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‘Able Forces’ team in Front Royal finds jobs for disabled vets across the nation

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Able Force’s Skip Rogers/ Courtesy photo.

FRONT ROYAL – In a small suite of offices on Front Royal’s historic Chester Street, a U.S. Army dog handler from the Vietnam War years found his true calling — helping wounded veterans find jobs and providing support for their families.

It was in 2009 that Skip Rogers, Joe Cunningham, U.S. Navy, and Skip’s wife, Kathy, having found their way from Fairfax County to Front Royal, realized their dream, the establishment of a unique non-profit they called “Able Forces.”  The company provides aid and comfort and specifically job training and jobs for vets returning from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We address the critical employment and training needs of combat injured veterans, and all disabled veterans,” Rogers said in an interview with the Royal Examiner. “We are here for our nation’s heroes suffering from severe physical disabilities, PTSD and traumatic brain injury.”

That the veterans’ travails, from joblessness to hopelessness to an inability to provide for their families, are always in the sights of executive director Rogers and his small Front Royal-based crew (“Caretakers of the Dream”) quickly became obvious to this reporter.
“Basically, we help families in crisis,” Rogers said from behind his office desk, surrounded by depictions of military actions from the Civil War to Iwo Jima. A folded U.S. flag, flown over the Pentagon to commemorate last year’s anniversary of 9/11, is carefully folded on the table before him.

Rogers estimates he and his small cadre of workers have helped settle “several hundred wounded, ill, or otherwise injured veterans” principally by placing them in jobs, not just any jobs but employment with a future, in various parts of the country. “Able Forces” accomplishes this through a network of government and civilian contractors which is defined as a Community Rehabilitation Program.

The staff includes his wife, Kathy, vice president for operations; Joe, his business partner of 35 years; daughter Lisa Salomon, accountant; and Stephen Carter. Carter, an army vet, joined “Able Forces” staff in 2013.

Rogers’ working relationships for “Able Forces,” include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; the U.S. Department of Labor; the national Wounded Warriors Program; Air Force and Coast Guard; state employment agencies (VET); and community veterans organizations.

A Californian born in San Jose 68 years ago, Rogers enlisted in the army after completing high school, later graduated college with a degree in behavioral science and earned a master’s degree from Stamford University. He provided in-patient care in psychiatric hospitals, then opted for a career in Silicon Valley, ultimately publishing a niche book, “Who, what, where when…in Silicon Valley.” Meanwhile, Kathy, legally blind since 1980, opened her own business, “Hasty Gathering,” specializing in a clothing line.

Note: Rogers’ declined to give his first name. His business card says “Skip,” his website says “Skip,” he’s been known as “Skip” almost all his life and sees no reason to change.

So, “Skip,” thanks for all you and “Able Forces” do for our disabled war heroes. Front Royal should be proud of you.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – July 14, 2020; calls for stronger enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here are the highlights:

  • increasing statewide cases
  • increase testing
  • on average, 10,000 tests administered daily statewide
  • the state should increase the enforcement of face coverings and social distancing
  • reminded business owners that they have the right to deny service to someone who is not following the mask mandate or social distancing guidelines
  • plan to impose an earlier cutoff for alcohol sales at restaurants is also being considered
  • state continues to receive shipments of personal protective equipment, and hospitals have reported no shortages
  • school boards and universities will continue to make decisions regarding this school year
  • update on the rent and mortgage relief program
  • DMV locations continue to reopen
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More images from another Front Royal Historic Downtown weekend

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In addition to the “From the Heart” weekend downtown Front Royal entertainment mentioned in a related story on music, haircutting and styling, this past weekend saw other downtown events and entertainment.

Those events, among others we may have missed from simply not knowing about them until after the fact, included the Mark Clay-led Vinyl Tracks band entertaining with its repertoire of classic vinyl-era music at a Thursday evening Gazebo Gathering;

Vinyl Tracks gathers fans at the Gazebo, early Thursday evening. Below, haven’t we seen that father-daughter/drummer-singer team on stage with their own band somewhere before? – Hint, it was ‘Aftershock-ing’. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini

a Saturday vintage car show on East Main Street;

Beautiful over and under the hood

a late afternoon Friday resurrection of the weekly “Yappy Hour” Julia Wagner Animal Shelter/WC Humane Society fundraising event at East Main Street’s ViNoVa wine, beer and tapa restaurant, as previewed by Malcolm Barr Sr. on Royal Examiner’s website;

Pals Rico, left, and Diva at outdoor portion of Friday’s ‘Yappy Hour’ at ViNoVa – Below, ‘Could we have some more water in our bowls, please’ these 2 hot dogs may have been thinking; and water they got under the tent shade.

and the band Starting Early tracing rock history through the 1960’s-‘70’s beginning with a properly suited Beatles set, followed by some classic power trio (Hendrix, Cream) and quartet (Zeppelin) music, among others, followed by some originals in the Virginia Beer Museum back-of-house outdoor Biergarten.

It was too late to be Starting Early by the time the band got to its 1960’s-‘70’s power trio and quartet sets in the Va. Beer Museum Biergarten.

Enjoy these images from those events, and come on downtown for the next installment of Front Royal re-opened, masks and social distancing encouraged, as Warren County and all of Virginia walk the tightrope between pandemic precautions and COVID-19 spikes and economic rebounding this unprecedented summer of 2020.

