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April 2018

Southside Virginia Community College wants you!!  There is still time to register for classes and  apply for Financial Aid for the upcoming semester starting August 20.  Come by to see us...  Go to SVCC's Christanna Campus in Alberta or the John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville or a location  in Emporia, Blackstone, Chase City, South Boston,  or South HIll for individual help or visit SVCC online at Southside.edu.  Now is the time, SVCC is the place!!!!!

"G. G. Hunter"

to all you out there with a pet
I ask that you listen up
it matters not if it's a kitten
or a pup.
 
They will not live forever
though at times this may seem
yes in all reality
this is but a dream.
 
Now they are a great companion
and all will return your love
yet don't forget what's written
in the paragraph above.
 
Well I had a cat named G. G.
and I thought she would forever be
now it seems the Lord did need her
a little more than me.
 
The Vet told me there was nothing else
that for her he could do
so I took her home and held on my lap
repeating that my love was true.
 
She look up like she understood
and snuggled in real tight
well the one I was counting on forever
did pass away that night.
 
Well for all the love I gave her
I got it back two-fold
yes and I learned about forever
before I got to old.
 
Roy E. Schepp

Greensville County High School SkillsUSA organization attended Virginia State Leadership Conference

 

The Greensville County High School SkillsUSA organization attended the 54th Virginia State SkillsUSA Leadership Conference April 20-21, 2018 in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The conference was attended by the following members:  Nathanial Grizzard, Mae Hammad, Destiny Johnson, Antonio Atchinson, Neal Powell, Samantha Dickens, Taylor Powell, Kamaray Sykes, and Joshua Sutton. The following club advisors were in attendance Jerry Brown, Brittany Wright, Marsha Campbell, and James E. Wright. Students’ competition areas include Presidential Volunteer Service Award, American Degree, promotional bulletin board, and chapter display. The chapter also competed in the Chapter of Excellence program. Nathanial Grizzard, Kamaray Sykes and Mae Hammad represented the chapter as voting delegates. The students placed in the following competitions:

  • Chapter Display: First Place: Neal Powell, Destiny Johnson, Antonio Atchinson

  • Promotional Bulletin Board: Third Place: Samantha Dickens, Taylor Powell, and Joshua Sutton

  • American Degree- Samantha Dickens

Service usually springs from selflessness. Through the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, the President of the United States recognizes volunteers for sustained service.

The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes individuals, families and groups who have achieved a certain standard — measured by the number of hours served over a 12-month period or cumulative hours earned over the course of a lifetime.

The following students won the Presidential Volunteer Service Award:

Gold Level- Samantha Dickens

Silver Level- Taylor Powell

Bronze Level- Neal Powell and Maci Powell

The chapter also received the following awards:

  • Chapter of Excellence- Chapter of Quality Award
  • Chapter of Excellence- Chapter of Distinction Award- Gold Level
  • 100% Membership Award
  • Plus Member Award

The Chapter Excellence Program relates to the development of personal, workplace and technical skills.  The framework actualizes SkillsUSA’s mission “to empower members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens”.  It also serves as the blueprint for career readiness--- our ultimate goal as an organization.  Greensville is one of only two schools to earn Gold out of 125 Virginia schools.

The first place winners will represent the state of Virginia at the National Leadership Conference June 26-30, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky.  Students will be sponsoring fundraisers during April- May. Please support the club in their efforts to attend the national conference.

Members will be selling tickets for the Annual Boston Butt sale starting this month until the day of the sale, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.  Please see any member to purchase a Boston Butt party pack for $50.00 or Boston Butt Only for $35.00.

If you would like to make a donation to support the club, send to Greensville County High School SkillsUSA Club, 403 Harding Street Emporia, Virginia, 23847. If you need additional information please contact one of the advisors: Jerry Brown, Brittany Wright, Gerald Wozinak, Marsha Campbell, Stephen Wells, or James E. Wright at 434-634-2195.  Greensville County High School SkillsUSA would like to extend a special thanks to the GCHS CTE Department, GCHS faculty, parents, and community for their support and donations to the club.

A New Generation Takes the Forefront in Gun Control Debate

(Editor's Note: This is part three of a four part series by the Student Journalists of theVCU Capital News Service. Alexandra Sosik has prepared a timeline of school shootings that is available here.)

By Alexandra Sosik and Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

For the second time in as many months, thousands of students throughout the country united in a national school walkout last week, demanding government action on gun control with their piercing cry of “never again.”

The walkout marked 19 years since Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris opened fire in Columbine High School in Colorado, murdering 12 fellow students and a teacher. In the aftermath of that bloodbath, President Bill Clinton urged Congress to pass gun control laws. But nothing happened then – or after the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 or Las Vegas last fall.

But after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, the political winds seemed to have shifted in favor of gun control. What made the difference? Generation Z – roughly defined as those born in the mid-1990s through the early 2000s.

On March 24, 17-year-old Harry Kelso stood atop a van with a megaphone in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. He looked at the crowd of some 5,000 gun control advocates gathered before him at the Richmond March for Our Lives.

“I pray for the school year without the drills and the hide-and-lock exercises we’ve experienced since elementary school that remind us of the ever-present danger we face,” Kelso, a senior at Hermitage High School in Henrico, told the crowd. “I pray for the day I don’t have to pray about this anymore.”

Cameron Kasky – the 17-year-old firebrand and Marjory Stoneman Douglas student who made a name challenging Florida Sen. Marco Rubio during a CNN town hall – echoed a similar message at the main rally happening simultaneously in Washington, D.C. More than 800,000 people attended that demonstration.

“My generation, having spent our entire lives seeing mass shooting after mass shooting, has learned our voices are powerful and our votes matter,” Kasky said. “We must educate ourselves and start having conversations that keep our country moving forward. And we will. We hereby promise to fix the broken system we’ve been forced into and create a better world for the generations to come.”

Kelso and Kasky, in Richmond and D.C., respectively, were two of the many voices participating in the March for Our Lives – a protest sparked by the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. The protest, like a school walkout staged 10 days earlier, was organized primarily by high school-age youths.

It all started Feb. 16, two days after the shooting in Parkland, when the hashtag #NeverAgain began trending on Twitter. That became the impetus for a rally that was originally planned for Washington but then spread to cities and towns across the nation and world.

The movement, inspired by tragedy and fueled by anger, has used social media to galvanize members of Generation Z. Among other tactics, they have confronted businesses and excoriated political leaders who accept financial donations from the National Rifle Association.

The students have had some success. Just weeks after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, Florida enacted a gun-control law that bans rapid-fire “bump stocks” and raises the minimum age for buying a firearm from 18 to 21. Although Virginia did not follow suit, Democratic legislators have formed a committee to consider ways to stop gun violence, and Republican lawmakers appointed a panel to bolster school safety.

It’s not unusual to see Kasky or other survivors of the Parkland shooting such as David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez on cable news promoting their cause nationally. In Richmond, students such as Kelso and Armstrong High School freshman Corey Stuckey lead the charge.

The recent activity among young people surrounding gun control has been a long time coming.

Since 1982, there have been 98 shootings in the U.S. in which three or more people were killed. Sixteen of those incidents happened at schools. Of all mass shootings, Marjory Stoneman Douglas had the seventh-highest number of fatalities; Sandy Hook ranked fourth; and Virginia Tech, where 32 people were killed in 2007, was third.

