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New Park and Ride lot opens Monday, Oct. 7, on University Boulevard in Gainesville

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On Monday, Oct. 7, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will open a new park and ride lot at University Boulevard near I-66 in Gainesville in time for the morning commute. Opening with more than 1,000 spaces, the new lot will provide commuters new opportunities to travel by carpool, vanpool, or bus service while I-66 construction is underway. Other areas of the lot will remain under construction and are expected to open with about 1,000 additional parking spaces, as well as additional access from Route 29 (Lee Highway) and convenient access to and from the I-66 Express Lanes by December 2022. On Monday, drivers should access the lot from University Boulevard.

“We’re pleased to see our Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project private partner I-66 Express Mobility Partners and their design-builder FAM Construction successfully deliver these vital improvements and meet this interim project milestone,” said Susan Shaw, P.E., VDOT Northern Virginia Megaprojects Director.

The park and ride lot is located on University Boulevard between Route 29 and I-66 and includes bus bays with covered waiting areas, designated locations for carpools and slugging, and covered bicycle racks.

OmniRide commuter bus service is scheduled to begin Oct. 28, with Gainesville-Pentagon express service being rerouted from its current location at the Limestone Commuter Lot. Buses run five trips each morning and evening, with half-price fares ($3.45 each way) being subsidized by the Transform 66 Project to encourage commuter alternatives to driving alone during construction. Additional bus service is expected to be added in the coming months. For more information about the bus service, including schedule information, please visit Omniride.com.

As part of the overall Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Express Lanes public-private partnership, more than 4,000 new park and ride spaces will open to commuters on I-66 by late 2022. In addition to the University Boulevard Lot, a new commuter lot with 1,100+ spaces is being built at Century Park Drive off Balls Ford Road in Manassas, and Fairfax County is designing and constructing a parking garage with 800+ spaces near Monument Drive and the Fairfax County Government Center using funds provided through the Transform 66 Project. In December 2018, VDOT opened a 230-space parking lot near the I-66/Route 15 Interchange in Haymarket. New and expanded commuter bus service will be provided from these park and ride lots to major regional destinations including Arlington, Washington, D.C., Tysons, Reston, and Merrifield.

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In-person middle school days increased; School board OKs curriculum committee, more IAs

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As the division continues to work through its reopening plan during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) will increase the in-person days for middle school students starting on March 1 when students will attend school on either an AA (Monday and Tuesday) or BB (Thursday and Friday) schedule with Wednesdays remaining a remote learning day for all middle school students.

Students will attend in-person instruction two consecutive days per week and work remotely three days per week. Teachers will continue to support online learning with face-to-face (synchronous) instruction or through recorded or other learning modes of instruction (asynchronous), WCPS Superintendent Chris Ballenger said in a statement released today.

“Do I like changing the school schedule right now in the middle of the school year? No,” Ballenger told Warren County School Board members during the work session portion of their January 20 meeting. “But we have to do justice for all of our students, preK through 12.”

WCPS staff is working to ensure students in grades 6, 7, and 8 — which Ballenger called the building block grades to high school — have as much time as possible in-person at school. “Studies show that students being in that chair, in that classroom, in front of a teacher is where we’re going to get the biggest gains,” he said.

Therefore, a WCPS middle school student’s designation, as either virtual or in-person, will be locked starting on February 17 and will remain locked until March 12, and neither students nor parents will be able to request a change from virtual instruction to in-person instruction during this time, according to Ballenger.

Additionally, to allow for the additional instructional days for middle school students, a start and end time change will go into effect for A.S. Rhodes Elementary starting March 1 when school will start at 8 a.m. and end at 1:30 p.m. Ballenger said the time change is necessary to accommodate increased transportation needs at the elementary school.

