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Fundraiser for House of Mercy to be held at MurLarkey Distilled Spirits

House of Mercy nonprofit organization will be teaming up with MurLarkey Distilled Spirits to hold a fundraiser for the less fortunate. 

Jim Larkin, General Manager of the distillery, states he is happy to help the agency that serves hundreds of people in local neighborhoods. The event is on Saturday April 23, from 6-8pm at the distillery.

 “We’re on-board to help provide food for the hungry. This will be a fun event for a great cause, and we’re pleased to be hosting it,” said Larkin.

Advanced registration is required. Email help@houseofmercyva.org, or call House of Mercy at 703-659-1636, or use the “Contact” form at the House of Mercy website (www.houseofmercyva.org).

In addition to food, enrolled low-income House of Mercy clients receive a monthly clothing stipend for a minimum of three months from the House of Mercy aid program. This allows those in need to choose their clothing, promoting dignity and grace for those that House of Mercy serves.

About the House of Mercy

The House of Mercy is a Catholic-based humanitarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Manassas, Virginia. Founded in 2005, the organization is dedicated to serving the poor, marginalized, and forgotten. The House of Mercy provides aid to the poor regardless of background, race, religious affiliation, physical ability, gender or ethnicity. It offers a variety of free programs to the community, including:

  • Food Pantry
  • Free and discounted clothing
  • Thrift Store
  • New Shoe program for kids
  • Meal Packing (service project)
  • English as a Second Language (ESL), GED Math, and Beginning Math
  • Citizenship Exam preparation
  • Cooking and Nutrition
  • Spiritual Formation Classes
  • Christmas Assistance

House of Mercy Thrift Store is a public thrift store located at 8170 Flannery Ct, Manassas VA 20109. The sale of very gently used clothing, accessories, and home goods help to provide programs that serve the poor in the greater Manassas, Gainesville, and Nokesville areas. Everything in the store is supplied by generous donors, and are clean, fashionable, and trendy.

For more information about the House of Mercy, or to register as a client, or to donate financially,         email help@houseofmercyva.org or call 703-659-1636.

Free 2016 Spring Veterans Resource and job fair

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY —  Michael Futrell  in partnership with Councilman Derrick Wood, Women Veterans Interactive, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Center for Minority Veterans and will host a free 2016 Spring Veterans Resource & Job Fair.

“We should be doing all we can to support our veterans and active duty military personnel,” said Hon. Michael Futrell. “I am pleased to be a partner in bringing this much needed resource and jobs fair to Prince William County. I also look forward to honoring Dr. Hampton and all that he has embodied since making the transition from protecting our country to impacting our community.”

The fair will provide a number of veteran-related services in a one-stop setting.  Onsite will be Department of Veterans Affairs’ representatives from the Center for Minority Veterans, the Veterans Health and Benefits Administrations, and the National Cemetery Administration. 

Other invited organizations will provide information related to GI Bill education assistance, finding jobs, completing wills, preventing homelessness and how to participate in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.  Veterans are encouraged to bring DD214 or proof of military service for the opportunity to file claims on location.  Lunch will be provided at no charge to veterans and active duty military personnel in attendance. 

Dr. George Hampton will be honored for his work as a veteran in the community at the event.

Who: Hon. Michael Futrell, Councilman Derrick Wood, Delegate Rich Anderson, Department of Veterans Affairs, Center for Minority Veterans, Women Veterans Interactive, and Stratford University.
What: Veterans Resource & Job Fair
When: Saturday, April 9th, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Where:  Stratford University:  Woodbridge Campus 14349 Gideon Dr. Woodbridge, VA  22192 
Members of the media are welcomed and invited to attend.

Manassas Battlefield to Host Junior Ranger Day Event

Manassas, battlefield, park, civil war

Manassas National Battlefield Park will celebrate National Junior Ranger Day with a special event for youths of all ages on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

The event will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Henry Hill Visitor Center. Children and their families can join in a variety of hands-on activities including sending messages by telegraph and signal flag, learning how a cannon was fired, learning the meaning behind the NPS arrowhead, building a monument, and more. Participants can earn their Junior Ranger badge by completing the specially planned activities.

