Vanslyn Fuller sips a cool drink at the Ashton Avenue Family Diner in Manassas. It’s been a long day for the government contractor and she still has to study for a business law class.
Her neighbors, homemaker Laura Davis and her husband Ron, an employee at the Norman Cole wastewater treatment plant in Lorton, slide into the table next to her while a nearby booth is taken by the Rigenys: Don, Jessica and their son, Dominic. Neighbor Donna Short can’t stay long; the ExxonMobil manager who once traveled the world offering global assistance to organizations like Doctors Without Borders is now homebound, caring for her ill spouse. Still, she’s perky and determined about “Our Big Day.” While it’s Laura who chalks a new countdown number each day on the A-frame signs at the entrances to Bristoe Station and corrals a bi-lingual friend to keep her neighbors informed, it’s Donna who knighted them “Street Champions.”
“My neighbor sees me picking up litter on Sunday, and says, ‘I got a notice on my door about cutting my grass and that’s your fault,’” recalls Donna. “I told him, ‘hey, I’m just the Street Champion. I don’t know who posts the grass notices. I’m picking up litter to make our community look better and you’re complaining at me?”
Every Wednesday since March, diner owners Edin, Marlon and Victor Esquivel have welcomed the Street Champions’ meetings. Servers Omar Amenzoni and Ana Blanco have even joined in the conversations as residents hash out the details of the Big Day of Serving Manassas with city Neighborhood Services employees Christen Zenich and Brad Wilson.
Already Comcast and Verizon are fixing dangerous situations with drop lines; they’ve had a safety audit to address lighting and other crime prevention issues; utility crews have repainted equipment boxes; and animal control is looking into a feral cat situation.
Everything is in preparation for Saturday, May 5 and excitement and anticipation hang in the air. What’s it like to have 700 volunteers descend on one neighborhood? After a rally at the Boys & Girls Club led by regional director Glenn Vickers, a caravan of cars, buses and vans, escorted by Manassas City Police Department Lieutenant Steven Neely will disperse throughout the 40-year-old, 550-townhome community near the intersection of Ashton Avenue and Confederate Trail to knock out more than 30 projects in less than eight hours.
Vanslyn, Donna, Jessica, Don, Laura and Ron have volunteered as crew leaders, joining employee teams from Didlake, Kohl’s, Lockheed Martin, Mike Garcia Construction, Target, Walmart, Yard by Yard Landscaping and church youth groups far and wide. Projects include spreading two tractor-trailer loads of donated mulch and landscaping the community entrances; completing 23 backyard cleanups; collecting trash, litter and recycling; renovating the playground and pavilion; and painting murals and signs.
To further “green” the community, trucks and rolloffs will be stationed to collect residents’ e-waste (old TVs and computers), hazardous household waste (old paint, oil and chemicals), furniture and construction materials in good condition for Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, and used clothing and household goods for the Community Thrift and Salvation Army. There’s even going to be a book exchange.
Sponsors include American Disposal, BJ’s Wholesale, Capital Rentals, Centreville Sod, Commonwealth Recycle Aggregates, Keep Virginia Beautiful, Lowe’s, McLane Manassas, Olde Towne Landscaping, ProShred, Shoppers Food Warehouse, US Foodservice Manassas and Waste Management. Walgreens will have a First Aid Station with Pharmacists helping out, Evergreen Community Church will distribute lunch, and a Cinco de Mayo block party, planned by volunteer Keeta Howard, will wrap up the day.
The Big Day of Serving (formerly 1 By Youth) is a national movement the city of Manassas helped start in 2010 with a pilot project in Georgetown South, and continued in several Point of Woods communities in 2011. Ian Lovejoy, Nikki Ebert and Father Ramon Dominguez are among the alumni volunteers who will be paying it forward to Bristoe Station on their Big Day this Saturday.
Volunteers and donations are still being accepted. Ten crew leaders for backyard cleanups are still needed. Join the Big Day of Serving by contacting Christen Zenich at 703-257-8315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.