Tuesday, August 7, 2007

down briggs chaney: after tragedy, windsor court comes together (updated)

Part of a continuing series on Briggs Chaney Road - what it is and what it will become.

Windsor Court and Tower leasing manager Dexter Price was the organizer of last Saturday's East County Community Day, held at the Castle Boulevard apartment complex.

Check out this slideshow of the East County Community Day.

Still reeling from a June fire that killed four of its residents, a Briggs Chaney apartment complex played host to hundreds of local residents last Saturday for the East County Community Day, a fair held on the sprawling campus.

Attractions at the Windsor Court and Tower apartments on Castle Boulevard - one of the oldest complexes in the Briggs Chaney area ranged from a moon bounce and petting zoo to a "vendor tent" with representatives from businesses, County agencies, and local organizations. In the evening, there was a singing contest dubbed "Windsor Idol."

"I think this event'll be successful in making an impact - at least in these apartments - because it'll show that somebody cares," says Chris Briggs, staff member at the East County Regional Services Center and a Greencastle Lakes resident. Briggs and fellow staff member Chuck Crisostomo of Gaithersburg manned a table for the Regional Services Center, housed a few blocks away at Briggs Chaney Road and Robey Road.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

A hand-written sign advertises the event on Briggs Chaney Road.

One Windsor resident was glad to see activities for the kids, noting that most apartment complexes do little to accomodate their younger tenants. "I'm happy to see the turnout," says resident Kristin Chesson. "I think a lot of the parents are beginning to see children need a place on-site to be involved."

The event had been in planning for months, but was catalyzed by the tragic loss of the three Foncham sisters - Makenzie, Megan and Chanelle - and their mother, Elsie Nuka in a fire in late June. A memorial service for the family was held before the Community Day celebration.

"The tragedy touched a nerve in the community," says Dexter Price, leasing manager at Windsor Court and director of Community Day. "When this tragedy happened, I was impressed with the way the community came out."

Immediately after the fire, the Regional Services Center set up a well-publicized "Community Crisis Fund" to raise money for the family's funeral expenses and witnessed an "outpouring of support," according to Chuck Crisostomo, whose daughter Contessa writes for the Gazette. "Every two days, we'd see $3,000 more," says Crisostomo, "but we had donations as small as five dollars."

"I was surprised by looking at the return addresses on the envelopes," adds Crisostomo, noting that donations came from throughout the region.

Enough money was raised to send the mother's remains to her native Cameroon, where a funeral will be held this week, while one individual donated cemetery plots in Suitland for the three Foncham girls.

While not everyone who sent in money showed up at Community Day, Price was pleased with the event's effect on his complex. "I always wanted to do more with the people and this property gave me the opportunity," says Price, dressed in a white T-shirt with a drawing of the apartments on it. "A lot of times [apartment complexes] get pressured by the investors . . . and we get caught into just collecting rent."

Since joining the leasing staff, the twenty-six-year-old Price has become an active member in the apartment community, organizing a basketball league and a movie night. "I don't want to say 'activist' because that scares people, but that's what I am," notes Price.

The question remains, however, whether Windsor Court will install sprinkler systems, which could have prevented the fire from spreading. Built in 1974 as Villa Del Sol, the complex is exempt from County building codes requiring sprinklers. Many older apartments are reluctant to install them, suggests Crisostomo, because the cost would force them to raise rents, hurting tenants.

"Because we're so close to the P.G. County line, some [landlords] say they'll lose tenants to P.G.," says Crisostomo. "But school systems really make a difference."

But on Saturday, Windsor Court and Tower set those concerns aside to focus on making do with what they have. The Windsor leasing staff is looking forward to hosting next year's Community Day. "It's not about the apartments," says leasing agent Ebony Grayson. "We're not leasing today. It's about getting the community together."

1 comment:

Sligo said...

What's with the animal concentration camp? That poor llama is trapped in that tiny cage with a bunny and some other unidentifiable animal.