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Byways: Literally the roads bypassing the main road or the paths less traveled. Virtually, any unusual means to an end.

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Story Content

 

Telling Pohick Church’s Story October'11
Watch D.O.G.S. September'11
Possum Stories Teach Children the Whole Story Behind Holidays August'11
A Woman Making A Difference July'11

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Telling Pohick Church’s Story October'11

The story of Pohick Church is integral to the story of American History, not only is the church associated with founders George Washington and George Mason, but its stories are many and various—the story of the Church of England in Virginia and the American Revolution; the development of religious freedom; heroic efforts of historic preservation; the War of 1812; the Civil War; and the story of a vibrant, 21st century Episcopal church community. Who is going to tell that story? Pohick church members as well as devotees of history spent Friday, September 16 and Saturday, September 17, learning these stories in preparation for giving tours at Historic Pohick Church.
The 40+ attendees were welcomed by William Wrench from the Historic Pohick Church Foundation. Reverend Don Binder, Ph.D, the current rector of Pohick Church, told the story of the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in Fairfax County and Truro Parish, the 18th century origins of Pohick Church, and the efforts to revitalize the church community and to restore the church building, which was devastated by neglect and by war. Mr. Robert Teagle, Education Director and Curator at Historic Christ Church in Irvington, Virginia, spoke of the development of the Church of England in Colonial Virginia and the development of religious freedom in Virginia. He outlined the contributions of George Mason, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson to the dis-establishment of the Church of England and to our adherence to religious liberty.
Michael Morgan, the financial administrator at Pohick, shared the treasures of the Church, allowing all to get “up close and personal” but with stern warnings of look but don’t touch. In the 1830s, James Gadsby Chapman, painted what was probably a fund-raising picture showing Pohick as a sad ruin. This painting is one of the treasures of Pohick, currently on loan to Mount Vernon. Another treasure also not at Pohick is the 18th century vestry minutes, currently on long-term loan to the Library of Congress. Other Pohick treasures include rare bibles and other rare books, portraits, church silver, and even a piece of wood identified as coming from George Washington’s pews.
Other highlights included a tour of the graveyard by Chet Liddle; discussion of church architecture by Laurie Kittle; and Don McAndrews, renowned for his first-person portrayal of George Mason, discussing Mason and his relationship to Pohick Church. The training organizers are Micheyl Bartholomew, Nancy Sage, Charlotte Knipling, Linda Vretos, B.J. McPherson, Terri Hayes, Denise McHugh, and Laurie Kittle.
This effort is all in preparation for tours at the Pohick Country Fair on October 1, starting at 11:00. In addition to tours, you may find 18th century visitors from Pohick and you will be welcome at a church evensong with the Reverend Lee Massey, as portrayed by the Reverend Tom Costa, conducting the service.

Watch D.O.G.S. September'11

Dads, have you been a Watch D.O.G. yet? If your son or daughter attends Gunston Elementary you have the opportunity to join in your child’s school experience with a half or full day volunteer program. In the morning you would arrive, don the official Watch D.O.G. shirt then help unload the buses and take part in morning announcements where your child will see you on the in class television. Then you would spend the rest of the day helping out in the classroom, playing with the kids at recess, and assisting the younger children in the lunch room. How will you know what to do? Don’t worry you’ll be given a prearranged schedule where the only unknown is just how much fun you’ll have.
What do dads think of the program? Judge for yourself with some of last year’s feedback:
“…I was in the classroom most of the day and loved it.”
“…The kids were very eager to interact with me and I actually felt needed and useful, especially during lunch. The teachers were also VERY appreciative and glad to have us there.”
“…It was nice to be recognized by everyone and the girls were really happy that I was there.”
It is not only the dads and the children who benefit from this program. The school as a whole profits as observed by Tonya Cox, principal of Gunston Elementary: “The program is really helpful to us because we find that on the days we have dads in the building, children are better behaved and they just really enjoy the interaction with the fathers as they move throughout the building.”
The program gives dads a better understanding of what goes on during the school day and the commitment the teachers provide for their child’s education.
Mrs. Cox also notes that “It’s funny, almost every dad I’ve talked to at the end of the day has said, “I had no idea how much you guys do during the day with these kids.” They gain a real appreciation for what teachers do.”
These experiences were shared by many dads. In 2010, our first year implementing this international program, we had 37 dads participate with a total of 47 Watch D.O.G. Dad visits and with your help the program will continue to grow.
If you are interested in volunteering or have additional questions, contact Paul Otto at potto@ieee.org or 703-855-7820. To read more about the international Watch D.O.G. program check out the official website is at http://www.fathers.com/content/index.php? option=com_content&task=view&id=21&Itemid=60

Byways: I want to know what motivated you and how you decided to do this? When was the first thought or meeting?

