Over the Thanksgiving statistical counting period, preliminary data shows that speed played a factor in at least four fatal traffic crashes. Those four crashes led to the deaths of six people, including a teenager and 6-year-old boy. In addition, the teenager and young boy were not wearing appropriate safety restraints.
“Speed and lack of personal safety restraints continue to cost Virginians their lives,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “As we continue through the holiday season, I am pleading with Virginians of all ages to respect and comply with all traffic safety laws. Virginia State Police and your loved ones want you to arrive at your destination safely.”
In total, during the five-day period which began at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 25, 2020, and concluded at midnight Nov. 29, 2020, 10 people lost their lives in eight traffic crashes in Virginia. The fatal crashes occurred in the cities of Lynchburg, Newport News and Richmond and the counties of Frederick, Pittsylvania, Rockingham and Shenandoah. Of those crashes, one was alcohol related, four were speed related and one involved a pedestrian.
This is an increase from 2019 when there were eight traffic fatalities during the five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period. There were 12 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2018.*
In an effort to prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police participated in Operation C.A.R.E. – Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is an annual, state-sponsored, national program during which state police increases its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period.
The 2020 Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 4,930 speeders and 1,706 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers charged 67 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 498 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.
State police responded to 733 traffic crashes across the Commonwealth, with 117 of those resulting in injuries. State police also assisted 1,609 disabled/stranded motorists during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Funds generated from summonses issued by Virginia State Police go directly to court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement.
*Source: Virginia Highway Safety Office, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shop re-opens in Front Royal
The Front Royal Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shop location is expanding! The new location is at 425 South Street, Front Royal (Former Peebles Store). Blue Ridge Hospice CEO/President Cheryl Hamilton Fried made the opening remarks along with CFO Cheryl Ringer.
The re-opening was on March 6, 2021, at 9 am. The Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce was on hand with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and remarks from Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell and Board of Supervisor Cheryl Cullers.
March 6th was also the first day of its Electronic Recycling Program. Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift stores will now be accepting your unwanted and out-of-date electronic devices. For more information, visit brhospice.org/erecycling/.
For almost 40 years Blue Ridge Hospice has helped guide patients and their families through the final months and weeks of life. With warmth and compassion, They have provided dignity and comfort, as well as physical, emotional, and spiritual care to people of all ages.
If you’re living with a life-limiting illness, caring for a loved one with an advanced illness, or grieving the loss of someone near to you, Blue Ridge Hospice can help.
Blue Ridge Hospice is a thriving not-for-profit healthcare organization with a robust staff and years of experience providing excellent hospice care to patients in the Northern Shenandoah Valley region.
Blue Ridge Hospice now provides care to the City of Winchester and counties of Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah, Fauquier, and Western Loudoun.
Blue Ridge Hospice sets the standard for quality hospice care and is accredited by The Joint Commission. The Joint Commission inspects Blue Ridge Hospice for compliance with Medicare regulations, as well as other rigorous standards, at least every three years.
Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center offering spring break camping and retreat opportunities
The Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center provided us the following.
Are you looking for a safe (and somewhat rustic) Spring retreat and/or camping trip to take with your family, significant other, or close immediate group of friends? Would you like to see Spring in bloom and explore the Appalachian Trail and the Shenandoah Mountains? Or perhaps you would like to hold a camping outing for a Girl Scout, Boy Scout, Cub Scout Troop or other small group in which you are involved? If so, the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center might be just the place for you!
Location: Located in Front Royal, Virginia, just over an hour from the D.C. metro area, the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational and Conference Center provides options for an affordable family-friendly getaway, small group retreats, and/or camping. The 4-H Center has opened-up our lodges and property to individuals, couples, families, and small groups looking to find an opportunity to safely getaway for the weekend or during the week to escape to the outdoors and to enjoy and explore nature and the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley.
Adjacent to Shenandoah National Park, the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center provides a great opportunity for those seeking to come and visit the mountains. The Center also offers a perfect and safe opportunity for families and groups that would like camping — but perhaps not outdoors in a tent — experience.
