A proactive and proven path forward and away from the arrest, incarceration, release, re-arrest, further incarceration cycle of substance abuse at the root of so much criminal behavior that lands people in local, regional and state incarceration, not only on drug related offenses, but also the petty criminal behavior that feeds or is a consequence of substance abuse, was celebrated in Warren County on Thursday, August 29.
The question is, is anybody listening, or perhaps more pointedly, does anyone care?
The “VRR Organizational Summit” was held against an idyllic rural American backdrop at Mountain Home Bed & Breakfast on Route 522 South near the entrance to the Lake Front Royal subdivision. The summit was a celebration and report on progress of the Virginia Recovery-Rehabilitation Program implemented at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County (RSW) Regional Jail and Prince George County’s Riverside Regional Jail this past December.
At the point of the summit were 23 “scholarship” recipient inmates, 22 from RSW, who are successfully graduating into the world clean and sober with a mission. That mission is to break the pattern of addiction that had dominated their lives, often to the point of abject dejection that there was any way out for them.
Graduate after graduate recounted the life-altering, perhaps life-saving moment that McShin Foundation counselors, all recovering and rehabilitating substance abusers in their own lives, made them understand there was hope for them – hope to move past the downward spiral of drug and/or alcohol addiction and its ultimate destination of hopelessness, despair, incarceration and all too often, death.
That hope is for regaining control of one’s life in order to break destructive patterns of behavior and personal associations. The result is movement toward life; even toward a productive life well lived and capable of repairing, not only themselves, but also broken interpersonal and family relationships; and as one 51-year-old woman described it, even her relationship with God.
“I had been in and out of rehab many times in my life; I’d been in hospitals – overdoses and no clue. I would pray to God, ‘God, please if you just help me I won’t do it again – just save me, I won’t do it again.’ And each time I would break that promise to God. And that even made me feel worse. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
”Well through RSW, McShin was put into my life and to me the education, the teaching of things they told me about why I was a drug addict and why I had an addiction, I was just amazed by it. Like everybody says, when Cricket (Assistant Director of Operations Chris Ronquest) came in, Hannah, Diana – some of the most important people in my life, John, they showed me there was hope. That to me was the most important thing about this program, what is most important for everyone to know who can know, that there is hope – we don’t have to die,” Leslie told the crowd of her peers, McShin, RSW and County officials.
Her report of being clean and sober for nine months, the longest period in her life in over 30 years brought cheers of approval from the summit participants.
In opening the summit under beautiful blue skies shortly after 1 p.m. on the Mountain Home B&B grounds, McShin Recovery Resource Foundation President and co-founder John Shinholser told the assembled, “We don’t mind our own business – recovery is our business, recovery is everywhere. We are hope dealers, that’s what we do.”
And putting a nice wording spin on an old description of the drug addict, VRR Program worker Huey added, “We are dope-less hope fiends, that’s what we are.”
Sadly, only one political candidate was present for three elected Warren County Board seats (Shenandoah, South River, North River – none present, though retiring North River Supervisor, County Board Chair and RSW Authority Board member Dan Murray was there to offer support along with County Administrator and fellow Jail Authority Board member Doug Stanley); Constitutional Officers (sheriff, commonwealth attorney, treasurer, commissioner of the revenue – the one present was Democratic Sheriff’s candidate Jorge Amselle); or Town Special Election (mayor – none); was present to hear the stories of success in the first year of implementation of the McShin Foundation-led Virginia Recovery and Rehab (VRR) Program at RSW Regional Jail.
And if you factor in the absence of any candidate for any office in either Rappahannock or Shenandoah County, which have their own forthcoming elections on the November horizon, the lack of political candidate interest is even more distressing.
But then why would any candidate for municipal, law enforcement, judicial, or financial office want to hear about a system that could reduce taxpayer costs budgeted annually to support the local and state bureaucracy necessary to repeatedly arrest, prosecute and house the large number of criminals whose criminality is steeped heavily in substance abuse?
McShin Foundation president Shinholser made a profound point near the conclusion of the two-hour celebration of life being given a second chance at RSW and other jails across the commonwealth. That point regarded recent court rulings and settlement offers in the nationwide pattern of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies accused of pushing what they knew were highly-addictive opioids into the mainstream prescription market for profit.
