Surry County holiday hours – Mount Airy News

Surry County offices will be closed starting Friday, Dec. 23 and will reopen Wednesday, Dec. 28. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The offices of Surry County will be closed Friday, Monday and Tuesday in observance of the Christmas Holiday weekend. All county offices will resume normal operating hours on Wednesday, Dec. 27.
The county’s recycling and convenience centers are bucking that trend and will be operating their normal schedule.
They will be closed Saturday, Dec. 24 so their staff can enjoy Christmas Eve at home with family. On Monday, Dec. 26, be there bright and early to see all your favorite neighbors right back at the convenience centers purging homes of wrapping paper, bows, and boxes aplenty.
Crash claims 2 lives
Polar-like temps on the way
December 30, 2022
ARARAT, Va. — It’s rare when an organization can exist for 70 years, and the Ararat Ruritan Club will be commemorating that milestone with a special event next week.
It will be held on Jan. 7 at the club building, located on Ararat Highway not far from the North Carolina border.
The celebration is planned from 2 to 5 p.m. that day, when the club will make the most of the occasion.
It will include special presentations, cake and ice cream (the standard anniversary party fare) and displays of photos, awards and other materials from the local Ruritans’ long history.
Ruritan 2022 National President Glen Broadwater also is scheduled to attend the event.
Old Ruritan records show that the local group was chartered in January 1953 with Cecil W. Spencer as its first president and fellow Ararat resident Hobert Bateman as vice president.
Although Spencer was in the teaching profession and Bateman worked as a rural letter carrier, most of those in top leadership positions with that early club were farmers, a breakdown shows.
That fact is not lost among those now heading the Ararat Ruritan Club who want to preserve its history.
“It means we’re carrying on a legacy that basically our local farmers started,” said Pamela Smith, who will serve as the club’s president during 2023. “It means a lot that we carried on a legacy from 70 years ago.”
Smith added Friday that everyone is invited to the Jan. 7 celebration, including community residents and anyone just wanting to learn more about the Ruritan mission.
Its national organization began in 1928 in another Virginia county, where residents saw a need for community leaders to meet and discuss ways to make their corner of the world a better place to live.
The word “Ruritan” was formed by combining the Latin words for open country, “ruri,” and small town “tan,” interpreted as relating to life in such places.
Local group active
Ruritan National now has nearly 25,000 members throughout the United States who are working to improve more than 900 local communities, including Ararat.
The club there has 29 members who are engaged in a variety of public service projects.
Those activities have including holding fundraisers to support community causes. These benefitted the Patrick County Food Bank, a county backpack program and a Home Alone effort that serves residents in the Willis Gap and Ararat communities.
“The motivation is the needs that are in the community,” Smith said of what keeps members involved in such ways.
She mentioned one cause that emerged at the height of the coronavirus pandemic which recognized a gap created when local students were kept at home and could not attend schools where they normally received free breakfasts and lunches.
The Ruritans mobilized to provide bags of food for the youths.
“As bad as it sounds, COVID brought us together,” Smith said of how the group rallied, “to help the community.”
More recently when a cold snap produced record temperatures in the area, the club opened the doors to its building to provide safe, warm shelter for folks lacking that during the crisis.
December 30, 2022
Jeff Jessup is getting ready to call it a career at Scenic Ford in Mount Airy. After joining the staff in 1983 as a salesman and then promoted to General Sales Manager, he has seen a lot of cars leave the lot over the years. From the offices of Scenic Ford, he was jovial as he wrapped up his last week on the job and took a moment to reflect on his tenure.
To hear him tell it, you may think sales would be an easy job since Jessup said one of the best attributes a salesman needs is to be a people person. Being able to talk to folks and use soft skills like listening to what the customer is asking for can make all the difference.
It also helps to follow through for it has been said the consumer votes with their feet and will take their business to where they feel more valued, “The main thing is you need is to be good with people and make sure to take the time to call people back and follow up with your customers,” he said.
The cars and the industry have changed since he started at Scenic in 1983. He pointed to the fact that on their lot now that cars are no longer their bread and butter – the venerable Mustang is the only passenger car they currently sell.
Trucks like the Ford F-150 are what bring many Surry County residents into the dealership, and he noted the F-150 has been the top seller for numerous years. Their SUV lineup of Explorer, Expedition, Edge, and Escape now make up a strong percentage of sales for the company as well.
When asked about what has changed in the industry, “The technology, gracious,” he began, “When I first got in the car business power steering was an option, air conditioning, even bumpers on trucks were an option,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s been continuous progress ever since then.”
From his perspective as the sales manager, he said that “The market is strong,” but that issues with supply chains and shortages have caused a few headaches. That includes for him personally, “I never thought I would see the time where you couldn’t get inventory for people to buy, and it was the pandemic and computer chip, part shortages – various things. It’s not just one particular car, it’s across the board.”
“Who would have ever thought this two or three years ago?” he asked of the pandemic’s effect on the global economy. He is hopeful as so many others are that the pandemic may one day be in the rear-view mirror.
He did seek to calm buyers’ fears and explained that the wait times can vary dramatically. The horror stories of waiting over a year for a part are not the rule of thumb these days.
The computer chip problem is a byproduct of those technological advances that never stop. Drivers expect their cars to do more for them than ever before.
With advanced sensors guarding the blind spot, the backup camera making sure Fido isn’t in the driveway, or touch screens to manage media and apps, cars today are closer to the Jetsons than Flintstones and they need those computer chips to make it happen.
This comes at a price and has left auto makers held hostage by those few chip manufactures which are predominantly in Asia. Jessup sees the light at the end of the tunnel for this problem, “Most of your manufactures are starting to loosen up a little on getting inventory to the customers; but so much outsourcing was sent to China. We have to wait for them to get back up and going.”
Jessup is aware of plans to try and ramp up chip production domestically, “There is your biggest problem, you don’t have a factory here and by the time you get one built, the technology may have passed by.”
He reiterated that there is not a vast difference in the initial quality of cars made here in the U.S. versus those overseas, however the way folks take care of their cars is one of the biggest determining factors for how long a vehicle can stay on the road, “Checking the oil, the tire pressure, and having the car serviced at regular intervals will help and I think that it has a lot to do with the longevity of the vehicles, for sure.”
“I just want to say that I appreciate you coming to Scenic and buying cars with us, or being a good customer for all these years, and allowing me to serve you,” he offered to the many customers over the last 39 years.
He recognizes that to work in one industry, to say nothing of one employer, for nearly 40 years just is not common anymore. The Scenic family is just that, he said, a family and that is the biggest reason he stayed around as long as he did.
He said they do things the right way at Scenic and that goes back to 1983 when he was interviewing with owner D.A. Gough, “I was sitting right where you are now, and I was nervous as a cat.”
Jessup wanted the job and Gough wanted him, but as Jessup was a salesman at Simmons Ford at that time, “He said he didn’t want to poach me, that’s not how he did business. He said that he had a good relationship with the other dealers and didn’t want to do it like that.”
The stars aligned and a few weeks later Jessup arrived at Scenic where he will be found until the end of 2022. New Year’s Eve will be his last official day on the job, and Jessup says he does not have a ton of firm plans for his retirement years.
He admitted though that there may be some sales work left in his future as his son runs a furniture store. However, he knows there is golf in his future, and he sounded confident that you would be able to find him on the links at Pilot Mountain Park where he has been a member for many years.
The public has been invited to a retirement celebration for both Jeff Jessup and Jimmy Vernon on Jan. 14 from 2 until 5 p.m. at Scenic Ford.
December 30, 2022
The state Welcome Center on Interstate 77 in Surry County just south of the Virginia line is a key resource for travelers entering North Carolina — which will be coming to a temporary halt for a construction project there.
This will involve the present I-77 North Welcome Center, located at Mile Marker 105 on the southbound portion of the interstate, being torn down and rebuilt, beginning sometime in 2023.
“It’s 40 years old,” center Manager Jeff Mills said in explaining the reason for the project.
Records show that the NC. Department of Commerce facility was first opened in 1982 and renovated in 1997.
The I-77 North Welcome Center is one of nine such rest area sites in North Carolina. These are located just inside the state lines along interstates and provide travel information to motorists entering from outside areas to enhance tourism efforts.
Each center has a statewide focus, but with an emphasis on information for visitors traveling a particular interstate corridor, including directing them to local attractions. That task is aided by the on-site presence of professional, nationally certified travel counselors, according to state officials.
The centers collectively promote thousands of tourism-related businesses, attractions, accommodations, events and more, thereby enhancing commerce throughout the state.
The upcoming closure/rebuild project at the I-77 North Welcome Center was made public by Jessica Roberts, executive director of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority/Tourism Partnership of Surry County.
Roberts mentioned it during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners earlier this year as part of a quarterly tourism report to the board, covering that and other developments within the local tourism realm.
However, Mills, the manager of the I-77 North Welcome Center, is unsure when the closure, tear-down and construction of the new facility actually will begin in 2023.
“I have no idea,” he said.
While such undertakings typically reflect a need to modernize and/or enlarge a location, Mills is unsure about the scope of the I-77 project or how it will take shape.
“I’ve not seen any blueprints on that,” Mills said.
The present center contains 75 parking spaces for cars, eight for cars/trailers and 10 for trucks.
Staff reassignments?
One aspect of the plan brought to light by Roberts, the Mount Airy tourism official, concerns the possible reassignment of personnel at the I-77 North Welcome Center until the project runs its course.
“As of now, we have three,” Mills said of the staff there.
Roberts told city officials that the shift could aid tourism efforts elsewhere in the county.
“I am working with the manager, Jeff Mills, to place the staff at no costs in our various visitor centers throughout Surry County, including ours in Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain downtown, Pilot Mountain State Park and Elkin, as well as at the Trails Center and Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce,” she related.
Those workers would be displaced during that time but still on the payroll with the N.C. Department of Commerce through the state Department of Transportation, the tourism official added.
“We will be happy to have this extra help for up to a year or so once construction begins.”
Mills says this shift in staff has been discussed as a possibility for the I-77 North Welcome Center. “Nothing is set in stone yet.”
December 30, 2022
The American Red Cross has announced a series of blood-collection events for every corner of Surry County during January through what one spokesman calls an effort “to save and sustain lives in our communities.”
While many activities have been curtailed during the holidays, the need for blood in surgical and other procedures has continued.
And to help maintain adequate supplies, the Winston-Salem office of the Red Cross, which coordinates blood drives in Surry, has released this schedule of ones that are open to the public, beginning in the coming week:
• Tuesday at the Surry American Red Cross building, 844 Westlake Drive, Mount Airy, from 1:30 6 p.m.;
• Wednesday, Copeland Community Ruritan Building, 975 Copeland School Road, Dobson, 2 to 6:30 p.m.;
• Thursday, Lifepoint Church, 1785 N. Bridge St., Elkin, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
• Jan. 7, Antioch Baptist Church, 137 Antioch Ave., Mount Airy, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
• Jan. 7, First Presbyterian Church of Mount Airy, 326 S. Main St., noon to 4:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 8, Calvary Baptist Church, 314 S. Franklin Road, Mount Airy, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 12, Sulphur Springs Baptist Church, 164 Sulphur Springs Church Road, Pilot Mountain, 2 to 6:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 16, Elkin Rescue Squad building, 940 N. Bridge St., 1:30 to 6 p.m.;
• Jan. 16, Highland Park Baptist Church, 1327 Grove Lane, Mount Airy, 1 to 6 p.m.;
• Jan. 17, Shoals Elementary School, 1800 Shoals Road, Pinnacle, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 17, Surry American Red Cross building, 844 Westlake Drive, Mount Airy, noon to 4 p.m.;
• Jan. 18, Surry Community College-Pilot Center, 612 E Main St., Pilot Mountain, 1 to 5 p.m.;
• Jan. 23, Pilot Mountain First United Methodist Church, 210 Marion St., Pilot Mountain, noon to 4:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 24, Dobson Elementary School, 400 W. Atkins St., 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 25, Surry American Red Cross building, 844 Westlake Drive, Mount Airy, noon to 4 p.m.;
• Jan. 25, White Plains Elementary School, 710 Cadle Ford Road, Mount Airy, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan, 25, Meadowview Middle School, 1282 McKinney Road, Mount Airy, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 26, Cedar Ridge Elementary School, 734 Flippin Road, Lowgap, 1 to 5:30 p.m.
Contact, other info
Donation appointments can be made by visiting Give Blood or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
This process also can allow one to determine the availability of appointments for drives on the schedule.
Prospective whole blood donors must be in good health, feeling well and at least 16 years old in most states, along with weighing no less than 110 pounds.
An individual can give every 56 days, up to six times a year, according to information from the Red Cross.
December 30, 2022
It undeniably will be a new year, but any cleansing or disposal processes accompanying the birth of 2023 must wait another day where sanitation operations for the city of Mount Airy are concerned.
This will include no residential yard waste collections on Monday due to its proximity to New Year’s Day on Sunday.
In addition, commercial and industrial sanitation routes normally serviced on Monday will be halted then as a result of the holiday.
