SCC faculty member earns doctorate | Mt. Airy News

2021-12-24 01:24:47 By : Mr. Andy Zong

Katie Bowman, mathematics instructor at Surry Community College, recently earned the Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Community College Leadership from North Carolina State University. (Submitted photo)

Katie D. Bowman, mathematics instructor at Surry Community College and Pilot Mountain resident, has earned the Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Community College Leadership from North Carolina State University.

Bowman’s dissertation investigated the effects of Reinforced Instruction for Student Excellence (RISE) on students’ success in mathematics using a regression discontinuity. She specifically looked at the effectiveness of corequisite courses for gateway mathematics courses aiding students in North Carolina community colleges.

“I am hopeful that my research will help improve student success statewide. Remedial education has been under constant reconstruction, so it is imperative that we stay on top of the research to ensure our students are getting the best assistance possible,” Bowman said. “Successful mathematics completion is an indicator of successful college completion, which means we have to find the best ways to help the students who may be placed into remedial courses.”

Bowman has been an instructor at Surry Community College for more than six years. Completing the doctoral program gave her a greater appreciation of what is happening in community colleges administratively. It also allowed her to connect with her mathematics students on a new level.

“I have been able to share this journey with my students. Being transparent with them that I was also a student always seemed to be of great interest to them, and they were continuously checking in on me just as I was on them. It also gave me a platform to share my educational journey with students and give them insight on what an educational path can look like. Some of them weren’t aware that you could obtain a doctorate degree in fields outside of medicine. This was a great teaching and advising opportunity for me.”

Dr. Susan Worth, mathematics division chair, commended Bowman on her work as an instructor and a doctoral student.

“In her six years as an instructor at SCC, I have had the fortune to watch her grow as a teacher and a person. She completed a M.A. in Mathematics with a Concentration in College Teaching at Appalachian State University and an Ed.D. in Community College Leadership at NCSU in this short period of time. Her work ethic and determination are astounding. Equally impressive is how she fits into our division and works well with her colleagues. I cannot express how proud I am of her.”

Calendar not kind for Highway Patrol

Embers pack playhouse for Christmas show

The annual Surry County Schools Science Fair Showcase was broken into three different levels this year.

The Senior division event was held at North Surry High School on Nov. 19, while the Junior and Elementary division events were held at Meadowview Magnet Middle School on Nov. 23 and Nov. 30. Across all divisions, student scientists were competing to participate at the regional science fair.

American Astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble once stated, “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure science.” That is exactly what has been happening at all 20 schools and was displayed at North Surry High School and Meadowview Magnet Middle. Students, curious about science, each embarked on their own adventures and showcased their work, celebrating their discoveries with their peers. The following students from each division will be moving forward to the Region 5 Science and Engineering Fair with the date and location to be announced later.

Elementary Division: Streamline, by Emilynn Haymore, PMES; Brightest Whitest by Madeline Calhoun, Easton Branch, DES; Will it Grow, by Reid Cockerhan, Charly Lineberry, Mikaila Southard, MPES; Its Getting Hot in Here, by Kylee Tate WPES; Suspension Bridges, by Nathaniel Murphy, CES; Eggsplore Tooth Decay, by Leeland Inman, CES; Winning Races at the Starting Line, by Camden Hull, FES.

Junior Division: Unmasking the Truth, by Parker Slate, Dare King, MMMS; Erosion and Stormwater Management, by Emma Mae White, MMMS; How to Mow Faster , by Bailey Ray, MMMS; Play Your Heart Out, by Ryland Taylor, MMMS; Germs Everywhere, by Vela Mabe, CMS; Which is Better: Water or Alkaline, by Maggie Richardson, Abigail Easter, GMS; Dissolving Desserts, by Kayson Beck, Brooklyn Yopp, PMMS.

Senior Division: Ew Germs, by Kalei Mauldin, SOMS; How different chemically induced flames can assist fire departments, by Morgan Payne, Kaesi Blythe, Alex Kinton, SCHS; Rethink what you drink, by Khloe Bennett, Calie Robertson, NSHS; Varity of Twinkles, by Vy Phan, NSHS; SPF vs UV, by Anel Adame, Airam Casas, NSHS; Amp it up, by Luke Creed, SCHS; Heart racing movings, by Mattie Bare, Destiny Kelly, Carter Hull, NSHS.

“Watching students work through the scientific method is beyond exciting for everyone involved and gives me the opportunity to recall my own experiences as a student working through hypotheses,” said Superintendent Dr. Travis L. Reeves. “I can remember my own science fair days and how one failed experiment in the fifth grade taught me the lesson of a lifetime: If you cannot fail, you cannot learn. By conducting these experiments, working through trial and error, these students are also learning to embrace the scientific method and learning a lifelong lesson. It is an absolute pleasure to congratulate our students on their advancement to the regional competition and see the great things they have accomplished thus far.”

Three area residents, along with an Albemarle man, have been arrested and jailed — three with bonds at $1.7 million or more — after allegedly kidnapping, torturing, strangling and trying to kill another woman.

Lakin Nicole Harvey, 28, of 111 Fortune Cookie Lane, Mount Airy; Gregory Todd Sawyers, 53, of 153 Moondreamer Lane, Mount Airy; Grayson Gregory Sawyers, 32, of 994 Maple Grove Church Road, Mount Airy; and Travis Ray Hall, 38, of 24892 Odell Drive, Albemarle, were all arrested in the case on charges that included kidnapping, attempted first degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon.

The case emerged on Dec. 1, when the Surry County Sheriff’s Office received a call in reference to “a cutting incident in the Crossroads Church Road community” Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt said in a statement about the incident.

When patrol deputies arrived on the scene, they found a female victim, Kathy Jo Miller, 45, “with an apparent stab wound to the lower extremities.”

The victim was sent for medical treatment while deputies and detectives worked throughout the night investigating the case, leading to a search warrant being issued for the address of 153 Moondreamer Lane. “During the investigation, detectives determined that the victim had been kidnapped, stabbed and burnt with a metal object,” the sheriff’s statement said.

The sheriff said no additional information will be released about the investigation nor about the condition of the victim. He said the probe is still active, though all of those suspected in the case are in custody.

Hall was charged with one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, one count of first degree kidnapping, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree kidnapping, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Hall was jailed under a $1.8 million secured bond with a Jan. 12 court date.

Harvey, of 111 Fortune Cookie Lane, was charged with one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, one count of first degree kidnapping, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree kidnapping, and one count of assault by strangulation. She was jailed under a $1.7 million secured bond with a Jan. 12 court date.

Gregory Todd Sawyers was charged with one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, one count of first degree kidnapping, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree kidnapping, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Sawyers was jailed under a $1.86 million secured bond with a Jan. 12 court date.

Grayson Gregory Sawyers was charged with one count of first degree kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit first degree kidnapping. He was jailed under a $50,000 secured bond with a Jan. 12 court date.

Thursday evening, the Embers were back in town at the Andy Griffith Playhouse with the group’s annual Christmas Show.

More than 300 local residents and band followers from out of town enjoyed traditional holiday songs by one of the region’s more popular band.

The show was complete with Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph,” officials with the Surry Arts Council said of the event. “The stage and lobby helped ensure that the Christmas spirit was present from the time you entered until you departed.”

Katie D. Bowman, mathematics instructor at Surry Community College and Pilot Mountain resident, has earned the Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Community College Leadership from North Carolina State University.

Bowman’s dissertation investigated the effects of Reinforced Instruction for Student Excellence (RISE) on students’ success in mathematics using a regression discontinuity. She specifically looked at the effectiveness of corequisite courses for gateway mathematics courses aiding students in North Carolina community colleges.

“I am hopeful that my research will help improve student success statewide. Remedial education has been under constant reconstruction, so it is imperative that we stay on top of the research to ensure our students are getting the best assistance possible,” Bowman said. “Successful mathematics completion is an indicator of successful college completion, which means we have to find the best ways to help the students who may be placed into remedial courses.”

Bowman has been an instructor at Surry Community College for more than six years. Completing the doctoral program gave her a greater appreciation of what is happening in community colleges administratively. It also allowed her to connect with her mathematics students on a new level.

“I have been able to share this journey with my students. Being transparent with them that I was also a student always seemed to be of great interest to them, and they were continuously checking in on me just as I was on them. It also gave me a platform to share my educational journey with students and give them insight on what an educational path can look like. Some of them weren’t aware that you could obtain a doctorate degree in fields outside of medicine. This was a great teaching and advising opportunity for me.”

Dr. Susan Worth, mathematics division chair, commended Bowman on her work as an instructor and a doctoral student.

“In her six years as an instructor at SCC, I have had the fortune to watch her grow as a teacher and a person. She completed a M.A. in Mathematics with a Concentration in College Teaching at Appalachian State University and an Ed.D. in Community College Leadership at NCSU in this short period of time. Her work ethic and determination are astounding. Equally impressive is how she fits into our division and works well with her colleagues. I cannot express how proud I am of her.”

The upcoming holiday weekend periods pose a perfect storm situation when it comes to traffic — and hazards — on area roadways, but the local N.C. Highway Patrol division is prepared to handle that forecast.

With Christmas and New Year’s Day both falling on Saturdays, normal weekend volumes of those kicking up their heels will be intensified by travelers to and from holiday destinations — sometimes in celebratory moods — thus magnifying problems including impaired driving and speeding.

And motorists committing such violations will get no breaks just because of the holidays, according to First Sgt. J.M. Church of the Surry-Stokes Highway Patrol unit.

“Its going to be one hundred percent zero-tolerance,” Church said Monday in outlining efforts by troopers to maintain safe travel conditions during the two holiday weekends.

“We’re definitely taking a proactive approach,” he added.

When major holidays fall in the middle of the week, there’s a separation between the typical weekend periods when people cut loose after work ends on Friday — but all that will be merged this Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The Christmas holiday heavy travel period began today and will continue through Sunday, with a similar situation posed by the Jan. 1 holiday and the traditional New Year’s Eve revelry that increases the risk of alcohol-related collisions.

“New Year’s is known for a lot of parties and things of that nature and people make bad decisions,” Church said.

The N.C. Highway Patrol will be focused on four main violations: drunk driving, speeding, seat belt/child-restraint use and distracted driving, he disclosed.

While other violations also will be targeted, “those are the ones that cause people to get hurt or killed,” Church said.

Patrol efforts will include deploying double the regular manpower of troopers on patrol in Surry and Stokes counties during the days leading up to and immediately after the holidays.

“There’s going to be extra coverage during the days and nights,” Church said.

Troopers will be mounting stepped-up speed enforcement efforts on major highways such as interstates 77 and 74 and U.S. 52, but less-traveled roadways will not be overlooked, according to Church. Measures such as traffic checkpoints also will be in the mix.

Don’t blame officers

With the arrival of a new year especially lending itself to alcohol consumption, Church is most concerned about that holiday period, but says major repercussions — including traffic fatalities — can be prevented with a few simple precautions.

“Plan ahead,” he said of arranging for preventive measures such as designated drivers.

“Make good decisions — use Uber,” Church mentioned further in reference to the popular ride service not available everywhere, but with taxis fulfilling the same purpose.

He mentioned that the Highway Patrol will even go so far as respond to tips about locations of holiday parties by setting up surveillance efforts nearby to catch those drivers who didn’t get the memo.

The local sergeant acknowledged the fact that law enforcement officers can come off as mean or hard-hearted when cracking down on violators such as speeders around Christmastime. But he reminded that they might cause death to themselves or others through irresponsible actions that have lifetime repercussions for everyone affected.

“We’re not the ones making the decisions,” he said of dangerous behaviors behind the wheel. “People determine their own fate.”

Church indicated that one of the toughest parts of his job involves notifying people about loved ones being killed in traffic crashes, a testament to the fact tragedy respects no holiday.

“I have had to give death notifications on Christmas Day,” he recalled.

“And I would ask the public not to put us in that situation.”

The celebration of Christmas in Mount Airy will be accompanied by changes in city sanitation operations this week and early next week.

This includes no residential garbage pickups being conducted on Friday, Christmas Eve, with the collections normally scheduled for that day to occur on Thursday instead.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s residential route will be serviced under the normal schedule.

No yard-waste collections are on tap for next Monday.

Commercial garbage service also is affected, including no pickups on either Friday or Monday.

City offices will be closed both Friday and Monday for Christmas.

Fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” have the chance to own some memorabilia from the show, and personal items belonging to Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou.

But it may cost them.

That is because personal belongings from the late Betty Lynn’s estate are being auctioned online, now through Dec. 30, and bidders are already running the price up on many of the items.

