Four charged in kidnapping, attempted murder – Mount Airy News

Grayson Gregory Sawyers
Gregory Todd Sawyers
Three area residents, along with an Albemarle man, have been arrested and jailed — three with bonds at $1.7 million or more — after allegedly kidnapping, torturing, strangling and trying to kill another woman.
Lakin Nicole Harvey, 28, of 111 Fortune Cookie Lane, Mount Airy; Gregory Todd Sawyers, 53, of 153 Moondreamer Lane, Mount Airy; Grayson Gregory Sawyers, 32, of 994 Maple Grove Church Road, Mount Airy; and Travis Ray Hall, 38, of 24892 Odell Drive, Albemarle, were all arrested in the case on charges that included kidnapping, attempted first degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon.
The case emerged on Dec. 1, when the Surry County Sheriff’s Office received a call in reference to “a cutting incident in the Crossroads Church Road community” Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt said in a statement about the incident.
When patrol deputies arrived on the scene, they found a female victim, Kathy Jo Miller, 45, “with an apparent stab wound to the lower extremities.”
The victim was sent for medical treatment while deputies and detectives worked throughout the night investigating the case, leading to a search warrant being issued for the address of 153 Moondreamer Lane. “During the investigation, detectives determined that the victim had been kidnapped, stabbed and burnt with a metal object,” the sheriff’s statement said.
The sheriff said no additional information will be released about the investigation nor about the condition of the victim. He said the probe is still active, though all of those suspected in the case are in custody.
Hall was charged with one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, one count of first degree kidnapping, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree kidnapping, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Hall was jailed under a $1.8 million secured bond with a Jan. 12 court date.
Harvey, of 111 Fortune Cookie Lane, was charged with one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, one count of first degree kidnapping, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree kidnapping, and one count of assault by strangulation. She was jailed under a $1.7 million secured bond with a Jan. 12 court date.
Gregory Todd Sawyers was charged with one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, one count of first degree kidnapping, one count of conspiracy to commit first degree kidnapping, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Sawyers was jailed under a $1.86 million secured bond with a Jan. 12 court date.
Grayson Gregory Sawyers was charged with one count of first degree kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit first degree kidnapping. He was jailed under a $50,000 secured bond with a Jan. 12 court date.
Embers pack playhouse for Christmas show
County schools hold science showcase
January 14, 2022
Cristie Andrews has a sweet deal for local Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce members — a chance to visit with other businesses in the community, promoting their own enterprise while on the visit. She even will throw in a light breakfast for those interested in the deal.
All she asks is that those folks who take her up on the idea also make it a point to represent the chamber while making the visit, and maybe volunteer to help out at a few chamber events throughout the coming year.
She is recruiting for members in the Chamber Ambassador program, and those requirements — and benefits — describe in a nutshell what ambassadors do: They visit area chamber members, communicating what the chamber has to offer and seeing how the chamber might help those local businesses, along with helping out at some of the chamber’s activities. And while there, the ambassador gets to show off what his or her business might offer as well.
She said the goal is for the ambassadors, as a group, to contact all 600 chamber members in 2022.
“We want to let our members know that we care and we want to help in anyway we can,” said Randy Collins, president and CEO of the chamber.
“I need a large group of people who are willing to get involved on behalf of the chamber, and use that ability to raise their own brand,” said Andrews, who is the chamber’s director of membership. “It goes both ways, helping the chamber as customer service reps, and helping their own business at the same time.”
For folks wanting more in-depth information on the program, Andrews and the chamber will be hosting a chamber ambassador recruitment breakfast Wednesday, Jan. 19 at RidgeCrest Senior Living Community from 8:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m.
Andrews, along with Membership Committee Chairman Chad Tidd and Connie Hamlin, chairman of the board and lifestyle advisor at RidgeCrest, will all be addressing the group. Andrews said those at the breakfast will receive an application for the ambassador program, to be completed and then signed by the person’s employer, before training gets underway in February.
The long-time ambassador program has been popular through the years, with members not only making informational visits to chamber members, but also serving as volunteers who meet with area businesses to present awards, attend ribbon cuttings, as well as working to recruit new members.
Chamber membership took a bit of a hit over the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In early 2020, just before the pandemic hit, chamber officials announced the organization had for the first time crossed the 600-member mark. Since then, with some businesses closing and others cutting back, chamber membership fell.
