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The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will hold its regular meeting Thursday, August 15, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.

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Nursing Staff Initiates Innovative Method to Calm Alzheimer’s Patients

Mellisa Black, Acute Care Nursing Director; Betsy Tuck, RN Preceptor; and Linda Norman, RN, Assistant Director of Medical-Surgical Telemetry are pictured with dolls, music players, and hand knitted “twiddle muffs” which are all being used to help calm and comfort dementia and Alzheimer’s patients at VCU Health CMH in South Hill.

South Hill – When patients that are affected by dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease are hospitalized, it can be a very confusing and depressing time for them.  In an effort to help calm and comfort these patients, the nursing staff at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital decided to try an innovative method called “Doll Therapy.”

The goal of using therapy dolls is to give dementia and Alzheimer’s patients a diversion activity which in turn helps reduce anxiety, nervousness, falls and increases cooperation with the nursing staff.

As stated from the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, “According to several studies, men and women in the middle to later stages of Alzheimer’s disease found that therapy dolls provided comfort and companionship.  These adults with Alzheimer’s received the benefits of sensory stimulation and purposeful activity from the dolls.  Their behavior improved, including a reduction in aggression and agitation.” (Resources:  Nursing Times and Carefect, Inc.)

Also noted from the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging was that humans have a natural instinct to nurture, give love and receive love.  This natural instinct doesn’t go away, even as memories deteriorate with dementia. 

Betsy Tuck, RN Preceptor, said, “As the Unit Chair for the Medical-Surgical floor of our Nursing Shared Governance group we discuss ways to improve care for our patients.  In discussion about ways to improve care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, the initiative of a diversional/nurturing activity (Doll Therapy) was started.  Our goal is to keep patients from falling from bed, pulling out therapy lines and/or sustain other injuries.  So far, the results have been very positive.”

Linda Norman, RN, Assistant Director of Medical-Surgical Telemetry, said, “Patients that are in some stage of dementia, when taken out of their normal environment will be distressed and sometimes uncooperative.  So, when they receive a doll it calms them and gives them comfort and companionship.  By calming the patient, the plan of care can be completed in a manner that is beneficial to the patient and staff.”

Tuck also added that the nursing staff is planning to try music therapy in the future with patients.  The plan is to play music that the patients like or just soothing music to induce a calming effect in the room.  Also in the plan for a diversional activity is giving patients “twiddle muffs” (knitted muffs with interesting bits attached) which are made for patients that pick or pull; the patient will be occupied pulling at the twiddle muff instead of pulling out their IV.

Tuck stated, “We will continue to think of innovative ways to care for our patients because one day we may be a patient under those same circumstances and want the best care possible for ourselves or our family members.”

C3’s Kid’s Meals Accepting Summer Meals Program Applications

Franklin, VA - Cover 3 Foundation is gearing up for their 7th summer as a sponsor of the USDA Summer Feeding Service Program. Application deadline for C3’s Kid’s meals is March 17, 2017. Through sponsorship of the USDA Summer Feeding Service Program, C3’s Kid’s Meals provides free, healthy and balanced breakfasts, lunches, snacks and suppers to all children attending a qualifying site within 90 miles of Franklin, VA. Qualifying sites may include day care centers, recreation centers, churches, schools, summer camps, open park sites, and community centers. Acceptance and participation requirements for the  program and all activities are the same for all regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the same course of the meal service. All returning sites and new sites must complete the preliminary online application found at no later than March 17. If you want to partner with C3’s Kid’s Meals to provide healthy and balanced meals to children at your center and have questions, please contact Cover 3 Foundation at 757-562-2252 or email

New Program Provides Academic-Based Urban Agriculture Certification To Want-To-Be Urban Farmers or Educators

Urban agriculture is hot. And for good reason. It can help alleviate urban food deserts, make our food as "local" and fresh as possible and decrease the "food miles" associated with long-distance transportation. From rooftop gardens and aquaponics centers in converted warehouses, to growing crops on abandoned properties, urban agriculture provides a wide range of community benefits, including closer neighborhood ties, reduced crime, education and job training opportunities, and healthy food access for low-income residents.

“That’s why,” say’s Dr. Leonard Githinji, Virginia State University’s Urban Agriculture Extension Specialist, “It’s no wonder we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of urban farms from Brooklyn to Boise and everywhere in between.”

