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CAREER OPPORTUNITY

 LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIAN

LCSW or LPC

(In-Patient)

Psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescent girls and boys located 15 minutes north of Emporia, Virginia seeks experienced licensed clinician (LCSW or LPC) to provide therapy and case management services on an inpatient basis.  Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling experience and certification preferred.  Population served includes adolescent girls and boys with complex developmental trauma, co-occurring mental illness, and substance abuse issues.  Position provides individual, group, and family therapy within a psychiatric residential setting. 

Virginia license is required.  Two years’ formal experience counseling adolescents is required.  Residential experience is preferred. 

Seeking experienced candidates.  Highly competitive pay & benefits including employer sponsored Health, Dental, Vision & Life Insurance and employer matching 401(k) retirement plan.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services is an equal opportunity employer and drug free work place.  Post offer criminal background and drug screenings required.  Position open until filled.

Submit resume and cover letter to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Job# 2018-4
Attn: Chris Thompson
E-mail: careers@jacksonfeild.org
Fax: (434) 634-6237


Career Opportunity

Residential Counselors

(Youth Service Workers)

If you are interested in making a positive impact on the lives of Virginia’s youth, then we want you to become part of our Team!  Rural Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility located in Jarratt, Virginia seeks positive role models to work directly with adolescent boys and girls in a psychiatric residential treatment program.  The Youth Service Worker is responsible for role-modeling healthy behavior, teaching life skills, administering a trauma informed behavioral support program, and leading youth in and participating in social, cultural, and recreational activities.  This position supervises youth in the residential unit and on off-campus activities and appointments.

Must possess the availability to work weekends, evenings, holidays, and nights.  Supreme flexibility required.  Seeking candidates with Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology, Sociology or other Human Services field.   Experience will be considered in lieu of a degree.

Compensation package includes 401(k) retirement plan & employer sponsored health, dental, vision & life insurance.  JBHS is a Drug Free Workplace.  Successful applicants must pass a pre-employment drug screen and criminal background screening.  EOE.  Positions open until filled.

E-mail cover letter and resume to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Job# 2018-6
Attn: Chris Thompson
E-mail: careers@jacksonfeild.org

Marvin Dallas Caish

Marvin Dallas Caish, 91, died Wednesday, April 18, 2018.

A native of Greensville County, he was the son of the late William Henry Caish and Mary Pearson Allen Caish. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wives; Adrinne Lynch Caish and Annie Kidd Caish, his brother; Lewis Caish, and sisters; Rebecca Weaver Caish and Lillian Carpenter.  A World War II Navy veteran, Mr. Caish retired from Georgia Pacific in Jarratt, and was a longtime member of Calvary Baptist Church. An avid gardener, he also enjoyed fishing and swimming with his family.

Mr. Caish is survived by his son; Marvin D. Caish Jr. of Ruckersville, Virginia, grandsons; Christopher D. Caish of Barboursville, Virginia, and Timothy J. Caish of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Great-grand-daughter; Charlianna Caish of Barboursville, Virginia.

Graveside Services , with military honors, will be held Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. at Greensville Memorial Cemetery with Rev. Andy Cain officiating.

Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com.

BETTY CLARKE HARRIS

Betty Clarke Harris, 60, of Bath, NC, died Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC.

Betty was born Richmond, VA., the daughter of the late W. Lawrence Clarke and Evelyn Weaver Clarke.

She graduated from Furrman College in Rocky Mount, Va., then graduated from the Nursing Program at Wilson Community College.

She obtained her Bachelors of Science Degree in Nursing, and her Master of Science in Nursing from East Carolina University.

Her Nursing career included serving as a Flight Nurse for East Care; working in different departments at Vidant and was currently a Nurse Education Specialist in the East Carolina Heart Institute.

Betty loved the ocean, sand, and fishing. Most of her spare time was spent at the coast casting her fishing rod and taking in God’s beautiful creation.

