These moments are bittersweet!
Raccoons take a long time to rehab, averaging 3-6 months in care depending on their age at admission. It’s also a lot of work for our team to feed, clean, and provide enrichment to keep their minds active and help them practice life skills.
And wow—they grow up fast! Here are photos of them during their time at the Center, and below are photos of the same group shortly after being released.
We still have two more groups of raccoons in care that are growing, learning, and preparing for the ‘real world’. Our latest group to arrive at the Center will most likely need to stay with us until at least September.
We’re always looking for great release sites for babies we’ve raised here – in many cases, a mixed group cannot be separated and returned to their individual homes, so they must be released as a group within Clarke County, Virginia.
If you have a nice wooded area, preferably with a creek or near a water source, and would love to help give wildlife a second chance on your property, we’d love to hear from you so we can add your address to our database of release sites!
Animals looking for release sites include raccoons, foxes, groundhogs, squirrels, opossums, skunks, and potentially others! Please email email@example.com to give us your contact and location information, and we will add you to our list!
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Human remains found in Fairfax identified as missing Front Royal resident Kevin Smith
Last month, Front Royal Police Department detectives received information that the Fairfax County Police Department was working an investigation regarding the discovery of unidentified human remains in their jurisdiction. The remains, which were sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, underwent extensive DNA testing and forensic analysis. Based on the DNA testing, statistical analyses, and other facts and circumstances surrounding the case, it was determined that the remains were those of missing Front Royal resident Kevin Smith.
Kevin was first reported missing on January 28th, 2020, after his parents had not seen or heard from him in about a week. Following the initial report, an extensive investigation and search was undertaken in a concerted effort to locate Kevin and bring him home safely. Numerous agencies and community members assisted with the investigation by offering specialized equipment, resources, and information related to Kevin’s disappearance. Despite everyone’s best efforts, Kevin remained missing until the discovery of his remains earlier this year.
We would like to extend our thanks to the public and community members who assisted with this investigation. We would also like to thank the Fairfax County Police Department, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science for their help locating and identifying Kevin’s remains. Chief Magalis added, “This is certainly not the outcome we had hoped for regarding the disappearance of Mr. Smith. We give our sincere condolences to the Smith family during this very difficult time.”
Anyone with any further information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective M.P Gallagher at (540)636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephens City Church shelters homeless Nov 19-26 to support local WATTS week-long event
Stephens City UMC (SCUMC) hosted the Winchester Area Temporary Transitional Shelter (WATTS) during the week of November 19-26, 2022, including Thanksgiving Day. Altogether, nineteen churches will rotate the weekly assignment between November 5, 2022 and March 25, 2023. The people we serve (our guests) come from all walks of life and all levels of education. Some are newly homeless; others have been homeless most of their adult life. They are mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. Many have mental health issues, especially PTSD, and substance abuse. But all need our love and care, and that is what we offer for 7 days. Our guests are fed, clothed, warmed, and kept safe.
This undertaking could not be accomplished without MANY volunteers. There are seven dinners to prepare and serve, seven breakfasts served at 6:00 am, and daily grab-and-go lunches to offer. We also provide snacks and cold and hot drinks for when the guests are first received.
As the guests arrive, they are searched and go through an intake process. No outside food or drinks are allowed, and no vapes. Their weapons (usually knives) are collected before they get on the bus, kept in a locked box, and returned the next morning after they exit the bus. Medications are also kept in a locked box at the shelter and are available upon request. Then the guests are directed to their cot. The shelter is bare bones; each guest receives a hand towel, wash cloth, two sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. WATTS is a low-barrier shelter, which means we do not drug- or alcohol-test, we don’t ask for ID, and we don’t care if a guest arrives intoxicated, high, unkempt, or exhausted. All guests are treated equally and with respect and without judgement. WATTS has only five rules for guests and volunteers to follow:
- No smoking or vaping within the facility or bus and only in designated areas and times.
- No aggressive, violent, or threatening behavior or foul language.
- No alcohol or illegal substances are allowed in the facility or bus.
- No weapons are allowed in the facility or bus.