But training hasn’t kept up with demand for these urban cowboys. As Githinji explains, a lot of non-profits, churches, businesses and municipalities are putting a great deal of resources into getting urban farms up and running. So much so that last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an Urban Agriculture Toolkit to provide informational resources to these group leaders, many of whom have never farmed before or know a nematode from a horned toad. (For the record, a nematode is parasitic worm that often causes damage to garden crops like tomatoes and peppers. A horned toad is actually a desert lizard.)

But there’s a lot to learn, he explains, from business planning, legal issues and market development to soil quality, pest management and plant health. And while an online tool kit is a great resource, we need more science-based, boots-on-the-ground training for these urban pioneers.

To help meet the demand for academically trained urban agriculture professionals, Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture is offering an Urban Agriculture Certificate Program this spring. Designed for anyone charged with starting or managing an urban farm or who wants to increase their marketability to do so, the course provides a curriculum rich in the science-based knowledge needed to successfully and safely grow produce in an urban environment. Courses include: plant propagation and nursery management, plant disease and pest management, sustainable soil management, greenhouse production (hydroponic and aquaponic), animal husbandry (chickens and rabbits), and more. All courses will be taught by Virginia State University (VSU) and Virginia Tech professors.

Each of the 10 sessions includes classroom work, plus hands-on lab and field work at VSU’s Randolph Farm. Small class sizes allow for personalized attention for each student to master the foundational principles to plan, manage and profit from an urban farm business.

The course is suitable even for those who have had gardening training before, such as Master Gardeners, as it will contribute to their continuing education credits.

The 10-week course begins March 11 and ends May 13. Classes will be conducted Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on VSU’s Randolph Farm located at 4415 River Road, Petersburg, VA. Instruction will consist of morning lectures and afternoon hands-on outdoor and lab activities. Each student must also complete by the end of July 80 hours of volunteer work at an approved urban farm in order to successfully graduate from the program with full certification.

Applicants are required to pay a $190 one-time fee that will cover registration, instructional materials and lunch. Registration and a limited number of full and partial scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is limited and closes March 3. To apply for a scholarship or to register, visit

If you need further information or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mollie Klein at or call (804) 524-6960/TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

This program is supported in part by the USDA/NIFA grant # 2015-38821-24339 Entitled “From Food Deserts to Agrihoods: Transforming Food Insecure Neighborhoods with Comprehensive Urban Agriculture Education.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law.

An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.


~ Bipartisan legislation would require V-A to provide benefits to veterans exposed to Agent Orange ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that thousands of Navy veterans from the Vietnam War – known as “Blue Water” veterans for their service in waters off the coast –are eligible to receive disability and health care benefits they have earned for diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would clarify the existing law so that Blue Water veterans, who are currently excluded from receiving these benefits, are covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (V-A) if they served within “territorial seas,” or approximately 12 miles offshore of Vietnam. The bill would also make it easier for the V-A to process these veterans’ claims for service-connected health conditions and alleviate a portion of the V-A’s backlog by extending presumptive coverage of Agent Orange benefits to these veterans.

“Virginia is home to many Vietnam veterans who honorably served their country and paid a high price after being exposed to Agent Orange,” said Sen. Warner. “We should not be discriminating against this group of heroes simply because of how and where they served. They fought just as hard, risked just as much, and deserve to get the benefits they earned.”

“Thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans in Virginia are still facing serious health conditions from exposure to Agent Orange and our country needs to ensure they can access the benefits they deserve,” said Sen. Kaine. “I’m proud to continue my efforts with Senator Warner and a bipartisan group of our colleagues to advocate on behalf of Blue Water veterans and I hope Congress will swiftly pass our bill.”

“VVA strongly supports justice for Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans! This bill would complete the obligation to those who served in the bays, harbors, and territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975 by recognizing exposure to the toxin Agent Orange and ensuring eligibility for all related Federal benefits that come with such presumption under the Agent Orange Act of 1991,” said John Rowan, National President and CEO of Vietnam Veterans of America.

“The VFW strongly agrees with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that it is arbitrary and capricious for veterans who have served aboard ships in the coastal waters of Vietnam to be denied presumptive benefits associated with Agent Orange exposure. For this reason, we support your legislation which would end this injustice and ensure Blue Water Navy veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve,” said Raymond Kelley, Director of VFW National Legislative Service.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage. This toxic chemical had devastating health effects on millions serving in Vietnam.

