Arlington native Marvin Spencer Binns fought his first fire as a teenager. He liked it, a lot. For the next six decades, he kept plugging away.
“I’m a fireman,” Binns said not too long ago.
On Monday morning, the long-time president of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department passed away following a lengthy illness. He was 80.
Until the end, Binns kept a two-way radio chattering in his room at The Carlin retirement home near Ballston. When he heard an emergency call originating from the 10-story complex, he would march downstairs to aid the arriving Arlington County Fire Department crews.
“I can’t put the gear on, and my knees are terrible,” Binns allowed, “but I can still go and do things.”
Binns’ remarkably durable volunteer career earned him a unique reputation. Tellingly, in a county where relations between volunteer and career firefighters have not always been harmonious, ACFD Honor Guard members stood watch in early March during a public viewing for Binns’ late wife, Betty.
“There are certain volunteer members over the years who have been accepted into the career family,” noted Capt. Randy Higgins, a career Arlington firefighter at Fire Station 2 who has known Binns for many years. “Marvin was always around, pitching in and helping out.”
Born in Arlington on March 20, 1935, Binns attended Washington-Lee High School and, later, vocational school in Manassas. By the time he was 16 or so, he was starting to hang out at the Cherrydale station, home to the county’s oldest volunteer fire organization.
The two-story, red-brick station dedicated in 1920 held multiple attractions for Binns. Some nights, he would just sit outside while music floated down from the weekly dances held in the upstairs social hall. Binns would also listen to the career and volunteer firemen chewing the fat while awaiting a summons.
Though Arlington County had initiated a career fire department in 1940, volunteers still responded to emergencies, sometimes informally. When he was 16 and still too young to join, Binns drove himself to Rosslyn on the bitterly cold night of Dec. 30, 1951 to pitch in on the fight against a devastating fire at the Murphy & Ames lumber yard.
“I went to a lot of fires,” Binns recalled, “and I wasn’t even a member of the fire department yet.”
When he turned 18, Binns paid $5 and formally joined the Cherrydale department. There was no particular school to attend; the learning was hands-on and experiential. At the training academy, officers would set fire to hay bales or old tires and the men would enter the burn house with only rudimentary protection.
“You couldn’t see a foot in front of you, it was so black,” Binns recalled.
Binns moved into the Cherrydale fire station for a time before he joined the Navy in 1957 and served as a baker aboard the USS Norfolk, a destroyer leader.
It wasn’t always sweetness and light. Tensions sometimes arose between the career guys and volunteers. The volunteer department sometimes struggled financially or administratively; the old fire station, some neighbors occasionally opined, could attract rowdies. Sometime in 1967, Cherrydale historian Kathryn Holt Springston recounted in her history of the Cherrydale department that Arlington officials received complaints that firefighters were whistling at women passing by.
“All were asked to stop such practices,” Springston reported.
Binns could spin a yarn; he had plenty of stories from his decades of service. The way the old siren would wail, summoning volunteers. The winter calls that would leave the firefighters covered in ice. The two dead sisters he helped carry out of the house near Washington Golf and Country Club; some bad, bad car accidents.
The incomparable fellowship.
“I wanted to protect the county,” Binns said; besides, he added, “to me, it was fun. I mean, I enjoyed it. You never knew when you got on the scene what you were going to find. Going down the road, in your mind, you’d be thinking what you were going to run into.”
Binns is survived by five children, 27 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren. A daughter pre-deceased him.
Photo and story by Michael Doyle, who is also a member of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department. Editor’s note: the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department provides support services for the professional firefighters and EMTs in the Arlington County Fire Department.
Gates open to the public at 8 a.m. Saturday and an opening ceremony is planned at 9. The wreath laying is expected to begin at 10 a.m., followed by a closing ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at noon.
Metro says it will be operating on a normal weekend schedule Saturday morning, but all Blue Line trains — which service the Arlington Cemetery station — will be eight cars long in order to accommodate as many riders as possible.
“Arlington Cemetery Station is one of the smallest on the Metrorail system and can be expected to become crowded before and after the event,” Metro said on its website. “During peak crowding times, Arlington Cemetery escalators may be configured as ‘exit only’ before the event and ‘entry only’ after the event. Customers traveling in the reverse direction will be directed to station elevators.”
