Friends of the Occoquan is a non-profit organization of local citizens who preserve and maintain the natural integrity of the Occoquan River and other Virginia and nation wide watersheds by promoting community awareness through public and private partnerships.
Vision of the Friends
To energize individuals, community and business groups to take on the challenges of keeping Virginia’s and the nations reservoirs and rivers clean, by controlling excessive sedimentation and pollution. This message will be brought to schools, civic groups and community organizations, as well as local and federal government agencies.
Coordinate watershed management efforts and programs.
Open communications and develop cooperation among intergovernmental jurisdictions regarding the rivers and watersheds.
Provide decision makers, policy makers, and citizens with accurate information.
Develop public and private partnerships focused on maintaining the natural integrity of drinking water sources.
Engage the community, including the Spanish speaking population, to become stakeholders of our rivers and streams.
Education and Coordination FOTO is working with community groups, schools, federal, state and local governments to promote watershed preservation.
FOTO continues to expand contacts with other groups to enlarge watershed stakeholders. Installation of international signs along the watersheds is one of our projects.
FOTO is proceeding to engage the Spanish speaking community to become stakeholders of our watersheds and become active in maintaining clean and safe our rivers. In addition to the bilingual signs described below, we will be installing other bilingual signs in DC, Fairfax and PrinceWilliamCounties. Also we are preparing videos, literature and some TV programs.
Panther Fresh Garden- Using Their Power for Good
On, Wednesday, June 5, 2019 FOTO had an opportunity to spend some time at the Panther Fresh Garden located at Lindenwood Elementary School in Norfolk, VA. In early May 2019 FOTO was able to supply the school’s green club with garden gloves, seed packets, organic soil mix, garden plants, cedar fencing, a rain barrel and paint primer. With the help of enthusiastic green club students and adult garden leaders Sharon Barnes and Steven Dolly, FOTO member Sonia Monson conducted a rain barrel workshop and together they assembled a functional 55 gallon rain barrel for the school garden. After the barrel was completed the students gave FOTO a garden tour and then worked hard mulching the area. Lindenwood’s Green Club takes great pride in the Panther Fresh Garden which is not just a garden, but an outdoor laboratory for learning about plants, decomposition (composting), recycling/reusing and community involvement. One of the great rewards of gardening is harvesting and blueberry sampling was part of the event as well- yummy!
FOTO Receives Green Community Award
On May 19, 2019, during Prince William County's 34th Annual Community Volunteer Recognition Day, at the Ben Lomond Historic Site in Manassas, VA, the Friends of the Occoquan were honored with the Green Community Award for their 20th year of Community Service.
Food For Others - Community Garden
In May of 2019 Friends of the Occoquan donated 40 plants to the Food for Others Garden at Peace Lutheran Church and 10 bags of humus and manure at their newest community garden plot at Pine Ridge Park in Annandale. The gardens are now under the guidance of Maheyaar Barron pictured below. Parents of Parklawn Elementary School (where 97% of the children qualify for free and reduced lunches) maintain the Peace Lutheran Church garden. A big thank you to the Kindergarten students from Ms. Richardson's class from Coles Elementary School who donated Milkweed Plants to attract pollinators.
Over 90,000 families go hungry across the Northern Virginia region every day for a variety of reasons. Food For Others, led by executive director Annie Turner, is a nonprofit organization in the Northern Virginia region whose mission is to distribute food to those in need. They have been providing free food directly to neighbors in need for nearly 25 years. They envision a community free from food insecurity through the help of a giving community and volunteers. To find out more about Food For Others you can vist their website here Food For Others
Lindenwood Elementary School Green Team- Norfolk, Virginia
May 2019- The Panther Fresh Garden
Friends of the Occoquan supports garden projects in the City of Norfolk. With the support of our sponsors we were able to assist Lindenwood Elementary School’s Panther Fresh Garden. FOTO was able to supply the green club with garden gloves, seed packets, organic soil mix, garden plants, ceder fencing, a rain barrel and paint primer.
Below is the report from Sharon Barnes a community member who took it upon herself with the help of Principal Dennis Holland, Betty Baucom, Steven Dolly, Halima Davis, and Lorenzo Fiorillo to get this garden project underway.
The Lindenwood Elementary School Green Team began its vegetable and flower garden journey on March 12, 2019. Twelve students, mostly 5th graders and one 3rdgrader, along with four adults, staff and volunteers, met in the school library to set off on the mission of building, literally, from the ground up, an understanding of what is involved in growing food. Each weekly meeting begins with a short planning session to review what was accomplished the previous week and discuss what is intended for that day’s work.
Each week we have a slightly different group of students working in the garden, but we have had a lot of fun getting to know one another. We’ve tasted unfamiliar food that we have attempted to grow from seed (papaya, unsuccessfully).