Near the top of the bidding list so far is a 12.5” by 10.5” framed drawing of the characters Thelma Lou and Barney Fife, drawn by Henry E. Kidd and dated Oct. 14, 2017. As of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, the high bid stood at $2,250.

Another item drawing quite a bit of attention is a simple recipe box filled with faded, handwritten recipe cards. The bid on that item stood at $1,250 Tuesday afternoon.

“When I saw that recipe box, when I opened it and saw that handwriting, I said ‘This is Betty Lynn’s. She wrote these recipes,’” said Mark Rogers, of Rogers Realty & Auction Co. Inc., which is overseeing the estate auction.

Rogers and his company have done thousands of estate auctions over the years, including the estate of Frances Bavier — Aunt Bee from “The Andy Griffith Show” — so he has an idea of how such procedures generally go.

“With most of these online auctions, it’s just a process,” he said. “They start slow, or low, and pick up momentum at the very end, often in the last hour.”

That has not been the case with Betty Lynn’s estate.

“This one took off immediately when we posted. We have bids on every piece of merchandise.”

While Rogers and his firm have conducted many such auctions, this one takes on a little more personal meaning to him and his family.

“She was a friend of our family,” he said. “We had some dinners together. She was a star, but if you spend some time with her she made you feel like you were her best friend for life. That was really special. That’s part of her legacy.”

Lynn died Oct. 16, at the age of 95, after a brief illness.

She was best known for her portrayal of Thelma Lou, Barney’s long-suffering girlfriend on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Prior to and after her run on the show, she had a long entertainment career that began at age 14, including stage work, movies, and voice work. She had roles in movies for MGM, Fox, Universal and RKO, along with scores of semi-regular and guest starring appearances in television shows throughout the 1950s and 1960s, along with a wide body of work in radio drama.

In 2007, after several visits to Mount Airy for Mayberry Days, she moved fulltime to the town. For many years after her move, she routinely appeared at The Andy Griffith Museum, signing autographs for fans.

“The fans are so sweet,” she once said of her interactions with people coming to see her. “I really love meeting them and having the chance to visit a little bit. They come from all over the country. It’s so touching that they still remember my movies and love “The Andy Griffith Show” like they do. And especially for the Griffith show, there are lots of young children who are fans, too. So, I think the show’s popularity is carrying on through the new generations. That makes me happy.”

“That’s part of her legacy,” Rogers said this week — the way she was always so welcoming and appreciative of fans. “Some fans will end up with some nice collectibles that I hope they will treasure for years to come,” he said of the items being auctioned.

He said Lynn had already provided for the proceeds from the auction to go to various charities she supported over the years.

Among the items listed for auction are a 10.5” by 10.5” framed picture of her and Don Knotts (the bid stood at $575 Tuesday afternoon); a Things Remembers musical jewelry box ($530); an 18.5” tall mantel clock ($390); a Grace China set “made in occupied Japan” ($338); 20” by 24” wide wood frames of both her grandmother and grandfather, from their early adult years; a number of paintings — some done by Lynn’s mother; and a host of other items.

There are even more mundane items from daily life included — three different televisions she owned; a walker she used; the frame of a roll-away bed; a trash can, sweeper and brooms being auctioned together; and assorted items.

Rogers said some people have asked about certificates of authenticity.

“There are no certificates of authenticity,” he said. “We tell people we knew it came from her apartment at Ridgecrest, that’s all the authenticity we can offer. And most folks are okay with that.

“We are honored to be a part of this,” he said of his firm’s work. “I hope everybody who wants to will participate and have a good experience. I think some people are going to find a treasure there.”

The auction runs until noon at Dec. 30. For a complete list of items, and for information on how to bid, visit:

https://www.rogersauctiongroup.com/auctions/detail/bw73598

Mount Airy Museum of Regional History found itself in the same boat as the Surry Arts Council in June 2020, when city officials disallowed previously approved long-range public funding for both organizations.

A good chunk of the money that had been tapped for the arts group effectively was restored by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last Thursday night.

However, no similar action has occurred on behalf of the museum, which is leaving its leadership feeling a bit like those scorned by Scrooge in the classic Dickens story.

“Well, we are frustrated at this point,” said Paul Madren, a member of the governing board for the downtown facility and the group’s treasurer.

In the September-October period of 2019, Mount Airy officials had OK’d a total of $2 million to aid building-related projects of the Surry Arts Council and museum.

The arts organization was granted $1 million toward a new multi-purpose building near the Mount Airy Public Library, to be paid at the rate of $200,000 annually spread over five years. The commissioners later voted to appropriate $100,000 to the museum annually over the next decade for a $1 million total, to aid major renovations at the facility on North Main Street.

There was an understanding at the time that future commissioners could not be committed to those funding levels. And after the city board’s makeup changed, a vote to undo the long-range “commitment” occurred — except for what was approved for the fiscal year covered by the previous commissioners’ tenure.

There has been no mention of restoring museum funding at any recent commissioners meeting, although its executive director, Matt Edwards, was in the audience for a Dec. 2 session when the Surry Arts Council formally requested the $400,000, and didn’t speak.

But Madren says that will change.

“We have a presentation we plan to put in place to ask for $250,000,” the museum treasurer and board member said Monday.

Madren explained that this particular sum coincides with recent improvements that have included a total redo of what he called the an “old-time” area on the museum’s first floor and work on a children’s play section on the third floor. The entrance to the facility also has been moved from a side door on its north side to its original location when a hardware business occupied the building.

“We’re looking to get some support from the city on that,” Madren said of assisting with the cost of the renovations.

The municipal funding is sought as an acknowledgement of the museum’s value to the local tourism industry which the improvements will further aid.

Certain efforts have been occurring behind the scenes leading to an official request.

“We have been in contact with most of the council members,” Madren disclosed.

“I have had a serious conversation with Cawley and Tom and some of the others,” he said of commissioners Jon Cawley and Tom Koch, short of a formal presentation.

“The timing on that has been delayed a couple of times,” Madren said, mentioning that a couple of the commissioners have told him to just wait, and a “we’ll take care of you kind of thing” will result.

Some tall convincing could be in store to sway the majority of board members.

Madren said in his discussions with Commissioner Cawley, the latter seems to harbor the idea that the Surry Arts Council is the greatest thing “since sliced bread” in terms of its tourism value with programs and exhibits.

But the museum board member/treasurer says that facility also is a key player in this regard locally, with groups and individuals coming from near and far for tours.

One difference between the museum and the new multi-purpose facility being built by the Surry Arts Council is that the arts center will be owned by the city government once finished and leased to the arts council.

A Florida woman has been accused of stealing a wreath honoring legendary local musician James Easter, who died earlier this month.

The memorial wreath had been placed on the front door of Mayberry Music Center, a business that Easter — the last-surviving member of The Easter Brothers gospel-bluegrass group — long operated on North Main Street in downtown Mount Airy.

City police say the white cross with flowers was recovered later on the same day it was stolen — from a location nearby in the possession of the woman linked to the theft, who also is accused on assaulting a postal worker.

Tamara Lynn Gross, 60, of Winter Haven, Florida, is charged with larceny, possession of stolen property and simple assault stemming from the alleged crimes that occurred last Thursday and reported by the Mount Airy Police Department on Monday.

Gross was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $1,500 secured bond and slated for a Jan. 3 appearance in District Court.

James Easter, 89, had died on Dec. 11 after battling COVID-19. He and his brothers Edd and Russell formed a popular group that recorded at least two dozen albums while garnering multiple music industry awards.

The wreath stolen from the doorway of Mayberry Music Center is listed as the property of Grant Welch, a resident of Sheffield Lane and close friend of James Easter who spearheaded a project to provide a mural of the brothers.

It occupies a wall of a rest area across the street from the music shop. The mural was dedicated earlier this year during a heavily attended event featuring James Easter and members of his family.

Police records indicate that the wreath was removed sometime after 2:15 a.m. on Thursday.

Gross was encountered by police around 11:30 that morning during a suspicious-vehicle investigation at 174 W. Pine St., the address for an apartment house located around the corner from North Main Street where the music store operates.

Police records say that after stealing the memorial wreath, the Florida woman assaulted Aubrey Collins, a U.S. Postal Service employee who resides in Cana, Virginia. This involved Gross “pushing and grabbing” the female victim, an arrest report states.

The wreath, meanwhile, was recovered intact and returned to Welch. It is valued at $75.

“That’s pitiful”

Welch indicated Tuesday that multiple decorations had been placed in front of Mayberry Music Center, and last week’s incident was one of three wreath thefts occurring there.

He said this type of crime contradicts the image in which most people would prefer to view Mount Airy.

“Friendly town and all that stuff, and people stealing wreaths — that’s pitiful,” Welch remarked in trying to make some sense of the motivation involved. “I just don’t know.”

In the wake of the most recent larceny, Welch advised that efforts to honor his late friend via the wreath route have been abandoned.

“I took them all up Saturday night,” he said of items placed at the front of the store, “because I couldn’t stand no more — it just broke my heart.”

• A crime involving property damage was discovered Friday in a parking area at Moody Funeral Home on West Pine Street, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

It targeted a 2018 Mazda CX-5 owned by Barbara Ann Steffy of Meadowstone Lane, which was “willfully damaged” by a known individual who scratched the paint on the passenger-side rear door of the vehicle. The damage was put at $400.

The case was undergoing further investigation at last report.

• Devin Blake Haynes-Burnett, 25, of 647 Turner Mountain Road, was arrested at a Hillcrest Drive location and charged with driving while impaired Friday after a traffic crash involving a 2013 Infiniti G37 he was operating.

Haynes-Burnett was released on a written promise to appear in Surry District Court on Jan. 31.

• Walmart was the scene of a theft on Dec. 9, when a wallet owned by Michelle Manuela MacNeilly of Ivy Circle in Elkin was stolen from a shopping cart. The wallet, purple with green dots, contained an unspecified sum of money.

• A traffic crash investigation resulted in the arrest of Bonnie Sue Monday, 27, of 169 Grey Ghost Lane, on Dec. 8.

Police records indicate that the crash occurred at 2227 Rockford St., the address for the Circle K convenience store. During the investigation, Monday was found to be the subject of an outstanding order for arrest for failing to appear in court which had been issued in March 2019 in Stokes County.

Monday was jailed under a $1,000 secured bond and was scheduled to be in District Court in Dobson on Dec. 13.

• Police were told on Dec. 7 that property valued at $1,200 had been stolen from a tool box that was pried open on a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado pickup at the Scenic Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership on Rockford Street. Included were a Milwaukee six-piece tool kit, a Fluke multimeter test device and miscellaneous electrical tools.

Landon Clay East of Eaton Street, an employee of the dealership, is listed as the victim of the crime.

• Morgan Cortese Duncan, a resident of Old Rockford Street, told police that money was stolen from her wallet on Dec. 7 by an unknown suspect, with the sum undisclosed. The theft occurred at 1910 N. Main St., the address for the Circle K convenience store.

East Surry High School students took on several projects leading up to the holidays, with the aim of spreading Christmas cheer in the community.

The Interact Club held a food drive, with the class collecting the most winning a Krispy Kreme breakfast. Alison Hooker’s first period class took top honors in the context. Second place was Dr. Amy Jessup’s class and third place was Lisa Handy’s class.

A total of 245 cans were donated by competing first period classes which was all donated to Pilot Mountain Outreach.

The East Surry Student Council raised around $650 for St. Jude’s during the organization’s Penny Wars Campaign among first period classes. Brandon Holmes’ first period was the winner and celebrated with a pizza and ice cream party.

East Surry HOSA donated 55 kits to Bethesda Center for the Homeless at Thanksgiving. East Surry Chick-fil-A Leader Academy collected new and gently used books for young cancer patients in the hospital.

The North Carolina Longleaf Commitment Grant is now available for 2020 high school graduates, along with 2021 high school graduates. The grant also includes 2020 and 2021 high school equivalency graduates who obtained their high school diplomas by taking the HiSet or GED tests. All these students could potentially earn free tuition at Surry Community College.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of stress for everyone including students,” said SCC President Dr. David Shockley. “However, there have been some bright spots in the pandemic including this excellent opportunity for recent graduates to receive an incredible amount of financial aid for tuition that does not have to be repaid. Students should take advantage of this unbelievable opportunity.”

The Longleaf Commitment Grant helps students access up to $2,800 per year for two years—which means they could potentially earn a degree from Surry Community College tuition free.

Students do not have to complete an extra application to apply for the Longleaf Commitment Grant. All they must do is complete the FAFSA, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and enroll at Surry Community College. Then, the SCC Financial Aid office will inform students about their grant awards based on eligibility.

