May 2020

Gwaltney School Establishes Hydroponic Garden



At Jackson-Feild’s Gwaltney School, we are developing an ongoing greenhouse and hydroponic garden program to educate and involve students in a practical hands-on learning project that will be not only safe, but fun-filled and therapeutic as well!

Most of our residents have never been involved in a gardening experience. They’ve never felt the pleasure of watching seeds grow into lush plants or enjoyed the satisfaction of picking – and eating – ripe fruits and vegetables that they grew themselves.  In this year-round program, students will participate in greenhouse projects and a hydroponic garden during the cooler months, and a conventional outdoor garden during warmer months.  The produce grown will be used in our food occupation vocational training program in which students receive culinary training towards earning their ServSafe certification. It will also be used by our kitchen staff for meals.

This program provides tangible learning opportunities including quantitative metrics needed to manage a hydroponic garden such as measuring pH levels, determining electrical conductivity water levels, and identifying plants & flowers. The goal of the program is for students to earn their certification in plant science and – hopefully – develop a lifelong interest in gardening.

We’re excited to begin this program, and everyone on campus is looking forward to a really good homegrown tomato sandwich this summer!


~ Raise questions regarding the program’s implementation, lack of distributors able to serve rural food banks ~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) expressed concern with the disproportionately small share of food that Virginia has received under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Farmers to Families Food Box program and the lack of approved distributors able to meet the needs of food banks in rural areas. In a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, the Senators raised a series of questions regarding the implementation of the food purchasing and distribution program, which was authorized by Congress to assist those in need during the COVID-19 crisis.
“As of today, we understand food banks in the Feeding America network in Virginia are expected to receive approximately 2.3 million pounds of food out of the 264 million pounds of product that are expected to be distributed during the first phase of the Farmers to Families Food Box program,” the Senators wrote. “If this program were allocated in the same manner as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), we would expect Virginia to receive about 5.3 million pounds of product – more than double the current amount anticipated.”
The Senators also raised issue with the lack of contracts awarded to Virginia-based distributors, and noted the trouble that food banks throughout the Commonwealth have had in finding approved distributors able to reach more rural areas.
“Only one Virginia-based distributor – DeLune Corp in Springfield, Virginia – was awarded a contract in the first round of approval. This has made it difficult to get food boxes to all of Virginia’s food banks – especially in Southwest Virginia,” the Senators continued. “We have heard from a number of our food banks that have had difficulty finding approved distributors in the Mid-Atlantic region willing to provide food boxes. As you can imagine, this has put many of our food banks in a difficult position as they continue to experience record demand due to the ongoing public health crisis.”
In the letter, Sens. Warner and Kaine posed the following series of questions for Sec. Perdue regarding the program’s recent implementation:
  1. In awarding the first round of contracts, did USDA require awardees to demonstrate that they could service certain geographic areas to ensure each state in a region would receive coverage proportional to population and need? In future contract awards, will USDA examine a distributor’s capability to service large and diverse geographic areas?
  1. How does USDA intend to award subsequent contracts under this program in a way that ensures a fair distribution of the national allotment? What information will USDA consider as it makes future contract awards to ensure each state and region is treated equitably?
  1. According to press reports, at least one company that received a contract, Ben Holtz Consulting DBA California Avocados Direct, has had their contract terminated. How will this funding be re-allocated? Have any other contracts been revoked?
  1. Did USDA solicit information from food banks to assess their current needs before the first round of contracts were awarded? Does USDA plan to offer food banks the opportunity to provide information on the type and amount of food they need to feed their respective service areas as the agency considers future rounds of funding?
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates of expanded access to food assistance for families in the Commonwealth amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Last month, following pressure by Sens. Warner and Kaine, the U.S. Department of Agriculture formally authorized Virginia’s request to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot Program, which allows SNAP recipients to order their groceries online amid the current health crisis. In March, the Senators also successfully pushed USDA to waive a requirement that needlessly forced children to physically accompany their parent or guardian to a school lunch distribution site in order to receive USDA-reimbursable meals. Additionally, the Senators previously secured Virginia’s USDA Disaster Household Distribution Program designation, which allows food banks to distribute USDA foods directly to Virginia families in need while limiting interactions between food bank staff, volunteers, and recipients.
A copy of today’s letter is available here and below.


Congratulations to Miranda Balogun Belfield Elementary School's Teacher of the Year


Miranda Balogun has been a classroom teacher for 10 years and has been a librarian at Belfield for 1 year. She taught grades 1-3 in North Carolina before working in Greensville County at the middle school and the high school in the math departments. Prior to teaching in the library, Ms. Balogun taught 5th grade Language Arts at Belfield. Ms. Balogun is the 5th Grade Chairperson and currently enjoys integrating Science, Math, VA Studies, and Language Arts into library lessons while sharing the love of reading with all of the Belfield students.  

Ms. Balogun believes: "Education is a discipline because the outcomes anticipate certain behaviors. A knowledgeable educator not only sets high standards for his or her students but must also be qualified to help those students be successful. Discipline and patience in education will bring about a change that is the concrete proof that something has been learned. An educator might expect a student to change after they have been taught something. On the contrary, a student will talk, think, and act differently only once he or she has truly learned."



The South Centre Corridors Resource Conservation & Development Council, with support from the Crater Planning District Commission and other partners, is pleased to announce the availability of a new Regional Guide to Local Foods and Farms to connect consumers in our communities to the freshest locally grown produce and products available throughout the Crater Region.

The Regional Guide offers new markets for family farmers and supports the local farms and producers in all of our localities that sell fresh locally grown products at seventeen Farmers Markets located throughout the region.

The BUY FRESH BUY LOCAL Regional Guide can be found on the LOVE Happens in the Best PART of Virginia website: (click the image above) and the Crater Commission website:  The Regional Guide is downloadable.

For additional information, please e-mail- rcdcouncilscc@gmail.comor call (804) 861-1666.


VCU Health CMH Team Members of the Month for March and April 2020

VCU Health CMH Star Service Team Member of the Month for March - Molly Hatchel

It hasn’t taken Molly Hatchel long to find a home in the Intensive Care Unit at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital.

She has been there since last July, but already calls the ICU home and her fellow team members as family. Molly has been named the Star Service March Team Member of the Month for her work in the ICU.

A patient nominated Molly saying, “I was admitted on Tuesday, March 10th for being in A-fib (an irregular, often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow) with a very high heart rate and facing a cardioversion (a medical procedure by which an abnormally fast heart rate or other cardiac arrhythmia is converted to a normal rhythm using electricity or drugs). Molly’s sweet bedside manner and super patient helpfulness made a scary situation almost “fun”. One of the nicest nurses I have ever had and her simple explanation of procedures made them much less frightening.”

Mellisa Black, Nurse Manager for Critical Care, said, “Molly is a great example of a STAR Performer. She always gives great patient care combining the art and science of nursing. She was spot on in assessing what these patients needed and went above and beyond to give that special care.”