City offices also are scheduled to be closed on Monday in observance of New Year’s Day.
December 28, 2022
Just in time for the new year, Mount Airy officials have unveiled a revamped city government website that in addition to serving local citizens is aimed at drawing more visitors and potential new residents to town.
“We think this is a way we are going to be able to promote Mount Airy,” Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis said during the last council meeting earlier this month. “This is just another way we can highlight the city and all the great things we have to offer.”
Both Lewis and City Manager Stan Farmer made a presentation then on the new website — at — which both have been working on for months in addition to their other responsibilities.
“It means a lot to me because this was one of the first projects I identified when I got here on Jan. 31,” said Farmer, who came to Mount Airy from a position in Texas.
“We’re both very excited that this has come to fruition,” he added regarding the effort involving him and Lewis. “It has taken quite a while to get this done.”
“I think it’s a little more user-friendly than what we had,” said Lewis.
The new online presence that has resulted contains the same basic City Hall information as before about utility services, the various municipal departments, employment opportunities with the city, records of commissioner meetings and other resources to engage citizens.
But the rejuvenated website, which went live in recent weeks, is much more visually stunning, including the presence of its most noteworthy addition: short video segments that can be accessed on it which are professionally narrated and contain music.
This includes an introductory, or welcoming, video that provides a general overview of various sites of interest in the community, which the city manager says is just a way to provide “a feel” of the place.
“I think we got all the highlights of everything in Mount Airy in three minutes there,” Farmer said.
Other short video segments highlight the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority featuring comments by its executive director, Jessica Roberts; Mount Airy City Schools, with Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison making an on-camera appearance; Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison commenting on what downtown Mount Airy has to offer; and Northern Regional Hospital President and CEO Chris Lumsden speaking about that facility’s services.
Of course, the new website devotes much exposure to local Mayberry connections with Andy Griffith in addition to concerts and other events presented by the Surry Arts Council, local industrial parks and Mount Airy’s recreational resources including its greenway system.
The fabled white granite produced here is a further highlight along with the local fiddlers convention and Mount Airy’s proximity to nearby attractions such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pilot Mountain State Park and Yadkin Valley wine region.
At one point, the video narrator touts Mount Airy as “America’s greatest small town” and declares that “it just feels like home.”
There also are links to community organizations such as the United Fund of Surry and its 26 member agencies that meet various crisis, medical and other needs, and links to local commercial entities listed as sponsors.
“So it’s a way that we can promote our local businesses,” Lewis said.
“Lot of moving parts”
The new city government website bears a tagline with the words “Mayberry, mountains, music and Merlot,” which Farmer believes summarizes what the local area is all about.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to this,” Farmer said of what it took to develop the new website.
It involved the work of two videography companies, one that provided its services to the city for free, according to Farmer.
He dealt with an entity from Dallas to produce the three-minute welcoming video.
“Darren was the one who took the lead on this, almost daily,” Farmer said of Lewis.
“We both drove around with the videographers,” the city manager related, which sometimes consisted of rushing from Snappy Lunch to the greenway and then some other location.
The task additionally required sifting through hundreds of still photographs to find ones that appear on the website on a rotating basis, including scenes from a concert at Blackmon Amphitheatre, a picture from the greenway and more.
City officials worked with CivicPlus, a web development business that handles Mount Airy’s online site, in order to incorporate the new elements — “to change out information and make the look different,” Farmer said.
“A lot of technical things can go wrong,” the city manager said when so many facets are juggled to achieve a finished product.
“But we really like the look of the new page.”
December 28, 2022
Among the many missions of the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery is outreach and sharing with the community knowledge to live a happy and clean life. Over the last months, their teams have spread out to the schools to discuss opioids, fake pills laced with deadly fentanyl, and more recently have been sharing information on the dangers of vaping.
There is a field of study now known as hope science and institutes of hope have shown up at colleges and universities across the country. Arizona State University’s Center for the Advanced Study and Practice of Hope has been studying hope as a concept, and as a practice.
Those results are trickling into Surry County, and it is again the team from the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery (SCOSAR) who are preparing to find innovative ways to bring the message of hope home to those who have found hope to be in short supply.
“Hopeful people are able to set goals, identify ways to reach their goals and feel as though they can do the work to achieve those goals,” says Crystal Bryce, associate director of research in the Hope Center and clinical assistant professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University
“Hope requires a person to take responsibility for their wants and desires and take action in working towards them,” John Parsi, executive director of the Hope Center wrote. He explained that wishful thinking or optimism is just believing that something will come to pass. Believing that you can have an influence over your situation is hope.
It may require a little change in the way people think to break an association between wishful thinking and optimism versus actionable change, “Optimistic people see the glass as half full, but hopeful people ask how they can fill the glass full,” said Parsi.
“Dreams and optimism are just belief structures,” he further explained. “When you’re an optimistic person, you believe things in the world will turn out just fine. Hope is an active process.
Jaime Edwards, research analyst for SCOSAR concurred saying, “Without a sense of hope and a belief that we can have happiness, it can be impossible to change. If we don’t have a sense of hope, then why would people want to try and change anything?”
“A lot of trauma, adversity, or lack of basic needs diminish hope and hope is one of the single best predictors of wellbeing across the lifespan,” SCOSAR’s outreach coordinator Charlotte Reeves said. She has been collaborating with a team from the state and UNC-Chapel Hill to investigate early childhood traumas in Surry County like hunger, neglect, and substance abuse and find ways that the community can work together to change outcomes.
“The relationship I would like people to see is that there is certainly a great life after having bad times in our lives; we just have to be the drivers of our own destiny,” she said. Those childhood traumas can be overcome, and cycles do not have to repeat themselves.
Neurologist Dr. Jerome Lubbe said, “One of the most powerful things we have available to us as human beings is hope and the reason hope is so incredible and fascinating… is because of what hope can offer us in the here and now but also in the future. Also, the fact that hope is a tangible measurable experience that happens in the brain.”
There may be more to the power of positive thinking after all it turns out. He suggests positive thinking is the best way to create hope and create change in a person’s life, “Science has shown you cannot have a thought without having a legitimate change in neurochemistry – either a neurotransmitter changes or hormonal change that impacts your physiology.”
“We live in a distracted period or time whether that is environmental, online, or within our daily lives. For many of us we lack time to just be in the moment. If we can learn to be in the moment and listen to ourselves better that will yield a sense of hope and a sense that we can influence the outcome,” Edwards said.
From studies like those at Arizona State University it is felt there is a growing understanding of some of the neurochemistry behind hope, “This isn’t a squishy science,” said Parsi who points to statistics showing that efforts to improve hopefulness in young people can be “more effective than many mental health interventions.”
Edwards also said that hope can be passed along between generations, so creating an environment of hope and gratitude can help members of this community who are not yet among us.
Many people are looking for non-medical solutions to health issues, and mental health needs to be on that list too. If Edwards and the hope scientists are right that being mindful of the moment is part of the solution to those issues, then residents of Surry County are in luck to be blessed with clean rivers, parks, and trails aplenty to stop and smell the flowers or listen to the water ramble by.
December 28, 2022
• Employees of the Staples store on Rockford Street were the victims of a recent theft there, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
The loss of property and money from the Dec. 17 incident totalled nearly $500, including a Microsoft Surface smartphone, glacier white in color; an orange Bamberg phone case; a blue Oliver Co. wallet; a driver’s license; and a medical card.
Victims of the crime are listed as Kevin Mitchell Inman, a Roslyn Lane resident, and Suzanne Stewart of Gardner Street. The larceny was perpetrated by an unknown party.
• Police were told on Dec. 16 that a North Carolina registration plate, number JEH6632, had been stolen from a 2011 Honda Odyssey owned by David Alexander Hayes, who lives on Spring Water Trail.
The tag was taken while the vehicle was parked in a lot in the 200 block of Riverside Drive.
• Flores Vincente Gomez, 44, of 344 Granite St., was jailed without privilege of bond on Dec. 15 for a charge of assault on a female.
It had been filed earlier that day with Rosalba Gomez as the complainant. Flores Vincente Gomez is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on Jan. 19.
December 28, 2022
In some cases, being at the “1” level is a great thing — but where economic rankings are concerned, Surry’s recent designation as a Tier 1 county means it is among the state’s most-distressed localities.
This development to be in effect for 2023 is prompting concern among both Mount Airy and Surry County officials, since the new rankings by the N.C. Department of Commerce reflect a decline in Surry’s economic well-being involving median household income.
“It doesn’t bode well for the county to be a Tier 1 county,” Eddie Harris, a longtime Surry commissioner representing its South District, said Wednesday.
“This status isn’t favorable because households have less disposable income at a time when inflation is rampant,” observed Deborah Cochran, a city commissioner who is troubled by the lower ranking and also weighed in on it Wednesday.
The state department annually ranks North Carolina’s 100 counties based on economic well-being factors and assigns each a Tier designation. The 40 most-distressed counties are designated as Tier 1, the next 40 as Tier 2 and the 20 least-distressed as Tier 3.
Surry had been Tier 2 before moving to Tier 1 through the latest evaluation. It is among five counties shifting to a more-distressed tier, also including Onslow, Pitt, Randolph and Transylvania.
Tier rankings are calculated based on four factors: average unemployment rate; median household income; percentage growth in population; and the adjusted property tax base per capita.
Where Surry came up short in the new Tier rankings for 2023 is the median household income category affecting its overall economic distress level.
For 2023, its shift from Tier 2 to Tier 1 is accompanied by the county’s overall economic distress rank being lower at No. 38 (it was No. 51 for 2022). This shift was largely driven by Surry’s median household income rank falling from No. 47 last year to No. 30 this year.
The county’s median household income is listed as $47,114 in the latest state report.
In comparison, Stokes County’s income figure was given as $59,068, ranking it 79th in North Carolina.
Union County has the top ranking with a median household income exceeding $90,000.
Double-edged sword
The income situation poses an obvious problem for county residents, Commissioner Harris said.
“Median household income is what drives prosperity and moves them out of poverty.”
Cochran, the city commissioner, also cited the link between income and poverty, which she sees as a signal for local government units to avoid placing other financial burdens on citizens such as increased property taxes.
Harris said the state rankings have presented a unique situation for Surry since it always is near the cutoff mark for Tier 1 and Tier 2. One change here or there can place it at one level, then the other the next year due to the variety of factors that can be involved.
From his perspective, the Tier system has always represented a “love-hate” situation, Harris said.
“Because if you go into a Tier 1 county it opens up opportunities for public schools to get more money,” he explained, along with added federal funding for local programs.
The Tier system is incorporated into various state programs to encourage economic activity in the less-prosperous areas of the state, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
“Cities and counties will be given preference for state assistance and grants due to being Tier 1,” said Cochran.
She was elected this year as the at-large member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners after serving in that position in the past and as the city’s mayor.
Possible remedies
But both Cochran and Harris indicated that such extra assistance is not better in the long run than maintaining a healthy income level locally.
The county commissioner believes that the solution points to the ongoing need for economic diversity and more workforce-development programs to prepare workers for higher-paying jobs.
He pointed out that the local labor market remains tight, which can be considered a motivator for training opportunities.
In the meantime, local government also must do its part, Cochran believes.
“What might be done?” she added, answering that question by pointing out how a conservative approach is needed.
“Government on every level must operate in a real world of financial reality,” Cochran commented. “It would not be prudent to increase taxes, fees, water rates and increase unnecessary spending — if we keep taxes low, businesses will want to operate here and create jobs.”
“I served (the municipality) during the Great Recession and know it is possible to keep our rates low and focus on priorities,” Cochran added.
“When I was on the city council in 2013, we recruited a company that still pays $12,000 to $17,000 per month for water usage — this helps to keep our water system up and running without passing along increases to customers.”
December 27, 2022
On a recently Saturday morning, elementary and middle school students from across Surry and Yadkin counties converged upon Surry Community College to compete in the 2022 NC FIRST Regional Qualifying Event, sponsored by Surry First Lego League (FLL) and Surry Community College.
Teams representing Mount Airy, Surry County, Elkin and Yadkin County schools, took part in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) event with the hopes of taking the championship back to their district and school.
“Each year FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) selects a theme and develops a series of missions where competitors must learn, research, problem solve, and program their way through four competitive areas: core values, innovative project, robot design, and the robot game challenge.
“The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” organizers said. “With adult Coaches to guide them, FIRST Lego League teams (up to 10 members) apply science, engineering, and math concepts, plus a big dose of imagination to develop solutions to real-world challenges. They also design, build, and program Lego Mindstorms or Spike Prime-based robots to perform autonomous ‘missions’ on a playing field. Along the way, they develop critical thinking, team-building, and presentation skills.”
Jeff Edwards, Science Institute coordinator for Surry County Schools, coordinated the event with the North Carolina FIRST Lego League Planning Committee.
“This year’s theme was, ‘superpowered,’” he said. “Teams were given the task to re-image the future of sustainable energy and power their ideas forward. Teams also had to prepare a presentation on their solution to the chosen problem. All members of a team must take part in the presentation and each team has no more than five minutes to sell their idea to the judges.” This year’s winners in the project category were the Solar Warriors of Central Middle School.