Awards range from $700 to $2,800 per year to pay for tuition. Funding for the grant program comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund using money from federal COVID-19 relief packages. The NC Longleaf Commitment grant program is a partnership between the NC Governor’s Office, the NC Community College System, and the State Education Assistance Authority. More details about this grant are available on surry.edu’s homepage.

Anyone unsure about educational or career goals is encouraged to stop by Surry Community College’s Purpose Center on the Dobson campus in the A-Building for assistance in determining goals. At the Purpose Center, the career coaches will give a career assessment and introduce visitors to the college’s many educational programs.

Surry Community College is registering students for spring classes. The deadline to register for spring classes is Wednesday, Dec. 22, before the college closes for Christmas break. Spring classes will start Jan. 7. Go to surry.edu to learn more about spring registration. Contact Student Services at 336-386-3264 or studentservices@surry.edu for assistance with college application, financial aid or class registration.

Spiking levels of COVID-19 in parts of the country are being attributed in part to people staying inside for warmth due to cold weather. That in mind and close quarters holiday events forthcoming, Surry County Health and Nutrition Center are reminding that vaccine boosters against the virus are free and available now.

Everyone ages 16 years and older can now get a booster dose of the COVID vaccine. Vaccination remains effective in preventing severe disease, recent data suggest vaccination becomes less effective over time at preventing infection, especially in people aged 65 and older.

The recent emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID.

“Health experts predict that once omicron is in a community, it will be nearly impossible to contain, making vaccines and boosters essential in protecting people from severe illness,” the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release.

Recent evidence shows that among some frontline workers, vaccine effectiveness against the virus is decreasing over time. This is due to a combination of lessening protection since time of vaccination, as well as the greater infectiousness of newer variants.

CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “Although we don’t have all the answers on the Omicron variant, initial data suggests that COVID-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen the protection against Omicron and other variants. We know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) have approved booster doses for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Booster doses strengthen and extend protections against severe illness from COVID. At this time, only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for adolescents aged 16 and 17.

Surry County Health and Nutrition Center offers Moderna (ages 18+) and Pfizer (ages 16+) booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccination for those who received their second shot at least 6 months ago. They will offer Johnson & Johnson booster doses for those individuals ages 18 and older who were vaccinated at least two months ago with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Individuals 18 years of age and older are eligible to receive their choice of brand for their booster shot. Some people may prefer the vaccine type they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster.

The CDC announced Thursday a new preference for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines over Johnson & Johnson. They went on to state, “Given the current state of the pandemic both here and around the world, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reaffirmed that receiving any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated.”

Surry County Health and Nutrition Center will offer booster doses Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4:30 pm. Call 336-401-8400 to schedule an appointment, walk-ins will be accepted. Identification will be needed if you cannot provide your vaccination card. Residents are urged to not let losing their card keep them from getting a booster shot.

For more information, please call us at (336) 401-8400 or visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SurryCountyHealthandNutritionCenter/ for the latest updates.

New releases available at the Mount Airy Public Library:

The library story times are open for anyone who would like to come in and join us. Masks are recommended if you have not been vaccinated. Mondays at 4 p.m. Bilingual storytime for children — listen to a story in English and Spanish); Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., Toddler Time for children ages 2 and 3; Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Book Babies for children aged birth to 2 years old; Thursday at 11 a.m., Preschool Storytime for children ages 4 and 5.

Surry Community College is offering a fun and free English as Second Language (ESL) class at the Mount Airy Public Library Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Anyone interested should contact Jennifer Pardue at 336-386-3674.

Hooked – Come join our crochet and knitting club, every Wednesday at 3 p.m. Bring your own yarn and make the group project or bring your own project to work on. This month’s project is a Christmas tree.

Tai Chi has returned to the library. Join us each Friday at 10 a.m. This class is beneficial for those with limited mobility.

Classic Movie Monday on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. We will be watching The Lemon Drop Kid, starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. A New York City swindler has until Christmas to come up with the $10,000 he owes a gangster, prompting him to go into scamming overdrive.

LACE — Romance Readers Book Club meets Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. The novel for this month is Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn.

Make It Mondays will meet the third Monday of each month, craft materials will be provided. Registration recommended.

Letters to Santa – Write a letter to Santa telling him how good you have been and bring it by the library to mail to the North Pole.

Cookies with Santa -Dec. 21 at 4 p.m., for stories and cookies with Santa. You can also have your picture taken with Santa.

The Mount Airy Public Library will be closed Dec. 22 – Dec. 26 for the Christmas Holidays and a long winter’s nap.

Keep up with all events on our FaceBook pages, https://www.facebook.com/groups/fmapl and https://www.facebook.com/mtapublibrary or our website https://nwrlibrary.org/mountairy/

Roadside litter has been on the minds of the residents of the county, and they have been calling their county commissioners about this problem that refuses to rectify itself. Surry County is now opening its wallet to offer a solution to roadside litter and put some well-earned money in residents’ pockets.

Litter is an embarrassment to the community and a blemish to the lovely land of Surry County, as open forum speakers have told the county commissioners. Suggestions have been made at those meetings like adding cameras onto telephone poles near the convenience dumping sites to spot and fine illegal dumpers. When citizens take time to produce an idea and give up their dinner hour to come speak to the board, it does get noticed.

The signs along the highways and large thoroughfares like Independence Boulevard have the signage “Adopt a Highway” that announce a group has stated their intent to clean that tract. These groups are effective, and the end results of their work can be seen. If more groups signed up to participate, the litter problem would not be so great. Generally, though, trash on the ground seems to be considered someone else’s problem and stays that way.

More hands-on deck are needed than what the adopt-a-block groups and state cleanup crews can do on their own. This is where contract labor comes in to play, and where some on the Board of Commissioners see a place to return to old school road crews made up of those who are the guest of the county lockup.

Commissioner Van Tucker said he spoke to the North Carolina Sheriffs Association about litter and was directed to Sheriff Sam Page of Rockingham County. “I called him up and I said, ‘Sheriff, do you guys get up litter over there with your work force, your inmates?’” Page replied they do.

“If it’s a terrible idea, I’d like for somebody to tell me why,” Tucker said of the road crew idea that has been discussed yet never goes anywhere. “At least we can have that conversation until we get those answers. If it’s a wonderful idea, I’d like to get on it just as quick as possible.” He has since told the board it was time for more than email exchanges on this matter.

The board has approved funding for such an effort was advised by County Manager Chris Knopf in October that Surry County Sheriff Steve Hiatt is still thinking about its implementation. Hiatt “wants to have discussions… and he plans to attend a conference where he will discuss it with other sheriff’s departments from across the state.”

Looking to further diversify the litter pickup effort is not without merit. In early October, it was reported that year to date 146,130 pounds of trash and debris had been picked up in Surry County. Of that, it was the contact labor that accounted for more than 143,000 pounds of the total collected. Despite best effort, paying for a service to be rendered does seem to be more successful than the largesse of the community.

Some may not know that such contracts for road cleanup exist, or that there is a new bid open right now for these contracts. The county is soliciting proposals from any local business or contractor for litter collection along local roadsides.

As there is such large interest in getting the roadways cleaned, funding has been added to the Surry County budget to help address this lingering issue. This is not a request for volunteering, the county is looking for people willing to work and get paid for their effort in making the community a cleaner place.

Litter collection efforts will be needed along selected roadways and the county will designate the areas where roadside litter pickup will occur. The scope of services include:

• Picking up litter along both sides of the designated roadways. Timing, location, and scheduling of litter pickup will be established with selected vendor at time of selection and throughout the contract duration.

• Providing on-call service within 72 hours to provide litter pickup on an as-needed basis.

• Collecting within the NCDOT’s right-of-way only.

• Disposal of litter at the Surry County Landfill in Mount Airy. Invoicing Surry County the cost of disposal documented in weight tickets from the landfill without mark up. All other costs, including but not limited to transportation, labor and profit shall be included in the individual road segment pricing.

• Displaying proper safety signage to warn the public of litter pickup activities as defined by the latest version of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

• Providing service data to the County, including but not limited to location, hours worked, number of litter bags collected, tonnage of material collected and copies of disposal weight tickets.

• Maintaining a solid waste hauler license in Surry County.

• Complying with all local, state and federal regulations regarding the collection, transportation, and disposal of materials. Complying with all NCDOT and OSHA regulations regarding the collection, transportation, and disposal of materials.

Anyone interested in providing roadside litter collection services should contact Denise Brown at 336-401-8203 or brownd@co.surry.nc.us.

And then there was one.

After a three-month nationwide search to recruit a new city manager for Mount Airy, the field has been reduced significantly.

“We have narrowed it down to one candidate,” Mayor Ron Niland said in updating the process through which he and members of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners are replacing longtime manager Barbara Jones.

The finalist for the job — which attracted 21 applicants altogether — has not been identified pending further negotiations, presumably involving issues such as salary.

“We are in the process of talking with that candidate and coming up with some kind of agreement,” Niland said.

The continuing effort to hire a new city manager was discussed behind closed doors during a council meeting Thursday night due to a personnel issue being involved.

Jones had announced her retirement on Sept. 9, becoming effective on Oct. 1, capping off a 30-year career in city government. She had served as city manager since August 2010 and held the distinction of being the first female in that position in Mount Airy’s history.

When Jones’ departure was disclosed, Niland announced an immediate effort to secure her successor.

After the 21 applicants had come forward by a Nov. 1 deadline, officials decided on which ones would be interviewed, with the pool subsequently reduced to five people.

Niland said that number included two who live in North Carolina and one each from Virginia, Georgia and Texas.

He declined to name the location where the finalist is from, because of the discussions still being under way.

But according to the mayor, it won’t be long until Mount Airy has a new city manager on board to direct the day-to-day operations of the municipal government, which has about 170 full-time employees at full strength.

“The expectation is we will hopefully have this done by the first week of January,” he said of filling the vacancy.

Such timing has been considered key by Mount Airy officials since that month is when preparations begin for the annual city budget.

Since Jones left, Parks and Recreation Director Darren Lewis has been serving as interim manager while juggling his regular responsibilities.

• A Mount Airy man has been arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot his son, according to city police reports.

This is said to have occurred Wednesday at the residence of Frankie Lee Shuff, 70, at 217 Burgundy Road, which he shares with the son involved, Barry Donnell Shuff.

The elder Shuff was charged with communicating threats later that day. He was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $500 secured bond and slated for a Jan. 3 appearance in District Court.

• A crime involving property damage occurred Tuesday at the Lady Bug coin-operated laundry at 615 N. South St., where a water valve inside the business was targeted by an unknown party. The damage was put at $50.

• Rebecca Odell Hylton, 38, of 308 New Crosswinds Drive, is facing a long list of felony drug and theft-related charges stemming from a Dec. 6 incident at Walmart, where she allegedly stole assorted beauty and makeup products valued at $132, 16 in all, and was found in possession of controlled narcotics. These included a white rock-like substance and a brown sticky substance, police records state.

Hylton is accused of fraud/identity theft (for which no details were listed), possession of a Schedule I controlled substance and possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, which all are felonies, along with five misdemeanors: larceny; possession of stolen goods; carrying a concealed weapon; resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer; and possession of drug paraphernalia.

She also was found to be the subject of two outstanding orders for arrest for failing to appear in court in Surry County which had been issued on Nov. 9 and Sept. 22. Hylton was jailed under a $38,000 secured bond and is scheduled to be in Surry District Court on Monday.

• Dollar General on North Renfro Street was the scene of a larceny on Dec. 6, when “miscellaneous hygienic merchandise” valued at $10 was taken by an unknown suspect who concealed it and left the store.

The Small Business Center at Surry Community College will be offering multiple online webinars in January and February free of charge. These webinars cover a variety of topics ranging from eCommerce, networking and website building

The webinar Facebook Shops & Facebook Marketplace will be held Jan. 20, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Marketplace is a way to market your small business and sell in your local area. Customers can look through your listings or search for items near them to find great things to buy.

The webinar Website Building 101 and 102 For Small Businesses will be held Jan. 24, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. This seminar can help you quickly and design a website for your business with little technical knowledge.

The webinar The Building Blocks of Networking for Small Businesses will be held Jan. 26, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. This seminar will teach the importance of doing things virtually and still making business work positively. This seminar will be held again on Feb. 2, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The webinar Turning Prospects into Profitability will be held Feb. 9, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. This workshop provides the importance of finding the right target market, researching the right type of client to make it worth your time, making connections with social media virtually and community outreach for connections. This seminar will be held again on Feb. 16, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The webinar Understanding eBay Stores: Selling from Your eBay Website will be held Feb. 10, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This hands-on course will provide a step-by-step approach to those individuals who are ready to become eBay Store owners. You will learn how to start, brand, and optimize your eBay store website.