Surviving are: a brother, Edward Lawrence Clarke and his wife, Janet Tindall Clarke, of Roanoke Rapids, NC; a niece, Nicole Clarke Luck and her husband, John Michael Luck of Houston, TX. Also, two great nephews; Colin Clarke Luck and Noah Graeme Luck of Houston, TX. and all of her nursing family at Vidant.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 28at 4:00 pm in the Inter-Faith Chapel at Vidant Medical Center, Greenville, NC. with Rev. Jane Rose officiating.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to:  College of Nursing Scholarships at East Carolina University. Make checks to: ECU MHSG and make notion on check in memory of Betty C. Harris. Mail to:  Elizabeth Maxwell, 525 Moye Blvd., Mail stop 659, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, 27834-4354 or you can go online to make a donation at: http://www.ecu.edu/csdhs/nursing/support_us.cfm

Online condolences may be left at wrennclarkehagan.com

VCU Health CMH to Offer Babysitting Training Course

SOUTH HILL --The Health & Wellness Department of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill will offer the Smartkids 101 Babysitting Training Course this summer.

The Smartkids 101 Babysitting Training Course is especially designed for student’s age 11 to 14.  It teaches essential child care skills needed for responsible babysitters caring for infants, toddlers and older children.

The class will include child and infant safety, poison control, CPR, first aid and basic child care skills.  At the end of the class students will receive a babysitting certificate, and be certified in American Heart-Heart Savers CPR and First aid.  Students will also be taught to react in an emergency situation and know who to call.  Students will learn about the babysitting business, build self-esteem and learn skills that will last a lifetime.

This one day, 8-hour course will be taught in the VCU Health CMH Education Center (inside the C.A.R.E. Building) at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill from 8:00AM to 4:15PM on the following dates- June 15th, June 29th, July13th and July27th.  The class is free but limited to 10 participants. To register for one of these courses, please contact the Health & Wellness department at 434-774-2541. These classes fill up quickly, so call today!

Monument Reflects ‘Abiding Admiration’ for Native People

INDIAN MEMORIAL

By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission welcomed leaders of Native American tribes at the state Capitol for a ceremony to dedicate “Mantle,” a monument honoring Virginia’s first inhabitants.

Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting celebrated the culture, contributions and significance of Native Americans. Many of the attendees dressed in traditional Indian garments, and each speaker passed to the next an eagle’s feather conveying strength, courage and wisdom.

“It’s apt, I think, that we gather here on Capitol Square – in many ways the very heart of our commonwealth’s diverse, vibrant and engaging civic life – to show our respect, to show our gratitude and to show our abiding admiration for native peoples who have lived in this land for thousands of years,” said Paul Nardo, clerk of the House of Delegates and a member of the commission.

Members of the community joined in celebrating the completion of “Mantle,” for which ground was broken last summer.

“Virginia Indian history goes back thousands of years before those settlers stepped ashore,” Northam said. “For the first time, we will recognize the courage and resilience of Virginia Indians on the same sacred ground where we write the history of tomorrow.”

The governor said the monument was a “long-overdue acknowledgment.”

“My hope is that progress, and the completion of this monument, will begin our journey toward healing,” Northam said. “We also celebrate the accomplishments of future generations who trace their ancestors to Virginia’s native tribes.”

At the ceremony, Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield, a commission member, read a poem she had written, also titled “Mantle.” During the reading, she played an Indian drum to symbolize “the heartbeat of the first Americans.”

The poem described the symbolism of the origin, structure and design of the monument:

Mantle is a chief’s cloak

A pathway, water

A seat for the weary

Strong from the remembrance of the rivers and the people

Strong from the beginning of time, unto eternity

A tribute to the first Americans

The monument was created by Alan Michelson, an installation artist and member of the Mohawk Nation. He described the public art as “a collaborative medium with many moving parts and players bringing their skills and experience to bear.”

“I was fortunate to work with a stellar design team,” Michelson said. “A concept is only as good as its design, and a design only as its implementation.”

Michelson traced his creative journey that led to the creation of “Mantle” as well as the many meanings its name may represent.

