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Hope is rising for displaced families in Colonial Beach-and for the town itself
Date published: 1/3/2013
By Ed Jones
THERE'S something awfully sweet about witnessing the rebirth of hope at the beginning of a new year.
That seems to be what's happening this week in the far-from-stellar confines of the Beachgate Inn in Colonial Beach.
An eviction notice during the holidays left many of the 36 residents worried that they had no place to go. But thanks to some heartfelt efforts by the town government and the community, a sad tale is turning out to be a fresh start for the Beachgate families and for the community at large.
This story with a hoped-for happy ending began with a tragedy: the death of a resident of the inn after he was hit by a car, which also damaged the motel structure. In the aftermath of that accident came an inspection of the Beachgate that found numerous fire and safety hazards that will require fixing.
That's where the hope part of this story begins. Rather than allowing the residents, who include quite a few children, to be left out in the cold, the town and its government pulled together to extend a helping hand.
Town Council members volunteered to man a fire watch at the inn so that the eviction notice could be stayed until this week. The VFW Ladies Auxiliary helped look for alternate lodging. The owner vowed to make the necessary investments.
The families, who seemed to build their own community at the Beachgate, must still leave. But now many of them do have other places to go. In some cases, those new abodes offer more amenities than did the Beachgate. And there's hope that others may soon have that good fortune, as well.
Colonial Beach has taken its public relations hits over the years. That can happen when squabbles in town government produce stories like that of a mayor being restricted by the Town Council in his visits to Town Hall. In the last election, the only candidates for the town School Board were write-ins.
Of course, some of these stories are part of Colonial Beach's DNA. It's a funky place and, as I have discovered, many longtime residents embrace that funkiness. It's part of the town's distinctive charm.
But the Beachgate story shows a different side of the town once dubbed the "Las Vegas of the East" for its gambling attractions built on piers over the Potomac River, and thus technically in Maryland.
The past few days show that Colonial Beach is a town with a heart. It's a community that, when faced with tragedy or danger, from hurricanes to unsafe motels, will come together and make something good come out of something bad.
It has been a blessing to me to have been part of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Colonial Beach since June, as part of the process of becoming a deacon.
The parish and others in the town have embraced me with friendship and kindness. In the wake of the tragedy at the Beachgate Inn, and now the hope that loss has produced, I am indeed proud to be part of the Colonial Beach community.
Ed Jones: 540/374-5401