Lodging: Families can rent a room and pitch a tent on the property if they would like. The 4-H Center lodges have private rooms with dedicated heat and A/C, twin-size bunks, and a private restroom/shower. Many of the rooms in the 4-H Center lodges are walk-out directly, so no walking through a lobby or hallways. Guests provide their own bedding and toiletries.
Amenities: The 4-H Center has great hiking opportunities on-site including direct access to the Appalachian Trail from the property (a 10-minute direct hike to the AT). Free recreation options on the property include lake fishing, basketball, tennis, disc golf, and lots of open green space for day activities or tent camping. (Equipment not provided) We have picnic shelters and two campfire circles which can be rented and used by small groups.
Nearby: The 4-H Center is located just south of Front Royal and provides nearby amenities such as Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Caverns, Luray Caverns, canoeing on the Shenandoah River, 5 public golf courses, and several wineries, local shops, and eateries. Click here for more information on local attractions.
Cost: Cost is $100/room/night + tax and includes a boxed, continental breakfast. Rooms sleep 4 and can adjoin with the adjacent room to sleep 8 total.
COVID-19 Safety Measures: To support the health of all 4-H Center staff and visitors, the 4-H Center is strictly adhering to State of Virginia COVID-19 requirements and Federal CDC guidelines for camps. Therefore, all visitors and 4-H Center Guests are required to wear facial coverings in lodge hallways, entering/exiting the Dining Hall, and any other times that social distancing cannot be maintained, indoors or outdoors. The property is very large (229 acres), so that even when we are busy, it is easy to social distance for outdoor activities on the 4-H Center grounds.
Reservations/Additional Information: For additional information or to make a reservation, please call Chris Newlon, 4-H Center Reservations and Events Coordinator, 540-635-7171, or reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for March 8 – 12, 2021
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.
*NEW* Mile marker 12 to 9, westbound – Alternating lane closures for installation of traffic monitoring equipment, Wednesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No lane closures reported.
No lane closures reported.
No lane closures reported.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.
COVID-19 Update, March 4, 2021: trends and projections
On March 5, County Emergency Services Coordinator Rick Farrall distributed the following State-sponsored RAND Corporation PowerPoint presentation on COVID-19 Coronavirus trends in Virginia, with comparative information from surrounding states and the nation, as relevant.
As noted on its opening page, “The information in this presentation is intended to keep policymakers abreast of the latest findings of the research team”. Included is information, not only on case, fatality, and hospitalization trends but vaccination distribution and anticipated availability issues.
Front Royal Police Department assists in investigation of railroad derailment cleanup fatality
Front Royal, Va: On March 4, 2021, just after 2 p.m., a Norfolk Southern Railway Train with approximately 16 cars derailed in the Riverton Junction area of Depot Ave. It was confirmed there were no injuries at that time. Fire and Rescue units cleared the scene while Norfolk Southern began to mobilize clean-up and repair efforts.
At approximately 3:02 a.m. on March 5, 2021, emergency personnel from the Front Royal Police Department and Warren County Fire and Rescue responded to the scene regarding a worker who was critically injured while assisting with the cleanup effort. Upon arrival, it was determined Willie Ezra Phillips, 36, of Lesage, West Virginia had suffered fatal injuries resulting from the accident.
Upon request of Norfolk Southern Railway, detectives with the Front Royal Police Department initiated a death investigation. An investigator from the Northern District of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner responded to the scene to assist. At this time, no foul play is suspected.
Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, no further details will be released.
(From an FRPD Press Release)
Smeltzer acknowledged for her work above and beyond for those in need
It was a surprise party of sorts for Warren County Department of Social Services Program Coordinator Michelle Smeltzer Thursday evening, March 4, as dinner was being prepared at the department’s indoors “thermal shelter” for the homeless at the 15th Street Health & Human Services Complex. Smeltzer was encouraged to show up around 6:30 p.m. as Masonic Unity Lodge 146 was preparing a turkey dinner for shelter residents as part of their last scheduled winter round of meal provision there.
