Life in a College Town

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When retiree Sharon Baiocco and just-getting-started Amber Ward moved to Charlottesville, the University of Virginia was a factor in both their choices. Baiocco, a former dean at a university in another state, and her sports-loving high-school-teacher husband, John, knew they wanted to be on the East Coast near their children in Richmond and New Jersey. “We could have lived anywhere,” Baiocco says, “but we preferred a place that was open to all faiths, cultures and political views. We looked at Charlottesville and just knew right away it was where we wanted to be.” 

 
As an example of diversity, she cites their development of Fontana.  “On our little street—only 13 homes—there are young families and retirees, Eastern Europeans, Chinese Americans, African Americans, Christians, Jews and even Unitarians like me. We are so proud of our Unitarian member, [Satyendra] Huja, a Sikh from Pakistan, who has become Charlottesville’s mayor. It shows there are diverse faith communities in this area where you can practice your faith without fear.”
 
Another consideration for the Baioccos was that the market for homes would not drop dramatically. “With UVa as the largest local employer,” she points out, “stability and growth are almost guaranteed. That is very important because our home is our biggest investment.”
 
Ward’s story is a little different since she was nearing the end of an internship in another state to complete her education, but she was also seeking a place to settle permanently. “I spent about three months using the Internet to analyze demographics and other data,” she explains. Raised in Los Angeles, she wanted to be near the big city of Washington, but live a small “slowed-down” city. “I also wanted a place committed to sustainability because that’s an investment for our future.” 
 
Was UVa a factor in her decision? “Absolutely! I knew the university would contribute to ‘young’ ideas like buy local and be green—by seeking new approaches to these issues.” She considered Blacksburg, Roanoke, Richmond and Harrisonburg before settling on Charlottesville.
 
Charlottesville Tops Lists
Last year, Charlottesville landed on many of those ubiquitous “top” lists including (but definitely not limited to): #1 City to Live in the Country by Sperling’s Best Places (www.bestplaces.net), #1 City to Retire by Kiplinger.com and “Locavore” Capital of the World by Forbes. Often, an important criterion for being a “top” is having a great institution of higher learning and the area certainly has that in the University of Virginia.
 
“The Charlottesville region is frequently recognized as one of the best places to live in the country,” declares Teresa Sullivan, President of the University of Virginia (UVa). She cites many elements including natural beauty, historic sites, a vibrant cultural scene and a strong economy. “The University of Virginia is thoroughly engaged in every aspect of community life,” she continues. “This strong relationship with the Charlottesville region creates a stronger community overall.”
 
The prestigious U.S. News & World Report ranking of colleges rates UVa as the second best public university and 25th best overall in the entire nation. It also boasts the country’s highest graduation rate for African-American students.
 
UVa employees live in the city and in the surrounding counties where they are involved in civic, school and volunteer organizations and support local businesses. Sullivan point out, “For those of us who work at UVa, the Charlottesville region is not just our workplace, it’s our home, so we want to help build a strong, prosperous region.”
 
Major Impact On The Local Economy
With 12,000 employees, UVa is the area’s largest employer, which contributes to keeping employment stable in the community. Its payroll of $1.3 billion in the academic year 2011-2012, plus expenditures for services, supplies and maintenance, directly impact the community. In fact, direct spending in the Charlottesville region by people and programs associated with the university amounts to more than $1 billion annually.
 
In addition, UVa students support community businesses from landlords to grocers to the tune of more than $210 million every year.
 
UVa’s local real estate taxes amount to nearly $1.9 million each year and UVa pays the city of Charlottesville more than $200,000 annually to subsidize local bus and trolley service. UVa also supports local emergency services including more than a half million dollars to support 9-1-1 services, $250,000 to the City of Charlottesville for fire services and $750,000 for the new fire station on Fontaine Avenue. The Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad receives more than $40,000 annually and UVa employees and students contribute about 25,000 volunteer hours of service to the squad each year. 
 
Construction and renovation are also substantial economic contributors. In 2011 more than $290 million was spent, divided almost equally between materials and labor and in 2012 an estimated $200 million will be spent. The majority of materials are purchased within 50 miles of Charlottesville. 
 
U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the UVa Medical Center in the top 50 nationally for five adult specialties and high-performing in six other adult specialties. The School of Nursing was ranked in the top two percent nationally. This means Charlottesville shines because high-quality medical care often leads the list of desirable attributes in a community. In fact, recommendations for ideal retirement locales often specify a teaching hospital.
 
Patients can access their medical records and communicate with their personal healthcare provider on-line. Same-day appointments are often available. Searchable on-line medical files include information of topics ranging from clinical trials open to the public, healthy lifestyles, treatments for many medical problems and much more.  Club Red, aimed at improving heart health in women, offers information, local healthy-eating discounts, and a monthly newsletter.
 