Beginning on March 1, the WCPS schedule will be:

“We would love to get our middle school students in four days a week like we have our elementary,” said Ballenger during the School Board’s work session portion of its meeting. “But that is just not the case for us. It comes down to staffing; it comes down to transportation — just the limitations that we have. So, the best solution that we have to try and close that learning gap… is to try to get students in front of the teacher as much as possible.”
The superintendent also said in his statement that WCPS parents will receive information from the schools concerning the schedule changes. “Please reach out to your child’s principal if you have any additional concerns,” he said.

School Board action

During their Wednesday night regular meeting, Warren County School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, and members James Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, and Kristen Pence unanimously approved two items.

The first followed a motion made by Rinaldi, with a second by Bower, to approve the creation of temporary positions for more instructional assistants (IAs) for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year to assist in both filling unfilled substitute positions and transitioning to more in-person learning, at a cost not to exceed the allotted $104,070.

“The funding for these temporary positions would come from a budgeted coordinator’s position that duties have been reassigned among current staff,” WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told the board. “Funds available in this line item is $104,070. This amount is inclusive of salary and benefits.”

Smith also said that the number of candidates hired would depend upon the budget amount allotted, the number of qualified candidates for hire, and the need of temporary IAs throughout the division. The funding is already available in the 2020-21 school budget.

“It’s already been budgeted; it’s not an expense,” Smith said. “It’s a line item that we can work out of for this particular purpose… from now through the end of the current school year.”

The next item approved, following a motion by Wells and a second by Pence, was a request by WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille to convene an English Language Curriculum Review Committee that will “review curriculum materials to best serve our English language learners.”

POS changes

In other business, the School Board heard a required first reading from Warren County High School Director of Guidance Lesley Detweiler, who presented highlights and changes to the 2021-2022 Program of Studies (POS) for grades 6-12.

One POS change regards weighted grades. Currently, AP classes and those with an associated AP exam are weighted. Starting in school year 2021-2022, dual enrolled on-campus courses also will be weighted credits.

“This helps to provide some equal opportunity for weighted grades at both schools,” Detweiler said, referring to Warren County high schools and Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC). “And these courses are equivalent to the AP courses that are already weighted.”

For instance, a Warren County student taking AP English during his or her junior year will receive credit at LFCC for English 111 or 112, she explained, adding that some of WCPS dual enrolled courses that occur on Warren County high school campuses also will have weighted credits, including Anatomy, which is held at Skyline High School (SHS), Biology at Warren County High School (WCHS), and World Civilization at SHS.

Some new courses also are being added, said Detweiler, including Coding and Digital Applications at the middle school level; Criminal Justice I and II, which will take place at the Blue Ridge Technical Center; African American History, a history elective that will be offered through Virtual Virginia during the 2021-2022 school year; Advanced Biology, which will be offered at WCHS with a dual enrollment option; and Music Artistry, which will be offered at SHS with a dual enrollment option.

AP Literature — also known as English 12 — will be renamed Dual Enrolled English 12, which will take place at SHS, although eligible WCHS students also will be able to take the class as they are currently able to do, Detweiler said.

Additionally, certain classes will be offered at both high schools, such as journalism, while Photojournalism also will get a name change to Publication. Sports Medicine II at WCHS also will have a dual enrollment option, she added.

Course offerings are contingent upon funding once the fiscal year 2022 budget is approved in May, according to WCPS.

Watch the entire School Board meeting in the Royal Examiner video.

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Warren County girls basketball: Senior Night 2021

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On Monday, January 18th, the Warren County girls basketball team recognized their senior athletes during Senior Night prior to their game against the William Monroe Dragons. The game was intense and ended in a win for Monroe with a final score of 48-64. Prior to the varsity game, Warren County hosted Senior Night for their three seniors on the team, Mackenzi Bates, Kaylee Mondrone and Kara Mondrone.

Warren County girls basketball team played against William Monroe and also celebrated their seniors.

The WC gym was decorated with posters and balloons for the Senior Night celebration. Each senior walked across the gym with two people of their choice and gave a short speech about their achievements as well as their intentions after high school. Kara and Kaylee Mondrone are twins and walked together. The three seniors are very tight knit and Bates stated that she “went to elementary school with Kara and Kaylee, the other two seniors,” and that “It’s been so fun having them by my side and making memories for so many years, and it’s insane we are already seniors.”