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From the Heart helps Front Royal celebrate a measured return to business – But can I schedule a haircut and shave after the band is done?

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Unless booked elsewhere, From the Heart plays something for everyone from around 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in Front Royal’s reopened downtown commercial center. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini

It may not be your traditional “Barbershop Quartet”, but to celebrate Virginia’s measured walk-back of COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic emergency management restrictions, punctuated by the Town of Front Royal’s weekend downtown business district street closings facilitating a walking mall ambience to draw residents and tourists back out into the properly social distanced commercial world, “Mr. John’s Barbershop” proprietor John Landes has brought his band From the Heart into play – literally.

As of June 27, according to the band Facebook page, From the Heart has set up in front of Landes’s Chester Street barbershop on Friday and Saturday evenings from approximately 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to bring their mix of classic country, rock and popular music to Front Royal’s re-opened Historic Downtown Business District.

Yes, the barbershop is closed – the barber is doubling up fronting his band on Friday and Saturday evenings outside his 8 Chester St. business location. Below, May Landes steps in on vocals.

From the Heart gets fans dancing and smiling with material spanning decades and genres – you’re liable to hear favorites from Charlie Daniels to Rod Stewart among others on your personal top of the charts list.

And while you can’t get a haircut while the band is on – it’s hard to sing, play and snip those overgrown locks at the same time – a small contribution to the band’s tip jar might just get you to the front of the line for the barbershop’s next day of business.

From the Heart is, in addition to Landes on guitar, harmonica and vocals, his wife May on guest vocals; Kenny Smith on banjo, guitar and vocals; ‘Bubba’ Ward on rhythm guitar; and Marty Jacobs on percussion.

Kenny Smith

‘Bubba’ Ward, left, with John Landes

Marty Jacobs

A new style ‘Barbershop Quartet’

Downtown visitors Damian and Linda the well-groomed dog, stop for a photo op. Good girl, Linda – don’t look at the band, look at the camera. Linda, are you sure you haven’t been two-timing Mr. John’s at the New Creations Hair Salon next door?

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Don’t miss the Humane Society of Warren County’s Annual Yard Sale

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The Humane Society of Warren County is poised for the biggest yard sale in their history this Friday and Saturday, July 17 and 18. Thanks to a huge outpouring of support from the local community, the donations for this year’s annual yard sale far outnumber any previous year’s donations.

The HSWC Annual Yard Sale has been an important source of funding for the shelter since it began in 2013, typically bringing in $2,000-$4,000. This year, due to the enormous amount of donations, the goal fundraising goal for the shelter is $5,000.

Because the shelter is open by appointment only, there will be a portable toilet and portable hand-washing station available, and social distancing will be required. Shopping will be 10am until 2pm on both Friday and Saturday.

Local non-profit groups have been invited out on Saturday to take anything that will benefit their cause at no charge.

Since it’s beginning, the yard sale has operated using a “name your price” format, which means that there are amazing deals to be found. Highlights for this year’s sale include two sets of golf clubs, a swing set, a leather sectional couch, new with tags clothes and shoes, and kitchenware.

“I hope people come out to shop, there are so many great items, and every dollar spent is used for our life-saving work” says Meghan Bowers, Executive Director at the shelter. “This is one of my favorite events, and I am really looking forward to it.”

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Derrick Leasure of R-MA assumes Front Royal Rotary presidency

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Derrick Leasure – the new president of the Rotary Club of Front Royal. Courtesy Photo/R-MA

Randolph-Macon Academy Assistant Dean of Students Derrick E. Leasure officially took over as president of the Rotary Club of Front Royal at an “actual” ceremony in the town’s community center on Friday, July 10.

Outgoing president Bret Hrbek passed the gavel after his year in office, made more challenging when interrupted by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, which sent its regular weekly meetings since March to the internet via “Zoom.”

The real-life meeting that greeted Leasure, attended by a dozen past presidents from John Marlow (1977) to the retiring Hrbek, likely will return to “Zoom” as Leasure begins his tenure. After the gavel was passed, Leasure swore in members of the new board of directors, including Hrbek.

“He has a difficult task before him,” Hrbek had said earlier. Like other local organizations, Rotary has taken a hit in its fundraising activities but nevertheless managed to take in $126,000 last year for local and international projects.

Leasure, who came to R-MA’s middle school in 2008, earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Ohio State University and a Master’s in History from the University of Arizona. He is an active member of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, serving on the education committee. Outside his teaching and later administration posts at the Academy, Leasure has been a student mentor and head coach in golf as well as his promotion to assistant dean.

Married to Michelle Cantlebary, the couple has two children. He joined Rotary shortly after arriving in Front Royal 18 years ago.

(Malcolm Barr Sr., our contributing writer, is a member of the Rotary Club of Front Royal)

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LFCC Professor Mark Sunderlin receives statewide recognition

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LFCC Professor Mark Sunderlin

Professor Mark Sunderlin recently received the George B. Vaughan Leadership Award for Outstanding Adjunct Faculty from the Virginia Community College System with support from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education.

Earlier this year, Professor Sunderlin was named the 2020 LFCC Distinguished Faculty Award winner.

An adjunct faculty member for the past eight years, he spent many years working for the federal government, before serving as the senior technical manager of AOL for seven years. Currently, Professor Sunderlin is principal data engineer for Verizon Media Services.

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Front Royal
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