National Junior Ranger Day is a special event held each year during National Park Week, celebrated this year between April 16 and 24. National Park Week is an annual presidentially proclaimed week for celebrating and recognizing National Parks. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service, and parks across the country are hosting special events, including many to allow families to experience America’s National Parks in a unique and kid-friendly way.

Entrance to Manassas National Battlefield Park and the event are free. For more information, contact the Visitor Center at 703-361-1339.

Government ID’s for all Virginia residents

In August of 2014, I organized a Hispanic Town Hall Meeting in Hybla Valley.  I spent the first hour going over issues with constituents.

Then, I asked attendees for feedback – what was their #1 issue?  Lack of government identification.  Attendees said that they and their friends and family were weary of obtaining ID’s from Maryland or not having them at all.

At the beginning of last session, I was approached by Virginia New Majority and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACALAO) about working together to bring this issue forward.  I introduced Senate Bill 390 that would have allowed the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a temporary driver’s visitor’s driver’s license to anyone who (1) resided in Virginia for one year, (2) had filed a Virginia tax return or been claimed as a dependent another Virginia tax return and (3) paid a $53 fee.  These licenses would be conspicuously marked with language stating “NOT FOR FEDERAL USE” so it is clear that they are not compliant with the Real ID Act. 

Similar legislation has now been passed in over twelve states: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, District of Columbia, New Mexico, and Washington.  Other states are considering it.  Why is this legislation a good idea?

Reason #1 – Reducing Accidents 
New residents do not know the rules of the road.  According to the DMV, in other states where this has been implemented, over 80% of applicants fail the driving test and need to retake the test.  Having informed driver’s is good for everyone.  Data from California showed that people without driver’s licenses were three times more likely to cause a fatal accident.  The states with the longest record of providing licenses to all residents have experienced nearly a 100% larger drop in traffic fatalities than the nationwide average.  This legislation will save lives.

Reason #2 – Reducing Hit and Runs 
States adopting these measures have seen significant reductions in hit and run accidents.  Analyses by AAA have found that 41% of hit and run drivers lack a driver’s license and that unlicensed drivers are 66.36 times more likely to be hit and run drivers.  When people do not fear prosecution they stop and collisions are dealt with appropriately through our system.  

Reason #3 – Lower Virginia Insurance Premiums
More insured drivers means risk spread among more people, fewer accidents with uninsured drivers, and lower premiums for everyone. 

Reason #4 – Increase Interaction With Law Enforcement
Residents with government ID are much more likely to interact with law enforcement whether it’s for car accidents, domestic violence or to come forward as witnesses for other crimes.  Government ID means greater civic participation. 

Reason #5 – More Tax Revenue
There are an estimated 400,000 people who would benefit from this.  If 80% of estimated eligible Virginians sign up, Virginia will collect $1.7 million in new licensing fees per year.  If each new licensed driver claims $35,000 per year in taxable Virginia income, they would pay an additional $1,755 of state income taxes per person or a total of $561 million per year of new tax revenue.  If 200,000 new auto insurance policies are purchased for $1,000 per year, it will result in $225 million per year of new auto insurance premium tax revenue. 

Reason #6 – Provide All Virginians A High Quality of Life
Licenses allow people to enjoy a healthy quality of life.  Licenses mean being able to take children to soccer games, drive to work, get a bank account, or get to the doctor.  

The Way Forward
The legislation was supported by the McAuliffe Administration and the DMV has assembled a working group including representatives from law enforcement, the immigrant community, faith groups, driving safety groups, criminal defense, courts, chambers of commerce, taxation, human trafficking, and local governments to come up with consensus legislation.  

Hopefully, next year, this legislation will pass so that everyone living in Virginia can enjoy a healthy quality of life.  If you have any feedback, please send me a note at scott@scottsurovell.org.   

Good news: Virginia has a state budget

I am typing these words of good news on the night of Friday, March 11th, on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates in Richmond. We just adjourned the 2016 legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly with approval of a bipartisan two-year Virginia state budget. The good news: The budget is balanced, cautious, sensible, and doesn’t increase taxes or fees.

As a member of the 22-member House Appropriations Committee (HAC), I have been engaged since December with crafting the budget, along with two other Prince William County legislators, Del. Scott M. Lingamfelter (R-31st) and Del. Luke M. Torian (D-52nd). I serve on three HAC subcommittee (Public Safety, Transportation, and Higher Education), so I had a hand in developing these three parts of the budget.

