MY VIEW | Let’s keep that generous, snowy state of mind

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There have been many stories of neighbors helping neighbors during our recent experience with “Snowmageddon.” It was heartening to see whole neighborhoods out clearing snow, exchanging stories and helping out where it was needed.

Though the city worked tirelessly to remove as much snow as possible, there was still much to be done and residents continued to check on their disabled or elderly neighbors to make sure they were able to get what they needed while it remained difficult to get around. Parents, teachers and community members worked to clear walks and parking lots so students could once again attend school. This is the definition of community.

Helping to make it less difficult to get around was priority number one for a core group of indefatigable volunteers called Snow Buddies.A program started three years ago by Alexandria’s Office of Citizen Assistance and Volunteer Alexandria, Snow Buddies had no snow at all in its first year and only a small amount last year.We’re assuming Mother Nature was working with us to line up volunteers to “practice” for this year’s 30 inches in a series of snowfalls. I’m sure it felt to some of our volunteers that no sooner had they cleared walks for their elderly or disabled “buddies” that the forecast would predict yet another storm.

Many snow buddies were paired before the first flake ever fell but once the storms began and the city activated its Emergency Operations Center, many calls came through to Citizen’s Assistance for help. Just as many calls came into Volunteer Alexandria through Facebook, emails and calls from residents willing to help.Even last week we were receiving calls from residents who had been unable to dig themselves out. Some buddies took on multiple sites!And, with the weight of the snow that fell on February 5 and 6, that was quite an undertaking.

We can’t thank our Snow Buddies enough.During a time when most of us would have preferred to nestle into our sofas and watch the storm on television, these generous Alexandrians trudged out to help their neighbors without a word of complaint.

Lest anyone think that the opportunity has passed, let me hasten to assure you that 1.) winter is not over so you can still sign up to be a Snow Buddy, and 2.)there are many, many other opportunities to help out, including Spring for Alexandria, a three-day celebration of giving and service sponsored by ACT for Alexandria, the City of Alexandria and Volunteer Alexandria on April 29 through May 1.

As part of that event, Volunteer Alexandria will host its Community Service Day on April 30. Residents and businesses are invited to get involved. And, on the Saturday before, April 24, Rebuilding Together Alexandria hosts its annual Rebuilding Day during which volunteer teams repair homes for deserving Alexandrians. Last year, more than 1,000 volunteers completed 90 projects all over the city. Get involved!

This year in particular has seen many nonprofit and government agencies cutting back on work they might have wanted to accomplish because of the economic downturn.Spring for Alexandria is a way to help those agencies which, in turn, help some of the city’s neediest residents. Similarly, Rebuilding Together will complete work for residents whose need is even greater this year.

For more information on how you can get involved, go to www.springforalexandria.org or www.rebuildingtogetheralex.org, or call Volunteer Alexandria at 703-836-2176.

Melinda Patrician is the executive director of Volunteer Alexandria.

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