As state court rulings of hundreds of millions of dollars of liability mount and offers to settle out of court in the billions of dollars by at least one major drug company are heard across the country, Shinholser told those present that if some of that state-recovered money was not channeled into the type of peer-based substance-abuse Recovery and Rehabilitation programs the McShin Foundation model is based on, then the American public from state to state where the opioid crisis has deepened under the legalized corporate distribution of heavily addictive narcotics, “was being ripped off again”.
RSW Jail was represented by Deputy Superintendent Steve Weaver and Captain Josh Jacobson. RSW, its staff and Superintendent Russ Gilkison were repeatedly lauded for the facility’s highly proactive adoption of the McShin-led VRR Program.
McShin Assistant Director of Operations Chris Ronquest, a key player in the RSW implementation from his home base at the McShin Foundation in Richmond, and Shinholser pointed out that RSW has created segregated male and female inmate pods for implementation and ongoing support for the recovery and rehab effort.
In contrast it was noted some jails implementing the program only separate VRR inmates during the visit of McShin counselors. After the counselor’s departure those inmates are returned to the general population where the level of a crucial initial support base of like-minded participants evaporates into normal jailhouse life.
Perhaps such a basic difference helps explain the overwhelming number of program scholarship recipients being recognized – 22 of 23 as noted above – graduating out of RSW.
But implementation, like recovery is an ongoing process that all involved can continue to learn from. However it is a lesson that, as the day’s scholarship graduates repeatedly stressed, has to want to be learned.
And it may be at the grassroots level that such a lesson must be pushed into the consciousness of local and state municipal, correctional, judicial and administrative officials. Because as noted above, thus far that interest at the local and state political and administrative levels seems to be lagging behind the awareness on the ground in facilities such as RSW Jail.
But it is a message with implications for all of us as taxpayers, as potential victims of addict-based crime, and even as people in a position to lose a loved one to addiction.
So it is a message ignored at our own risk and expense, not to mention at the peril of our society as a socially-cohesive and efficiently-managed whole.
The McShin Recovery Resource Foundation was established in 2004 and is Virginia’s leading non-profit, full-service Recovery Community Organization (RCO), committed to serving individuals and families in their fight against Substance Use Disorders. The VRR Program at RSW and Riverside Jail was enabled by a matching grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s Building Communities of Recovery initiative.
More information on the McShin Foundation may be found at its website: <www.mcshin.org> – And don’t forget to alert your elected officials at all levels if you like what you find.
Essay contest open to Warren County and Shenandoah County public high school seniors
Now in its third year, the Shenandoah Area Secular Humanist (SASH) Essay Contest is open to public high school seniors from Warren and Shenandoah Counties, giving them the opportunity to compete for a $500 prize to use as they like following graduation.
Aimed at encouraging students to consider the role and impact of religion in society, this year’s essay topic asks the question “How important is the separation of church and state in a democratic society?” Peter Wilson, Scholarship Coordinator stated, “We do not have a specific correct answer in mind; we want to know what students think and why.”
Applicants must compose an essay of 350-1,000 words that addresses the topic/question in whatever way they see fit. There are no GPA or financial needs requirements for a student to be eligible to compete and the essay is the only required document for submission. Essays will be anonymously reviewed by a SASH committee of judges, who will evaluate and score each based-on command of language, quality of approach to topic, and demonstration of critical thinking skills. As in past years, up to four $500 prizes will be awarded.
High school guidance counselors will assist with the contest by setting a due date for their individual school; collecting, copying, and forwarding essays to SASH by COB, April 3, 2020; and coordinating the notification of winners and presentation of awards at each school’s awards ceremony.
For more information, students should contact their high school guidance office.
About Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists:
SASH is a chapter of the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH). Secular Humanists are distinguished by the pursuit of humanist values outside of a religious framework: Critical Thinking, Ethical Development, Peace and Social Justice, Service and Participation, Empathy, Humility, Environmentalism, Global Awareness, Responsibility, and Altruism.
Anyone interested in learning more about secular humanism and SASH is invited to attend a chapter meeting, typically on the third Saturday of each month at Samuels Public Library in Front Royal. More information about SASH can also be found on the Washington Area Secular Humanists website, www.wash.org under “Chapters” on the navigation menu bar.
Rotary Club of Warren County collecting donations for local thermal shelter
Do you have a middle school student at Skyline Middle School? The Skyline Middle School Interact Club is collecting new sheets and blankets for our local thermal shelter. Please make sure all blankets and sheets are still in the new wrappers/containers. White twin sheets and light colored blankets are the best and are easier to clean.
