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National Night Out to be held Tuesday in Front Royal

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Souled Out will make a return appearance at Front Royal's National Night Out event Tuesday evening. / Courtesty photo

On Tuesday, August 7,  citizens throughout the Front Royal area are invited to join forces with thousands of communities nationwide for the “35th Annual National Night Out” (NNO) crime and drug prevention event.

National Night Out, which is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) and co-sponsored locally by the Front Royal Police Department, will involve over 16,500 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases around the world. In all, over 38.5 million people are expected to participate in National Night Out.

National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for–and participation in–local anti-crime efforts; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

From 6 to 9 p.m. on August 7th, local businesses, organizations as well as law enforcement officers from various agencies working the Front Royal/Warren County area will be on hand to greet citizens at the Gazebo on E. Main Street.  There will be exhibits and demonstrations centered on safety awareness, crime and drug prevention along with activities, entertainment and refreshments.

Attendees will be able to meet the Front Royal Police Department’s newest K-9 officer, Bosco and see a 7:30 p.m. demonstration with his partner, Master Police Officer, Tony Clingerman.  Souled Out, a well-known regional band, will perform as well.

Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown  is also hosting a National Night Out event on Tuesday from 6-9 p.m. along with Middletown and Stephens City police departments.

LFCC Police Lt. Chris Adams said, “There are going to be K-9 demonstrations with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police at the Middletown Campus.”

There will also be displays by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Carrier Services, Stephens City Fire and Rescue Co., and Middletown Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co.

EDA in Focus

EDA board removes executive director’s authority to sign checks, contracts

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Flanked by Ron Llewellyn, left, and Chairman Gray Blanton, Executive Director Jennifer McDonald responds to a query during a regular meeting shortly before the EDA board adjourned to a 3-3/4 hour closed session during which past and future financial processes were under scrutiny. Photos/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – After a nearly 3-3/4-hour closed session Friday morning (Dec. 14) the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors passed two resolutions removing EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald from contract and check-writing authority and from administrative authority over the EDA’s bank accounts.

The board shifted the bank account administrative function to board Treasurer Thomas Patteson and check and contract-writing authority to a pool of two of three board officers – Chairman Gray Blanton, Vice-Chairman Bruce Drummond or Treasurer Patteson – “after review by legal counsel”.

The closed session was convened during the board’s regular monthly meeting at 8:35 a.m. McDonald was excluded from the session at 9:50 a.m., about the point it reached discussion of “accounting services” related to discussion of “EDA loan programs, EDA debt service and new market tax credit program.”

Those programs and processes have come into question in the wake of the Town of Front Royal Finance Director’s discovery of years of overpayments by the town government to the EDA. Those overpayments were initially cited at about $291,000, though a final figure has yet to be determined.

Following that 3-3/4 hour closed session, what was left of the EDA board passed two resolutions reducing the executive director’s role in check and contract signing and administrative oversight of EDA bank accounts.

Following the closed session, EDA Attorney Dan Whitten downplayed the financial signatory and oversight changes as administrative suggestions made in the wake of the recent auditor and accounting reviews. Blanton agreed, calling the changes “a tightening up” of some processes to fix recently discovered mistakes.

Queried after the monthly morning meeting’s adjournment at 12:34 p.m. board Chairman Blanton said McDonald had been excluded during the discussion “because sometimes people become defensive” about altering processes they are used to.

However, asked about the changes during a special meeting called for 4 p.m. that afternoon to discuss her job performance, McDonald was not at all defensive about the earlier process changes approved by the board.

“It’s time for a change because the responsibility shouldn’t fall on one person,” she said of recently-discovered inaccuracies in the EDA’s accounting processes. She also noted that EDA checks have always been signed by two people and did not take issue that she would no longer be one of them.

Asked earlier about the accounting discrepancies uncovered by the Town, McDonald told Royal Examiner, “We have acknowledged the issue and are working on it and are committed to making it right.”

No action was taken following the 4 p.m. special meeting comprised entirely of a closed session that lasted one-hour-and-20-minutes and which McDonald was a participant in other than a portion toward the end, after which she was called back in.

