Monday, November 28, 2016

Be Thankful

by Sandy Kellogg

Aquatic Operations Supervisor, Mount Vernon RECenter
Fairfax County Park Authority
VRPS Aquatics Resource Group 2016 Chair
VRPS 2016 Awards Co-Chair

It’s been a long fall for my family.  On October 2nd my condo, River Towers in Alexandria, started to collapse.  32 families were evacuated, and our part of the building was officially condemned pending repairs.  I have been homeless ever since.  Technically I’m an Internally Displaced Person, with a Red Cross Case number and everything.  My husband, son and I were allowed to have a 10-minute ‘gather what you can’ run through the house, and that was it.  Optimistically it will be at least 6 months before we are allowed back in.

Before everyone starts a telethon or fundraiser, this is going to be the BEST Thanksgiving ever.   My children are all coming home, and there’s actually a home for them to come to!  A good friend has a cottage on his property and offered it to us.  We rely on electric heaters, and I’m reminded why commuting in NOVA is miserable, but we have a home, good friends, family coming, and a place to go every night.  Best Thanksgiving ever.

This experience has made me look at what we do.  Many Parks and Rec professionals run large buildings with good facilities.  Are we prepared to open our doors for a community emergency?   New facilities should be built with emergency response in mind.  A washer and dryer hookup would add a very small expense to a design or remodel, but it changes us from a recreation center to a possible emergency shelter.  We can provide activities for children, warming areas, even staging areas for emergency response, all just by opening our doors and becoming part of the solution.   Our neighbors depend on us, let’s not leave them out in the cold.

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