If you are not familiar with our Front Royal Thermal Shelter, here is some information provided to us by Michelle Smeltzer, a member of the Rotary Club of Warren County and Community Liaison for the Department of Social Services:
“The Front Royal Thermal Shelter gives the homeless of Warren County a place to stay warm during the winter months. The shelter is not in a fixed location – rather it is a cooperative effort by eight churches in the area, including New Hope Bible Church, Front Royal United Methodist Church, Front Royal Presbyterian Church, Marlow Heights Baptist Church, Riverton United Methodist Church, Virginia Hills Church, First Baptist Church and Dynamic Life Church. The guests are provided supper at about 7:30 each evening, and the volunteers join them. After supper, the volunteers join them and they play a variety of games, watch TV, or simply lie down on their cots after a tiring day. As the guests noted, this makes them feel as if someone really cares about them. Michelle said this makes a world of difference to them, because they too often feel alone and abandoned, as if the outside world ignores them. The following morning several of the churches provide breakfast, and some provide a bagged lunch when they leave for the day. The guests are assigned a cot when they arrive at the church, and that is their bed for a week. There are separate sleeping areas for men and women, and the program does not allow guests or volunteers with the program until they are at least 18 years of age because they are a no-barrier shelter. This year the shelter has also made arrangements, with the help of the Warren County Humane Society, to provide shelter for homeless pets of the guests.”
Remember – there are still many cold days ahead! Current update: The Front Royal Thermal Shelter’s greatest need is cash donations at this time: Here is an easy PayPal link. You can also visit their website to donate or learn more.
Together we are making a huge difference in this community! Thanks to all!
R-MA J-Term class builds hydroponics lab
On Thursday, January 23, 2020, Randolph-Macon Academy will introduce its new hydroponics lab to the R-MA community during an open house from 3 pm to 4 pm. The lab features five different kinds of hydroponic systems, all of which have been built by students taking the “Hydroponics and the Food We Eat” J-Term (January Term) class. Each system has been built with materials purchased at Lowes or on Amazon – such as gutters, plastic containers, hoses, boards and lights – developing systems the students can later recreate for themselves at home.
“We’ve been kind of hands-off,” commented Lynette Lane, the R-MA science teacher who is leading the project. “Sometimes I have to show them very specific steps or techniques, but then they have to figure out how to get it done. It’s been really great. Students have stepped up to do things that have really surprised me.”
The lab includes various systems, such as a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), which will allow the students to harvest lettuce weekly. A deep water culture (DWC) is a non-circulating water system in which the students will grow basil, chard, and other greens. The students will grow microgreens in a bottom watered, coco coir system. The R-MA lab’s Dutch buckets will contain strawberries and peppers. The final system the students will build is a flood and drain one used for seedling propagation.
An earthworm composting process has also been created; this will make use of any leftover organic matter from the lab systems. In early May, earthworm castings will be removed from this system to be used as nutrient-dense fertilizer for spring plantings.
“I think it’s so important for kids to see where food comes from, because most of them just don’t know,” said Ms. Lane. “And a lot of these students come to R-MA from countries where growing food is problematic, because they don’t have land, they don’t have water. They can take this back. It uses 95% less water than conventional methods of agriculture.”
Although the J-Term ends January 24th, a hydroponics intramural class and the Environmental Science and Biology classes will continue to grow the plants throughout the spring semester. The lab will start again in the fall, and run through the school year, providing leafy greens and microgreens for the community.
‘We’re not there yet’ – NAACP honors Dr. King’s memory with a call to continued commitment
At 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, January 20, area clergy, citizens, Town and County elected officials gathered at the Villa Avenue Community Center for the annual Warren-Page County NAACP “Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Keynote speaker the Reverend Edward Dawkins struck a recurring theme of “We’re not there yet” in remarks delivered with humor – “Yes, I am white” Dawkins acknowledged to some laughter – but more pointedly with love and admiration for the work, words, prayers, devotion and sacrifice of the American Civil Rights leader assassinated prior to his 40th year in April 1968.
That theme, oft repeated by Master of Ceremony Reverend James Starks – “Amen”; NAACP Chapter President Alford D. Carter III, among others, called on those present not to be “whiners” about our collective national, human and individual failures to reach that dream of Dr. King’s that every person in our nation, and even on our planet, be judged by the “content of their character” and of their soul, rather than on racial, ethnic and class stereotypes. Rather, those present and all committed to that common cause were asked to become more proactive in helping achieve the kind of human unity that sees beyond the kind of prejudices created out of ignorance and fear of the personal, cultural, even religious differences that mankind brings to the table.
