"Notice. We at Fox Mill desire to live here together in peace and harmony. This is our HOME . . ."
The sign pasted to the wall of a Fox Mill apartment hall in Reston is new; so is the attitude accompanying it.
Fox Mill is mending the wounds that led to rock and bottle throwing, racial tension, vandalism and shootings last July. "We're not 100 per cent down the road yet, but we're a heck of a lot further than one year ago," said Capt. Dan Kriss, who heads the Fairfax County police department's Reston substation.
Residents of Fox Mill, a government-subsidized housing complex in the planned community of Reston, joined with surrounding sections of the new town Saturday to commemorate a commitment to a new community spirit. Parents took more than 350 youngsters, ages 16 to 15, to Dogwood Elementary School to participate in an "Invitational Olympics" athletic competition. It was a day intended to illustrate the harmony that has grown up between the residents of Fox Mill, a project for low-to-moderate-income people, and the surrounding neighborhoods with wealthier residents.
Both parents and children attending the Olympics said their neighborhoods had changed during the past year. Many Reston residents said the disparity between rich and poor is no longer felt as keenly, perhaps because many recreational facilities formerly restricted to those who could pay have been opened to Fox Mill residents.
Cindy Allison, 13, who lives in the nearby Laurel Glade neigborhood, said she thinks people are just trying to get along better. "Last year a lot of people wouldn't come here (to an event such as the Olympics) because they were scared they would get beat up," she said. She added that she thinks "people are pretty settled now."
Victor L. Davis, 15, of Fox Mill, said he also thought things had improved. "The changes in apartment management have been good and now there are more job openings and things to do. I come to the gym (at Dogwood School) almost every night," he said.
"You'll always have problems when you try to put so many cultural humanities together," said Kriss, noting that most of the incidents he has dealt with this year in Fox Mill are typical of those at any community.
His report is in contrast to last summer when groups of teenagers fired guns at policemen and stoned police cars.Reports of vandalism and fighting were also common.
Some blamed Fox Mill's 1976 problems on management and maintenance - buildings showed signs of neglect and abuse at that time and the management apparently failed to screen new residents adequately.
To remedy those problems, a petition was circulated and singed by 200 of the 800 residents then at Fox Mill calling for the eviction of certain trouble-makers in the community.
Myles M. Eislele, who took over the apartment's resident manager post in January, said he has tightened up screening to admit only one applicant in five. At the same time, between 95 and 100 per cent of the apartments are continually occupied. Eislele said. This compares to about 70 per cent occupancy in January. According to community leader Evelyn A. Moore, "many people panicked and moved out last summer," when violence erupted.
Eislele said the apartments rent for between $205 and $375, with certain apartments subsidized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development so that the rents are a maximum of 25 per cent of a tenant's income.
He said the National Corps for Housing Partnerships, which began management of the 5-year-old complex last November, has spent "a great deal of money to solve Fox Mill's maintenance problems." Many of these maintenance needs are also providing summer jobs for 30 Fox Mill youths with federal funding from the Comprehensive Employment Training Act.
Flowers have been planted, hallways are being painted, speed bumps have been installed in the parking lot, garbage containers have been enclosed and benches and picnic tables have been built.
Eislele said he has found that because the young people kept the grounds cleans, people are now less apt to litter - giving the residents a new pride in the attractive beige stucco apartments.
New activities also have been started for Fox Mill residents. Some children at the Fox Mill Daycare Center can learn how to play tennis and 20 uniforms have been purchased for a baseball team for older children. Courses such as trimnastics (weight-reducing exercise classes) are scheduled to be offered for adults through the Northern Virginia Community College. Flea markets are conducted every month to help "supply the needs of the elderly" and to provide some pocket money for mothers selling the items.
Eislele said he is also trying to obtain a minibus which could be used to transport neighborhood children to various parts of Reston and the state to see movies or visit new places.
The air-conditioned gym at Dogwood Elementary contains notices of varied activities - from children's theatre, to a bike rodeo, to free tickets to see the Washington Diplomats soccer team.
Several agencies and groups have provided funding for the new activities. They include Fairfax County; the comprehensive jobs program: the housing partnerships group, which recently footed the bill for a July 4 outing for Fox Mill residents at Lake Fairfax; the antipoverty Fairfax Community Action Program: the Reston Home Owners Association, and St. Thomas a Becket of the Reston Catholic Community.Fairfax County Supervisor Martha V. Pennino coordinated many of the improvements, according to residents.
Aside from the help of institutions, though, the residents of Fox Mill seem to have helped themselves. Jack Kutner, a 76-year-old man called the "grandaddy" of the community, has taken it upon himself to break up fights in the parking lots. And community leader Moore, who left a life of community activism a year ago in New York City to devote herself to her family and go to school, spends her time organizing activities and finding jobs for volunteers.
Youngsters from Fox Mill and surrounding subdivisions talked Saturday at the Olympics about the many friends they now have outside of their apartment complexes. When it became too hot to continue the competition on the field, blacks and whites, rich and poor, gathered in the gym to play pool and basketball - something which many participants said couldn't have happened last year.