Molly is a graduate of Southside Virginia Community College’s nursing program and is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in nursing.   Originally from California, Molly lived in La Crosse since she was six years old before moving with her husband of one and a half years, David Bradley, to South Hill. Molly and David are expecting a little girl, Callie Mae Hatchel, later this year.

Molly said, “I did my internship here and it feels like coming home coming to work here. CMH is a big family. It feels great to feel appreciated and noticed for my work.”

Other team members nominated in March were: Kayla Franck, Nickey Powell and Hillary Tackett from the ICU; Sue Gayce from Registration; Rose Walker and John Watson from Physical Therapy; Vickie Kwasny of FANS and Dr. Ingrid Vaughan of Anesthesiology.

For being named a Team Member of the Month, Molly will get a special parking permit allowing her to park in certain places closer to the building and a $40 Amazon Gift Card.

VCU Health CMH Star Service Team Member of the Month for April - Dr. Seeras

Going above and beyond is pretty much the definition of being a STAR Performer at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital.

Evidently Dr. Ramesh Seeras has been studying the dictionary his entire career.

Dr. Seeras was nominated by the Garland Birthing Center labor and delivery nurses for Star Service Team Member of the Month and is the April winner.

In their nomination, the nursing staff said, “Dr. Seeras has handled the stress of the recent high demands of our unit with grace and charisma. No matter the circumstances, he is always a gentleman to the staff and patients. For example, a procedure needed to be done for an infant before discharge, there was not a provider on call to perform this procedure.  Having the infant come back as an outpatient would increase the risks for exposure during this pandemic. A nurse called Dr. Seeras to advocate for this patient. He responded with positivity even though he was not on call. He came in with a smile and did what was in the best interest for the patient. He always goes above and beyond for patient safety and satisfaction.”

On being chosen at Team Member of the Month, Dr. Seeras said, “I am very happy to be named the Team Member of the month. It is always good to feel appreciated. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody for entrusting me with their medical needs.”

What Dr. Seeras likes most about CMH is:  “CMH functions as a big happy family of which I am proud to belong. I find that the level and quality of care provided in this institution is as good as if not better than many larger institutions that I have been affiliated with ( and there were many).

He continued, “At CMH we always strive to be the best advocate for our patients and their families. My wife and I have also received care at this institution and we are very appreciative of the friendly, safe and high level of care we received.”

Dr. Seeras is a Board-Certified OB/GYN who has devoted his career to providing the best and most complete OB/GYN care for his patients for more than 27 years. He earned a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and completed his residency training in obstetrics and gynecology also at the University of Saskatchewan. 

 Dr. Seeras came to South Hill from Illinois, where he has been in private practice since 1998 and served as Chief of the Department of OB/GYN at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, Ill. He is skilled in minimally invasive surgery including outpatient hysterectomy, pelvic prolapse and abnormal bleeding problems.  He also provides complete care for pregnant women including high risk prenatal care and delivery.

Others nominated in April were: Milagros Silverman from Acute Care and Christy Vaughn from EVS.

For being named a Team Member of the Month, Dr. Seeras will get a special parking permit allowing him to park in certain places closer to the building and a $40 Amazon Gift Card.


~ Herring joins bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in urging Congress to ensure critical broadband access for those studying, working, and seeking healthcare from home during COVID-19 ~

RICHMOND (May 22, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in urging Congress to help ensure that all Americans have the home internet connectivity necessary to participate in telemedicine, teleschooling, and telework as part of any additional legislation that provides relief and recovery resources related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Internet access has become critical for basic needs over the past few weeks while millions of Virginians and Americans have been working, learning, socializing and seeking healthcare from home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Virginians to move school, work, healthcare and just about everything else online and has highlighted how desperately we need a national broadband plan during this crisis,” said Attorney General Herring. “Many telecom companies have stepped up to provide internet access but that is not a sustainable answer. Congress should include a national broadband plan in any future relief packages to make sure that all communities, especially those in more rural or underserved areas, have access to the internet resources they need.”

In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues laud independent efforts of various companies to increase access by waiving late fees or even providing free or discounted access to students and medical providers, while acknowledging that such efforts are not sustainable. Ultimately, the attorneys general argue that there must be a national solution to get internet access to homes across the country, especially in more rural areas.

Unless Congress acts quickly, disparities in access to home internet connectivity will exacerbate existing gaps in educational and health outcomes along lines of geography, economic resources, and race.

In a letter sent to Congressional leaders, the attorneys general urge Congress to:

  • Provide state, territorial, and local governments with adequate funding expressly dedicated to ensuring that all students and patients, especially senior citizens who are at risk, have adequate internet-enabled technology to participate equally in online learning and telemedicine.
  • Increase funding to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission Universal Service Fund, which provides vital funding to rural and low-income populations, healthcare providers, and educators with the goal of bridging the digital divide.

With public health experts warning that a second wave of coronavirus infections may require teleschooling and telemedicine to continue for millions of Americans throughout 2020, it is critical that Congress act now to help ensure that all Americans have the home internet connectivity they need to access educational opportunities, healthcare, and to earn a livelihood.

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Alaska, American Samoa, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

State Board Holds the Line on Community College Tuition and Fees for Fall 2020

RICHMOND —The State Board for Community Colleges, by a unanimous vote, elected to maintain the current in-state tuition and mandatory fees for Fall 2020. The Board’s decision means tuition will remain at today’s rate of $154 per credit hour – keeping community college tuition and mandatory fees at approximately one-third of the comparable costs of attending Virginia’s public four-year universities. This marks the second year in a row that the Board has voted to hold tuition and fees steady for the coming fall.

“We are doing everything we can to be an affordable, accessible resource for Virginians. Some people find themselves unexpectedly out of work. Others are looking for safer, convenient options to pursue their college aspirations. We want to be there for them,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “We’re asking the Board to hold the line on tuition and fees for the fall. We’d like to maintain that rate beyond the fall, if the state funding exists to help us do that responsibly.”

Further, the State Board maintained the existing tuition rate for out-of-state students, which is $354.10 per credit hour.

Tuition differentials

For the second year in a row, there were no increases to the tuition differential rates charged at eight of Virginia’s 23 community colleges (Germanna, John Tyler, Northern Virginia, Piedmont Virginia, Reynolds, Tidewater, Thomas Nelson, and Virginia Western). Tuition differential rates allow colleges to address unique and specific institutional priorities.


SBA and Treasury Department Announce $10 Billion for CDFIs to Participate in the Paycheck Protection Program

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration, in consultation with the U.S. Treasury Department, announced $10 billion of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Round 2 funding will be lent exclusively by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). CDFIs expand economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing financial products and services for residents and local businesses. These dedicated funds ensure PPP funds reach all communities in need of relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The forgivable loan program, PPP, is dedicated to providing emergency capital to sustain our nation’s small businesses, the drivers of our economy, and retain their employees– a key priority for President Trump,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. “CDFIs provide critically important capital and technical assistance to small businesses from rural, minority and other underserved communities, especially during this economically challenging time.”