“The ability to not get out and see people definitely affected that,” she said of membership and the work of the ambassadors. “We had some very smart ambassadors who got on the phone, or used email, to send messages of encouragement to members.
“Small business owners are typically the ones who are most affected,” Andrews said. “They are having to make decisions, ‘Am I going to pay my staff, or pay my membership dues?’” she said as an example.
While some did leave, many have returned, she said, as the economy has picked up despite the lingering pandemic.
“We were fairly lucky…to keep a strong membership base in place. There was a loss…be we were able to rebound from that, as well as bring new ones in.”
As of Thursday morning, she said chamber membership stood at 608, and she hopes to see that number between 650 and 675 by year’s end.
Thus far, Andrews said 20 people had sent an online RSVP for Wednesday’s recruiting breakfast, but she has room for many more.
”They are going to be essential this year, I have a large goal to meet,” she said.
Visit and scroll down to the “Become an ambassador” tab to register for the event. For more information, contact Andrews at 336-786-6116, extension 206, or via email at [email protected]
January 14, 2022
DOBSON — After being halted more than a month ago, officials have announced that the candidates’ filing period for local, state and federal offices can resume in February.
The filing process originally had started on Dec. 6, only to be suspended two days later by the N.C. Supreme Court in response to ongoing lawsuits challenging newly drawn boundaries for legislative districts which alleged partisan gerrymandering.
Surry County Director of Elections Michella Huff says that with this matter now resolved, the machinery of democracy can resume.
The Surry Board of Elections received word Tuesday night that a final judgement had been issued by Wake County Superior Court in consolidated redistricting cases, Huff explained. The court upheld challenged maps for U.S. House of Representatives, N.C. Senate and N.C. House seats.
Huff also announced that the court had granted a request by the state Board of Elections to restart candidate filing.
This is to begin at 8 a.m. on Feb. 24 and end at noon on March 4.
“Surry County Board of Elections staff will immediately begin preparing for the continuation of the candidate filing period,” Huff added.
While indicating that interested persons should make preparations to conduct filing during the period specified, Huff said the N.C. Supreme Court could modify the filing dates if it determines this to be necessary.
There is also a loose thread concerning a separate court order on Tuesday, Huff related. It suspended the consideration of any challenges to candidates for U.S. House, N.C. House and N.C. Senate, until final resolution of the litigation in the redistricting cases known as North Carolina League of Conservation Voters v. Hall.
As part of the suspension repercussions, a primary election initially scheduled for March 8 was moved to May 17.
Candidates in limbo
The Surry County Board of Elections announced in December that candidates whose filings had already been accepted by the board “will be deemed to have filed for the same office” for purposes of the May primary.
Those who might want to withdraw from a race also have the ability to do so during the new filing period.
Meanwhile, the early tossers of hats into the ring have been forced to take a wait-and-see approach to see how their campaigns will shape up under the new filing schedule.
They include office seekers for positions at stake in 2022 in these jurisdictions:
Mount Airy
• Candidates for mayor so far in the city — where municipal elections are non-partisan — include incumbent Ron Niland, Commissioner Jon Cawley and Teresa Lewis, a former commissioner.
• Two persons filed in December to run for Cawley’s North Ward seat on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners which has come open due to his mayoral candidacy, Will Pfitzner and Joanna Refvem.
But Pfitzner said afterward he would withdraw from the race due to being unaware that a respected family friend, Refvem, also was seeking that office, who he believes would do a better job. Presumably this will occur after the filing — or unfiling — period opens next month.
• No one has filed for the city’s at-large commissioner seat now held by Joe Zalescik, or a South District seat long occupied by Commissioner Steve Yokeley.
• Only one person has filed for one of three affected slots on the Mount Airy Board of Education, incumbent Tim Matthews seeking re-election to his at-large seat as a Democrat.
The District A and District B seats on the city school board also are involved in this year’s election cycle.
Surry County
• Among county government offices at stake this year, Walter D. Harris has filed to run for a Mount Airy District seat on the Surry Board of Commissioners now held by first-term incumbent and fellow Republican Bill Goins, who has not filed.
• No one has signed on to run for the Central District seat on the county board, now held by the GOP’s Mark Marion.
• Eddie Harris filed last month for re-election to his South District seat on the county board in a race that so far also includes fellow Republican Tessa Saeli of Elkin.
