Celebrating diversity

Greenspring residents and staff foster a culture of mutual respect

Created date

April 28th, 2020
Several Greenspring staff members showed off their various cultures at last year’s diversity expo, standing here in front of a rainbow balloon arch.

Several Greenspring staff members showed off their various cultures at last year’s diversity expo.

Mhatma Gandhi once remarked that “our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”

Each day, community members at Greenspring, an Erickson Living-managed community in Springfield, Va., breathe life into Gandhi’s inspiring words. The diversity and inclusion committee, composed of residents and staff, work diligently to provide programs and resources designed to enhance knowledge, encourage understanding, and foster a culture of mutual respect among community members.

Cochaired by Greenspring staff members Nahid Nasseh and Michelle Aylor, the committee works closely with members of Greenspring’s various political and religious organizations as well as the many language clubs and clubs representing volunteer work, hieroglyphics, history, multicultural dialogue, black and white shared history, and PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). 

“Our goal for 2020 is to include the important educational component to all our activities,” says Nasseh. “The Greenspring committee is welcoming to others with different ideas, backgrounds, and experiences. And beyond that, there is a huge desire among our community members to learn more, to know more about each other.” 

Serving as both a member of the committee and chair of the black and white shared history group, Wanda Hill appreciates the acceptance and openness of her neighbors.

“When I first arrived at Greenspring, it was my hope that my new community would truly be multicultural, and it is,” she says. “Our committee has so many things planned; everyone is doing a wonderful job, sharing ideas, spreading awareness, and planning important events.”

A giving heart

In January, the diversity and inclusion committee sponsored a communitywide day of service to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

As the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities, the committee felt that a day of service would provide residents the opportunity to serve the greater community.

Working with the Capital Area Food Bank, Greenspring volunteers spent the day sorting canned foods in support of people struggling with hunger and food insecurity in the D.C. region.

“The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday serves to remind us of the social issues that Dr. King fought for and helps us work toward strengthening communities,” says Nasseh. “It was a special day for reflection and appreciation for Dr. King’s life of service and goals of bringing people together.”

Director of Dining Services Jason Healey, the committee’s executive team advisor, agrees.

“Hearing from our residents about the service work they performed prior to moving to Greenspring is awe-inspiring,” he says. “Opportunities like this bring as much joy to the volunteers as it does to those they serve.”

Understanding each other

In February, in honor of African American History Month, the diversity and inclusion committee, working alongside dining services, celebrated both local and famous African American chefs with creative menu items in each of Greenspring’s five restaurants. 

“Our residents loved the new dishes,” says Aylor. “Our chefs from Ghana created special family recipes that everyone enjoyed. When a chef makes a dish that means something to them, you can taste it in their food.”

Closing out February, Greenspring’s resident-run black and white shared history group, working in concert with the committee, hosted a panel discussion “Voices and Visions: The Black Experience.” 

“It’s so important for people to know the background on slavery in the U.S.,” says Wanda. “I appreciate the efforts at Greenspring to give everyone a voice. I also appreciate the fact that so many of my neighbors are open and eager to learn from each other.”

Springing into action

Throughout the early spring, the diversity and inclusion committee recognized National Women’s History Month, St. Patrick’s Day, and Ramadan. 

This month, the committee will host the popular diversity expo. Since 2010, this interactive event provides an opportunity for guests to enjoy various food and drink from around the world, authentic cultural entertainment, and an opportunity to learn more about many of the resident groups on campus that honor heritage and diversity. 

For the first time this year, the committee will host two expos to more fully address the diversity of the community. This month’s expo will feature local, multicultural dancers. In addition, the popular fashion show will showcase the traditional cultural attire of both residents and staff.

“Our committee is continually looking for new and important ways to support our residents and staff,” says Nasseh. “We are always growing and, in doing so, becoming more diverse. We want everyone to feel included for who they are.”