- Respect the guests, volunteers, staff, and facility.
The maximum number of guests we can accommodate each night is 35. SCUMC was at or near capacity every night, with 6-7 women. A guest is guaranteed a bed if they were in the shelter the night before. People who are turned away are sometimes offered a blanket and/or a bag lunch and directed to other local resources. Unfortunately, two to ten guests are routinely turned away. And since WATTS is only for adults, families have very few resources available to them.
Once the guests have been through intake, they can relax and enjoy hot drinks and a variety of snacks. You can see the exhaustion and stress on their faces as they walk in the door, but the tense lines and guarded eyes slowly ease. Many go to the bathroom right away because they have not had access to one all day. Others lie down on their cot to rest after spending the day walking around town, trying to stay warm.
At about 7:30 pm, the rules are reiterated by the manager and then a prayer is said. We had some amazing prayers spoken by the guests!
Then it is dinner time! Some of the meals served to the guests included meatloaf, open-faced turkey sandwiches, fried chicken, lasagna, baked chicken, chili, vegetable soup, and pulled pork and chicken BBQ sandwiches. First Presbyterian Church of Winchester delivered turkey dinners on Thanksgiving Day.
This year we offered a Clothing Room in Room 102. We had coats, sweaters, underwear, socks, boots, jeans, and other clothing for men and women. What the guests did not take will be donated to Congregational Community Action Project (C-CAP) in Winchester, except for some coats and leftover snacks and sandwiches I took to the Warming Shelter, located at Market Street UMC at 131 S. Cameron Street in Winchester. They always need donations, especially drinks, lunches, fruit, and other snacks. The Warming Shelter is open 7 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday except Thursday when it closes at 4:30 pm and Sunday 12 pm to 6 pm.
A huge thank you to all the groups that volunteered. The list includes the Clawson’s Bible Study group, United Women in Faith, the Koinonia Sunday School class, the Caring Outreach Group, and the Stephens City Preschool from SCUMC. Groups that partnered with SCUMC included the Stephens City Mennonite Church, Grace and Mercy Ministries, Grace UMC in Middletown, and Shenandoah University Cross-Country team.
Some individuals who helped tremendously include Diane Clawson (volunteer co-lead); Dee and Steve Morris; Donna Steward; Lisa Gillman; Carole Baker; Galen and Sandi Snider; Laura Fieo; Gary, Missy, and Cindee Steele; Scott and Valerie Taylor; Linda and Rick Taliaferro; Bill and Lorraine Orndorff; and Pastor Bertina Westley. There were many other volunteers who served and I apologize if I didn’t mention you.
WATTS operates year-round, even when the Night Shelter is not open. Transition Support Specialists (TSS) assist the guests in obtaining IDs, Social Security, job applications, forms for Centralized Housing Intake, and apartments, applying for Medicaid, Medicare, and SNAP benefits, and information and placement in drug and alcohol detox/rehabilitation programs. TSS also check on guests who now live in apartments, motels, or nursing homes. TSS take guests to doctor appointments, dialysis, chemotherapy treatments, and other essential appointments.
I would like to thank the community for providing me the opportunity to work with this very necessary mission. And thank you to the church congregations and civic organizations for supporting WATTS!
If you would to know more about the WATTS mission, shelter locations and schedules, or how to donate, visit the web site at watts-homelessshelter.org.
Article by Deborah Phillips
Deborah Phillips is one of the Co-Leader Volunteers of the SCUMC week-long WATTS event and serves as Secretary, Board of Directors for WATTS. Phillips has a MS in Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She worked in research labs for over 15 years, including at the CDC, Emory University, and Indiana University and as a Medical Editor for over 20 years before retirement. Phillips currently owns two businesses. She creates memory art from heirlooms as Heartsong Hill Designs (www.heartsonghill.com). She also owns a hobby farm with chickens, goats, and rescue dogs. Her second business, Heartsong Hill Hungry Goats, (www.heartsonghillgoats.com) employs her goats to offer a natural and chemical-free way to clear land.