• Republican Sheriff Steve Hiatt has filed to run for a second term.
• District Attorney Tim Watson, a Republican, is seeking his first four-year term after being appointed to that office last year when longtime prosecutor Ricky Bowman retired.
• Four people are vying so far for three local District Court judge seats, including incumbents Marion Boone and Thomas Langan; Gretchen Kirkman, a former judge; and Mark Miller. All are on the GOP ticket.
• Surry clerk of court candidates filing in December include another trio of Republicans, first-term incumbent Neil Brendle; Teresa O’Dell, whom he unseated in 2018; and Melissa Marion Welch.
• The field for the District 2 seat on the Surry Board of Education so far includes Democratic incumbent Mamie M. Sutphin and Republicans Tony L. Hutchens and Brent Long.
Two other county school board seats also are up for grabs this year, including in District 3 where Jessica George was the only candidate to file in December, with T.J. Bledsoe having that same distinction in District 4. Both are GOP members.
State offices
Those in the field so far for state legislative seats encompassing Surry County include six Republicans.
• Incumbent Sarah Stevens of Mount Airy is vying to retain her 90th District seat in the N.C. House of Representatives , which she was first elected to in 2008.
One challenger to Stevens has emerged thus far, Benjamin Romans of Roaring River.
• Four people filed in December for the 36th District state Senate seat: Shirley Randleman of Wilkesboro, who formerly represented Surry County; Eddie Settle of Elkin; Vann Tate, a retired member of the N.C. Highway Patrol who is a Mount Airy resident; and Lee Zachary of Yadkinville.
Candidates for N.C. House and N.C. Senate races file at their county boards of elections.
Those seeking federal offices such as seats in Congress complete their filings at the state Board of Elections in Raleigh.
January 13, 2022
• An Alabama man has been jailed under a $25,000 secured bond on felony motor vehicle-theft, drug, false-pretense and other charges filed in Mount Airy, according to city police reports.
Brad Allen Tanner, 42, of the town of Geraldine in that state, was encountered by officers on East Oak Street last Friday during the recovery of a stolen vehicle that police records identify as a 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 pickup.
Tanner was charged with larceny of a motor vehicle and two other felonies: obtaining property by false pretense and possession of a Schedule II controlled substance. He also is accused of misdemeanor violations including possession of stolen goods, simple possession of a Schedule III controlled substance, simple possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance and possessing drug paraphernalia.
The Alabama resident is scheduled to be in Surry District Court next Wednesday.
• Another person was arrested for the larceny of a motor vehicle Tuesday in a separate incident.
Shawn Phalen Murphy, 37, of 120 Single Tree Lane, Dobson, came into contact with police that morning on North Renfro Street in the vicinity of The Mount Airy News in reference to a disturbance call and subsequently was jailed on charges including larceny of a motor vehicle, which had been filed through Surry County authorities on Monday.
A misdemeanor larceny count also was issued on Dec. 31 in the county against Murphy, who additionally was charged by city officers Tuesday with possession of stolen property, operating a vehicle with a fictitious tag and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.
She was held in the Surry County Jail under a $2,500 secured bond and slated for a Feb. 7 appearance in District Court.
• Ryan Grey Hardy, 32, of 2978 Old Highway 601, was charged with shoplifting (concealment) on Jan. 5 at Dollar General on North Renfro Street, involving body spray and gaming cards Hardy allegedly had hidden in his pants.
The merchandise with a total value of $31 was recovered. Hardy was released under a $500 unsecured bond to appear in court, with the case set for Feb. 7. He has been banned from all Dollar General stores.
• Money was reported stolen from a vehicle on the night of Jan. 3 outside a convenience store at 287 Holly Springs Road, where an unspecified sum was taken from the 2001 Toyota Tacoma pickup of Charles Donald Mills, a Mills Road resident, which was unsecured.
January 13, 2022
Preparations are underway for the expected winter weather event named Winter Storm Izzy this weekend that is set to bring a mixed bag of precipitation to the Southeast. The system will move across the Missouri valley today and is expected to bring heavy snow to the region before setting its sight in this direction.
With the usual caveats given that weather in North Carolina can be a tricky affair to predict, “Confidence continues to increase” that a winter weather event will occur Sunday, according to Erik Taylor of the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia.