In past years, Senior Night has been an exciting event and the gym would be packed for the celebration. Unfortunately, Covid-19 limited the spectators for the event which led to a different type of celebration for the seniors on the team. Kara Mondrone showed appreciation for being able to play at all this year and said “I‘m grateful that I’m able to finish out my last year and be a part of the team for one last time. Even if Senior Night wasn’t exactly normal, I’m happy we had it and it will always be something I will remember.”

The three seniors were starters on the court and led the Wildcats against the Dragons. William Monroe player Ella Weaver demonstrated great skill as she scored a total of 31 points against Warren County. Jamie Kelly scored 15 points for Warren County and had 5 steals.

Despite the loss, Kaylee Mondrone shared her love for the team and said “what I love about our team this year is that we are all friends outside of basketball. We all bond together, including the coaches.” The team has many more games to play this season and will certainly need to use that bond on the court.

The game was live-streamed by Wildcats Live! on sportscopelive.com. Tickets can be purchased for $7/viewership subscription and include high quality video and exciting commentary.

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Community Events

Warren Coalition postpones Youth Have Talent competition

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Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Warren Coalition has decided to postpone the Youth Have Talent 2021 competition.  Pre-registration is still required; potential participants are encouraged to begin the process by emailing Ryan Cubbage at ryan@warrencoalition.org. The new registration deadline, along with the new audition dates, will be announced within the next several weeks.

Warren Coalition is a nonprofit agency established in 1994 to help fill the gaps in health care and substance abuse awareness to the community. The Coalition began under the guidance of Warren Memorial Hospital as an outreach project, but it has since grown and was incorporated in 2001.  The office is currently located in the Warren County Community Center.  Their mission is to make Warren County a safe, healthy, and drug-free community through many programs and in collaboration with 15+ member agencies.

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Crime/Court

Front Royal man pleads guilty to dealing two fatal doses of fentanyl-laced heroin

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A Front Royal, Virginia man, who in the fall of 2017 distributed two fatal, fentanyl-laced doses of heroin, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to a drug charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the possibility of a life sentence, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar, Special Agent in Charge Jarod A. Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division, and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, announced.

Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr., 43, of Front Royal, pleaded guilty today to two counts of distributing fentanyl.  Because the recipient of the distribution died from overdose by ingesting the fentanyl within, Sovereign faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum possible statutory penalty of life at sentencing.

Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

“When Sovereign trafficked fentanyl-laced heroin to an already-vulnerable group of people, he perpetuated their addiction and despair, and ultimately caused their death,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar stated today.  “Because of the hard work and persistence of our federal and state partners, Sovereign has been brought to justice and will spend the better part of his life in federal prison.”

“The threat fentanyl brings to our Virginia neighborhoods and families cannot be overstated. With overdoses across the area spiking in the past year, DEA Washington Division has been working hard to investigate and arrest egregious criminals such as this, who are blatantly distributing poisonous drugs and spreading death and violence across our communities.”

Sovereign admitted today that in the fall of 2017 he made regular trips from Front Royal, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland in order to purchase heroin.

On October 24, 2017, Sovereign met with victim E.R. in Front Royal. E.R. purchased a small packet of heroin from Sovereign which contained fentanyl. Later that night, E.R. ingested the contents of the packet, and as a result died.

On or about October 25, 2017, Sovereign traveled to Baltimore to meet his source of supply, where he purchased one gram of heroin. When Sovereign returned to Front Royal, he met with victim N.C. at Sovereign’s residence where he and N.C. ingested 4-5 Ritalin pills together. Later, before Sovereign left for work, he provided N.C. with a small packet of heroin, which contained fentanyl. On or about October 26, 2017, N.C. ingested the contents of the packet, and she died.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Warren County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh is prosecuting the case for the United States.