“The PPP has helped over 50 million American workers stay connected to their jobs and over 4 million small businesses get much-needed relief,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.  “We have received bipartisan support for dedicating these funds for CDFIs to ensure that traditionally underserved communities have every opportunity to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before.”

The additional $10 billion in Round 2, combined with CDFI approvals of $3.8 billion in Round 1, ensures entrepreneurs and small business owners in all communities have easy access to the financial system, and receive much-needed capital to maintain their workforces.

“Providing American businesses with access to federally-guaranteed capital ensures underserved communities are not left out of our COVID-19 recovery, said SBA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Steve Bulger. No longer will small business owners in underserved communities just hear about the money. With today’s action, more minority-owned small businesses will be able to access it to survive, thrive and support our economy.”

The PPP was created by the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and provides forgivable loans to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to keep their employees on the payroll. To date, more than 4.4 million loans have been approved for over $510 billion for small businesses across America. The SBA and the Treasury Department remain committed to ensuring eligible small businesses have the resources they need to get through this time.

Governor and First Lady Northam to Host “Virginia Graduates Together” Honoring Class of 2020

Broadcast and streaming event on Friday, May 29 at 5:00 PM will include special guests, recognize accomplishments of graduates

RICHMOND—Virginians across the Commonwealth are invited to join Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam in honoring the remarkable achievements of the class of 2020 during a statewide virtual celebration at 5:00 PM on Friday, May 29. The broadcast and streaming event, “Virginia Graduates Together,” is produced by Virginia Public Media (VPM) in partnership with the Office of the Governor and the Virginia Department of Education, and will be distributed by public television stations throughout Virginia.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had major impacts on students across the country and prompted the cancellation of traditional graduation ceremonies. “Virginia Graduates Together” will salute 2020 graduates with a special address from the Governor and First Lady, musical performances, a keynote speech from United States Women’s National Soccer champion Angela Hucles Mangano, and well-wishes from notable Virginians.

“Virginia’s class of 2020 is graduating during an unprecedented and difficult time, and I know this is not the end of the school year that any of us imagined,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia students have demonstrated tremendous resilience throughout this health crisis, and we want to ensure their accomplishments are celebrated in a big way. We look forward to commemorating one of life’s greatest milestones together as a Commonwealth and giving our graduates a strong send-off to their bright futures.”

Hucles Mangano, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is a native of Virginia Beach and a graduate of the University of Virginia. The 4-time All-ACC soccer player and member of two United States women’s World Cup soccer teams is also a businesswoman and is known as an advocate for gender diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

“We are excited to honor our next generation of leaders with something revolutionary,” said First Lady Northam. “Never before have we had all Virginia graduates celebrate together in one place and at the same time. This will be special event, and we are honored to get to celebrate with you.”

Prominent Virginians appearing in the program include former Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer, University of Virginia’s men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett, Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox, Denver Nuggets guard Troy Daniels, NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris, United States Senator Tim Kaine, Los Angeles Rams linebacker Micah Kiser, musician Dave Matthews, comedian Jay Pharoah, Virginia Beach Councilman Aaron Rouse, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, New York Liberty forward Megan Walker, United States Senator Mark Warner, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, actress Constance Wu, and World Series Champion Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

“After a school year that has been like no other, our graduating class of 2020 deserves a true celebration of their hard work,” said Jayme Swain, CEO of Virginia Foundation for Public Media and President of VPM. “We congratulate this year’s seniors and hope ‘Virginia Graduates Together’ allows friends and loved ones to share in the celebration of their wonderful accomplishments.”

Many of the nearly 600 videos and photos submitted to VPM by graduates will be featured in the 30-minute program. Students, families, and teachers can join the celebration on social media by sharing cap and gown photos, well-wishes, videos, and more using the hashtag #GraduateTogetherVA.

“Virginia Graduates Together” premieres at 5:00 PM on Friday, May 29 on Blue Ridge PBSVPM and WHRO, and will stream on Facebook Live and YouTube through WETA and East Tennessee PBS.

More information about the program can be found at

Dianne Tindall Mitchell

August 30, 1949-May 23, 2020

Dianne T. Mitchell, 70, formerly of Emporia, Virginia, and then of Charlotte, North Carolina, departed from her life here on Saturday, May 23, 2020, to enter her Heavenly home for eternity. She had waged a valiant battle with congestive heart failure, diabetes, and other related complications.

She is survived by her faithful husband of 52 years, Keith W. Mitchell; son Lance W. Mitchell and wife Cheryl, and granddaughter Emerson, of Houston, Texas; son Sean K. Mitchell and wife Shannon, and grandchildren Silas, Ezra, and Clara, of Charlotte; a sister, Janet T. Clarke and husband Edward of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina; a brother, James H. Tindall and wife Carole of Houston; and several nieces and nephews.

Greeting her in her new eternal home are a grandson, Jude James Mitchell; her parents, Dorothy and Harold Tindall; a sister, Kathy T. Bailey; a special mother-in-law, Dorothy R. Mitchell; and so many other special friends and fellow believers whom she loved dearly.

Dianne was born and raised in Marion, South Carolina. She moved to Emporia during her senior year in high school, after the plant that her daddy managed in Marion was destroyed by fire, and he was transferred to Emporia to manage a plant there. During that same time period, Keith was sitting out a semester in college after the sudden death of his daddy. Even then, God was working out a plan in their lives for their paths to cross (Romans 8:28). They met, fell in love, and were married a few short months later.

In 1976, Dianne was the first to surrender her life to Jesus, followed by Keith a few short months later. Their sons, too, did likewise when they were young, and the four of them traveled all over the United States to attend Christian gatherings of believers. They were baptized at the same time at Calvary Baptist Church in Emporia, Virginia.

Many years later, after Lance and Sean had moved away and married, Dianne and Keith returned to Monumental Methodist Church in Emporia, where Keith had grown up and he and Dianne had attended when Lance and Sean were young. They taught a Sunday school class together until they moved to Charlotte four years ago. On several occasions, Dianne was asked to speak at various churches and Christian ladies’ groups, attesting to her love for the Lord. For 10 years, she conducted Christian services at a nearby ladies’ prison, and for several years, she and her family held weekly services at a local nursing home. Dianne was also a long-time member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and served excellently for several years as the treasurer in her regional chapter.

Dianne operated Christian Love & Care Daycare center for many years, where she instilled so many Christian values into the children she kept, many of whom became believers in their later years in part due to her witness to them. Some years later, she went to work for Keith in his financial services business, and his business immediately increased.

In January of 2016, she had a device attached next to her stomach to help in the digestion of food. She suffered from gastroparesis, a side effect of diabetes, and even with a limited diet, she was at least then able to get the nutrients necessary to live. But in December of that year, she had to undergo emergency surgery for a blockage, thought to have been caused by the wires from that device becoming entangled around her colon. Three days later, she suffered a heart attack, which left the left ventricle of her heart severely damaged. When it failed to repair itself, she had a device attached next to her heart and a PICC line inserted through her arm to feed medicine directly to the heart to assist that ventricle in pumping.