Here in bullet fashion are the highlights of the budget we approved Friday night:

– It was passed by large margins in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation in both houses of the General Assembly.

– It was completed early, permitting the General Assembly to adjourn one day early, saving taxpayers $25,000.

– It is balanced, fair, and cautious. Unlike the federal government, we build the budget like you build your family budget, with common sense and without gimmicks.

– It doesn’t increase taxes or fees.

– It represents a spending decrease of 5% over the last 10 years, when adjusted for population and inflation.

– It funds the core functions of state government from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018.

– It eliminates state liabilities, reduces borrowing, and makes one-time investments rather than long-term spending commitments.

– It funds investments in economic development to grow businesses and create jobs.

– It invests $73M more for K-12 public education than Gov. McAuliffe proposed, for a total of $900M.

– It includes $36M for Cost to Compete for school employees in Northern Virginia (a budget amendment that I co-patroned with several of my PWC colleagues).

– It includes $100K for the VaSTAR (Virginia Student Training and Refurbishment Program) computer rehab program administered by PWC Schools (a budget amendment for which I was Chief Patron).

– It invests $78M more for higher education than Gov. McAuliffe proposed.

– It includes $114M for operations and maintenance at colleges and universities and $48M for undergraduate financial aid to hold the line on tuition increases.

– It includes a 2% teacher pay raise, a 2% pay raise for state-supported local employees, and a 3% pay raise for state employees and state police.

– It deposits $605M in the state rainy day fund to raise the balance to $845M in two years as a hedge against the unforeseen.

– It funds the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) at 100% of the Board-certified rate (two years early). It repays VRS $189.5M owed from a funding deferral in 2010 (six years early).  

While this is a lot of information, it’s not all-inclusive, so go to the state budget website for details: https://budget.lis.virginia.gov/amendments/2016/1

No budget is perfect in every respect. This budget is no different in that regard, but the bipartisan, bicameral way in which it was approved says that it is a sound spending plan. We have a second crack at improving it next January when we can offer amendments during the 2017 legislative session of the General Assembly. In the meantime, I sincerely thank our neighbors for the privilege of working on their behalf in crafting the state budget.

I’ll be back home with Ruth and on the job in Prince William County the week of March 14th, and I look forward to getting back to the rigors of community life. Although the General Assembly session has ended, my duty to you has not. If I may assist you or your family in any way, please don’t hesitate to call or email.

I’m easily reached at DelRAnderson@house.virginia.gov or at our legislative district office (571-264-9983). My legislative aide, Ryan Galloway, is at RGalloway@house.virginia.gov. If your need is urgent and can’t wait until the next business day, please call my Woodbridge home at 703-730-1380. We’re here for you.

Many thanks for the privilege of serving you and your family at home and in Richmond!

Over $210 million in new funds coming to the 36th District

The last week of the 2016 General Assembly session brought a flurry of activity on some of our most difficult bills, along with approval of a state budget.  In this column, I will detail highlights in the final budget affecting our area.  Next week, I will report on other important budget items.  In the near future, I will cover some of the more important legislation that we considered and the fight over the state Supreme Court.  I will also let you know about my eight bills the Governor has signed or are awaiting his signature.  
The legislature approved a final budget, including two of my amendments.  First, I advocated for an additional $100,000 to fund the Virginia Star Program which provides refurbished computers to low-income, public school students.  Prince William County’s public schools are using this program extensively in the U.S. 1 corridor.  The final budget includes my complete request.
The new budget provides significant new funding for K-12 education over the biennium: Fairfax County, $87 million; Prince William County, $93 million; and Stafford County, $24 million.  Given that our local schools are hundreds of millions per year behind, it is now up to local governments to fund their share.
Second, my proposal to boost appropriations to fund court-appointed attorneys passed.  Virginia pays $120 per district court misdemeanor and between $445 and $1,235 for felonies, depending on whether they are “non-serious” or punishable by more than 20 years.  
Lawyers can apply for waivers from these fees, but the court runs out of money every year in the spring.  The General Assembly approved an additional $900,000 over the biennium.  In jurisdictions that do not have public defender offices, such as Prince William County, these funds are critical to meet our Constitutional obligation to provide counsel to low-income people.  This is the first increase in appropriations since the waiver system was adopted.  
We also approved $7.5 million in funding for Phase I improvements for Widewater State Park in Stafford County.  This will provide the only public water access to the Potomac River in Stafford County along with event facilities and ultimately campgrounds and cabins.  I was pleased to help  Delegate Mark Dudenhefer who has been working on this for years.
My biggest disappointment was the failure to expand Medicaid, a change that could bring the state $40.5 million in federal funds per year, 800 jobs and healthcare to about 10,000 people in the 36th District.  Sadly, politics continues to hold this up.
It is an honor to serve you in Richmond.  Please email me your feedback at scott@scottsurovell.org.  