The closed session adjourned shortly after that with a motion read into the record acknowledging that only matters cited in convening it had been discussed – those matters cited as performance-related discussion “limited to the executive director position.”

Blanton explained the necessity of the second, afternoon meeting due to McDonald’s absence to discuss the changes authorized following the conclusion of the morning closed session. Excluded from the closed meeting at the time, McDonald left hurriedly at 10:15 a.m. after receiving a call about a family medical emergency. However, she was able to return for the 4 p.m. session.

It’s just a little shift of authority and oversight toward the board side, Chairman Gray Blanton later explained of the resolutions regarding the executive director.

After the 5:20 p.m. adjournment of that afternoon session, Chairman Blanton said, “We did talk about her performance – yes. It was all the things the auditor brought up we didn’t have total explanations for. We’re getting those – we got half of them now and we’ll get the other half later. We’re going to find out what went wrong; get the Town their money as soon as we can come up with that figure.”

Related story: Resolution commends Town staff for uncovering overpayments to EDA

Blanton acknowledged that auditors are also exploring the EDA’s finances regarding County projects to see if there are mistakes on that side of the ledger as well.

The morning closed session went on so long that both board Chairman Blanton and Vice-Chairman Drummond left due to other commitments prior to its completion. In fact, Chairman Blanton returned about the time the board reconvened to regular session at 12:17 p.m. However, board members Greg Drescher and Mark Baker left for other commitments as the regular meeting moved toward adjournment at 12:34 p.m. after the four resolutions presented all passed without a dissenting vote.

A third resolution passed following the morning closed session included McDonald with Chairman Blanton and Vice-Chairman Drummond in a retroactive authorization to execute modifications to loans with United Bank related to three projects. Those modifications included: reduction of the Leach Run Parkway debt from about $7.165-million to $933,417; an increase in the Ressie Jeffries Elementary School capital improvement debt from $5.421 million to $5.651 million; and an increase in the Avtex Restructure from about $1.179 million to $3.302 million.

McDonald explained that while executing an early-summer board decision to alter a group loan into individual categories for refinancing that some totals had been incorrectly entered – “The decision today was to separate each and correct those mistakes,” she said.

A fourth resolution approved by the board authorized Chairman Blanton or Vice-Chairman Drummond to execute a contract to install a new entrance sign at the Kelley Industrial Park at a cost not to exceed $20,000.

Also discussed at the morning closed session was a part-time public relations position that came open with the recent retirement of Marla Jones who had stayed on in a part-time capacity after retiring from full-time work last year.

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Local News

Welcome the FOOD DUDE to the Royal Examiner

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Brandon Frye – aka The Food Dude will now be a regular feature on the Royal Examiner. As his program get produced, we’ll share it here with you.

The latest show features our own “THE APPLE HOUSE” and those wonderful donuts. Be sure to un-mute the audio.

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Crime/Court

Child endangerment and drug arrest in Linden

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Ashley Secor and Misty Morris. Photo courtesy of RSW Regional Jail.

On December 13, 2018 at approximately 3:56 pm Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call in reference to a cardiac arrest at Linden residence on Rambo Lane. The caller also advised that there was an infant in the residence and she was unaware of who the infant belonged to. Upon arrival, Deputies observed CPR being performed on a female lying on the front porch. The female was later identified as 39 year old Misty Morris who resides at that address.

Deputy Stevens assessed Morris’ condition, administered one dose of four milligrams of Naloxone and CPR was continued. Morris slowly began showing signs of a positive reaction to the Naloxone and a second four milligram dose was administered. Morris regained full consciousness and refused medical treatment from Warren County Fire and Rescue personnel.

The caller exited the residence and informed the Deputies that there was another female in the basement. Deputies located and detained 32 year old Ashley Secor of Paw Paw Drive, Front Royal, VA in the locked basement bathroom. Secor is the mother of the 13 month old infant that was left unattended upstairs.

Northwest Regional Drug Task Force Agents and Warren County Department of Social Services were contacted and responded to the scene. The father of the 13 month old was located and responded to take custody of his child.