Happy Creek riparian planting with Front Royal’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee
On Saturday, November 19, with leadership and oversight from Front Royal’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee (ESAC), local community groups and volunteers came together to help plant a 200 meter section of Happy Creek’s riparian buffer, between South Street and Short Street. More than 30 volunteers participated in the planting, including representatives from the Tree Stewards, Beautification Committee, Izaak Walton League, Piedmont Environmental Council, as well as community members. Volunteers planted more than 450 whips (young seedlings) of seven different varieties of native, flowering, riparian shrub species. Species included: Red Chokeberry, Black Chokeberry, Witchhazel, Winterberry, Northern Bayberry, Elderberry, and Arrowwood Viburnum. Species and planting densities were approved by the DEQ.
As part of ongoing restoration efforts for Happy Creek, this section of the riparian buffer had been designated a high-priority area in which an abundance of invasive and undesirable vegetation had begun to establish. In early November the Department of Public Works removed the undesirable vegetation, clearing the way for a full-scale riparian planting. Jim Osborn, Chair of ESAC and the Town’s Environmental Specialist, explains more: “We were excited to create such a positive community event centered around helping restore an important section of our local watershed. Happy Creek is an invaluable asset, landmark, and resource for our Town, and we need to be the good stewards it deserves.”
Volunteers kept warm through the chilly morning hours with coffee, muffins, and good comradery. Those that hadn’t planted before were given lessons by ESAC and Tree Steward members. While many were actively shoveling out holes in the stream bank, members of the FR-WC Anti-Litter Council and the Izaak Walton League used the time to help remove litter from the stream and its banks. Additionally, a set of volunteers helped prune several existing Sycamore trees that naturally recruited over the past couple of years. “Sycamores are a beautiful native tree whose foliage and bark offer an aesthetic appeal throughout all four seasons,” says Melody Hotek, President of the Tree Stewards. “They are also the look and feel of our beloved Shenandoah River, and so having them adorn Happy Creek is a perfect fit.”
Justin Proctor, ESAC member and local conservation biologist, reminds us the value of planting native. “Planting natives is a win-win across the board. These plants are adapted to handle our local climate and soils, they help build back our beneficial insects and pollinators, they provide food for wildlife including native and migratory birds, and their deep root systems stabilize river banks and help clean out pollutants.”
Taylor Clatterbuck, ESAC student representative, is excited about Spring. “I can’t wait to see all of these riparian shrubs leaf out and start blooming next year. Every time I walk, cycle, or drive by, I will be able to look out over something that I can be proud of.”
All watersheds need good, ongoing stewardship, and Happy Creek is no exception. Stay tuned for additional watershed projects in 2023.
Waltz’s town manager contract unanimously approved at special meeting Wednesday, Nov. 30
Two days after failing to heed the call of Councilman Skip Rogers to “immediately” expedite a contract offer to former Front Royal Town Manager Joe Waltz to return to that position after a three-year absence to a “dream job” in energy management with a municipal cooperative in Ohio, the Front Royal Town Council revisited that request. And at a 6 p.m. Special Meeting announced shortly after noon, Wednesday, November 30, for that evening for the sole purpose of appointing a town manager, council unanimously confirmed the hire of Waltz to his old job.
Seconds into the meeting, Mayor Chris Holloway called for a motion, to which Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell responded: “Mr. Mayor, I move that council appoint Joseph E. Waltz as town manager for the Town of Front Royal and authorize the mayor to execute the town manager agreement dated November 30, 2022, on behalf of the town.” That motion was quickly seconded by Councilwoman Letasha Thompson and approved by a 6-0 roll-call vote. – Well, it would have been 7-0 if Rogers’ “double yes” vote hadn’t run afoul of Council Clerk Tina Presley, who noted “double votes” were not a viable option on her voting tally sheet.
Following the prescribed six-member vote of approval of the lone agenda item, Mayor Holloway adjourned the meeting at the 1-minute-26-second mark amidst applause, and congratulatory acknowledgments directed Waltz’s way. Following the adjournment, Royal Examiner asked Waltz about his three-year path out of and back to Front Royal.