Volunteers needed to clean Occoquan River

On Saturday, April 9, 2016 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. (rain date April 23, 2016), Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition (PWTSC), a 501(c)3 organization, is conducting its 7th annual clean-up of the upper Occoquan River, from nine different sites along 25+ miles of the Occoquan River.

The clean-up ranges from Cedar Run/Broad Run, through Lake Jackson, and from the base of Lake Jackson Dam to Hooes Run (south of Lake Ridge Marina). This cleanup is part of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s (www.fergusonfoundation.org) Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Friends of the Occoquan (www.friendsoftheoccoquan.org) will also be holding a cleanup at different shoreline parks along the Occoquan River on April 16, 2016.

PWTSC is partnering with the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Prince William County Parks and Recreation and Prince William County Public Works along with a number of home owners associations, civic associations, businesses, and volunteer groups to accomplish this major 25+-mile river clean-up. During last year’s clean-up, 197 volunteers pulled 6,700 pounds of trash out of the Occoquan River and this year we hope to get more help to remove even more!

PWTSC needs experienced kayakers, canoeists, jon boaters, and pontoon boaters to sign up for this major on-the-water conservation effort. Some kayaks and canoes will be available for loan provided by Penguin Paddling (at Hooes Run) and the Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department (at Lake Ridge Marina).

Please visit www.pwtsc.org for more information and to register for this event or contact Ed Dandar at efdandar@verizon.net or 703-791-6158.

St. John Paul the Great Catholic High School Librarian wins grant

Junior Library Guild (JLG) recently awarded the Sister Sally Daly Grant to Mary Gildersleeve, Director of Library Services for Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School near Dumfries, Virginia, to attend her first Catholic Library Association(CLA) conference this March.

The Catholic Library Association together with Junior Library Guild established a $1,500 grant in 2007 in memory of Sally Daly, SSJ, an ardent supporter of recruiting new members to CLA and its Children’s Library Services Section.

“Mary’s application was compelling because she showed an intention to be a major activist in CLA and to implement best practices learned to make her library great,” said Randy Asmo, President and CEO of Media Source, Inc., parent company of Junior Library Guild. “Her enthusiasm and desire to make a difference showed through.” Gildersleeve will attend the 2016 Annual Convention, March 29-31, 2016 in San Diego, Calif.

Boy Scouts hosting annual Pinewood Derby in Woodbridge

This weekend, the Occoquan District Boy Scouts are hosting their District Pinewood Derby in Woodbridge on March 12.

The derby will take place from 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Woodbridge Middle School gym at 2201 York Drive. Following the races with the Scout’s cars, awards will be given based on Scout rank, and overall speed.

Special awards will also be given for the ‘coolest car’ and the ‘builder fair’, based on how the car was built, and the inspiration behind it.

Scouts that are interested in participating in the Derby need to be registered in advance.

Manassas Symphony receiving award from councilman

Manassas City Councilman and longtime friend of the orchestra, Ken Elston, will present the American Prize in Orchestral Performance by a Community Orchestra to the Manassas Symphony at their concert on March 5, 2016. The concert will be held at Merchant Hall of the Hylton Performing Arts Center at 7:30 pm, and will feature music by British composers.

The American Prize is a series of non-profit national competitions in the performing arts providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels. The prize was first awarded in 2009, and is now awarded annually. The MSO was previously a semi-finalist for this same award in 2010, and a finalist in 2013.

Mr. Elston has, on several occasions, narrated children’s books set to music commissioned by the MSO for their annual family concerts held each December. His wife Molly has also served in this role. He was recently elected to the City Council, and is also the Director of the School of Theatre at George Mason University. Mr. Elston said, “I’ve greatly enjoyed working the MSO in past, as has my wife. The symphony plays a vital role in the community by providing the classical music component to the Hylton’s presentation of the arts. This award shows how well the orchestra performs that role.”