She was also told that the survival rate for people who began that treatment was about 50 percent after the first year. She was offered the opportunity to receive an artificial pump or possible transplant, but she turned it down and said that she wanted to live out whatever time she had left enjoying being with her family, and especially her grandchildren, without undergoing more hospitalization and risky surgery should she elect that route. Though she suffered many ups and downs with her heart, diabetes, and other related illnesses, she did beat the odds and survived for 19 more months after having that procedure done. She never returned to a hospital until the day she breathed her last, with Keith at her side.

Dianne’s sister, Janet, told Keith the night after she died that Dianne had told her a year ago that she was ready and anxious to go and be with the Lord, but that she did not think Keith was ready for her departure. The night before she died, Keith asked her that if she had a choice, would she want to go ahead then and be with the Lord. She nodded her head and said yes. He told her that he was willing to pray with her for that, and their prayer together was answered.

That, alone, demonstrates the unselfishness of this strong and faithful servant of the Lord. And now, She has risen!   

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in her name at, and a card can be sent to Keith Mitchell at 3305 Open Field Lane, Apt 528, Charlotte, NC 28226. You can also contact BGEA directly and mail a check to 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28201, or over the phone at 1-877-247-2426.

A memorial service for friends and family will be held later in Charlotte.

The Crater Planning District Commission Announces the Establishment of a New Loan Program for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19


The Crater Planning District Commission has established a Business Continuity Loan Program to assist existing for-profit small businesses to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.  The goal is to provide working capital for small businesses to retain employees and support other working capital needs.

The Business Continuity Loan can range in size from $10,000 to $50,000 and the term of the loan can be up to 1-year.  The interest rate is fixed at the prime interest rate which is currently 3.25%.

The small business must be located within the Crater Region:  Cities of Colonial Heights, Emporia, Hopewell and Petersburg; and the Counties of Charles City, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Prince George, Surry and Sussex.

The Crater Commission is looking forward to doing its part to assist the region’s many small businesses that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

This loan program is in total accord with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Blueprint for Getting Virginians Back to Work initiative.

For more detailed information, please visit the Crater Commission’s website-


Farmers and Ranchers in Virginia Can Now Apply for Financial Assistance through USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Online Tools and Toll-Free Number Available to Assist Producers

RICHMOND, VA, May 26, 2020 – Agricultural producers can now apply for USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to offset impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. The application and a payment calculator are now available online, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff members are available via phone, fax and online tools to help producers complete applications. The agency set up a call center in order to simplify how they serve new customers across the nation.

We know Virginia producers are facing a tough time now, and we are making every effort to provide much needed support as quickly as possible,” said Nivin A. Elgohary, State Executive Director for FSA in Virginia. “FSA is available over the phone and virtually to walk you through the application process, whether it’s the first time you’ve worked with FSA, or if you know us quite well.” 

Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion for vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.

“We also want to remind producers that the program is structured to ensure the availability of funding for all eligible producers who apply,” Elgohary said.

In order to do this, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date nationwide, as funds remain available.

Producers can download the CFAP application and other eligibility forms from Also, on that webpage, producers can find a payment calculator to help identify sales and inventory records needed to apply and calculate potential payments.

Additionally, producers in search of one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a good first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

Applying for Assistance

Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office. Those who use the online calculator tool will be able to print off a pre-filled CFAP application, sign, and submit to your local FSA office either electronically or via hand delivery. Please contact your local office to determine the preferred method. Find contact information for your local office at

Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested after the application is filed. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed.

Additional Commodities

USDA is also establishing a process for the public to identify additional commodities for potential inclusion in CFAP. Specifically, USDA is looking for data on agricultural commodities, that are not currently eligible for CFAP, that the public believes to have either:

  1. suffered a five percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,
  2. shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, or
  3. not left the farm or remained unharvested as mature crops.

More information about this process is available on

More Information

To find the latest information on CFAP, visit

or call 877-508-8364.

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at  

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.



WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in introducing legislation to ensure that all National Guard troops activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic receive full benefits. The National Guard COVID-19 Response Stability Act would extend Title 32 authority for all troops activated in response to the crisis through the end of the public health emergency – a move that would ensure that the federal government continues covering 100 percent of the costs of this activation. Currently, states have to continue requesting support to avoid a lapse in authorities or federal funding for the troops on the frontline of this crisis. While the Trump Administration gave an extension, it cynically chose a peculiar date that was later revealed to result in a hard deployment stop at 89 days for thousands of National Guard members – one day short of the 90-day threshold to receive additional federal benefits, like access to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

“Our nation is lucky to be able to count on the men and women of the National Guard who are stepping up during this public health crisis,” said Sen. Warner. “While we may not be able to repay them for their selflessness and courage, the very least we can do is make sure they have access to full benefits as they work to fight this deadly pandemic.”

“The Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to nickel and dime members of the National Guard would be wrong under any circumstance, but it is particularly offensive when these troops are responding to a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has already killed more than 90,000 Americans,” said Sen. Duckworth. “This legislation would ensure that all National Guard troops activated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic are provided with the full benefits they’ve earned and will give states much-needed certainty during these uncertain times.”

Specifically, this legislation would amend federal law to authorize state governors to order members of the National Guard to active duty in connection with COVID-19 response with full federal benefits. This enhanced authority would be in place through the end of the Trump Administration’s declared public health emergency, plus an additional 30 days to allow the Guard to shift away from Title 32 operations. Most recently, the public health emergency declaration was renewed on April 26, 2020 for a period of 90 days.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Duckworth, the legislation was co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for National Guard troops during this crisis. In March, he wrote a letter urging the President to approve Governor Northam’s request to deploy the National Guard to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak in Virginia.

Rep. McEachin Hosts COVID-19: Managing Our Grief, Mental Health, Stress & Trauma

RICHMOND, VA. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) yesterday hosted COVID-19: Managing Our Grief, Mental Health, Stress & Trauma, a virtual event to discuss mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Congressman McEachin was joined by mental health experts who provided advice and tips for constituents who are struggling with the additional daily stress and worry caused by COVID-19. 

“I am so grateful that these incredible panelists were able to join me this evening to provide much-needed advice for my constituents,” said Congressman McEachin. “This is an incredibly stressful and heartbreaking time for us all, and I wanted to host this event to make sure that my constituents have the tools they need to take care of themselves. Maintaining our mental health is so critical, but it is easy to forget to check in on yourself with so much else going on. I hope tonight was an opportunity for folks to get connected to resources they may need.”

