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Task Force on culturally inclusive school meals and calendars shares report with Governor Northam



On September 9, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam received the final report of the Task Force on Culturally Inclusive School Meals and Calendars after sharing a meal with task force members, educators, and students at Beville Middle School. The full report is available here.

Recommendations include:

• Helping schools understand the religious and cultural needs of their students, assess their cultural inclusivity practices, and identify opportunities for growth;

• Creating culturally inclusive food pantries in partnership with local and faith-based organizations; and

• Recognizing schools that implement innovative and inclusive school meal and calendar practices

“When schools acknowledge and celebrate diverse cultures, customs, and cuisines, it strengthens the sense of belonging in school communities,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “I am pleased with the task force’s work to identify ways to support healthy, compassionate learning environments for students.”

The task force was charged with identifying best practices equipping schools to adopt culturally and religiously inclusive calendars and serve meals that accommodate more dietary restrictions.

The task force recommends that schools seek public input, to ensure the religions and cultures of students are represented on academic calendars. Under these recommendations, schools will not require the recognition of all significant dates on the calendar, nor eliminate holidays currently recognized, but will encourage schools and institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for students to celebrate the cultural and religious days that are significant to their tradition.

“School divisions and higher education institutions have the opportunity to be more inclusive in the meals they serve and holidays they recognize to honor the diversity of Virginia’s students and educators,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “The task force has outlined recommendations to promote expanded meal offerings and recognize religious and cultural holidays that bear significant importance to many students in our classrooms, even if they may not currently be acknowledged on school calendars.”

Members of the task force included:

• Farah Ahmad of Gainesville, Community Service, Interfaith, and Government Relations Assistant, McLean Islamic Center
• Sandra C. Curwood of Richmond City, State Director, Office of School Nutrition Programs, Virginia Department of Education
• Megan Day of Catlett, Student and Virginia Future Farmers of America State President
• Hurunnessa Fariad of Sterling, Head of Outreach, The All Dulles Muslim Society (ADAMS Center)
• Lindsey Fox of Blacksburg, Interim District Director, VA PTA’s Parkway District
• Nina Ha of Blacksburg, Director, Asian Cultural Engagement Center at Virginia Tech
• Heidi Hertz of Richmond City, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
• Qiu Jin of Virginia Beach, Director of the Institute of Asian Studies and Associate Professor of History, Old Dominion University
• Monica Manns of Richmond City, Chief Equity, Diversity Officer, Henrico County Public Schools
• Karishma Merchant of Alexandria, Senior Education and Workforce Policy Advisor, Office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine
• Sarah Moran of King George, Registered Dietitian, The Dr. Yum Project
• Vijay Ramnarain of Chesterfield, Director of Support Services, Department of Education
• Adam Russo of Manassas, Director of the Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, Prince William County Public Schools
• Lyons Sanchezconcha of Richmond City, Educator, Richmond Public Schools
• Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky of Silver Spring, Maryland, Director of Intergroup Relations and Rabbi in Residence, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
• Beth Teigen of Powhatan, Chief of Staff to the Superintendent, Henrico County Public Schools
• Jonathan C. Zur of Richmond City, President and CEO, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities

“All students, educators, and families should feel a sense of belonging in their schools and institutions of higher education,” said task force member Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky. “Religious and ethnic minorities often feel isolated when choosing how to observe a holiday that falls on a school day, especially if the school does not acknowledge the observances important to their traditions. By proactively and intentionally creating an inclusive academic calendar, PK-12 schools and higher education institutions can foster belonging and equity for all students, and allow students to more fully lean into their religious and cultural identities.”

Later this fall, the task force will present their recommendations to the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet and will share their recommendations with superintendents, school nutrition directors, higher education representatives, school board members, and other relevant stakeholders.

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Regional News

Business continues to grow as Port processes heavy imports and sets volume record for July



The Port of Virginia® continues processing record-setting amounts of cargo having handled nearly 318,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in July and in doing so making it the most productive July in the port’s history.

July’s TEU total was ahead of the same month last year by more than 24,500 units, or 8.4 percent. Additionally, July was the fourth consecutive month of TEU volumes exceeding 317,000 units. The combined volume of April, May, June and July is 1.3 million TEUs, resulting in the busiest four-month stretch in port history. Comparatively, the total TEU volume for the same period in 2021 was 1.17 million TEUs, a difference of more than 10 percent.

Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, is expecting business to remain strong during the peak retail months leading up to the holiday season. This, he said, will position the port to have its best calendar year performance on record.