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In response, parents created the Sandy Hook Promise to “prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.”

But the Sandy Hook tragedy did not prompt governmental action on gun control. After the Columbine massacre in 1999, Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, explained why such incidents don’t necessarily result in new laws.

“The Columbine shootings have energized the gun-control debate, and moreover, they have given the emotional edge to the gun-control advocates,” Sabato told the Denver Post. “However, an edge in a debate is not an edge in Congress or the state legislatures.”

Today’s generation of students advocating gun control faces a similar test, and questions remain about whether they can impact the 2018 midterm election.

“One of the most difficult times for a movement is after the initial burst of energy when grinding work needs to be done,” said Derek Sweetman of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. “The movement will not end on Election Day, but I do expect many students in the movement will view the results as a measure of their influence, and therefore will work toward that date.”

The Sandy Hook survivors were too young to understand the magnitude of their tragedy, much less utilize technology to express their emotions. The Columbine survivors lived in a pre-digital age. The students leading the #NeverAgain movement, Sweetman said, are in the right place at the right time.

“Our political environment has destabilized some established political truths, and that has left more room for real action than we saw after Sandy Hook,” Sweetman said. “The students are taking advantage of that.”

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said the students’ efforts have already been more successful than previous attempts to influence gun policies. For example, Kaine noted, Walmart agreed to stop selling firearms to people under 21; Kroger decided to stop selling guns altogether in its Fred Meyer stores; and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would stop selling assault-style rifles.

Kaine, a Democrat, also credited activity in Congress to young activists. A spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March lifted a decades-long ban that prevented the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on the causes of gun violence. In addition, the bill prods federal agencies to upload records into the background-check system for gun purchases.

“I had grown somewhat despondent in my efforts with the General Assembly and Congress. But then I saw the students of this country ... standing up and saying to adults, ‘What matters more – our safety or political contributions?’” Kaine told students at the March rally in Richmond. “Now I have more hope because of you.”

Scott Barlow, a member of the Richmond School Board, said he has been inspired by the students’ grassroots activism.

“Students haven’t had the opportunity to lend their voice in this debate. Now they’re bringing the perspective of people who are most impacted by school shootings, and the most impacted by gun violence in our city,” Barlow said about the rally. “It was the first time in a long time I felt optimistic about our ability to legislate gun safety.”

Tuition and Student Debt Increasing in Virginia

 

By Adam Hamza, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — Most students who graduated from Virginia’s public colleges and universities last year left not only with a degree but also with a financial burden: an average student loan debt of about $30,000.

At Virginia Commonwealth University, once among Virginia’s most affordable institutions, students owed an average of nearly $31,000. As college and university tuition continues to rise, new laws that take effect this summer aim to help students get a grip on how much they owe.

Tuition increases have become the norm as decreases in state funding have pushed universities to boost prices to cover costs. These tuition hikes coincide with statewide trends in higher education costs and student loan debt.

At VCU, officials are proposing an increase of $844, or 6.4 percent, in tuition and mandatory fees for the coming academic year as part of the 2018-19 budget, said Karol Kain Gray, vice president of finance and budget.

Other institutions also are raising tuition. Virginia Tech approved a 2.9 percent hike in tuition and mandatory fees, the University of Virginia adopted a 2.5 percent increase and the College of William & Mary raised tuition 6.5 percent for incoming in-state undergraduate students. Current William & Mary students will continue to pay the tuition in effect when they were admitted.

From 2007 to 2017, college tuition and fees in Virginia have increased each year by an average of $578, or 6 percent. During the decade, VCU’s tuition and fees have increased annually by an average of  $743, or 8.4 percent.

This year, in-state undergraduate students at VCU paid $13,624 in tuition and mandatory fees. That was the fifth-highest amount among Virginia’s 15 four-year public colleges and universities. VCU’s tuition has more than doubled — it’s up 120 percent — since the 2007-08 school year. Back then, in-state undergraduates at VCU paid $6,196 — the fifth-lowest amount in Virginia.

At a recent forum hosted by the VCU Student Government Association, Gray outlined the university’s budget goals and explained how the school uses its funds and why it needs a tuition increase. About 40 people attended the session, including students, staff and members of the Board of Visitors.

For VCU, the 6.4 percent increase is part of a $33 million request to fund its “highest priority” needs and other academic and administrative priorities. Some of the high-priority needs, according to Gray, are raises for teaching and research faculty and adjuncts, and additional need- and merit-based financial aid for undergraduates.

VCU’s average instructor salary of $49,000 is lower than other four-year institutions in Virginia. Tech, U.Va., George Mason University and William & Mary have average instructor salaries between $53,600 and $63,700, according to the American Association of University Professors 2016-17 report on university salaries.

“We have to start looking at where we’re going and at having reasonable increases to support the things we deserve to have,” Gray said. “This hurts our ranking, it hurts our [faculty] retention and it’s a morale issue.”

Tripp Wiggins, an 18-year-old VCU freshman, said he came to the forum looking for fiscal transparency from the university. He left feeling like there wasn’t enough information about why VCU is relying on tuition as its primary source of revenue.

“I feel like I understand how the funds are being managed,” Wiggins said. “But I still don’t have a clear understanding why the burden [of education costs] is going towards student tuition when there are other ways of getting revenue.”

From a Public Good to a Private Benefit?

In Virginia, the state shares the cost of education with students by providing general funds to universities. Universities then set tuition based on how much state funding they will receive. This educational and general fund is used to finance faculty salaries, financial aid and improvements to classrooms and academic buildings.

In 2004, Virginia set a cost-sharing goal: The state would cover 67 percent of the educational cost, and students would cover the remaining 33 percent through tuition. But it hasn’t worked out that way.

According to the 2017-18 tuition and fees report by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, students are paying for 53 percent of the cost of their education, with the state picking up 47 percent.

Changes in state funding and the economy have pushed universities to increase tuition and fees to maintain their academic standards and growth, officials say.

At the VCU budget forum, Dr. Charles Klink, senior vice provost for student affairs, said this represented a shift in the perception of higher education overall.

“At one point people saw higher education as a public good. Now it seems more like a private benefit,” Klink said.

For students paying for their education through loans, lawmakers in the most recent General Assembly session passed new laws to protect borrowers from drowning in debt.

Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, introduced legislation that would help students manage their federal loans, while Del. Marcia “Cia” Price, D-Newport News, sponsored a bill to create a student loan ombudsman. Both bills have been signed by Gov. Ralph Northam and will take effect July 1.

Obenshain’s bill, SB 568, requires public colleges and universities to provide students with an annual statement about their federal loans. This statement includes how much money they have borrowed so far, the potential amount they will owe and estimated monthly payments.

“I want to ensure that college students know how much they are actually borrowing and how much it will cost them in interest so that hopefully we can help get under control the overwhelming debt that our students often face upon graduation,” Obenshain said.

Price’s bill, HB 1138, created a state student loan ombudsman within SCHEV. According to the bill summary, this office is will be an advocate for borrowers by helping them understand their rights and responsibilities under their loan. The office also will review and attempt to resolve complaints from borrowers.

There are other methods universities can use to keep tuition hikes low while maintaining growth. Gray said one way is increasing the number of out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition.

At VCU, for example, 10 percent of students are from out of state, according to SCHEV reports. Tech and U.Va. enroll about 30 percent from outside Virginia.