Edwards also shared, “Core values are the heart of the program. Through core values, teams express the FIRST philosophies of gracious professionalism and ‘coopertition.‘ Student participants learn that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals and that helping each other is the foundation of teamwork. Participants are expected to display and uphold these core values in all that they do. Teams demonstrate core values to the judges by preparing a brief presentation on how they expressed these values as they completed this year’s preparations, and by engaging in a challenge designed to show how well teams shared the load and worked together to accomplish a task.”
This year’s winners in the core values event were Team Panther Attack of Yadkin County Schools.
“Robot design mimics a real-world engineering design review,” Edwards said. “In this event, teams must present their robots to judges who are tasked with determining how well teams used attachments, body shape design, and programming to get the robot they built to accomplish the missions created for the robot challenge. Using Lego bricks teams may build whatever attachments they think will help their robot in completing missions. They may also choose from an assortment of sensors to add to the robot.”
The winners of the Robot Design category were Team Robush of Yadkin County School.
“The highlight and public portion of the competition takes place in the afternoon, the Robot Runs,” Edwards said. “In the Robot Runs competition, teams must program a robot using coding skills to accomplish a series of missions relating to the theme Superpowered. Robots had to move energy units, battery packs and interact with energy production and consumption models as they completed missions on a robot playing field. Completing these missions earn points and the team whose robot attained the highest score is named the winner.”
The 2022 winners of the local tournament were Team Robush of Yadkin County Schools.
The Judges’ Award this year went to The Franklin Robodogs, a rookie team from Franklin Elementary. The Judges’ Award recognizes the team that impressed the judges during the participant presentation component of the competition. The team showed promise with the robot design, programming, strategy and innovation, teamwork, research, and presentation categories. Although not placing first in any of the individually judged categories, The Franklin Robodogs’ name appeared in the top three in multiple categories.
Team Energetic Engineers of Mount Airy City Schools were named the Overall Champions of the tournament. This event qualifies teams to participate in the state tournament held in January.
Maria Blakeney of Pilot Mountain Middle School was named the recipient of the Mentor Award. This award is given to an individual who has inspired their team to do their best, both as individuals and together. Mentors are nominated by a team member or member of the school community. After all nominations are submitted, judges review the information submitted and choose one winner. Blakeney’s guidance and leadership are evident among her team and she also served as this year’s competition emcee.
The Surry FLL program is supported by local business partners who recognize the value of the Lego FIRST Robotics Program to help students develop career skills as they participate in the program; career skills to prepare them for entering the workforce. To further enhance students’ skill sets, Surry Community College offers the Mechatronics Program. Students studying in the Mechatronics Program are able to be a part of the local pipeline into the STEM workforce.
This year’s sponsors of Surry FLL included Renfro Brands, NCFI Polyurethanes, Insteel Industries Inc., Northern Regional Hospital of Surry County, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, Surry Economic Development, and SouthData. “We are extremely grateful for their support of the FLL program. The support of these business partners made today possible. It was awesome to see all of these teams exemplifying STEM and demonstrating what they have learned and how much can be accomplished with teamwork” Edwards said.
December 27, 2022
When Mount Airy residents turn on a faucet, they might appreciate the clear, clean liquid that emerges without really considering the facilities and processes making this possible — which is where an important new project comes into play.
It is targeting the Spencer Water Treatment Plant on Orchard Street, one of two such facilities in the city.
The Spencer plant was constructed nearly 100 years ago — in 1924 — and still contains the original interior concrete walls of sedimentation basins installed at that time.
Those walls have been in a state of disrepair for years, according to city Public Works Director Mitch Williams.
He added that this is a concern since sedimentation basins are used to filter particulates from the raw water entering the treatment plant from Lovills Creek nearby.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners responded to that situation by voting earlier this month to award a contract for the rehabilitation of the interior concrete walls at the plant.
Two bids from qualified contractors had been received for the project, with a High Point company, Creative Resurfacing, tapped by the board.
It submitted the lowest proposal, $143,844, which was almost $50,000 less than the other bid received, $193,750 from Triangulation Inc.
In addition to the financial consideration, Creative Resurfacing has “an excellent working relationship with the city,” Williams pointed out in recommending that it get the job, based on past performance with municipal contracts.
The approval by the board includes a total project cost of $150,000 to allow for possible overruns. Funding for it was included in the budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year that began on July 1.
Work at the Spencer plant is to include pressure washing to remove old coatings, abrasive blasting to remove residual coatings and loose material, resurfacing spalled concrete and gaps with epoxy mortar, priming surfaces with epoxy and top coating with Sherwin Williams Duraplate 6000 Epoxy.
All products used in the rehabilitation will be NSF (National Sanitation Foundation)-certified for use in water-treatment facilities, Williams mentioned.
Spencer plant significant
“It is imperative that the city adequately maintains and refurbishes the Spencer Water Treatment Plant because it is used as a backup to the larger Doggett Water Treatment Plant located on Stewarts Creek,” Williams wrote in a memo outlining the need for the rehab.
In elaborating later, he added that the Spencer plant paid dividends in this regard in February through a way the public might not have known about.
“Due to the fuel tank spill at North Surry High School late last winter, we had to totally shut down the Doggett water plant until the fuel cleared from Stewarts Creek,” Williams explained.
“The city had to totally rely on the Spencer plant for about a month until the fuel cleared from Stewarts Creek.”
That facility is in pretty good shape mechanically for its age, according to the public works director, who says maintaining it as a backup plant is “extremely important.”
“However, there are some issues (sediment basin rehab, interior concrete rehab and more) that we would like to address in the next few years to bring the plant back to its original glory, thereby ensuring the plant is a reliable backup for decades to come,” Williams stated in the memo.
“The city of Mount Airy is fortunate to have two operational water plants on two different water sources.”
Both facilities were awarded by the N.C. Division of Water Resources for surpassing federal and state drinking water standards in 2021.
The Spencer Water Treatment Plant also received the same recognition for 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and the Doggett plant for 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Awards are given annually to water systems around the state which demonstrate outstanding turbidity removal, a key test of drinking water quality, according to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness or haziness of water caused by individual particles that can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. Microbes are microscopic particles that occur naturally but possibly include harmful bacteria and viruses.
While all drinking water systems must adhere to strict state and federal standards of quality, the local plants have met performance goals that are significantly more stringent than state and federal standards, officials say.
December 27, 2022
Since 1975 at Scenic Ford in Mount Airy Jimmy Vernon has been a fixture from his days back on the mechanics line to sitting in the big chair as the service department manager. As 2022 draws to a close, so too does his time with Scenic and he will be leaving the oil changes and sounds of air wrenches behind and taking fond memories with him.
To work so long in one industry, or more specifically for one employer, for that amount of time is no longer common. Vernon said the answer to how or why he last so long is easy, “I’ve never come to ‘work;’ I’ve always enjoyed it. I love cars and I love people, so this was the perfect job for me,” Vernon said from his office in the service bay of Scenic Ford the walls behind him filled with photos, memorabilia, and parts catalogs from years gone by.
In 1975 he started on the line and worked his way up from there saying he learned how to rebuild transmissions and differentials, “Before you knew it, I was doing it all.” In 1983 he was tapped as the new service manager and it was the same year, he said, that his most tenured current mechanic started.
“It used to be that you could do it all, you could pretty much fix a car with just a screwdriver,” he said of the changes to the cars over the years. The cars got smarter and lighter as they moved away from the heavy metals and manufacturers started using other materials.
Today some may deride the quality of autos versus the ones of the era before the massive influx of imports and the many changes that arrived with emissions standards, but he said that is not always the case. Most of today’s car are better built and will be on the road for “hundreds of thousands” of miles more than their older counterparts.
“The time was that if a car hit 50 to 60,000 miles that it was going to need a new engine, now? I had a lady in here recently over 300,000 on her first engine,” he said.
It is a good thing the cars are lasting longer because parts for older, and even some middle-aged, vehicles are harder to come by. Vernon said often folks are looking for a late 90’s car or truck thinking it may be easier to find a part and can be surprised when finding they are not the only one who has had that idea. A Ford Ranger sitting on the lot at Scenic right now of that age is patiently waiting while the right belts, hoses, and a filler spout can be tracked down so that it will be road ready once more.
As the technology changes, the human element of auto repair may never be fully replaced. Even though the cars are smarter and have computer chips governing much of their activity, there are things a human can do a machine cannot. Vernon quickly joked that automation and robots can never replace the humans because, “Someone’s gotta’ plug them in.”
Jokes aside, a human’s five sense can all be important when it comes to working on a car that gets entrusted at times with the most precious of cargo. A robotic helper may not be able to feel a vibration, detect the sweet smell of a leak under the hood, or the sounds of an engine idling higher than it should. The split-second decision making that comes with decades of working on autos cannot yet be matched by automation and many mechanics and drivers alike hope it stays that way.
Vernon agrees there is something to be said for tinkering and getting a feel for the car one is working on that a diagnostic readout will never duplicate, and he went on to add that a human is needed even after a diagnostic to pinpoint through isolation and exclusion what a faulty component may be.
He gained that knowledge from the elbow grease academy and earned his stripes when it was still just Scenic Mercury. While the brand names have changed and Scenic sells and services more than they used to, the human touch in repair and with customer never changes as styles come and go.
Same too with employees, Scenic customers should fret not upon his departure as Vernon says the service department is going to be in the knowledgeable hands of Kevin Pratt starting in the new year.
Looking back over his time he wanted thanked the team and ownership of Scenic for the many years and all the support he got from them saying, “You can’t do anything without support… I’d say you find more of that, and I see more of that, at Scenic than probably at the average business.”
Vernon said had it not been for health issues, he would like to have stayed on the job even longer, “I was hoping to work until I am 75, but the good Lord has other plans for me,” but he also noted that he isn’t going anywhere just yet, “People can still call me, if they like.”
December 26, 2022
Willie Wayne France celebrates the Project Timberlake Community Organization’s fifth Yard of the Month belonging to Sue Krepps who will have the sign adorn her yard until the first winner of 2023 is selected. The PTCO was formed to help foster a sense of community pride in their neighborhood and awarded a subscription to The Mount Airy News as a prize for winning.
The Project Timberlake Community Organization recognized James and Clara Carter as having the Yard of the Month. Carter (left) poses with Willie Wayne France of the organization and the yard of the month sign. The group has been working to improve the quality of life for residents of the community through service, outreach, and crime prevention via community watch.
Project Timberlake Community Organization Secretary Betty Brown-France and Treasurer Barbara France place the Yard of the Month sign in an earlier winners yard during what looks like much warmer days.
December 26, 2022
• A Mount Airy man has been arrested on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretenses, according to city police reports.
William Joseph Spencer, 50, of 2553 Westfield Road, was taken into custody on Dec. 15 at 2038 Rockford St., the address for Advance Auto Parts, by officers during an investigation involving the possession of a stolen vehicle.
He was found to be the subject of an outstanding warrant for the false-pretense charge that had been filed in the city on Aug. 19, with no other details listed.
Spencer was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $5,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in District Court on Jan. 9.
• Colby Craig Cassell, 36, of 3886 Pine Ridge Road, Lowgap, was charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, a felony, on Dec. 13, after he was encountered by officers at Walgreens on Rockford Street.
Cassell was jailed under a $1,000 secured bond. In conjunction with the same incident, Ashley Luann Goins, 35, of 511 Gillespie Road, Dobson, was charged with possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance (lorazepam), along with possession of drug paraphernalia, and transported to Northern Regional Hospital due to an overdose.
Goins is slated for a Jan. 9 appearance in District Court, with a court date not found for Cassell.
• Adam Kane Westmoreland, 32, of 1227 Bryant Mill Road, Ararat, was incarcerated under an $8,013 secured bond on Dec. 7 for a civil non-support order violation.
Westmoreland was encountered by officers during a traffic stop at Cook Out on Rockford Street and found to be the subject of the outstanding order whose name had been entered as wanted in a national crime database.
December 26, 2022
Surry Community College fall semester art students presented a Fall Art Show and Open House earlier this autumn.
The art show featured work from the current studio classes including 2D design, drawing, painting, ceramics, and digital photography. Attendees were able to tour the studio art classrooms to see additional student art and learn about the Associates in Fine Arts in Visual Arts degree. Art instructor Anna-Olivia Sisk was on hand to answer questions about the visual arts opportunities at Surry Community College and how students can register for future art classes.
The associate in fine arts degree in Visual Arts program at SCC focuses heavily on the visual fine arts and is recommended for those who plan to continue their education at a senior institution. This program prepares transfer students to meet selective admission criteria for acceptance into a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts at a senior college or university.
The course work in this program consists of Universal General Education Transfer Component courses in literature, humanities, social/behavioral sciences, mathematics and natural science. Students in this program are provided an opportunity to concentrate in a major area of fine art study that includes elective choices in drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and digital photography.