Secor was arrested and charged with the following:

Distribution of schedule I narcotic
Possession of schedule I narcotic
Possession of drug paraphernalia
Felony child endangerment

Morris was arrested and charged with the following:

Conspiracy to distribution schedule I narcotic
Possession of schedule I narcotic
Possession of drug paraphernalia
Felony child endangerment

Both females were transported to RSW Regional Jail and are currently being held without bond.

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Local Government

Town Council wrestles with new property maintenance authority

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FRONT ROYAL – It’s rough having the power – especially when you’ve pursued it for so long, then finally achieve it.

What now?

That is the situation the Front Royal Town Council wrestled with at a December 3 work session – how to approach enforcement of a property maintenance code that allows it the same powers as cities and counties to enforce building maintenance standards within its boundaries.

Mayor Tharpe worried over first steps in enforcement – ‘Where do we start? We don’t want to be accused of playing favorites,’ he has commented. Royal Examiner File Photo

As Royal Examiner readers may recall from tracking the issue over the course of the last year and a half, the dilemma is that while the town’s elected officials want the ability to enforce standards that will improve the overall look, livability and property values of Front Royal, how much is it going to cost the town government and its citizens to achieve these things?

The one dissenting vote to both readings of the new property maintenance code, Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt, has continued to predict unexpectedly high costs, even for what has been described as a lower-cost, middle ground option adopted by council nearly two months ago.  Tewalt has also been critical of his younger council colleagues for continuing to approve capital improvements, and now additional code enforcement, without creating revenue streams to pay for either long-term debt service or required staff additions.

However, undiscussed thus far has been the potential return on investment from more aggressive enforcement if a corresponding rise in property values leads to increased real estate tax-base revenue.

After months of debate dating to at least July of 2017 for this council, on October 22, 2018 council approved the second reading of a new property maintenance code that took the above-described middle ground approach of five options presented by staff. That option, formerly known as Option C, enforcement-wise “addresses all structures in the Town”; “addresses maintenance issues” and “can be enforced on a complaint basis or proactive enforcement”.

At the December 3 work session Chris Morrison pushed for immediate implementation of that option – “I think things can be implemented now – tell me if I’m wrong,” Morrison challenged his colleagues.

Is he trying to hypnotize me? – Jacob Meza appears uncomfortable with Chris Morrison’s use of his pen to make a point on more aggressive enforcement of the Town’s new property maintenance code. Photo/Roger Bianchini

He also suggested council give citizens some clarity on the parameters of what has been approved – that citizens can initiate action through complaints to the town government.

Morrison has been the chief council proponent of a new property maintenance code and a rental inspection program, the latter eliminated from consideration by a council majority as definitely too expensive to implement. And on the back end of his council tenure having failed to hold his seat in the November election, Morrison seemed driven to see a commitment to forward movement on what has been adopted by his colleagues before the end of his council tenure come January.

Morrison suggested outsourcing the role of a building inspector to make legal judgments on mandated repairs or demolition in the absence of council agreeing to fund creation of its own building inspection department. Morrison noted that council had set aside funds toward some kind of implementation of a building inspection operation. While he cited $40,000 available, staff appeared to put the amount as high as $75,000 in past work session discussion.

“So why can’t we outsource now … why can’t we do it immediately?” Morrison asked his colleagues.

“If we do it under those conditions I have no problem starting with blighted buildings,” Tewalt replied of a proactive approach with outsourcing as necessary when town mandates on corrective action are challenged by property owners.

Council’s biggest skeptic on a broad enforcement approach, Vice-Mayor Tewalt to left, voiced support of proactive movement on a smaller target base – dilapidated buildings, as Councilman Meza ponders council options. Photo/Roger Bianchini

Councilman William Sealock suggested bypassing use of Warren County’s Building Inspection Department and utilization of town staff for initial phases up to the point where a state-certified official whose opinion would have legal standing in court was needed. Morrison agreed.

Town Manager Joe Waltz suggested revisiting the option of partnering with the Town of Strasburg in enforcing a property maintenance code. Like Front Royal now, Strasburg has taken the first step of approval of a property maintenance code but has yet to begin enforcement due to cost parameters.