“We’ve brought on 10 new vessel services in the last 12 months and five of those in the last five months, so our growth is attributable to the reworked [and new] ship line services that are calling here and our efficiency is the result of an experienced team maximizing modern terminals,” Edwards said. “What we are seeing is growing interest from ship lines and cargo owners that are working to restore some predictability and reliability to their vessel services and supply chains. We have a proven track-record of success in what remains a challenging trade environment and the result is growth at The Port of Virginia.”

August Cargo Snapshot (2022 vs. 2021)

  • Total TEUs – 317,691, up 8.4%
  • Loaded Export TEUs – 85,170, up 5.1%
  • Loaded Import TEUs – 149,829, up 4.8%
  • Total Containers – 176,441, up 7.4%
  • Total Rail Containers – 59,143, up 2.6%
  • Total Truck Containers – 109,089, up 9.1%
  • Total Barge Containers – 8,209, 24.3%

The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and, through its private operating subsidiary Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities: Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create nearly 437,000 jobs, and generates more than $100 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.

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Virginia launches playing cards designed to solve cold cases



On August 11, 2022, Attorney General Miyares announced that playing cards to help close unsolved homicides have been distributed to Richmond City Justice Center inmates for recreational use. The Attorney General partnered with the Richmond Sheriff’s Office, Richmond Police Department, Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and Crime Stoppers to launch this project.

“The loss of a murdered loved one is devastating. Not receiving justice makes it even worse. I’m hopeful that this creative tool will help law enforcement provide answers and justice to these families,” said Attorney General Miyares.

“Families of loved ones who were taken from our community deserve closure, and we’ve seen this be an effective resource in other jurisdictions,” said Richmond Chief of Police Gerald Smith.”We are proud to participate in this endeavor as this is a creative method for generating interest and information on pending cases that could help generate new leads.”

The deck of playing cards, in the four standard suits, displays a photograph, name, and case details, while the reverse side includes the P3 tip line information and how to provide information regarding the case. The goal is that current inmates will recognize the face of the victim or remember a detail that could help law enforcement close the case.

If the inmate does have information, a family member or themselves would contact the tip line. If the information is valid and valuable, a reward will be given.

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August recognized as Hidden Heroes Month in Virginia



Governor Glenn Youngkin has officially recognized August as Hidden Heroes Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia to honor the millions of military and veteran caregivers in Virginia and throughout the United States who care for those wounded, ill, or injured who have served our nation throughout wars and conflicts.

“Virginia is proud to partner with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and their Hidden Heroes program to support and acknowledge caregivers that receive little support or acknowledgment for their selfless sacrifices,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “In fact, most of these Hidden Heroes simply consider the challenging work they do as unconditional love or carrying out their civic and patriotic duty, without realizing they should be categorized as caregivers. I call on all my fellow Virginians to join me in thanking and supporting them. They deserve nothing less.”

“As a veteran, I have seen the devotion that these caregivers provide every day to their loved ones who sacrificed so much for our Nation,” said Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw. “If Virginia is going to remain the best state for veterans and their families to live, work and thrive, we must never forget how important these Hidden Heroes are and provide them with the support they need and deserve. This we pledge to do today and always.”

“I’ve seen first-hand the tremendous impact 5.5 million young spouses, mothers, dads, siblings, and other loved ones make in the lives of wounded warriors every day, in neighborhoods large and small, in states like Virginia and across the country,” said Senator Elizabeth Dole, Founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “Today, we are one step closer to ensuring that these caregivers are woven into the fabric of our nation’s appreciation of the military. My heartfelt thanks to Governor Youngkin and his team for their strong support of military caregivers, America’s hidden heroes.”

“For those Hidden Heroes throughout Virginia who would like to know what resources are available for them in their community and for others who wish to help these caregivers, all of us at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) stand ready to assist,” said Daniel Gade, Commissioner of DVS.

In the Certificate of Recognition, Governor Youngkin recognizes that many of these caregivers are the parents, spouses, siblings, and friends of these wounded, ill, or injured men and women. Their daily tasks can include bathing, feeding, dressing, and dressing grievous injuries, administering medications, providing emotional support, caring for the family and home, and working outside the home to earn essential income.

Click here to read Governor Youngkin’s Certificate of Recognition for August 2022 as Hidden Heroes Month in Virginia.

For more information about the Hidden Heroes Program and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, go to or

About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. VDVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education, and other programs. The agency operates long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit

For questions regarding caregiver programs in Virginia, email, or visit your local DVS office.