There would be “special guests” she had been told as several District 3 Masonic representatives were visiting the local lodge’s contribution to social services department work on behalf of those in need in the community. Among those guests were District 3 Deputy Grand Master Mark Pennypacker and District Membership Coordinator Wes Hammack. They were joined by Unity Lodge 146 members Scott Truax, Charles Taggart, Dennis Haas, Tom Kivelhan, and Will Bryan, the latter whose So Mote It Beef G BBQ catering service takes point in some of Lodge 146’s food distribution community outreach.
The Masons were joined by County Emergency Services Coordinator and COVID information point man Rick Farrall, County Board of Supervisors Chairman Cheryl Cullers with North River Supervisor Delores Oates, shelter volunteer Robin Townsend with husband Bruce in tow, the latter whom we have encountered recently circulating a petition to get on the November ballot in the 2021 county board elections, and former Interim WC DSS Director Beth Reavis.
What Smeltzer was about to find out as soon as she slowed down from helping staff prep for dinner, was that the real “Special Guest” the District 3 Mason reps and the above assortment of locals were present to acknowledge, was her.
As Will Bryan had told us, Smeltzer was to receive one of two Lodge 146 annual “Community Builder Awards” approved by District 3 as “a token of our appreciation for all that she does in our community. She is an amazing person and a pleasure to work side by side within bettering our community.”
Reavis, now “re-retired” more or less she explained, elaborated on Smeltzer’s contributions to the social services department and its community service efforts, particularly for the homeless in winter. She noted that the previous arrangement for homeless winter accommodation and meal provision had largely been achieved through various local churches on a rotating basis. However, with a sometimes-older volunteer member church base more susceptible to pandemic contagion with the arrival of COVID, some of those face-to-face housing and direct meal provision efforts had been withdrawn as a protective precaution for church members.
DSS approached the County and then County Administrator Doug Stanley about a replacement space and it was settled upon that what was then an unused portion of the 15th Street complex with cafeteria space could be utilized.
“And bless the County’s heart, they jumped right it – it looks nothing like it did before. They cleaned it up, they painted it, they spent months making this a workable solution and a nice place for people to be,” Reavis said. “And the churches are still involved, they bring food” along with Lodge 146’s spot in the rotation, which in addition to dinner, includes supplies to cover a cold breakfast and carryout lunch.
So, now there was a space in need of supervision and oversight. Enter Michelle Smeltzer.
“She works all day at her regular job (at WC DSS) and she does this on her own time,” Reavis explained. “The County has been totally supportive of it, and helpful. And Michelle works all day and then comes here – she volunteers here. She made it a really bigger job. It originally started out that she was going to help people who needed short-term housing with the money that the churches were donating. Then it got to be if somebody needs something, call Michelle. There is paid staff, she’s organized all of this, she’s gotten all the churches on board, she meets with the shelter board … And she just keeps the wheels on the wagon. She’s an amazing person with an amazing amount of energy,” Reavis observed.
And it is that willingness to go above and beyond her prescribed duties and hours to continue to help the community and some of its most vulnerable citizens that made Michelle Smeltzer the “Special Guest” of Masonic Lodge 146, its District 3 officials, and County and other volunteer citizens Thursday evening, March 4.
After having that explained to her, and receiving Lodge 146’s Community Builder Award certification to a round of appreciative applause, we caught up with the evening’s real Special Guest at her “surprise party”.
“I know, I can’t believe people are able to keep secrets – this is amazing to me,” she laughed of the friendly subterfuge. “All of this is really nice, and I’m still kind of in shock over it. I wasn’t at all expecting anything like that. I mean, I know I’m out there and people see my face, but there are so many people that are involved to make it happen. There’s been tremendous support from Social Services, from the County, and then all the churches, pastors, and church members – I mean we just have so much support,” Smeltzer said, deflecting credit to those around her who make her work possible.