Follow the fine arts program on Instagram @surryfinearts. For more information about the fine arts program, contact Lead Instructor Anna-Olivia Sisk at 336-368-3479 or [email protected]
Registration is open for spring courses. For questions about college application, financial aid, or class registration, contact Student & Workforce Services at 336-386-3264 or [email protected]
December 26, 2022
This area was fortunate to avoid the blizzard conditions and subzero temperatures gripping much of America the past few days — but hasn’t escaped the cold and related issues altogether, including a 92-year-old record being broken locally.
That occurred Saturday morning, when a reading of 2 degrees above zero was noted at F.G. Doggett Water Plant in Mount Airy, the city’s official weather-monitoring station.
This not only shattered the previous low-temperature record locally for Dec. 24, a 7-degree day on Christmas Eve of 1930, according to a plant spokesman, but did so decisively as evidenced by the 5-degree margin.
Remember, this took place in early winter, with that season having just got under way last Wednesday.
Weather statistics have been kept in Mount Airy since 1924, and 2022 will go down in history for delivering the “gift” of a memorable Christmas weekend that proved challenging for many.
In addition to frigid conditions that descended Friday — dipping into single digits, gradually rising into the teens and 20s and finally creeping into the low 30s Sunday — high winds and rolling power blackouts were factors during the arctic blast.
Trees downed
Despite the record cold that swept in with little warning, no loss of life attributable to the frigid conditions has occurred in Surry, according to Eric Southern, the county’s director of emergency services, unlike some parts of the nation.
But other difficulties did surface.
”Countywide, I think we had over 200 trees that were down,” Southern said Monday in commenting on a situation caused by gusting winds on Friday. “Emergency services around the county were pretty busy.”
This included fire departments, N.C. Department of Transportation crews and county emergency management personnel. Duke Energy crews also were visible during the crisis, among others.
The cold weather caused rolling blackouts to be implemented Saturday by the two local electrical providers, Duke Energy and Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp., in response to the statewide power grid being threatened by excess demand.
This mirrored a precaution taken throughout much of North Carolina, which involved some customers in Surry being without service for more than 90 minutes.
Southern said Monday that the severity of this situation was lessened by the fact folks among both local utility systems responded by conserving electricity.
Meanwhile, a weekend fire at a residence on Lambert Farm Trail is believed to have started in the attic, with residents getting out safely while facing another problem.
“I think it ended up displacing the family,” Southern said.
Regarding in-city activity, the Mount Airy Fire Department responded to calls during the holiday weekend including one structure fire, one electrical fire, one smoke investigation, two downed trees, three power line incidents and a trio of sprinkler activations caused by frozen lines.
None were thought to be major in nature.
Local area relatively unscathed
All in all, Surry County weathered the arctic blast relatively well, the director of emergency services said, “compared to other places.”
That viewpoint was echoed Monday by Mitch Williams, who deals with climate-related issues within his realms of responsibility as Mount Airy’s public works director.
“Friday, we had a few downed trees,” he said, caused by the severe winds. And there was a water line break about 9 p.m. that day on Dyson Place, a street in the northern part of town which municipal workers addressed.
“They worked constantly until early Saturday morning,” the public works director said.
“We’ve been really lucky,” Williams added in assessing the overall effects in Mount Airy from the weather.
Where water lines are concerned, he was most concerned Monday about problems surfacing later this week as the ground thaws from the freezing temperatures. This relates to how water expands when freezing, exposing lines to stress that can lead to leaking or burst pipes becoming apparent as conditions grow warmer.
“Knock on wood,” Williams said optimistically.
The National Weather Service forecast, as of Monday afternoon, was calling for a warming trend that will bring mercury readings in the 50s Thursday, Friday and Saturday and even the 60s on New Year’s Day next Sunday.
December 26, 2022
Thirteen students recently graduated from Surry Community College’s Practical Nursing Program.
The graduates include Amanda Hutchens of Boonville; Jessica Mabe of Danbury; Sara Scott of Dobson; Brittany Walker of East Bend; John “Luke” Hatcher of Lowgap; Courtney Davis, Shannon Hobson and Dove Mayes of Mount Airy; William “Steven” Duncan of North Wilkesboro; Cassandra Bishop and Hailey Wilson-Felts of Pilot Mountain; Laura Mullins of Pinnacle; and Jessica Foley of Ararat, Virginia.
A pinning ceremony was held to honor the graduates and celebrate their accomplishments on Dec. 14, in the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology on the Dobson campus. The guest speakers at the ceremony were Dan Combs, BSN, RN, and Allison Bedsaul, BSN, RN, of Northern Regional Hospital.
Northern Regional Hospital is a strong partner of the nursing programs at Surry Community College, providing clinical experiences, as well as clinical faculty to support nursing student education. Bedsaul and Combs both serve key roles in nursing education within Northern Regional Hospital. Both speakers congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to find an area of nursing that they loved and to continue learning and growing in nursing. Bedsaul remarked about the graduates being fortunate to live in a community with such a variety of high-quality healthcare opportunities.
Combs also encouraged the students to keep in mind what is important in nursing, encouraging the graduates to find an employer who will support them in their goals and aspirations. He also reminded them of the importance of treating their patients and the patients’ families like they would want to be treated.
The practical nursingcurriculum at Surry Community College prepares individuals with the knowledge and skills to provide nursing care to children and adults. Graduates are eligible to apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) which is required for practice as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Employment opportunities include hospitals, rehabilitation, long-term care, home health facilities, clinics and physicians’ offices.
Prospective nursing students can contact Dr. Yvonne Johnson, SCC associate dean of health sciences, at 336-386-3368 or [email protected] for additional information on Surry Community College’s nursing programs or go to
December 25, 2022
The fifth Annual Surry County Schools GROW Strong 5K bolted through Fisher River Park on recently, with all 11 elementary schools participating in the event with more than 300 students competing.
The 5K race for third, fourth and fifth-grade runners began at 9:30 in the morning. By 11 a.m., all student runners had completed the race with dozens of family members and Surry County School system staff cheering on each team.
GROW is an acronym for Go Run Our World. The initiative encourages enthusiasm for health and wellness, and a love of running. Each team’s coach trains students to run a 5K and teaches perseverance, responsibility, race etiquette, self-motivation, self-pride, and teamwork. Training takes place over ten weeks leading up to the big event.
Surry County Parks & Recreation hosted the event and worked with the organizers to ensure safety for all participants. The Surry County Schools Educational Foundation Managing Director Ashley Mills, along with Rockford Elementary Coach Deanne Fitzgerald, organized the event for Surry County Schools.
“This is a great day. I am so thankful for all of you and for your families that have come out to support you,” Superintendent of Surry County Schools Dr. Travis L. Reeves said before the race.Reeves also commented about how proud he was of each student. “These students have set goals for themselves, and today they are able to reach these goals. I am proud of these students, and I know their coaches and families are proud too.”
Results of the race:
Third grade girls school time
1. Lillian Childress Dobson 28:15.10
2. Yeeimi Arreola Rockford 31:41.36
3. Kalley Cienfuegos Rockford 31:42.96
Fourth grade girls school time
1. Eliza Richardson Dobson 26:18.59
2. Ila Wilmoth Cedar Ridge 26:56.63
3. Bristol Holder Cedar Ridge 27:00.06
Fifth grade girls school time
1. Alleah Ayers Shoals 27:21.15
2. Karina Gonzalez Lugo Rockford 27:41.29
3. Haidyn Horton Dobson 27:46.42
Third grade boys school time
1. Colten Bean Copeland 26:56.69
2. Dilon Nava Copeland 25:58.13
3. Grady Swift Cedar Ridge 26:55.30
Fourth grade boys school time
1. Jose Ivan Baltazar Dobson 23:42.47
2. Silas Hiatt White Plains 24:23.34
3. Roe Johnson White Plains 26:33.89
Fifth grade boys school time
1. Luke Hampton Dobson 22:44.23
2. Leonel Garcia Santchez Dobson 23:07.61
3. Abraham Garcia Santiago Dobson 23:18.04
Dobson Elementary earned the titles of overall fastest boys’ team and fastest girls’ team.
The final recognition was the GROW Strong All Heart award for one male and one female student. Coaches could nominate students for this award based on attitude, participation, courage, and team spirit. Mia Faistl and Daniel Martinez, both from Rockford Elementary, won those awards.
December 25, 2022
The Surry Regional Association of Realtors gathered for its annual Christmas celebration at White Sulphur Springs recently, where several were recognized with awards and the group’s new executive board was installed.
The event featured a dinner catered by 13 Bones, live music from Craig Vaughn, door prizes and fellowship.
During the event, the 2022 Realtor of the Year was awarded to Stephanie Montgomery with Mitchell Prime Properties. The recipient of this award is nominated by fellow association Realtors and chosen by the two prior award recipients — Dana Whitaker and Tonda Phillips.
The 2023 executive board was inducted by the North Carolina Association of Realtor Region 6 Vice President, Paul McGill. The 2023 Executive Board includes President Stephanie Montgomery, President-Elect Maggie Cockerham, Secretary/Treasurer Dana Whitaker, State Director Bobbie Collins, and directors Eric Hodges, Steve Yokeley, and Brandon Johnson.
December 25, 2022
Interstate Sign Company Inc. recently celebrated its 31st year with its employees during a Christmas get-together.
“Interstate Sign Company Inc. has been going strong and consistent throughout COVID and economic fluctuations for 31 years,” the company’s officials said, leading owner and President Rick Shelton to hold a day of celebration with his employees. All totaled, 65 people attended the event held at Golden Corral in Mount Airy,
The day began with Secret Santa that brought a lot of laughs and Christmas Spirit. Employees were recognized for their contribution this year with each receiving a bonus check.
For lunch, the employees and crew brought their families to join and fellowship together. Shelton drew employee’s names from a bright red bucket with many winning Yeti coolers, Yeti coffee cup and mugs, gift certificates, and cash surprises.
To close the celebration, plaques were given to employees who had devoted their talents and commitment to the company for 17 years and more. A special recognition went to his father, Gray Shelton, with the most at 30 years. Donna Edwards in accounts receivable was recognized as employee of the year with a plaque and $500. Special puppy plaques were given to Raymond McGee and Russ Comer for “their time and exceptional craftsmen on a much needed dog house for two spoiled dogs,” the company said.
December 25, 2022
The start of a new year is a time for resolutions, reflection, rebirth and refreshing oneself, for which an annual event scheduled at Pilot Mountain State Park on Jan. 1 can play a role.
It will be joining other state parks across North Carolina that Sunday in hosting a First Day Hike. Many people have come to embrace those events as a means of recovering from the stress of the holiday season in a wholesome way involving the Great Outdoors with exercise and a connection to nature.
“It’s just a good way to wind down,” a local ranger has observed in the past regarding First Day Hikes. “It’s a very popular program.”
Guided hikes that are free to the public are featured, which tend to include interesting facts being presented by Pilot Mountain rangers leading the participants. This discussion typically includes the park’s long history, geology and local flora and fauna spotted along the way.
The hike at Pilot Mountain State Park, located at 1721 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle, is planned from 9 to 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
“And it is for all ages,” a spokeswoman at the park said Friday.
The hike will begin at the shuttle stop in front of the visitor center there, where participants will join park personnel for a trek along the Grassy Ridge and Fiddlehead trails which are at the park’s lower level, she said. The distance involved will be less than one mile.
More than 40 other hikes are planned on Jan. 1 at state parks, recreation areas and nature preserves across North Carolina, with cycling involved in some cases.
Eno River State Park near Durham launched the inaugural First Day Hike in 1971, and the events have been held at parks across the state since 2011 to encourage folks to get outdoors.
That formula appears to work, with past First Day Hikes at Pilot Mountain being well-attended.
This is not just a North Carolina phenomenon, with hundreds of free, guided First Day Hikes now being organized in all 50 states on New Year’s Day, according to the American Hiking Society.
Each shares the aim of creating a fun experience for the entire family.
December 24, 2022
Nearly all middle and high schools in the Surry County School System placed in the North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities Art Showcase held recently.
Registration was from Nov. 2 through Nov. 10, with all schools having submitted artwork.
In the Central Regional competition, North Surry High School placed second overall. In the West Regional competition, Surry Central High School placed third overall.
On the middle school level, Surry Central, J. Sam Gentry, Meadowview Magnet, and Pilot Mountain middle schools all placed in the top four of the West Regional competition.
The association’s art showcase is a competition that recognizes both the best individual artists and the best art programs in North Carolina schools. An unlimited number of students in each school may participate in the school-level competition. Students are presented with a prompt and given about one month to create their submission. Media categories include painting, drawing, collage, photography, and other creative efforts.
Electronic copies of submissions are sent to the North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities and forwarded to judges. Submissions from top teams and students from each category advance to the state finals and are evaluated by judges in a live exhibition.
December 24, 2022
For a few hours on Saturday, Christmas Eve turned a lot chiller for area folks already struggling with single-digit temperatures.
That is because Duke Energy and Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation each had to institute rolling blackouts to combat excessive demand for electricity.
