“Changemakers” highlights the people of Prince William who are making a difference in our
community. This month, we feature Aaron Tolson.
As a longtime resident of Prince William, Aaron enjoys the arts and activities our area has to offer. His
goal now is to ensure others do, as well. Through leadership and service in the community, Aaron assists those facing crises. Among other initiatives, he has spearheaded the Prince William Food Rescue program, which seeks to minimize waste and redistribute food to the hungry.
How long have you lived in the Prince William area, and what do you most like about living here?
I am a native of Prince William, born and raised, and moved back here after separating from active-duty military back in 2001. I love all that this area has to offer within Prince William and Manassas, as well as the proximity to D.C. to the north, mountains to the west, beaches to the east, and amusement parks and small towns to the south. I’m happy to be able to live, play and work here (and not having to commute in traffic — been there, done that!).
What are some of your favorite things to do in the area and why?
Old Town Manassas is a great place to grab dinner and meet up with friends for a drink. Occasionally, you can find me checking out the local talent at open mic night hosted by Jirani Coffeehouse on Thursday nights. I really enjoy being active, from working out at LA Fitness to rock climbing at Vertical Rock to having played with both NVSA and VSA for many years. Effingham Manor Winery, with its rich history and award-winning wines, is a great place to step back in time and relax for a few hours. There are some great venues in the area to listen to local bands as well. Really, just about anything you’d like to do, there are options in the Prince William region!
I’ve also really enjoyed being part of the business community through the Chamber of Commerce and as a Leadership Prince William (LPW ‘18) alumnus. One of my favorite yearly LPW events is the Gourmet Guys Give Back event held every December.
How have you been involved in the community?
I’m involved in the community every day behind-the-scenes as the development director for Action in Community Through Services, which helps about 70,000 members of our community experiencing crises every year. But this past year I also launched the Prince William Food Rescue program, a new venture for ACTS, working with 412 Food Rescue to bring the technology it developed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania here
to Prince William! Using a cell phone app, we have already redirected nearly 150,000 pounds of food from donor partners (who would have just thrown it away) to distribution partners (who regularly feed those who are hungry) in the first six months. All this is being done by volunteers called Food Rescue Heroes!
I’ve also been working on relaunching the Greater Prince William Food Council initially started by LPW alumna Pam Ryan. This council is led by an amazing group of people involved in various organizations, all of whom are passionate about addressing food-related issues being experienced in our community.
If you had to give advice to someone new to the area, what would you tell them and why?
Enhance our community. Be involved in some aspect that will make it an even better place to live: education, business, arts, politics, athletics, etc.
Invest in our community. Connect with an organization helping those in need (there are lots to choose from) and donate a little bit of your time and money every month.
Explore our community. There is so much to see and do in every pocket of Prince William. Check out the Marine Corps Museum in Triangle; go boating on the Potomac from the Town of Occoquan; take a walk on the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk, then shop at Stonebridge at Potomac Center and PotomacMills Mall in Woodbridge; attend a parade or hop on a train at Old Town Manassas; take the family bowling at Uptown
Alley; listen to live music at 2 Silos Brewing or catch a ballet at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on the GMU campus in Manassas; have a glass of wine and learn about early Virginia history at Effingham Manor Winery followed by delicious Mexican cuisine at Hector’s of Nokesville; do some shopping and catch a movie in Gainesville; go golfing in Haymarket. While you are at each of these places you can find a dozen
So, live here, work here, play here and make “here” a better place every day!
How would you describe yourself in three sentences?
Aaron is a native of Prince William. He is a USAF veteran, graduate of Strayer University, philanthropist, published author, LPW alumnus, amateur chef, beachgoer and sports enthusiast. He is the development director at ACTS and current president of the Greater Prince William Food Council.