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MurLarkey Distilled Spirits to invest more than $8M, create 42 new jobs



RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that the highly awarded MurLarkey Distilled Spirits will be relocating and expanding its operations within Prince William County. The company, currently located in Bristow, will establish a large new distillery and tasting room on the campus of Farm Brew LIVE in Innovation Park, Manassas. The 12-acre entertainment area, owned by Marcus Silva of Villagio Hospitality Group, is home to 2Silos Brewing, the Black Sheep restaurant, and a live music venue, drawing over 10,000 visitors weekly. The company sources 100% of its grain from Virginia farms and through this project will increase its production eight-fold over the next three years. The project represents nearly $8.1M in new investment, 42 new jobs, and over the next three years will lead to an additional $429,860 (885,000 pounds) in purchases of Virginia-grown grains.

“Virginia’s food and beverage industry continues to thrive as surging consumer spending and our world-class business environment combine to give company after company confidence that they can grow and succeed in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “With burdensome pandemic restrictions behind us, this growth and optimism is especially evident in our craft beverage sector as returning consumers bring newfound vibrancy to the industry.”

“Virginia’s craft beverage industry provides Virginia’s farmers a great way to connect with consumers. I commend companies like MurLarkey who are helping to build that connection by committing to sourcing 100% of their grain from the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “MurLarkey’s continued investment in Prince William County represents the company’s commitment to the region and to Virginia’s grain producers, who are successfully marketing their Virginia-grown inputs to the industry.”

“MurLarkey is both humbled and honored by the amazing support we have received from our state, county and local community. We’re excited to expand upon and further enhance the guest experience which MurLarkey has become famous for,” said MurLarkey CEO Thomas Murray. “What started as a second career / family business has evolved into something which truly touches people, something broader reaching; much more than a craft spirits brand, MurLarkey has become a true lifestyle brand leading Virginia’s bourgeoning Spirit Trail. This new facility will enable us to continue this journey on the Farm Brew LIVE campus with The Villagio Group as an incredible strategic partner allowing us to better accommodate our local aficionados, patrons and tourists from far and wide seeking the MurLarkey experience.”

“MurLarkey has always had the pioneering spirit, so it’s no surprise they are Prince William County’s first AFID Facility Grant award,” said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann B. Wheeler. “We are thrilled to embrace and invest in agribusinesses that make our county a destination for residents and visitors from around the region.”

“Home-grown, family-owned small businesses like MurLarkey Distilled Spirits are vital to the character of our region’s business community,” said Senator Jeremy S. McPike. “From the company’s contributions during COVID producing and donating hand sanitizer, to their commitment to using only local ingredients in their award winning spirits, MurLarkey shows that businesses like these are not only important drivers of our economy, but also represent the fine character of our community.”

“Entrepreneurship and collaboration are what makes our economy strong, so it is terrific to see some of our finest entrepreneurs, Tom Silva and the MurLarkey team, join together to create a great new business and amenity for the community,” said Delegate Michelle Maldonado. “I wish MurLarkey the best in this new venture and look forward to celebrating with them once they open.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Prince William County and MurLarkey Distilled Spirits to secure this project for Virginia with a $250,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which Prince Williams County will match with local funds. This is Prince William County’s first ever AFID Facility Grant award, an economic development tool to help localities support new and expanding agriculture- and forestry-based businesses.

Founded in 2013 by brothers Mike and Jim Larkin and their cousin Tom Murray, MurLarkey Distilled Spirits is a family-owned business using exclusively Virginia-grown corn, rye and barley to produce award-winning spirits representative of the founders’ Irish heritage. Through the work of Jim Larkin their COO and Master Distiller George “Papi” Zwetkow, MurLarkey has earned dozens of top awards for their spirits and their visitor experience. The company also received Prince William County’s 2020 Human Rights Award for providing more than 3,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to the community during the pandemic. In addition to supporting Virginia farmers through a major increase in production, the company will continue to offer all its spent grain to local farmer’s free-of-charge for use as cattle feed.


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Attorney General Miyares joins 22 states in support of ending unlawful CDC mandate



Attorney General Jason Miyares joined 22 states in filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff in Health Freedom Defense Fund Inc. vs. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., President of the United States. The attorneys general argue that the district court correctly vacated the federal mask mandate. President Biden’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interstate travel mask mandate exceeds its authority and infringes on each state’s ability to enact its own public health rules.

“Mask Mandates across the country have been lifted in virtually every aspect of daily life. For months, Americans have been traveling safely while making their own autonomous decisions. The CDC mask mandate on public transportation, like air travel, is obsolete and no longer necessary – not to mention a clear example of federal overreach,” said Attorney General Miyares.

In a brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the attorneys general argue that the CDC’s unlawful mandate exceeds the agency’s authority in several ways.