In 1991, Congress passed a law requiring the V-A to provide presumptive coverage to Vietnam veterans with illnesses that the Institute of Medicine has directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, in 2002, the V-A decided that it would only cover Veterans who could prove that they had orders for “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam War. This exclusion prevents thousands of sailors from receiving benefits even though they had significant Agent Orange exposure from drinking and bathing in contaminated water just offshore.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been pushing for the V-A to soften its position on benefits for Blue Water veterans. Last year, they wrote to the department requesting the V-A to reconsider the unnecessary burdens it has placed on this group.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the legislation is sponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was previously introduced in the 114th Congress.

‘I think about tomorrow’: A Syrian refugee family begins a new life in Virginia

By Sarah King and Hiba Ahmad, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – At the center of a suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of Richmond’s city limits, a collection of small white houses sit quietly. Outside, the taut winter air is split open by a group of grade-school children streaking past each other in relentless pursuit of a soccer ball, shouting breathlessly in their native tongues.

The scene seems unassuming enough – but for many inhabitants inside these dwellings, the view posits a stark contrast to what they once knew. Located mere miles from downtown Richmond, the cluster of modest houses have not yet become homes for many of their tenants: refugees who recently resettled in Richmond, many from war-torn parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

Inside one such residence sat Khalid, a Syrian refugee, who depicted the journey he, his wife and their two young children, Muna and Muhammad, endured in fleeing the country’s civil war. In the interest of their safety, Khalid asked his family’s last names not be used.

“We saw everything,” Khalid said, speaking through translator Ahmed Abdeen. “What Americans see on TV is not even 1 percent of what is actually happening (in Syria).”

For Khalid and his family, the arduous journey to the United States began in December 2012. They arrived in Richmond – having endured repeated losses, displacement and hardships – nearly four years later, in late November.

The middle-aged man maintained a sober expression while explaining his family’s journey, but seemedas if he had finally found some peace. He rarely expressed signs of distress, but emotion crept into his voice when he described the aftermath of missile attacks and use of chemical weapons deployed by the Syrian government against its own citizens.

In the months since their arrival, Khalid’s family has been doing their best to settle into the new neighborhood, but that hasn’t been without its own set of hurdles.

“The language barrier is what prevents me from finding work and connecting with the community,” Khalid said. “The Muslim community here does what they can, but I just wish I had a stable job to get back on my feet.”

Khalid and his family were resettled through a United Nations program that provides two months of rent assistance, food stamps, $25 per child and access to English classes. But Khalid said his family’s two months are expired, and he is desperately seeking work to maintain a roof over his family’s head.

The situation presents a callous irony.

The Syrian civil war Khalid’s family fled from has cost many citizens much more than just their shelter. The conflict has prompted the deaths for upward of a half million people and displaced nearly 11 million more, according to statistics by the European Union.

“Imagine going out with your family to get groceries and coming home to find everything that you know completely destroyed,” Khalid said of the crisis that has catalyzed global conversations about terrorism and national security.

A travel ban or ‘Muslim ban’?

On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria. Trump’s repeated justification for the order has been in defense of national security and anti-terrorism efforts.

“The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror,” Trump said in a Jan. 29 White House statement.

Trump and other senior administration officials have repeatedly denied the executive action is a “Muslim ban,” although such claims have been met with skepticism. Kevin Lewis, spokesperson for former President Barack Obama, released a statement in response to the White House on Jan. 30.

“With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” Lewis said.

Trump’s executive order barred anyone traveling from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya from entering the U.S. for 90 days. It also suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, and Syrian refugees were banned indefinitely from entering the country.

“The intervening variable in this entire discussion is how much weight the federal courts will give to the various comments the Trump administration made before and after the EO was issued, indicating there would be a different standard for Christians from those seven countries and that Islamists were being targeted,” John Aughenbaugh, a constitutional law scholar and political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in an email.

Indeed, the courts have expressed skepticism over Trump’s executive order. A federal judge in Seattle, Washington, issued an injunction against the travel, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision on Feb. 9.

So the Trump administration is drafting a new version of the order that would exempt dual citizens, visa and green card holders from the travel restrictions.

“Of all the missteps made by the Trump administration in issuing this order, these public comments indicating that Muslims would be treated differently and vetted with a different process than Christians from those seven countries might be the key factor in how the federal courts treat the challengers’ claims,” Aughenbaugh said.