The monument has a spiral shape surrounding an infinity pool that lists the rivers in Virginia with Native American names. The name “Mantle” comes from the deerskin cloak reportedly worn by the Native American chief Powhatan.

“I wanted my design to embody not only the landscape past and present but the sacred harmonies underpinning and uniting all life here on Turtle Island,” Michelson said. “In contemplating a title for it, the word mantle seemed to fit.” He said it is a reference to:

  • Geology – the mostly solid layer of the earth between the crust and core.
  • Mollusk anatomy – the layer that forms, maintains and repairs the shell.
  • Leadership – the responsibilities and duties passed from one person to another.

Ken Adams, chief emeritus of Virginia’s Upper Mattaponi tribe, concluded the ceremony by leading a prayer to God and blessing the monument.

“As we celebrate you and celebrate the legacy of Native Americans,” Adams said, “as we place this memorial in your honor on these grounds, we cannot ever thank you enough for bringing us out of the dark ages that we experienced not so long ago.”

After Rally, House OKs Budget Expanding Medicaid


Delegates Mark Levine and Wendy Gooditis pose for a photo with Medicaid expansion supporters on Capitol Hill (Photo credit: George Copeland Jr.)

By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The House of Delegates passed a state budget that expands Medicaid in Virginia after advocates for the measure held a rally outside the Capitol.

Meeting in special session, the House voted 67-33 in favor of a budget for the 2018-2020 biennium that provides Medicaid coverage to more low-income Virginians. The legislation now moves to the Senate, which during the regular legislative session opposed Medicaid expansion.

Nineteen Republicans joined 48 Democratic delegates in voting for the House version of the budget.

“Our budget expands health care to 400,000 uninsured Virginians, and it increases funding for our schools, creates jobs and gives raises to teachers and law enforcement,” Del. David Toscano of Charlottesville, the House Democratic leader, and Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a joint statement.

“We are hopeful that our Republican colleagues in the Senate have seen the light and have heard the chorus of voices in support of expansion.”

House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican from Colonial Heights, expressed optimism that delegates and senators can reach an agreement on the budget.

Cox said the House passed “a strong, structurally-balanced two-year state budget that I am confident can serve as the foundation for a bipartisan, bicameral compromise.”

“Virginia has seen extended budget negotiations before, but what sets us apart from Washington is our willingness to work efficiently and directly to adopt a balanced budget before the current fiscal year ends” on June 30, Cox said.

The House vote came after legislators and citizens from across the commonwealth gathered Tuesday afternoon on the Capitol grounds.

Medicaid expansion advocates from Caroline County, Norfolk, Arlington and Charlottesville were joined by Democratic Dels. Mark Levine of Alexandria, Wendy Gooditis of Clarke County and Alfonso Lopez of Arlington.

“I really think our chamber will do what it needs to do, and I have to say, I think some Senate Republicans are coming around,” Levine said.

During the regular session, the House voted 68-32 in favor of a budget that included Medicaid expansion – a priority for Democrats. Expansion would include a Republican-proposed work requirement for those seeking Medicaid coverage.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has expressed his displeasure with the work requirement. (One Democratic delegate, Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, voted against the House budget on Tuesday because of the work requirement.) President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this week mandating a similar requirement for food stamp recipients.

Gooditis, who was elected last fall, said her political career was driven in part by her struggle to obtain Medicaid coverage to assist her late brother with post-traumatic stress disorder. She credited the “all-around caregivers” she met during these years for both her election victory and the high spirits she felt going into the special session.

“Keep making noise. It’s how I got here, and it’s how we’ll get it done,” Gooditis said.

Some at the rally are already looking ahead to what policies could follow the proposed Medicaid expansion. They expressed enthusiasm for a single-payer health care system, or “Medicare for All.” Levine said he supports such a system.

“People need to know that these are real people’s lives,” Levine said. “They need to know this isn’t some theoretical question; this is a question of whether people get health care or not.”

Legislators at the rally were critical of the current state of health care coverage in Virginia. While Levine praised the efforts of Doctors Without Borders in providing services in Southwest Virginia and the Northern Neck, he was nonetheless “ashamed” that residents there must rely on an international group that normally serves developing countries.