Duke Energy announced the blackouts early Saturday morning, saying the high demand was endangering the statewide electric grid, forcing the firm to institute rolling blackouts throughout much of the state. At the time, Duke officials said most of the blackouts would last between 30 minutes and an hour, although several residents in Surry County reported power outages lasting more than an hour-and-a-half.
Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation purchases much of the power it distributes throughout its coverage region from Duke Energy, thus the local utility company was forced to institute power outages as well. A number of homes and businesses throughout the county were affected at various times, just as residents were struggling with temperatures climbing from overnight lows in single digits. Saturday’s high in Mount Airy was predicted to only reach 25 degrees.
Shortly before noon, the Electric Membership Corporation posted on its Facebook pages its rolling blackouts would end, but asked customers to immediately report any lingering power outages.
Duke Energy officials had not announced the end of its blackouts as of noon. The company was urging its customers to continue voluntarily conserving energy to help the firm reduce or eliminate the need for the blackouts. At various times during Saturday morning, more than 100,000 Duke Energy customers were without electric service at various points.
December 24, 2022
Flat Rock Elementary School held its annual spelling bee earlier this month.
Rhea Roberts, a fourth grader, was crowned the winner and will compete in the Surry County Schools Spelling Bee in February.
December 24, 2022
While serving the Yadkin Valley region for nearly a century, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital has evolved into a comprehensive community healthcare system providing care across 350,000 patient care visits annually. To better reflect its breadth and depth, the organization has introduced a new brand identity: Hugh Chatham Health – where “Your Health is Our Passion.”
“At Hugh Chatham Health we are committed to exceptionally safe, high-quality care and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made on that journey,” said CEO Paul Hammes. “In the past year alone, we’ve ranked in the top 15% of hospitals nationwide for patient satisfaction, patient safety, and for stroke care. We are one of only two Joint Commission ‘advanced’ total hip and knee replacement centers in the state, recently named a 5-star program by Healthgrades. And we continue to invest in life-changing programs and resources, including a new electronic health record system which will transform the care process. At our hospital, surgery center, emergency department, 29 physician clinics, Hugh Chatham Health at Home, and beyond,”
Cynthia Gonzalez, vice chair of Hugh Chatham Health’s Board of Trustees, added, “The new brand honors our heritage, features a distinct and recognizable ‘HC’, and signals our bold commitment to advance the community’s health and vibrancy. And as we continue to grow, our vision remains clear: to be the best community healthcare system in the nation, with service as our guiding principle.”
In the months ahead, officials there plan for Hugh Chatham Health’s new brand identity to become more visible and broadly represented across the system and region.
December 24, 2022
It has been looking a lot like Christmas at Dobson Elementary.
Second grade learned how to write friendly letters in class recently, then they all wrote letters to Santa.
The students wrote the letters as part of their writing lesson, making sure to begin with capital letters and use punctuation, and of course adding their wish list. This is a writing assignment that they always love to do.
December 24, 2022
Early this year, leaders in the Mount Airy school system and local business community formed the Mount Airy City Schools Educational Foundation, a 501c3 created to raise money in order to support arts education, dual language immersion programs, and workforce development throughout the school district.
“The foundation also serves as a pathway of giving for those wishing to donate back to the school system in honor or memory of loved ones,” school leaders said of the non-profit agency.
As the foundation’s first year of existence draws to a close, it is already having an effect on the city schools. In November, the foundation awarded grants to staff members across the district to go toward their proposed projects. More than $23,000 was awarded to the surprise of staff and students.
“I am overwhelmed at the response from our Mount Airy community in the first year of the educational foundation,” Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison said. “Bringing in dollars above and beyond normal giving to help with teacher grants and student scholarships shows that we have a giving community who cares deeply about education. Our teachers and students deserve our support and the educational foundation is another way to provide that support for each and everyone.”
Some of the funded projects include:
• Career and technical education teacher Garrett Howlett will help students utilize their new iPads by engaging them in the design process and the development of their digital engineering notebooks. The aim is for learners to gain a better understanding of industry standards while also honing their craft as designers with employability skills’
• Sara Lowe, sustainable agriculture educator, will be able to enhance the Bears in Coop project with a chicken run. This will enable students to learn about animal husbandry and raise grass-fed chickens and eggs. The run will allow chickens to have a place to be safe from predators while still able to get on the ground;
• Catrina Alexander and Kathy Brintle will work with Mount Airy Middle School students who will obtain access to an indoor hydroponic tower for sixth-grade lessons and for integration into the newly formed Future Farmers of America (FFA) Club. The plan is for students to gain an understanding of food sourcing and sustainability while also gaining employability skills;
• Hollie Heller, music educator for BH Tharrington Primary and JJ Jones Intermediate, will be purchasing a noteworthy classroom rug for active student engagement and a new set of risers for musical performances. Students also will have access to new ukulele racks and tuners to refine their hands-on artistry’
• Nicole Hooker, interventionist for BH Tharrington Primary, will be purchasing reading English resources for dual language immersion teachers to use to engage their students. Games, books, and pre-made instructional resources will allow teachers and staff to work with students to improve literacy and language skills.
The foundation’s goal to hold one fundraising dinner a year proved successful this year, according to officials. More than 150 community members came together in May for the first event, raising nearly $50,000 for the programs. The foundation is designed to put 10% of donations into its endowment fund and spend 100% of the investment income on “positively impacting student learning.” Money is also set aside for student scholarships that will open to current students in the spring of 2023.
The next fundraising dinner for the foundation is scheduled for April.
In addition to supporting programs in the district, the foundation set the goal of providing scholarships to students. A portion of the spring fundraiser was earmarked for student scholarships but the foundation’s board wishes to provide “impactful” scholarships for students, school officials said. That is how the fall fundraiser, termed “The Lucky Draw” came to be. The committee sold numbers 1-100 for $100 to raise $10,000 in a raffle.
Committee members asked businesses and community members for donations of prizes and “donors were generous and quick to give,” foundation officials said. The opportunities to win ended up being 11 prize packages valued at more than $400 each and 10 door prizes ranging from $100 to $300 each. The money raised will go toward student scholarships and students interested in technical fields, arts and language, and teaching will be able to apply for this funding beginning in spring.
December 23, 2022
• Property valued at more than $20,000 was stolen during a breaking and entering discovered at a business location in Mount Airy Wednesday afternoon, according to city police reports.
The incident occurred at 697 W. Independence Blvd., the address for a former Sonic Drive-In restaurant.
An Ansul-brand fire-suppression system involving four components altogether was stolen from inside the building during the break-in along with a trailer jack, with the total property loss put at $20,250.
David George Parks of Byron Bunker Lane is listed as the victim of the crime.
• Police were told on Dec. 16 that counterfeit currency had surfaced at O’Reilly Auto Parts on West Pine Street, where an unknown suspect used it to buy items. No denomination information was listed regarding the bogus money.
• Joshua James Moran, 31, of 258 Cherokee Trail, was charged with driving while impaired and driving while consuming on Dec. 15 after the investigation of a traffic crash that police records indicate occurred on U.S. 52 near its intersection with N.C. 89.
Moran, the driver of a 1999 Ford F-150 pickup, allegedly refused to submit a breath sample, leading to a search warrant being obtained to have two vials of blood drawn from his left arm.
He subsequently was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in District Court on May 15 of next year.
December 23, 2022
There are presents under the Christmas tree that entice, and a new package has quietly been placed under Surry County’s tree. Project Denver has been wrapped in pretty paper and bows with a ‘no peeking’ label affixed for county residents. It may make a nice, matched pair, so to speak, when paired with Project Cobra which itself remains coiled and under a thick veil of secrecy.
What is known is that a company has expressed interest in Surry County and the board of commissioners will be holding a public hearing on the matter early in the new year. The public hearing will be the first time that the board will discuss the project in public and will allow residents a chance to offer their opinion on whether the county should partake in the incentives package —although residents won’t have any information with which to form an opinion. The county is not releasing the name of the firm, the type of work it will do, nor will it say what kind of incentives it is seeking.
The county is observing New Years Day on Monday, Jan. 2 which means the county commissioners meeting that night, and the public hearing on Project Denver, are moved one day later to Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The county statement said, “A private corporation proposes a direct investment of $6.4 million within Surry County. A source of funding for the improvement is the County’s General Fund Reserves. Public benefit to be derived from making such improvement includes the expansion of Surry County’s tax base, creation of new jobs within the County and improvement of the general employment outlook in Surry County.” County officials won’t say what the “improvement” is nor how much of the county’s general fund reserve it might use.
“The public hearing shall be used as a forum to hear public comment on the proposed project and to evaluate the value of the project to Surry County and its citizens,” the statement concludes.
The amount of the incentives package or its proposed use are unknown at this time. With the recent departure of Todd Tucker as the leader of the Surry Economic Development Partnership, his duties have fallen temporarily to Creative Economic Development Consulting, LLC of Elkin. Crystal Morphis of Creative EDC said Friday it was their policy to not offer comment on ongoing negotiations, although she did offer the Town of Elkin will hold a public hearing on Project Denver Jan. 9 which may suggest the town is considering their own incentives.
The notice from the county that a public hearing was forthcoming appeared on their website at some point after the last meeting of the board of commissioners on Dec 5. Their agenda had no listing of any incentive packages to be brought before the board.
Surry County Commissioner Mark Marion said he was not able to shed any light on the forthcoming Project Denver. “I wish I could give some insight, but we are not in the loop on these two,” he said alluding also to the snoozing Project Cobra.
Marion has previously expressed interest in the potential of Project Cobra and its potential to grow an existing Surry County employer’s footprint and employee headcount. The commissioners in a unanimous vote passed the incentive package of $36,244 spread over five years in performance-based incentives. The City of Mount Airy followed suit approving a plan for $36,341 over a five-year period.
The public has not yet been made aware of the identity of the company at the heart of the project, or the timeline on their decisions. As Marion said, “We’re still in the dark on the advancement of Project Cobra.”
Project Cobra is reported to be the potential consolidation of warehouse and distribution operations for a company already in Surry County valued at over $1.96 million in investment. They are looking also looking at sites in Alabama and South Carolina where they currently have operations as well. If selected it may yield 35 new jobs to the area, conversely if they should move, they will take 63 jobs with them.
For Project Cobra’s public hearing there was only one in-person speaker, resident J.T. Henson who expressed frustration that a public hearing had been called and comment from the public solicited. He wondered how anyone could attend the hearing or speak on it with any authority if the public had never heard about it before. With no forewarning and no information provided he felt the public was in the dark and that in the dark, he said corruption can form like mold.
Some have wondered if incentive packages are the best way to bring a new business to town, or help one expand. Mitch Kokai, a North Carolina political analyst for the conservative John Locke Foundation, spoke on incentives earlier this month and used a turn of phrase that has found its way into debates and forums in front of Surry County’s Board of Commissioners – that being the concept of economic winners and losers.
He wrote, “These (incentive) deals offer another example of the government trying to pick economic winners and losers. If these companies actually need taxpayer support to survive, then the targeted incentive is ill-advised. If the companies only chose North Carolina because of the incentive, then that doesn’t bode well for the state when the incentive runs out and the business starts reassessing its options.”
He goes on to suggest that targeting across the board changes that are pro-business are a better path than incentives alone, “North Carolina does better when it focuses on broad-based economic reforms — low tax rates, light regulatory burden – that affect everyone,” he said. “That’s a preferable approach for existing businesses, new businesses, and people who don’t even know yet that they want to start a business.”
December 23, 2022
STUART, Va. — A Patrick County man has been arrested on child porn charges, Sheriff Dan Smith has announced, after an investigation to which the Surry County Sheriff’s Office lent assistance.
Oscar Alfredo Roman, 39, a resident of Willis Gap Road in Ararat, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon by Patrick deputies on 11 felony counts of possession of child pornography.
Ages of the alleged victims involved range from 3 to 7 years old, according to information released Friday afternoon by Sheriff Smith.
In conjunction with Roman’s arrest, a search warrant was executed at his residence by members of the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Team.
Smith explained that his agency is a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) regional task force.
Investigator Jason Kruse, who represents the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office on the task force, had received a tip about Roman’s alleged involvement in child pornography and began an investigation. Kruse obtained multiple search warrants to retrieve electronic data, which led to Roman’s arrest.
“Cases like this are complex and involve specific training and knowledge,” Smith said in a statement.
In addition to the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, Patrick authorities were assisted in the investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police.
“We are grateful for our North Carolina and neighboring Virginia law enforcement partners — the inter-agency cooperation in this case could not have been better,” the sheriff added.
Roman was taken before a magistrate, who set a $9,500 secured bond in the case. He was bonded out of jail a short time later.
Sheriff Smith is asking anyone who has information regarding this case to contact Investigator Kruse confidentiality at 276-692-5123.
December 23, 2022
White Plains Elementary School recently held its annual spelling bee, with fifth grader Gracie Beasley emerging as the School Spelling Bee Champion.
She will compete in the Surry County Spelling Bee in February.