Moses Clements VT Scholarship Golf Tournament

Over the last 20+ years the Emporia/Roanoke Rapids Hokie Club and Alumni Chapter (ERRHC) has supported freshmen entering Virginia Tech with scholarships exceeding $40,000.  These donations have been funded by hole sponsors and teams entering the annual golf tournament as this is the one fund raiser annually.

This year the tournament has a new name as the Scholarship Committee has been run for years by Moses Clements, our beloved Hokie who passed away this past year.  The Scholarship and the Tournament will now bear his name Moses Clements VT Scholarship Golf Tournament, in remembrance of his dedicated service to the club and especially the Scholarship Program.  It was his annual joy to review and present the scholarships at the summer dinner.

This year the tournament will be held on Friday May 11th at the Emporia Country Club at noon.  The event will start with a box lunch and open driving range.  There will be a shotgun start at 1:00 PM.  The cost to play is $60 per player which includes golf, golf cart, green fees, goody bag, beverages, 2 mulligans, box lunch and hors d’oeuvres after the event at the awards ceremony.

The Emporia Country Club is located at 578 Country Club Road, Emporia.

Hole sponsorships are $100 and should be reserved in the next 10 days as the new signs will need to be produced and placed on the holes.

To enter the tournament or to be a hole sponsor, please contact Barry Grizzard at barry.grizzard@littleoilco.com or 804.929.3146 or any ERRHC Board Member – Wilson Clary, Meade Horne, Mike Roach, Jeff Robinson, Hall Squire, Kevin Swenson, Brian Thrower or Roly Weaver.

The registration form may be downloaded here.

KAINE, MANCHIN, CAPITO INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO CARE FOR CHILDREN IMPACTED BY OPIOID ABUSE

Bristol Virginia Public Schools Superintendent: this bill ‘will equip us to better achieve our vision of enabling all students to thrive’

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Handle with Care Act to connect children who experience traumatic events, including domestic violence situations, drug raids, overdoses, and more, to school resources that are designed to provide the child with trauma-informed care.

“All too often, traumatic events have a devastating ripple effect across children’s lives. Given the right resources, schools can play a critical support role for kids impacted by trauma and provide them with a safe haven. I’m proud to partner with Senators Manchin and Capito to help ensure students affected by the opioid crisis and other trauma get the resources they need to thrive,” Kaine said.

“Unfortunately, schools are seeing more and more students dealing with trauma outside of the normal school day,” said Dr. Keith Perrigan, Superintendent of Bristol Virginia Public Schools. “Even though we try to keep that in mind in all of our interactions with students, this bill ensures that lines of communication are open between community agencies as we all try to support our most vulnerable students. The Handle with Care Act will equip us to better achieve our vision of enabling all students to thrive, regardless of the obstacles they may face.”

“We are happy to support legislation that makes the Handle with Care initiative a national model for replication. Crittenton Services, Inc., in West Virginia has been a key partner in this initiative and can attest to the difference it makes when schools, law enforcement and their partners work together with a sense of urgency to mitigate the impact of childhood trauma and support healing for children and youth, particularly marginalized girls and young women, across this country,” said Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, President of the National Crittenton Foundation.

The Handle with Care Act of 2018 is important legislation that will boost coordination between law enforcement and school-level personnel to better support students affected by trauma-related events. We must do all we can to ensure these students receive timely interventions to mitigate the impact of trauma so they can focus on learning,” said Dr. L. Earl Franks, Executive Director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

“Nothing offends a principal more than the loss of human potential. Yet every, day, principals see that potential robbed from their students by an opioid epidemic that devastates their schools and their families. With every student who suffers the trauma of opioid abuse, we lose a bit more of our future. I applaud Senators Manchin, Kaine, and Capito for casting a spotlight on this public health crisis and, more important, for championing legislation to battle it,” said Joann Bartoletti, Executive Director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The Handle with Care program, which originated in West Virginia, is as simple as law enforcement sending a “Handle with Care” alert to the child’s school. While the school does not receive any information other than the child’s name and the alert, it enables the school to exercise the trauma-informed training provided in coordination with the Handle with Care program. The goal of the program is to promote safe schools, and communities, while ensuring that every child is able to thrive in school even when they face trauma at home. 

The Handle with Care Act would authorize $10 million in federal funding to establish 5-year demonstration grants for states to address the impact of substance use related and other trauma on children and youth in public schools by strengthening or building Handle with Care programs. These programs would:

  1. Develop and share evidence-based or evidence-informed training for trauma informed care and provide that training in schools connected to the program.
  2. Connect students who experience trauma at home to those resources in schools via the “Handle with Care” alert from law enforcement.
  3. Require programs to report on the success of the Handle with Care programs in improving student outcomes.

Endorsed By:            

  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • AASA – School Superintendents Association
  • American School Counselor Association
  • National Association for School Psychologists
  • National Education Association
  • The National Crittenton Association
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • American Psychological Association
  • West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice

Examination of NRA Spending Shows a Tactic of Hidden Influence

(Editor's Note: This is the second part of a four part series produced by the Student Jurnalists of the VCU Capital News Service.)

By Jacob Taylor, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – All 33 bills related to gun control and gun issues in Virginia were killed during the 2018 General Assembly session by a Republican-majority House of Delegates committee that received more than $4,000 in donations from the National Rifle Association.

The NRA uses money to influence and impact gun reform on all levels of government through political donations and independent expenditures. Since the NRA is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, its tax returns are public records. These records give a glimpse into the amount of money the organization actually spends.

For the year ending in December 2016, the NRA’s 990 form Schedule C ‒ the most recent 990 form available online ‒ shows that it spent $5.45 million nationally on political campaign activities.

The NRA also spent $33.3 million for Section 527 exempt function activities, which are defined as “all functions that influence or attempt to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any individual to any federal, state, or local public office or office in a political organization, or the election of Presidential or Vice-Presidential electors, whether or not such individual or electors are selected, nominated, elected, or appointed,” according to the Internal Revenue Service website.

Yet, these numbers are small compared to the amount of money the NRA spends on independent expenditures.

The National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonprofit organization, tracked 5,133 NRA independent expenditures over the last 13 years, on local, state and federal levels, totaling $115.9 million. Some of these expenditures include television, internet and radio advertising, postage and phone calls.

At the state level, specifically in the Virginia General Assembly, the numbers show a general trend: Republicans receive the majority of donations. Not a single dollar was donated to Democratic legislators by the NRA in 2017.

The largest individual donations in 2017 ‒ $1,500 ‒ went to House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox of Colonial Heights and Del. Michael Webert and Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, both of Fauquier County.

NRA donations to all Virginia candidates and committees in 2017 totaled $31,580, while current Republican legislators received $16,450, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

A further examination of contributions for all Virginia candidates and committees, from 1996 to 2017, showed the NRA spent $685,478 on Republicans, including $85,660 donated to the Republican Party of Virginia. During that same time span, $88,007 was spent in donations to current assembly Republicans, according to VPAP.

“I do think that the NRA has an oversized voice,” Del. John J. Bell, D-Loudoun, said. “Some of the contributions have had an undue influence, and in Virginia, it’s kind of a worst-case scenario because we have unlimited contribution amounts.”

