FRONT ROYAL — The three-member Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) summer nutrition team recently received national recognition for their efforts to keep local children fed through much of June and July.
Katherine “Katie” Humenik, Stacey Fox, and Carrie Lohr this month were named to the 2019 No Kid Hungry Summer Hero Hall of Fame, a national honor that recognizes and celebrates those who go above and beyond to find innovative ways to ensure children get the food and nutrition they need during the summer months.
“We were very honored to receive the recognition,” said Humenik, manager of the WCPS Free & Reduced Price Meal Program. “It was a big surprise!”
Among the 20 states recognized in this year’s Summer Hero Hall of Fame, Virginia had the most honorees, with a total of 13 individuals and organizations singled out by No Kid Hungry, a global campaign of the national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength, which also works to end poverty.
“This roster of Hall of Fame inductees not only showcases the incredible commitment that exists throughout the Commonwealth to help feed children experiencing hunger, but also the deep wells of creativity and energy to make it all possible,” said Claire Mansfield, director of No Kid Hungry Virginia.
No Kid Hungry and its partners connect kids to the Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded, state-administered meal program that reimburses program operators who serve free, healthy meals and snacks to children and teens in low-income areas.
In Virginia, only about 15 percent of students who receive free or reduced-price school lunches during the regular school year also get free summer meals, according to No Kid Hungry.
In Warren County, Va., 42 percent of the students receive either free or reduced-cost meals during the school year, said WCPS Superintendent Greg Drescher.
“The need for food support doesn’t end when the summer break comes,” Drescher told Royal Examiner. “For a number of our families knowing that their children are going to get a meal during much of the summer has been a blessing.”
Humenik and her summer nutrition teammates, Fox and Lohr — who are the cafeteria manager at Skyline Middle School and Skyline High School and the cafeteria assistant manager at Skyline Middle School, respectively — made it their duties to spread around the nutritional blessings this summer.
“We met some really great people in the community who also care a lot about the kids, so it was a blessing to have that support and be around others who care like we do,” said Humenik.
As of July 1, all WCPS food service workers, including Fox and Lohr, became employees of Sodexo, the food service contractor for WCPS. Humenik remains a WCPS employee.
Sue Ann Fox, child nutrition services coordinator at Sodexo for WCPS, said the company years ago brought up the idea for WCPS to participate in the Summer Food Service Program. “And we continue to try to grow it in ways that are beneficial for Warren County,” she said on Wednesday.
“Sodexo has been a wonderful partner for close to 20 years. Sodexo headed up these efforts and figured out all of the logistics of serving lunches to multiple places in our community,” said Drescher. “While this is the second year they have done summer meals at different sites, they have been providing summer meals for a number of years at our E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School.”
In fact, Lohr this summer worked as the program supervisor at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School.
“She kept things running smoothly at that site but has been a major help to the mobile sites making sure extra food was prepared if the van needed to replenish in the middle of service times,” Humenik said.
Fox, who served as the supervisor for the WCPS mobile meals this summer, drove the WCPS van delivering free bagged lunches around the county.
“She kept things moving at the sites, completed the necessary paperwork, and really established great relationships with so many of the families we served this year,” said Humenik, adding that the WCPS summer mobile meals sites increased to seven this summer from four last year, plus three building sites for a total of 10 sites.
“We served a little over 4,000 meals to kids this summer, which is an increase of over 1,000 compared to last summer,” said Humenik. “I would like to bring up how wonderful the community was in supporting us this summer and helping to spread the word about our program.”
The WCPS team served summer meals to all children up to age 18 at:
• E. Wilson Morrison Elementary — only site where adults also could pay for low-cost meals
• Ressie Jeffries Elementary
• Royal Arms Apartments
• Royal Hills Apartments
• Skyline Vista Apartments
• Blue Ridge Education Center — a closed site where meals were served only to the children enrolled in their program
• Front Royal Church of the Nazarene
• Brinklow Road/Hattie Street/James Street
• Skyline Middle School — a closed site and breakfast was served only to the children enrolled in their summer program
• TDT program at E. Wilson Morrison — a closed site providing lunches for the children enrolled in their program on Fridays
There’s a lot that goes into feeding children over the summer months that many people may not realize, Humenik said.
