Fairview Hills welcome change for family

Mirror photo by William Kibler / A girl prepares to throw a ball at the dunk tank on which Altoona Housing Authority maintenance employee Brian Stewart sat awaiting a splash during the authority’s annual summer picnic Wednesday at Fairview Hills.

Altoona, and in particular, the Fairview Hills family housing development of the Altoona Housing Authority, has been a refuge of sorts for a family that participated in the authority’s annual picnic for Fairview Hills residents on Wednesday.

Originally from suburban Tucson, Ariz., Christina Toll, 43, was living in suburban Washington, D.C., when her husband, Timothy, was in a motorcycle accident that led to the amputation of one of his legs.

To help deal with the aftermath, the family moved to Altoona to stay with Christina’s sister-in-law, after which they entered Fairview Hills, said Christina, standing in the yard behind the building where she lives, amid tents with vendors and agency partners overseeing games for kids, a grill with hot dogs, a dunk tank and authority staff coordinating everything.

Altoona and Fairview Hills has worked out for the Tolls over the last three years, according to Christina and her son, Jesus, 20.

“My backyard is the playground,” Christina said. “I like it.”

There are lots of kids, and all the families help to look out for all of them, she said.

“It’s a nice, homey community,” she stated.

Contributing to that homey feel is the friendliness, according to Christina.

It’s like where she was raised in Arizona. If you make eye contact with passersby, both parties say “hello,” and you generally hold the door for people coming behind you, she said.

It wasn’t like that near Washington, she said.

If you made eye contact and said “hello” to a stranger there, the stranger would look at you askance, as if to ask, “Do I know you?” Christina said.

Living in Altoona has been good for Jesus.

He didn’t have many friends in Arizona and virtually none in Washing­ton, he said.

Perhaps contributing to that was a home schooling regimen that began in Washington, because his parents didn’t like the quality of the schools there.

The home schooling continued after the accident, so Jesus would learn his lessons while helping care for two younger siblings, then in diapers, Christina said.

It was an experience that matured him more quickly than most people, Jesus said.

Here in Altoona, he’s made his share of friends.

“There are no issues,” he said of living at Fairview Hills. “Everybody seems pretty chill.”

That includes the other residents not being overly “intrusive,” he said.

He’s considering a career in a medical field or maybe the ministry, being active in his church, Faith Baptist.

“It’s all for the families,” said Authority Executive Director Cheryl Johns of the day’s doings. “And the weather cooperated.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.