‘Stars were replaced with dust and ashes’

Khalid said many of his family members had plans to seek asylum in the States, but have put their plans on hold indefinitely in response to the ban.

He pulled out his phone and pressed play on a video recorded by a Syrian news outlet. The footage depicted a flattened building amidst hundreds of piles of rubble.

Khalid said the night of the siege it had been relatively clear, but the “stars were replaced with dust and ashes” after missiles dropped from the sky and the evening’s calm was disrupted by syncopated screams and sirens.

He glanced up from the screen and explained that he had been in the building next door to the one reduced to a mountain of rubble that night.

Charlie Schmidt, legal counsel and public policy associate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said the ACLU will continue holding the U.S. government accountable when it infringes on the rights of citizens and noncitizens alike.

The ACLU took Trump’s executive order to court the night it was issued, resulting in a New York judge granting an emergency stay on the ban for those in transit. Washington – eventually joined by additional states, including Virginia – similarly sued the administration, which resulted in the current, nationwide stay on the ban.

“Why does the ACLU defend non-citizens? Easy – it is the right thing to do.” Schmidt said. “Justice and equality in our country does not depend on citizenship status.”

Khalid emphasized it’s time for people to critically consider what refugees are running away from when seeking asylum in the U.S. and Europe. He recounted lesser-known horrors of the civil war – ones he said reporters seem to overlook completely.

Nights in the Middle East are characterized by calm, cool air deficient of much humidity or wind – but the benign weather, he said, is the perfect setting to launch chemical weapons, a tactic Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has been accused of using against its own citizens.

Khalid’s gesturing hands accented his blank expression as he recounted how gas from the chemical weapons would softly sink to the floors at night and easily snake through sleeping homes and buildings.

“Think about the families,” Khalid said, his eyes softening as they flitted in the direction of his toddler-aged children. “I only have two kids, but some families have five or six. Their lives are being destroyed.”

William Newmann, a national security scholar and professor of political science at VCU, said the number of Syrian refugees who have launched terrorist attacks in the U.S. stands at zero. Since Sept. 11, 2001, roughly 100 people have been killed in U.S.-based attacks by foreign-influenced terrorists, all perpetrated by U.S.-born terrorists, he said.

“There is simply no pattern suggesting that recent immigrants or refugees are the current terrorist threat in the U.S.,” Newmann said.

‘All I’m thinking about is tomorrow’

When recalling Syria, Khalid said he tries to focus on the fond memories he has of his beloved country. A look of longing clouded his expression as he described the construction company his family owned that built homes on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria’s capital city. Now, he explained, his sister, brother and wife’s family are scattered across the Middle East having found refuges in countries like Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

“Is there anyone who doesn’t love or miss their family?” Khalid said. “Everyone I grew up with, my memories, my life – it’s still all (in Syria).”

He described the acres of land his family owned when he was a boy. Outside, the soccer ball – still swathed in the lively banter between the children chasing it – thudded audibly to the ground. A smile tugged faintly at the periphery of Khalid’s tired face; he paused briefly to conjure memories of running through his family’s fields with his siblings.

“You could go anywhere in Syria and find family. You always had a home and community to turn to,” Khalid said. “I wished for better treatment and support from the (U.S.) government. In Syria, you had support and help everywhere no matter who you were.”

Initially, Khalid said he left Syria for a refugee camp in Lebanon in search of work, but he soon realized his children would not be granted citizenship, and would thus be deprived of a sustainable future, due to their refugee status.

“Your children can attend some of the best schools and go as far as becoming doctors in Lebanon, but you will not be granted citizenship,” Khalid said. “This holds you back from ever having a real job – a real life.”

Discouraged, Khalid made his way back to his family in Syria, and they again tried to make the best of their situation despite the tumultuous state of the nation. He and his wife made their final decision to seek refuge in Jordan shortly after the conflict ensured that all work, travel and business was ground to a complete halt in Syria.

In Jordan, the family was admitted to a United Nations refugee camp and placed in the resettlement database. It took six months for them to be resettled permanently in the U.S. on Nov. 29 – just 20 days after Hillary Clinton conceded the 45th presidency to Trump, her Republican opponent.

Khalid said he expected better from the U.S. government considering how difficult it was to enter through the country’s extensive vetting procedures – even long before the Trump administration took office last month. He said his family was extremely lucky; due to various obstacles facing families, some at the camp in Jordan had been awaiting permanent resettlement for as long as two years.