Lopez discussed the good financial fortune his family had when their newborn baby was delivered prematurely last year, a comfort he stressed wasn’t shared by everyone in his House district. Lopez said the 49th District, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, ranks as “one of the most educated” in the U.S. and yet has the “fourth-highest number of people who could benefit” from Medicaid expansion.

“Think about the family that has a baby born prematurely,” Lopez said. “Think about the family that’s struck down by a horrible disease or in a horrific accident. Health care could be devastating for their finances.”

“We’re going to get this done,” Lopez said. “We have to get this done.”

Waverly United Methodists Spruce Up Jackson-Feild

On a bright and beautiful – but windy – recent Saturday, nine volunteers from Waverly United Methodist Church performed a task of epic proportions.  They repainted 1,100 feet of fencing at Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services.

When one turns onto Walnut Grove Drive in Jarratt, two columns and a white fence can be seen at the end of the long, straight country road.  Up close, it was evident that the fence was no longer as white and pristine as it once had been.

Waverly Church provided not only the volunteers, but 25 gallons of fence paint and spray equipment as well!  Mother Nature, though, provided the stiff breeze that resulted in a number of painters sporting a light coating of paint by the end of the day’s work.

The children and staff at Jackson-Feild wishes to thank these wonderful volunteers from Waverly United Methodist Church for all they’ve done to benefit the organization.

If you would like to offer a helping hand on a future project, please call Vice-President of Advancement Tod Balsbaugh at 804-354-6929 to see what the current needs may be.

VSU Celebrates Fourth 'Tree Campus USA' Award for its Dedication to Campus Forestry

Dignitaries show Tree Campus USA plaque updated with year 2017 for Virginia State University campus.

Petersburg, Va. – A crowd gathered on the campus of Virginia State University (VSU) on Tuesday for the 2017 Tree Campus USA Award Celebration. It is the fourth consecutive year that VSU has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship.

“I’d like to recognize the great leadership that has made this possible. It really does take all of us working together, the commitment that you have to this campus, to your green spaces, and to trees,” said Bettina Ring, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry.

Secretary Ring attended the recertification event along with Senator Rosalyn Dance, a VSU alumna, and administrators from the university.

“I’m proud of all the great stuff that’s happening here,” Dance said. “Tree Campus USA, VSU, all the way!”

“On this day, being honored and recertified is very special to us,” said VSU Provost Dr. Donald E. Palm. “Not only does it bring the community together, it brings the campus together, especially for our students to learn, our faculty to do research. It’s an awesome day.”

Events were held during the morning, including the creation of a living wall of flowers and strawberries. There were also presentations on water quality, sustainable foodand goatscaping, an environmentally friendly alternative to property clearing and weed removal. 

VSU was first named a “Tree Campus USA University” in 2015 and has been recertified annually. The university is only one of four post-secondary institutions in Virginia—along with Old Dominion University, the University of Mary Washington and Virginia Tech—to be recognized. The initiative was led by Joel Koci, associate Extension specialist in urban forestry with the College of Agriculture, who works each year with a committee comprising faculty, students and campus staff. To receive the designation, a university must meet five core standards: establish an advisory committee, develop a campus tree-care plan, allocate annual dedicated expenses of $3 per full-time student; hold a service-learning project; and host an Arbor Day celebration.

“Keep up the great work and thank you for all that you continue to do to support students and learning in agriculture and forestry,” Ring said.

The recertification ceremony was held beside a sycamore tree planted in 2015. The sycamore was selected because it grows large and has a long lifespan. The ceremony ended with the dedication of a plaque to recognize the march in Selma, Alabama, during the Civil Rights movement.

The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member nonprofit conservation and education organization dedicated to inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who served as secretary of agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, initiated the Arbor Day holiday in Nebraska in 1872. He is considered the father of Arbor Day nationally. Virginia celebrates Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April.