December 23, 2022
Times Square does its thing on New Year’s Eve — but the arrival of 2023 also will be celebrated with style in Mount Airy, where the annual Mayberry Sheriff’s Badge Raising is planned.
“We’re one of the few communities that does something like that,” said Executive Director Matt Edwards of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, where the holiday observance now in its ninth year will be held next Saturday night as 2022 ends.
“Most drop something,” Edwards added regarding situations such as that in New York City, where a ball is dropped to signify the passage of time into another calendar as the clock strikes twelve. The museum official hatched the idea of the badge raising in 2014 because Mount Airy was lacking such an event to officially greet Jan. 1.
It involves a oversized, lighted sheriff’s shield being hoisted, a variation of the ball descending in Times Square at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. The badge is a tie-in to Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, the television role immortalized by local native Andy Griffith.
The public is invited to the downtown New Year’s Eve celebration, planned from 11:45 p.m. to midnight in the courtyard of the museum.
“It is going to be kind of a toned-down event this year,” Edwards said in comparison with past badge raisings that also featured various other activities — but which have been hampered in more recent years by COVID-related issues.
This included being livestreamed in 2020 due to a nighttime curfew imposed during the pandemic.
The museum director said organizers have sought to keep alive the badge-raising tradition with the different formats employed.
“But we will not have a whole lot of programming associated with that,” he said of the Dec. 31 gathering.
It will, however, include some special features, including plans to invite the Mount Airy High School football team and coaches after their recent victory in the 1-A state championship game.
This is a fitting gesture since the Bears’ achievement is a highlight of the soon-to-be-ended 2022.
Edwards said he had contacted Coach J.K. Adkins about the team’s appearance. “And he sounded amenable to it,” the museum executive director advised.
While the players largely are to attend in a ceremonial capacity honoring their accomplishment, he says some might have the honor of holding ropes for the sheriff’s badge.
“We’ll have some music playing,” Edwards said, to be provided by a DJ, Mark Brown.
The museum official is hoping patrons who might be at other venues downtown on New Year’s Eve will meander to the courtyard of that facility for the raising of the badge.
December 22, 2022
The seventh grade students at Gentry Middle School recently had a sock drive to support Santa for a Senior.
Students were able to donate more than 1,900 pairs of socks and 519 handmade Christmas cards to support the efforts of Home Instead this holiday season. Their main goal was to make a difference in our community and help others feel joy this Christmas.
December 22, 2022
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) recently selected the academic research project of Surry Community College’s Alpha Xi Tau Chapter to feature in its publication, Civic Scholar: Phi Theta Kappa Journal of Undergraduate Research.
Civic Scholar features 18 research projects by PTK chapters across the country on a wide range of topics including: “Disability, Awareness, Inclusivity and Student Success Outcomes” and “Economic and Social Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on K-12 Education.” There were 394 submissions for the third edition of Civic Scholar.
“We are proud of all the chapters who took the opportunity this year to develop, implement, and write about their Honors in Action projects,” says Dr. Susan Edwards, associate vice president of honors programming and undergraduate research for PTK. “They are conducting research that matters, and their work has engaged people on their community college campuses and in their communities. Their work inspires us and highlights something we have known all along: community college students are central to the production of new knowledge and meaningful scholarship.”
Research was conducted as part of Phi Theta Kappa’s honors program, Honors in Action, and based on the topic, “To the Seventh Generation: Inheritance and Legacy.” The works published in Civic Scholar include both substantive research and community engagement — PTK chapters ultimately turned their research into action by using their findings to meet specific community needs.
Surry Community College’s Chapter Advisor Dr. Kathleen D. Fowler, who directed the project featured in the publication, is extremely proud of the students who dedicated their time and skills to work on it.
“Honors in Action projects are designed to help students grow as scholars and as leaders,” Fowler said. “The students research a global issue and how it manifests within their community. Then they design a project, based on their research, to help their community members. Thus, they are making a positive impact through their service.”
Surry’s Alpha Xi Tau Chapter of PTK entitled the research project, “The Errs of Our Ways: The Corrupted Inheritance of Child Labor and the Legacy of Hope.” After hearing a guest speaker’s presentation on child slavery, they developed this research question: “Do some countries exploit child labor for profit?”
Upon further research, they learned that child labor is one of the largest, fastest growing criminal activities today with 2.5 million victims at any given time. They also learned that Ghana is among the worst offenders, with 24% of children ages 5 to 14 engaged in child labor such as cocoa harvesting.
Researching this topic led them to develop a four-part project including an awareness campaign, fundraising, encouragement and volunteerism. They decided to partner with Hope House, a local missionary thrift store, to raise money and support Hope Chapel Orphanage in Ghana. They planned to reach 500 people alerting them of exploitation of children in Ghana, raise $2,800 for Hope Chapel Orphanage to repair its roof, write letters to 50 children rescued from slavery and volunteer at least 40 hours at Hope House.
The students also partnered with the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) for help with fundraising efforts. The local DAR chapter donated items for a yard sale fundraiser. All leftover items were donated to Hope House. Fundraisers were also held in the form of a basket raffle on the college campus.
The project resulted in the chapter surpassing three of the four goals its members had set for themselves. They reached 608 people through their awareness campaign, raised a total of $3,065 for Hope Chapel Orphanage and volunteered 56 hours of their time at Hope House.
This is the second time that the Alpha Xi Tau chapter has had its research published in Civic Scholar. They were included in the 2020 publication for their project “Transforming Families Impacted by Substance Abuse: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection.”
For more information about Phi Theta Kappa and its projects, contact PTK’s faculty Fowler at 336-386-3560 or [email protected] and Kayla Forrest at 336-386-3315 or [email protected] Follow the local chapter on Facebook @surryPhiThetaKappa or go to
December 22, 2022
Officials with the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce are looking to honor a local resident who has gone above and beyond in his or her commitment to the community.
But the chamber needs help, and is asking for area residents to nominate individuals they believe worthy of consideration for the chamber’s Citizen of the Year recognition.
For most of the chamber’s 63 years of existence, the recognition has been generally considered the chamber’s “highest honor,” said Chamber President Randy Collins.
“Who in the greater Mount Airy community comes to mind when you think of a local ambassador, a highly respected individual, or a business, organization leader focused on the future?” he said of some of the unofficial criteria used in whittling the list of nominees when the awards committee meets to go through the nominations,” Collins said.
Individuals do not have to be chamber members in order to win the award.
“I think what sets it apart, it’s generally an award to an individual, or to a couple, to someone who has just worked tirelessly in the community for a single cause, or a combination of various causes…and they have generally gone unrecognized. It’s (the award) a time for the chamber to put the spotlight on them and tell their story. That’s what the citizen of the year is.”
He emphasized that while many winners have had ties to local business, it is not a business award. Instead, it is one to recognize a person’s overall contribution, and leadership, in making Surry County and Mount Airy a better place to live and work.
The winner will be announced early next year, at the chamber’s Jan. 19 annual meeting slated to be held at Cross Creek Country Club. Collins said once a winner is chosen, the name is kept secret until being unveiled at the meeting. That, sometimes, can be a challenge.
“We try to get that individual to the event (without telling them),” he said. “Sometimes, we have to do that through family, or friends, or business associates.”
For now, the help Collins said the chamber needs is with nominations — he and the chamber are asking area individuals to nominate people they may believe should be considered for such a recognition.
“There’s a lot of stories of what people are doing, there’s a lot of heroes out there, and that’s who we’re looking for,” he said.
Those wishing to nominate someone can do so by filling out a form at the chamber’s website at For those who don’t have access to a computer, Collins said he’ll even accept hand-written or typed nominations.
“Somebody that may not be computer savvy, who wants to write up why they think a person should be a citizen of the year, they’re welcome to do that, as long as it’s not more than two or three pages. Send that to me, or drop it by the chamber,” he said. Collins email is [email protected] and the chamber is located at 200 N. Main St. in downtown Mount Airy.
The deadline for submitted nomination is 5 p.m. on Dec. 27. Once all the nominations are in — Collins said there have already been a “good number” submitted — the chamber’s selection committee will go over all of the forms, eventually choosing one winner.
“It’s a tough decision, there area lot of deserving people out there,” Collins said.
Past winners
Previous winners of the award, and the year of their recognition, include:
1962 Joe Johnson Sr.
1963 Archie Carter
1964 John E. Woltz
1965 Floyd Pike
1966 C.B. Roberson
1967 Dr. J. Dale Simmons
1968 George A. & Marguerite Kallenbach
1969 Rev. James Powell
1970 Jim Grimes
1971 Frank Smith
1972 C.B. Roberson
1973 James E. Johnson
1974 Jerry Beverly
1975 Stan Rogge
1976 Bill Breedlove
1977 Don Nance
1978 Larry Wright
1979 George Summerlin
1980 Dr. Swanson Richards
1981 Steve and Mary Petlitz
1982 Floyd Rees
1983 Bobby Galyean
1984 Jack Zonneveld
1985 Barbara Summerlin
1986 Tanya Jones and Zack Blackmon
1987 David Pruett
1988 Thurman Watts
1989 Ruth Minick
1990 Richard Vaughn
1991 Howard Woltz Jr.
1992 Ann Vaughn
1993 Jim Andrews
1994 Teresa Lewis
1995 John Springthorpe III
1996 Gene Rees
1997 Burke Robertson
1998 Susan Ashby
1999 Jack Greenwood
2000 Dr. Wilford Lyerly
2001 Gary York
2002 Pat Gwyn Woltz
2003 Ed Woltz
2004 Craig & Michelle Hunter
2005 Sandy Beam
2006 Marion Venable
2007 Virginia Rogers
2008 Mike Bowman
2009 Kate Appler
2010 Charlie and Ed Shelton
2011 Carol Burke
2012 Deidre Rogers
2013 Alan Connolly
2014 Berta Glenn Springthorpe
2015 Ben Cooke
2016 Catrina Alexander
2017 Robert Moody
2018 John Priddy
2019 Curtis Taylor
2020 David Rowe
2021 Traci Haynes George
December 22, 2022
The United Fund of Surry and Funding For Good are teaming up again to present another installment of their Leadership Education Series for nonprofit leaders.
In January they are going to present a bootcamp for those who manage, or aid in the management of, nonprofit entities with sessions centered around the topic “Strategic Growth: Raising Awareness & Resources for Your Nonprofit.”
The bootcamps will endeavor to arm participants with ideas to better spread the message of their group and drive charitable giving which is the lifeblood of so many of these organizations who rely so often on small dollar donations to keep their lights on and the mission in gear.
Melissa Hiatt, executive director of the United Fund of Surry, said the seminars will provide real ways to use stories and statistics to increase fundraising success. Attendees will also learn about the different types of written “asks” in the nonprofit world and develop strategies for productive donor interactions that generate meaningful impact. Facilitators will also help them to understand the difference between “service and engagement.”
Back to help with the bootcamp again are the experts from Funding For Good. “Their staff provide the education and both Amanda and Marie are the “go-to” subject matter experts for non-profit organizations,” Hiatt said.
The team on hand for the bootcamps will be Mandy Pearce, a certified fundraising expert and the owner of Funding for Good. Joining her will be Marie Palacios, who is the lead consultant of Funding for Good. Both were in attendance for the first of the United Fund’s successful leadership bootcamps in October.
Funding For Good has been operating for more than 13 years to assist non-profit groups in streamlining their processes so they can plan their futures and “untangle problems so non-profits can keep creating impact.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 18. the first session of the day will be the interestingly named “Telebration: Nonprofit Storytelling” and will discuss how non-profits present themselves to the world. Participants will consider what is the message they are trying to send to the community, or to potential donors.
“Non-profits provide life enhancing services, but do we tell our story well? If you are struggling with cultivating new donors, this could be the answer,” organizers said. If there are better ways to describe the mission of your group that may inspire giving, or volunteerism, than having a brainstorm with the ladies from Funding For Good along with fellow local leaders may be an innovative way to find a homegrown answer.
Session two that day will take the lessons of storytelling from the morning and apply them to “Crafting a Compelling Appeal.” Donors are the backbone to the financial health and longevity of any non-profit, but organizers warn so many interactions with donors are one and done.
Those types of interactions may limit giving by presenting the need as only a one-time ask whereas educating the public of the services that an organization is offering, and the necessity of those services, illustrates the need is ongoing. “Learning to craft an appeal that gets attention and keeps it is imperative.”
On Thursday, Jan. 19, the bootcamp will have attendees considering how to better relate to the public during campaigns with the session “Donor Relations-Creating Donor Impact.” The event organizers said, “Donors give because the cause is important to them, and they appreciate feeling that they have done something important by supporting a specific non-profit, are you giving them the attention they deserve and need? Relationship management is key to retaining any donor.”
After lunch, the bootcamp will wrap with a session entitles “Balance of Power -The Board Chair and ED (Executive Director)” to help foster better relationships between the board who oversees a non-profit and the ED tasked with the day-to-day operations of such.