Metro riders should consider getting off at the Rosslyn station, from which Arlington National Cemetery is “a short walk to the south,” the transit agency suggested. Free shuttle buses will also be provided from the Pentagon Metro station to the cemetery.
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Reardon
The local Knights of Columbus chapter is continuing its 29-year history of serving Thanksgiving meals to those in the Arlington community who need them most.
The organization needs 90 volunteers for its annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner for the Needy, which falls on Nov. 26 this year. Volunteers will prepare, deliver and serve holiday meals to as many as 3,000 community members.
Over the last 29 years, the Knights have served more than 25,000 Thanksgiving meals to the poor, needy, elderly and homebound.
According to event co-coordinator David Nassar, volunteers are needed in three shifts between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., lasting three or four hours. All the preparation and serving will take place at the chapter’s headquarters, located at 5115 Little Falls Road.
One of the shifts is for morning deliveries, suitable for volunteers with a valid driver’s license and a car. They will make bulk deliveries of individually boxed meals to locations throughout the county.
Nassar added volunteers do not need any cooking experience or other specific skills to help out, just a “positive attitude and a desire to help others.”
Photo via Facebook/Knights of Columbus Edward Douglass White Council 2473
The Tenth Anniversary of the Arlington Turkey Trot will be returning to town this Thanksgiving morning, giving everyone a reason to get moving before they sit down with family in the afternoon.
But it’s not all about the run– the event, which drew 4,000 runners last year, is also a huge charity event. This year, the beneficiaries are AFAC, A-SPAN, Bridges to Independence, Doorways for Women and Families and Linden Resources.
For those who want to trot it out for five kilometers, registration is now open. Volunteer opportunities are also available if running isn’t your thing, and volunteers should email [email protected] or go to the website to sign up.
This year is also special because the Trot has a new partnership with the Arlington Small Business Alliance and YOPP, whereby small business owners and employees will run and sponsor while registrants will be encouraged to patronize these businesses on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday with online discounts and goodies compliments of YOPP. The Trot welcomes donations and sponsors, whether individual or team donations or regular or special sponsorship opportunities.
Now’s the time to get involved with the 2015 Arlington Turkey Trot, a race that the race coordinators think will be the biggest and best yet.
The preceding post was written by ARLnow.com and sponsored by The Arlington Turkey Trot.
The housing developer needs more than 160 volunteers for its program, which includes tutoring, college prep and after school help, said Celia Slater, communication manager for Arlington-based nonprofit.
“We are broadening our program, which is why we still need so many hands,” she said.
AHC’s education program aims to help students from low-income families graduate high school and attend college. All of the students in its education programs have graduated high school since 2008, according to its website.
This year, AHC will focus on its college prep part of the program, Slater said. Volunteers will help students practice for standardized tests, like the SAT or ACT, apply for financial aid and fill out college applications.
“We’ve realized it takes a lot of extra one-on-one time to work with students to fill out applications for college, financial aid and scholarships,” she said.
Last year, all nine of the high school students in the program applied and were accepted to colleges, Slater said.
“We are also proud that they earned nearly $50,000 in scholarships and grants, which made a huge difference in them being able to actually afford college,” she said.
AHC is also looking for volunteers for its teen tutoring and after school programs.
With teen tutoring, volunteers will work one-on-one with one of the program’s middle or high school students from 6:30-7:30 p.m. every week. Volunteers work with one student for the school year to help him or her work toward graduating high school.
“The combination of enriching field trips, one-on-one mentoring and community service projects broadens students’ world view and inspires them to reach for the stars,” according to AHC’s website.
The after school program runs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and works with elementary school children on vocabulary, reading and writing skills. Volunteers also help children with their homework.
“Our 20+ year-old program, really works. One hundred [percent] of our seniors graduate from high school, most go to college, and elementary students significantly increase reading and math skills,” Slater said in an email. “Volunteers are key to students’ success!”