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‘Polar Plunge’ launches 2021 Humane Society programs as spay-neuter clinic fundraising progresses

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Two major events, one to make money, the other to spend, were launched this month by the Humane Society of Warren County (HSWC) while a look in the rear-view mirror focused on a highly successful 2020 despite the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

Executive Director Meghan Bowers, beginning just her third year on the job, announced the date of the second annual Polar Plunge – February 20 – which already has five sponsors and 35 swimmers lined up for a wintertime dip in the frigid waters of Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center, south of town. Bowers floated the first winter swim last year, an outstanding success financially and for swimmers and onlookers alike that raised more than $10,000.

Polar Plungers, circa 2020, head in for an invigorating dip as family and friends record the event for posterity. Courtesy Photos HSWC

“We’re setting a target of $12,000 this year,” Bowers said, while at the same time proclaiming a healthy start to a campaign to establish a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in downtown Front Royal. “This will have a huge impact on the lives of animals and their people in our community,” she said.

Within just a couple of weeks of a campaign to raise $125,000 as startup money for the clinic, $109,000 is already promised or in hand and interviewing of potential staff members begins next week. Inquiries about the proposed veterinary clinic have already been received by other rescue groups, Bowers said. Until now, spay/neuter candidates have been shipped to Harrisonburg twice a month in lots of about 80 animals per trip.

Looking back on the year of the pandemic, Bowers provided interesting information and impressive statistics including 678 adoptions of mostly dogs and cats, many new “foster families”, three pet food distributions serving 289 families, and the preservation of the title “no-kill” shelter with a 95.6% live release rate.

HSWC Executive Director Meghan Bowers gives a little hands-on seasonal attention to Wagner Shelter resident.

For most of the year, visits to the shelter were confined to “appointments only” due to the virus, but plenty of work for the staff which, Bowers said, was fully retained through the pandemic months of 2020.

Of the upcoming “Polar Plunge,” Bowers named the sponsors – City National Bank, Cool Techs Heating and Air, Ellen Aders State Farm, AirPac, MDUB Chauffer Services, and Cavalier Kennels. Aders is the president of HSWC. Of the 35 individuals already committed to the plunge – and seeking personal sponsorship money – there are 15 newcomers to the chilly sport including Bowers (look for the shark among the costumed entrants) and 20 returning plungers. Molly Llewellyn of Front Royal was the top money earner last year with exactly $1,000. So far, Bowers confided, she has $467 in sponsorship money.

Above, a shark awaits the plunge of a family of penguins – the potentially hazardous encounter ended well though, as predator and prey formed a Polar Plunge bond. Below, maybe it’s time to get back to dry land, some 2020 Polar Plungers decide, besides we’re not sure we can trust that shark.

The HSWC is a non-profit agency that houses homeless, neglected, abused and unwanted animals, in business since 1947. While primarily dealing with cats and dogs, the shelter has also been home to horses, other livestock, birds, reptiles and more.

For more information, visit https://hswcevents.org

These six Polar Plungers are all smiles under relatively balmy 2020 winter skies – will they be as lucky this year?

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Community Events

Volunteers turn Day of Service into an effort to cleanup part of Warren County

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Rea with Eric and his sons are ready to fill some trash bags

Roadside trash includes fast food containers, plastic bags, lighters, butts, bottles, cans, and Styrofoam.

As part of this year’s National Day of Service, a group of folks from Warren County decided to clean up sections of Route 522 between Robin Lane and Gate 3 of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.  It was a perfect day for the cleanup, with temperatures above freezing and into the 40s, and little wind or precipitation.  One big advantage of doing a cleanup at this time of year is that you can go into the underbrush and not worry about encountering a snake, or dealing with ticks, spiders, etc.  In addition, with the leaves off the trees and bushes, it is easier to spot trash.

