“Change Makers” highlights the people of Prince William who are making a difference in our community. This month, we feature Jan Rayl.
How long have you lived in the Prince William area, and what do you most like about living here?
I have lived in Prince William in the Manassas area since 1964 when my family returned from Ethiopia, Africa. My father was stationed there in the Army, and we moved to Manassas when his duty station was
changed to Arlington Hall.
The thing I like the most about living in Prince William is the vast array of things to do within the area. I love the rich history and the proximity to Washington, D.C. as well as Virginia Beach.
What are some of your favorite things to do in the area and why?
Some of my favorite things to do involve the outdoors. I have loved hiking in the Manassas National Battlefield Park since I was very young. I like doing the circuit hike near the Zouaves Memorial. This hike passes along a stream, through open fields and has a wide variety of trees and wildflowers in the spring. Speaking of wildflowers, spring would not be complete without going to the Stone Bridge to see the bluebells in full bloom.
I love going to Old Town Manassas for dinner. There is a lot of energy and excitement with First Friday and special events like the Railroad Festival. It gives Manassas the small-town feel when you run into folks you know.
Taking a ride out in Nokesville is also something I like to do. There are still farms that you can see with a huge variety of animals. I like to go to Occoquan to visit the shops and have lunch in one of the cafes.
There are spectacular views from on top of Bull Run Mountain. We have wonderful artists throughout the area and many art studios to visit. We are lucky to have the Hylton Center for the Performing Arts where we can enjoy many productions from music, ballet, orchestra, poetry reading, art displays and theater. Manassas Museum and the Candy Factory also have displays worth seeing.
How have you been involved in the community?
I have been active at Manassas Baptist Church for many years and find opportunities to volunteer there. Currently, I knit and crochet gifts to go to those less fortunate in Prince William as well as around the world. I am also a member and serve as Vice President of Write by the Rails, the local chapter of the Virginia Writer’s Club. This is a wonderful group of writers helping local authors become published authors.
As a teenager, I helped to start the Manassas Volunteer Junior Rescue Squad. I also volunteered at Prince William Hospital as a candy striper. These two volunteer opportunities led me into my career as a nurse, which I have loved for over 40 years.
One fun volunteer opportunity was being part of the Manassas Christmas Parade. I once wore the lion costume and greeted children. Another time I was a marshal for the parade. I’ve also been involved in charity walks like the Alzheimer’s 5K to raisemoney for research. I have had family members die from this
disease, so this one is near and dear to me. I have served as a Girl Scout Leader and an Explorer Post Advisor to youth in Prince William. Both organizations were important to me as a youth and taught me many leadership skills. My first job as a nurse was at Goshen Boy Scout Camp, the camp for our local area.
If you had to give advice to someone new to the area, what would you tell them and why?
I always suggest that new people go to the Manassas Visitors Center at the railroad station. There, they can pick up information on happenings in the county. I encourage them to go to First Friday as it is very relaxed, and folks are there greeting each other. It is a great place to meet people. Next, I invite them to church as that is a great place to meet people and get involved in the community. I know a bit about each of the local churches as I have been to events at many of them. Lastly, I find out what they liked to be involved in where they used to live and try to help them find a similar organization in Prince William.
How would you describe yourself in three sentences?
Jan is a Registered Nurse who has worked in Prince William for over forty years and currently teaches Practical Nursing. Jan Rayl is Vice President of Write by the Rails, the local chapter of the Virginia Writer’s Club. Jan blogs and does book reviews of local authors (you can read her blog at write4jan.wordpress.com/).