The webinar How to Start a Small Business will be held Feb. 15, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. You will understand the basics of starting a business in this seminar that takes you from idea to opportunity. Learn key strategies for start-up, financing and marketing as well as important information about legal issues, licensing, zoning, operations and more.

To register for upcoming virtual seminars or to view a complete listing of the upcoming Small Business Center offerings, visit www.surry.edu/sbc. After registering for a webinar, a link to join the event will be emailed to you.

For information about confidential, one-on-one counseling and resource referrals, contact SBC Director Mark Harden at hardenm@surry.edu or call 336-386-3685.

The Small Business Center provides seminars, workshops, resources and counseling to prospective business owners and existing business owners. The SCC Small Business Center has facilities in Dobson, Elkin, Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain, and Yadkinville.

The following marriage licenses were issued in Surry County:

– Richard Knight Catania, 25, of Montgomery County, Virginia, to McKenzie Anderson Cooper, 24, of Montgomery County.

– James Harlan Simmons, 66, of Surry County to Glenda Jane Lowe, 48, of Surry County.

– John Asten Shelley IV, 24, of Surry County to Alexis Kailey Sweat, 22, of Rock Island County.

– Marcos Lovaton, 26, of Surry County to Zaide Moran Munoz, 23, of Jalpan De Serra County.

– Dalton Lee Castle, 18, of Russell County, Virginia to Madison Grace Mullins, 16, of Buchanan County, Virginia.

– Francisco Javier Olmos Martinez, 41, of Surry County to Alexis Marie Gammons, 22, of Surry County.

In a reversal of a reversal, Mount Airy officials have allocated $400,000 in city funds to the Surry Arts Council to help it complete construction of a multi-purpose facility.

The 4-1 vote Thursday night by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners approving that effectively undid action taken in June 2020. The council decided 3-2 then not to fulfill a $1 million pledge to the arts group made in 2019 before the board’s makeup changed with a municipal election that year.

That sum was to be paid in annual increments of $200,000 over a five-year period to support the building project. But after three new commissioners came aboard, the majority decided in 2020 to keep intact the $200,000 tapped for the Surry Arts Council for that fiscal year covering the previous commissioners’ tenure — out of respect for them — but deny the rest of the $1 million.

Then-Mayor David Rowe cast a tie-breaking vote for the defunding that was supported by new commissioners Tom Koch and Marie Wood and opposed by longtime board members Jon Cawley and Steve Yokeley. Ron Niland, now Mount Airy’s mayor but then its at-large commissioner, was absent from that meeting, necessitating Rowe’s intervention.

Fast-forwarding to Thursday night, Cawley, Yokeley, Wood and Commissioner Joe Zalescik voted in favor of appropriating the $400,000 that had been formally requested by the arts organization on Dec. 2, with Koch adopting the same position he’d advanced in 2020.

Koch said then he could not support the long-range funding for the arts organization because the city needed new police, fire and sanitation vehicles and these items should take priority over aiding outside groups.

He again expressed financial concerns Thursday night in voting against the Surry Arts Council appropriation, which according to a budget amendment to provide the $400,000 will come from the municipal fund balance, or savings.

Koch charged that the city government has had “no input” in the planning for the new arts facility now taking shape on a site along Rockford Street near Blackmon Amphitheatre and the Mount Airy Public Library, where construction began Sept. 27.

This includes not being able to review the building specifications, which he said might have reduced the cost of the project bearing a $3.5 million price tag, with Koch questioning whether costly materials such as marble are part of the mix. He expressed further concern over the Surry Arts Council launching construction without all the funds needed for it being secured.

Koch also reiterated a previous request for financial records from the organization, including its balance sheets for recent years, which he had made when the board met earlier this month.

“I asked for it two weeks ago and I’ve got nothing,” the North Ward representative said of the financial data.

Koch tried unsuccessfully Thursday night to delay a vote on the funding until he got some answers, saying that would be “prudent.”

Koch’s concerns were addressed by Surry Arts Council Executive Director Tanya Jones, who was in the audience for Thursday’s meeting.

Jones said the arts group has sought to plan the facility in a fiscally responsible manner. “There is no marble in the building,” she commented at one point in countering Koch’s statement about that material.

The Surry Arts Council has been in constant collaboration with the city government during the more than four years in which the project has taken shape — since Day One, Jones continued.

She said the construction started when it did in order to be in compliance with contributions from other funding sources for the multi-purpose facility.

Jones also repeated a disclosure during the board’s Dec. 2 meeting that the Surry Arts Council financial records requested by Koch are already on file at City Hall, due to being submitted during the annual budget process. Commissioner Joe Zalescik said financial information about the group also is available online.

“The amount of money left to raise is $800,000,” Jones said of all the crooks and turns that have brought the project to this point. “We are $800,000 short.”

Surry County officials have been asked to supply the remaining $400,000 needed, but no action has been taken by them.

“We have not as a board committed to the $400,000,” said Larry Johnson, a county commissioner in attendance Thursday night, who represents the Mount Airy District.

The city commissioners’ 4-1 vote came in the wake of a presentation by a Surry Arts Council board member on Dec. 2 touting the tourism benefits expected from the new facility along with other SAC fixtures such as the Andy Griffith Museum.

Its new multi-purpose facility will contain office, classroom and exhibit space, including a museum and statue dedicated to the Original Siamese Twins who lived near Mount Airy in the 1800s. Accommodations for artist and scholar presentations also are to be provided along with public restrooms.

The city government will own the building once it is completed and lease the facility to the arts group.

Those commissioners who support the $400,000 allocation voiced no comments Thursday night to highlight their position.

But Cawley had said during the Dec. 2 session that he fully backed this move:

“I look forward to voting in the affirmative to support that.”

Edward Jones Financial Advisor Tammy Joyce of Mount Airy attended Barron’s 2021 Top Women Advisors Summit held virtually Dec. 7-11. This is the eighth time Joyce has taken part in the invitation-only event.

The conference gathers some of the nation’s most accomplished women in wealth management to discuss their practices and portfolios and enables them to network with their peers and discuss challenges and opportunities.

“The summit was an amazing learning opportunity, and I am thankful I have this chance to learn from my industry peers,” said Joyce. “I am excited to incorporate what I learned into my practice and the service I provide for my clients.”

Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in St. Louis, provides financial services in the U.S. and, through its affiliate, in Canada. The firm’s nearly 19,000 financial advisors serve more than 7 million clients with a total of $1.8 trillion in assets under care.

The Mount Airy High School Quiz Bowl team placed first in the Virtual Fall Tournament League going 10-0 in its season. The Virtual Winter League begins at the end of January, and the team will also participate in the Mount Airy Public Library’s Quiz Bowl Competition on Feb. 19 at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.

Central Middle School students have been enjoying their new outside classroom this year.

Thanks to Stephanie Boone Cook for being the recipient of the North Carolina Outdoor Advisory Council Grant, the school is able to use this space for outside learning. This space contains whiteboards, picnic tables, and other useful tools to help students make the most of outside learning.

Director of the Surry Community College Small Business Center (SBC) Mark Harden has received a Level 2 Credentialing award from the N.C. Community College System Small Business Center Network.

This award was presented to Harden for completing the required training milestones in the credentialing program. The award is based in part on establishing active partnerships with federal, state, county and municipal agencies and organizations.

Harden’s work has included providing seminars with the U.S. Small Business Administration, N.C. Secretary of State as well as the N.C. Department of Revenue. The SBC and Harden also partner with Thread Capital (N.C. Rural Center), N.C. Small Business Technology and Development Center, local chambers of commerce, and economic development partnerships on various economic development activities, as well as other community activities.

Harden has made significant contributions to the community during his three-year tenure as the director of SCC Small Business Center. He received the North Carolina State Small Business Center’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2020.

Harden has counseled hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners while supporting small business start-ups, resulting in over 150 new and retained jobs in the region. Additionally, the SCC SBC has offered more than 100 business seminars with nearly a thousand attendees in the region during his tenure.

The counseling and seminars cover a diverse range of important topics including business plans, capital funding, e-commerce, marketing, accounting, QuickBooks, income taxes, sales taxes, licenses/permits, website design and much more.

Harden has served local communities by collaborating with them in support of the Shop Local campaign by American Express and serving on many economic development and workforce training committees throughout the region. He participates in Leadership Surry County and Leadership Yadkin County.

For information about confidential, one-on-one counseling and resource referrals, contact Harden at hardenm@surry.edu or call 336-386-3685.

The Small Business Center provides seminars, workshops, resources and counseling to prospective business owners and existing business owners. The SCC Small Business Center has facilities in Dobson, Elkin, Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain, and Yadkinville.

To register for upcoming virtual seminars or to view a complete listing of the upcoming Small Business Center offerings, visit www.surry.edu/sbc.

During the season of giving, United Fund of Surry officials want to remind people to consider donating to their agency, which in turn can help other organizations.

“There are 15 days left in the year to give and receive a charitable deduction” Melissa Hiatt, executive director of the United Fund of Surry, said on Thursday.

She said this year — the second in which fundraising has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic — has been different than years past. The United Fund of Surry has a fundraising goal this year of $430,000, money to be used to help support its 26 member agencies.

“Although the campaign is going well and receiving gifts is a little ahead of schedule, the needs are much higher,” Hiatt said. “Surry County is very giving but also nurturing. Although we are blessed with multiple nonprofits in the community there are still unmet needs. This year there are new nonprofits emerging and some have already reached out to the United Fund for support. It is unknown at this time if the new requests will meet the funding criteria, but we want to be prepared to support the citizens in need of services,” she said.

The United Fund of Surry’s mission is to strengthen and support the community. The 26 member agencies provide services that focus on youth and family services, senior services, crisis intervention and medical intervention.

“All donations received support citizens of Surry County and no administrative cost leave the county,” Hiatt said. The United Fund of Surry’s motto is #keepitlocalsurrey.

“No matter what path you choose to give, #keepitlocalsurry means that your investment in your community is creating an impact that is immeasurable. You are improving the quality of life for those most in need both today and in the future,” stated Hiatt.

There are a number of ways individuals can help support United Fund and the work it does in the community. Among those are:

– Start or participate in a work-placegiveing campaign that allows an office or branch of a company to donate, volunteer and speak out for causes that matter to them;

– Donate online at http://www.unitedfundofsurry.org/donate;

– Mail a donation to P.O. Box 409, Mount Airy, NC 27030;

– Make a Legacy Gift: A gift to the United Fund to ensure maximize use of dollars to support the community for years to come. Call 336-789-3087 to discuss a legacy gift;

– Volunteer to serve on a committee to the United Fund’s board of directors.

For more information on The United Fund of Surry County, visit http://www.unitedfundofsurry.org/

Access to services can be a common complaint of marginalized groups and their grievances sometimes require legal action to bring about change. Some situations though cannot wait and require an innovative approach to solve an ongoing problem.

When it came to accessing care for those battling substance use disorder in Surry County, a large obstacle was getting the patients to the care they needed. A transportation initiative was launched in May that was funded by the county as well as grants called ‘Ride the Road to Recovery.’ The funding allowed the team to hire staff and purchase vehicles to be used to take the patients to their treatment.

“A lot of substance use disorder patients don’t have adequate transportation to get to the treatment that’s mainly in cities in Surry County, so we’re going to them to provide that for them,” said Nathan Walls of the county manager’s office.

The number of requests for rides since the program’s inception has already climbed at a rate that shows how needed this transportation service is and appreciated it may be going forward. The report from the county said: “Requests rose from 31 in June to 122 in October, climbing each month.

“Between July and August, numbers almost doubled from 41 to 79. Starting in May, trips increased from 13 to 55 in June, to 129 in July, to 145 in August, to 195 in September and to 256 in October. That represents an overall increase of over 1,869% ridership.”

That growth means this program needs help in the form of volunteer drivers. A newly initiated volunteer driver program called T.I.R.E.S. (Together Ideal Results Emerge Successfully) seeks volunteers who will operate program vehicles and transport residents to needed services.

This novel approach to get the patients to the care they need by using volunteer drivers may be on the vanguard. It is thought to be the only program of its kind in North Carolina, with no other documentation in the state of “other local governments primarily providing transportation services to substance use patients.”

Getting those in need to their treatment is just part of the goal for Ride the Road to Recovery. Beyond those important rides to treatment, “also rides to medical, probation, court, TASC, Vocational Rehabilitation and NC Works appointments, because they have no other means to get there,” said Mark Willis, the director of the county’s Substance Abuse Recovery Department.