Most of the cleanup crew members met at Mountain Home B&B about 10am on January 18th, dressed for the weather and wearing good boots for tromping along the side of the road and into the brush.  Mountain Home provided trash bags and gloves, and offered a free Gatorade or Vitamin Water for each volunteer.  The B&B owners also assured participants that they would transport all the bags of trash to one of Warren County’s five refuse/recycle collection sites.  Several participants also helped with taking pictures to commemorate the event.

Steve shows what’s already in the bag

The road section that was cleaned up includes the Appalachian Trail road crossing and parking area, but that wasn’t where most of the trash was found.  Cigarette butts, glass and plastic bottles, beverage cans, Styrofoam cups and plastic lids and straws, were distributed fairly evenly across the entire stretch of roadway, indicating that some people in vehicles must be tossing these items out their windows as they drive along.  One brand of beer kept showing up again and again, leading us to wonder if one person was throwing a beer bottle out the window every day.  Other items collected appeared to be construction debris that was not carefully strapped down and then flew out of trucks as they began to accelerate.

Most of the trash bags headed to the refuse collection site

Rea and Lisa prep to pick up trash

Smokers may not realize that tossing their butts out the window or on the ground (unless it is on your own private property) is littering and is against the law.  The filters, made up of plasticized cellulose acetate, do not biodegrade and can last for many years.

Besides being gross, and littering being illegal, the trash isn’t good for the local wildlife either.  It can be eaten by fish, birds, and insects, cause suffocation, and eventually get into our streams and contribute to pollution in our oceans.  Plastics and Styrofoam are particularly troublesome as they do not biodegrade, but just break into smaller and smaller pieces that make them even more likely to be consumed in the ecosystem.  Trash on our roadsides will not help bring visitors into our county and town, or help local businesses, or bring tax revenue into our local government.

Rea stands ready to tote some trash

The only excuse for littering is laziness and disrespect.  If we love our country, and love our county, we need to stop trashing it!

Disposing of trash properly (and reducing the Styrofoam and plastic packaging that you buy in the first place) helps keep it out of the environment and helps make Warren County a nicer place to live.  The 12 roadside cleanup volunteers did a fantastic job today, collecting roughly a dozen big, contractor bags of trash, and a few larger items like car parts and a cabinet panel. There are several places around Warren County where trash seems to accumulate at an alarming rate, and this stretch of 522 is one of them.  Any time you want to get out and make a difference, you can grab a trash bag and just pick up trash.  Just be sure to take each bag to a refuse/recycle collection site when you are done.

Steve extracts bottles from the brush

The National Day of Service is now a tradition each year on the 3rd Monday in January, Martin Luther King Day, to honor the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, who “sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest.”  (The History Channel website)

Susan and Lisa are ready to tackle the terrain

Several groups interested in service projects and/or caring for creation were specifically invited to participate, but everyone was welcome.  There were representatives from the Warren County Democratic committee (WCDC), the Warren Front Royal Appalachian Trail (WFRAT) Committee, Calvary Episcopal Church and even an Appalachian Trail hiker who stopped by to help.  If you or your group are interested in helping with the MLK roadside cleanup next year, or with other roadside cleanups, please contact Lisa Jenkins of Mountain Home B&B at MountainHomeAT@gmail.com.

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Jan
29
Fri
12:30 pm Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Jan 29 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education @ Online Event
Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]
Jan
30
Sat
2:00 pm Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Jan 30 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
We will paint these beautiful camellias on Saturday, January 30th at 2 pm at The Studio. This will be the first in a series of floral paintings we will do over the course of 2021.[...]
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
6:00 pm Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Known in medieval Celtic culture as a storyteller, verse maker, and composer, the word ‘Bard’ has become synonymous with the world’s greatest poets. However, few are as celebrated as Scotland’s own ‘National Bard’, Robert Burns,[...]
Feb
9
Tue
10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 9 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
11
Thu
6:30 pm Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
13
Sat
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Feb 13 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
Feb
15
Mon
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 15 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
Feb
16
Tue
10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 16 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
17
Wed
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 17 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]