Founded in 1882, Virginia State University is one of Virginia’s two land-grant institutions and is located 20 minutes south of Richmond in the village of Ettrick.

Congressman McEachin Introduced Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act

WASHINGTON – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), a co-chair of the Reinvesting in our Returning Heroes task force, introduced the Disabled Access Credit Expansion (DACE) Act to assist small business owners comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), aiming to expand access and job opportunities for disabled Americans.

Currently, small businesses can receive a tax credit worth 50 percent of costs incurred to meet accessibility requirements under the ADA, up to a limit of $10,250. The DACE Act incentivizes proactive ADA compliance for small business owners by doubling the maximum allowable credit, which will reduce their liability and increase their ability to employ individuals with disabilities, including veterans.

“I introduced the DACE Act to help veterans and others with disabilities, while also helping small business owners make necessary structural improvements under the ADA—changes that will enable them to employ, and serve, more individuals with disabilities,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Unfortunately, far too many of our dedicated servicemembers come home with permanent injuries. As our returning veterans transition to civilian life, we need to do more to help them find well-paying jobs and continue to support themselves and their families. Enabling businesses to more easily hire these veterans, and any American who wants to work, is one of the best steps we can take.”

“Our veterans bring unique skills and experiences to the workforce and it is our duty to ensure that they have every opportunity while transitioning back to civilian life and finding meaningful employment,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “Congressman McEachin’s Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act will give veterans with disabilities the opportunity to secure well-paying jobs while providing incentives to our nation’s small businesses. I am proud to join him and my colleagues in this effort to help our veteran communities transition to the civilian workforce.” 

“The Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act led by Congressman Donald McEachin reinforces House Democrats’ commitment to improve access for Americans with disabilities,” said House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Linda Sánchez (CA-38). “I am proud to join with members of the Democratic Caucus Jobs for America Task Force to introduce legislation that helps America’s small businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and increases access for people with disabilities and veterans.”

The Disabled Access Credit Expansion (DACE) Act would:

  • Increase the maximum eligible expenses to $20,500;
  • Double the maximum possible credit for small business owners from $5,000 to $10,125;
  • Make the credit more widely available by expanding the definition of “small business” to include companies with income of $2.5 million or less; and
  • Index the updated maximum eligible expenses to keep pace with inflation.

“In light of legislative efforts like H.R. 620, it is more important than ever that we champion basic fairness and equal access,”said Congressman McEachin. “My bill takes a better path, helping not just people with disabilities, but our hardworking small business owners.”

This bill is endorsed by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). Full bill text is available here.

More Greyhounds May Need Homes if Florida Bans Racing

 

By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — Greyhound rescue organizations in Virginia and elsewhere may see an influx of dogs needing adoption if Florida decides to ban greyhound racing.

Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission is considering putting such a ban on a statewide ballot in November. Florida has 12 greyhound racing tracks.

If voters approve the constitutional amendment, Florida would “phase out the racing over the next several years,” said Mark Lane, president of James River Greyhounds, a nonprofit dog-adoption organization, and Greyt Love Retirement, a foster shelter for retired greyhounds awaiting adoption.

Lane said the constitutional amendment being considered in Florida doesn’t address the future of retired racers and “finding a home for the vast number of racing greyhounds that would be without a career.”

Early Life and Racing

Kristen Avent, foster coordinator for James River Greyhounds, said the race dogs are not inhumanely taken from their families to immediately start training.

“Basically, from birth, they’re with their littermates and their mama,” Avent said. “Then, when they go to their kennels, they have all the dogs with them and they have the trainers there.”

James River Greyhounds has formed relationships with racetracks in Alabama and Florida. The organization arranges foster and adoptive homes when racing greyhounds from those tracks are retired.

“We’ve been down to the racetrack facilities in Birmingham, Alabama, and Daytona, Florida. The dogs are well taken care of,” Avent said. “The people at the track absolutely love them, they have dog treats for them and play with them — that sort of thing.”