As Khalid shared the story of his family’s journey to America, his daughter Muna and son Muhammad scurried around the room on their bicycles. Both children had their mother’s big eyes and father’s kind smile.

“All I’m thinking about is tomorrow and the kids,” Khalid said. “God willing everything works out in the future, but as of now, I think about tomorrow.”

McAuliffe vetoes legislation to defund Planned Parenthood

By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation Tuesday that sought to remove state and federal funding for women’s health providers such as Planned Parenthood and any other groups that perform abortions in Virginia.

In this veto statement, McAuliffe said the bill, HB 2264, “would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers, by denying them access to affordable care.”

Planned Parenthood held a veto ceremony on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion. According to the organization, more than 22,000 people in Richmond, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville, and Roanoke rely on Planned Parenthood for health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, well-woman exams and legal abortions.

“We are proud to have a governor in Virginia who stands with the women of our commonwealth,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood. She said McAuliffe “understands how vitally important access to comprehensive reproductive health care provided by Planned Parenthood is for women.”

Pro-life activists lined the steps of the Governor’s Mansion bearing signs reading “All Lives Matter” and “Say No to Planned Parenthood.” In a press release, the Family Foundation of Virginia rejected the assertion that women would no longer have access to health care if the bill had been enacted.

The foundation said the legislation would have redirected non-Medicaid taxpayer funding from organizations that provide abortions to hospitals and health centers that provide more comprehensive services for women.

“Nothing in Virginia right now is more predictable than Terry McAuliffe doing all that he can to ensure that taxpayers are forced to prop up the abortion industry,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation. “If there’s one issue on which Gov. McAuliffe has been ideologically rigid, it is his unwavering support and protection of the same $1 billion abortion industry that contributed nearly $2 million to his election.”

Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, sponsored HB 2264. He introduced identical legislation in the General Assembly’s 2016 session. Last year’s bill passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by McAuliffe. The House fell one vote short of overriding the governor’s veto.

HB 2264 passed the House 60-33 on Feb. 7 and the Senate 20-19 on Feb. 14.

For women’s rights advocates, McAuliffe’s veto comes as a relief. Republicans would have to muster a two-thirds majority in each chamber – 67 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate – to override the veto.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood is a blatant attempt to deny women access to the full range of reproductive health care services, and Virginia women won’t stand for it,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, a liberal advocacy group.

“Politicians in Richmond don’t get to decide where women get their health care and what kind of services they receive, and we’re glad that Gov. McAuliffe agrees.”

State announces $722,000 in tourism grants

By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia’s tourism programs are set to have a major payday after an announcement from Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday. More than $722,000 in matching funds from the state will be awarded to local tourism initiatives across the commonwealth.

The funding comes as a part of the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Marketing Leverage Program, which helps tourism entities attract more visitors from across the country.

This year, the funding cycle saw local partners commit more than $3.46 million to match the VTC grants, bringing the total to over $4.4 million in marketing funds. This is the highest dollar amount matched by partners ever in a funding cycle, state officials said.

The funds will aim to increase visitation to Virginia and ultimately impact more than 264 statewide tourism entities. The 264 entities receiving funding are the most in the history of the program.

“The Marketing and Leverage Program grants provide a vital opportunity for destinations and businesses across the commonwealth, helping to create jobs promote economic development and increase visitor spending,” McAuliffe said as he congratulated the tourism partners receiving funding.

If a tourism entity wants to receive a grant, it must partner with at least three other entities, which may include a visitors’ bureau or an area’s destination attraction or event.

“The Marketing Leverage Program grants provide vital funding to our tourism businesses across the commonwealth, helping to make Virginia an incredible place to visit but also live,” said Todd Haymore, the state’s secretary of commerce and trade.

One event that received funding is the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester. The festival, which runs from April 28 through May 7, will get $25,000 from the VTC.

“The funding for this year will help us and allow us to spend more money in a way to get the word out,” said Dario Savarese, marketing and sponsorship coordinator for the Apple Blossom Festival, which is celebrating its 90th year. “It becomes very difficult because advertising is expensive.”

Tourism is a significant revenue producer for the commonwealth. In 2015, it generated $23 billion and supported more than 223,000 jobs while providing $1.6 billion in state and local taxes, state officials said.