Bell is a member of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee, where every Republican member received an average of $366 in donations from the NRA during the 2018 legislative session, for a total of $4,400. Bell also said that two NRA lobbyists had been present at nearly every meeting during this year’s session. Hiring lobbyists to go to committee meetings is another tactic used by the NRA to spread influence.

One of those lobbyists is Beatriz Gonzalez, who works for Capital Results LLC and is retained by the NRA, according to VPAP. She did not return an email requesting an interview.

DRUG TAKEBACK DAY EVENTS TO BE HELD ACROSS SOUTHSIDE VIRGINIA

~Attorney General Herring reminds Virginians to dispose of unused prescriptions, especially opioids, at one of many drop-off sites across the Commonwealth~

RICHMOND (April 24, 2018) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring is encouraging Virginians to take advantage of Saturday's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to dispose of unused or expired medications, especially prescription opioids, before they can be misused, abused, or accidentally ingested. Law enforcement agencies, community partners, and members of the Attorney General's team will be stationed at dozens of locations throughout the Commonwealth to accept medications for proper disposal. Takeback locations in the Southwide area, which will be open from 10am - 2pm, are listed below, and you can find a site near you by searching here.

"One of the simplest things we can all do to fight the opioid epidemic and make our homes and our communities safer is to get rid of unused prescriptions before they are misused, abused, or even accidentally ingested by a child or grandchild," said Attorney General Herring. "We know that opioid abuse often starts with drugs from the medicine cabinet, not the streets. Taking just a few minutes of your weekend to clean out your medicine cabinet and get rid of unneeded medication can be a huge step forward in making your home and you family safer."

There is a strong link between misuse of prescription opioids, opioid addiction, and even subsequent use of heroin once prescriptions become too expensive or are no longer accessible. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Heroin abuse is 19 times more likely among those who abuse prescription opioids.
  • Half of young people who used heroin got started by abusing prescription opioids.
  • One in fifteen individuals who misuse prescription opioid painkillers will try heroin within 10 years.
  • Studies show a link between the availability of prescription and illicit drugs and the likelihood of abuse.

In Virginia, opioid overdose deaths have risen steadily since 2010:

  • Heroin overdose deaths have risen more than 1,060% between 2010 and 2015, from 48 to 558.
  • Fentanyl deaths have risen by over 1,500% percent from 2007 to 2017, from 48 to 770.
  • Prescription opioid overdose deaths have risen 26% between 2007 and 2017, from 400 deaths to 504.

Attorney General Herring has made combating the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic a top priority, attacking the problem with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcementeducation, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources and made prescription drug disposal kits availableacross the Commonwealth. Attorney General Herring recently outlined his recommended next steps for combating the crisis, focusing on law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community, and recovery, treatment, prevention and education. He is also participating in a multistate investigation into the practices of drug manufacturers and distributors to determine what role they may have played in creating or prolonging the crisis.

Drug Takeback locations include:

DANVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

CENTRA MEDICAL GROUP DANVILLE 
PARKING LOT - WEST END OF THE BUILDING

414 PARK AVE

DANVILLE

VA, 24541

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

MT. HERMON SHOPPING CENTER 
FOOD LION PARKING LOT

4048 FRANKLIN TURNPIKE

DANVILLE

VA, 24540

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE 
IN FRONT OF SHERIFF'S OFFICE

21 NORTH MAIN STREET

CHATHAM

VA, 24531

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

FOOD LION 
PARKING LOT

100 VADEN STREET

GRETNA

VA, 24557

MARTINSVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

MARTINSVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT 
FRONT ENTRANCE

65 WEST CHURCH ST.

MARTINSVILLE

VA, 24112

LAWRENCEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT

LAWRENCEVILLE MUNICIPAL BUILDING 
AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE POLICE DEPARTMENT

400 N. MAIN STREET

LAWRENCEVILLE

VA, 23868

FARMVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT/LONGWOOD UNIVERSITY PD

MIDTOWN SQUARE 
IN FRONT OF CHICK-FIL-A

156 S. SOUTH STREET

FARMVILLE

VA, 23901

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE DIVISION III HQS 
POC: SGT DREW MCCORMICK

240 THIRD DIVISION LOOP

APPOMATTOX

VA, 24522

APPOMATTOX COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

KROGER

7851 RICHMOND HWY

APPOMATTOX

VA, 24522

AMELIA COUNTY SHERFF'S OFFICE

AMELIA PHARMACY INC. 
FRONT SIDEWALK BY STORE ENTRANCE

15412 PATRICK HENRY HWY.

AMELIA

VA, 23002

AMELIA COUNTY SHERFF'S OFFICE

RITE AID PHARMACY 
FRONT SIDEWALK BY STORE ENTRANCE

15105 PATRICK HENRY HWY

AMELIA

VA, 23002

 

From Gun Shows to Capitol Debates, Firearms Are in the Crosshairs

Gun Culture in Virginia

By Kevin Walter Johnson, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Forty days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a day after nationwide rallies organized by student advocates against gun violence, Virginia’s ninth gun show of the year was held at Richmond Raceway. Standing beneath the Pepsi sign in the food court of the exhibition hall, two men with rifles on their backs discussed current events.

“I’ve been deliberately avoiding the news. They’re lying just to attack us,” one man said. The other replied, “There’ll be a war coming if they keep this up; they’re asking for it.”

That conversation reflected the tone of many people attending the Showmasters Gun Show on March 25. Through the sets of double doors and past the state’s most well-defended hot dog stand, the tables of red, white, blue and camouflage stretched to the back of the room. The expo center held more than 750 vendors, according to the event organizers, selling tactical gear, military history and especially firearms. Attendees of all ages shuffled between the collapsible tables that displayed guns of all calibers. These veterans, hunters and gun enthusiasts offered a glimpse of the modern culture surrounding guns in Virginia.

*****

To understand part of the gun culture in Virginia, consider the results of the 2017 gubernatorial election.

Republican candidate Ed Gillespie ran a campaign emphasizing the importance of the Second Amendment, a message reinforced through donations and advertisements from the National Rifle Association.

To counter this, Democratic nominee Ralph Northam supported gun control legislation and spoke out against gun violence after the Las Vegas shooting in October. In the general election, Northam beat Gillespie 54 percent to 45 percent.

After the election, the debate shifted to the Virginia Capitol, the most prominent battleground for gun-related legislation. Dozens of firearm-related bills were introduced in the House of Delegates and state Senate.

Democrats pushed for gun control bills including efforts to establish universal background checks for gun buying and to ban bump stocks and similar gun modifications. Republicans advocated bills to expand gun rights, including a measure to repeal the prohibition on carrying firearms or other dangerous weapons into a place of worship.       

In the end, almost all of the bills failed in what Gov. Northam characterized as a bipartisan legislative session.

On March 2, the friction over guns and gun legislation boiled over in the House and led to a heated speech from Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper. He admonished the Democratic delegates for their criticism of the Republican Party in the wake of the school shooting, furthering the divide between the two parties on the issue. The Democratic response was similarly impassioned, with many representatives calling for an apology from Freitas.

*****

At the March 25 gun show, another symbol of Virginia’s gun culture stood 30 feet from the entryway, behind a table and handing out stickers that read “Guns Save Lives.”

That table, manned by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, was neatly set with pamphlets and flyers carrying the group’s information. The VCDL spokesman at the gun show, who asked not to be identified, described the group as a “grassroots gun rights organization protecting Virginia citizens’ right to the Second Amendment.” The group has received attention from the news media since its founding in 1994 for attacking many Democratic state officials for their positions on gun control.