“We can put it out there and see what kind of prices are set,” Waltz suggested.

“We can start slow – there’s nothing wrong with doing it right,” Mayor Hollis Tharpe suggested of a measured, slow and inexpensive approach to implementation.

“We’ll let Joe get behind the wheel,” the mayor said of having the town manager explore enforcement and outsourcing options.

“We need time so the town manager can put a plan together,” Sealock observed.

“I will move as fast as I can,” Waltz replied.

Morrison said he felt some good had come out of the discussion that will allow the Town to move on complaints forwarded by citizens, as well as initiate proactive movement against derelict structures. However Morrison worried at the lack of “closure” on a process as council’s final meeting of 2018 approached on December 10.

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Local News

Wildlife Center at Boyce sets record-breaking year

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A Red-shouldered Hawk quickly takes flight at Aug. 13 release in Flint Hill. The injured hawk mended at the wildlife center before heading back to the wild. Courtesy Photo/Zep Greenfelder

BOYCE – The Blue Ridge Wildlife Center (BRWC) at Boyce is ending a record-breaking year during which – in September – it collected the first exotic Asian Longhorned tick found on any bird in North America.

First, setting new records during its 18th year, the center highlighted an 18-percent increase in wildlife patients – 2,135 animals, reptiles and birds.
An upsurge in education endeavors delivered more than 100 programs to 5,000 people in eight counties, thus stimulating interest in and learning about native wildlife, their habitat, and their important roles in nature. Also, the center’s training of future wildlife professionals at the only full service, wildlife teaching hospital in the Northern Virginia area was highlighted in an end-of-year letter to BRWC members.

The update on activities by the center, located at 106 Island Farm Lane, Boyce, Virginia (22620) – just off Route 50 – was accompanied by a funding appeal interesting in its specificity: “We cannot do this critical work without your support and participation,” wrote Lisa Goshen, Chair of the BRWC Board of Directors and Executive Director Hillary Russell Davidson, continuing, “You take the time to bring us an injured animal or reunite (for example) a baby owl with its parents: you donate your time, animal food, and cleaning supplies to help us care for those that don’t have a voice; BRWC is open 365 days a year because you care about our native wildlife.”

Onk the opossum – Courtesy Photo BRWC

It was in its fall newsletter that BRWC first reported not only a significant rise in West Nile virus, a mosquito-born disease that is of great concern locally, particularly to horse farm owners, but the above-mentioned capture of the first Asian Longhorned tick from a bird, in this case a red-tailed hawk from Page County. In her report, BRWC Veterinarian Jennifer Riley said the tick is suspected of being around on animals, including humans, since about 2010. That it has spread to birds was new to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and an evident cause for concern.
This month, the BRWC reported the number of wildlife with West Nile virus treated at the Boyce facility increased by 300 percent. Also, amphibian patients increased three-fold and aquatic turtle patients have increased by 350 percent in the past two years.

Davidson explains the mission of BRWC this way: “(It is) to care for native wildlife by integrating veterinary medicine, rehabilitation, education and research.”

In addition to being a hospital and a rehabilitation care facility for wildlife, BRWC also trains future wildlife professionals. As noted above, it is the only full service wildlife teaching hospital in the northern Virginia area, hosting many people with their eyes set on a career in wildlife-specific vocations. Additionally, BRWC’s education program for those interested in the wildlife and conservation fields worked with four licensed veterinarians, five veterinary students, and 22 interns during the past year.

Seow the owl – Courtesy Photo BRWC

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Crime/Court

ATF raid results in 19 arrests for drug and firearm violations

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House on South Royal Ave, Front Royal was one location raided by ATF early in morning last week. Photo by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Thomas T. Cullen, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, Thomas L. Chittum III, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington DC Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, and Sheriff Timothy Carter announced this morning (December 13th) that the following persons (19) were arrested in December 2018 on Sealed Federal Indictments. Also listed are three additional persons who were arrested for state narcotics charges during this operation.