Moderated by Jessica Lark from WTKR, the panel included: Ms. Kathy Harkey, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Virginia; Dr. Faye Belgrave, Virginia Commonwealth University Professor of Healthy Psychology; Dr. Rebecca Vauter, Virginia Board of Psychology; Mr. Jesse Wysocki, Chief Operating Officer, The McShin Foundation; Ms. Ashley Everette Airington, Children’s Mental Health Policy Analyst, Voices for Virginia Kids; and Ms. Frederika Jones, Interim Executive Director, Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance (SAARA) of Virginia.

"We are grateful to Rep. McEachin for shining a light on the impact this pandemic has had on the mental health of children and families,” said Ashley Airington. “Supporting and protecting the emotional well-being of our children is critical now, more than ever. The good news is that nurturing relationships between children and their caregivers are the most important factor in developing resilience and overcoming the negative impacts of this collective trauma."

“As we move into a new lifestyle norm, we must have the courage to go forward,” said Frederika Jones,  SAARA Interim Executive Director. “For some, it will be right on the surface of their mindset, but for others it will require reaching deeper within themselves to muster the strength needed to deal with each new day.  Nevertheless, we must stay hopeful because the sun will still shine and as Stevie Wonders sings, ‘Tomorrow Robins Will Sing.’”

“It was an honor and a privilege to be join this diverse panel of experts in their respective fields. We know that COVID 19 is real, causing harm throughout our community and nation [and] we must not forget about those who suffer from substance use disorders or mental health struggles,” said Jesse Wysocki, McShin Foundation Chief Operating Officer. “Having these open talks and panelists of experts to discuss and answer questions is part of the solution, but we must now turn our discussion into action, doing everything we can to continue to have access to services for those with SUD and MH.”

“COVID 19 has impacted the mental health of everyone through disruption in major life events such as unemployment, financial problems, changes in living situations and routines, and changes in the health status of self or loved ones,” said Dr. Faye Belgrave, VCU Professor. “Poor mental health is directly linked to poor physical health so we must always be attentive to our mental health.  Although there are many things we cannot control about COVID 19, there are things we can control.  Let's center ourselves and be mindful of every day mental health care.



11 Traffic Crashes During 2019 Memorial Day Weekend

RICHMOND – The 2020 Memorial Day weekend not only netted a reduction in overall traffic volumes on Virginia’s highways, but also a decrease in traffic deaths. Preliminary reports indicate eight people lost their lives during the four-day, holiday statistical counting period. During the same statistical counting period in 2019 and 2018, traffic crashes on Virginia highways resulted in 11 deaths.

Of the eight individuals killed this year on Virginia highways, two were riding on motorcycles and one was a pedestrian. The statistical counting period began at 12:01 a.m. Friday (May 22) and ended at midnight Monday (May 25). Virginia State Police statewide responded to 480 total traffic crashes during this past holiday weekend.

The fatal crashes occurred in the city of Virginia Beach and the counties of Caroline, Montgomery, Pittsylvania, Prince William, Rockingham, Southampton and Sussex. The two fatal motorcycle crashes occurred in Pittsylvania and Rockingham counties. The pedestrian, who was pushing his bicycle when he was struck and killed, was in Sussex County.

"Even though we are thankful for the slight decrease in traffic fatalities over the Memorial Day weekend, eight deaths are still too many,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “It is also concerning to see reckless driving citations and DUI arrests practically on par with last year’s holiday weekend. Fewer drivers should have demonstrated a significant decline in the number of citations and traffic deaths. Sadly, that was not the case and too many motorists were putting too many lives at risk due to reckless choices and deadly driving behaviors.”

During the weekend’s statistical counting period, Virginia troopers statewide cited 2,489 reckless drivers and arrested 70 impaired drivers. During the 2019 Memorial Day weekend, state police cited 2,548 reckless drivers and arrested 75 drivers for DUI.

"Considering that traffic was much less than what we normally see on this particular holiday weekend, it is very concerning to have only reduced the death toll by three in comparison to the past two years,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “As Virginia continues to gradually re-open through the Governor’s ‘Forward Virginia’ plan and more motorists return to the highways, it is imperative that Virginians make traffic safety a priority.”

The Virginia State Police holiday enforcement efforts are part of the Department’s annual participation in the Operation Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.), a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seatbelt. During the 2020 Operation CARE Memorial Day statistical counting period, Virginia troopers also cited 2,469 speeders and 224 seatbelt violations. State police assisted 1,460 disabled motorists during the holiday 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.


For more information on traffic safety and how to keep Virginia “Moving Toward Zero Roadway Deaths,” go to

Richard “Rick” William Young,

December 19, 1953-May 25, 2020

Richard “Rick” William Young, 66, passed away on Monday, May 25, 2020. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Marcia Jean Rankin and John R. Young. He is survived by his daughter, Heather Anne Greene of Hampton, VA, son, Richard William Young, Jr. (Shawnda) of Chesapeake, VA, brother, John Robert Young (Nina) of Colorado, sisters, Carol Richardson (Thomas) of Tennessee, Janet Shadrick (Timothy) of Georgia, Teresa Goins of Florida, granddaughters, Nicole, Shenene, Natalie, along with daughter-in-law, Josie Toro of Portsmouth, VA.

Rick served in both the Army and the Air Force as well as being a member and Commander of the American Legion, Post 46. He worked at O’Reilly Auto Parts of Emporia, VA, as well as Echols Funeral Home for many years, where he helped those in the community in a way that not many people could bare.

A memorial service will be held at a later date and time due to the coronavirus limitations. The family would like to express a special thanks to Barbara Street and Kathy Tuck for looking after Rick the past few weeks.

Online condolences may be made to


Peggy M. Pearson

July 17, 1932- May 25, 2020

Peggy M. Pearson, 87, of Gasburg, passed away Monday, May 25, 2020. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert T. Pearson and her son, Dennis R. Phillips.

Peggy is survived by three daughters, Patricia Hollowell (David), Brenda Justice (Kenny) and Lisa Wright (Danny); nine grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; her beloved canine companion, “Prissy”; sister, Marion Blankenship; brother, Thomas “Sonny” Seward and a number of nieces and nephews.

A private graveside service will be held Wednesday, May 27 at Greensville Memorial Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to James Square Baptist Church Love Gift Fund, c/o Lisa Wright, 1037 Ankum Rd, Gasburg, Virginia 23857.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at

Virginia Receives USDA Approval to Join SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot Program

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that for the first time, more than 740,000 Virginians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will be able to pay for their groceries online and have them delivered, after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Virginia to participate in an innovative online purchasing pilot program. 

“This continued public health emergency has made access to healthy, affordable food challenging, particularly for Virginians who live in food deserts, have disabilities, or face transportation barriers,” said Governor Northam. “Allowing Virginia families who receive SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online and have them safely delivered to their homes will give vulnerable populations additional flexibility to put food on the table without putting themselves at unnecessary risk.”

The program will launch statewide in Virginia on Friday, May 29 with online shopping access available through the Amazon and Walmart online platforms. Retailers interested in participating the program can find more information and apply by contacting USDA. Transactions will take place using SNAP customers’ secure Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). SNAP benefits cannot be used to pay for fees of any type, such as delivery, service, or convenience fees. 