Florida state Sen. Tom Lee, a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, said many racing greyhounds “live in inhumane conditions” and face mistreatment. However, Avent said the dogs:

● Are let out into the yard at least four times per day

● Practice racing around the track

● Sometimes get to go on car rides around the facilities

● Eat well

● Have constant company

Life After Racing

Avent said greyhounds usually have a smooth transition after their racing days.

“When you get them off the tracks when they retire, they’re sweet and easy to bring into a home because they’re already used to being handled by people,” Avent said.

Greyhounds are made available for adoption as early as 21 months old. But ultimately, the determinant is their racing ability, or lack thereof.

“When you bring them into a house, you just have to teach them, sometimes, how to use steps,” Avent said. “Then they just have to learn about furniture and things like that. But they learn very quickly, and they’re extremely loving. They love to be with you.”

Why Greyhounds?

“When deciding what type of dog that I wanted to adopt, I came across the retired racing greyhound breed and found them to be extremely laid-back, awesome personality and a very regal breed overall,” Lane said. “Once I adopted my first, the rest has been history, and I don’t regret it at all.”

Avent said the dogs’ sweet disposition and gentle nature won her over.

“They’re very affectionate, are eager to go anywhere you want to go — they want to be with you,” she said.

Lane said among his favorite greyhound mannerisms and attributes are:

● The greyhound roo, a sound they make that is a mix of barks, grunts and whines

● Their teeth chattering

● Their relaxed demeanor. Lane said a greyhound is “a 45-mph couch potato” that sleeps for most of the day.

Greyhound Adoption

“The importance of greyhound adoption is that once these athletes are finished their careers, they make awesome pets,” Lane said. “Adoption groups all over the U.S. and Canada fill the need to find appropriate retirement homes for these wonderful retired racing greyhounds.”

Lane started Greyt Love Retirement for two main reasons.

“The first was that I wanted to build a facility to be able to bring more retired racing greyhounds to the Richmond area to continue to educate about, advocate for and adopt out the retired racing greyhound,” he said. “The second was a realization that some potential applicants wanted to touch, feel and connect with their new family member, and JRG (James River Greyhounds) could not facilitate that request without having a foster shelter with potential available hounds.”

Besides the two groups headed by Lane, there is an organization called Around Town Hounds, which holds monthly walks and other events for members of the Richmond greyhound community.

“I have found that once you adopt a greyhound, you are now involved with a tighter knit community of dog owners,” Lane said. “As adopters, we rely on each other for dog sitting, being a knowledge bank of questions and answers, playdates and general camaraderie.”

Nonprofit Helps Virginia Maintain Lowest Recidivism Rate

By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Over the past 14 years, Richard Walker went from dodging incarceration to running a volunteer organization aimed at helping other ex-offenders stay clean and out of prison. The efforts of groups like his are one reason Virginia has the nation’s lowest recidivism — or reoffense — rate for former inmates, state officials say.

The story of Bridging the Gap in Virginia began more than a decade ago.

“I had a substance abuse problem back then; this was in 2004,” Walker said. “I was a fugitive of justice from Henrico County. They arrested me at 2 o’clock in the morning, and I’m hitting golf balls into a quarry in Prince George County after being on a two-day crack binge.”

After making bail at Riverside Regional Jail, Walker absconded to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was arrested for writing fraudulent checks.

Walker served time at a Virginia Department of Corrections camp in Halifax County. After re-entering society, he found that his criminal record kept him from landing jobs offered through the Richmond Career Advancement Center. Ultimately, he found work selling cars. 

"That was short-lived because I made good money and I hadn’t dealt with my drug problem,” Walker said. “I ended up going into treatment in 2006, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Within three years, Walker created a job for himself.

“We started in 2009 as a direct result of my incarceration,” Walker said. “I started Bridging the Gap in Virginia because I knew there were people with less experience, less credentials than I had, that were having a challenge in Virginia. When I found out the legislation and the laws in Virginia, it just motivated me to make changes.”

Charlotte Gomer, the public information officer for Attorney General Mark Herring, said re-entry programs like Walker’s are valuable resources for ex-offenders.