Jonathan L. Hodges, 30 years old, of Front Royal, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Distribution of Controlled Substances

William R Shoemaker, Jr. 45 years old, of Edinburg, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Three (3) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substances
  • Possession of Firearm by Prohibited Person

Katie L. Harlow, 27 years old, of Woodstock, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Three (3) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substances

Dana M. Silvious, 29 years old, of Maurertown, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Three (3) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substances

Erica N. Lam, 29 years old, of New Market, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine

Brandon W. Eppard, 28 years old, of Mount Jackson, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Maintaining Drug Related Premises

Tiffany Bowman-Lopez, 30 years old, Quicksburg, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Six (6) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substances

Amanda J. Mullins, 30 years old, Edinburg, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Two (2) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substance

Anthony Testerman, 25 years old, of Mount Jackson, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances

Kenneth J. Webb, 36 years old, of Woodstock, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Three (3) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substance

Dietrich M. Day II, 28 years old, of Dumfries, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Distribution of Controlled Substance


The following individuals were arrested on Tuesday 11, 2018 on Sealed Federal Indictments:

Jeffrey C. Mays, 32 years old, of Basye, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Possession of Firearm in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking Crime

Javon E. Cook, 26 years old, of Woodstock, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Distribution of Controlled Substance
  • Possession of Firearm by Prohibited Person
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance
  • Use and Carry Firearm during Drug Trafficking Crime

Michael L. Mullins, 32 years old, of Edinburg, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Two (2) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substance
  • Possession of Firearm by Prohibited Person

Christian M. Burhop, 27 years old, of Mount Jackson, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Distribution of Controlled Substance w/TBL
  • Four (4) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substance

Justin T. Mumaw, 26 years old, of Mount Jackson, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Two (2) Counts of Distribution of Controlled Substances

Brooke N. McIntosh, 27 years old, no fixed address

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine

Christopher T. Trimble Fishersville, VA

  • Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine
  • Possession of Firearm by Prohibited Person

Additional Federal Arrest Warrant:

Merle Stephens, 50 years old, of Basye, VA

  • Possession with Intent to Distribute
  • Possession of Firearm by Prohibited Person
  • Possession of Firearm in Furtherance Drug Trafficking Crime

SCSO arrested the following on State charges:

John K. Barb, 38 years old, of Woodstock, VA

  • Possession of Methamphetamine

Christopher A. Miller, 31 years old, of Edinburg, VA

  • Possession of a Controlled Substance

Felicia A. Gainer, 31 years old, of Mount Jackson, VA

  • Two (2) Possession of Controlled Substance
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Upcoming Events

Dec
16
Sun
all-day The Nutcracker in Front Royal @ Skyline High School
The Nutcracker in Front Royal @ Skyline High School
Dec 16 all-day
The Nutcracker in Front Royal @ Skyline High School
Don’t miss The Nutcracker! This professional production of the seasonal classic ballet will be presented at Skyline High School, Front Royal, VA on December 15th and 16th, Saturday 2:30 & 7:00 pm and Sunday 2:30[...]
4:00 pm R-MA offers Free Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus
R-MA offers Free Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus
Dec 16 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
R-MA offers Free Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus
The public is cordially invited to attend the Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA) Christmas Band Concert on Sunday, December 16th at 4:00 pm. This free concert will take place in Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus. The[...]
Dec
17
Mon
10:00 am Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Dec 17 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Create your own 5″ x 7″ koi fish paper sculpture with your friends! Schedule your own party for up to 8 people (3-person minimum). No drawing skills are necessary. Artist Tiffany Budzisz will walk you[...]
6:00 pm Volunteer Info Session – Child A... @ Middle of Main
Volunteer Info Session – Child A... @ Middle of Main
Dec 17 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Volunteer Info Session - Child Advocate @ Middle of Main
Learn how you can help ensure abused and neglected children find safe, loving, and permanent homes.  The first step to becoming a CASA volunteer is to attend an Information Session. There, you will have the[...]
Dec
18
Tue
9:00 am 2019 Dare to Dream Grant Applica... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2019 Dare to Dream Grant Applica... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 18 @ 9:00 am – 11:00 am
2019 Dare to Dream Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Now Accepting Applications for 2019 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a profession, start a non-profit, anything[...]