“I wish I could offer a real ‘this is what is going to happen’ but as of today, we still do not know except we will be getting some weather of snow and possibly ice,” said Eric Southern, director of Surry County Emergency Management.
The forecast currently calls for the system to have dropped south by Saturday morning where it will be met “with plenty of available cold air” says Meteorologist Domenica Davis.
A massive wet weather event is predicted that will develop Saturday beginning as rain that will continue for much of the day. Snow is predicted in the northern band of that storm system, a line of winter weather that may stretch from the Carolinas to Oklahoma and begin Saturday evening.
Saturday night, a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain is expected to develop from parts of Georgia into South Carolina, North Carolina and southwestern Virginia. Snow could be seen in heavier amounts in the mountains and higher elevations, where a dusting was already spotted Thursday.
The early morning hours of Sunday are when the snow is expected to begin in earnest and then continue throughout the remainder of the day. Taylor forecast, “The peak is going to be all day Sunday really, afternoon and evening.”
Izzy is predicted to be a fast moving storm that he said should be “ending Monday morning” having delivered a snow total that will vary across the region. Predicted snowfall totals from the National Weather Service will be updated as the storm continues to develop.
Given the amount of time, and the unpredictability of weather systems as they move over the mountains, these are only best guesses based on current forecasts. If you like snow however, it seems like this may be a good weekend for you.
Some models are showing the likelihood of an ice event in areas to the south of Surry County. Ice is a serious concern during winter weather as it is the most frequent cause of power outages, the weight of a tree can increase by 30 times under an ice coating.
One tenth an inch of ice is enough to lose traction on foot or in a car. A half-inch of ice can bring power lines crashing down by adding up to 500 pounds of extra weight.
Eric Southern said his team has its plan in place. “The Emergency Operations Center will be opened with a limited staff beginning Saturday. As the weather certainty increases, we will increase our staff.” He went on to say that “protocols in place like testing and respiratory protection to protect our personnel on-duty” have minimized the impact on staffing shortages due to COVID-19.
“On-duty emergency personnel will remain at the ready when needed but we stress that the public have supplies ready to sustain them for 48-72 hours. Dangerous weather and/or roadways will increase the time it takes us to reach someone.”
City and state teams are preparing for an event that will move from rain to snow, with a threat of ice tossed in just to raise anxiety a touch further. Mount Airy Public Works began its preparations Wednesday adding plow heads onto trucks, and started brining major roads like such as Main Street on Thursday.
“We’re pretreating with all the brine we can and until the precipitation starts. Then it’s a waiting game,” Mount Airy Assistant Public Works Director Lee Wright said. The city is accepting a small risk should the event begin as a heavy rain, but to prevent snow buildup and later ice he says it is a risk worth taking. Wright also points out that the brine solution is inexpensive to mix, so deploying it now as pretreatment is the best offense his crews have.
State Department of Transportation crews have already deployed in some parts of the state to begin prepping surfaces ahead of the storm. In a state released video, drivers are asked to give road brining crews they may encounter space, “Remember, if you cannot see the driver, they cannot see you.”
Gov. Roy Cooper echoed the NCDOT suggestion that drivers need to be prepared for any possibility this weekend. They suggest having gas tanks at least half full because “short commutes can turn into long ones when a storm hits.” It is suggested drivers have a supply kit in the trunk in case the vehicle and passengers get stranded. Include a flashlight, first-aid kit, blanket, shovel, sand, snacks, and drinking water.
Drivers are reminded to come to a complete stop or yield the right of way when approaching an intersection where traffic lights are out. Treating this scenario as a four-way stop will reduce the chance of an accident during a time in which response may be difficult.
“It has already started here,” Donna Pyburn said of the brisk business at the Food Lion in Toast. “People are coming out of the woodwork” in advance of the anticipated storm. One thing that does set off alarm bells in many Carolinians is the threat of winter weather.
With supply chain woes a common complaint across the country at large, she encouraged those who need to grab a loaf of bread and milk at the first whisper of snow to not delay. A veteran of the blizzard of 1978 before the move south she mused, “I’m not fazed at all. I love the winter weather.”
The ten day forecast shows only Sunday to have a high temperature that won’t reach above freezing, and several days with high temperatures in the mid-40s predicted should help melt off any remnants.