For example, in addition to the van-delivered meals and on-site lunches, the WCPS team collaborated with the Warren County Backpack Program to ensure donated non-perishable foods were distributed to summer meal program participants every Thursday.
And at the mobile sites, Humenik said the summer nutrition team also set up lawn chairs and put down blankets “to give it a community feel.”
“It is so worth it to see the kids during the summer, to be a friendly face for them, and to feed them,” she added. “We do it because we care about the kids in our community and we love what we do, so getting recognized was the icing on the cake!”
Some of those joining the WCPS team as Virginia inductees to 2019 No Kid Hungry Summer Hero Hall of Fame were employees with Fairfax County Public Schools; Fredericksburg City Public Schools; Loudoun County Public Schools; and Radford City Public Schools.
Disposition of Solar Panels
The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority (WCEDA) is advertising for any party interested in purchasing the solar electric system currently stationed on top of the EDA Building at 400 Kendrick Lane, Front Royal.
The system must removed at no cost to the EDA and the roof must be left in good repair. The EDA has a deadline of April 30, 2020 to complete the removal of the system. Details of the solar electric system are available at the WCEDA offices.
Interested parties may inspect the system in person at the WCEDA offices. The successful bidder will hold the WCEDA harmless during the removal process and add the WCEDA as an insured to their insurance policies.
Submit your interest, in writing, no later than Noon Thursday, February 6, 2020.
Front Royal/Warren County EDA
P.O. Box 445
Front Royal, VA 22630
Open Forum from Lord Fairfax Community College and Blue Ridge Community College presidents
According to the Virginia Employment Commission, by 2026, Virginia needs to fill 2.6 million jobs that will require more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree. A proposal currently in the General Assembly, G3 (Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back), charts a strategic path toward filling that gap.
G3 addresses the critical workforce shortages many local businesses are currently facing. In fact, our colleges have spent the past year listening to leaders in those businesses to identify what skills they need most. G3 is designed to give more individuals in our area access to career and technical training programs in the following high-demand fields: Healthcare; Information Technology and Computer Science; Manufacturing and Skilled Trades; Early Childhood Education; and Public Safety.
G3 is an enhanced financial aid program that makes higher education more accessible to low- and middle-income individuals. G3 provides financial support for tuition, textbooks and cost of living expenses that will help them enroll and complete career-focused workforce training programs.
G3 would make a big difference for people in our communities, including ALICE families and individuals. The United Way introduced us to ALICE, which means Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, and Employed. In other words, ALICE is the working poor. Two out of five Virginia households are within the ALICE population. You likely know members of ALICE. They are your neighbors, your coworkers, perhaps you or members of your own family. We’d like to share with you the stories of two of our ALICE students.
Jenny is a single parent of three children and a full-time student in our nursing (RN) program. During the week, she is in class three days a week and at her clinical rotation for two days. She drives one hour each way to train with her nurse preceptor at a hospital. This only leaves the weekend to work, where she spends 15-20 hours as a LPN at a care facility.
Because Jenny has a part-time job, she will receive some federal financial aid to cover tuition and books, but likely not a full Pell grant. She also receives a modest scholarship. Yet, there is still a gap between the funds she receives for college and the costs of rent, utilities, gas, and children. G3 is designed to bridge that funding gap and keep Jenny on the path toward a rewarding career with a good salary in a high-demand area.
Mike has been working for a recycling company, and his wife is employed in a manufacturing plant. His job is being phased out and he needs to find another career, so he enrolled in classes with the goal of becoming a manufacturing technician. This grandfather of four does not qualify for federal aid, but G3 could help support him while he learns a new skill to be employed in an industry desperate for employees.
The Valley needs more nurses. We need people in the trades to fix and build things. We need technicians to protect our data. We need more skilled workers to help recruit and support business and industry in our region. Because graduates from G3 programs will be contributing more in state income taxes as they become higher earners, the Commonwealth will enjoy a tangible return on the investment in G3. We encourage each of you and our state legislators to support G3.
Dr. Kimberly P. Blosser – President, Lord Fairfax Community College
Dr. John A. Downey – President, Blue Ridge Community College
Essay contest open to Warren County and Shenandoah County public high school seniors
Now in its third year, the Shenandoah Area Secular Humanist (SASH) Essay Contest is open to public high school seniors from Warren and Shenandoah Counties, giving them the opportunity to compete for a $500 prize to use as they like following graduation.