“With so many Americans already opting to stay safe at home by ordering their groceries online, it’s only right that we make every effort to ensure our most vulnerable families are also able to take advantage of these services,” said United States Senator Mark R. Warner. “After having pushed USDA to approve Virginia’s participation in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program, I’m glad to know that many more families in the Commonwealth will soon be able to access nutritious food without requiring them to leave their homes.”

“I’m grateful that following our request, the USDA has approved Virginia’s inclusion in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program,” said United States Senator Tim Kaine. “Especially at this time of great food insecurity, it’s critical that Virginians have the resources they need to safely access food.”

The pilot, which was mandated through the 2014 Farm Bill, was designed to test the feasibility of allowing USDA-approved retailers to accept online transactions. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) administers SNAP in the Commonwealth.

“Agencies and leaders across the Commonwealth are constantly collaborating on innovative ways to meet the needs of individuals, families and communities during this pandemic,” said VDSS Commissioner S. Duke Storen. “Addressing the adaptive needs of Virginians right now, particularly expanding access to food, remains at the forefront of everything we are doing.”

Additional information about SNAP benefits in Virginia is available on the VDSS website.

Commonwealth Deploys Artificial Intelligence-Powered Online Tool to Help Virginians Self-Screen for COVID-19

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginians can now use COVIDCheck, a new online risk-assessment tool to check their symptoms and connect with the appropriate health care resource, including COVID-19 testing.

“If you are feeling sick or think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it is important that you take action right away,” said Governor Northam. “This online symptom-checking tool can help Virginians understand their personal risk for COVID-19 and get recommendations about what to do next from the safety of their homes. As we work to flatten the curve in our Commonwealth, telehealth services like this will be vital to relieving some of the strains on providers and health systems and making health care more convenient and accessible.”

COVIDCheck is a free, web-based, artificial intelligence-powered telehealth tool that can help individuals displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 self-assess their risk and determine the best next steps, such as self-isolation, seeing a doctor, or seeking emergency care. This resource assists in identifying users who are at higher risk of COVID-19 and can help individuals find a nearby testing site. It is not to be used in place of emergency medical care. Virginians can visit to learn more and use COVIDCheck.

COVIDCheck users who say they are experiencing symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19 are screened for occupational and medical risk factors and are given one of five care levels in accordance with the Virginia Department of Health’s categories.

“Because COVID-19 can affect people differently and cause illness ranging from mild to severe, this personalized assessment tool can help people sort through symptoms and decide if they need to seek medical care,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “While COVIDCheck is not a substitute for medical advice, it can help people decide what steps to take next to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the community.”

By answering a series of questions, an individual can receive a personalized, real-time self-assessment with information and recommendations on what to do next. The recommendations, based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include advice on when to contact a medical professional or seek emergency care, next steps for care based on zip code, and permission to follow up with the individual in three days to see how the person is doing.

“We’re proud to partner with the Commonwealth of Virginia to mobilize our AI-powered health assistant to provide the most accurate and helpful information to all Virginians during this vital time,” said Andrew Le, MD, CEO and cofounder of Buoy Health, which developed COVIDCheck. “And as the Commonwealth cautiously continues its phased approach to reopen, our primary goal at Buoy is to empower its residents to make the best decisions about their health so that they may re-enter society in a responsible way—for themselves, their loved ones, and the Virginia community-at-large.”

Buoy is a digital health company developed out of the Harvard Innovation Labs by a team of doctors and data-scientists, aimed at providing personalized clinical support through technology to individuals the moment they have a healthcare concern. Buoy helps remove the fear and complexity that often confronts people as they enter the system by navigating and engaging patients intelligently. The all-on-one technology is able to deliver triage at scale with transparency, connecting individuals with the right care endpoints at the right time.

Virginia State Police investigate pedestrian fatality.

On Saturday May 23, the Virginia State Police was called to Route 301, north of South Halifax Road, Sussex County, to investigate a vehicle/pedestrian accident. 

The accident occurred at approximately 1030PM in the southbound lanes of Route 301(Blue Star Highway). Jeffery J. Hinchey, a pedestrian, was pushing his bicycle southbound, in the northbound lanes of Route 301, when a 2007 Honda, traveling in the northbound lanes, struck Hinchey. The female driver pulled over and called 911. Hinchey died from his injuries at the scene. The female driver was not injured.

Alcohol was NOT a contributing factor in the incident. Family members of the deceased have been notified,

DECEASED: Jeffery Joseph Hinchey, 55 YOA, of the 12000 block of Quay Street, Chester, Virginia.

"Memorial Day"

It's a day set aside for remembering
those who before and after have went
fighting for the need of our country
wherever they might be sent.
Men and women, young and old
It mattered not you see
a highly trained military
trying to keep us free.
They have fought in strange surroundings
and many lives have been lost
now some were only wounded
but for us, still paid the cost.
One can't feel pain or anguish
these men and women all went through
yet we can honor them for what they did
for the freedom of me and you.
We can hold in our hearts the memories
of thousands that have died
yes and pray for the many wounded
who lost comarades by their side.
Now war is never over
and battle never won
the loss of the lives ere will remain
long after the fighting's done.
                              Roy E. Schepp

Support for Frontline Workers

Sharon Daniels sent this photograph of the sign in her Southampton County yard showing support for local Front Line Workers.


First Virginia Case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children Associated with COVID-19 Reported

Richmond, Va. —The Fairfax Health District has confirmed a case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. This is the first case of MIS-C reported in Virginia. The child was hospitalized on May 5 and has since been discharged and is recovering at home. To protect privacy, no other patient information will be disclosed.

MIS-C, previously called Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, is a new health condition associated with COVID-19. The first reports of this syndrome came from the United Kingdom in late April. U.S. cases were first reported in New York City in early May.

MIS-C may cause problems with a child’s heart and other organs. Most children with MIS-C have fever lasting several days and may show symptoms of irritability or decreased activity, abdominal pain without another explanation, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, conjunctivitis, lack of appetite, red or cracked lips, red or bumpy tongue, or swollen hands and feet.

Virginia Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A., provided information and guidance on the syndrome to health care providers in Virginia in a May 15 Clinician Letter.

“I urge all health care providers in Virginia to immediately report any patient who meets these criteria to the local health department by the most rapid means,” said Dr. Oliver. “All Virginians should take steps to avoid exposure to COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing cloth face coverings if appropriate.” Cloth face coverings are not recommended for children under 2 years old.

Parents should watch for persistent fever in their children and contact their pediatrician if a child appears especially ill.

The CDC issued a Health Advisory on May 14 about the syndrome, which may include symptoms of persistent fever, hypotension, multisystem organ involvement and elevated markers of inflammation. It is not currently known how common it may be for children to experience these symptoms.