“We’re here to provide information and a sense of representation for the gun owners of Virginia,” said the spokesman. “While we lobby through grassroots methods, we are totally bipartisan.”

The group’s website proclaims its philosophy to “go on the offensive.” Information on membership and events are placed between articles decrying the “Dangers of Universal Background Checks” and alleging a media bias against firearms.

*****

While Virginia gun culture is most exposed in the public setting of a gun show, a more hyperactive and radical portion of gun enthusiasts live in anonymity online.

On vaguntrader.com, internet servers provide a home base for more than the buying, selling and trading of guns. The online forum plays host to hundreds of topic boards, organizing site visitors into categories ranging from posts about recent Virginia gun legislation to members’ recent fishing trips to blatant political statements.

In a forum post titled “WARNING!!! Our Governor has us in his sights,” anonymous users attack Democratic legislators and officials both in state and national politics for their efforts to enact gun control measures.

When messaged for a comment on these and similar posts, no site moderators responded. The site’s thousands of members create a web of gun owners in Virginia, hidden in internet anonymity and holding an important role in Virginia’s gun culture.

*****

The NRA’s registration table was the first and last thing visitors saw at the Richmond gun show, placed squarely in front of the entrance. For groups like the NRA and the VCDL, visibility plays a crucial role in their establishment of modern gun conventions in Virginia. These groups act as the face of gun culture in the state, while sites like vaguntrader.comcontribute a buried forum for the spread of far more than weapons.

In the parking lot outside the exhibition hall, the sound of conservative radio host Alex Jones’ show “Infowars” projected from the open door of a Dodge pickup, an older man in the driver’s seat with his rifle next to him. When approached, he refused to speak about the event or his personal views on the culture of guns in the state. He shut his door and turned up the volume.

“These are dangerous times for gun owners,” the voice on the radio yelled. “Be prepared to defend yourself and your rights at any cost.”

2018 SVCC Corrections Awards

Southside Virginia Community College recently hosted the 10th Annual Corrections Awards Banquet  sponsored by Lawrenceville Correctional Center at the Christanna Campus in Alberta.  This night recognizes an officer of the year and employee of the year for Southside Virginia's correctional facilities.  Those recognized are (Front Row, Left to Right) Dora D. Hardy, employee for Baskerville Correctional Center, Officer Kathy Turner for Greensville Correctional Center, Officer Regina Pearson for Lawrenceville Correctional Center, Officer Joyce H. Bruce for Baskerville Correctional, Lt. Cynthia Power for Deerfield Correctional Center, Dinah Kreitz, employee for Lawrenceville  Correctional, Cecilia Presseau, employee for Lunenburg Correctional Center, and Sgt. Elsie Pennington for Lunenburg Correctional and (Back row, L to R) Sylvia Lawrence, employee for Greensville Correctional, guest speaker Warden Eddie L. Pearson of Greensville, Elizabeth Carr, employee for Deerfield Correctional, Sheron Jenkins, employee for Dillwyn Correctional Center, Officer Dolly Scruggs for Dillwyn, Pamela Labriola for Nottoway Correctional Center, Officer Tyrone Craighead for Nottoway Correctional Center, Officer John Towns for Buckingham Correctional Center, and Jennifer Andrews, Employee for Buckingham  Halifax Correctional  #23 was unable to attend but awards went to Officer Jonathan Carey and Rickey Childress, employee. 

USDA Rural Development Innovation Center Launches Interactive Webpage to Share Best Practices for Rural Economic Development

RICHMOND, April 25, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today unveiled a new interactive webpage to identify best practices for building rural prosperity.

“Rural communities need forward-thinking strategies to build strong, resilient futures,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s Rural Development Innovation Center is focused on identifying unique opportunities, pioneering new, creative solutions to tough challenges, and making Rural Development’s programs easier to understand, use and access.”

The webpage highlights effective strategies that have been used to create jobs, build infrastructure, strengthen partnerships and promote economic development in rural America.

An interactive feature allows webpage visitors to submit comments on ways USDA can improve Rural Development program delivery. Innovation Center staff will review these recommendations and direct customers to resources, services and expertise that will help their communities create transformative solutions to complex rural challenges.

The webpage also highlights USDA resources that can be used for investments in infrastructure and innovation. These resources include USDA’s Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grant ProgramCommunity Connect Grant Program, and Community Facilities Programs.

Secretary Perdue established the Rural Development Innovation Center to streamline, modernize and strengthen the delivery of Rural Development programs. To do this, the Innovation Center is focused on improving customer service to rural communities and increasing rural prosperity through strategic partnerships and capacity-building, data analytics and evaluation, and regulatory reform.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump, which included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Greensville County High School Scores $986 Athletics Grant from California Casualty

(L to R): Assistant Superintendent - Roland 'Tommy' Coleman, Coach - Charles D. Ross, Greensville County High School Principal - Lameka Harrison, Greensville UniServe Director Evette Wilson, Greensville County Education Association Building Rep Nateesha Maryland, California Casualty’s Scott McKenna
 
Emporia, VA, April 24, 2018 – Athletes at Greensville County High School (Emporia) will benefit from the 2018 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant program. It is one of 79 public middle schools and high schools in 32 states awarded a total of $83,000 to aid sports programs affected by tight budgets.
 
The school will use the $986 to provide new resistance bands, medicine balls and other equipment for the weight room that will benefit all PE classes and student athletes. Coach Charles Ross says the new equipment will help him provide a quality sports program at the school, and the items will have a positive effect on student-athletes for years to come.
 
Two other Virginia schools, Holston High School (Damascus) and Huguenot High School (Richmond), also received athletics grants from California Casualty this year.
 
The grant is named for California Casualty Chairman Emeritus Tom Brown, an avid sportsman who believes that teamwork, confidence and sportsmanship help develop high achievers in academics and in life.
 
Since its inception in 2011, more than $660,000 has been awarded to some 600 schools across the nation.
 
“All students should have the opportunity to compete,” said Lisa Almeida, Assistant Vice President. “California Casualty’s 67 year commitment to educators and schools also reaches to athletic fields.”
 
Public middle and high schools in the Old Dominion State with an unmet need for a sports program can try for next year; applications for the 2018/2019 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grants are now being taken at www.calcasathleticsgrant.com. The deadline for consideration is January 15, 2019.
 
California Casualty has other initiatives that give back to educators for all their hard work including the “Wherever Your Journey Takes you…We’ll be there” sweepstakes for a chance to win a Dodge Journey, www.winajourney.com; $7,500 School Lounge Makeover®, www.schoolloungemakeover.com; and $200 Help Your Classroom grants, www.calcas.com/help-your-classroom.

 
Founded in 1914, California Casualty provides the NEA® Auto & Home Insurance Program, available to VEA members. Headquartered in San Mateo, California, with Service Centers in Arizona, Colorado and Kansas, California Casualty has been led by four generations of the Brown family. To learn more about California Casualty, or to request an auto insurance quote, please visit www.calcas.com/NEA or call 1.800.800.9410.