Survey Says: Resident Satisfaction High — Resident satisfaction with Arlington County is high, according to Arlington County. The county’s fourth Resident Satisfaction Survey, conducted by an outside research firm, suggested an 89 percent overall satisfaction rate with the quality of county services. “Just two percent of residents were dissatisfied with the overall quality of County services,” said a press release. One notable area for improvement: maintenance of county streets, with a satisfaction level of only 42 percent. [Arlington County]
Peak Memorial Day Traffic Expected Thursday — Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst Memorial Day holiday traffic in the D.C. area will be Thursday evening, not Friday. According to an analysis of average travel speeds, drivers hoping to escape local holiday traffic should leave at night, around lunchtime Wednesday or Thursday, or Friday morning. [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments]
Split Board Approves Reeves Farmhouse Sale — The Arlington County Board voted 3-2 last night to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. “The County worked with the community for six years to find a way to retain public ownership of the house, or to create a public-private partnership to restore the house and open it to the public, but we were unable to achieve such a partnership, and the cost of restoring the property and bringing it up to code for public use was prohibitively expensive,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. Much of the land around the house will remain publicly-owned. [Arlington County]
County to Outsource Volunteer Program — The County Board also last night voted 3-2 to outsource Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer management program. The county will now seek a nonprofit with which to form a public-private partnership. [Arlington County]
The Arlington Historical Society is hoping to expand the hours it hosts visitors to the Arlington Historical Museum and other historical properties it serves, and it needs help.
The AHS has put out the call for volunteers to sign up to be docents — who serve as guides and helpers — at the museum at The Hume School (1805 S. Arlington Ridge Road) and the Ball-Sellers House (5620 3rd Street S.), the oldest school building and house, respectively, in the county.
“With the right mix of volunteer docents we could not only preserve … visiting hours but also expand weekend hours and — most eagerly sought — add at least one weekday afternoon to our schedule,” AHS said in a posting on the Volunteer Arlington website. “At present many potential visitors, including school students, simply can’t explore the museum during the week, which means that whole sectors of visitors never have the opportunity to see what we have to show them. Museum certification organizations and many grant-makers also require weekday opening hours, which prohibits us from upgrading and expanding the museum.”
AHS is also looking for a volunteer to run its newsletter and a new membership director, and general volunteers for a “variety of behind-the-scenes roles, including public relations, event and program planning, database management, writing and editing, and curating.
The nonprofit runs both properties as museums and testaments to Arlington’s pre-20th century history. Each docent is expected to work just a few hours a month, staffing each property during their hours of operation and catering to guests.
Photo via Arlington Historical Society
If Monday’s weather didn’t tell you that spring and summer are just around the corner, then this will: Arlington County is looking for summer camp volunteers.
The county looks for teenagers every year to help plan and lead activities for the young children who attend the camps. Volunteers must be 13 years or older by May 1 and at least two years older than the campers they supervise.
Arlington is offering more than 100 different camps this summer for kids from ages 3 to 13, in everything from fly fishing to ultimate Frisbee to “fashion boot camp.”
Volunteers work for four, non-consecutive weeks in the program of their choosing, but not everyone is guaranteed a spot in the most popular activities. Teens and parents can download the volunteer application and send it to:
Department of Parks and Recreation
Langston Brown Community Center
2121 N. Culpeper Street
Arlington, VA 22207
Applications received after May 1 may be put on a waiting list, depending on demand. Parents interested in registering a camper for this summer can do so online.
Photo via Arlington Parks and Recreation
Volunteers at the Knights of Columbus in Arlington (5115 Little Falls Road) prepared Thanksgiving dinners for more than 2,500 needy people on Thursday.
About 250 volunteers worked to make the turkey, stuffing and fixings, which was served at the Knights’ north Arlington facility and also delivered to older residents who couldn’t make the trip.
TV station WJLA (ABC 7) covered the preparations.
‘Damn Yankees’ Was Written in Arlington Home — The book that was the basis for the musical “Damn Yankees” was written in Alcova, a historic home in Arlington. A family of four now lives in the house, after buying it for $950,000 in 2012. [Falls Church News-Press]
Shirlington Library Temporarily Closed — Shirlington Branch Library was closed Thursday and is expected to reopen this morning following “a maintenance issue with the building HVAC system.” [Library Blog]
NBC’s Chuck Todd Gives Back in Arlington — “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd lives in Arlington and says he prefers giving back to local causes rather than national charities. Among other causes, Todd volunteers at Arlington Free Clinic. “You have a community where you have a lot of wealth in one part of the county and a lot of poverty in the other, and it’s right in D.C.’s backyard,” he said of the motivation for his volunteer work. [USA Today]
Cherry Trees Planted at Library — As part of its Neighborhood Tree Planting Program, the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Japan-America Society of Washington planted three cherry trees in front of Arlington Central Library yesterday. The program “is an effort to celebrate and share the gift of cherry blossom trees throughout the DC-metro region… and helps create new National Cherry Blossom Festival traditions beyond the Tidal Basin,” festival organizers said in a statement. [Facebook]
Whole Foods Deli, Chicken Counter Stay Closed — The main grocery store and much of the prepared foods sections at the Clarendon Whole Foods (2700 Wilson Blvd) are open following Tuesday’s fire, but county officials say the market deli and chicken counter will stay closed until the health inspector approves its reopening.
