There is a strong possibility that this blog post is going to seem obvious to almost everyone who reads it, but I’m thinking there’s a possibility that not everyone knows as much as they think they do about the topic. And today’s topic is…using the publicly available services offered by your municipality! I know, exciting, right? But if you are someone like me who likes to know what’s out there that’s cheap or free to be taken advantage of, it’s important to know.
So, right off the bat, I’m going to recommend you visit your public library. If you haven’t already, it’s an amazing resource. Not only do they have books for adults and children, but they have audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, and often DVDs and CDs that can be borrowed (let alone their electronic offerings, including e-books and e-audio). They have all kinds of amazing programs on their schedules. Back when I was on maternity leave, I often took tiny baby B to their “Baby Time”, which was a half hour of singing and baby-movement. B freaking LOVED IT. The children’s librarian would come by during “Old McDonald” with animal puppets, and she would smile and wave her little arms in a tiny attempt at grabbing. For a while there were family story times on Saturday mornings, but our local library seems to have discontinued that particular activity. But they continue to offer film screenings, groups for older children, ESL classes, book discussion groups. SO MUCH. Here’s the Alexandria City library event calendar, and our local branch is holding their book sale this weekend. It’s the kind of thing I will have to mention to the Boy, and we might just wander over and see what kind of books are available. If you don’t know where your local branch is, or what kind of events they might be holding that would be of interest to you, look for that RIGHT NOW.
Part of the reason that I’m posting this today is that there is so much stuff happening this weekend that relates to the topic of this post. For example, we will continue swim lessons this weekend with baby girl, offered through our city’s Recreation department. For 7 weeks, we will take her to the community pool, and she will continue the process of becoming comfortable in the water before she begins to learn to swim properly. Classes are offered for ages 6 months to adult at every stage, and are a STEAL compared to what one would pay for private lessons, or to join a pool. I found out about these baby swim lessons after browsing the Recreation Program Guide, which lists all the classes that are offered each season. But if you’re thinking the guide only lists swim, sports and dance, you’d be very wrong. There are classes for arts, nature, and science. There’s a whole section on community events and activities, and despite the fact that I’m writing this post advocating for you to take a look, I have opened to that page for the first time and discovered multiple activities that I either think we should do, or wish that my little one were old enough to participate in (Mommy Daughter Spa Day? YES PLEASE!). There are trips, special events, not to mention information on how to rent any of the publicly available spaces – including parks, picnic areas, pools, party rooms, and soft play rooms (hmm…future baby girl birthday ideas hatching…) to name a few. And guys – this is stuff in a relatively small city. County Recreation facilities tend to be bigger and offer even more because they cover a wider population and have more space. If your municipality doesn’t offer as much as you’d like, look at a what’s nearby, because often you can use and participate in their classes, events and facilities as well for a nominal extra fee.
And finally, this is the part of the “local services” that really inspired the writing of this post. It feels like information that should be obvious, but it isn’t at all. And that is – how much do you know about your municipality’s refuse collection and environmental services? That’s right – trash and recycling. For example – normally there is a very limited set of what will be collected by our local garbage pickup. But once a year – “Spring Cleaning” – they will accept almost anything within reason as long as it’s set out on the curb in a neat manner, and at the right time. For us, that’s this weekend, and I know that tonight the Boy and I will be gathering the things that are broken or bulky, or would normally need to be hauled down to the Hazardous Waste/Electronics disposal collection center (which is only open twice a week for limited hours). This local website also lets us know when we can set out our Christmas tree for collection/recycling, and it was while looking at this page to figure out when to take down and dispose of our Christmas tree that I discovered another wonderful thing – our city has a reduced cost wood mulch program. For $65, we were able to schedule a day for a truck to come by and dump a whole truck full of wood mulch in our yard – more than enough for our plant beds and probably our neighbors because I overestimated our need. This is mulch made from the recycled yard waste, and it looks SO GOOD. Like, for the amount of money we paid to get a giant pile, I am so pleased with myself. We were able to reduce the pile by about 1/3 solely by putting on that first layer on the beds. There are a few other spots we need to cover, and then we plan to go back and made the mulch beds thicker. After that, I’ll list the remainder of the pile on Nextdoor as free for any takers with a wheelbarrow.
The point is, chances are your city or county offers a LOT of services at a competitive rate to its citizens. Even looking at the Alexandria City website, there are services I didn’t really know existed because I haven’t needed to use them: job search and housing assistance, services for military veterans and senior citizens, mentoring, economic support, services for children and families. There is so much good that our local governments are doing, and I don’t know if enough people are aware of it. And if you like a service – USE IT. If no one takes a swim class, no one goes to the story time at the library, or buys mulch at a subsidized cost, those programs and services go away. So take a little while to look at the websites for your city or county library website, the parks and recreation website, and the city services website. There is so much out there that is being offered to you, if only you took a chance to look for it.