Reverend Dawkins called on the clergy present to renew the type of joint worship across church, even particular denominational boundaries, that had been previously explored here with some success.
In his Benediction, another white clergyman, Bishop Vince McLaughlin, called King a prophet given by God to those committed both then, now and as long as need be, to the cause of human unity across racial, class and national boundaries. “And I say that in total, clear evidence in his prayers,” McLaughlin told those present. So fittingly, McLaughlin’s near the end of ceremony Benediction quoted at length from King’s own words of prayer.
“When you study somebody’s prayers, you get to their heart,” McLaughlin told the packed Villa Avenue Community Center meeting room. From his own religious studies and those of King’s life, McLaughlin also called the civil rights leader “a superb Biblical scholar” and “a brilliant practical theologian”.
From two of Dr. King’s prayers, McLaughlin quoted, “We humbly confess that we have not loved thee with all of our hearts, our souls and our minds; and we also confess that we have not loved our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses, rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed and evidenced in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We often give in order to receive. We are good at loving our friends and hating our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive, at least we say we do, but we dare not forget. And so as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is a history of an internal revolt against You and Your principals …
“So finally, my Holy God, my Father, I commend to thee this intercession and pray that You would move mightily in us because we have self-inflicted and caused a distress in our minds and our bodies because we have not followed the mandate of love. Move mightily amongst us, renew within us a devotion to love unconditionally, regardless. And we bring this in the name and the spirit of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
The celebration of King’s life and work was punctuated by two gospel musical interludes led spectacularly by Elder Elizabeth Roberts; and a recorded closing of the Civil Rights Anthem “We Shall Overcome” saw hands joined throughout the crowd between black and white alike, swaying to that musically and lyrically expressed hope and dream that someday, we may as individuals, as a nation, and as peoples sharing one small planet among many in a universe of unknown diversity, find unity of spirit, rather than separation of purpose to selfish and fear-driven ends.
Beth Medved Waller receives 2019 VA/West VA Keller Williams Regional “Superstar” Award
Beth Waller, a Warren County top producing Realtor and founder of the nonprofit, WHAT MATTERS, was recognized by Keller Williams Realty Virginia/West Virginia Region as a 2019 “Caught-in-Culture” Superstar. Out of the nearly five thousand agents that make up the large multi-state region, Waller was one of three agents receiving the annual honor for their real estate and impact contributions during 2019.
In her acceptance presentation, Waller was asked to share some background around her 501(c)(3) nonprofit, her origins of volunteerism, highlights of her real estate career and motivational tips for the audience. “This was my first experience speaking on stage about my passion projects, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to share my story and some ideas with fellow Realtors. I was moved by the line of people afterwards wanting to chat with me as well as the letters and messages I received after the event from people who were inspired. It’s another of the many opportunities I’ll always be thankful for as a KW agent,” said Beth of the honor.
During her presentation, Beth was asked to share about her initiatives that range from a $24,000+ per year Main Street meeting space she funds for her Front Royal/Warren County community, the $12,000+ she’s given through the years in scholarships to local seniors, the nonprofit center in which she provides free office space in Front Royal, her interest-free loans to help those in need and her community video interviews. She also discussed her international mission work which includes well over $25,000 in personal contributions to a brand new primary school in a remote village in Uganda (named the Front Royal Light up Academy) in addition to the funding of a music studio and financially supporting vulnerable children in the ghettos of Uganda’s capital city of
Lee Beaver, Regional Co-Owner and OP shared as she presented the award, “You’re just incredible, as an agent, as a person, and you’ve not only impacted your community but not impacted people overseas, it’s just amazing. We appreciate what you’re doing and we are blessed to have you in our company.” Waller received many other agent sales awards for monthly sales production units for the Manassas Market Center office throughout 2019. “I remain so blessed by all who have supported my real estate career including my family, friends, clients and especially my KW Transaction Coordinator Bridget Rosensteel. I’m glad to have found a home with the thriving KW Manassas office and still have the ability to have my office in downtown Front Royal,” she added.
Waller was also honored to be selected among America’s Top 100 Real Estate Agents® for Virginia – Greater Virginia in 2019.
