- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

Staff writer Denise Barnes interviewed Lydia Evakise, resident services manager at Woodland Springs since the fall of 2000.

Question: When did you first decide to host a Summer Festival for residents?
Answer: We didn't host the Community Summer Festival last year, so when the budget came out this year, we were given some finances through my supervisor, Tom Boderenko, the regional director of resident services for shelter properties, to throw the summer party. The community had done this in previous years, and so not doing it last year created a kind of missing link between the community and our staff.
I thought it would be a good idea to continue the long-standing tradition here at Woodland Springs. So, when my boss agreed we immediately started to plan and coordinate the daylong event. I strongly believe Woodland Springs embodies the spirit of community and through activities such as the Summer Festival, which brings out every resident, their friends and family, and the Woodland Springs staff, creates a strong link among us all and gives us a true feeling of family and community.

Q: What's planned for the Community Summer Festival?
A: There's something for everyone from little children to seniors this Saturday, June 22.
The festival begins at noon and goes on until 7 p.m., right here on the premises of Woodland Springs. Folks will be entertained by local guest musicians who include the Christian Go Go Youth Band, a D.C.-based group from the congregation, Let's Talk About It Ministries, another band, In His Image, and ABC, which stands for Assembled by Christ.
The bands will perform throughout the day. We will have art exhibits and games, dance and basketball contests for the young people and prizes to the best performers.
We will also have a flea market for those who want to do a little shopping, and vendors from surrounding communities in Prince George's County will be out with an assortment of items. The festival wouldn't be complete without a big cookout so, we will have hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans and fried fish, plus all the trimmings. The children should get a kick out of the cotton candy machine and the popcorn maker along with lots of picnic games like volleyball, horseshoes, badminton, soccer and moon bounce.
There will be face painting, and of course we will take advantage of this opportunity to use the pool for those who want to take a cool dip. Clowns will be on hand to amuse the children and the will sculpt balloons in all shapes and sizes for children of all ages.

Q: Are you expecting any VIPs to attend?
A: Hopefully, the vice presidents of Shelter Properties will attend. We're expecting the Prince George's Fire Department to come out and celebrate the day with us along with the District Heights Police Department.
And, we're expecting personalities from WKYS-FM to broadcast live from our community. And, we will also have a health booth set up by Adventist Health Care to test blood pressure and check folks for diabetes prevention literature will also be passed out. Plus, there will be a voter registration booth set up to encourage young people to register to vote.

Q: What led residents, staff and the community at large to develop such a close relationship with one another?
A: Relationships are formed depending on interests. For example, parents form friendship with other parents who have children in our after-school program. The program operates during the school year elementary school age students come to the program under adult supervision to do their homework and participate in activities that keep them occupied until their parents arrive home in the evening. It's a two-site program with 20 children on each site here at Woodland Springs. Children are grouped according to age we have a group for youngsters ages 5 to 8 and a group for 9- to 12-years-olds. Parents develop a rapport with one another.
Then, we have a seniors club where activities foster friendships and support for each other.
We encourage that bond through luncheons, field trips to the movies, and bingo, and we take them to restaurants once a month.
We even have guest speakers to come in and talk with the seniors about travel and health issues, and sometimes someone comes in just to entertain them and make them laugh. We have taken the seniors on shopping trips around the holidays, and, of course the staff will run errands for them if they need something.
And we give referrals to other community resources. That's how we foster a sense of community here at Woodland Springs.

Q: What interested you initially about Woodland Springs and the way the complex is managed?
A: Resident services was a totally new concept when I came on board. I had never heard of the concept before, but when I read the mission statement, which was put in place by the landlord, Shelter Properties, I felt good about it. I felt as if this must be a generous landlord who really is interested in providing a good lifestyle for their residents and not just by providing housing.
I believe resident services' presence in our apartment complex says lots about the lifestyle of the community. For me, resident services give an edge to any other apartment property I give credit to Shelter owners as far as safety and empowerment is concerned. I feel with resident services' presence there is a sense of ownership, there's a sense of belonging.
There's a sense that someone cares about us. It's not just about "Give me your money on the first of the month" the presence of resident services says to the residents who might fall behind in bad times that you can talk to someone and we can direct you to resources that will help you catch up during difficult times, and that's done through our eviction-prevention program.

Q: What kind of volunteer services are you looking for at Woodland Springs?
A: We need people who have nursing skills to come out and answer questions for our residents about their health concerns.
And, we are always looking for entrepreneurs who can come and give business workshops to the children and residents who might be interested in starting a business.
Since we have a teen club and an after-school club, we would like to have some area artists come out and donate some of their time to work with the youth.
For Saturday's event, we definitely need people who can come out and referee the basketball tournament and judges for the dance contests. We also need volunteers to man the cotton candy and popcorn machines and folks who can help us set up the canopies.

Q: What do you need to ensure a successful Community Summer Festival?
A: We just want the community to come out and join us that would make the day even more enjoyable. And, if anyone wants to they can donate any kind of food hot dogs, hamburger patties and sodas which would be greatly appreciated because we're expecting a large turnout.


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