In a stroke of good luck, this Monday students in Surry County are scheduled off in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Having those busses off the road Monday morning when slush or black ice may be an issue will eliminate a potentially dangerous ride to school for those students.
“Please check on neighbors especially people who have limited means of travel. Stay home and do not travel if possible.” Southern said.
January 13, 2022
The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday will be accompanied by changes in Mount Airy’s sanitation schedules.
This is to include no yard waste collections in the city that day. The next pickups of yard waste will occur a week later on Jan. 24.
In addition, the commercial garbage routes normally serviced on Monday have been moved to Tuesday in light of the holiday.
The same shift in collections to Tuesday will occur with the Monday industrial roll-off route.
City offices are scheduled to be closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
January 13, 2022
The grand opening for a major Shepherd’s House expansion was accompanied by much celebration and smiles, but also an acknowledgement that bringing the project to fruition was neither quick nor easy.
“We’re excited for this moment — it’s been a long time coming,” Kevin Minnix of Haymore Memorial Baptist Church nearby said during a prayer Tuesday night when the new homeless shelter in Mount Airy was officially welcomed to the community.
A huge crowd of supporters was on hand for the occasion, including city and county government officials, shelter staff/board members and other well-wishers who filled the front lobby of the facility on Spring Street.
It is located behind the old shelter fronting Rockford Street, which opened in 2003 in a former private residence and in recent years has been unable to serve all those in need — mirroring a huge rise in the area homeless population.
Ground had been broken for the spacious multi-storied expansion at what was then an empty lot on Spring Street in October 2019, only to face delays in fundraising and construction because of COVID-19. Before that, the journey had required clearing city government zoning hurdles which initially threatened its presence at that location.
But Tuesday night, those issues seemed just blips in the rear-view mirror as the sparkling new facility was unveiled, including a 64-bed capacity to provide temporary shelter for homeless persons and programming space to prepare them for independent living.
“It’s been a long project — but we’re finally finished,” summed up Mike Bowman, one of multiple speakers for the grand opening that also included tours.
Bowman, who was heavily involved as the treasurer of the governing board for Mount Airy’s lone homeless shelter and the head of its finance and building committees, indicated that this occurred through an “it takes a village” approach.
“It takes a community to believe in what we’re doing,” he said of widespread support garnered for the endeavor from Day One.
This included raising $2.1 million through a capital campaign to fund the 11,200-square-foot facility, which in addition to lodging quarters features a commercial kitchen to teach occupants culinary skills.
Several large contributors supplied $1.4 million of that. They included the local Springthorpe family whose matriarch played a key role in The Shepherd’s House becoming a reality in the first place, State Employees Credit Union and the Cannon and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina foundations.
“And then we had many donations of smaller amounts,” Bowman added.
He further mentioned the 1.1-acre construction site being made available by Haymore Memorial Baptist Church, which granted a 99-year lease for it at a cost of $1 annually.
The general contractor for the project, the local J.G. Coram Co., offered “gift in kind” assistance, Bowman said of its president and owner, Jerry Coram. “And he also gave us quite a bit of materials,” including flooring and other supplies that had been stored in a company warehouse.
Bobby Brinkley’s work as Coram’s project manager also was cited during the program.
Meanwhile, community residents donated items such as artwork for the new building.
Origins of shelter
Another person who spoke Tuesday night was John Springthorpe III, whose late mother, Berta Glenn Springthorpe, was a catalyst for the original Shepherd’s House along with the late David Simmons.
This is said to have occurred after Mrs. Springthorpe met a shabbily dressed woman named Annie while attending church services and became aware of her homeless living arrangement.
Mrs. Springthorpe subsequently teamed with Simmons on an effort to develop a shelter to aid the less-fortunate.
Her son told those assembled Tuesday night that he would like to think she was present in spirit, smiling proudly while surveying what has transpired with the greatly expanded homeless program.
“I know it’s night, but it’s a great day to be here,” Springthorpe remarked.
That sentiment also was voiced during the prayer by Minnix, the youth minister at Haymore Memorial who also is serving as fill-in pastor there and has been familiar with the Shepherd’s House mission due to serving on its board.
“It’s an honor to be able to be here tonight,” he said in reference to the long struggle to arrive at this point, while also mentioning the struggles yet to be encountered by those the expansion will benefit.
“We pray that the families, the women and others will find rest here,” Minnix observed, “and get their feet back underneath them.”