Aimed at encouraging students to consider the role and impact of religion in society, this year’s essay topic asks the question “How important is the separation of church and state in a democratic society?” Peter Wilson, Scholarship Coordinator stated, “We do not have a specific correct answer in mind; we want to know what students think and why.”
Applicants must compose an essay of 350-1,000 words that addresses the topic/question in whatever way they see fit. There are no GPA or financial needs requirements for a student to be eligible to compete and the essay is the only required document for submission. Essays will be anonymously reviewed by a SASH committee of judges, who will evaluate and score each based-on command of language, quality of approach to topic, and demonstration of critical thinking skills. As in past years, up to four $500 prizes will be awarded.
High school guidance counselors will assist with the contest by setting a due date for their individual school; collecting, copying, and forwarding essays to SASH by COB, April 3, 2020; and coordinating the notification of winners and presentation of awards at each school’s awards ceremony.
For more information, students should contact their high school guidance office.
About Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists:
SASH is a chapter of the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH). Secular Humanists are distinguished by the pursuit of humanist values outside of a religious framework: Critical Thinking, Ethical Development, Peace and Social Justice, Service and Participation, Empathy, Humility, Environmentalism, Global Awareness, Responsibility, and Altruism.
Anyone interested in learning more about secular humanism and SASH is invited to attend a chapter meeting, typically on the third Saturday of each month at Samuels Public Library in Front Royal. More information about SASH can also be found on the Washington Area Secular Humanists website, www.wash.org under “Chapters” on the navigation menu bar.
Rotary Club of Warren County collecting donations for local thermal shelter
Do you have a middle school student at Skyline Middle School? The Skyline Middle School Interact Club is collecting new sheets and blankets for our local thermal shelter. Please make sure all blankets and sheets are still in the new wrappers/containers. White twin sheets and light colored blankets are the best and are easier to clean.
If you are not familiar with our Front Royal Thermal Shelter, here is some information provided to us by Michelle Smeltzer, a member of the Rotary Club of Warren County and Community Liaison for the Department of Social Services:
“The Front Royal Thermal Shelter gives the homeless of Warren County a place to stay warm during the winter months. The shelter is not in a fixed location – rather it is a cooperative effort by eight churches in the area, including New Hope Bible Church, Front Royal United Methodist Church, Front Royal Presbyterian Church, Marlow Heights Baptist Church, Riverton United Methodist Church, Virginia Hills Church, First Baptist Church and Dynamic Life Church. The guests are provided supper at about 7:30 each evening, and the volunteers join them. After supper, the volunteers join them and they play a variety of games, watch TV, or simply lie down on their cots after a tiring day. As the guests noted, this makes them feel as if someone really cares about them. Michelle said this makes a world of difference to them, because they too often feel alone and abandoned, as if the outside world ignores them. The following morning several of the churches provide breakfast, and some provide a bagged lunch when they leave for the day. The guests are assigned a cot when they arrive at the church, and that is their bed for a week. There are separate sleeping areas for men and women, and the program does not allow guests or volunteers with the program until they are at least 18 years of age because they are a no-barrier shelter. This year the shelter has also made arrangements, with the help of the Warren County Humane Society, to provide shelter for homeless pets of the guests.”
Remember – there are still many cold days ahead! Current update: The Front Royal Thermal Shelter’s greatest need is cash donations at this time: Here is an easy PayPal link. You can also visit their website to donate or learn more.
Together we are making a huge difference in this community! Thanks to all!
R-MA J-Term class builds hydroponics lab
On Thursday, January 23, 2020, Randolph-Macon Academy will introduce its new hydroponics lab to the R-MA community during an open house from 3 pm to 4 pm. The lab features five different kinds of hydroponic systems, all of which have been built by students taking the “Hydroponics and the Food We Eat” J-Term (January Term) class. Each system has been built with materials purchased at Lowes or on Amazon – such as gutters, plastic containers, hoses, boards and lights – developing systems the students can later recreate for themselves at home.
“We’ve been kind of hands-off,” commented Lynette Lane, the R-MA science teacher who is leading the project. “Sometimes I have to show them very specific steps or techniques, but then they have to figure out how to get it done. It’s been really great. Students have stepped up to do things that have really surprised me.”