Cancellation of Enfield's Fishing Creek Paddle on June 6

The 10th Annual Enfield Fishing Creek Paddle that was scheduled to be held on June 6, 2020, has been cancelled due to COVID-19.  We recognize that DERP (Downtown Enfield Restoration & Preservation) wasn’t the only organization forced to postpone a major fund-raising event, even though we had already mapped our route, secured our caterers and reserved our music. The current Coronavirus uncertainty has impacted everyone – and as much as we are sad to reschedule the 10th Annual Enfield Fishing Creek Paddle, we are also lamenting the cancellation of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and March Madness. It’s been a challenging season for all.

Although participants can safe distance with their kayaks and canoes as they paddle down Fishing Creek, there is still a lot of close-quarter contact while loading and unloading. We also gather for lunch and music afterwards. We do not want to put anyone at risk. But the good news is that we have come up with a date for next year’s Enfield Fishing Creek Paddle. In addition, DERP members plan to meet June 6 – and paddle at a safe distance while cleaning up Fishing Creek of debris.

So mark your calendars for June 5, 2021 – it will still be our 10th anniversary. Buy your tickets early. And also please consider sponsoring next June’s Fishing Creek Paddle. If you need additional information, visit our website at or feel free to contact Suzann Anderson at or Julia Andrus at


Tim Kaine to Host Virtual Latino Small Business Roundtable in Virginia

On Friday, May 22, Senator Tim Kaine will hold a virtual roundtable with Latino small business owners in Virginia to hear about the challenges and difficulties they are facing through the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Kaine and the small business owners will also discuss Vice President Biden’s plans to help both the Latino and the small business communities in Virginia.

The roundtable will be open to the press but, as with in-person roundtables, Q&A will be reserved for voters.


Virtual Latino Small Business Roundtable with Tim Kaine in Virginia

Details are subject to change


Event Start Time: 5:30 PM ET

Event Attendance: Members of the public who wish to participate should RSVP HERE.

Quarantine Recipe: Homemade Pizza with Your Kids

Cooking with your kids can be a great way to connect with them and help reduce their screen time during this quarantine. This is not so  much a recipe as an activity outiline. It will probably be best to work at the kitchen table.

Mom and Dad will need to do some of the work ahead, like cuting up the vegetables and cooking the sausage, unless there are some older kids in your house that you can trust with a knife or using the stove. Remember to preheat the oven to 450 degrees f for the Pita or Naan and follow the directions for the premade crusts and dough.

This plan is also very forgiving of changes. just plan on one mini crust per person, or one-quarter to one-third of the ready-made dough per person. If you have a lot of smaller people, you can also find Mini Naan or use English Muffins that should satisfy their appitites.


4 each Pita Bread, Naan Bread, Mini Ready Made Pizza Crusts (check Dollar Tree for Thin and Crispy Crusts) or Ready Made Pizza Dough

1 or 2 Jars Ready Made Pizza Sauce

1 bag Shredded Mozzarella Cheeze (size depends on how much cheeze your family likes on their pizzas)

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Assorted Pizza Toppings (get whatever your family likes: Pepperoni, Sausage, Onions, Green Peppers, Broccoli, Mushrooms, etc.)

Difficulty: Easy. Shopping Needed for Average Household: Pizza Sauce, Crusts and Assorted Toppings.

Pre-planning needed: None.

Prep Time: 20 Minutes, Cook Time: 15-25 Minutes

Yield: 4 Servings

1.  Let each one of your kids and adults have a crust to work on, If you are using the ready made dough, let each person, young or young-at-heart, have a portion to roll out themselves, and top each rolled out portion with a bit of the pizza sauce. Don't use too much sauce or the pizza might get soggy.

2.  Let everyone top the sauce with some Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

3.  Everyone gets to top their own pizza, with a bit of adult supervision. Too many toppings will prevent the ready-made pizza dough from baking right and there will be raw spots of dough in the finished pizza and unmelted cheese on the Pita, Naan, or pre-baked crusts. Too many toppings will also be hard for smaller children to finish eating.

4.  Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper and transfer everyone's creations to it. Use a Sharpie to write the name of the Pizza Artist next to their creation (about an inch away with an arrow pointing to it) so that everyone gets the right pizza). Bake for 15-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is cooked to the desired crispiness. Have everyone help in the cleanup and setting of the table while the pizzas bake.

5.  Let the pizzas sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving. A side salad from a bagged mix with a few cucumbers and tomatoes is all you need to complete the meal.

To submit your own recipe, send it to Recipes may be for any meal or any course. While you may include your own reccomendations for side dishes and wine, please remember to include a brief introduction to the recipe (which I have left off of this first one). This paragraph or two can eplain to readers where you first had the dish, or if it is a family tradition and a favorite of a certain family member. You may also relate any happy memories related to your recipe-is it your annual birthday meal? Reader submitted recipes will be credited to the reader, and you may include a photograph if you like. If your recipe is from a cookbook or website, please send the publication information for attribution.








Age: 75 YEARS




Eyes: BLUE

Height: 6’ 3”

Weight: 175-180 POUNDS

Missing From: FAIRFAX COUNTY, Virginia

Missing Since: MAY 10TH, 2020




Governor Northam Announces Education Work Group to Help Guide Process for Safe, Equitable Reopening of Schools

Education stakeholders will develop recommendations to ensure continuity of learning and address the needs of all Virginia students

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a diverse set of education stakeholders participating in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group to help chart a path forward for determining how schools can safely reopen later this year.

The group is comprised of representatives from Virginia’s public and private early childhood, K-12, and higher education systems, and includes teachers, superintendents, parents, college presidents, state agency personnel, special education advocates, museum directors, and student perspectives. This wide variety of education stakeholders represent the whole of Virginia’s education system and come from every region of the Commonwealth.

Secretary of Education Atif Qarni formed the work group and chaired its first meeting on April 23. Since then, the work group has been focused on developing recommendations to align policies throughout the Commonwealth’s preK-20 education system and ensure continuity of learning.

“I am deeply grateful for Virginia’s educators, administrators, school nutrition workers, support staff, parents, and students for the ways they have adapted to new learning environments over the past two months,” said Governor Northam. “As we make decisions about the path forward, this panel will help ensure that we are best supporting rural students, English language learners, students of color, and students with special needs. School closures have been necessary to protect health and safety, but lost class time has a disproportionate impact on Virginia’s most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged students. That’s why equity will remain at the forefront as we determine when and how we can safely and responsibly return to in-person learning.”

The work group is chaired by Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, and is staffed by Deputy Secretary Education Fran Bradford, State Council of Higher Education Director Peter Blake, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. These four individuals comprise the steering committee for the COVID-19 Education Work Group.

“As we begin to think about how Virginia’s education system can operate in the summer and fall, it is crucial that we have the advice of a diverse, thoughtful group of education leaders,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This group will use their expertise to guide our approach and help ensure that all voices are heard and all recommendations are made through the lens of equity.”