Bowman suggested that the sky is the limit in this regard, given everything that has transpired so far:
“With all the support from the community, I think this place will be here and functioning for a long time.”
January 13, 2022
Balsam Range will be performing in Mount Airy later this month as part of the Blue Ridge and Beyond Series, with a concert scheduled for Jan. 22 at the Historic Earle Theatre.
The 2018 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, Balsam Range has become one of the genre’s most award-winning acts. Since forming in 2007, the group has garnered 13 IBMA awards on the heels of eight critically-acclaimed albums. Balsam Range has left audiences spellbound while headlining major festivals from coast-to-coast, selling out venues across the nation and has made multiple appearances at the Grand Ole Opry.
In addition to winning Entertainer of the Year, Balsam Range vocalist Buddy Melton won IBMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year and bass player Tim Surrett won IBMA’s Bass Player of the Year in 2018.
Melton performs on the fiddle and lead and tenor vocals; Darren Nicholson plays mandolin, octave mandolin, and sings lead vocals, baritone and low tenor vocals; Dr. Marc Pruett plays banjo; Surrett plays bass and dobro, and sings baritone and lead vocals; and Caleb Smith plays guitar and performs lead and baritone vocals. The five original members are all acoustic musicians and singers from western North Carolina. They adopted the name of a majestic range of mountains that surrounds part of their home county of Haywood where the Great Smoky Mountains meet the Blue Ridge, the Great Balsam Range.
The concert is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
Additional concerts planned for the Blue Ridge and Beyond Series include Sam Bush on Feb. 12, Dailey and Vincent on March 12, and The Lonesome River Band on April 30. Martha and Emily Spencer along with Chester McMillian will host old-time workshops during the Tommy Jarrell Celebration and Whitetop Mountain Band will be the featured band at the dance on Feb. 26.
Tickets for the Balsam Range performance are $55 Preferred, $50 Orchestra, and $40 Balcony, and can be purchased online at, by calling 336 786-7998, in person at the Surry Arts Council office 218 Rockford Street, Mount Airy, or at the door of the Earle one hour before the performance.
January 13, 2022
The Dobson Elementary Student Council sponsored the annual food drive once again this year. The school collected 974 cans that will benefit the friends in our community through Foothills Food Pantry.
“We appreciate the support of our students and families of Dobson Elementary in the efforts to provide for our community,” school officials said of the effort.
January 12, 2022
ARARAT, Va. — Even in this pandemic era, some organizations are managing to continue good work benefiting their communities, which is true of the Ararat Ruritan Club.
Members recently gathered for a holiday meeting that featured a covered-dish supper and an opportunity to celebrate the club’s successes during 2021, considered one of its best years.
This included acknowledging accolades garnered during the earlier Dan River District Convention of area Ruritans, at which five gold awards were presented to the Ararat group for various community service projects.
In addition, Pamela Smith was named Ruritan of the Year for the Dan River District (a first for Ararat), with fellow member Merlin Scales voted Zone 1 President of the Year.
Scales also was chosen Zone 1 governor for 2022, replacing Charlie Bowman, and Roger Gammons as the Ararat Ruritans’ Dan River District governor for the year, replacing Bowman.
During the holiday meeting at the club’s headquarters at 4711 Ararat Highway, Scales installed officers for 2022, including President Kathy Loveland, Vice President Mike Noonkester, Secretary Pamela Smith and Kevin Smith, treasurer.
New governing board members for 2022 are Mary Dellenback Hill, Bradley Slate, Mary Slate and the club’s immediate past president, Scales.
Hill also is the newest Ruritan For Life.
The club leadership said “a big thank you” is owed to all the individuals and businesses helping with, contributing to and attending events of the Ararat Ruritan Club which made 2021 so successful.
Among their activities, the Ararat Ruritans held fundraisers that allowed them to support community causes. These included the Patrick County Food Bank, a county Rotary Club backpack program and a Home Alone effort that serves residents in the Willis Gap and Ararat communities.
In October, Ruritans were honored with Golden Key Awards for bolstering the club’s ranks, including Bradley Slate, sergeant of arms, who recruited two new members; Kevin Smith, three members; and Pamela Smith, three.
Scales also then received the Tom Downing Award, the highest honor given by the National Ruritans. All the awards were presented by Bowman, at that time the Ruritan governor of the Dan River District.
