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Become a volunteer by asking these 5 questions



April is National Volunteer Month and is the perfect time to extend a big thank you to the roughly 63 million Americans who cumulatively spend 7.8 billion hours a year volunteering. Are you interested in joining the ranks of this awesome volunteer workforce yourself?

If you’d like to be a volunteer but don’t know where to start, try using the five W’s — who, what, where, when and why — to discover the opportunity that’s right for you.

Ask yourself who you’d like to help. It could be homeless people, refugees, children, animals, senior citizens or those who have a disability.

Alternatively, you can ask yourself who you are and how your unique skillset could be of service to your community. If you’re an accountant, you could volunteer to help a local charity balance their books. If you’re a chef, you might contribute your skills at a soup kitchen.

Figure out what volunteer opportunities are available. Ask friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues if they’re aware of volunteer opportunities that would be suited to your talents. Or, you could look online to find out what volunteer opportunities are available.

One excellent online resource is Points of Light (, where you can search for local volunteer opportunities and connect with 250 volunteer action centers nationwide. A couple of other great sites — each teeming with volunteer opportunities — are and

Determine when you’re available to do volunteer work. If you have a busy schedule, set reasonable expectations — an hour a week might be doable for some whereas others might only have a few days a year they can set aside for volunteering. Start with a small commitment and increase your contribution when and if you can.

Volunteering close to home usually makes the most sense. Plus, volunteering in your neighborhood allows you to strengthen your connection with your community.

Why should you volunteer? That’s easy! Volunteering is personally rewarding and has a positive impact on your community. You’re sure to find this out first-hand once you get started.

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Interesting Things to Know

How the poppy came to symbolize the fallen



It began with the stark reality. After World War I, in fields and towns throughout Europe, poppies began growing everywhere.

A wreath of red poppies rests on a memorial in the cemetery of St. John’s Church in Beck Row, England, Nov. 10, 2019. (Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron/U.S. Air Force photo)

Scientists said the growth on the battlefields was because former battlefields had become enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war.

But it was the poet, Lt Colonel John McCrae, who saw the poppies as a memorial to the bloodshed in a war that shattered Europe.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row.
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Today, in the U.S., the poppy is distributed by The American Legion for donations to support veterans and active-duty military personnel. Poppy Day is May 26, the Friday before Memorial Day.

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Turns out that rare earth elements are not so rare



You’ve probably heard of rare earth elements by now, as they often pop up in news headlines and political discussions. And when you hear that the elements are rare, you expect them to be…well, rare. But it turns out that rare earth elements aren’t rare at all.

In fact, you could take a shovel to your yard and probably dig up a bit of many of the elements used in electronic devices as catalysts, meaning they are useful in various chemical reactions.

Without rare earth elements, there are no smartphones and computers.

Rare earth elements are more abundant in some places, but they’re not hard to find. The problem is that rare earth elements typically make up only a small amount of the local soil composition.

Generally, to get a significant amount of rare earth elements, you must excavate huge quantities of earth from vast open pits, processing the soil to the rare metals from the rest. Refining rare earth elements can inflict serious damage on the environment and generate a lot of waste. Powerful acids and other solutions are often used to separate rare earth elements from the rest of the soil.

For a long time, China enjoyed a near-monopoly on rare earth metal production. China has set up enormous processing centers and has been more willing to bear the risks that come with digging up and refining rare earth elements. In 2022, China still produced the most of any country at 210,000 metric tons (MT), while the U.S. and Australia produced 43,000 MT and 18,000 MT, respectively.

Today, rare earth metal production is ramping up in the U.S., Australia, and arctic Sweden, where 1 million tons have been found.

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National Safe Boating Week is May 20-26: Don’t stow your life jacket: Wear it!



The simple pleasure of a summer boat ride can turn sour quickly with unexpected dangers.

Collisions, capsizing, and falls overboard are some of the more dangerous incidents that account for the 4,400 boating-related accidents and 700 deaths each year.

Among all the factors that figure into the 2,600 injuries per year — including alcohol use, leaving the boat voluntarily, high speeds, and machinery failure — there is one that figures into 83 percent of deaths: Not wearing a life jacket.

Safe boating advocates say the single most important thing you can do to prevent death and injury is to wear the jacket.

Some safe boating tips:

  • Be weather-wise. Sudden winds, lightning flashes, and choppy water can mean a storm is brewing. Bring a portable radio to check the weather.
  • Bring the extra gear in a container that floats, including a flashlight, extra batteries, matches, a map, flares, sunscreen, and extra sunglasses.
  • Tell someone where you are going, who is with you, and how long you will be away.
  • Check your boat, equipment, boat balance, engine, and fuel supply. Never overload your boat.
  • Ventilate after fueling. Open the hatches, run the blower, and sniff for gasoline fumes in the fuel and engine areas before starting the engine.
  • In a small boat, keep fishing and hunting gear well-packed. Bring an extra line to secure the boat or equipment.
  • Stay warm and dry. Bring a waterproof covering. Never wear hip waders in a small boat.
  • Be ready for higher-powered boats to pass you. Stay on your side of the channel and maintain a steady speed.
  • Anchor from the bow, not the stern. Use anchor line length at least five times longer than the water depth.

Taking a safe boating course has long-lasting benefits. When you complete a course, you could earn lower boat insurance costs. In 75 percent of boating deaths in 2021, the operator completed no safety instructions.

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Five ways to improve your partying skills



It happens to everyone sometimes: Standing on the sidelines at a party with a drink or appetizer in your hand, with no idea what to say or do. But party anxiety isn’t a life sentence — there are things you can actually do about it. Try these tips, and you might actually find that you like parties after all.

1. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You are not obligated to be the life of the party or earn the undying affection of every party guest. It’s really just a party!

2. Start with people you know. A conversation with some familiar faces can loosen you up and make it easier to chat with new people later on.

3. Pick the perfect arrival time for you. Are you more comfortable with a lighter crowd, or do you like to slide in while the party’s in full swing, when lots of people are already talking, and you can just join a group? If arriving a couple of minutes early or late (within reason) lets you have a better time, then don’t agonize about it — just do it.

4. Create strategies to meet and talk to new people. You might ask your host to introduce you or just stick out your hand and do it yourself. Have a couple of funny stories or interesting facts in your back pocket as conversation starters.

5. Don’t be afraid to join groups of new people. It’s a party, after all. You can listen to the conversation, participate with easy questions and statements, and let it build from there. You could also just put it all out there with a simple “I don’t think we’ve met before. What are your names?” It’s easy to do and instantly initiates a conversation that includes everyone.

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ChatGPT 3.5 is dead, long live ChatGPT 4



Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance, and ChatGPT 4 now stands on the shoulders of the wildly popular ChatGPT 3 and 3.5 AI tools. As ChatGPT 4 rolls out, it may prove even more disruptive.

Launched in late November, ChatGPT 3.5 was a resounding success. The bot’s website,, saw just 153,000 visitors in November. In December, visits climbed to 266,000,000, and then 616,000,000 in January. Since then, the website has seen a billion plus searches per month. Perhaps traffic will cool off, but ChatGPT 4 will drive even more engagement.

ChatGPT 4 may also drive revenue growth. OpenAI expects revenues to hit at least $200 million this year and projects that revenues will hit $1 billion in 2024.

OpenAI makes money by lending its AI solutions to various platforms for a price. The company has also rolled out a $20 monthly subscription plan that offers faster services and exclusive access to ChatGPT 4.

ChatGPT also could come in handy for everyday uses, such as checking prices, shopping, meal planning, and travel and vacation planning — nearly anything that takes aggregating data.

So what makes ChatGPT 4 a better solution than ChatGPT 3 and 3.5? As you might expect with AI, the newest iteration is just smarter. OpenAI claims that ChatGPT 4 is ten times more powerful than ChatGPT 3.5, although they haven’t fully explained how. Reported internal evaluations did find ChatGPT to be 40 percent more likely to produce factual responses, 60 percent less likely to make stuff up, and 82 percent less likely to respond to disallowed requests — producing violent and hateful content, among other things, is banned.

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The secret life of milkweed



Even its name classifies it as unwanted, but milkweed plays a crucial role in nature — and the average garden.

Most famous for its role in hosting butterfly caterpillars, milkweed is the only plant that can support the lovely orange and black monarch butterfly’s caterpillar. Late in the summer, you can lift up a milkweed leaf and see the fat caterpillars feasting on the foliage.

According to the North American Butterfly Association, the 25 varieties of milkweed protect themselves with poisonous steroids called cardenolides, related to the chemical that illuminates fireflies. The monarch, in particular, stores the poison in its wings, making it an unpleasant treat for birds.

But monarchs are hardly the only creature that relies on milkweed. The plain Jane white milkweed tiger moth produces a lovely caterpillar with orange and black stripes and a fancy skirt. The tiger moth lays a cache of dozens of eggs in neat rows on the milkweed, which all hatch at once.

In late summer, milkweed produces lots of little flowers in a round ball. These blooms emit a strong and lovely lavender fragrance that can perfume an entire garden. The flowers turn into large, pointed seed pods that eventually break open and spill little seeds that float away on their fluffy parachutes.

American pioneers would collect the seed pods and use them to decorate their homes. The gold-painted pods can still be seen on Christmas trees.

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Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

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Blue Ridge Arts Council

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C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

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Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

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Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

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Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Treatment Center

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G&M Auto Sales Inc

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Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

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Mountain Trails

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Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

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Upcoming Events

10:00 am A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 28 @ 10:00 am – May 29 @ 11:00 am
A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sensory Explorers’ Trail. Explore the rich natural history of trees guided by a Virginia Master Naturalist. Discover the tips and tricks of basic tree identification and the tree-mendous roles that trees play in our environment.[...]
7:00 pm Memorial Day Community Band Concert @ Gazebo
Memorial Day Community Band Concert @ Gazebo
May 29 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Memorial Day Community Band Concert @ Gazebo
Memorial Day Band Concert at Gazebo Plaza on Main Street, presented by Front Royal American Legion Community Band.
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
May 31 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
10:00 am Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 3 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Boston Mill Road Trail near the Park Office. Learn how fences and tree plantings improve water quality at Sky Meadows State Park with a special Explorer Outpost. Stop by our station along Boston Mill Road[...]
10:00 am National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 3 @ 10:00 am – Jun 4 @ 1:00 pm
National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Picnic Area. Join park trailblazers and get your hands dirty as we work to enhance the trail surface on Hadow Trail. All ages are welcome and no experience is required. Round trip hike to the[...]
12:00 pm Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 3 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Settle's Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Log Cabin in the Historic Area. Follow your nose to the Log Cabin to see what is cooking on the hearth. Immerse yourself within the 19th century enslaved culture and its foods. Explore the taste[...]
12:00 pm The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 3 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Jun 3 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
1:00 pm Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 3 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. What’s that buzzing? Meet with local apiarists of Beekeepers of the Northern Shenandoah (BONS – online at and discover the art of Apiculture (a.k.a. Beekeeping). This monthly program[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jun 7 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]