Members of Virginia’s COVID-19 Education Work Group include:

Steering Committee

  • Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education, Chair of COVID-19 Education Work Group  
  • Fran Bradford, Deputy Secretary of Education for Higher Education and Museums
  • Peter Blake, Director, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
  • Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Virginia Department of Education

Work Group Members

  • Jenna Conway, Chief School Readiness Officer, Office of the Governor
  • Holly Coy, Assistant Superintendent for Policy, Communications, and Equity, Virginia Department of Education
  • Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Commissioner for Population Health, Virginia Department of Health
  • Jennifer O. Macdonald, Director, Division of Child and Family Health, Virginia Department of Health
  • Dr. Lynn Clayton Prince, Director of Special Education, Powhatan County Public Schools and President-Elect, Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Pam Simms, Program Director, Gladys H. Oberle School
  • Dr. Donna Henry, Chancellor, University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Chair, Council of Presidents in Virginia
  • Dr. Michael Rao, President, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Taylor Reveley, President, Longwood University
  • Dr. Makola Abdullah, President, Virginia State University
  • Dr. Sharon Morrissey, Senior Vice Chancellor, Virginia Community College System
  • Dr. John Downey, President, Blue Ridge Community College
  • Dr. Eric Williams, Superintendent, Loudoun County Public Schools
  • Dr. Jared Cotton, Superintendent, Chesapeake Public Schools
  • Dr. Dennis Carter, Superintendent, Smyth County Schools
  • Kathy Burcher, Representative, Virginia Education Association   
  • Melinda Bright, Representative, Virginia Education Association
  • Dr. Travis Burns, Principal, Northumberland High School and President, Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals
  • Dr. Andrew Buchheit, Principal, T. Clay Wood Elementary School and President, Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals
  • Ann-Marie Ward, Council Treasurer, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
  • Pamela Croom, President-Elect, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
  • Teddy Martin II, Member, Henry County School Board and Regional Chair, Virginia School Boards Association
  • Karen Corbett-Sanders, Chair, Fairfax County School Board
  • Grace Creasey, Executive Director, Virginia Council for Private Education
  • Robert Lambeth, President, Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia
  • Dr. Larry Stimpert, President, Hampden-Sydney College
  • Dr. Tiffany Franks, President, Averett University
  • Dan Gecker, President, Virginia Board of Education
  • Marianne Radcliff, Representative, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
  • Jared Calfee, Executive Director, Virginia21          
  • Rich Conti, Director, Science Museum of Virginia
  • Dr. Betty Adams, Executive Director, Southern Virginia Higher Education Center
  • Ingrid Grant, Member, Governor’s African American Advisory Board
  • Hyun Lee, Member, Governor’s Asian Advisory Board
  • Diana Brown, Member, Governor’s Latino Advisory Board
  • Ashley Marshall, Chair, Virginia Council on Women
  • Shan Lateef, Rising Senior, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and Governor’s STEM Phenom Award Winner

On March 13, Governor Northam directed all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19. On March 23, Governor Northam was one of the first governors in the country to issue a statewide order closing schools for the remainder of the academic year. The Virginia Department of Education established the Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force consisting of more than 120 teachers, leaders, and collaborating educational partners across Virginia to help school divisions to develop and implement continuous learning plans in partnership with local county health departments, families, staff, and local boards of education.

Virginia’s COVID-19 Education Work Group will develop recommendations on key issues schools must address before reopening and help determine how to ensure continuity of learning for Virginia students from cradle to classroom to career. After this guidance is developed, the work group will transition to focus on long-term recovery plans to include addressing learning gaps and social emotional needs of students resulting from school closures.

In the coming weeks, Governor Northam will outline a roadmap for Virginia schools, colleges, and universities to return to in-person learning in a safe, equitable, and responsible manner. The data-driven and science-based approach will include recommendations from the COVID-19 Education Work Group, and will be coordinated with the Forward Virginia plan to gradually ease public health restrictions. The Forward Virginia plan is grounded in federal CDC guidelines, and includes specific goals to contain the spread of the virus through increased testing, contact tracing, and ensuring adequate medical capacity.

May 2020 Update from Congressman McEachin

As I write this, we have entered the second month of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the second month of Governor Northam’s stay-at-home order. Most of us are tired of being at home, tired of being separated from family and friends and frightened of both the virus and the cratering economy.

 In compliance with both state orders and orders in the District of Columbia, my offices are closed, but we are all working remotely.  We are here for you and eager to help.  If you have an issue or a problem with a federal agency, such as a missing tax return, needing a visa or passport, unreceived benefits or issues with mail delivery, my office is happy to help. Just go to my website,, to get started. We are also happy to record your opinion on any news topic.

This past month, while I could not physically be out and around the district, I have hosted several virtual events to inform and assist constituents. We had a roundtable with small business owners to hear directly from them about their concerns and needs. I also had a tele-town hall with experts such a Small Business Association representative, the governor’s workforce development head and Dr. Carey, the Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Services, to help with any and all coronavirus concerns. If you have further questions, feel free to post them on twitter and I will get you answers.

This past week I held a town hall about at home schooling. I know many parents are struggling with this new responsibility and children are struggling with distance learning over the internet. We were fortunate to be joined by Atif Qarni, the Virginia Secretary of Education, Jason Kamras, Richmond Superintendent of Schools and several prominent teachers including Rodney Robinson, former Richmond teacher and national Teacher of the Year.

As this pandemic continues, we are all becoming increasingly aware and appreciative of our frontline and essential workers and the critical jobs they do. Healthcare workers, grocery store employees, farmers, food processing workers, senior center staff, trash collectors, mail delivery persons and many more keep us going in these difficult times.  We thank them and honor their service.

But I know there are many more folks here in our district who are working hard to make a difference, to pay it forward, to help all of us get through this. And while they are most frequently anonymous and not looking for praise, I have started a thank-a-neighbor program. If you know someone in your community who is making a difference during these trying times, we want to be able to shout them out and give them a public thank you. Please submit their name and what they are doing to

The Congressional Art Competition for local high schoolers is open until 4:30 PM on May 27th. Please just email a high quality photo of artwork to

Pre-registration for the Congressional App Challenge, where high schoolers develop apps for phones and computers, is also open now. Once students have signed up they can start coding immediately. Information on all the above programs can be found on my website at


Dean Squires Joins Jackson-Feild’s Board




Dean Squires, Director of Asset Management for Highwoods Properties, Inc., has joined the Board of Trustees of Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services.

Mr. Squires oversees the property management and maintenance functions for 28 Class A commercial properties amounting to more than 2.3 million square feet, seven owners associations and two third party accounts. He began his property management career in 1985 with Harrison & Bates and joined Highwoods in 1997.

Mr. Squires is a Cum Laude graduate from Old Dominion University.

He is a member and past president of the Innsbrook Rotary Club. He was named the club’s Rotarian of the Year in 2000.  Dean has enjoyed serving the community and especially children through Rotary. He currently chairs the club’s grants committee which receives competitive grants from nonprofits and makes monetary awards based on the merits of their grant request.

He is looking forward to making a difference in the lives of children suffering from mental illness.



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