The relationship between the board and the professional staff of a non-profit is critically important to ensure that the mission is being executed consistently. It can happen that the board and the director may have a different vision, or a different idea on how to get there, so to keep things moving both need to understand the functions of the other and how they must coexist even when if a difference of opinion arises.
While the event is titled as a bootcamp, that sort of guidance sounds more like having a personal business advisor for the morning educating on the soft skills needed to create a bond between the organization and their donors, or the director and the board, than the imposing image of a drill sergeant ordering pushups.
Registration for the bootcamp will be first come first served and there are 40 slots available, it may be a good idea to register early for this event Hiatt suggested. She also offered her thanks to the Surry County Board of Commissioners for applying Invest in Surry funds to the event making it free to the public.
The bootcamps will be held at the Surry County Training Center, 1218 State St., Mount Airy, from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. For further inducement. a light breakfast and lunch are provided both days to keep hunger pangs at bay and learning on track.
Growing the health of the county’s non-profit groups will in turn help the United Fund of Surry which is a winning proposition for the thousands of people who rely on the many services offered from organizations under the United Fund umbrella.
December 21, 2022
There does not appear to be any chance of a white Christmas in this year’s forecast, but the holiday weekend is going to be otherwise arctic-like, with dangerously low temperatures and steady winds.
Amanda Sava, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, said a low pressure system will sweep through the Mount Airy and surrounding region Friday, with a blast of arctic air following, plunging Friday night lows into the single digits. She said with steady winds and gusts as high as 45 mph, the windchill factor will make the temperatures feel like sub-zero conditions.
Temperatures that cold, she said, can lead to frostbite and hypothermia with just a few minutes of exposure.
That has prompted Open Air Ministries to combine forces with Mount Airy Wesleyan Church in Mount Airy to open a warming station Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. each day, for those who are homeless and have no other safe place to go those nights, according to Eric Southern, Surry County Emergency Services coordinator. Those needing the station may utilize it throughout those hours.
Southern said his department has been monitoring the forecasts for several days, but with no winter precipitation expected during the cold snap, there are no plans to open any shelters. He did suggest individuals prepare themselves for the winter blast.
“Just be prepared,” he urged. “Think about if power outages do happen, how will you stay warm? If you have generators make sure you have fuel for that, and don’t have anything inside your house burning.”
One area of worry, Southern said, is the tendency of individuals during extreme weather to take kerosene heaters or other heating devices inside, without proper ventilation.
“That leads to carbon monoxide poisoning,” he cautioned.
He said house fires are also a big concern, with people using fireplaces and wood stoves that are not clean and in proper working use, or they utilize space heaters that can catch fire if they cause wiring to overheat. Another danger is cloth or paper falling onto the space heaters, or hanging close enough to them to catch fire.
Sava, with the National Weather Service, also cautioned people to not remain outside for long periods of time, and if they do have to go outside, “wear waterproof shoes, if you have them, to keep your feet dry, keep your head covered, and layer your clothes.”
She added that people should make provisions for pets as well, nothing that the extreme cold expected this weekend can kill animals as well.
Sava said Mount Airy and the surrounding countryside is not alone in the anticipated temperature plunge. She said most of the nation will experience the same — sections of the Central Plains are already seeing single-digit temps along with blizzard-like snow.
“An upper level trough is driving all of this,” she said. That trough began developing last week over Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and began moving across the country this week.
“This is definitely widespread…it is digging really far south. As far as Southwest Florida,” she added.
While there is no significant chance of snow or icy precipitation with the cold weather, the National Weather Service did issue a winter storm advisory for Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, with a chance of sleet and freezing rain. Sava said around Mount Airy, that might result in ice accumulation of about 1/100th of an inch, although places north in Caroll and Patrick counties in Virginia could see 1/10 of an inch of ice build up.
All of that should be gone and cleared up before Friday’s temperature plunge, she said, and by early next week daily highs should be back to a more seasonal mid-40s, with lows in the 20s.
December 21, 2022
The offices of Surry County will be closed Friday, Monday and Tuesday in observance of the Christmas Holiday weekend. All county offices will resume normal operating hours on Wednesday, Dec. 27.
The county’s recycling and convenience centers are bucking that trend and will be operating their normal schedule.
They will be closed Saturday, Dec. 24 so their staff can enjoy Christmas Eve at home with family. On Monday, Dec. 26, be there bright and early to see all your favorite neighbors right back at the convenience centers purging homes of wrapping paper, bows, and boxes aplenty.
December 21, 2022
Two Claudville, Virginia, women were killed Wednesday in a two-car crash on North Carolina 103, near Slate Mountain Road.
Montana Joan Hodges, 26, and Paulette Ashlyn Wright, 23, each died on the scene when the vehicles they were driving smashed head-on shortly after 12:30 p.m., according to N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Fletcher Pipes. There were no passengers in either vehicle.
Pipes said the vehicle Hodges was driving, a 2001 Volvo, was traveling west on N.C. 103 when it veered across the center line, crashing head-on into a 2013 Hyundai that Wright was driving eastbound.
He said it appears each vehicle was traveling about 55 mph at the time of the crash, which is the legal speed limit for that stretch of road. Pipes said Hodges was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Both were pronounced dead at the scene by rescuers responding to the call.
While the trooper said the cause of the wreck was the Volvo drifting across the line, the reason that occurred has not been determined.
“We’ll download the vehicle engine control monitors…do toxicology tests,” and, he said, if investigators find cell phones they may be able to determine if either driver was using a phone at the time of the wreck. However, he said there’s no guarantee investigators will be able to learn that bit of information.
“If they have a pass code on it (the phone), it’s hard to get in,” he said.
The sergeant said it may take several weeks for all tests and investigations to be concluded.
December 21, 2022
First Lego League students at Dobson Elementary have been working on their First Lego League missions and projects since the beginning of school. They have been researching alternative energy sources, developing project presentation ideas, and coding their designed robot to complete missions in the First Lego League Robot Game.
“This is our first year having a robotics team and participating in First Lego League. Our students are super excited about running their missions and presenting their innovative project,” school officials said.
Students were excited when Marty Haynes from BioEnergy prepared an informative slide show for the school to share some real life applications on how they are using alternative energy sources in their business. They competed in a tournament recently at Surry Community College.
December 21, 2022
This year Jones Intermediate has been excited to have a First Lego League club and team.
First Lego League teaches students to work together to gain real-world problem-solving experiences through a guided, global robotics program. Fifth grade students were able to participate in a Lego Robotics Elective and were also able to utilize the STEAM Lab for after school practices.
The team, JOFLL, worked to create an innovation project in which the students researched the benefits of adding solar panels to offset energy expenses. This group of JOLeaders competed in a First Lego League Challenge event at Surry Community College recentl.
Thirty-six teams from Surry and Yadkin counties participated in the Regional Qualifier. The students presented their “Solar Bears” Innovation Project, their robot design, and completed three successful runs in the robotics matches.
December 21, 2022
Gov. Roy Cooper visited Elkin and Jonesville on Tuesday to tour local water and sewer plants which will soon be getting much-needed upgrades thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Jonesville will be receiving nearly $15 millionfor infrastructure improvements to its water treatment plant and water lines.
The Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority, which serves Elkin, Jonesville and Ronda, will be receiving $4 million for floodplain resiliency wastewater collection system improvements.
Cooper was a given a tour of the water treatment plant in Jonesville, including the original building constructed in the 1950s. Jonesville Town Manager Michael Pardue showed the governor corroded pipes which are common due to the age of the infrastructure which often causes water leaks, especially during season changes. Cooper also had a tour of the YVSA sewer facility prior to a short press conference.
YVSA Executive Director Nicole Johnston spoke about the state funds that have already benefited the regional sewer system and the new improvements that will be made possible by additional money.
Johnston said that since Cooper took office in 2017 the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority has received more than $16.8 million in grant and loan funds for much-needed upgrades to the treatment plant and collection system.
“This funding that was received met the critical need of the citizens, businesses, the hospital, the schools, and the industry in the YVSA service area and now provides a sound waste water treatment plant which will serve future needs of our area and protect the water quality of the Yadkin River,” Johnston said.
Secretary Elizabeth Biser of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said that clean, affordable water was a “top priority.”
“Without clearn water literally nothing else matters,” Biser said. “These funds are going to go a long way to protect public health, the environment, upgrade essential services and also make sure we’re keeping rates affordable for local residents.”
Pardue added that it was a “transformational day” for Jonesville.
“This is going to take Jonesville into the next century,” Pardue said of the nearly $15 million that will be used to upgrade the water system.
“These funds will allow us to keep our rate structure in such a way to allow our citizens to have affordable, clean, clear water,” he said.
Pardue said the new upgrades will allow for much greater efficiency for the town’s water system.
“Our water we produce today is very safe and very clean considering the circumstances, but we’re very inefficient,” Pardue said.
Cooper praised the local leadership, saying it was a “coordinated effort.” He also said the regionalization of sewer services through the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority was a model for other areas and commended the “visionary leadership” that lead its establishment.
“It is much more cost effective and want to encourage more of it,” he said of the regionalization efforts.
Seeing first hand the facilities that will be affected by this funding was nice, Cooper said, but he said his thoughts were particular on how these upgrades will benefit the people of the area.
“I can’t help but think of the families and people who have children who worry about whether their water is clean; the businesses that might be able to come and locate here that maybe couldn’t have otherwise that’ll provide a great paying job for mom or dad for that family,” Cooper said. “Everything does depend on clean water, if you don’t have it you can’t have a community.”
December 21, 2022
With Christmas yet to arrive, the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department already has been in the giving mood with its recent donation of a fire truck to some counterparts in Kentucky hard hit by flooding.
The Mayking Volunteer Fire Department, located in Letcher County in the eastern part of that state, had lost the bulk of its equipment during the devastation occurring in July, which surpassed any encountered in the history of that area.
“And it was greatly appreciated,” Mayking Fire Chief Tony Fugate said last week in reaction to the truck donation. “That’s a great bunch of guys there in Bannertown.”
However, one might wonder how the local fire department about 200 miles away from the one in Kentucky learned about its plight.
That’s where Jon Doss enters the picture, in providing a key link between the two.
Doss, who works as transportation coordinator for Mount Airy City Schools and is involved with the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department, also drives a tractor-trailer part-time for the Hardy Brothers trucking firm in Siloam.
As word of the terrible flooding in Kentucky spread, students at East Surry High School in Pilot Mountain and Bandys High School in Catawba County coordinated donations of supplies to help the communities affected.
Doss ended up being the one to drive a big rig loaded with those supplies to a neighboring town of Mayking, which is an unincorporated community.
“We lost everything”
The local man was told by a mayor of the neighboring locality about the situation with the Mayking department, and Doss subsequently was put in touch with one of its leaders, Harry Collins, who was asked if the truck would help.
“Basically, he said, ‘Jon, we lost everything,’” Doss recalled.
That included damage to the small department’s two fire trucks and the loss of other resources needed to serve and protect its community.
“One we had to completely take out of service,” the Mayking fire chief said of the flooding toll on its trucks. He added last week that the other was in the shop being worked on, also making it unavailable.
After learning of Mayking’s plight, Doss thought about a way the Bannertown department might help, which centered on a 1990-model pumper/tanker in its fleet.
“I knew we had this truck that we were going to sell,” he said, which instead was suggested as a means of aiding another department that could truly use such assistance.
“There was nothing wrong with it,” Doss said of the vehicle valued at about $10,000 which was still being pressed into service for fire calls.
Doss, who is on the governing board for the Bannertown department and has been part of the fire service since 1994, asked its chief, Chris Baker, and other board members about giving the truck to the Mayking unit.
“And we all unanimously agreed that this was something we should do.”
More departments help
In addition to the truck from the Bannertown department, Chief Baker reported that a box was filled with firefighting equipment such as turnout gear, which was contributed by others in Surry County to help Mayking rebuild.
Those involved in that effort included Horizon Equipment Rentals, Franklin Community Volunteer Fire Department, the White Plains Volunteer Fire Department, Pine Ridge Volunteer Fire Department and Skull Camp Fire and Rescue.
Members of the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department journeyed to Mayking last month to deliver the truck and equipment to eager recipients.
“It meant a whole lot to us,” Fugate said of the Surry Countians’ gesture, citing the fact that the Mayking department was in desperate need of a tanker truck. “It is in service and greatly appreciated,” he reported last week.
Doss mentioned that while the truck has been a benefit in and of itself, there also was a critical timing and logistical element involved.
Assuming the Mayking Volunteer Fire Department had the resources to buy a new truck, it takes about a year to get one in service once it is ordered.
The gift of the truck eliminated the need for that.
“All they had to do was transfer the title,” Doss said.
“And we can’t express how much it meant for them to donate this truck to us,” the Mayking chief said of Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department members.
December 21, 2022
It’s been a good year for projects to provide public restrooms in areas around downtown Mount Airy, which includes a decision in recent days targeting a key concert venue.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted unanimously during a meeting last Thursday night to add those facilities at Blackmon Amphitheatre, which is located near the Municipal Building. Specifically, the board awarded a $119,800 contract to a local construction company for the new restrooms.