Horacio: The seed for the Watch Dogs program at Gunston Elementary was planted by a father in Spring of 2009 when he asked the principle of the school, Tonya Cox, if they had a Watch DOG chapter. After she looked into the program she thought it would be worthwhile way to increase fatherhood involvement and asked the PTA vice president, Paul Otto, if he could start a chapter. At the school open house, Paul met Horacio who at just moved to Lorton from Alabama with his daughter and they decided to partner on the program.

Byways: How can you spend a work day in school?

Horacio: The Watch DOG program asks fathers to spend one day a year volunteering as a Watch DOG Dad at the school. While it is difficult to take time off during the work week, the dads at Gunston elementary have shown a strong level of support to make this program successful and see their time well spent to improve the school’s milieu.

Byways: Besides time at school, how much time do you spend on the national effort?

Horacio: The national program is structured to serve the local chapters. Our feedback to them is primarily through the surveys the dads fill out on their web site and the national headquarters provides support on how to run the program and improve the dad’s volunteering experience.

Also, our Watch DOGS recruitment Pizza Night is on September 20th 6:30-7:30pm at the Gunston Elementary Cafeteria. If you are able to, we would like for you to attend so you can personally experience and see what we are working towards.

Byways: Thank you for your effort in the school and for participating in our community magazine. I’m sure we’ll hear more about the school successes.

Possum Stories Teach Children the Whole Story Behind Holidays August'11

By: Sam Horchler

Jamey Long is a local author who has written twenty-six children’s books intended to teach kids the full stories and true meanings behind the holidays. He wrote his first book of the series, A Possum’s Christmas Tale, for one of his kindergarten students to help her cope with the loss of her father around Christmas time. The book was published by Tate Publishing and was well received, particularly by his students, who begged him to write more. And so the adventures of Opie the Oposum was born.
Long has a deep fascination with opossums, which began while he was in elementary school in Kansas. Since then, Long has encountered a possum in every place he has lived. So, the appearance of a baby possum on his porch just as he was looking for inspiration for his children’s book isn’t surprising. The name Opie comes from OP, the first two letters in opossum, and the fact that long was called Opie after the Andy Griffith character, because of his red hair.
The purpose of these books is to educate children on the whole stories behind holidays. While teaching kindergarten at Holy Cross Academy, Long came to realize that most of his students knew some things about what the holidays entailed, but rarely knew the whole story. So, Long decided to seek out some books for kids to tell the whole story. When he couldn’t find them, he decided to write some himself. He wanted to create a role model that would teach children about love, loyalty, friendship and faith.
When asked where he would like these books to go, Long says he would like them to become as popular as Charlie Brown and Garfield when it comes to being a holiday tradition. He would like to see the possum series turned into cartoon specials or animated movies. He would also eventually like to be able to do events for children everywhere. In addition, Opie and Mr. Long have received some attention from Hollywood. After sending a copy of A Possum’s Night on the Titanic to Dr. Ballard, who found the wreck of the Titanic, who enjoyed the book very much. In addition, one dollar of every purchase of Titanic goes to the Titanic Historical Society in order to preserve the Titanic for posterity.
Long has recently branched out into Bible stories as well. He does so partly because he teaches Sunday school at Grace Baptist Church, and wanted to help his students understand the deeper meanings behind the Bible stories in a way that children can easily understand. The other part applies to all his books. He writes them because when he was a child English and History were hard to relate to for him, because the events happened so long ago. Long and Opie hope to help children understand past events fully and easily.
Teaching children is a goal of Longs. When asked, he replied, “ Religion is very hard to discuss in schools so having books that teach children about it are even more important today.”
Long has been a resident of Woodbridge since 1989 and received his A.S. in business from NVCC, a B.S. in Business Management from GMU, and a M.B.A. in General Business from the University of Mary Washington. Long has taught K-8 at Holy Cross Academy and is an Adjunct instructor of business and information technology at GMU.
For more information on Opie and the series, including a full list of books in the series, visit opiepossum.tatepublishing.net. And feel free to write Opie himself at opiepossum@comcast.net. Opie responds to all children’s email personally.