County to Consider Privatizing Volunteer Agency — Changes may be coming to Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer agency. Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan is establishing a new advisory task force “to look into whether Arlington’s volunteer office is the right business model to meet community needs.” The task force will consider whether outsourcing Volunteer Arlington “would enhance volunteer activity in the community.” [Arlington County]
Restaurant Exceeds Kickstarter Goal — SER, the winner of Ballston’s Restaurant Challenge, has exceeded its $15,000 Kickstarter goal. The Spanish comfort food restaurant, coming to 1110 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, has so far raised $17,145. It also received a $245,000 interest-free loan as the prize for winning the Restaurant Challenge. [Kickstarter]
Arlington GOP Blasts Olympic Bid — Arlington Republicans do not share Democratic officials’ enthusiasm for the regional bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. “It’s not a great idea,” said local GOP chairman Matt Wavro, citing costs and security concerns. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
Last week, Fair Share Education Fund released a report showing eligibility for free or reduced price school lunches is growing faster in suburbs like Arlington than in cities. Although the report focused on 2010-2011, an Arlington Food Assistance Center spokeswoman confirmed the organization still saw a huge increase in Arlington families using its services for the 2014 fiscal year, which ended on June 30.
AFAC served 1,400 families each week as of July 2013, and that bumped up to 2,000 families each week by this summer, which is a 40 percent increase. That equals about 5,000 individuals every week, of which 36 percent are children.
AFAC staff believes two factors contributing to the increase were last year’s government shutdown and the reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
“Last year in November, the SNAP cuts went into effect and we immediately saw an increase in the number of families coming to us,” said AFAC Director of Development Joy Myers. “The average reduction per family was $36 per month. That may not seem like a lot, but when you’re scraping to get by and every penny counts and you’re $36 short, you’re going to try to find all your resources. When they get food from us, they can take that money and pay rent or gas and electric bills, or buy medicine.”
One way AFAC is trying to combat the growing food insecurity for Arlington’s children is by expanding its Backpack Buddies program, which began serving homeless children a few years ago. This year, the pilot program will open up to children in need at four elementary schools — Barcroft, Barrett, Randolph and Carlin Springs.
Kids enrolled in the program receive food on Fridays to take home and eat on Saturday and Sunday when they’re away from school. The kids can choose to take the pre-packaged goods home in their own backpacks, or borrow one and return it on Monday. The program is anonymous to prevent embarrassing children who are signed up. AFAC volunteers drop off the food and backpacks to school cafeteria workers and that’s where kids registered with the program can pick up their weekend supplies.
“We’re trying to de-stigmatize it as much as possible for kids to get the food that they need,” said Myers. “We’re also hoping because there are so many people struggling with food insecurity who aren’t speaking out, we hope this is a way for families to hear about our other services. We don’t want anybody in Arlington going hungry.”
Children at the four schools will take home an information packet when school starts, and their parents have to register through the Arlington Public Schools Office of Food and Nutrition Services.
Although AFAC always can use monetary and food donations, it especially could use help with Backpack Buddies because the pre-packaged, microwaveable kids’ meals are more expensive than other donated items. To donate, volunteer or set up a food drive, log on to the AFAC website for more information.
