Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday Supper

On January 19, 2014, Gamma Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated hosted a Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday Supper at Saint Paul’s College John E. Thomasson Student Center in Lawrenceville, Virginia.  Veterans were invited and honored for their service to our country. Students from Greensville and Brunswick Counties middle and high school were inspired and encouraged to participate in an essay contest. The theme was “Empowering the Dream”.  In commemoration of Dr. King’s legacy, students responded to one of his famous quotes; “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  The essay composed of a response to the following questions:

  • In what ways did Dr. King’s belief in this quote change the world?
  • How would your school be different if the actions of administrators, teachers, and students were a reflection of this quote?
  • How would believing in and living by Dr. King’s quote improve your life now and into adulthood?

This was an exciting day for Gamma Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.  Concerted efforts were made to get a representative audience.  Well, it worked when 76 people attended the event.  The audience included 9 veterans and active military members and their families, three Emerging Young Leaders, seven of 86 essay participants, and 18 members of Gamma Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

President, Belinda Evans, extended a cordial, warm, and hearty welcome.  The audience joined in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” followed with a purpose given by Grace Thompson, Co-Chairman of the Committee. Angelnet Stith, Co-Chairman, recognized the essay participants and announced the essay finalists.  Essay top winners, Julia Gilliam from Greensville High School and Jala Newchurch from Russell Middle School, shared their essays.

Lameka Harrison, Mistress of Ceremony, saluted our veterans and active military members with a PowerPoint presentation of their legacy created by Pamela Pearson-Simmons, Technology Chairman.  The veterans had various ranks such as SP 4, SP 5, sergeant, master sergeant, captain, and major. They were each presented a framed certificate and a gift card. Alfreda Reynolds dedicated a solo, “God Bless America”, to the veterans and active military members. Donnell Sykes, a Greensville County High student, performed the TAPS. Alfreda Reynolds recognized the Emerging Young Leaders of Gamma Lambda Omega, and presented each with a token of love.

The chapter service project entailed dining with the veterans and active military members. A huge basket of daily necessities such as toothbrushes, band-aids, and hair combs was raffled. Veteran Alphonsa Jones won the raffle. However, he presented the basket to the oldest veteran, Robert Williams, Sr. who is 93 years old. Mr. Williams’s name and photo are permanently entered at the National World War II Memorial in Washington DC. He was a member of the only black troop to land on the Normandy Invasion.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. devoted his life to advancing equality, social justice, and opportunity for all. He challenged us to build a more perfect union and taught us that everyone has a role to play in making America what is ought to be. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, addresses social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.  Based on evaluations, the Sunday Supper was proven to be beneficial in “providing service to all mankind.”

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Secretary Vilsack Expands Strikeforce Initiative to Address Rural Poverty In Four Additional States

PINEVILLE, Kentucky, January 17, 2014—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers today to announce the expansion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's StrikeForce Initiative into four additional states: Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia.  "The StrikeForce strategy of partnering public resources with local expertise is helping to grow rural economies and create jobs in persistent poverty communities," said Vilsack. "This is a strategy that is working in rural America and I am pleased that we continue to build on these efforts to bring assistance to areas that need it the most."  Vilsack also noted that the StrikeForce strategy is having concrete results in communities across the country.

Since 2010, through StrikeForce, USDA has partnered with over 400 community organizations, businesses, foundations, universities and other groups to support 80,300 projects and ushered more than $9.7 billion in investments into rural America, including:
The Farm Service Agency saw a 14 percent increase in the total direct farm loan applications received in StrikeForce areas since the beginning of the initiative.

  • In fiscal year (FY) 2013, the Farm Service Agency provided nearly $9.3 million to fund microloans in StrikeForce areas. Approximately 84 percent of the loans were provided to socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers.
  • Last year, the number of landowners applying for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs in StrikeForce areas increased by 82 percent over the previous year.
  • In FY 2013, the Rural Housing Community Facilities Program obligated a total of $68 million to fund hospitals, libraries and other projects in StrikeForce areas—a 4.5 percent increase over 2012.
  • Between 2012 and 2013, the Food and Nutrition Service doubled the redemption of SNAP benefits at farmers markets from $2 million to over $4 million in StrikeForce states—a more than 100 percent increase.
  • In 2012, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service increased the number of children in StrikeForce states receiving free or reduced price school breakfasts by 7.4 percent.

"Through StrikeForce, we are able to reach people in new ways and bring resources to them directly," said Vilsack. "We are learning better ways to help communities leverage their assets and bring opportunity to their residents."  Today's expansion brings StrikeForce attention to more than 700 rural counties, parishes, boroughs, tribal reservations, and Colonias in 20 states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

USDA identifies census tracts with over 20 percent poverty (according to American Community Survey data) to identify sub-county pockets of poverty. As areas of persistent poverty are identified, USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs and help build program participation through intensive community outreach.  StrikeForce is part of the Administration's commitment to addressing persistent poverty across America. Last week, President Obama announced the first five of twenty Promise Zones, including one in southeastern Kentucky, that target federal resources to cities, rural areas and Tribal communities suffering the worst poverty.

Visit www.usda.gov/StrikeForce to learn more.


House Kills Bill Limiting Overdose Prosecution

By Chris Suarez, Capital News Service 

RICHMOND -- Legislation protecting Virginians reporting drug overdoses was introduced earlier this month after years of lobbying by a Virginia Commonwealth University student organization, but the bill will have to wait to be heard during next year’s General Assembly.  Students for Sensible Drug Policywas the VCU group instrumental in helping introduce House Bill 557, Safe Reporting of Overdoses. The legislation sought to provide limited legal amnesty to anyone reporting a drug overdose. 
The bill aimed to protect anyone experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose --whether from a controlled substance or synthetic cannabinoid -- according to VCU SSDP Co-president and Treasurer Rose Bono.   "According to the office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia, hundreds of people die every year from unintentional drug overdose,” Bono said. “This is an important issue to the public health of Virginia.”
The bill also provided protections for minors suffering from an alcohol-related overdose, addressing an issue common to colleges and universities throughout the country.  “We’ve met parents and relatives of those who have died of overdose,” said the bill’s chief patron Delegate Betsy Carr, D-Richmond. “This (bill) is an attempt to save those lives.”
The bill was heard in the Court of Justice subcommittee earlier this week. After deliberation, the subcommittee recommended “laying it on the table,” essentially ending discussion on the bill during this session of the General Assembly, according to VCU SSDP President Jurriaan Van Den Hurk.
Bono and Van Den Hurk say the VCU group plans to continue addressing the issue in the future.  Bono says the drafting of this legislation has been in the works over the course of several years with help from former organization leaders and the national SSDP office.  After much lobbying and organizing, Carr adopted the issue by becoming chief patron of the bill. 
The national SSDP office encourages its local chapters to lobby for regulations in their respective universities that would protect students experiencing overdoses. Because VCU falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Richmond, university officials told members of the SSDP they would have to appeal to city legislators to adopt a law for the commonwealth, according to Bono. 
During the subcommittee meeting, Delegate Jackson Miller, R-Manassas motioned to table the bill, citing unintended consequences the bill could cause such as providing amnesty  to drug dealers selling far more harmful adulterated drugs.   "If someone was selling a bad batch of heroin and making people sick, and the police would show up at an overdose caused by that, the (police) wouldn’t be able to do anything about it,” Van Den Hurk said “They (subcommittee) said the bill wasn’t written well enough to account for those loose ends.”
Van Den Hurk says the organization isn’t giving up on the issue. They will wait to see which members will take up leadership roles and shape a new policy to address the issue once he and Bono graduate this semester.

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