For two decades, the Manassas Symphony Orchestra has brought the excitement of live orchestral performances to the Manassas and Prince William County area for a unique, lively, and entertaining concert experience. The orchestra serves as the educational and performance medium for its all-volunteer community members.


Chamber of Commerce holds annual Business Awards

On the evening of February 25, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce honored the nominees and recipients of their annual Business Awards at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. Winners of the 2016 Agnes L. Colgan Community Service Awards, who each receive a $1,000 check to continue their work, were also announced along with the recipient of the inaugural Charles J. Colgan Visionary Award.

Nominees included businesses large and small from a variety of industries, showcasing the diverse organizations that blend to make the Prince William region a national leader for jobs creation and economic growth. Northern Virginia Community College was the Presenting Sponsor of the event. Bernie Niemeier, Publisher of Virginia Business was Master of Ceremonies.

Chamber President & CEO Debbie Jones congratulated all of the nominees and winners on their business excellence and work in the community. She went on to say, “The best part  of the awards ceremony is hearing about how the various winners are working together on strategic partnerships, helping one another to be successful and giving back. I’m proud to be a part of a business community that truly understands the value of collaboration.”

While the sizes and industries of the nearly 80 nominated businesses varied greatly, a commitment to giving back was a common thread. Each of the nominees regularly steps outside of their organization to make a difference in the community they serve, whether through the Chamber or one of hundreds of local not-for-profit organizations. 

This year the Chamber added a new legacy award to their Business Award categories. Named for recently-retired Virginia State Senator Charles Colgan and sponsored by Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, PC, the Charles J. Colgan Visionary Award is meant to be awarded to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership, including but not limited to their own organization. Just like Senator Colgan who was a long-time member of the Chamber with Colgan Air and a Past Chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors. This individual should be known as an innovator, a great partner, a visionary and an advocate for his or her community and beyond. This year the award went to Rex Parr, the recently-retired long-time President of Didlake, Inc.

Additional sponsors of the event included: Whitlock Wealth Management; NOVEC-Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative; The Fauquier Bank and Prince William Today. Cardinal Bank sponsored the Agnes L. Colgan Community Service Awards. 

Pictures from the 2016 Business Awards are available at facebook.com/pwchamber, and a full list of nominees and sponsors can be found under the “EVENTS” tab at www.pwchamber.org. Following are descriptions of each winner, as they were announced during the 2016 Prince William Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.


New budget emerges from Senate

This week, the seventh of this session of the Virginia General Assembly, both the Senate and House of Delegates are considering the state’s two-year budget. After each house passes a budget, a joint conference committee resolves the differences.
The Senate budget has good news and bad news.
Good  News
Revenues have increased more than expenses for the first time in seven years, offering opportunities to address unmet needs.  The Senate Budget makes significant investments in education including an additional $80 million for Fairfax County, $32 million for Prince William County and $22 million for Stafford County over last year’s appropriations including $16 million for a program called “Cost to Compete” which is supplemental funding for high-cost areas like Northern Virginia to pay teachers and support staff.  The plan also includes a two-percent salary increase for all elementary-secondary school teachers.  
The budget increases funds for our state colleges and universities by $223 million, increases student financial aid and limits tuition increases to three percent.  The Senate budget has about $1.4 billion in construction projects, including $350 million to modernize the Port of Virginia, construct college buildings and renovate state park facilities. 
It adds over 800 “waiver” slots due to the closure of Virginia’s training centers and an additional 400 new slots for adults with developmental disabilities so they can receive needed services. 
The Senate budget begins the closures of Virginia’s Juvenile Detention facilities, adds 11 new mental health positions in probation offices and provides $2.5 million for mental health pilot projects in our jails.  It also funds one new General District Court judge position in Prince William County and one Circuit Court spot in Stafford County.
The Senate budget includes my amendment to increase funds for court-appointed criminal attorney by $1.2 million, the first increase since the program’s inception. 
It also includes funds to keep down costs at Dulles Airport and to begin planning the widening Interstate 66. 
Bad News
A major disappointment to me is the omission of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s proposed Medicaid expansion, to provide health care to more low-income and disabled people.  Rejecting Medicaid and the available federal funding represent legislative malpractice, but the votes simply are not there to pass it.
Second, the budget fails to fund three desperately needed Fairfax County judgeship positions – Circuit, General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.  Fewer judges means more delays in access to justice.
Unfortunately, the Senate budget also cuts capital improvements to Widewater State Park. This desperately needed project would create the only public access to the Potomac River in Stafford County.  
I am working hard to pass a budget that addresses our needs and to get my bills passed by the mid-March adjournment.  Please share your views and suggestions at scott@scottsurovell.org. 