“Re-entry services have been proven to reduce crime, strengthen communities and ... can reduce violent reoffending by as much as 83 percent,” Gomer said. “The attorney general has made it a real priority to support re-entry, which is why he hired Virginia’s first full-time local jail re-entry coordinator to start and strengthen programs around the commonwealth.”

The efforts of Herring’s office and groups like Bridging the Gap in Virginia seem to be working. For the past two years, Virginia’s re-incarceration rate has been the lowest in the country among states for which data was available,according to the governor’s office.

About 22 percent of inmates released from the state’s prisons and jails end up re-incarcerated within three years. Virginia’s recidivism rate has fallen a full percentage point since the previous year. It’s the lowest among the 45 states that report three-year incarceration rates for felons. Nationally, more than two-thirds of convicted criminals reoffended in the past three years, according to the National Institute of Justice. 

Gainful employment is the key to helping ex-offenders re-enter society — and that is the main focus of Bridging the Gap in Virginia. Lawrence Bibbs III can vouch for that. The nonprofit helped him after he was released from prison on Aug. 29 after 30 years of incarceration.

“Since I’ve dealt with Bridging the Gap, each person has been a specialist in knowing how to focus your skill set into a specific area,” said Bibbs, who works for Amazon and owns a bricklaying company. “This situation where people are saying they can’t get a job — you just didn’t go to the right specialist that could employ you.”

Walker has several legislative allies. He has worked with Del. Delores McQuinn and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, both of Richmond, on issues pertaining to re-entry and criminal justice in general.

“I have always tried to work collaboratively with some organization or group to do that — looking at how do we provide a service to returning citizens so that there is a certain quality of life that they can expect as they exit the prison system,” McQuinn said.

McClellan said re-entry programs help not only ex-offenders but also the community.

“I support any efforts that remove barriers for returning felons resuming their lives,” McClellan said. “Once you get out of jail, if you can’t get a job, you’re more likely to do something to cause yourself to go back to jail.”

Walker, McQuinn and McClellan are behind legislation enabling former felons to find employment more easily.

The “Ban the Box” proposal seeks to remove questions about arrests and convictions from employment applications. In 2015, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order that banned the box on state government applications.

During the General Assembly’s 2018 session, attempts to make that executive order a state law failed, although one bill cleared the Senate before dying in the House.

Even though there’s no state law, Walker said 16 cities and counties in Virginia have “banned the box” for ex-offenders.

“They have more of an opportunity to get a one-on-one interview with potential employers in various cities for city employment through ‘Ban the Box,’” Walker said. “People want to work; they don’t want to sit in squalor.”

Walker’s efforts extend beyond legislative changes. His organization also helps ex-convicts rebuild their lives through drug treatment, housing referrals and other services.

“God didn’t put me in here for me to give up, so I’m going to keep on doing what I do, believing that that million-dollar grant is sitting there waiting on me,” Walker said. 

Customized, Job-Driven Training

Businesses across the Commonwealth of Virginia, including right here in the Southside region, continue to report a skills mismatch between job seekers and open positions. Skilled workers, especially in information technology and advanced manufacturing, seem to be in short supply. Entrepreneurs often testify to the fact that nurturing a business is a challenging proposition, but when companies cannot find workers with the skills necessary to fill critical positions, business success can be even harder to achieve.

At the same time, escalating college costs sometimes put higher education out of reach. Many young people and transitioning workers are looking for ways to prepare for well-paying careers without amassing heavy burdens of debt.

The solution for growing businesses and the answer for the potential future workforce may be the same: apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship is more than just assisting in a workplace, more than just on-the-job training. Registered apprenticeship programs provide a formal plan that combines at-work elements with rigorous classroom preparation and mentoring. They culminate in a certification that the graduate is fully prepared, experienced, and job-ready.

Traditionally, U.S. apprenticeships have focused on skilled trades, but recent innovations and policy changes are bringing the model to other industries. Penny Pritzker, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce explains that “by building regional partnerships with education, workforce, and social service institutions, businesses and government can create training programs that connect workers with middle class careers.” For diverse companies, she notes that “developing talent through apprenticeships results in a more dedicated, flexible, loyal workforce that is poised to rise into leadership positions and make the companies more competitive.”