VA, WV SENATORS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO RENAME DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AS ‘DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT’

~ Bipartisan legislation would recognize Department’s focus on increasing economic opportunities in rural communities ~

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced bipartisan legislation that would rename the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The change would accurately reflect theDepartment’s increasing focus on improving the quality of life of more than 45 million Americans living in rural areas. The Department already provides significant financial resources and technical assistance to rural communities in the form of loans, loan guarantees, and grants that help support economic development in these areas. Renaming the agency would help highlight its mission of providing rural communities with access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, healthcare, and other essential resources.

“President Lincoln called USDA ‘The People’s Department’ because, dating back to its founding in 1862, it has always been the primary government entity charged with boosting economic development in rural communities. But at the time of USDA’s creation, nearly half of all Americans lived on farms, compared to just 2 percent today,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan bill would highlight the USDA’s ongoing efforts to help rural communities thrive and underscore that part of its mission is increasing economic opportunity in rural America.”

“USDA plays an instrumental role in improving the lives of millions of Americans living in rural areas—especially in states like West Virginia,” said Sen. Capito. “The department has provided West Virginians access to increased broadband connectivity, improved health services, and critical infrastructure, and remains an important partner in these and other efforts. Renaming USDA will make it possible to recognize the agency’s role in creating more economic opportunity in rural communities, as well as its increasing role in rural development.”

“Today, the Department of Agriculture does more than provide assistance to farmers, it provides residents in rural areas in West Virginia with financial and technical assistance to confront the challenges many areas currently face,” said Sen. Manchin. “That’s why I believe the Department should be renamed and known for the services it should be focusing on, such as improving access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, healthcare, and other essential resources. Last year, I co-chaired the Appalachia Initiative where I discussed ways to address the challenges the rural communities in West Virginia face. This legislation will help shine a light on the Department of Agriculture’s vital work to ensure rural America does not get left behind.”

“USDA plays a critical role in promoting infrastructure and economic development in rural America. Too many rural communities lack clean drinking water, reliable broadband internet, and adequate health and transportation resources,” said Sen. Kaine. “The rural development mission of USDA is just as important as its agriculture, food safety, and nutrition missions and should be reflected in its title.”

President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress in 1862 that established the United States Department of Agriculture. Currently, USDA is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad. The Department is the federal agency in charge of meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers, promoting agricultural trade and production, working to assure food safety, protecting natural resources, fostering rural communities and ending hunger in the United States and internationally. In 2012, USDA commemorated its 150th anniversary.

“Rural communities are a key pillar of America, however, they are often challenged by geographic isolation and persistent poverty. For the residents of rural America that continue to feel left behind in today’s economy, The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Act of 2017 offers a renewed focus on the economic matters specific to their community. BPC Action hopes this step by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) will better focus federal efforts around conditions in rural America and produce pragmatic solutions such as those recommended by BPC’s Appalachia Initiative,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of BPC Action.

“The National Cotton Council greatly appreciates the work and support of Sen. Warner to help address economic challenges facing the cotton industry and broader concerns in agriculture and across rural America.  We support the Senator’s efforts to highlight the critically important role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in providing rural development support and economic opportunities in our rural communities,” said Reece Langley, VP of Washington Operations of the National Cotton Council.

"America's turkey farmers appreciate Sen. Warner's support for the rural communities that supply our farm inputs and where many of the facilities that process the turkeys we raise are located. This effort to rename the Department of Agriculture "the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development" reinforces the importance of rural development in the mission of the Department and to rural communities. The National Turkey Federation thanks Sen. Warner for working to ensure the communities where our families, friends and neighbors work and go to school have access to the infrastructure and resources needed to thrive and grow" said Joel Brandenberger, President of the National Turkey Federation.  

“Historically, Rural Development programs have not been a priority within the Agriculture Department, regardless of political party in charge. We believe renaming the Department would elevate the Rural Development mission area and better reflect the importance of these programs for rural communities across the country,” said Robert A. Rapoza, Executive Secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition.

Sens. Warner and Manchin, along with Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), are co-chairs of the bipartisan Appalachia Initiative, a task force convened with the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to find pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to Appalachia’s challenges. Last year, they released a report with a set of bipartisan recommendations to boost economic growth in Appalachia. Sens. Warner, Capito, and Manchin, along with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), have also introduced bipartisan legislation to expand economic opportunity in Appalachia.

The text of the bill can be found here.

Own a Business or Live in Brunswick County? Take the Broadband Survey

Dear Editor,

Greetings from the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors!

The Board of Supervisors adopted its Vision for 2035 in February 2017 to provide a guide, or road map if you will, for our County. Among those priorities in the Vision for 2035 included the following:

Premier Location for Economic Growth and Development

In response to this goal the Board of Supervisors voted to partner with the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) - at no cost to the County — to conduct a comprehensive Broadband Needs Assessment Survey for the County to:

  • Identify gaps in broadband service,
  • Identify key vertical assets that could address the un-»“under-served areas,
  • Provide funding options for new infrastructure,
  • Define strategies for partnering with incumbent providers, and
  • Document methods for addressing broadband awareness and adoption to improve utilization for all citizens.

As you may be aware, better broadband access can enhance the quality of life for many through increased access to health services, improved communication with friends and family, and faster home entertainment streaming, as well as opportunities for working, shopping, and education from home.

I am certain that by now everyone has either seen in our local newspaper or on social media a request to go online to complete the Brunswick County Broadband Needs Assessment Survey. If you have filled out the survey we GREATLY appreciate your participation. The deadline to respond to this survey has been extended to Monday, April 30, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. The deadline to participate has been extended to permit more households and businesses an opportunity to be heard — as we stand today we are at an average of 9 % participation whereas we need to be in the 12 to 15 percent participation level to attract and be competitive with various broadband providers. The higher level of participation clearly signals that our citizens are serious about their interest in as well as showing concern for our education systems (public/private/higher ed/job retraining) and dire interest in attracting Economic Development opportunities to the County! Again, we need EVERY HOUSEHOLD OR BUSINESS to either complete a paper copy that is located at the public library, the County Government Building — Administration or Planning Offices or the Chamber of Commerce. You may still go online and complete the Broadband Needs Assesment Survey.

We look forward to your responses to the County’s Broadband Needs Assessment Survey.

Sincerely,

Barbara Jarrett Harris

Chair Brunswick County Board of Supervisors

Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. Reports First Quarter Earnings

KENBRIDGE, VA, April 23, 2018 - Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. (BMBN), the Kenbridge-based hold­ing company for Benchmark Community Bank, announced unaudited results for the first quarter of 2018.  Net income of $2,127,433, or $0.41 per share, for the first quarter of 2018 was up $459 thousand, or 27.5% over net income of $1,667,506, or $0.32 per share, for the first quarter of 2017.  Return on average assets increased from 1.20% to 1.45% and return on average equity increased from 10.43% to 12.52% when comparing the first quarter of 2018 the same period one year ago.

Loan demand remains strong.  Total loans, up by $5.9 million year-to-date, have increased by $39.8 million over the past twelve months.  Loan demand in the Henderson, NC and Wake Forest, NC markets have been the primary driver of this growth.  Total loans have increased by $7.5 million and $3.3 million, respectively, in these markets for the quarter and by $13.9 million and $21.6 million, respectively, over the past twelve months.  Yield on loans increased from 5.28% to 5.42% as the Federal Reserve continues to increase interest rates.  The result was an increase of $658 thousand, or 11.21%, in interest and fees on loans when comparing the first quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2017.