Electronic textbook bill moves to House of Delegates

As we pass the mid-point of this General Assembly session, many bills are moving.

After a 30-minute debate, the Senate approved my bill prohibiting the use of electronic textbooks in public schools without a plan to provide school broadband and digital devices to every student required to use an electronic textbook.

Virginia’s constitution requires that every child receive a free textbook. On the floor, I argued that without home computers, electronic textbooks create a two-tiered education system for the haves and the have-nots. Senators Adam Ebbin and George Barker joined me in stressing that even Northern Virginia’s schools have significant low-income student populations who face disadvantages in the classroom without their own devices. The bill now moves to the House of Delegates.

Also, the Senate passed, 39 to 1 my legislation to reverse recent anti-sunshine Virginia Supreme Court rulings. Last year, the Court held that if one sentence of a government document is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the government can withhold an entire document instead of simply redacting the sentence. My legislation requires disclosure to the public of the text of the document that is not redacted.

Additionally, the Court held that government officials’ decisions to withhold documents are entitled to “great weight.” My legislation requires judges reviewing FOIA responses to look at government officials’ decisions in an unbiased manner. The House of Delegates passed identical legislation 99-0 and it will be on the Governor’s desk by the end of the week.

Around 100 people attended our town hall meetings this weekend in the Mount Vernon and Lee areas of Fairfax County. The number one concern raised was public school funding. Governor Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget has $54 million in new funding for Prince William County and $15 million for Stafford County. The House and Senate budgets come out this weekend and will likely include additional funds.

We also heard concerns about Potomac River oil spills and coal ash pollution, skyrocketing college tuition, protecting women’s reproductive rights and strengthening mental health services. People voiced support for driver’s licenses for undocumented Virginians and anger about voting restrictions.

This week, we will debate the state budget. To share your view, please email me at scott@scottsurovell.org.

It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

Free Children’s Day at the Weems-Botts Museum

Pirates on the Chesapeake Bay on March 12, 2016

Join Historic Dumfries for Children’s Day at the Weems-Botts Museum.

Make & take crafts!  Snacks! Lots of FUN!!! 

Pirates and privateers (thieves who had the blessings of their home countries) were major players in Chesapeake Bay history. For nearly 200 years, pirates roamed the Bay’s waters looking for prey and outfitting themselves to search for prizes in other parts of the world.

Learn about these men, the life they led, as the young Virginia colony flourished and commerce with Europe expanded. Pirate adventures helped shape the patterns of settlement on the Bay’s shores and the consequent use of its waters. To Blackbeard, the Davis trio and other pirates who frequented the Bay, we owe a colorful — yet barbaric — slice of Virginia history.

The Weems-Botts Museum is located at 3944 Cameron St, Dumfries, VA 22026.


New officers join Prince William K9 Unit

Four police officers have recently graduated from Basic K9 School, a course offered by the Prince William County Criminal Justice Academy in Nokesville.

The officers are from Prince William County, Arlington County, and Fairfax City Police Departments.

A 16-week-course of training had to be completed in all fields of police canine work in order for the officers to graduate. They completed classes in obedience, evidence recovery, suspect search, tracking, agility, criminal apprehension, and building search. Master Police Officer W.F. VanAntwerp taught the class to the trainees. He has been with the Prince William County Police Department since 1996 and has served with the K9 Unit since 2000.

The Prince William County Police Department hired Officer Shaun Barrett and Officer Katybeth Strobel in 2006. Before being selected to work in the K9 Unit, Strobel served as a detective in the Criminal Operations Division. Her four legged partner is named Abrams. Strobel is the first female K9 officer to work for PWC Police Department.