A Woman Making A Difference July'11

by: Mary Laigle

When you meet with Ms. Be-Asia Jackson-‘El, two words immediately come to mind: resilience and commitment. Be-Asia is a mother, a mentor, a friend, a woman of faith, a role model. She is a therapeutic foster parent.
May is National Foster Care Month, and in acknowledgement of that, Ms. Be-Asia was on Capitol Hill May 3rd testifying before Congress on the work of Treatment Foster Parents. Ms. Jackson-‘El was part of a panel put together by the Foster Family-Based Treatment Association to provide information about the needs of children and youth in treatment (or therapeutic) foster care. On May 12th she was honored for five years of service as a therapeutic foster parent with the Adolescent and Family Growth Center in Springfield, Virginia. For the past five years she has opened her heart and home to many youth challenged with significant emotional and behavioral issues. For many more years before moving herself and her daughter to Northern Virginia, she was foster parenting youth in the New York City foster care system.
Before my interview with Ms. Jackson-El, I already knew I was speaking with a remarkable woman. The work that treatment foster parents do is challenging and takes exceptional skill. What was unexpected was hearing that Ms. Be-Asia lived the majority of her own youth in the foster care system and experienced the same maltreatment that many of the youth she cares for have suffered. It was abundantly clear that I was speaking with a very special person with a very important and inspiring story to tell.
She is the oldest of four children. She lived in “four of the five Burroughs,” she states with pride and a noticeable “New York” accent. With poise and unexpected candor, Ms. Be-Asia shared some of the trauma she endured as a child. She told her story in a very open and unabashed way. While acknowledging her wounds and a difficult healing process, Ms. Be-Asia seemed unwilling to talk about her childhood as tragic. She sees her life as a triumph revealing her resilience. She was placed in several foster homes during her teens years, “There were good experiences in foster care, and not so good.” She admits to being “a lot of work” for the families that took her in and is matter of fact when she affirms that the foster families did the best they could, while honestly adding “I didn’t make it easy for them either.” What she wanted to make very clear however, was that the trauma and loss she suffered while growing up “a kid in the system,” as painful as it was, was not going to keep her down, it would not define her, and it hasn’t. In fact, it has made her stronger and resolute in her determination to break the cycle of abuse and neglect.
She aged out of the foster care system, and started making a life on her own. She was a single mother of a baby daughter and working full-time. Becoming a parent and being a good parent to her daughter was her mission and something she is very proud of. Stopping the cycle of abuse and providing her daughter with all the love and nurturing that had been missing in her own childhood was how her healing began and her commitment was born. It wasn’t long before she realized, and her extended family realized, that she was “really good at being a parent.” The structure and boundaries that are essential in parenting seemed to come naturally to her and her confidence grew.
By the time she was 23, one of her younger sisters was also removed from the family home. This is when she entered the system again; this time as a foster parent. The term is kinship care when the child placed in your home is a relative. Even though they were sisters, this child in her care was many years younger; they hardly knew each other, she says, but “I helped her heal, and I helped her feel safe.” From that point on, she says with a sigh and a big smile, she has been raising children. Whether officially through the foster care system, or unofficially by taking in children of friends or family, Ms. Be-Asia has been a Mom to many.
After moving to the Northern Virginia area approximately six years ago, Ms. Jackson-El again entered the foster care system. Now a seasoned foster parent, she chose Adolescent & Family Growth Center, Inc. (AFGC) in Springfield, Virginia. A private foster care agency, specializing and serving youth between the ages of 11 and 21, AFGC was also unique in that the foster care provided was not traditional but therapeutic. According to Be-Asia, “AFGC and I foster the “hardest to place” adolescents. She explained that the youth placed in her home have been in the “system” most of their lives and have endured the disruption of multiple placements, adding to the youth’s trauma and making healing and growth more difficult.
With brutal honesty and wisdom beyond her years, Ms. Jackson-El explains that parents, biological, foster, or adoptive, new or seasoned, make mistakes, and kids make mistakes too. “How do we learn and grow if we don’t make mistakes?” “How can adults teach kids to be accountable if their parents can’t admit mistakes?” She exclaims, “We have to let kids be kids and parents have to be adults for kids to feel safe!” Equally important to her is allowing them to experience natural consequences.
She goes on to say, “The youth that come to live with me understand early on – they are loved, they are safe, and they will be held accountable.” Be-Asia remarks that teens most definitely test the limits, and they might put a dent in the wall, or slam a door, and with confidence she says: “I get this, and I just wait. I wait until they are ready to talk to me.” “That is the safety I give them.” Kids are going to act out, make poor choices, she says, but, “I don’t give up on them.”
Asked how she stays upbeat and seemingly energized providing skilled care 24 hours a day, year after year, she smiles and says, “I have God in my corner, good friends to lean on, and I have a sense of humor!” She adds that watching the progress the kids make feels good and helps her keep going. Ms. Be-Asia stresses the importance of taking care of herself. “Taking time to rejuvenate after my last nerve is tapped is essential if I want to get up the next day and start again, and again and again,” she explains.
Finally, I asked if she has thought about retiring from fostering someday. Her answer was not surprising. “I might take a break one day, but I enjoy foster parenting too much to think about retiring.” “I love my kids!”
Adolescent and Family Growth Center, Inc. (AFGC) is a private agency specializing in work with teenagers. In addition to Treatment Foster Care, AFGC administers a mentor program for teens, provides Independent Living Skills Programming, an after-school program, and outpatient counseling. For more information, please see the website at www.adolescentandfamily.com, or call 703-425-9200.

 

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