When officials from a preschool contacted Centreville residents William and Nancy Fuchs about buying their home for a new school, both parties were excited. But the excitement wore off when school officials learned of plans for the Rock Hill Home, a short-term residential treatment program for people with mental health problems, to be located next door to the Fuchses.
The Fuchses tell this story as an example of the situation that exists for many social service agencies seeking to locate in residential communities.
Rock Hill Home, operated by the Northwest Center for Community Mental Health, began with the help of the Fuchses. It assists people with special problems, such as the Fuchses' teenage daughter, Amy, who was born brain damaged.
"If you have any lingering biases against the mentally or emotionally handicapped, or know someone who has, and you want to know how to get rid of them, it's easy. Have one in your family," said William Fuchs, a speechwriter with the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command.
While most people support counseling centers for delinquent youths and similar facilities but staunchly oppose them in their neighborhoods, the Fuchses decided to take an uncommon approach. They not only supported the mental treatment program, but also assisted treatment center officials in renting the unoccupied house next door for use as a headquarters.
"Why do we have so much trouble putting a concept almost everyone would pay lip service to into actuality?" said William Fuchs.
The Fuchses' actions gained them recognition at the second annual IMBY Awards ceremony last week, presented by the Fairfax-Falls Church United Way. Other honorees were William L. Berry, president of the William L. Berry & Co.; lawyer Carson Lee Fifer Jr. of the law firm of McGuire, Woods, Battle and Booth; state Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Mount Vernon); and the South County Housing Coalition.
According to Joan Ozdogan, regional director of the Fairfax-Falls Church United Way, the IMBY Award, which stands for In My Back Yard, a takeoff on the more familiar "not in my back yard," was created to recognize significant contributions to the community.
This year's winners include people such as Berry, who presides over his development company and supports projects such as AHOME (Affordable Housing Opportunity Means Everyone); Fifer, who helped create the legal framework of Fairfax County's Affordable Dwelling Unit Ordinance; Gartlan, for long support of such causes; and the South County Housing Coalition, which helped develop public support for affordable housing initiatives. They "have gone the extra mile in working for an often overlooked segment of our population," said Tom Rust, United Way executive committee chairman.