Prior to working in the K9 Unit, Barrett worked as a patrol officer. His four legged partner is named Kane.

Arlington Police Department hired Sergeant Bryan Morrison in 2002. Eleven years later in 2013, Sergeant Morrison was promoted to the rank of sergeant and assigned to the Patrol Section. He now works as the supervisor of the K9 Unit.

In 2003, the Fairfax City Police Department hired Officer Vann Sayasithsena. He served in the Operations Division as a patrol officer until he was selected for K9 handler in 2007. Sayasithsena’s first canine partner was Niko until his retirement in 2015. Valor now works as Sayasithsena’s canine partner in Niko’s place.


New exhibits coming to the Manassas Museum

March events at the Manassas Museum include two new exhibits, free book talks and more.

From March 4 – April 17, the Manassas Museum presents “Impressions”, the Osbourn High School art show.  Impressions features the paintings, mixed media works, sculpture, and drawings of Osbourn art students.  The exhibit offers students the opportunity to be guest curators, as they choose works to be displayed, create frames or mounts, and write descriptive labels for their works.

March 4 – April 17, the Manassas Museum will feature “To Be Sold,” a new exhibit.

Using the works of acclaimed nineteenth century artist Eyre Crow, this exhibit examines the story of enslaved African Americans sold into the largest forced migration in American history. This is an exhibition from the Library of Virginia with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

On March 6 at 1:30 p.m. enjoy a Free Book Talk: “Poems of the Manassas Battlefields” with Author Patrick Bizarro.  Bizzaro, winner of numerous national literary prizes, a Fulbright award, and teaching awards, started his teaching career at Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas. He has published 32 books of various kinds, including his twelfth book of poetry, Poems of the Manassas Battlefield, vol. 1 

 On March 12 at noon, visit Liberia Plantation for Basement to Attic Hard Hat Tours.

Walk in the footsteps of presidents and generals from the Civil War and explore the oldest home in Manassas as it undergoes restoration.  Discover the most recent Civil War graffiti and see the rarely opened attic and basement.  For tickets, visit www.manassasmuseum.org or call 703-257-8453. 

On March 13 at 1:30 p.m. hear from author Lee Lawrence about his book “Dark Days in Our Beloved Country.”  Lawrence edited the Civil War Diary of Catherine Hopkins Broun that recounts her visits to battlefields, smuggling goods across the Potomac River from Maryland into Virginia, and travels to Washington. The diary also illuminates slavery in northern Virginia and includes dialogue between master and slaves that reveal the individual personalities of some of the slaves.

OWL Volunteer Fire Deparment reuniting families

For Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department, saving lives is just in a day’s work.  Sometimes those lives aren’t even human.  

While the engine crew from station 14 was retrieving dinner, they spotted a beautiful husky who was without his family.  “We saw him walking around the parking lot and we just walked up to him and he came right to us. He was very well behaved and friendly, so we knew he had a family,” said Firefighter Chris Weber.  Although wearing a collar and tag, the veterinarian listed was out of business. “We took him to Old Bridge Animal Hospital but he did not have a chip.” 

Animal control had been contacted, but Firefighter Weber put out a post to other department members in the hopes that the owner might be found.  Another member recognized the dog, whose family had posted his disappearance on Facebook.  Within the hour, dog and owners had been reunited.  “Kai” who is four years old had run off through an open gate in the back yard.

He had been gone for two hours and the family was thrilled to find him so quickly.  “Sometimes your best chance of finding help for a missing pet can be in your pocket on your smartphone,” said Valencia Lee, Kai’s owner.  To the OWL firefighters, Lee expressed gratitude. “Thank you for finding him and bringing him home! I don’t know what we would’ve done if no one had found him!”

Remember to chip and have current tags for your dog. If you find a lost pet, call Animal Control services at the Police non-emergency number at 703-792-6500.


The Painting Ladies upcoming summer gallery exhibitors

The Painter’s Journey from June 21 to July 29.

The Painting Ladies – Nancy Brittle, Janie Mosby, Chris Smith and Kathleen Willingham explore life in rural communities. Their works in oil, water and photography depict a sense of place through landscape, still life and figurative art. They believe in working together with unique voices and variety of media as complements to one another.                    

