Village Drive Village
in Fairfax is a neighborhood corporation dedicated to helping retirees stay in their homes as they age. After ten months of hard work, the Village Drive Village is working to help neighbors who feel isolated and alone, and with the regular small tasks of home and yard maintenance which can become more and more difficult.
Starting a neighbor to neighbor network like Village Drive Village requires some elbow grease. Here is what this network learned:
- A neighbor to neighbor network like Village Drive Village should be started only after a neighborhood needs assessment shows it to be viable and a few people are willing to put in the effort.
- Donors are important. Start-up costs require broad financial support.
- A Village/Neighbor to Neighbor network has to be incorporated in Virginia, a 501(c)(3) with the IRS, and liability insurance is required. An up-to-date website and active email address also are essential.
Help is essential. Fairfax County Government has the wisdom to understand that government saves money when older citizens are cared for without government dollars. Their Long-Term Care Coordination team is dedicated to helping neighbor to neighbor networks like Village Drive Village succeed. There now are nine active networks like ours in Fairfax County, and more than 350 across the U.S. Help also is available from the Village-to-Village Network, a national organization which can provide mentors and other assistance.
Village Drive Village was lucky. An expert from the Alexandria at Home network lives in the neighborhood and became the mentor to Village Drive Village, providing the most amazing help with required membership forms and procedures to make our neighbor to neighbor network a success.
Village Drive Village is a “concierge” system. If a retired member needs help, they call the concierge phone number and are assigned a volunteer who has indicated an interest in helping with that particular problem. Volunteers are trained and fully insured by Village Drive Village, and they are truly the life blood of the organization. Here are some of the volunteer roles in our organization:
- Virtual office coordinator
- Point person to communicate with potential members
- Promoting the organization
- Establishing Village Drive Village priorities
- Developing the board meeting agenda
- Planning neighborhood activities
And all of this is in addition to the volunteers who directly help members with handyman services, companionship, errands, computer problems, and more.
Initially, a village doesn’t have many people who need help, or who believe they need help. Even with over 450 homes in the neighborhood, the Village Drive Village phone line doesn’t ring often these days. Therefore Village Drive Village is focused on one of the most important aspects of helping retirees: their need for social contact.
A neighbor to neighbor network can have many neighborhood associations functioning in the same geographic area without any conflict of interest because the village has a different mission. For example, within the Village Drive Village area there are 26 connecting streets and 550 houses with 16 different homeowner subdivisions. Few have active homeowners associations and most of them are no longer functioning. Neighbor to neighbor networks like Village Drive Village can help these neighborhood associations speak with a bigger voice on issues of mutual concern, and the neighborhood associations can help the village with social activities and with meeting new people. The Village Drive Village neighborhood mailing list was developed with cooperation from several different neighborhood associations within the area they serve.
Village Drive Village is much more than Village Drive in Fairfax. The area is generally bounded by Braddock Road, Fairfax County Parkway, Lee Highway, and Shirley Gate Road. It’s a big area, but not as large an area as is currently covered by other local Villages, such as Mount Vernon.
Slowly the Village is adding new members and expanding services. Many people in the area still have not heard of Village Drive Village. Mailing lists are constantly being updated. What started as an area of about 450 neighborhood houses could grow to include 1,000 houses. Someday, Village Drive Village might be large enough to hire part-time paid coordinators for transportation and even better advocacy for our older neighbors. That kind of slow growth is the experience of the older Villages in Fairfax.