“Yea, I went to Ohio and spent the last three years in Ohio, and I retired from there. And I moved back here, was doing some energy-related work for another company. But honestly, when I came back to the community in October and found the town was still looking for a town manager,” Waltz said, the professional pull back to this community was strong. “It’s another opportunity, and I’m excited to be back. When I left here, I left on good standings. I left because I was following a lifelong dream (in the energy management field). So yea, but my heart was always here in Front Royal,” Waltz said.
Of the apparent stall in finalizing a contract indicated by the gap between his announced return on November 9, originally envisioned to be ratified by November 21st, and the achieved ratification on the final day of November, Waltz observed, “I mean, we were just negotiating, you know, and that’s a process – it just takes time.”
Amidst photo taking of congratulatory handshakes, we asked the mayor and vice-mayor about resolution of the Waltz return after, as Councilman Rogers noted two days earlier, a period of some instability at the town manager’s position over the past three years following Waltz’s leaving to pursue a job in his first field of energy management.
“I’m glad to have him back, and so’s everybody else. I think Joe’ll be great,” Mayor Holloway said. Having just observed Waltz’s potential first assignment was to be sitting in on the 7 p.m. Town Planning Commission Special Meeting scheduled for the same Town Hall second-floor meeting room in which his hiring had just been finalized, the mayor added – “Hey, he signs a contract today, and he’s back to work tonight. Can’t beat that, he’s earning his money already.”
“I’m really happy about working with Joe,” Vice-Mayor Cockrell said, adding, “I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from citizens who reached out to me when they heard that Joe was potentially coming on board. We were happy, but to know that citizens were happy and all the employees were happy – that’s a win-win for me.”
Having overheard a portion of Waltz’s discussion with this reporter about his first tenure here, Cockrell observed, “I love the fact that you said you brought Kahle (Magalis, town police chief) on board, and Robbie (Boyer, public works director) was somebody you appointed. That’s two major departments here, so that’s great. And probably some of the other people right now who are now in supervisory roles you worked with when you were here. Because the majority of people, other than planning and zoning, everybody else, the departments, a lot of the people they were moved up through the department to get the positions where they are, so that’s a good sign.”
“We have a great staff here, we always did,” Waltz injected of the Town personnel he has interacted with.
And according to the mayor’s timetable, in about 55 minutes, he would apparently be getting to know some of those planning and zoning department personnel he would soon be establishing a relationship with.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Eastern Screech Owl
What inspired you to help wildlife? For many, it was this beautiful owl, Dopey.
Dopey is a red-morph eastern screech owl who was admitted as a nestling in 2013, after being found on the ground and unable to be re-nested.
When he was placed in an outdoor enclosure with other young screech owls, he was often found on the ground and seemed unaffected by our presence. As he continued to mature, other neurological issues, such as seizures, developed, preventing him from surviving in the wild.
Because he was unable to survive on his own, and was comfortable and low-stress in captivity, we decided to permanently care for him at the Center.
Dopey is one of our 22 Wildlife Ambassadors and is part of our education team!
Our ambassadors are imperative to our mission at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center: to teach others how to be good stewards of our natural world. Seeing native wildlife live and in-person allows people to truly appreciate our native species. That love and appreciation ultimately develops into a desire to help our native wildlife and ecosystems so that we can all take advantage of the biodiversity, land use, and health benefits of healthy ecosystems.
But we need your help to get our awesome Wildlife Ambassadors to more educational events.
We currently rely on staff and volunteer vehicles to bring our ambassadors to programs and this greatly limits how many of the animals we can safely transport and how far we can take them. Your donation TODAY will go towards purchasing a van to transport our animal ambassadors, like Dopey, to educational programs.
Help us teach children and adults to appreciate and respect our native wildlife with your donation today.
This van will allow all our animal ambassadors to be safely transported and allows plenty of space for biofacts and other educational materials to make our programming as effective as possible. Our ambassadors, staff, and volunteers are grateful for your support!
WC DECA celebrates three of its Alumni during DECA Month
Each year, during November which is National DECA Month, the Warren County DECA shares the success stories of three of their alumni. We are pleased to introduce to you three of our recent alumni and how DECA helped prepare for their post-secondary experiences.
