Dixie Dawson, who has been confined to a wheel chair since birth, graduated from Fairfax High School last spring and wants to find a job. But she's not looking actively because even if she finds work, she has no way to get there.
When 75-year-old Bessie Boynton's arthritic knees ache badly, she needs to see a doctor. But unless it's Tuesday, when a private agency might send a bus for her, or unless a friend has time to take her, she must wait.
Both are among the approximately 680 people who live in a cluster of five small communities in a wooded rural area west of Fairfax City--Lincoln Park, Lewis Park, Vannoy Park, Vannoy Acres and Blevinstown.
The families who live there, most on welfare or with low incomes, are "completely isolated," said James S. Mott, a community leader who for years has doggedly made the rounds of private and public agencies in pursuit of transportation and public services.
The area is not served by public buses and few of the residents can afford cars. The nearest bus stops are five miles away; doctors' offices and shopping centers are as far.
Mott does not give up but he does get exasperated.
"You would think that in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, we could get something done," said Mott. As an example, he pointed out that the Lincoln-Lewis-Vannoy area is surrounded by newer developments, where homes are valued at $125,000 to $150,000.
Mott said he has become so "frustrated" that he wants "to get everybody in the community out to walk down the middle of Braddock Road" to a meeting of the county supervisors, as a means of dramatizing the need for transportation. The supervisors meet in the Massey Building, headquarters of county government, five miles away.
Last week, Mott took his appeal for transportation to the commissioners of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He asked for $20,000 from the $4.1 million Community Development Block Grant Fairfax County will receive from the federal government in July. The money would be used to hire a driver for six months for a 14-passenger van and to pay for insurance, gas and maintenance. The van was donated recently by Maureen Michaud, one of the members of Pender Methodist Church, who have "given lots of donations" to the Lincoln-Lewis-Vannoy communities.
Residents of the isolated communities "suffer great hardships in not having easy access to medical facilities, shopping centers, social services and personal care facilities," Mott told the commissioners. The residents' needs, he said, "are for the bare necessities . . . " and, because of the lack of transportation, they "cannot participate in county programs for the poor or obtain medical care. . . ."
About 55 groups have submitted requests totaling more than $8 million, double the amount of money the county will have to spend. The Fairfax Board of Supervisors is expected to make a final decision by the end of March on how the money will be allocated, said a housing authority spokeswoman.
Supervisor Marie B. Travesky, who represents the Lincoln-Lewis-Vannoy community, said she is convinced the people of the area "must have their own transportation. Mrs. Mott devotes her whole life for the community, chauffeuring people. That's not a fair burden."
The housing authority is the most recent in a long line of public and private offices and agencies to which Mott has appealed.
Earlier this year, he was advised to create a private, nonprofit agency so that his community would be eligible for a variety of grants and loans. Thus, in May, the Lincoln-Lewis-Vannoy Communities for Assistance and Improvement (LLVCAI) was born, with Mott as its unpaid executive director and other residents of the community named officers and directors.
The new agency has succeeded in getting home improvement loans for several families. Mott and other community members usually do the work, as they did at Dixie Dawson's home, where they put in storm windows and insulation using a home improvement loan.
Mott, now retired from his job as a logistics expert with the Navy, moved to Lewis Park 21 years ago from Arlington, and with the help of his wife, Marguerite, built the large, rambling home they live in. The Motts have become leaders and guardian angels of the communities--the people residents turn to when they need assistance.
One of the Motts' major efforts has been to obtain county sewage service for the communities. The service was approved nearly six years ago, but a dispute with the Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority, problems in design and in obtaining state approvals have delayed the start of construction, according to Supervisor Travesky.
Travesky said she expects ground to be broken on the $2 million project by next spring, and completion of work a year later.
The sewer lines will be small to prevent development in the area "so we can preserve the housing stock for the poor."