Mark is 83, lives in West Springfield and practices tai chi with his
wife Mary. They go to a class that meets once a week at the Burke
Conservancy on Burke Centre Parkway. “It’s interesting,” he said. “It
helps your balance and strengthens your neck and other muscles.
Everybody needs better balance.”
also volunteers as the class “monitor.” Basically, he takes attendance
and reports it to a coordinator. The class costs $5 for an eight-week
session, but he gets a pass on that for monitoring. Volunteers help keep
the class cost down; the fees go to Fairfax County to pay the
tai chi class is part of the Burke/West Springfield Senior Center
Without Walls (BWSSCWoW), an initiative offering a variety of activities
for the elderly. In addition to the tai chi, classes include
line-dancing, yoga, zumba, Hawaiian hula, self defense, ballroom
dancing, walking club, book history, genealogy and outside trips.
BWSSCWoW is the project of Corazon Foley, a retired Burke resident. She
got the idea after driving the 80-year-old women from her church,
Church of the Nativity in Burke, to the Lorton Senior Center for Active
Adults off Route 1.
time I pick them up,” Foley said, “they'd say, ‘Oh Cora, why do we have
to go all the way over there? Why can't we have something nearer
here?’” That was shortly after Foley retired in 2007.
WITH OVER A DOZEN senior centers around Fairfax County, Foley and the
ladies decided they needed a space to be active together that was more
local to them. Foley said she approached then-Braddock district
Supervisor Sharon Bulova about the feasibility of building a new
facility in their district.
#“The answer was the same,” said Foley, “Sorry, Cora, there's no money, nor staff, to get a senior center over here.”
started approaching churches and other locations in Burke and West
Springfield about opening up space, but didn’t get very far without
liability coverage from the county. She ended up working with Evan
Braff, the Regional Manager for Fairfax County’s Department of
Neighborhood and Community Services.
suggested a network of sites for activities, following models used in
other states, creating a “center without walls.” He was able to help
Foley get liability coverage and soon the BWSSCWoW had homes at Accotink
United Universalist Church and the Burke Conservancy in Burke, the
Durga Temple in Fairfax Station and Washington Irving Middle School in
Springfield, among other locations.
ran one pilot class in the summer of 2009: line-dancing. Over 70
seniors registered. Mark was there at the beginning. “We expanded in
that fall,” he said, “and have been expanding ever since then. We have
1,200 to 1,400 names on master list, with around 250 that are registered
for 16 classes in different subjects at any one time.”
is proud of the opportunities the center offers the swelling senior
population. “We provide them with physical fitness, intellectual fitness
and social fitness,” she said, “to give them life.”
classes have become so popular, however, that they’re becoming more and
more difficult to get into. Increasing wait lists and the Board of
Supervisors’ Sept. 9 passage of the FY 2014 Budget Carryover prompted
Foley to approach Springfield district Supervisor Pat Herrity about
whether some of those funds could be re-programed to help create a
dedicated space for the BWSSCWoW.
invited Foley to the Fairfax County Government Center on Nov. 13 for a
meeting. Foley brought a number of proposals to the table, centered
around using the Pohick Regional Library on Sydenstricker Road in Burke
as a potential site for the center. She was joined by several Burke
seniors including Pacita Aguas of Burke Lake Gardens, who helped Foley
start the center.
a library renovation set to begin next year, Foley requested having
exercise flooring added to the library’s existing large conference room
and to have priority in making reservations for the room. More
significantly, she asked that an expansion be built on the back of the
library to house many of the center’s classes.
ACKNOWLEDGED there is a need to help active seniors. But, he said of
the Pohick proposal, “If we go this route, does this take the senior
center off the table and do you get a half a solution instead of a full
solution for Springfield?”
Leonard, Director of Neighborhood and Community Services, was at the
meeting as well. He shared county budget documentation dating back to FY
2009 for a new Springfield community center in the “beyond five-year
planning stage for construction.” That would include a senior center, he
you're dealing with the budget within Fairfax County, there's over
three quarters of a billion dollars of construction needs that are
included in that,” Leonard continued. “When we talk about senior
centers, we talk about the fact that we're competing not only with other
human services buildings like community service board facilities and
homeless shelters. They’re also in competition with libraries and police
stations, the same pot of money.”
#“There are very important things in line here,” said Herrity. “This is one of the things in line.”
said the construction plans for the Pohick library have long been
finalized, but would look into whether an expansion was feasible. He
also agreed to check on getting the conference room floor rug removed
and reservation priority for the BWSSCWoW. “I don't know whether that
can be done, but that's expanding use of an existing facility and that
makes all the sense in the world to me.”
#Foley and her cadre of seniors left the meeting content their voices had been heard.