“If we are truly helping people get on the road to recovery, the only way we can do that is to connect county residents to their other needs, as well. Thanks to this big picture view of recovery, and our marketing efforts, we’ve seen a rise in riders.”

The TIRES initiative is just launching and as transportation coordinator Deborah Giep said, it gives the residents of Surry County a chance to connect with and help their neighbors in need.

COVID-19 fears, she said, could play in to concerns people may have in participating but the county is helping with those personal safety supplies for riders and drivers. “We supply safety gear; every rider is provided with a mask if they do not have one.”

Early this year, the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery asked for the public to participate in a survey on their experiences and perceptions of substance use disorder and those battling the disease. Seven hundred and thirty V.O.I.C.E.S. (Volunteering Opinions & Information Concerning Eliminating Substance Use Community Surveys) were collected from Feb. 8 to April 14. With participation across demographic groups, and more than 200 additional write-in answers from the public, it provided a snapshot of this community’s understanding and perceptions of the problem.

What was found from those 730 surveys was that there is wide knowledge of an ongoing substance use problem in this area, and an equally alarming number of participants said finding drugs in their community was easy.

Of 677 responses to the question “Do You Know of a Local Family Who Has Been Negatively Impacted by Opioid Use?” 588 said yes, they know of such a family, which is 87% of respondents.

“Do You Think Your Community Has an Opioid Addiction Problem?” 97.8% answered yes.

When asking if “Illicit Opioids, Including Illicit Prescription Medication and Drugs like Heroin, are Readily Available in my Community” 94.1% replied they felt these were easily found.

One data point shows public perception on substance use disorder has changed over the years. The community surveyed were presented with options on what the root cause of substance use disorder may be: choice, a failing of moral character or disease. Residents of Surry County acknowledge what medical professionals agree on – these people are dealing with an illness.

Pastor Michelle Mathis said in a video found on SurryCountyCares.com that for some people who see substance use disorder as a moral failing, she wants to remind them, “None of us are without sin. Jesus even said, he who is without sin shall cast the first stone.” She is reminded of a phrase she borrowed from a pastor in Ohio, do you want to be a stone thrower – or do you want to get down like He did and help?

Addiction is a chronic and debilitating disease from which some will not recover despite all best efforts. That does not mean all best efforts will not be made. Helping neighbors in need and bringing them to the treatment that can help alter the trajectory of their lives can be a game changing experience for the one who is suffering and their loved ones.

For every $1 spent on prevention, $10 are saved on long term treatment costs alone, according to the Surry County Substance Abuse website. Getting one person to a facility such as Daymark for treatment can prevent a litany of other issues associated with withdrawal. One less person looking for an unlocked car door at the gas station would be a net positive for the entire community as well.

“They see the light,” Giep said of the participants in On the Road to Recovery, “(They) want to continue on the route and the journey and are looking forward to finishing up their programs.”

The programs exist, the grant money is in place for the vehicles and the county staff to facilitate the ride share program. What is needed now are the drivers, and the community is asked to help.

To request a ride from the transportation program, or become a volunteer driver, residents should contact Deborah Giep at 336-401-8266 or submit a message at www.surrycountycares.com/transportation.

Mount Airy officials are considering city zoning ordinance changes regulating rooming houses — for which action was planned Thursday night — on the heels of Church Street residents complaining about a transient lodging establishment operating in their neighborhood.

That occurred earlier this fall in response to activities surrounding a boarding house at 204 W. Church St. creating concerns among neighbors, who were prompted to address the issue during a public forum of a council meeting.

“There’s been a lot of activity with the police,” said one forum speaker, Elizabeth McDowell, who identified herself as a former military flight nurse living across the street from the rooming house involved.

“We’re all just very unhappy about this,” said another West Church Street resident, Daphne Ayers, who mentioned that problems were caused by the short-term presence of occupants who were renting rooms by the month.

What began as a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house that was bought by a younger local resident ballooned from there with more bedroom and bathroom spaces, according to Ayers. The maximum number of people staying there at a particular time was not known.

“We feel like it’s transient people coming and going,” Ayers added in reference to vehicles parked there which another speaker said displayed license tags from all over the U.S., including such states as Texas and Arizona. “We’ve had the police over there numerous times.”

McDowell said her two teenage daughters were not comfortable getting into the car to drive to school each day because of safety issues regarding the rooming house that she termed a “public nuisance” during the forum.

“So we need this safety issue involved.”

Tim Ayers, another forum speaker, pointed out that as a neighborhood located in an R-6 (General Residential) zone, it is predominantly made up of single-family homes although apartments are located there.

But the presence of the rooming house had greatly disrupted its character, he indicated.

Tim Ayers told city officials that 15 families had gone on record as opposing the use in question.

“We do not want a rooming house in our neighborhood,” he said.

“We would like to change the ordinance so it doesn’t happen,” Daphne Ayers stated, which the forum comments suggested should include not only banning such establishments throughout the city in the future but disallowing the one in existence.

McDowell referred to language in the Mount Airy code of ordinances which states that the intent of these regulations is to promote public health, safety, morals and the general welfare of citizens.

Mount Airy Planning Director Andy Goodall reacted to the residents’ concerns’ by pointing out that no city permit had been issued for the rooming house, because the owner of the property decided to abandon that use.

Strict building codes were given as his reason for this, according to the planning director.

But Goodall said the Mount Airy Planning Board — an advisory group to the commissioners — would be discussing and considering changes as to how rooming and boarding houses, which are allowable uses in the municipality, are handled.

That has now occurred with the development of proposed ordinance amendments, which will require a public hearing to be held before the changes can be approved and put into effect. The commissioners were expected during a meeting Thursday night to schedule the hearing for another council meeting on Jan. 20 at 6 p.m.

One proposed change in Mount Airy’s residential use guidelines would involve removing the term boarding/rooming house and replacing it with rooming house alone — separated into transient and non-transient facilities.

The transient rooming house is defined as any single dwelling unit containing no more than five guest rooms and limited to that number of people where rent is paid, with transient specified as less than 30 days.

Such a facility would have to meet city minimum housing and state building codes before a certificate to operate was issued.

The proposed amendments also call for a house to be overseen by a resident manager.

One parking space would be required for each guest room and one for the manager, located at the side or rear of the structure.

Wording that has allowed boarding/rooming houses in the R-20 (Single-Family Residential), R-6 (General Residential) and R-4 (Office-Residential) zoning districts was stricken for purposes of the amendment package.

Transient facilities would be allowed only in R-4 zones with a special-use permit, based on city government documents, with greater leeway proposed for the non-transient variety.

• An Ararat, Virginia, man has been jailed under a huge bond after he was discovered to be a fugitive from justice during a suspicious-vehicle call, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

Catlin Joe Moncus, 36, of 3321 Willis Gap Road, was encountered late last Saturday night by officers at Jasper Pointe Apartments off North Franklin Road, who discovered his name entered in a national crime database as being wanted in Virginia on an unspecified matter.

Moncus also was found to be the subject of an outstanding order for arrest for failing to appear in court in Surry County. He was confined in the county jail under a $50,000 secured bond and slated for a Jan. 3 court appearance in Dobson.

• Christopher Reuben Clark, 38, of 274 Hiatt Road, was charged with larceny Monday at Walmart, where he allegedly was found in possession of stolen goods by management personnel. The merchandise involved was not specified.

Clark is scheduled to be in Surry District Court on Jan. 7 and has been banned from Walmart properties.

• Two women are facing larceny and drug charges stemming from a Nov. 25 incident at the Dollar General store on South Main Street.

Ashley Luann Goins, 34, of 511 Gillespie St. in Dobson, was found in possession of miscellaneous makeup and hair products valued at $37 after a probable-cause search of her purse, police records state, which were recovered intact. She is accused of larceny along with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, possession of a Schedule III controlled substance and possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance.

Sophia Danielle Shelton, 25, listed as homeless, also allegedly was found with stolen merchandise and an illegal drug and was charged with concealment of merchandise, possession of stolen goods and possession of a Schedule III controlled substance.

Oxycodone and alprazolam pills were seized during the incident along with Suboxone strips and an unknown white powdery substance that has been sent to the state crime lab for analysis.

The two women are scheduled to appear in District Court on Monday.

PILOT MOUNTAIN — A group of area veterans has received a special salute recognizing its long record of service to ex-military members.

This involved a presentation of the 75th Diamond Jubilee Award during a gathering earlier this month of Pilot Mountain Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9436, marking that many years of overall service to the veteran community.

Visiting VFW officials from the state and district levels were on hand for that occasion, which occurred during a Christmas dinner for the group provided by its Ladies Auxiliary.

Post Commander Kem Byrd explained Thursday that the Pilot Mountain Veterans of Foreign Wars has been in existence for about 40 years.

However, it has become combined over time with VFW posts in Pinnacle, King and Collinstown. The King VFW was launched right after World War II, with the 75th Diamond Jubilee Award given based on its longevity.

And the Pilot Mountain post officially was recognized since it is now the spearhead group for all the others, Byrd indicated.

The combined organization has 60 members representing the multiple communities involved.

Byrd, who served in the U.S. Navy in the 1980s during the Lebanon conflict, says the Pilot Mountain VFW conglomerate is involved in a number of activities to aid former military personnel and raise awareness about them.

This includes participating in the VFW Buddy Poppy program, which provides compensation to veterans who assemble the poppies — replicas of vivid red flowers symbolizing the great loss of life during war.

The program helps the VFW live up to its motto “to honor the dead by helping the living.”

Byrd also mentioned that the Pilot Mountain post participated in a Veterans Day parade in November.

Another way in which it makes a valuable contribution involves joining with Mount Airy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2019 to form a combined Honor Guard that bestows military honors at funerals of veterans.

The VFW Honor Guard was inactive as 2021 got under way — due to COVID-19 — but since March has participated in nearly 90 funerals, Byrd said.

Pilot Mountain VFW members meet on the second Thursday of each month at post headquarters in the town.

Dec. 21 marks the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.

“But the name, Longest Night, also describes the feeling many of us have during this season,” said an announcement from First Presbyterian Church of Pilot Mountain. “The long, dark winter nights, memories of past experiences and situations can become overwhelming. Job loss, health issues, the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, all of these things can turn this season into a time of pain with a magnified sense of loss.”

To help folks get through this period, First Presbyterian Church of Pilot Mountain is holding what it calling the Longest Night Service at 7 p.m. on Dec. 21.

“Come out, and join with us in sharing and hearing prayers, scripture, and music that acknowledge that God’s presence is for those who mourn, for those who struggle – and that God’s Word comes to shine light into our darkness. Everyone is welcome,” the church said.

The church is at 316 E Main St, in Pilot Mountain.

The Surry Arts Council is presenting “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” directed by Amanda Barnard, this weekend.

The show opens on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Another performance will be held on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. More than 700 area students will see the show on Friday.

Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are an awful bunch. They set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s toolshed, blackmailed Wanda Pierce to get her charm bracelet, and smacked Alice Wendelken across the head. And that’s just the start.

When the Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and suddenly take over the Christmas pageant, the other kids are shocked. It’s obvious that they’re up to no good. But Christmas magic is all around and the Herdmans, who have never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.

The production stars Jason Hoerter as Father, Bob Bradley, Julia Ann Banfield as Mother, Grace Bradley, Ava Chrismon as Beth Bradley, Mason St. Angelo as Charlie Bradley, Brooks Harold as Ralph Herdman, Gracie St. Angelo as Imogene Herdman, Tanner Price as Leroy Herdman, Noah Wilkes as Claude Herdman, Maddie Youell as Ollie Herdman, and Noelle Snow as Gladys Herdman.

Additional cast includes Crystal Folger-Hawks as Mrs. Armstrong, Jessica Schuyler as Mrs. McCarthy, Billie Smith as Mrs. Slocum, Jordan Dover as Mrs. Clausing, Alexis Holladay as Mrs. Clark, Noah Petree as Reverend Hopkins, Alex Bowers and Jack Denny as Firemen, Anne Rachel Sheppard as Alice Wendleken, Caroline Williams as Maxine, Thomas Holladay as Elmer Hopkins, Maggie Wallace as Beverly, Atticus Hawks as Hobie, Claire Youell as Dana, Chloe Vinson as Doris, Morgan Cooke as Juanita, and MaKenna Wall as Shirley.

Singing in the Angel Choir is Juliet Barnard, Jackie Delacruz, Addison Graves, Isabell Hoerter, Kaitlyn Holladay, MaKenna Holladay, Lily O’Neal, Genevieve Quinn, and Abbie Schuyler. Serving as Shepherds are Anderson Holladay and Samuel Holladay, and portraying Pageant Angels are Prim Hawks, Paisley Montgomery, and Adella Smith.