The Ararat club normally meets on the first Thursday of each month, but due to the scheduling of a national convention will gather on Thursday of this week instead for a 7 p.m. session including a covered-dish supper.
It will resume the normal schedule afterward.
The December meeting welcomed Judy Jackson, Timothy Pruitt, Steve Fariss and Margaret Noonkester as guests.
January 12, 2022
Starting next week, a new partnership of like-minded community groups will begin a weekly hot meal service for the homeless of Mount Airy. The combo team of Maranatha Homeless Outreach and the Men’s Shelter of Mount Airy decided to work together to provide another weekly hot meal service for some of Mount Airy’s most vulnerable.
Next Thursday, Jan. 20, will be the first of the meal offerings from Maranatha and the Men’s Shelter of Mount Airy, it will begin at 4 p.m. behind Rose’s on Independence Blvd. This would be the area around the Lovell’s Creek Pocket Park along the Emily Taylor Greenway. Event co-organizer Ann Simmons said the plan currently is to continue service from the same location.
The new meal service will be in addition to the weekly meal service already offered by Maranatha. The groups hope that by teaming up they can get the word out to more people and get more food where it is needed.
Last Friday Maranatha served 51 plates at their evening meal service at Flat Rock Church of God. Having meals offered on different days in separate locations will maximize the outreach possibilities for both groups.
The Maranatha Homeless Outreach team has been on the job in Surry County and beyond for more than a decade under the leadership of Chrissy and Rickey Daughenbaugh. It was on Christmas Eve that they set out with toys for the children of Mayfield, Kentucky, who were impacted by the devastating wall of storms that swept through several states and killed 77.
After those storms hit and having already completed the Maranatha toy drive for this area, it was time to change gears. When the need was greatest and the people in Mayfield needed any hand, the decision was made that was where Maranatha Homeless Outreach was being called to next.
Now, the need has been identified and is a local ongoing concern that needs help in being addressed. As has been discussed in council meetings and beyond, there is a need for additional support for the homeless community of Mount Airy and Surry County.
The new Shepherd’s House expansion is a welcome addition of more beds, its current facility from 2003 is meant for temporary housing for 18. “We will have a 64-bed capacity,” said Shepherd’s House Executive Director Jana Elliott, “quite an uptick from where we are now.”
An exciting component to the Shepherd’s expansion, and one that will dovetail with combating local food insecurity, is the addition of a new commercial kitchen space. This will increase the output to beyond “just meeting the needs of shelter occupants,” Elliot said, while also providing skills development for the residents.
Ann and Joe Simmons have been laying out their foundation for the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter in hopes of filling in the gap that Shepherd’s House leaves. The Shepherd’s House model is one set for women and children, “They had to turn away 141 families last year due to lack of space and turned away single men,” Simmons said. “That is why we need our shelter. We will also take in overflow families and unsheltered women.”
The new Mount Airy Men’s Shelter is still in its planning stages as finding a space within the city limits that can accommodate such a venture has proven hard to come by. A church Simmons had hoped to purchase needed more refit work than was feasible to get it converted into a shelter.
For the Simmons, the desire is there, the apparatus and non-profit documents are ready, there are funds in the bank and supplies have been donated. However, it is that elusive room at the proverbial inn that she is still looking for. “Currently we are serving as a shelter through supplying needed items until a shelter is established. We so want to find a building or land for the permanent shelter.”
The needs exist even if the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter is not yet in its brick in mortar home, which is why partnering with Maranatha Homeless Outreach to find ways to give aid now is of paramount importance. “We are getting more calls every day from the homeless. We do still need some place for them to go during these cold nights.”
For now, the goal is to focus on what is in front of them and what can be addressed rather than linger in worry about the future. As the weather has now taken a chillier turn after unseasonably mild temperatures, Simmons discussed menu ideas for some stick to your ribs crock pot favorites for the new hot meal service.
“The meals are going to be hot. Soup, chili, occasionally things like pork or chicken fried rice. Salisbury steaks with mashed potatoes, or spaghetti with garlic bread,” Simmons listed among her desired menu items for future meals, “and always dessert, hot coffee, tea and waters.”
To aid in their effort, Simmons and Daughenbaugh need help from the public in getting the word out to those who need it about their new joint venture.