We look forward to sampling our crops when they mature for harvest. There have been a few setbacks, but that happens to the most seasoned of farmers. Vandals have visited our little plot of land, but we persevere. There are rabbits with which to contend. Every week we can possibly attend to our garden, we are out there working, laughing, and learning.
The Panther Fresh Garden is not just a garden. It is an outdoor laboratory for learning about plants, yes, but also about decomposition (composting). We are learning about recycling and reusing. Our planting boxes were rescued from the curb on trash pickup day. So was our compost bin. Our students are learning that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to start a vegetable garden. You can grow food using what you have in creative ways; by repurposing items and giving them new life.
FOTO Spring Cleanup of the Occoquan River
Saturday, April 13 2019
April 13, 2019 Friends of the Occoquan River Cleanup Early morning rain did not deter 229 devoted volunteers to help with FOTO’s spring cleanup of the Occoquan River & Reservoir at the Bull Run, Fountainhead, Occoquan Regional, Lake Ridge Parks/Marinas and the Town of Occoquan. Families with their children, Students from Lake Ridge Middle, Marsteller Middle, Woodbridge Senior High and Osborn High schools, Boy Scout Troops 1352 and Pack 295, Girl Scout Troop 2016 and Woodbridge High’s JR ROTC cadets, NOVA GO with kayaks, Bull Run Rotary, Optimist and Ambassador Clubs, SEV1Tech company with 31 employees, Young Professionals and Sea Scout Ship 7916, Mike Nardolilli, Executive Director of ICPRB and Chairman of NOVA Parks combed the shores and went out by boat to retrieve trash that had accumulated over the winter months. Harry Wiggins and Glenn Richman of Lake Ridge helped out by bringing truckloads of filled plastic bags from the shorelines to the Marina. FOTO continued transition from plastic bags to biodegradables. A big “thank you” goes to all the park managers and their staff, Mike Tiller, Lake Ridge Park Manager and Lance Elzie, Manager of Bull Run & Fountainhead Park, and Mark Mermelstein of the Occoquan Regional Park for their help and disposing of the trash. Also much appreciated are FOTO members who manned the signup stations, Linda Murray, Kimm Barry, Sonia Monson, Alex & Jacqueline Vanegas, Renate Vanegas, Alex Smith and the Town of Occoquan’s Julie Little. Among the 132 bags of trash & recyclables, were also 2 large oil barrels, trash cans, paint cans, a steel locker, a mattress, Styrofoam pieces, a fence and animal trap. Since the Occoquan Reservoir is the source of Northern Virginia’s drinking water, FOTO is grateful for all the volunteers who spent their weekend relieving the Occoquan of 2 tons of trash.
Rain Barrel Workshop at Lakeridge Middle School
October 4, 2018
Water conservation/rain barrel workshop at Lake Ridge Middle School.
With the help of enthusiastic science students from Elizabeth Good and Matthew Bandi's science class at Lake Ridge Middle School in Woodbridge, VA, FOTO members Sonia Monson and Renate Vanegas conducted a rain barrel workshop and assembled a functional 55 gallon rain barrel for their school garden.
Yesterday on my evening walk I ran into this trash warrior picking up trash alongside a residential road with her mom. Her name is Senna and she is a Daisy member working on one of her environmental badges. What a great eco friendly activity for parents and their children. Thanks for your hard work Senna and Mom!
Seniors in Action at Westminster Lake Ridge Retirement Community
Upon an invitation by Dr. Larry Heath, landscaping committee chair of the Westminster Lake Ridge Retirement Community, the Friends of the Occoquan gifted them with two rain barrels to complete their planned Rain and Pollinator garden project. FOTO members conducted a workshop which was well received by all who were present at their fantastic community workshop, where the barrels will be assembled and painted/decorated by residence artists.
October 2, 2018
Creativity at work at the Westminster Lake Ridge Retirement Community. FOTO donated two black rain barrels to their on-site wood shop and resident artists turned them into colorful, yet functional pieces of art.
INSIDENOVA Article on FOTO's Spring 2018 Cleanup click here
Friends of the Occoquan would like to thank the Krieg Family from Norfolk, Virginia for opening their home and garden to us. A big thank you to Isabelle Krieg for teaching FOTO all about raising Swallowtail butterflies. So much to learn from our Eco Kids! Note from Isabelle's Mom: Isabelle was interviewed by Friends of the Occoquan for her work with Butterflies 🦋 This was such an amazing experience for Isabelle.....she has worked very hard and gained so much knowledge about Black swallowtail butterflies.How to raise and care for them🦋🦋..it's so cool for her to be able to share what she does to help Mother Earth🦋
Photo credits- Kelly Krieg
Make a Contribution or Donation:
Please send a check or money order payable to FOTO to the address below:
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Friends of the Occoquan P.O. Box 1452 Woodbridge, VA 22195-1452 Tel. (703)624-7124