Serving on the production crew is Director Amanda Barnard, Music Director Jane Tesh, Stage Manager Madeline Matanick, Assistant Stage Manager Abby Brady, Technical Director Tyler Matanick, Costumes and Props Mistress Shelby Coleman, Light Board Operator Max Barnard, and Stage Crew Ella Pomeroy and Walker York.

Masks are required for all audience members.

For tickets or other information on the show, visit www.surryarts.org or call the Surry Arts Council at 336-786-7998. Tickets will be available at the doors one hour before performance time subject to availability.

For the tenth consecutive year, and the second in the pandemic era, The Mount Airy Chick-fil-A will be holding a drive-through food drive.

Chad Tidd, operator of the Mount Airy restaurant, said the event will take place on Dec. 16, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

“It is drive-through,” Tidd said Tuesday morning. “We’ll have our team members on site to do the collections, a guest doesn’t even have to get out of the car.”

He said his crew will be accepting donations of non-perishable food items, cash and checks, with proceeds going to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.

Chick-fil-A has been doing the holiday food drive for a decade, normally as part of a larger, regional food drive organized by WXII in Winston-Salem. Despite being in perhaps the smallest location to host one of the regional food drives, Tidd said his store generally collected the most for the food bank — which he attributes to the generosity of the people who live and work in Surry County.

Like last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the television station opted out of doing the regional food drive, but Chick-fil-A continues with the tradition.

Even before the pandemic, his restaurant conducted the food drive as a drive-through event.

“That’s traditionally worked very, very well. Drive-though is kind of our speciality.”

In years previous to the pandemic, he said it was not unusual for those onsite donating food to park their cars, get out and mingle with folks from the television station, the food bank, or the Chick-fil-A staff. Last year, and again this season, that won’t be possible.

He said generally the site collects between $8,000 and $10,000 in cash donations, along with filling 25 to 30 cartons supplied by the food bank — enough for the food bank to supply close to 100,000 meals to those in need.

Tidd said those donating also receive a gift, in the form of a digital card offer.

“It could be a Chick-fil-A dessert, could be an entree, could be a breakfast items,” he said. “We try to have fun with that, make that a cool interactive experience. We just want to give something to recognize those who are giving to others.”

Tidd said for those wishing to take part, a Chick-fil-A tent will be set up in the front of the parking lot on Dec. 16, next to the restaurant’s sign, showing where the collection point will be. He advised those planning to make a donation by check to make out the checks to Second Harvest Food Bank.

“We look forward to seeing everybody,” Tidd said.

What started as a relatively small textile operation in Mount Airy 100 years ago has grown to manufacture socks for some of the biggest international clients in the world — and now says it has hopes for even more growth as the firm enters its second century of operation.

Renfro Brands is marking its 100th anniversary by charting what it hopes will continue to be a profitable future — even as major changes reshape the company. Among those changes, the company said, are a renewed commitment to diversity within its management ranks as well as finding better ways to operation in environmentally conscious ways.

“This year has been an important one for the company as it announced new ownership by the private holding company, The Renco Group Inc., which followed the launch of Renfro’s direct-to-consumer marketplace Loops & Wales and corporate rebranding,” the firm said this week in a statement about its 100th anniversary.

The company, while still maintaining its corporate headquarters in Mount Airy, has also continued moving its base of operations to nearby Winston-Salem, with more and more production and corporate functions handled there since CEO Stan Jewell took the reins in 2017.

Founded in 1921 as Renfro Hosiery Mills, the company started as a small domestic manufacturer. A century later, Renfro has grown into a leader in the legwear industry with more than 1,500 employees globally. It has also shown an ability to pivot quickly — as it did last year when the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic gave the company another opportunity — producing masks. The company produced millions of masks, even donating nearly 2,000 to Mount Airy for its city employees to use.

“As Renfro charts its next phase of growth, the company is focused on making a positive impact on the world,” the company said. “Renfro has long rallied behind its belief that ‘a life well-lived, is lived in socks’ and understands that while it starts with great socks, its impact goes further than that. Through its new corporate social responsibility program, Project Footprint, Renfro has set out to foster better employment opportunities for more people, to continue to give back to the communities where it works, and to take every effort to preserve a healthy planet for a healthy future.”

“We are extremely proud of where we are today as a company, and that is thanks to our employees, partners, and communities who have supported and trusted us over the past 100-years,” Jewell said Tuesday. “Project Footprint is not only our way of growing what our founders started but continuing our commitment to living our vision of helping people get back on their feet to achieve a life well-lived.”

As part of Project Footprint, Renfro has committed to achieving specific goals for each pillar of its program – Our Communities, Our Planet, and Our People – and will expand these with new actions and efforts annually. Among the objectives set to date, Renfro has committed to achieving the following by 2025:

– Renfro will increase the number of what it calls “BIPOC employees” — Black, indigenous, and people of color — at the manager level by more than 20% to ensure leaders reflect the company’s consumer base.

– Renfro will launch an annual sock capsule on its direct-to-consumer platform Loops & Wales, where 100% of proceeds are donated to an organization helping people get back on their feet.

– Renfro will use sustainable yarns and materials in at least half of the products it produce, increasing this to 100% by 2030.

Additionally, starting in 2022, Renfro aims to donate more than $1 million worth of employee hours to nonprofits by providing time for employees to live its values and volunteer with organizations with roots in local communities.

“Renfro will continue to progress and evolve Project Footprint to both grow its impact and address new needs as they emerge,” the firm’s statement said.

Anyone driving on US Highway 52 has been trapped behind the car with Ohio tags that slows down to 35 miles per hour to get the iconic photo of Pilot Mountain, we understand. That photo is a rite of passage for travelers on North Carolina highways akin to the “Barstow, CA: 2,554 miles” sign outside of Wilmington, or the sombrero rising over I-95 marking South of the Border.

For residents here, the Pilot Mountain knob is seen with more than a smidge of pride that such beauty is right in the proverbial backyard. When the mountain caught fire from human negligence the weekend after Thanksgiving, this community felt a range of emotions that something so cherished and revered was at risk.

Calls came in to 911 on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 27 as people noticed something that did not look as it should. “We were leaving the parade in Mount Airy, heading home. And we happened to see a bright orange, just a bright orange sky,” Keisha Worrell said of the sickening drive down US 52 that night.

In the remarkable era of smartphones social media spread word of the fire as fast as the dry and windy conditions on site. Intrepid citizen reporters were posting videos to Facebook groups and sharing images faster than regional TV stations could get on the ground.

For those living at the foot of the mountain, the feelings were immediate and pronounced as the smell of smoke announced what eyes and ears could not report back on their own. A Pilot Mountain resident said via email that “the slightest breeze caused fear. When the wind stopped the smell of smoke perforated the air.”

As fire crews and state teams waged their battle, the area communities rallied supplies to the Pilot Knob Volunteer Fire Department at a pace so fast Mayor Evan Cockerham had to ask for a pause in donations. The teams on the mountain waged a slow downhill fight as they chased the fire toward containment lines.

On the western front, firefighters utilized portable pumps to move water to a temporary tank 3,300 feet uphill. Almost 8,000 feet of hose was stretched from the temporary tank to various mop up points within 100 feet of the fire perimeter.

When hearing 8,000 feet of hose was used, or 1,050 acres were burnt by a fire that cost more than a half a million dollars to fight, some may be conjuring up images of desolation. The mind can assume the worst when a disaster strikes and before the smoke clears, and these numbers paint an incomplete picture of the Grindstone Fire.

As the trails of Pilot Mountain State Park have reopened those first back into the park are sending positive reports. Signs of burn are visible, but the trees and forest have proven to be resilient as they have before.

There was one report of damage to a fence within the park, but thanks to the tireless work of North Carolina Forest Service, the State Parks Department and local fire crews, the fire was always contained within the park.

Mother nature finally joined in the fight last week when the skies opened, and much needed rain fell onto the area. It was just what was needed for the outdoor burn ban to be lifted. “We saw some much-needed rain during the weekend, and that has thankfully helped bring fire danger down, allowing us to lift burn ban restrictions statewide,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

“Still, I’d caution residents to remain vigilant about burning responsibly and safely. Make sure you have a valid burn permit and contact your NCFS county ranger for wildfire prevention and fire safety tips.”

The majority of the state had the burn ban lifted on Dec. 8. All previously issued permits for outdoor burning were invalidated when the statewide burn ban went into place, so new permits will be required.

The investigation into the Grindstone Trail fire on Pilot Mountain continues. What is known is the fire was caused by an escaped campfire in an undesignated area. NC Forest Service Ranger Jimmy Holt has said that the parties involved in causing the fire are unlikely to be determined. Any person responsible for setting a fire may be liable for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire.

Moving forward the messaging from Gov. Roy Cooper down to Pilot Mountain Mayor Evan Cockerham remains the same: be vigilant when it comes to fire safety. One ember from a campfire, an errant New Year’s Eve firework or that pesky tossed cigarette butt could be the spark that starts the next Grindstone Fire.

• The investigation of a theft at Dollar General on North Renfro Street led to a homeless man being jailed Saturday under a $50,000 secured bond, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

That encounter with Kyle William Gwyn, 41, listed as a homeless Virginia resident, resulted in the discovery that Gwyn’s name had been entered into a national crime database as being wanted in Patrick County on an unspecified matter.

He subsequently was arrested as a fugitive from justice in addition to being charged with larceny at Dollar General, with the merchandise allegedly stolen from the store not identified in police records. Gwyn was scheduled to be in court today in Dobson.

• Police learned last Thursday that Cloud Zone Smoke and Vape, a business on North Renfro Street, had been victimized by a theft. It involved six containers of MIT 45 vape liquid, valued at $612, being stolen by an unknown suspect.

• Jesse Paul Hensley, 31, of 928 N. South St., was charged with two felonies, larceny of a motor vehicle and possession of stolen goods, on Dec. 1.

This stemmed from the theft of a 1996 Ford Explorer owned by Nathaniel Kyle Sawyers of McBride Road, which was discovered on Nov. 15 to have been stolen from a Woodland Drive location while secured at the time.

Hensley was jailed under a $2,000 secured bond and slated for a Jan. 18 appearance in Surry District Court.

• A traffic stop in the 500 block of Riverside Drive on Nov. 24 resulted in two men being arrested on felony drug violations involving methamphetamine.

Danny Jay McCraw, 62, of 143 E. Crosswinds Court, was charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver, while Michael Dean Myers, 44, of 1220 Banley St., is accused of possessing a Schedule II controlled substance, a felony.

Both also were charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. McCraw was released under a $5,000 unsecured bond, while Myers was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $5,000 secured bond. The two are scheduled to be in District Court on Jan. 31.

More than 300 participants — some adorned in holiday-themed costumes — turned out Saturday for a brisk and damp 5K on the Greenway.

The annual Rosy Cheeks Toy Drive 5K run, hosted by Mount Airy Parks and Recreation, Reeves Community Center Foundation and the Mount Airy Police Department, drew the competitors out, each hoping for a fun run, and the opportunity to donate toys and money to the annual Christmas toy drive.

This was the 14th run — last year’s was a virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic — for the run with 309 officially taking part. That topped the 300 Parks and Rec Director Darren Lewis had said in late November was the goal for this year’s 5K.

The 3.1-mile race, along the Ararat River Greenway, saw all runners hit the pavement at the start. The average finish for the participants was 38:13, but that was not indicative of just how fast some of the runners were.

Cayden Dalton, of Stuart, Virginia, took the top overall spot with a time of 17:39, or an average of 5:40 per mile.

Jack Badger of Knoxville, Tennessee was second and Charles Walker, of State Road, took third place overall.

Brooke Hull, of Winston-Salem, was first among female runners, with a finishing time of 20:25, followed by Bailey Reuginger of Clemmons and Abigail Hemric of Danbury.

For the second-straight year, a Christmas tree display highlighting the humble traffic cone — 78 of them to be exact — is providing a unique touch of holiday spirit in Mount Airy.

The traffic cones normally are used by street crews of the city Public Works Department to close roadways or designate work zones.

Each traffic cone is a simple study in orange and white. But the nearly 80 pressed into service to create an 18-foot Christmas tree illustrate how even such mundane objects can be transformed into something beautiful and festive for passersby.

“They have been stopping almost daily to take pictures of it,” Public Works Director Mitch Williams said of the tree erected outside his department’s headquarters at 440 E. Pine St. (N.C. 103) near the Ararat River bridge adjacent to Riverside Park.