I-66 Outside the Beltway Project: Lane closures and traffic changes – Week of January 19, 2020
Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project construction continues throughout the corridor during daytime and overnight hours as weather conditions allow. Current activities include:
• Bridge demolition at Route 29 in Centreville
• Constructing bridge foundations at Compton Road, Route 28, Route 123, Vaden Drive, and I-495
• Small charge dynamite operations along I-66 East and West near Route 28
• Bridge deck work for new collector-distributor road over Route 234 Business (Sudley Road) and new Route 28 bridges over I-66
• Relocating water lines at Jermantown Road, Stringfellow Road, and Gallows Road
• Constructing new utility duct bank and relocating underground utilities along I-66 East
• Constructing retaining walls along I-66 and Route 28
• Corridor-wide roadway maintenance as needed
The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project will add express lanes stretching 22.5 miles from the Capital Beltway to Route 29 in Gainesville, rebuild major interchanges along the I-66 corridor, create thousands of new park and ride spaces, and expand trail options for cyclists and pedestrians. Learn more at Transform66.org.
Upcoming Lane Closures and Traffic Changes
The following planned lane closures are expected to have significant traffic impacts. All work is subject to change based on weather and schedule. Find the latest information on travel conditions and work zones by visiting 511virginia.org or downloading the Virginia511 app.
ROUTE 29 / GAINESVILLE
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.
ROUTE 234 BUSINESS (SUDLEY ROAD) / MANASSAS
I-66 East and West between Sudley Road and Bull Run Rest Area
Ramps from Sudley Road to I-66 East
Tuesday, Jan. 21, through Friday, Jan. 24: 11 a.m. to noon
Temporary 15-minute stoppages of traffic on I-66 East and West for blasting operations. Additionally, stoppages will occur on the ramp from Sudley Road to I-66 East. Stoppages may also be needed on Vandor Lane.
ROUTE 28 (SULLY ROAD) / CENTREVILLE
I-66 East and West between Route 29 Centreville and Stringfellow Road
Route 28 North and South between Route 29 and Braddock Road
Ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 East
Tuesday, Jan. 21, through Friday, Jan. 24: 11 a.m. to noon
Temporary 15-minute stoppages of traffic on I-66 East and West, and Route 28 North and South for blasting operations. Additionally, stoppages will occur on the ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 East and on the ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 West.
Route 29 Centreville North and South at I-66
Sunday, Jan. 19: 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, and Wednesday, Jan. 22: 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The left lane will be closed on northbound and southbound Route 29 at I-66 for bridge demolition activities.
I-66 West from Route 28 to Route 29 Centreville
Ramp from I-66 West to Route 29 Centreville
Tuesday, Jan. 21: 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Two lanes will be closed for overhead cantilever sign removal. Additionally, the ramp from I-66 West to Route 29 Centreville will be closed from midnight to 4 a.m. Drivers will be directed prior to the closure to Route 28 South, then follow signs to Route 29 North or South.
Route 28 South from Westfields Boulevard to Braddock Road
Tuesday, Jan. 21: 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Two lanes will be closed for overhead cantilever sign removal.
I-66 East from Compton Road to Route 29 Centreville
Wednesday, Jan. 22: 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Three lanes will be closed for overhead gantry removal. Drivers should expect periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 4 a.m.
Ramp from Route 29 Centreville South to I-66 East
Thursday, Jan 23: Midnight to 4 a.m.
The ramp will be closed for utility work. Drivers will be directed farther south to Stone Road, make a U-turn onto Route 29 North and follow signs to Route 28 North, then stay to the right and follow signs to I-66 East.
ROUTE 286 (FAIRFAX COUNTY PARKWAY) / FAIR LAKES
Stringfellow Road between Fair Lakes Boulevard and Village Square Drive
Wednesday, Jan. 22, through Friday, Jan. 24: 9 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 24, from 9 p.m. until 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27
The right lane of southbound Stringfellow Road will be closed for underground utility relocation. The lane will be reopened weekdays between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. to accommodate the evening rush.
ROUTE 50 / FAIRFAX
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.
ROUTE 123 (CHAIN BRIDGE ROAD) / OAKTON – CITY OF FAIRFAX
Ramp from I-66 West to Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road)
Tuesday, Jan. 21: Midnight to 4 a.m.
The ramp will be closed for utility work. Traffic will be detoured farther west to Route 50 East, stay to the left for I-66 East, then follow signs to Route 123.
ROUTE 243 (NUTLEY STREET) / VIENNA
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.
I-495 (CAPITAL BELTWAY) / DUNN LORING
No significant traffic impacts scheduled.
VDOT and the project team have invested in a broad range of programs to help commuters and others stay mobile and safe during construction. Learn more about carpool, vanpool, telework, and commuter bus alternatives.