List of grant recipients and amounts they received

Program Name

Lead Partner

Award Amount

1864 Shenandoah Campaign Film and Third Winchester Orientation Film

Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation


2017 VA Commonwealth Games at Liberty University – Border State Outreach

Virginia Amateur Sports


90th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival

Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival


Alleghany Highlands Arts & Mountain Heritage

Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism


Artisan Trail Network: Ever Expanding, Evolving & Engaging

Artisans Center of Virginia


Back of the Dragon

Tazewell County


Bike the Valley Marketing Program

Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission


Biplanes and Triplanes

Military Aviation Museum


Birthplace of Country Music – Marketing Campaign for 90th Anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions

Birthplace of Country Music


Blue Ridge Root to Table

Nibblins LLC


Cape Charles Art Soaked Weekends: July 2017

Experimental Film Virginia


Celebrating Virginia in NYC with Richmond Ballet

Richmond Ballet


Create Your Own Story in Wytheville, Virginia

Wytheville Convention & Visitors Bureau


Damascus, Crossing Paths

Town of Damascus


Danville Pittsylvania County Tourism Advisory Committee

Danville-Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce


Discover Bristol Marketing Initiative

Bristol Convention & Visitors Bureau


Discover the Birthplace of American Wine: Revamping of Brand Identity and Online Presence.

Monticello Wine Trail


Discover Virginia’s Romantic Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop – “Where Mountains, Wine & Adventure meet

Discover Shenandoah


Downtown Blacksburg – 2017 Campaign

Downtown Blacksburg, Inc.


Experience Appomattox

Appomattox County Chamber of Commerce


Experience Russell

Russell County Tourism


Fairfax County Interactive Rich Media Advertising Campaign

Visit Fairfax


Farm-to-Fork in Luray & Page County

Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce


Get Outside and Play “in the Burg”

Back Home on the Farm


Glass Arts Conference/Spring Marketing

Chrysler Museum of Art


Hampton Roads Sports Commission

Hampton Roads Sports Commission


Key to the City

Visit Alexandria


Kick Up Your Heels

Virginia Highlands Festival


Lex It Up!

Rockbridge Area Tourism


Marketing the 40th Anniversary of the Richmond Marathon

Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers


Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville Speedway


Music Lovers Weekend Getaway Package

Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, Inc.


Newport News Craft Beer Tourism Program

Economic Development Authority of the City of Newport News, Virginia


NVVC 2017 Canada Program

Visit Loudoun


Olde Towne Portsmouth Summer Arts Promotion

Olde Towne Business Association


Richmond Beer Trail Marketing Campaign – Spring 2017

Richmond Region Tourism


Roanoke River Blueway Promotion

Roanoke Valley - Alleghany Regional Commission


Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail Magazine

Shen. Valley Wine Growers Assn.


Showcasing the Blue Ridge Parkway



Simply Panache Getaways

Mango Mangeaux, LLC


Southwest Virginia Outdoor Expo



Southwest Virginia: “A Different Side of Virginia” Multimedia Marketing and Branding Initiative

Friends of Southwest Virginia


Spartan Race

Infinity Downs


SquirreLee University Marketing Initiative

Stratford Hall


Starr Hill Brewery IPA JamBEERee & Hop On Tour Promotions

Starr Hill Brewery


The Breaks: Centuries of Struggle

Breaks Interstate Park


The Crooked Road Visitor Guide 2017

The Crooked Road


The Perfect Getaway ... Is Not So Far Away

Northern Neck Tourism Commission


The Year of Discovery

Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation


Thomas Jefferson Craft Beer Tasting Event

Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest


Today’s Shenandoah Valley

Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission


Tom Founders Festival

Tom Founders Festival


Virginia is for Music Lovers

Virginia Arts Festival


Virginia Marine Trades Association – Boat Virginia

Virginia Marine Trades Association


Virginia’s River Realm Brand Videos

Town of Kilmarnock

$7,500 Phase 2 Launch

Virginia Distillers Association


Visit Shenandoah

Shenandoah Valley Travel Association


Waterford Fair

Waterford Foundation, Inc.


Website Creation – Abingdon, VA

Abingdon Convention and Visitors Bureau


Website Rebuild and Design and Update Marketing Materials and Images

Garth Newel Music Center


Western Front Hotel ... Experience Southwest Virginia!

Western Front Hotel


Williamsburg Harvest Celebration

Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance


Assembly amends description of ‘dangerous dog’

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Both the House and Senate have unanimously approved a bill that would change the legal description of a “dangerous dog” and possibly put fewer animals on a state registry.