The lab includes various systems, such as a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), which will allow the students to harvest lettuce weekly. A deep water culture (DWC) is a non-circulating water system in which the students will grow basil, chard, and other greens. The students will grow microgreens in a bottom watered, coco coir system. The R-MA lab’s Dutch buckets will contain strawberries and peppers. The final system the students will build is a flood and drain one used for seedling propagation.
An earthworm composting process has also been created; this will make use of any leftover organic matter from the lab systems. In early May, earthworm castings will be removed from this system to be used as nutrient-dense fertilizer for spring plantings.
“I think it’s so important for kids to see where food comes from, because most of them just don’t know,” said Ms. Lane. “And a lot of these students come to R-MA from countries where growing food is problematic, because they don’t have land, they don’t have water. They can take this back. It uses 95% less water than conventional methods of agriculture.”
Although the J-Term ends January 24th, a hydroponics intramural class and the Environmental Science and Biology classes will continue to grow the plants throughout the spring semester. The lab will start again in the fall, and run through the school year, providing leafy greens and microgreens for the community.
‘We’re not there yet’ – NAACP honors Dr. King’s memory with a call to continued commitment
At 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, January 20, area clergy, citizens, Town and County elected officials gathered at the Villa Avenue Community Center for the annual Warren-Page County NAACP “Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Keynote speaker the Reverend Edward Dawkins struck a recurring theme of “We’re not there yet” in remarks delivered with humor – “Yes, I am white” Dawkins acknowledged to some laughter – but more pointedly with love and admiration for the work, words, prayers, devotion and sacrifice of the American Civil Rights leader assassinated prior to his 40th year in April 1968.
That theme, oft repeated by Master of Ceremony Reverend James Starks – “Amen”; NAACP Chapter President Alford D. Carter III, among others, called on those present not to be “whiners” about our collective national, human and individual failures to reach that dream of Dr. King’s that every person in our nation, and even on our planet, be judged by the “content of their character” and of their soul, rather than on racial, ethnic and class stereotypes. Rather, those present and all committed to that common cause were asked to become more proactive in helping achieve the kind of human unity that sees beyond the kind of prejudices created out of ignorance and fear of the personal, cultural, even religious differences that mankind brings to the table.
Reverend Dawkins called on the clergy present to renew the type of joint worship across church, even particular denominational boundaries, that had been previously explored here with some success.
In his Benediction, another white clergyman, Bishop Vince McLaughlin, called King a prophet given by God to those committed both then, now and as long as need be, to the cause of human unity across racial, class and national boundaries. “And I say that in total, clear evidence in his prayers,” McLaughlin told those present. So fittingly, McLaughlin’s near the end of ceremony Benediction quoted at length from King’s own words of prayer.
“When you study somebody’s prayers, you get to their heart,” McLaughlin told the packed Villa Avenue Community Center meeting room. From his own religious studies and those of King’s life, McLaughlin also called the civil rights leader “a superb Biblical scholar” and “a brilliant practical theologian”.
From two of Dr. King’s prayers, McLaughlin quoted, “We humbly confess that we have not loved thee with all of our hearts, our souls and our minds; and we also confess that we have not loved our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses, rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed and evidenced in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We often give in order to receive. We are good at loving our friends and hating our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive, at least we say we do, but we dare not forget. And so as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is a history of an internal revolt against You and Your principals …
“So finally, my Holy God, my Father, I commend to thee this intercession and pray that You would move mightily in us because we have self-inflicted and caused a distress in our minds and our bodies because we have not followed the mandate of love. Move mightily amongst us, renew within us a devotion to love unconditionally, regardless. And we bring this in the name and the spirit of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
The celebration of King’s life and work was punctuated by two gospel musical interludes led spectacularly by Elder Elizabeth Roberts; and a recorded closing of the Civil Rights Anthem “We Shall Overcome” saw hands joined throughout the crowd between black and white alike, swaying to that musically and lyrically expressed hope and dream that someday, we may as individuals, as a nation, and as peoples sharing one small planet among many in a universe of unknown diversity, find unity of spirit, rather than separation of purpose to selfish and fear-driven ends.