CEB May Anchor New Rosslyn Skyscraper — The Corporate Executive Board is considering jumping ship from its current Rosslyn office to anchor the planned office skyscraper in JBG’s Central Place development in Rosslyn. Should a deal with JBG go through, construction would start on the office skyscraper, which is currently on hold even though its companion residential skyscraper is being built. [Washington Business Journal]
WaPo Takes on Clarendon — “In the past decade and a half, Clarendon has seen a steady influx of hip eateries, high-rise condo buildings and happy 20-somethings in search of organic quinoa,” writes the Washington Post, in an article about “what to do in Clarendon.” [Washington Post]
Polls Suggest Beyer is Frontrunner in Congressional Race — Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer is leading in polls taken in the figurative backyards of his opponents. Beyer is leading in Charniele Herring’s House of Delegates district, Adam Ebbin’s state Senate district and in the city of Alexandria, where Bill Euille is mayor. Of the areas polled, only Patrick Hope in his House of Delegates district is beating Beyer. The polls were sponsored by the Democratic website Blue Virginia. The Democratic candidates vying to replace Rep. Jim Moran in Congress will debate tonight at George Mason University’s Arlington campus.
‘Outstanding Volunteers’ Named — The Arlington County Board on May 13 will honor 7 individuals and two teams for outstanding volunteer service to the county. [Arlington County]
New Development Coming to Falls Church — A new seven-story mixed-use building is coming to the City of Falls Church. The development, at 301 West Broad Street, will feature 282 apartments, a Harris Teeter store and another retail space. [Greater Greater Washington]
Photo courtesy @jdsonder
The rain is coming down in buckets in Arlington — and should continue to do so until tomorrow — so while you’re holed up inside and dry, check out some of these opportunities around the county to bring some sunshine to those in need.
Starting this week, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation is looking for swim instructors to help children with disabilities learn how to swim. Volunteers will be in the pool providing swimming assistance as well as support and encouragement, and, according to the volunteer announcement, “an important element of this class is building a relationship with ‘your’ class participant.”
Those interested, and free on either Wednesdays or Sundays, should call Kathryn Salyers at (703) 228-4738 or go online. Here are some other opportunities to get involved around the county (from Volunteer Arlington):
- Weekly Wednesday Food Distribution: The Arlington Career Center has over 1,000 students that walk through its doors. Out of all of those students, a number of them are in need of additional resources to help them succeed. One of those such resources is food. Every week on Wednesday afternoons, between 1:40 p.m. and 3:20 p.m., we distribute free groceries to our students at school. We are in need of individuals or groups who might be available one or more Wednesdays between 1:00 and 3:40 p.m. to help distribute groceries as well as to help with set up and breakdown. If individuals or groups are only available for half of the time, that also would work well. All volunteers who participate will be trained during their initial volunteer engagement. Volunteers who hope to volunteer regularly will also be required to complete a form for a required Arlington Public Schools background check on their first day of volunteerism. Contact: (703) 228-8694.
- In-School Tutor for Young Adults: Are you looking to make a difference in the lives of nontraditional students looking to obtain their high school diploma? Communities In Schools of Northern Virginia is seeking academic tutors at one of its high school sites to aide students in their English, reading, science or math skills. The individual must be able to commit to volunteering for 2-10 hours per week on site between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday or for math specifically between 5 p.m. and 9:10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Scheduling flexibility from week to week is definitely an option. More information can be found online. Contact: (703) 228-8694.
- Computer Skills Instructor: This is an opportunity to teach computer skills in using Microsoft Office applications, Social Media and any basic skills as needed to low- and moderate-income adults in Arlington at the Whitefield Commons Community Resource Center; many of whom are immigrants and have limited English. They need patient and sharing individuals like you to become involved. Volunteers must have proficiency using Microsoft Office, Social Media, Internet Explorer, and email accounts and an ability to patiently explain, in basic terms, how applications work and can be utilized. More information can be found online. Contact: (703) 465-5001.
Arlington County is celebrating National Volunteer Week next week.
Running from April 6-12, National Volunteer Week aims to “celebrate the ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things through service,” according to the Volunteer Arlington website.
Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette signed an official proclamation deeming the week the time to “celebrate the invaluable work that volunteers perform every day, to commit themselves to do even more through the many volunteer programs in our community, and to continue strengthening Arlington through volunteer service.”
In his proclamation, Fisette also notes that “volunteer service is needed now more than ever to tackle the tough social, economic, cultural, and humanitarian needs of our residents.”
A county-produced video promoting the week, above, boasts that 32 percent of Arlington residents volunteer each year — performing tasks like leading summer camp activities, teaching U.S. history and civics in preparation for the citizenship exam, and educating residents about emergency preparedness. Arlington residents donate more than 500,000 volunteer hours to Arlington County government each year, the video says.