Total deposits at quarter-end amounted to $536.1 million, an increase of $12.2 million during the quarter and an increase of $29.2 million over the past twelve months.  During this time noninterest-bearing checking deposits are up $8.2 million, interest-bearing checking accounts are up $10.7 million, savings accounts are up $5.3 million, money market accounts are up $17.1 million, and time deposits are down $12.1 million.  The bank’s cost of funds has remained steady at 0.40%, resulting in a small $28 thousand increase in interest expense for the quarter.  The bank’s net interest margin increased from 4.47% to 4.71% when compared to one year ago. 

Net interest income, before the provision for loan losses, amounted to $6.35 million in the first quarter of 2018, up 11.3% from $5.70 million in the first quarter of 2017. 

Total noninterest income declined by $44 thousand, or 2.93%, as the gain on the sale of loans decreased from $292 thousand to $223 thousand for the quarter.  During the first quarter of 2017 the bank incurred a gain on the sale of securities of $52 thousand while no securities were sold during the first quarter of 2018.

Net charge-offs for the quarter amounted to $32 thousand, down from $139 thousand charged off during the first quarter of 2017.  Although charge-offs remain low and past-due loans are declining, management provisioned $156 thousand to the loan loss reserve during the first quarter of 2018, primarily as a result of loan growth.  Management provisioned $181 thousand to the reserve during the first quarter of 2017.  The current loan loss reserve stands at $4.8 million, or 0.98% of total loans. 

Foreclosed assets, at $3.2 million, are down from $3.8 million one year ago.  The bank incurred expenses, including valuation write-downs, related to foreclosed assets of $227 thousand in the first quarter.  This compares to $42 thousand expensed during the first quarter last year. 

The common stock of Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. trades on the OTC Pink marketplace under the symbol BMBN. Any stockbroker can assist with purchases of the company's stock, as well as with sales of holdings.

Benchmark Community Bank, founded in 1971, is head­quartered in Kenbridge, VA, and is the company's sole subsidiary which oper­ates twelve banking offices through­out central Southside Vir­ginia and loan production offices in Wake Forest, NC and Henderson, NC.  Additional information is available at the company’s website, www.BCBonline.com.

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  (Dollars in thousands, except per share data)
  2018   2017   2016
Assets $608,800   $576,196   $535,440
Loans (gross) $492,684   $452,823   $427,689
Deposits $536,165   $506,992   $469,501
Equity $69,399   $65,672   $61,801
Equity to Assets 11.40%   11.40%   11.54%
Loans to Deposits 91.89%   89.32%   91.09%
           
Net Income $2,127   $1,668   $1,600
Effective Tax Rate* 19.09%   30.51%   30.61%
           
Return on Avg. Equity 12.52%   10.43%   10.48%
Return on Avg. Assets 1.45%   1.20%   1.21%
Earnings per Share $0.41   $0.32   $0.31
Book Value per Share $13.49   $12.71   $11.97
*Corporate tax rate reduced from 34% to 21% as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Erma F. Vincent

Erma F. Vincent, 85, of Emporia, passed away Monday, April 23, 2018. She was the daughter of the late Joseph W. and Annie Harrell Ferguson and was also preceded in death by three brothers, Kennon Ferguson, Wade Ferguson and Clayton Ferguson and sisters, Mamie Driver and Avis Frazier.

Mrs.Vincent is survived by her husband, Arnold S. Vincent; two daughters, Vicki V. Story and husband, Robert “Bobby” and Cindy V. Holloman and husband, Ricky; two grandchildren, Brandon R. Story and wife, Kristin and Eric L. Holloman; two great-granddaughters, Allison Grace Story and Anna Morgan Story; two sisters, Ruby Pearson and Bettie Veliky; a brother, Melvin Ferguson and a number of nieces and nephews.

The funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 25 at Forest Hill Baptist Church where the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow in the church cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Forest Hill Baptist Church Cemetery Fund, 2103 Pine Log Rd, Skippers, VA 23879.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

VCU Health CMH Saved My Life

Karen Kurz, a native of Ohio, whom currently resides in Bracey, VA.

SOUTH HILL -- You might not think it’s possible to mistake an appendicitis attack for the flu, but if you ask Karen Kurz from Bracey, Virginia, she will assure you it was actually pretty easy.

Karen was scheduled for a colonoscopy on a Wednesday at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital and began her prep on Tuesday. But prior to starting the prep, she began experiencing stomach cramps, which she attributed to being hungry since you can’t eat prior to a colonoscopy.

Being a compliant patient, Karen started her prep, but quickly realized it wasn’t going to work as she got sick to her stomach. Stomach cramps, nausea and what inevitably happens when you begin prep for a colonoscopy certainly check off a lot of boxes that would lead a lay person to believe she had the flu. She also started running a slight fever that first day.

Move to day two and now the fever is rising and all the other symptoms continue unabated. She even had her husband text their son to let him know they wouldn’t be traveling to visit the grandkids that weekend because she ‘had the flu.’

Day two saw her fever spike to 102.2 with no let-up of her other symptoms. Unable to keep things down, Karen was quickly becoming dehydrated. Fast forward to day three and she finally experienced right lower quadrant abdominal pain  - severe enough abdominal pain to prompt a visit to VCU Health CMH’s Family Care.

There she was seen by Teresa Parham, nurse practitioner, and Dr. Paul Weidman.  A blood draw showed an extremely high white blood cell count, coupled with severe dehydration, nausea and pain and the Family Care providers moved her quickly to the Emergency Department.

That move, according to Karen’s husband, Ken, most likely saved her life.

“You have to know my wife to understand how tough she is,” he said. “I knew she was truly ill because she didn’t fight going to the doctor. For two days she thought she had the flu. But Teresa (Parham) took one look at her and sprang into action ordering a stat complete blood count to go along with a urinalysis and the physical exam. I firmly believe they, along with the ED staff and Dr. Michael Tozzi, saved her life. I can’t say enough good about the care provided by them and everyone at CMH.”

As Karen was wheeled from the CARE Building to the emergency department, things were already in motion. A CT confirmed a ruptured appendix which meant emergency surgery on a Thursday night.

Ken explained, “Dr. Tozzi came in and told us he would be performing the emergency appendectomy and he feared that she was going to face a serious ordeal. He explained that he would most likely have to open Karen up completely to take care of the problem.”

Normally the appendix can be removed through laparoscopic surgery, but because of the rupture, Karen would be looking at a full-blown 3-4 hour surgery.

“Karen was really, really sick,” her husband said. “When we got to the doctor’s office her blood pressure was 80 over 50 and everyone was afraid she was going into septic shock. Dr. Tozzi told me after surgery that she was in shock. This is the kind of stuff that people die from.”

According to Ken they worked in the emergency department infusing fluids into Karen prior to the surgery to get her BP up, but they also began an extensive regimen of antibiotics to battle the poison that was flooding her system from the ruptured appendix.

A three-hour surgery that saw Dr. Tozzi use about 10 liters of saline to flush Karen’s abdominal cavity saved her life.

“I can’t say enough about how everyone worked so well together, from Teresa and Dr. Weidman through the Emergency Department, Dr. Tozzi and all the nurses,” Ken said. “When someone you love experiences a life-threatening emergency, you don’t want to worry about the people taking care of that person.  I will tell you that I never once worried that she wasn’t receiving outstanding care. They kept me informed throughout the surgery, they all answered questions about what was going on, what could happen, what should happen.  It was exactly how I feel things should have been handled. They showed confidence in their abilities and I felt they were certainly capable of taking care of my wife.”

