer-based non-profit, used to serve as a place of ideation for kids and creative community members but decided to switch focus after health concerns from COVID19 shutdown non-essential businesses and gathering places in Virginia. Lab volunteers are now creating medical masks, plastic face shields and other essential equipment to keep people healthy, according to Margie Foster, one of the project’s coordinators.
Foster said she became involved after another member, Paul Chase, began tinkering with designs for face masks in his basement.
“I jumped in and was like ‘let’s make sure someone needs it, we are informed by the field and make sure we have places to donate it before we go all in,'” Foster said.
To keep volunteers safe and obey social distancing rules, Nova Labs sent 3D printers home with “altruistic” members who knew how to use them, so they can create the plastic pieces for face shields now required by nurses and doctors, Foster said.
Nova Labs isn’t the sole coordinator of this project though, Foster said. Micro Center in Fairfax and its manager Jeff Katz donated 50-kilogram spools of the colorful plastic filament to the cause, which would typically retail over $1,000.
To help with the assembly of the products, Nova Labs recruited local families who are looking for things to do now that schools are closed and some are off work.
Already, the group’s volunteers have managed to send over 550 face shields to Howard University Hospital and other area medical centers, according to Nova Labs Facebook page. In the coming weeks, Foster added that the team has the capability to branch out to adjust to new and unique needs.
In the early stages, some hospitals that originally agreed to use the personal protective equipment made by Nova Labs had to call the program coordinators back since their policies kept changing with uncertain guidelines regarding the ability to accept homemade equipment.
“A lot of the hospital policies are still trying to come up to speed with what is happening,” she said. “They are trying to change on the fly too.”
Going forward, Foster said she is concerned about what will happen as competition for the plastic face mask material intensifies. Already, producers of the shield material are backlogged with orders and prices keep rising due to high demand, according to Foster.
“We are in competition with like Pepsi,” she said. “They use the same material for their bottles.”
Still, team members associated with Nova Lab are dedicated to the cause, according to Foster.
“The bulk of this project has been funded out of pocket by the makers,” she said.
Those interested in helping the cause can donate online.
Photo via Nova Labs/Facebook
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is encouraging residents to give back to their communities as growing concerns about the coronavirus prompt event cancellations and working remotely.
Alcorn, who represents Vienna and Reston on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, took to social media last week to let local organizations and nonprofits know that his office wants to connect them to volunteers and needed assistance.
“Whenever we have the opportunity to step up and help, we should,” Alcorn said. “There’s a lot of concern in the community.”
If you are a community organization/nonprofit who needs volunteer assistance to help neighbors impacted by coronavirus in #HunterMill, we can help get the word out. Send an email to [email protected] with details. pic.twitter.com/cQN9nkZCOV
— Supervisor Walter Alcorn (@WalterAlcornFFX) March 13, 2020
As of Sunday, March 15, the Virginia Department of Health says there are 10 presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Fairfax County — a number that officials say is expected to grow.
Alcorn said that local organizations are expecting higher demands for food and assistance, especially from people who work in the service industries who have limited or no sick leave and for seniors, who are at a higher risk of getting more severely ill from the virus.
“The anxiety level, particularly for seniors, is very high,” he said, noting that there is a “sizable” elderly community in the Hunter Mill District. “I think we can do a lot as we get through this public health challenge by reaching out to our more vulnerable communities and our neighbors and let them know that we care.”
By Friday (March 13), Alcorn’s office had created a “How to Help Your Neighbors” list on the Hunter Mill District page on the Fairfax County website.
“Locally, specifically in Hunter Mill, we’re focusing on giving folks something to do,” he said, adding that his office is helping to connect people who want to help with organizations that need extra volunteers.
Expecting a higher demand for underresourced families, Cornerstones, a local nonprofit organization that aims to promote self-sufficiency, is looking for donations to help with meal delivery and its food pantry.
Embry Rucker Community Shelter, which is run by Cornerstones, is seeking donations of tissues, hand sanitizer and cleaning products, Alcorn said.
Several organizations, like Second Story in the Vienna area, are asking for gift cards instead of volunteers.
Other opportunities on Alcorn’s list in the Reston area include “non-contact” drivers needed for Meals on Wheels deliveries in the Lawyer’s Road area and donations to Reston-based Shelter House.
People interested in the local organizations’ opportunities focused on the coronavirus can also check out Alcorn’s email newsletter and social media accounts.
“You can contact any of the organizations or call [my] office,” he said. “We’re going to continue expanding the list of needs.”
Alcorn emphasized “one overall need that also we want to make sure gets out there” — blood donations.
“A lot of folks donate blood to Inova,” he said. “We don’t want to get into a situation where [there’s] a low blood supply.”
Additionally, Alcorn is urging people to take “normal precautions,” like practicing good hygiene and frequent hand washing.
“My hope and expectation are that our community will rise to the occasion,” he said.
A new volunteer tradition aims to keep the Hunters Woods neighborhood clean.
The first annual Hunters Woods Clean-Up Day will take place on Sunday (Nov. 3) beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Hunters Woods Fellowship House (2231 Colts Neck Road). Volunteers will improve the appearance of the neighborhood, according to the event’s Facebook page.
The event is sponsored by the Hunters Woods Neighborhood Coalition, which will provide the supplies for volunteers including gloves and trash bags.
During the event, volunteers will clean neighboring areas ranging from Hunters Woods at Trails Edge to Hunters Woods Village Condominiums.
All community members are welcome to swing by help the cause.
After the event, snacks and hot drinks will be provided for volunteers, according to the event page.
Image via Google Maps
With the holiday season approaching, organizations are setting up campaigns to help those in need.
The Reston Community Center teamed up with the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and Cornerstones to collect food and basic necessities, while Food For Neighbors is sponsoring an online fundraiser to provide meals for those struggling with food insecurity.
Under the RCC, there are more than a dozen locations where people can drop off non-perishable items, including food, paper towels, plastic bins and hygiene items.
They are looking for food items that are unopened, unused and unexpired, including coffee, tea, canned products, oatmeal, dry beans and rice, peanut butter, jellies, flour, sugar, condiments and cooking oil.
Volunteers can sign up online to sort the items.
Below, is a list of locations where people can drop off new items.
- RCC Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road)
- RCC Lake Anne (1609-A N. Washington Plaza)
- Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce (1886 Metro Center Drive, Suite 230)
- Atlantic Union Bank (1800 Robert Fulton Drive, Suite 105)
- Hunter Mill District Office (1801 Cameron Glen Drive)
- Guide Post Montessori Herndon (13251 Woodland Park Road)
- Long and Foster Realtors (2100 Reston Pkwy, Suite 102)
- Reston Association — HQ (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive)
- Reston Associaton — Central Services Facility (12250 Sunset Hills Road)
- Reston Association — Walker Nature Center (11450 Glade Drive)
- State Farm Insurance (11868 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 200)
- Tall Oaks Assisted Living (12052 North Shore Drive)
- The Harrison at Reston Town Center (1800 Jonathan Way)
- Washington Hilton Dulles (13869 Park Center Road)
- YMCA Fairfax County Reston (12196 Sunset Hills Road)
Photo via Facebook