The four of us are and have been art teachers in Fauquier County Public Schools. We worked together, had workshops and classes with each other and decided that we should continue those efforts by spending time doing what we love to do and that is to paint. This has been going on for over fifteen years.  

We try to carve out time for each other and create opportunities to paint, give each other suggestions and impromptu critiques and sometimes go to workshops. We have made it an annual tradition to spend one entire week each summer painting in the Northern Neck where Kathleen has a home. We often plein air paint at each other’s homes or at a variety of locations in the area. We all feel that these interactions are valuable to our artistic growth and creative spirit and we enjoy being together.

We have had a number of group shows since 2006 and several have included another local artist. Janie and Chris are still teaching and will often enter juried shows in the area as well as displaying work with the Blue Ridge Region of the Va. Art Education Association. Since Kathleen and Nancy have retired they participate in juried shows, art events, belong to numerous art organizations and show in several galleries around the region and state.

We all live in Fauquier County.  Kathleen and Nancy are native to Fauquier and in fact went to elementary school together. Chris is from Maryland and has lived in Fauquier for over 30 years. Janie grew up in Lynchburg, VA. and has been in Fauquier County for over 40 years.  

The Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas/Prince William County sponsors theatrical productions for children and adults of all ages, teaches arts classes, promotes visual arts and provides community outreach programs for all ages.

Founded in 1984 by a group of artists and art lovers, the Center for the Arts aims to enrich the quality of life in the Northern Virginia through arts performance and education. A theater, an art gallery and classrooms are located in the three-story, historic Candy Factory building in Historic Manassas, at 9419 Battle Street. The third floor provides additional space for weddings, corporate meetings and receptions, lectures, poetry readings, recitals and chamber concerts.

For more information, call 703-330-2787, visit www.center-for-the-arts.org, or Facebook.    

Manassas Art Guild displays in The Hall

Paintings from the Manassas Art Guild are on exhibit in The Hall at City Hall through March 11, 2016. Prices range from mixed media, acrylics, watercolors and quilling. The Manassas Art Guild is an organization that was set up to promote participation and appreciation of the visual arts.

Artists participating in this exhibit include: Maureen Guillot, Herald Grandstaff, Laura Lavarnway, Janet Hansen Martinet, Stephanie McGhee, Ann Null, Connie Ryman, and Marti Whitehead.

Exhibits in The Hall rotate on a monthly basis and include different forms of visual art. Visiting The Hall is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and later evening meetings are held in the building. 

Manassas Symphony to perform ‘From the British Isles’

The Manassas Symphony, under the baton of Music Director James Villani celebrates the music of English composers with From the British Isles. The performance will be held in Merchant Hall of the Hylton Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 7:30 pm. The concert includes music by Malcom Arnold and Frank Bridge, and it closes with Vaughan Williams’ rhapsodic Symphony No. 2 (A London Symphony).

The concert features MSO Principal Cellist Diana Chou who takes center stage for a performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in e minor, Op. 85. Diana received her Bachelor of Music Education from Ithaca College and a Masters of Music in Orchestral Conducting from Houghton College. She is establishing a reputation in Northern Virginia as a dynamic performer, educator, and conductor.

During the school day, she teaches approximately 300 elementary students within the Fairfax County Public School system, and in the evenings maintains a private studio with students of all ages. She has coached various youth orchestras through the region, and is well known for her ability to engage students. During the summer Diana is the cello coach for Stallion Summer Strings camp at South County High School. She currently sits principal cello with the Manassas Symphony and Fairfax Chamber Players, and is the founding member of the Gemini Ensemble.

All seats for the Manassas Symphony Orchestra concerts in Merchant Hall of the Hylton Performing Arts Center (HPAC) are reserved and everyone needs a ticket.  Individual concert tickets are available at the Hylton Center Ticket Office open Tuesday-Saturday 10 am to 6 pm and Thursday 10 am to 8 pm and two hours before the performance begins.   Tickets may also be purchased through Tickets.com by calling 888-945-2468, or by visiting the HyltonCenter.org. Tickets are also available for sale at the Center for the Arts Box Office on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus.  Individual concert tickets are priced as follows:

  • Adults $20
  • Senior Citizens 62+ $16
  • Educators w/ID only at Ticket Office   $16
  • Children/Students, Free – must obtain ticket at the Ticket Office

College Students must show ID to obtain free concert ticket.


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