Southside Virginia Community College is proud to be able to bring these benefits to the communities of south-central Virginia. Through ApprenticeVA, a collaborative effort among four community college partners, we can help businesses leverage the resources needed to create registered apprenticeship programs and customize them to meet specific training requirements.

Rob Deutsch, Director of Human Resources at Global Safety Textile acknowledges, “In today’s current economy, hiring qualified maintenance mechanics is a challenge.” His company is one among several with whom SVCC has worked to establish registered apprenticeship programs. Others include Beach Mold and Tool, Toll Brothers, Huber Woodproducts, Presto Products, and Microsoft.

At SVCC, more than 40 apprentices are currently registered and working on the job and in the classroom. They will graduate with industry-recognized credentials in fields such as industrial maintenance and network technician.

Apprenticeship programs have a proven track record and are well situated to meet 21st century needs. If your business would like more information about how it can benefit from a registered apprenticeship program, contact SVCC’s Apprenticeship Coordinator, Kelly Arnold at Kelly.arnold@southside.edu or call 434-579-7260.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Spotlight on Jobs by the Virginia Employment Commission

Hotel Manager: The Hotel Manager is accountable for directing and coordinating the resources, tasks, requirements, systems and processes related to the hotel's day-to-day operations, and for creating an energized and positive work environment that results in the delivery of exceptional guest service and positive financial returns.  JOB ORDER  #1318346                        

Cook:  Will season and cook food according to recipes . Ensure food is stored and cooked correctly and ensure freshness of food and ingredients. Inspect and clean food preparation areas, equipment, work surfaces and serving areas to ensure safe and sanitary food-handling practices.  Twelve (12) months experience required. JOB ORDER #1321267               

Maintenance Planner: Will plan, schedule and coordinate maintenance activities along with maintenance and production supervisors. HSD/GED and five (5) or more years of mechanical maintenance experience in a manufacturing, heavy industrial or military environment.  Knowledge of CMMS and be able to learn MP2 CMMS system. Must be able to type/keyboard and have a working knowledge of Microsoft suite programs including excel, word and outlook. JOB ORDER #1320112

Skilled Laborers: Skilled laborer will perform traffic control duties, guardrail installation and repair duties including all safety regulations and procedures.  All work is performed outdoors at construction, maintenance facilities, etc.  Moderate physical, strength sufficient to lift and move heavy materials. Twelve (12) months of construction laborer experience required.     JOB ORDER #1321400 

Equipment Operator: Must be able to operate equipment such as motor grader, bulldozers, scrapers, tractors, front end loaders to excavate, move and establish grades on various phases of new construction for roads, parking lots, building pads, etc.  A knowledge of GPS system for establishing grades a plus. HSD/GED and 24 months experience required.  JOB ORDER #1321385

THESE AND ALL JOBS WITH THE VIRGINIA EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION CAN BE FOUND ONLINE AT

www.vawc.virginia.gov

McEachin Announces Beginning of 2018 Congressional Art Competition

Richmond, Va. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) calls on high school students to begin submitting their best works of art for consideration in the 4th Congressional District’s 2018 Congressional Art Competition.

“I am incredibly proud of Jada Epps each time I walk past her 2017 first place drawingon display in the U.S. Capitol. I look forward to seeing the art that will represent our district next,”said Congressman Donald McEachin.

All students who live in Virginia’s 4th Congressional District attending school in grades 9 - 12 are invited to submit original artwork in concept, design and execution in the 2018 Congressional Art Competition. Artwork must be two-dimensional, weigh no more than 15 pounds, but may be in any medium (paintings, drawings, collages, prints, photography, graphic design, etc.). Students, parents and teachers can find complete rules for entry here. All submissions must be received before 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 27, 2018.

For questions or more information about the competition, please contact Elizabeth Hardin at (804) 486-1840.

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