In the last fiscal year, the Healthcare System treated well over 750,000 individuals. At the same time, it provided close to $100 million of free care through financial aid and Medicaid. For more information about health care, visit www.healthsystem.virginia.edu.
 
Charitable Activities
UVa employees and students are generous with both dollars and time. For example, close to 7,000 hours are donated to the Charlottesville Free Clinic with a value of about $7.5 million. Each September during the National Day of Caring, about 1,000 volunteers pitch in on close to 100 projects ranging from painting schools to visiting with the elderly. 
 
University students participate in community service in many ways, including operating fundraisers to support disease prevention, performances that promote awareness of different cultures, weekly carpentry efforts to renovate area homes, and volunteering in settings ranging from area rescue squads to day care centers and animal shelters.
 
In a typical year, students provided well over 5,000 hours of tutoring and scholastic assistance to area youth at more than 20 community locations while the Young Women Leadership Program arranges for UVa students to mentor more than 100 eighth- and ninth-grade girls addressing issues related to self-esteem, scholastic achievement and decision-making.
 
The largest student-volunteer effort is Madison House, a student volunteer center, which recruits, trains and mentors over 3,300 student volunteers each year. These students contribute more than 10,000 hours of community service to the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, partnering with almost 100 community non-profits organizations, where volunteers directly impact more than 15,000 residents.
 
Finally, at the end of the academic year, UVa students donate household goods and furniture to support Charlottesville nonprofit organizations that serve low-income residents through Chuck It For Charity and the Sofa Shuffle. 
 
Community Outreach
Every year UVa serves over one million people through more than 500 public service and outreach programs. Through OutreachVirginia, local residents can find interesting programs in music and drama, opportunities to volunteer at UVa, and the chance to learn how the university and the community are engaged.
 
“Residents in the area enjoy the UVa museums and its multitude of events year round,” says Broker Sara Greenfield, owner of Charlottesville Fine Homes and Properties. “For just one example, every year since 1968, the UVa music department has presented a Messiah Sing-a-long in early December. This is a time when townspeople mingle with University singers and Old Cabell Hall reverberates with laughter and singing. Anyone can take part in either the orchestra or the singing and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
 
Other musical treats include the Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra comprised of music faculty members, talented students and community musicians. The Orchestra presents concerts, has a special program to introduce community youth to orchestral instruments and performs a free Symphony Under the Stars. 
 
In addition, there are a number of other musical groups from chamber music to jazz to singing ensembles offering concerts. Free Lunchbox Recitals are presented throughout the academic year and a Music Department Colloquium is free to the public and convenes on select Friday afternoons.
 
UVa’s Office of Diversity and Equity has numerous outreach efforts, including the Charlottesville Community Health Fair. During the African-American Cultural Arts Festival in July, UVa provides free sports physicals and free health screenings, including mammograms. The Medical Equipment Recovery of Clean Inventory program collects clean, unused medical supplies and distributes them to both local and international nonprofits. 
 
Another popular outreach is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Designed for senior citizens, this program is for people who seek intellectual stimulation. Formed in association with UVa, it was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s own deeply held view of education as a lifelong enterprise to invigorate the mind. Volunteer course instructors are specialists in their fields—many are professors from UVa and other universities across the United States. 
 
Other outreach programs embrace persons with disabilities, elementary and secondary school teachers, men, women, minority groups, children, families and senior citizens.
 
For more information on the many programs, visit www.OutreachVirginia.org. 
 
With no professional sports teams nearby, local residents substitute a passion for the orange and blue. Although the Cavaliers lost their recent New Year’s Eve bowl game, the community always enjoys rooting for teams which are often nationally ranked in sports from football as well as men’s and women’s basketball, lacrosse, golf, soccer, tennis swimming and diving. Additional teams include men’s baseball, women’s softball and other sports.
 
A Great Place To Be
Now that Ward, the young Registered Dietician, has found employment as a Nutritionist with the area’s Head Start program, a “great apartment with great neighbors,” and adopted a rescue dog named Oscar, she is delighted with her decision to settle here in what she enthusiastically terms “a great city.” She loves the rural surroundings, the music, the City Market and the personality of Charlottesville, including UVa. 
 
“The university and community utilize each other very well,” she observes. “There is a beautiful partnership with their priorities in parallel, which isn’t true in every college town.” 
 
And retiree Baiocco, now a Charlottesville resident for some five years and an activist against mountain-top removal, says she and her husband love the fact that the area is amidst beautiful scenery and has a wonderful small-town feel. “Southern society can be closed, but there is a significant population from other places and you run into friends wherever you go.” 
 
Marilyn Pribus and her husband relocated to Charlottesville from California more than four years ago. “We love it here,” she says.
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