First, the CDC grounds its authority to issue a mask mandate in its power to require “sanitation” measures under 42 U.S.C. § 264(a). That authority cannot support the mandate. Additionally, according to the statute, the CDC cannot demand that domestic travelers be examined without evidence that they are carrying disease—but that is what the mandate requires, a visual inspection of every traveler without any individualized suspicion.

The brief also argues that the mandate is invalid because it failed to go through notice and comment procedures. The CDC rule is arbitrary and capricious, with numerous exceptions that the agency did not explain or justify. Beyond that, the rule violates the agency’s own regulations. The brief states: “CDC regulations say that it cannot act unless it finds local measures inadequate. But here, the CDC never even studied local measures, much less developed a method to determine whether those measures are adequate.”

Attorney General Miyares joins the attorneys general of the following states in filing the brief: Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

To read the full brief, click here.

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136th generation of new Virginia State Police Troopers graduate



On Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, the Commonwealth will graduate its 136th generation of Virginia State Troopers. The 18 new troopers will be presented their diplomas during commencement exercises at 10 a.m. at the State Police Training Academy located at 7700 Midlothian Turnpike in Chesterfield County.

“The 136th has completed one of the toughest law enforcement academies in the country and are now joining a long line of distinguished troopers,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “2022 marks the 90th anniversary of the Virginia State Police and these new troopers will forever be part of our valued history. We are proud to have them as part of the Virginia State Police family.”

The new troopers have received more than 1,300 hours of classroom and field instruction in more than 100 different subjects, including de-escalation techniques, strategies to assist people in mental health crisis, ethics and leadership, fair and impartial policing, constitutional law, emergency medical trauma care, and public and community relations. The members of the 136th Basic Session began their 28 weeks of academic, physical and practical training at the Academy Jan. 26, 2022.

The soon-to-be graduates of the 136th Basic Session are from every corner of the Commonwealth, as well as California, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire and Washington.

Upon graduation, the new troopers will report to their individual duty assignments. For their final phase of training, each trooper will spend an additional six weeks paired up with a Field Training Officer learning his or her new patrol area.


Name – Hometown – Assignment

  • Gilmar Raymund Bulado Alcasid – Lakewood, California  – Portsmouth/Suffolk/Chesapeake
  • Usman Asif – Leesburg – Fairfax
  • Emily Marie Ball – Meriden, New Hampshire – Prince William
  • Cornelius Clyde Boykins, Jr. – Williamsburg – Prince William
  • Jarrad Jeffrey Byrd – Gate City – Prince William
  • Patrick Arthur Cantrell – Pound – Botetourt
  • Jason B. Chatman, Jr. – Richmond – Henrico
  • Morgan Bethany Douglas – Chesterfield – Dinwiddie
  • Coltin Allen King – Fort Chiswell – Fluvanna
  • Clayton Ander Linville – Richmond – Hanover/Henrico
  • Noah Aaron Maxfield – Castlewood – Rockbridge
  • Andrew Ray Murley – Sac City, Iowa – Rockingham
  • Jimmy Williams Nguyen – Frederick, Maryland – Fairfax
  • Joshua Michael Nowacki – Fredericksburg – Stafford
  • Bryan Baxter Pitts – Puyallup, Washington – Hampton/Newport News
  • Justin Lee Ramey – Sperryville – Rockingham
  • Nicholas Ryan Thompson – Chesapeake – Hampton/Newport News
  • Roosevelt Westbrook – Norfolk – Norfolk/Virginia Beach
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The Appalachian Chamber Music Festival is delighted to be returning to the Barns of Rose Hill on Thursday, August 18, at 7pm, for the opening night concert of our 2022 summer season. The festival celebrates[...]
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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
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Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. What’s that buzzing? Meet with local apiarists of the Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah (BONS) and discover the art of Apiculture (a.k.a. Beekeeping). This monthly program series examines all aspects[...]
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Valley Chorale Audition Day @ Calvary Episcopal Church
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Valley Chorale Audition Day @ Calvary Episcopal Church
If you have choral-singing experience, you’re invited to join The Valley Chorale! Rehearsals this fall culminate in our always-popular Christmas concerts in December. This year, we have a truly fantastic Christmas program planned. Auditions are[...]
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Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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Appalachian Chamber Music Festival @ Middleburg Community Center
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Appalachian Chamber Music Festival @ Middleburg Community Center
Join the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival on Thursday, August 25, at 7:00 pm, for a concert at Middleburg Community Center as part of their 2022 Festival! ACMF brings this concert of festival highlights to the[...]
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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
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