Makayla Grant (2021). As a WCHS DECA member, Makayla competed at the district and state levels. She was the chapter’s Vice-President of Recruitment and Engagement. Makayla is also the initial recipient of the Dr. Leonard F. Maiden DECA Scholarship which is given annually to a graduating WCHS DECA senior. Makayla is currently a second-year student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She had this to say about her DECA experiences.
“DECA has prepared me for college primarily because I was given ample opportunities to practice professionalism, presentation skills, and interviewing skills. I was a member for three years and the VP of recruitment and engagement for one year. Today I’m a Sophomore Business Foundation’s student at Virginia Commonwealth University with projections to concentrate in Product and Brand Marketing. My time in DECA helped give me the confidence and preparation to currently become a Teaching Assistant, a member of Business Student Ambassadors (at VCU), and secure two part time jobs in the Richmond area.”
Michael Kelly (2021). As a WCHS DECA member, Michael competed at the district, state, and national levels. Michael’s greatest contribution to the chapter was serving as Co-Manager of DECA Tailgaters, one of the chapter’s School-Based Enterprise (SBE) which received a Gold standard certification from National DECA. Michael is currently a second –year student at James Madison University. He had this to say about his DECA experiences.
“DECA has helped me tremendously and the numerous skills I learned from Mr. Gardner and my advisors have really translated to life after graduation. Through DECA I have gained an immense amount of confidence that I use toward anytime I have to publicly speak, present a project, or interview for a job/internship. Not only did DECA teach me how to present myself, but it improved my critical thinking ability as well as my ability to lead. Every employer wants a leader that’s not just reactive, but proactive as well, and by the time any DECA member walks across the graduation stage they have become the embodiment of the chapter’s motto “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.” I will continue to use the skills I learned in DECA to reach my goal of getting my Juris Doctorate and eventually working for the CIA, FBI, or DOD.”
Emily Mawson (2022). Serving as her chapter’s president during her senior year, Emily also competed at the district, state, and national levels. She was a state winner during both her junior and senior years. Emily is also a recipient of the Dr. Leonard F. Maiden DECA Scholarship Currently, Emily is a freshman at West Virginia University. She had this to say about her DECA experiences.
“Last year, I had the pleasure of serving as Warren County DECA’s chapter president. During my term, I produced one of the most successful seasons our chapter has ever seen. We broke records at the district, state, and national level. I’m incredibly proud of the work we produced as a chapter. I spent two years in DECA, and as a freshman at West Virginia University, I am a proud alumni of the organization. I’m currently studying psychology and criminology at West Virginia University, with a focus in behavioral analysis. My chapter and advisor encouraged me to chase my dreams and even provided a $1000.00 scholarship to jumpstart my education.
Without DECA, I would not be the person I am today. DECA encourages leadership, organization, team work, and professionalism. These are all qualities that employers and higher education institutions look for in students and employees. Many of the core aspects of DECA are transferable to different areas of life. I’ve used the education provided by DECA in my educational and professional life. DECA allowed me to grow as a leader, encouraging me to be an active listener and use my creative background to improve every project I worked on.
Many of the essays on college applications I filled out asked how I responded under pressure. A fair majority of the prompts asked me to describe a hardship or how I overcame a difficult decision. Application committees aren’t necessarily asking about your past, but how you respond under pressure. DECA provides instruction and opportunities to teach young adults about maintaining professionalism and overcoming adversity. That alone has helped me more than anything else.
During my first semester at West Virginia University, I was able to secure a job at Milan Puskar Stadium. During football season, I was hired to work in premium seating as part of hospitality management. The education provided by DECA allowed me to be well informed of the industry I was working in. During my senior year, I worked on a project based in project management, hospitality, and entrepreneurship. My time in DECA has served me well professionally.
DECA has allowed me to accomplish many things. I’ve secured jobs, received scholarships, and performed at a higher rate in projects because of this incredible organization. This important educational opportunity has transformed me as a person, and I cannot repay my chapter, or my advisor, Mr. Richard Gardner.”