The good news is, Karen is home now after a six-day hospital stay.  She has an eight-inch incision to show for her “flu.” She does face a prolonged recovery period because of the seriousness of the surgery, cutting of her stomach muscles, and the infection because of the ruptured appendix, but the prognosis is very good.

“I believe we owe an incredible debt to VCU Health CMH, Teresa Parham, Paul Weidman, Michael Tozzi and all the other staff,” Ken said. “I know they saved Karen’s life.”

VSU Receives $249,800 Grant to Expand Urban Agriculture Education Through Distance Learning

Virginia State University has been awarded $249,800 by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to expand its urban agriculture education through distance learning.

“On behalf of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Program, I am very excited about the new grant award, which will to enable us to expand the program and to reach a wider audience through distance education,” said Dr. Leonard Githinji, Extension specialist, sustainable & urban agriculture. “The distance-learning format will give many more people access to course content developed by experts from Virginia State and Virginia Tech Universities, and will appeal to participants who cannot physically attend the classes due to distance or time conflicts.”

Githinji plans to adapt his Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program from its current face-to-face format to a self-paced, online option that will increase the number of participants. The grant money will help cover the costs of acquiring the technology to deliver the program and supporting the personnel needed to implement the distance learning modules. The online learning format will offer participants some flexibility to complete the course’s 16 modules according to their schedules. Upon completing the program, participants will receive a certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture.

The program’s target audience includes Extension educators, Master Gardeners, teachers, home gardeners and commercial growers. At least 17 percent of Virginia’s population is affected by limited food access or food deserts. Urban agriculture, defined as the growing of plants and the raising of animals for food and other uses within and around cities and towns, has a huge potential in mitigating food deserts and situations of limited food access. Urban agriculture can help to remedy food desert situations, create economic opportunities in urban neighborhoods and help to nourish the health and social fabric of communities.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

SVCC Offers Apprenticeship Opportunties

Global Safety Textile (GST) of South Hill, developers and manufactures of airbags, airbag textiles and technical textiles, has partnered with Southside Virginia Community College to help develop and train twelve employees to become industrial maintenance technicians.

“In today’s current economy, hiring qualified maintenance mechanics is a challenge”, said Rob Deutsch, Director of Human Resources for the company.

For years, colleges saw enrollments declining in technical degrees such as Electrical and Mechanical. Unfortunately, for manufacturing this decline presents a real crisis. In fact, the hardest segment of the workforce to staff has been in the skilled trades: welders, electricians and mechanics.

GST, collaborated with SVCC’s Dr. Chad Patton, Dean of Career and Technical Training, and Kelly Arnold, Apprenticeship Coordinator, to formulate a strategy to train current employees. Apprenticeship is a tried and true method for training, remarks, Arnold.

“By combining educational classes with on-the-job training, apprentices learn exponentially,” she said.

Each class the employees are taking was selected with the intention of transforming the twelve into maintenance technicians for GST.

 The group began in January taking classes at Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill.  The instructor applies hands-on training to the AC/DC Electrical class. 

Dr. Patton said, “All of our teachers in the program have real world experience.  We have former department lead instructor for Mechatronics and a host of teachers who are currently working in the Industrial Maintenance field to ensure the instruction is relevant.”

The college has also run apprenticeship training for Beach Mold, Georgia Pacific and Toll Brothers located in Emporia/Greensville.  

Each week the employees build on the previous class. While some are coming after work and others before work; both groups arrive ready to learn. Long days or nights at work, coupled with educational classes, homework, and tests all prove the group is willing and able to invest in themselves but also into preparing GST to beat the skills gap challenge.

While maintenance technician may not be the new career buzz, it is certainly a profession where both men and women can find employment in Southside Virginia. In fact, recent statistics indicate that job seekers are realizing that skilled trades are in hot demand. For the twelve at GST, the future is bright. The industrial maintenance program involves taking one class per week, for about 18 months, but provides an easily attainable goal. For more information about industrial maintenance or apprenticeship training, visit LCAKC or www. southside.edu   SVCC also offers an Associate in Applied Science degree in Industrial Maintenance Technician.

Virginia Schools Participate in National School Walk-out - a CNS Social Media Story

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE DEDICATE HELIPAD TO HONOR TROOPER-PILOT KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY IN 2017

RICHMOND – Two Virginia governors joined more than 200 family and friends Wednesday (April 18, 2018) to formally dedicate and name the helipad at the Virginia State Police administrative headquarters in Chesterfield County. Governor Ralph Northam and former Governor Terry McAuliffe, along with Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran and the family of Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates unveiled the new sign that designates the helipad in Bates’ memory.

(Pictured L-R) Virginia Deputy Secretary of Public Safety & Homeland Security Ryant Washington, Governor Ralph Northam, Fmr. Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety & Homeland Security Brian Moran and Colonel Gary Settle with Trooper-Pilot Bates’ wife, Amanda, and their children.

“The Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates Helipad will serve as a lasting tribute to Berke’s incredible spirit and legacy as a public safety professional, aviator, father, son, brother, and friend,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “This memorial will be seen by those visiting our administrative headquarters and Academy. It is also rightly located just across the way from the very Academy doors Berke proudly walked through in January 2004 to begin his career as a Virginia State Police trooper. We hope this simple, but meaningful, tribute brings added and lasting comfort to his family, friends, and colleagues.”

Bates, 40, and the State Police Aviation Unit Commander, Lt. H. Jay Cullen III, became the Department’s 64th and 65th Virginia State Police line of duty deaths when their helicopter crashed Aug. 12, 2017, in Albemarle County. The Department dedicated its Chesterfield Aviation Base and Headquarters in Lt. Cullen’s memory in February 2018.

Trooper-Pilot Bates was born in Manassas, Va. and graduated from Brentsville District Middle-Senior High School in Nokesville, Va. in 1994. He served as a Trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol from 1998 until he joined the Virginia State Police in 2004. He graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy on August 27, 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session. His first assignment was in Virginia State Police Richmond Division’s Area 8 Office, which encompasses the City of Richmond and Henrico County. Less than a year later he became a member of the office’s Motors Unit, serving as a motorcycle trooper until 2013. He joined the Governor’s protection detail, known as the State Police Executive Protective Unit, in October 2013 and served with the unit for three years before accepting promotion to Special Agent with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Richmond Field Office General Investigations Section. In July 2017, he became a Trooper-Pilot with the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit. Bates is survived by his wife, twin 12-year-old son and daughter, parents, and siblings.

The Virginia State Police initiated an aviation program in 1946 with four trooper-pilots who voluntarily worked on as an-needed basis and the acquisition of three Aeronca Chief 11AC airplanes. Helicopters were added to the fleet in 1970. The Department established an official Aviation Unit in 1984, which was the same year the Virginia General Assembly authorized funding for the creation of the Med-Flight program. Today the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit has 16 trooper-pilots, 13 flight nurses, 12 flight paramedics and four full and part-time mechanics assigned to its bases in Chesterfield, Lynchburg and Abingdon. The unit is equipped with three Bell 407 helicopters, two Airbus EC-145 helicopters, two Cessna 182 Skylanes and one Cessna 206 Stationair.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the fatal helicopter crash remains ongoing at this time.

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.”

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