The special tree first adorned that location last Christmas, the idea for which was spawned by another one Williams had spotted online. It was placed outside the building of a company that manufactures traffic cones.

Williams added Tuesday that the local tree took shape in the midst of the coronavirus scare in 2020, and it was hoped that the cone display — which is stunningly lit up at night — would bring at least a small sense of joy to the community.

And with the pandemic yet raging, the public works staff is seeking to inspire that same reaction this Christmas season.

“As soon as we took it down last year, we immediately had people asking us if we are going to put it up again next year,” Williams said of the display.

The original tree took about half a day for public works staff members to set up, but was done so in a way that allowed it to be disassembled, stored and put up again for future Christmases, as are other decorations.

In addition to the traffic cones, it is composed of old pallets, plywood and 4-by-4 wood pieces.

While it is intended to be a festive holiday display, the prevailing orange hue of the cone tree also provides a subtle reminder about the need to exercise care and be safe during the Christmas season — throughout the year, actually.

This is further enhanced by the presence not of a traditional star atop the tree but a small round sign that says “slow” on one side and “stop” on the other.

Williams says the plan is for the cone tree to become an annual holiday tradition locally.

“As long as people enjoy it, we are going to keep putting it up,” the public works director pledged.

“So we hope it will bring some smiles and Christmas cheer to people — something a little different.”

After dealing with delays related to COVID-19 and other factors, a date has been set for the opening of a new facility in Mount Airy to better tackle homelessness.

“We just had a meeting last night,” Shepherd’s House Executive Director Jana Elliott said Tuesday of the governing board for the homeless shelter, which decided to schedule a ribbon-cutting event for Jan. 11 to celebrate the major expansion project.

“The goal is to move ourselves, (and) the residents, into the shelter after that ribbon cutting,” Elliott added regarding staff members’ offices and those receiving services.

More details concerning that milestone event are to be released in the coming weeks.

It represents years of planning by Shepherd’s House officials to more effectively meet the growing problem of homelessness in the Mount Airy area, which has included having to turn away those in need because of space limitations. In 2019, for example, this happened to 80% of those seeking assistance, translating into more than 400 people.

The present shelter, which opened in 2003 at 227 Rockford St., is designed to provide temporary emergency housing to 18 people.

Many more will be accommodated at the new facility, located on Spring Street right behind the existing shelter.

“We will have a 64-bed capacity,” said Elliott, who has been serving in the position of Shepherd’s House executive director since last spring — “quite an uptick from where we are now.”

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the expansion project in October 2019 — just before the coronavirus pandemic emerged — and similar to many other facets of society, COVID-19 has affected the construction process for the new facility.

It July, it was reported that the shelter would be open by Oct. 1, but that was undermined by various delays.

“All of the above,” Elliott said of issues such as problems in obtaining certain materials for the project and construction crews not being fully manned at times due to COVID protocols. “One little thing after another.”

Yet shelter officials are pleased with how the project has unfolded overall, Elliott indicated.

“The contractor, he did a great job,” she said of the local J.G. Coram construction firm that has handled the effort.

It is now down to just completing “some finishing touches,” Elliott said.

She also mentioned the granting of a certificate of occupancy by the city of Mount Airy as another preliminary step for the shelter opening.

Along with affecting construction, the COVID-19 crisis has contributed to a homeless problem that already was severe in this region.

In addition to providing temporary housing, Shepherd’s House residents take part in programs designed to help them gain employment and become self-sufficient.

Besides COVID, another factor that extended the construction timetable involved a design-related decision to develop a commercial kitchen at the new site rather than simply a residential one just meeting the needs of shelter occupants.

The commercial kitchen will allow a valuable teaching component to be incorporated into the program, giving residents the opportunity to learn cooking skills that can be translated to workplaces and hopefully end the cycle of homelessness, officials say.

Cox-Needham Funeral Home in Pilot Mountain will be hosting the second annual Time of Remembrance Drive Through Event on Friday, Dec. 17.

This event allows for those who have lost loved ones to visit and celebrate the lives of those who have passed.

The staff of the funeral home will be set up outside with a table of hot cocoa and cookies. Everyone who comes will receive these refreshments as well as an ornament with the name or names of those they have lost this past year.

“We want to be respectful while also allowing people to move ahead and have good memories,” says Office Manager Teresa Simpson.

This event used to be inside but because of COVID it has been moved to an outside event for the second year in a row.

“We chose to do a more safe approach because of COVID-19. We originally would do it inside but we wanted to be a bit safer,” said Simpson.

They are hoping to also have carolers at the event.

The event will take place at Cox-Needham Funeral Home, 822 West Main Street, Pilot Mountain.

The event will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Every family will be provided a free ornament and extras will be available for purchase for $12.

RSVP no later than Wednesday, Dec. 15 by calling 336-368-2233 or emailing CoxNeedham@afpfuneral.com

First grade students at Copeland Elementary recently held a community helper day. Special guests included deputies from the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, linemen from Surry Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation, a member from the NC State Employees’ Credit Union, and local farmer Chase Lowe.

COVID-19 caused an interruption in the meeting schedule of a local group, but that has not lessened its resolve to do good things for the community.

Surry County Retired School Personnel (SCRSP) members met recently for the first time in nearly two years due to the pandemic. But the gathering at Cross Creek Country Club in Mount Airy provided a reminder that its activities are very much alive.

And several community causes are benefiting from this.

Each year, for example, the SCRSP sponsors a Red Cross blood drive in September and collects donations for the Salvation Army at Christmas.

And during each of its quarterly meetings normally held, the members donate food items that are distributed to Foothills Food Pantry in Dobson, the Yokefellow food bank in Mount Airy and SEAMS, which provides those services in Pilot Mountain.

In addition, paper products are collected for the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter in Mount Airy.

The Surry County branch of the North Carolina Retired School Personnel organization has about 160 members.

The SCRSP’s biggest project involves an annual scholarship to help a local student attend college.

“We are very proud of the $1,200 scholarship to Surry Community College and want to spread the word about this scholarship,” Jane Bell, the group’s president, advised.

The 2022 recipient will be selected among applications received from the public high schools in Mount Airy, Surry County and Elkin.

Along with planning to attend SCC, the selection criteria includes character, scholarship, academic promise, financial need, career potential and recommendations.

Applications are available in the counseling offices of the high schools, with March 31, 2022 the submission deadline.

Local musician Darrius Flowers has received a $5,000 grant for emerging artists from the NC Arts Council.

Executive Director of the Surry Arts Council Tanya B. Jones recommended that Flowers apply for this grant.

Despite not beginning to play music until February 2017, Flowers plays fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and bass. He also sings and does flat foot dancing.

“God has blessed me with the ability to pick up music quickly. While I’m mainly self-taught, I have had lessons through the TAPS program, and that’s how I got involved with the Surry Arts Council. When workshops became available through the Surry Arts Council, I took lessons from those instructors, and that helped me progress in music,” said Flowers. TAPS is short for the Traditional Arts Programs, a series of free music lessons the council provides to area youth.

Flowers was also the recipient of the Wayne Henderson Scholarship which allowed him to take private lessons from Jim Vipperman, a local musician TAPS teacher.

Flowers has always loved music. It has always been a part of him.

“I already had a love for music. I can’t recall a day where I haven’t listened to music. I can’t say what it was that made me want to start. I just knew I wanted to. There was something in me saying, ‘Let’s try playing the fiddle,’ and as they say, the rest is history,” said Flowers.

Flowers has already played in a variety of different live shows at the age of 18. He’s been playing live on and off for about three years. He plays with many different bands at the Autumn Leaves Festival and has performed at other festivals numerous times. He is also active in his church, playing and singing every Sunday.

“I hope to have my own recording studio for making albums for myself and others and writing my own songs. I also hope to start touring and playing music at locations around the world,” said Flowers.

This grant was given because of Flowers’ musical prowess, but Flowers is thankful for the Surry Arts Council helping him discover it.

“I am thankful the arts council reaches out to young people to learn how to play and carry on local traditional music. They also help young people to realize their dreams and are willing to help and to encourage them along the way,” said Flowers.

Applying for this grant was not an easy task for Flowers as he had to go through multiple stages and meet multiple different requirements.

“I submitted three different songs that I recorded. On one of those songs, I played all five instruments mentioned above, and sang lead and backup vocals,” said Flowers. “I had to respond to a lengthy questionnaire that detailed my music background and future goals. I was awarded the grant to help develop my songwriting and music production abilities.”

Flowers hopes to start his own recording studio with the money he received for the grant and one day his own radio station.

He continues to be a big part of the Surry Arts Council as well as continuing to play and make music.

“I would like to personally thank the TAPS program and everything they’ve done for me. I wish more kids would take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that the Surry Arts Council provides,” said Flowers.

The staff at Dr. John L. Gravitte, DDS, recently donated several boxes of toys the folks there had collected for the annual Toys for Tots campaign.

And the staff there added something new to the Toys for Tots campaign — dental gift bags filled with dental hygeine products such as brushes, toothpaste, floss, and other items, customized by age.

Overall, the staff filled three large boxes with toys and included nearly 400 dental gift bags.

A certain term gradually has crept its way into the vocabulary to describe criminal activities that seem to be ever-evolving: porch pirates.

While a traditional “pirate” often has been romanticized in books and movies about daring individuals engaging in adventures on the high seas, the land-based variety sneaks around porches and doorways in the dark or other times when no one’s looking.

Their namesake counterparts on ships might be seeking buried treasure, but the porch pirates are targeting packages delivered to homes — and sadly, they are most active at Christmastime with much-anticipated gifts at stake.

“’Tis the season,” Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said in discussing a problem his department encounters all too frequently.

“It’s Grinch season, that’s for sure,” Watson said of the fictional character who despises Christmas and steals the gifts of nearby villagers in attempt to kill their holiday spirit.

“It is prevalent,” he added regarding porch piracy incidents in the city. “We expect to see more this year than in years past.”

Online shopping is on the increase, in which consumers order products to be shipped to them by one of the delivery services or the post office.

Well-publicized supply chain problems this year have caused concern about items not being available or delivered to purchasers by Christmas Day. That is coupled with the threat of porch pirates stealing presents that do arrive, which also is on the rise locally and elsewhere.

In a recent national study, 43% of respondents reported having a package stolen — up from 36% the previous year.

“It’s the season of giving,” the police chief mused, saying this doesn’t guarantee a happy occasion where thefts are concerned.

“Some folks come up short.”

Mount Airy’s police chief offered a few suggestions to the public to help reduce the chances of becoming a porch piracy victim — which combine modern technology with old-fashioned human interaction.

One thing he readily suggested is known as a Ring cam, or camera, which provides an alert to a homeowner if someone approaches a door or comes into range of a security camera.

The homeowner can then view a video stream of the person and speak to him or her using two-way audio communication, even from a remote location.

Surveillance systems to record activities around a home continue to be an option, which helped solve a “Grinch” case in Mount Airy last Christmas season.

After a family’s presents were stolen upon being delivered to a front porch on Orchard Street, images captured of the act led to a suspect being identified and charged by police. This was aided by the posting of the man’s picture on Facebook.

Other tips offered by Chief Watson don’t require forking out cash for fancy technological devices.

“Get to know your neighbors,” he said of one common-sense approach, since they can serve as extra pairs of eyes to survey the goings-on at a home when the owner is away and be valuable witnesses.

It is also a good idea to arrange for packages to delivered at a time when the recipient is home and specify that this not occur unless the purchaser is there to sign for them.

In discussing porch thieves targeting unattended packages in the past, the police chief has said that some go to great lengths to identify potential easy targets, including following delivery vehicles to different locations.

Consumers also can take advantage of tracking systems of major delivery companies and the U.S. Postal Service which allow them to know when a package is placed on the truck and receive updates on its arrival time.

Chief Watson said it also doesn’t hurt to build a rapport with the delivery drivers frequenting a neighborhood.

Having a package delivered to one’s workplace is another option.

At any rate, situations should be avoided in which packages sit unattended for hours on front porches and attract thieves.

Watson said victims of porch piracy should file a report with law enforcement personnel in addition to contacting the delivery company, for insurance purposes.

The following marriage licenses were issued in Surry County:

– Nathaniel Edward Murphy, 30, of Surry County to Sabra Linda Ann Lowe, 30, of Surry County.

– Kenneth Alex Pack, 30, of Patrick County, Virginia, to Sarah Beth Franklin, 21, of Surry County.

– Kelsey Gabriel Banks, 46, of Forsyth County to Alice Virginia Cockerham, 45, of Surry County.

– Abraham Mojica Arredondo, 45, of Surry County to Martha Idalia Meja Acosta, 53, of Surry County.

