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Local women find ways to help others amidst pandemic, cleaning a park and creating library

Local women find ways to help others amidst pandemic, cleaning a park and creating library


With all the bad news the pandemic and civil unrest is bringing us these days, I’m always glad to feature positivity in this space.

I do that today by sharing details of the selfless efforts of two women: one a Spotsylvanian who collects trash so others can enjoy a beautiful park, the other a Stafford resident who has started a sharing library in her community of Falls Run.

Lisa Hardin Strother is the self-described “trash lady” who fills bags with trash three times a week on her regular two-hour walks along Lee Drive, part of the Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park.

I heard about Strother from several others singing her praises, all folks who regularly walk or cycle on Lee Drive, which winds for miles from Lafayette Boulevard and across Landsdowne Road before dead-ending at a parking lot where Civil War cannons sit nearby.

The 55-year-old who has her own cleaning business said that when the pandemic hit, she was eager to have something healthy to do, both for herself and her mother-in-law, who regularly walks with her.

“It was getting depressing being shut in all the time,” she said of the pandemic’s early days. “The best thing to do is to get out to Mother Nature and get some exercise.”

But Strother said she was immediately struck by how much trash she saw on both sides of Lee Drive, which is used by a mix of Civil War history lovers, commuters from nearby subdivisions and folks coming for exercise.

“Apparently on the weekends, people like to party there,” she said, noting that it’s nothing for her to fill one or more trash bags on Monday morning with wine bottles, empty six packs, discarded water bottles, dirty diapers and more. “It’s the worst on that Monday morning walk.”

Strother said it didn’t take long for her to decide to do something to address the shameful littering.

“When you see something that needs to be fixing, you need to just do it,” she said, noting that she now takes trash bags with her on walks that take her to the Lee Drive part of the park on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “It’s such a beautiful space, and so many people have put time and money into making the park a beautiful place to go. It’s just a shame that those who throw trash out there don’t appreciate that.”

Strother—who says she walks 6 1/2 miles a day six days a week to stay in shape, most recently to “look good” in the dress she’ll be wearing soon at her son’s wedding—said she tries to live a simple maxim.

“If you want change, you need to get busy and make it happen,” she said. “Both my mother-in-law and I have blossomed and feel energized from the exercise we get in the park,” she said, noting that she’s made friends of all ages and races walking and collecting trash along Lee Drive.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see that we are all out there connecting, especially amidst all the adversity of what’s going on,” said Strother. “This park has given us a place to connect and become friends.”

Strother said she posts photos of the amount of trash she collects, and of the nature and wildlife she sees in the park, at her Facebook page of Lisa Hardin Strother.

Kudos to her for finding a way to mix personal growth with service in the midst of a pandemic.

Susanne Lazanov, who lives in the Falls Run active adult community off U.S 17, also found a way to help others in this pandemic. The southern Stafford resident I’ve gotten to know through reader write-in column features over the years, contacted me a while back to share news of the effort.

She noted that because Falls Run is close to the Howell Branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, many residents regularly patronize the library.

“Then came COVID-19,” she pointed out, making it impossible for the book-loving residents to go to the library. “So at the end of June, I established the Falls Run Little Library on a rolling cart that I pull in and out of my driveway [within the development] every day, weather permitting.”

Lazanov noted that it only took one message going out to the community to bring in books and create the lending library.

“Residents began showing up that very day,” she said. “And when the shelves were almost bare, another message brought residents with boxes of books to share. I even had to suspend donations at one point until there was room for more.”

The impromptu librarian said it’s very gratifying to see some residents make the little library a regular stop on their daily walk. And she said it’s been a joy to “visit” from a safe distance with those stopping by.

She’s thrilled that the response to the Little Library has been overwhelmingly positive “as it satisfies our voracious appetite for new reading material.”

She said that the CRRL will soon enough go from accepting returns and releasing holds on a curbside, pickup basis to eventually reopening buildings.

Lazanov added, “Until the library again accepts donations for the monthly book sales, the next home for the leftovers, I hope to maintain the library, weather permitting,” she said.

Congrats to her for also finding a way to help others, while putting a smile on her own face.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

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Here for more than four decades, I'm a feature columnist out and about seeing what people are thinking and sharing what interesting things they're doing.

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