September 28, 2008
I spent a couple hours on Saturday morning joining local school teachers, police officers, and a "motley crew" of public-spirited volunteers at a Community Day event held at the Booker T. Washington Community Center, located on the west side of the historic "New Town" neighborhood of Staunton. It was the first time I had been there, and I was amazed by how steep the streets are; it's quite a view from up there. We spent most of the time digging holes, shoveling mulch, and planting plants and bulbs in the playground. When we were done, it looked just great. The weather was overcast and it drizzled occasionally, but at least we didn't get rained on.
The event was part of a broader crime prevention program, targeting the alarming rise of street gangs in this area. Attorney General Bob McDonnell (see Web site) spoke to the volunteers about the need for this kind of community service to raise hope and (by implication) combat deliquency. Assistant Attorney General Phil Figura was the main organizer of the event, and several staff members joined him. I was very impressed by the large outpouring of good will, showing once again what a solid, vibrant community Staunton is. As the article in today's News Leader pointed out, however, much will depend on whether there is a sustained community effort to maintain the Community Center and playground.
Lowe's contributed a large quantity of flowering plants, mulch, tools, and supplies that were put to excellent use. Several employees of Shenandoah Valley Security pitched in, and several local companies contributed supplies, such as Blue Ridge Lumber. Tom Sheets, the company president, was in attendance, along with his wife Peggy. They were the hosts of the campaign fund-raiser for State Senator Emmett Hanger in May 2007.
(Full disclosure: My presence at this community event was motivated in part by politics, with the understanding that there was to be no political activity.)