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MAKING A MARK: Chesapeake man organizes neighborhood environmental group

For the past seven years, members of 'Friends of Indian River' have dedicated themselves to beautifying and preserving the area in Chesapeake. One man's vision helped start it all.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — What started as one man's desire to beautify his surroundings turned into a joint effort to improve the quality of life for an entire community.

"The city was starting to show its age," said Rogard Ross, who moved to the Indian River area of Chesapeake in 2010. "It was starting to fray around the edges."

He added, "The main street, Indian River Road, had a lot of empty businesses, empty storefronts. We got a failing water quality... somebody needs to take care of our neighborhood."

Ross came to the city already equipped with a passion for the environment.

"I was a contractor for NASA. I did my graduate work at NASA Langley," Ross said. "And one thing you learn very quickly is, this is the only habitable planet we have. And if we don't care of this planet, there is no place else to go."

He put out a call for help from the community, and residents quickly stepped up to the plate. 

"[I] put... an announcement in the newspaper saying, 'Hey, let's get together!' And about 25 folks showed up for the first meeting, and they kept coming back!"

As the group continued to grow, Ross formed "Friends of Indian River" in 2012. The group landscapes and gardens throughout the area as well as preserves the river, shorelines, parks, and green spaces. 

"We're basically working with a lot of good folks, trying to both make our neighborhood a better place to live and make all of Hampton Roads a better, healthier place to live," Ross said.

While he's proud of the immediate changes made to the environment, Ross said his team is working today for a greater tomorrow. 

"All the things that every person does, impacts the whole. We have to leave it better than we found it."

"Friends of Indian River" is always looking for volunteers. If you're interested or would like to learn more about the organization, visit http://www.friendsofindianriver.org/

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