Mary Avanti has a boundless amount of energy, dipping her fingers into everything in Woodbridge.
A Woodbridge resident since 2003, Avanti is a key player in the community's Neighborhood Watch program. She has been known to directly confront gang members who cause trouble in the small community park and other parts of town.
Avanti is active with local Cub and Boy Scout troops. She volunteers in maintaining the Woodbridge Wilderness Area along the Mokelumne River and watching visitors in the wilderness area to make sure they keep it safe and clean during the two weekends each month it is open to the public.
She keeps in frequent contact with San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel and his legislative assistant, Denise Warmerdam, to protect Woodbridge's interests. And she communicates regularly with deputies in the sheriff's Community Car program that watches over Woodbridge.
In December, Avanti was named chairwoman of the Woodbridge Municipal Advisory Council, a seven-member group that makes recommendations about community issues to county officials.
"Mary is a spark plug in getting things done," longtime MAC member Tasso Kandris said.
Avanti has worked hard to minimize gang activity, hires would-be gang members to work on her garden, and has been instrumental in safeguarding the small community park between Augusta and Mokelumne streets, volunteering with Mary Fuhs to maintain the Woodbridge Wilderness Area, establishing Neighborhood Watch in Woodbridge and organizing a cleanup under the Mokelumne River bridge on Lower Sacramento Road, Kandris said.
Avanti moved to Woodbridge in 2003 to be near her two grown children who live in the area. She said she fell in love with the community park, but she was disillusioned to find syringes, beer bottles and garbage there.
She said she became active in the community after her boat engine was stolen while she was on a weekend trip.
Consistent with her boundless energy, Avanti has a laundry list of goals for her chairmanship on the Municipal Advisory Council in 2012. Among them:
- Restore the MAC's Citizens Excellence Awards to honor people who mean the most to Woodbridge.
- Work with the California Highway Patrol to bring a driving program for senior citizens to Woodbridge.
- Work with sheriff's deputies and the CHP to reward youths who wear bicycle helmets by giving them a coupon for a free ice cream or drink.
"A lot of kids in Woodbridge think they aren't required to wear bike helmets," Avanti said.
- Continue to work with the county Public Works Department to secure a Safe Routes to School grant. She hopes to add sidewalks and bicycle lanes to streets near Woodbridge Elementary School.
- Add crosswalks at intersections where children cross the street on the way to school.
- Get businesses more involved with the Woodbridge MAC and discuss with business owners what the community can do to bring more business to Woodbridge.
- Begin discussing how to establish a small satellite community center to provide services such as vaccinations, prescriptions senior referrals and career information for youths.
- Continue to address public safety needs.
- Establish summer activities such as concerts or a farmers market to attract visitors to Woodbridge's business district.
"She wants the town to be a good place to live," Kandris said.
It may not seem like there are hours in the day to be as active as Avanti is. For starters, she watches TV no more than six hours a week, and she refuses to participate in Facebook or other forms of social networking.
Avanti says she doesn't always know what she's going to do the next day. She typically wakes up to about 50 emails each morning. If the first one is about crime in the community, she'll open all the emails dealing with crime or Neighborhood Watch and address those topics. If she sees an email from someone who wants to talk about the Wilderness Area, she'll stick to all the emails on that topic.
"I don't always have a plan," Avanti said. "I just jump in and let it unfold."
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.