“I think they’re greatly needed,” Commissioner Marie Wood said before the vote, referencing the fact that despite more than 50 concerts and special events being held there each year, Blackmon Amphitheatre lacks restrooms.
Persons attending events must use those at the Mount Airy Public Library or City Hall nearby which are not equipped to handle large gatherings and put a strain on employees of the two, Commissioner Tom Koch mentioned.
“This project will provide a much-needed service by adding restrooms behind the Blackmon Amphitheatre in the City Hall parking lot,” Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis stated.
He was referring to the demand for those facilities itself and concerns for neighboring locations that have been impacted.
“This will allow City Hall and the library to secure and lock their facilities during concerts,” Lewis explained.
In making the case for the new restrooms, the assistant city manager mentioned that the concerts and other special events held at Blackmon Amphitheatre are a major tourism draw locally.
The $119,800 contract to build the restrooms was awarded to Colt Simmons Construction, a local company.
It was the low bidder for the project and highly recommended by the city staff.
Colt Simmons Construction has recent experience with such jobs due to building new restrooms in the 400 block of North Main Street downtown, also deemed as much needed. That project was completed earlier this fall in the parking lot beside Brannock and Hiatt Furniture.
“We are excited to work with them again,” Lewis added, “as they are a local company and performed quality work.”
The money for the restrooms at Blackmon Amphitheatre is coming from Mount Airy’s share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding appropriated by the federal government to help localities around the country recover from the pandemic.
Mount Airy’s allocation of ARPA funds totaled $3.2 million. It has been eyed for other municipal facility needs in addition to $600,000 from that source being awarded to five local non-profit organizations on Sept. 1 after an extensive application and evaluation process.
December 21, 2022
Mount Airy residents might have to wait a little longer to dispose of Christmas packaging materials due to the holiday’s effect on city sanitation operations that will be delayed or otherwise altered next week.
This will include residential and recycling routes, with no yard waste collection to occur on Monday.
In addition, there will be no residential sanitation service on Tuesday.
The route normally run that day is scheduled to be serviced next Wednesday instead, along with the usual Wednesday collections.
Sanitation schedules also will be altered for non-residential locations, with no commercial or industrial collections to occur either on Monday or Tuesday of next week.
City offices will be closed both Monday and Tuesday for Christmas.
December 20, 2022
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will again by holding its Noon-Year party for area children.
“This party is great for pre-school age children who want to celebrate, but you don’t want them staying up too late,” museum officials said of the event. It will be here at the museum on Dec. 31 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., so kids can still enjoy counting down until the clock strikes midnight later that day.
This Noon-Year party is a dance party, which will include a DJ “keeping the music going,” officials said. “We will also have crafts and activities for when the kids need a break from all that dancing, as well as a great goody bag to take home. The highlight of the event will definitely be the countdown and indoor balloon release, where kids can help ring in the (almost) new year with fun.”
The Noon-Year party is free for members and $5 a child for non-members. It is also free for up to two parents/adult chaperones per family to attend. “We have a limited number of spots for our Noon-Year Party, so be sure to call or go to our website to secure your tickets,” the museum organizers said.
For more information, or to register, contact the museum at [email protected] or call 336-786-4478, or drop by at 301 N. Main St. or registeronline
December 20, 2022
Surry Community College is offering a vehicle escort operators course on Saturday, Jan. 7, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Yadkin Center, 1001 College Drive, in Yadkinville.
This course is designed to meet the training requirements set by the N.C. Department of Transportation to certify oversize-overweight load escort vehicle drivers. Course components consist of defensive driving, escort driver requirements, skills training, and an exam.
Tuition for the course is $71. For more information about this class or to register, call the Yadkin Center at 336-386-3580.
December 20, 2022
The fact a local temperature record was tied in November might lead one to assume this was related to it being one of the colder months — but that distinction is due to heat instead.
A balmy 80-degree reading recorded on Nov. 8 matched Mount Airy’s previous high mark for that date, going all the way back to the days of World War II in 1944.
That was the high temperature last month, which conversely offered up an 18-degree monthly low on both Nov. 21-22 which contributed to November’s status as a cooler period of the year.
The various mercury swings combined for an average temperature locally last month of 48.6 degrees, according to a statistical breakdown from F.G. Doggett Water Plant as compiled by Will Hodges, the city’s assistant water treatment supervisor.
That facility is the official weather-monitoring station in Mount Airy, for which records date to 1924.
Last month’s 48.6-degree temperature average eclipsed the all-time one in Mount Airy for November, 47.2.
Frost occurred on 10 days last month.
More rain logged
The report from the water plant also shows that higher-than-normal precipitation occurred locally during November, when a total of 4.41 inches was measured there. The all-time average in Mount Airy for the 11th month of the year is 3.38 inches.
Measurable amounts occurred on 10 of November’s 30 days, with a .93-inch output on Nov. 7 constituting the most for a single day.
For the year, as of Nov. 30, precipitation stood at 48.14 inches — 3.52 inches, or 7.9% — above the normal 44.62 inches for Mount Airy at that juncture.
Fog was noted locally on six days during November.
December 20, 2022
The Catch My Breath campaign will soon be launching in middle schools of Surry County. While traditional tobacco use among kids has declined, the use of e-cigarettes or vapes has risen year to year and is finding a younger audience.
Dr. Steven Kelder from University of Texas School of Public Health developed Coordinated Approach to Children’s Health (or CATCH) to fight back. CATCH is a whole health program, but now officials have launched Catch My Breath in what has been heralded as the first of its kind evidence-based vaping prevention program.
The group said if they launched into every school across the nation, they could reduce the number of seventh graders who start vaping by 153,600 per year. They would accomplish this with a simple straightforward message: vaping is untested, unregulated, and unhealthy to the developing mind and body.
Think of it as reverse peer pressure where the message being communicated is that it is outside the norm to be a smoker or vaper. Gone are the days of the ubiquitous Marlboro Man billboards along the highway or a cartoonish Joe Camel hocking his wares to anyone who could see him.
Smoking in the United States has been on a precipitous decline for some time with the percentage of the population who identify as smokers dropping in a recent CDC report from the 2005 rate of 20.9% of adults down to 12.5% as of 2020.
When one door closes, another opens, and the tobacco industry wasted little time — nature abhors a vacuum in finding new transmission methods for their products and new markets of customers to sell them to with flavored varieties meant to lure in kids.
When the e-cigarette entered the mix, they were first marketed to some as a stop smoking aid. At the very least, electronic cigarettes were touted as a safer option to the traditional cigarette. While it is true there is no tar nor any ember with which to start a house fire if a smoker falls asleep in bed with her Virginia Slim lit, that by no means makes it a safe habit to start.
Perception and peer pressure used to be aligned on the other side of this fight. For decades, the smoker was presented as cool, sexy, alluring, sophisticated, and debonair. From ladies with the skinny Audrey Hepburn cigarette holders to James Bond after he got the girl, the cigarette was the answer to everything good or bad. The stars of old Hollywood were even extolling the health benefits of smoking.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration wrote that, “A primary concern is that many young people view vaping as socially acceptable. In the past decade, vaping has increased among all age and demographic groups and is more popular than traditional cigarettes among high school students.”
“Another study found that youth said they vaped because their friends, peers, and siblings did, and they thought it was cool, whereas they acknowledged the harms and negative components of smoking cigarettes.”
How far the world has come said Charlotte Reeves, outreach coordinator for the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery. She recently completed her own Catch My Breath training and is very bringing the campaign to Surry County.
She has been educating students on the dangers of vaping as part of her outreach efforts surrounding substance use disorder in youth. Red Ribbon Week in October took Reeves and her allies into middle schools to talk about drugs, but she could not pass up that chance to fold in some useful vaping information too.
Kids were introduced to Popcorn Lung and learned about the hundreds of flavored vapes that have come on that market in recent years. Not a movie theatre treat, popcorn lung is bronchiolitis obliterans, or a lung disease caused by a build-up of scar tissue in the lungs. A possible link may have been found between the disease and a chemical called diacetyl which is often found in vapes.
What is really in those vapes is anyone’s guess as the vape industry is almost fully unregulated. The National Youth Tobacco Survey polled teens asking them what is in their vapes and the results varied. It found 66% of respondents said there was only flavoring in their vape, 13.2% said nicotine, 5.8% thought they were smoking marijuana, 1.3% said other, and a whole 13.7% of the teens polled said they had no clue at all what was in their vapes.
Add on that “other” set onto the “I don’t know” and that means 15% of kids vaping have no clue what is in their vapes. Among the substances to be found in vaping mixtures are dicamba, iohexol, and avobenzone are.
A study published in the journal ‘Chemical Research in Toxicology’ said, “Researchers at Johns Hopkins University detected thousands of chemicals in electronic cigarettes that were not disclosed by manufacturers. The team discovered nearly 2,000 chemicals, including caffeine, three different industrial chemicals, and a pesticide. A vast majority of the chemicals found were unidentified.”
Don’t call them quitters, youth are more likely to pick up the habit and stick with it, according to a 2019 survey of youth who said that in the last thirty days they had vaped.
That study found 28% of high schoolers and 11% of middle schoolers reported vaping in the past month, a rate that is two to six times greater than the percentage of adults (25-44) who reported vaping.
Young people were asked whether their age group peers approve of vaping and 41% said their peers did, as opposed to 27% who approved of cigarette smoking.
While attitudes on cigarette smoking have changed over the past few decades, the temptation remains for kids when they still view smoking as something desirable. Catch My Breath aims to put evidence into kids’ hands on the real dangers to their bodies so that the ultimate decision will be theirs alone, and a well-informed one.
December 20, 2022
What Wall Street calls “the monster in the room” — inflation — has flexed its tentacles in a major way locally by creating a bumpy financial path for Mount Airy’s greenway-expansion project.
The condition bringing higher prices to gas pumps, grocery stores and elsewhere additionally has conspired to hike cost estimates for the 1.3-mile extension by $300,000 more than originally planned.
After the matter was discussed Thursday night during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, it voted 5-0 to appropriate the extra dollars needed to meet that shortfall from the municipality’s catch-all general fund budget.
The board also voted 5-0 to award a construction contract for the greenway extension to a company called North State Environmental — the lowest bidder for it at $1,489,373 — with other costs making up a total price tag of $2,225,000.
This could have been considered a no-brainer from the city government’s point of view, since failing to take such action would’ve meant not utilizing grant funds allocated to provide most of the project’s cost, for which deadlines loomed.
“Mount Airy was fortunate to receive $1,925,000 from four different grant funding agencies to complete this amazing project,” Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis said in a memo regarding plans to lengthen the greenway northward from its present Riverside Park ending spot.
The Granite City Greenway network presently covers 6.6 continuous miles — a paved pathway popular with walkers, runners and cyclists from near and far.
Couldn’t be avoided
Plans to extend the trail to the area of SouthData Inc. on Technology Lane off Riverside Drive originated more than three years ago when Lewis, Mount Airy’s former parks and recreation director, was employed in that realm.
“Since that time inflation has come in,” he said Thursday night in laying out the situation for the city council.
It has increased construction costs by an average of 30 to 40%, according to Lewis, and the final tally for the greenway has risen by the $300,000 to $2,225,000 — clearly exceeding the $1.9 million in grants.
He said inflation “hit us hard” and the funding situation was unavoidable.
The assistant city manager got no argument from the board, which seemed to recognize this as a sign of the times.
“That’s just the way it is,” Commissioner Tom Koch mused.
Based on Thursday night’s discussion, $500,000 in grant funding already has been spent on the design phase for the greenway extension. And not going forward would have left Mount Airy with a nice set of engineering plans but no project, Lewis told the commissioners.
A bright spot with the dilemma involves the fact that previous greenway projects in Mount Airy over the years, blessed with a multitude of grant awards, have not required asking the commissioners to fill the gap in such a way.
“This the first time we have come back before the council for the three sections of greenway that we have,” said Lewis.
Those include the Emily B. Taylor Greenway, the Ararat River Greenway and a project to connect the two.
He detailed efforts to reduce the total project cost. This will include municipal personnel performing some of the work on an in-kind basis and the city purchasing directly some of the items needed for the greenway project cheaper than the contractor can.
Some companies would not be inclined to go along with that, because of reducing their profit margins, but Lewis said North State Environmental cooperated in this regard. “They have been great partners with us,” he advised.
Payoff on horizon
“I think it is going to pay good dividends moving forward,” Lewis said of the project at hand, citing the greenway’s growing role as a tourism draw locally and the extra recreational amenities the extension will provide.
In addition to constructing the new greenway section itself, the project will include much-needed river restoration of the Ararat, pocket park facilities, picnic areas, bike racks, benches and fitness stations, Lewis mentioned regarding the various elements comprising the $2,225,000 total.
Commissioner Deborah Cochran voiced support for the efforts Thursday night.
“I’m a mega-fan of the greenway,” she said. “I’m probably out there about every week.”
Lewis mentioned Friday that it is hoped work on the project can begin in January, with the river restoration targeted first.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News


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