HB 2381cleared the Senate, 40-0, on Tuesday after winning approval in the House on Feb. 6. The bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. Matthew Farris of Rustburg, wants to give a dog the benefit of the doubt if it bites a person or another animal. His measure would give animal control officers the option of determining whether a dog should be considered dangerous just because it inflicts a nip, scratch or minor injury on someone, or on another pet.

Current law requires the animal control officer to summon the offending dog’s owner to appear in General District Court to explain why his or her animal should not be considered dangerous.

If the court finds a dog is dangerous, the bill would give its owner 30 days to obtain a dangerous-dog certificate, which carries a $150 fee and places the animal on a state registry. Current law allows the owner a 45-day wait.

When HB 2381 was heard by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Feb. 1, the Virginia Animal Control Association offered support for the bill.

Virginia Newsome, a Loudoun County animal control officer, said the current law is too strict because it considers every dog that bites as dangerous. The legislation would give animal control officers discretion in making that determination.

“You can accidentally get bit by your puppy; that doesn’t make it a dangerous animal. We want to be able to give officers that discretion to look at the entire totality of each individual situation,” Newsome said.

Kirk Cox to succeed Bill Howell as House speaker

By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Republican delegates on Wednesday are expected to designate Majority Leader Kirk Cox as the next speaker of the House, following William Howell’s decision to retire.

Republican House members will caucus to select Cox, a retired government teacher from Colonial Heights, as the speaker-in-waiting, according to reports published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post and other news outlets.

Cox, 59, will succeed Howell, a Republican from Stafford, who announced that he will not seek re-election this fall to the 28th House District seat that he has held since 1988. Next January, Howell will conclude his term as the 54th speaker of the House of Delegates.

Cox has served in the House of Delegates since 1989 and has run unopposed in the past eight House elections. He is a resident of the 66th House District, which includes the city of Colonial Heights and part of Chesterfield County.

A graduate of Colonial Heights High School, Cox earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and general social science from James Madison University in 1979. He then taught government for 30 years.

Cox lives in Colonial Heights with his wife, Julie Kirkendall Cox. They have four sons.

In his role as majority leader, Cox serves on the House Appropriations Committee and on the conference committee that will help negotiate the state budget with his counterparts from the Senate.

Cox also serves with other senior lawmakers on the House Rules Committee and is a member of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

As speaker, Cox would replace Howell, who was lauded this week by both Republicans and Democrats for his dedication to public service.Howell has served as speaker since 2003.

The Senate majority leader, Sen. Thomas Norment of James City, issued a congratulatory statement calling Howell’s retirement “well-deserved.”

“Speaker Howell’s legacy of accomplishment is extraordinary, as he repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to conservative principles and reform,” Norment said. “On behalf of the entire Senate Republican Caucus, I wish the speaker, Mrs. Howell and their entire family a blessed and prosperous future.”

House Democrats also expressed their respect for Howell.

“Having dedicated the last three decades of his life to the Virginia House of Delegates, Speaker Howell is truly a historic figure in this chamber,” said Katie Baker, the communications director of the House Democratic Caucus. “He has always valued and worked to preserve the integrity of the body.”

In a statement released Monday, Howell thanked his colleagues for almost 30 years of service, describing the House of Delegates as a truly historic institution that he loves dearly.

“I believe [the House] represents the hope, enduring strength and resiliency of our exciting and ongoing experiment in representative self-government,” Howell said.

After retirement, Howell plans to spend his free time with his wife, Cecelia, and their family.

“We are blessed to have two good sons and seven energetic grandkids,” Howell said. “We have our youth. And we cannot wait to take some time together to travel, spend more time with our family and, frankly, just to relax together.”

Delegates offered tributes to Howell in speeches on the House floor. Cox himself said he was “honored to serve with one of the all-time greats.”

Cox declined to comment on speculation that he was in line to replace Howell. “This is the speaker’s day,” he told the Times-Dispatch.

All 100 House seats are up for election this fall. The new speaker would be officially chosen in early 2018. The choice will rest with the Republicans, who currently hold 66 House seats to the Democrats’ 34.

Cox may be well positioned to help Republican candidates in this year’s elections. In his own campaign treasury, he has nearly $400,000, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. In addition, Cox has a political action committee called the Majority Leader PAC with a balance of about $60,000. This money would be available to help House Republican candidates who may be facing Democratic opponents in upcoming elections.

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