– Armando Guarneros Garcia Sr., 36, of Surry County to Laura Alicia Pena Martinez, 50, of Surry County.

– Ethan Phillip Bryant, 19, of Surry County to Tess Snow Harbour, 20, of Forsyth County.

– Ivan Shawn Wilson, 49, Wilkes County to Lisa Gail Goad, 56, of Surry County.

– Ruben Garcia Arellano Jr., 24, of Patrick County to Abbagail Grace McCann, 22, of Surry County.

– Sparrell Jack Akers Jr., 60, of Wythe County to Tammy Michelle Taylor, 50, of Surry County.

– Reese Bryant Savoie, 60, of Surry County to Marie Busick Paynter, 53, of Surry County.

• A Mount Airy man found sleeping in a driveway ended up behind bars under a $50,000 secured bond due to being a fugitive from justice wanted in a neighboring state, according to city police reports.

Victor Shaun Hawks, 36, listed as homeless, was encountered by officers last Sunday who were responding to a suspicious-person call on Banner Street, where he was lying in the driveway of a residence.

Hawks was discovered to be wanted in Patrick County, Virginia, on an unspecified matter, leading to his incarceration at the Surry County Jail. He is facing a Dec. 20 appearance in District Court in Dobson.

• A firearm was stolen Wednesday from a vehicle, a 2009 Chevrolet Impala owned by Robert Earl Barr which was unsecured when entered at Barr’s home in the 1700 block of Fancy Gap Road.

The SCCY-brand CPX-2 9mm handgun taken, valued at $200, is orange in color.

• Kendall Shane Ziglar, 34, of 237 Jones School Road, was jailed Wednesday without privilege of bond on charges of breaking and entering and a domestic violence protective order violation.

Ziglar allegedly broke a window to gain entry to the home of Mary Ziglar, 61, whose relationship to the accused was not specified in police records. This occurred while the protective order was active against Kendall Shane Ziglar, who was granted no bond due to the charges being domestic in nature.

He is scheduled to be in Surry District Court on Monday. Ziglar had been charged with an earlier protective order violation on Dec. 2 involving the same victim and location and also was was jailed without bond. He is slated for a Jan. 31 court appearance on that matter.

• Tyler John Taylor, 27, of 136 West End Drive, was arrested on charges of larceny from a merchant, a felony, and misdemeanor offenses of resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer and shoplifting/concealing merchandise after a Nov. 29 incident at Tractor Supply on Rockford Street.

Taylor was encountered by officers conducting a welfare check in a fitting room there and was found to have concealed merchandise valued at $159 in addition to removing a security device from a Carhartt coat, based on police records, which state that restitution is owed in the case.

He allegedly attempted to resist arrest by stiffening his arms and refusing to comply with police orders. Taylor was held in the county jail under a $1,000 secured bond and is slated for a Feb. 21 District Court appearance.

• Dollar General on North Renfro Street was the scene of a larceny on Nov. 26, when razors and deodorant were taken by a known suspect, who apparently was not charged in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

PHOTOS – Guests of all ages enjoyed photographs with “The Nutcracker” who was seated at the front of the Andy Griffith Playhouse prior to performances on Sunday afternoon.

SURRY ARTS COUNCIL dance students danced with the company during selected scenes.

Santa is usually the big Kahuna when it comes to kids wanting to visit with and have a photo taken during the holidays, but recently the jolly old elf had a run for his money.

Guests of all ages were excited to have their pictures snapped with the Nutcracker on Dec. 5, when the Ballet for Young Audiences was onhand to perform the holiday favorite. Before the show, The Nutcracker himself spent some time in the lobby, visiting with folks and letting them get pictures.

More than 500 people turned out for the show at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. An additional 750 students from around Surry County were bused to shows on Monday.

“This was the first time that school students had bused to the Andy Griffith Playhouse since the pandemic and it was great to see buses filling the parking lot and students filling the auditorium,” said Tanya Jones, executive director of the arts council.

Nearly seven decades ago, a young James Easter was sharpening a knife when the sharpening wheel broke, pieces of the wheel flying apart — one piercing his chest.

Easter believed he was about to die, prompting him to promise God he would mend his rowdy ways and follow the straight and narrow if he could survive.

Survive he did — and that set James and his brothers, Russell and Edd — on a 64-year gospel music career which made the trio a household name throughout much of the country.

James Easter, the last surviving member of the trio, passed away late Friday night, less than two weeks after being hospitalized with COVID-19. He was born April 24, 1933.

He was the second of three siblings that made up the group known as The Easter Brothers. The three, who were all born and raised in Mount Airy, ended up getting together as a music group in Danville, Virginia, where they had moved to work in the Dan River Cotton Mill.

Before the trio turned their lives over to God, they had, what one might call an unruly background, with more than their share of troubles. James was even arrested, ending up with a 15-year prison sentence. After serving five years he was released, but continued on in his rough ways until the sharpening wheel accident.

He kept that promise to God, joining with his brothers to form what became The Easter Brothers in 1953. Early on, with a number of other musicians and singers coming in and out of the group, they were known as the Green Valley Quartet, but they eventually became known as just The Easter Brothers.

The three recorded a few singles, then albums, gaining a following while continuing to work full-time jobs until 1979, when they decided to pursue music full-time. By then, the trio had a regular program on WPAQ in Mount Airy, and their performance schedule eventually took them to the Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian Institution and Sydney Opera House.

Still, it was an arduous career choice, with the three having to spend much time traveling to spread their music and continue building a following.

“A lot of people didn’t know we were born and raised in Mount Airy because we stayed gone all the time,” Easter said in May during a dedication of the Easter Bothers Mural painted on the side of a building in the Jack A. Loftis Plaza in Mount Airy.

“It’s an honor that the town of Mount Airy would let us do this today,” he said at the time of the dedication.

The trio wrote and performed more than 400 songs over their career, and many of their children and grandchildren have gone on to careers in gospel, blue grass, and western music, including the husband and wife group Jeff and Sheri Easter. Jeff is James’ son.

In addition to a wide fan following, The Easter Brothers were recognized by their peers in the music industry. The trio was twice named Gospel Bluegrass Band of the Year by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America; two times were chosen as Traditional Bluegrass Band of the Year; in 2001 the band’s CD “Heart and Soul” was nominated for a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Academy; and a year later the group won Bluegrass Song of the Year for “Thank You Lord for Your Blessings on Me.”

The youngest of the three, Edd, died in 2019 at age 85, while the eldest, Russell, died in autumn of 2020 at age 90.

When looking at the North Carolina raw data and comparing Surry County to its neighbors, the truth of the matter stands out: with COVID-19 no one is out of the woods yet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, has been posting regular updates online with a wealth of data on the pandemic including hospitalization rates and vaccination numbers.

Analysis of the numbers shows patterns that repeat such as the two-week lag after social gatherings. Roughly two weeks after Halloween and then again following Thanksgiving, the COVID numbers for this area took a turn for the worse.

The Surry County average daily COVID infection rate for the week before Halloween was 15 a day before cresting at a plateau about two weeks after of 32 cases per day.

That post Halloween bump was mirrored again after Thanksgiving. Beginning that following Monday, the daily infection rate shot up to 51 in one day, Surry County has only fallen below 20 once since. The state saw 4,274 on that Monday compared to 1,592 the day before suggesting there may have been an increase in exposure across demographics and counties that happen around the same time.

When state health department posted data on its dashboard Friday, it represented the end of the lag and nebulous 14-day incubation period for the period following Thanksgiving. The averages shown in that span following the holiday were the same at just over 32 cases per day.

Northern Regional Hospital reports their number of COVID cases has continued to be steady averaging 25 in the hospital daily, but they have seen an increase in the overall positivity rate. The Surry County 14-day positive rate is 10.8%, a number that is dwarfed by Yadkin County’s 15% or Stokes County’s 15.4%. While lower than the positivity rate last reported here, a small uptick in the 14 day trend was seen in the most recent update.

“The ICU and step-down unit are both full, with nine COVID patients between the two units,” Robin Hodgin, Senior vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer of Northern Hospital said. “The remainder of COVID patients are on our medical surgical units.” She also estimated the unvaccinated patient count at 77%.

Hodgin said there have been a sparse number of influenza cases presenting at this time. However, hospital bed space remains an issue across the area with some hospitals not able to accept patient transfers due to lack of available beds. Northern Hospital continues to have restrictions in place on visitation.

In a look across the area Alleghany County is standing out for the wrong reasons. In the past week the county has seen 682 new COVID cases and 1,086 new cases of the virus in the past two weeks. Surry County registered 712, Yadkin County 884 and for comparison Forsyth County had 396 with their much larger population base in the same two-week period.

Vaccination rates for Surry County remain below both state and national averages in all categories. The most vulnerable population, those 65 and older, show the highest rate of vaccination with 83% of those in Surry showing fully vaccinated. Across all age groups, the percentage of those having received their first vaccination dose is 53% and 49% having completed their vaccination regimen.

The rates of vaccination are climbing in all age groups across the state. There was a spike in statewide vaccinations that saw first dose shots outpacing second dose shots for the first time in months in late October. Increased vaccination rates at that time were due to the authorization of Pfizer vaccine for children 5 – 11 years of age. When that vaccination age group became available, many North Carolina families took advantage of the opportunity to improve protections.

Pfizer also late last week received authorization for their booster shots to be administered to those eligible and 16 and 17 years old. The Pfizer booster is the only one currently authorized for persons in that age group. Nationally, 25% of those eligible have received a booster according the NCDHHS, with more than 50% of seniors having gotten their booster dose.

The outgoing head of the state’s response to the pandemic was an early proponent of vaccinations for children, including her own. “Getting your teen a COVID-19 booster shot will help strengthen and extend their protection against the COVID-19 virus and especially from new variants,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “I encourage everyone ages 16 and older to get their booster as we head into the holiday season.”

Immunizations and boosters remain the best option for the population at large to combat the COVID-19 virus. Beginning a course of vaccination now will not, unfortunately, yield immunization before Christmas Day. With the next round of gatherings and celebrations, the CDC had restated their own holiday wish list for the public consisting of the following tips:

· Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. Find a vaccine.

· Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect yourself and others.

· Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.

· Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

· Test to prevent spread to others.

· Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

This past summer, Carr Norris from Pilot Mountain joined elementary school students from across the state to take part in a unique academic and career oriented development experience, the National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF): Pathways to STEM, taking place in Greensboro.

NYLF Pathways to STEM is one of the Envision by WorldStrides family of programs (www.envisionexperience.com) that enable students to explore their interests and experience learning beyond the classroom. Carr was nominated by his third grade teacher, Denise Phillips of Pilot Mountain Elementary School. He was unable to attend during the summer of 2020 due to COVID-19. However, he was able to shift his session to the summer of 2021.

In addition to his studies at school, Carr is also passionate about piano and plays soccer during the spring and fall seasons. He is active in his church and is always looking for an opportunity to help others and gain responsibility. He has also successfully operated a trash and recycling route for more than two years for city residents that live near him. Even though he is young, he has dreams of working in the field of computer science. When Carr was told of this opportunity, he decided to ask for help with funding for the program. Due to the generosity of many businesses, family, and friends he was able to make it happen.

Carr was able to join other young students from around the country in intensive, engaging, hands-on workshops that focused on self management, time management, communication, collaboration, and goal setting.

Carr explored three STEM career pathways: Medicine, Engineering, and CSI (Crime Scene Investigation). A few of the activities he was able to do were build and program a robot, dissect a calf’s heart, create a model lung, diagnose snakebites, learn emergency first aid, blood drop analysis and replication, fingerprint analysis, and building bridges.

“As an alumna of Envision myself, I was excited for Carr Norris to meet, work, and collaborate with fellow high-aspiring students from other cities and schools,” said Amanda Freitag Thomas of Envision.

“Hands down, my favorite part of attending an Envision program was being with motivated students in an environment designed to help us challenge our assumptions, meet new people, and grow,” Carr said. “Creating that same learning environment is a central focus for all of our programs. At NYLF Pathways to STEM, students build the confidence and skills needed to excel in the classroom while gaining exposure to STEM fields and concepts. They learn how to adapt to and communicate in new situations, to new challenges, and with new people, which, given how rapidly the world is changing due to technology and innovation, are essential skills for success,” he said.

For more than 35 years, Envision by WorldStrides has empowered students to become their best selves through programs that enable them to discover their passion, explore a career, and positively impact their world. In 2018, Envision became part of the WorldStrides family. The largest provider of educational travel and experiences in the United States, WorldStrides works with more than 50,000 educators each year to help more than 550,000 students see the world—and themselves—in new ways.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News