This article originally appeared in InsideNoVa/Prince William’s annual community guide - “Here to Help.” Read the complete community guide online here.
On most days, it’s not difficult to find Meg Carroll. The retired police officer is more often than not at the Georgetown South Community Center -- organizing, building, helping the area’s families.
Carroll runs the neighborhood’s homeowners association, the Georgetown South Community Council. But she may as well be the neighborhood’s unofficial cheerleader, going to bat for the immigrant-heavy, largely Spanish-speaking neighborhood before the City Council or doing what she can to help the area’s working families navigate the pandemic’s economic crisis, virtual schooling and a disease that has disproportionately impacted them.
When the city’s public school division first announced that it would be starting the year with online-only education, Carroll quickly sprung into action. The community council has organized school supply drives for years, but now students and parents would need much more.
She helped to coordinate supervision for some students whose parents can’t work from home, she directed others to the division’s resources for setting up in-home wifi, and she helped to organize physically distanced tutoring at the community center, recognizing quickly that the neighborhood’s students -- many the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves whose parents speak limited English -- would suffer the most from losing in-person instruction.
“I don’t want to put this all on the schools,” Carroll said of the effort to prepare families for the change. “I want the community to be a part of its own solution.”
Weeks later, she was working on something far more mundane. Residents of the neighborhood have long complained about parking problems, so she delivered a presentation in front of the City Council suggesting potential solutions.
Fluent in both English and Spanish, she often serves as a go-between for Georgetown South’s Spanish-speakers and the city’s bureaucracy, whether it be city hall or the police department. She also, at times, can be a thorn in that bureaucracy’s side, pushing the institutions that serve the area to develop more Spanish literacy themselves.
“[She’s] both our mother-in-chief because she cares so much; she’s our disciplinarian because she keeps the community investing in itself,” said Tom Osina, the treasurer of the community council and a City Council candidate. “And she is an incredible, knowledgeable person about everyone in the community because she knows so many people on a first-name basis.”
On a recent Thursday afternoon, she was standing outside the center, watching a group of kids play soccer on the small adjacent field. Calling the kids out by name, she said she’s hoping to get a full-size field built down the line. Another group of kids made their way over to her; it was 3:30, time to get ice cream.
“They’re much better here,” she said, “than out there.”