The public’s support is always welcome from both organizations. As Maranatha board member Penny Rinehart explained their mission is year-round, “Monetary support, help with cooking the meals, collecting coats and gloves all year. We are very thankful for everything that is donated and every prayer that is lifted up for this group.”
January 11, 2022
• A Mount Airy man has been arrested on charges including two counts of larceny from a merchant, a felony, and three misdemeanors, according to city police reports.
Kenneth Anthony Pack, 30, of 111 Badgett Ave., was served with warrants at the local probation office on State Street on Dec. 28 which also included charges of larceny, possession of stolen goods and concealment of goods, which had been issued through the Dobson Police Department on Dec. 21.
He was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $500 secured bond and slated for a Feb. 22 appearance in District Court.
• An attempt to obtain prescription medications by providing fraudulent information occurred at Mount Airy Drug on West Independence Boulevard on Dec. 27. Phenergan, azithromycin and prednisone were the drugs targeted by the unknown party involved.
It previously was reported that a similar attempt occurred the same day at Walgreens on West Independence Boulevard in the vicinity of Mount Airy Drug.
• Ethan Wayne Gibson, 25, of Galax, Virginia, is facing a felony drug charge, possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, which was filed on Dec. 22 after he was encountered by officers on Franklin Street during a suspicious-vehicle investigation.
Gibson allegedly was found with methamphetamine and amphetamines and also was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, arrest records show. He was jailed under a $5,000 secured and is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on Feb. 23.
• Terry Conway Guynn , 44, listed as homeless, was jailed under a $2,000 secured bond on a felony charge of possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, along with possessing drug paraphernalia and second-degree trespassing, as the result of a Dec. 21 encounter with police at the Lady Bug coin-operated laundry establishment on North South Street.
It regarded a trespassing investigation stemming from Guynn having been banned from that location last February. The case was calendared for Monday’s court session.

January 11, 2022
DOBSON — Despite the financial and other strains posed by the coronavirus pandemic, a local scholarship program is maintaining its mission of aiding the educational aspirations of residents as it has for decades.
Surry County Extension and Community Association (ECA) members have announced a new round of applications for the 2022 North Central District Extension and Community Association Scholarships.
The $600 scholarships are given each year to a youth and an adult who are continuing their education beyond the high school level in any field of study, but with priority given to a degree in family and consumer sciences.
Normally, academic scholarships are geared toward younger students, but the one just unveiled in Dobson by Carmen Long of the local N.C. Cooperative Extension unit based there recognizes the career goals of their older counterparts.
An adult as defined by the scholarship criteria is an individual who has completed high school and has had a break in his/her formal education and now wishes to again pursue that. This can include those displaced from the labor force and wanting to reinvent themselves as a result of the pandemic.
A youth applicant, meanwhile, is defined as a high school senior or a student presently enrolled in college having completed high school without a break in the formal education track.
All applicants must be North Carolina residents planning to attend a state-accredited college, community college or technical institute the fall of 2022.
Scholarships are awarded based on weighted criteria including 25 percent each in the categories of financial need, scholarship potential, activities and honors and an Extension and Community Association (ECA) connection.
Long has explained that along with direct membership in the organization, this connection can include having a family member involved, or if an applicant has engaged in Cooperative Extension-related activities over the years such as showing livestock.
The application deadline is Feb. 15.
Applications can be obtained from the Surry County Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension at 336-401-8025, where more information on applying or joining an ECA club also is available.
The Surry Extension and Community Association now has five clubs and 50-plus members located throughout the county. The organization’s mission is to strengthen families through leadership development, volunteer work, educational support and research-based education from N.C. State University and North Carolina A&T State University.
Although a $600 scholarship is not a large sum when it comes to financing higher education these days, if nothing else it could help buy books, Long has said.
January 11, 2022
The recent wave of COVID-19 infections across the nation has hit Surry County — the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Surry County is averaging 102 new cases a day over the past two weeks.
Those numbers are pushing area hospitals to capacity.
Northern Regional Hospital in Mount Airy reported Tuesday all 133 beds were full, with additional patients being held in the Emergency Department waiting on beds to clear. Thirty-seven of the hospital’s patients are suffering from COVID-19, including seven of the 10 full beds in the Intensive Care Unit.
Hugh Chatham in Elkin is reporting much the same story — all of its 81 beds are full, with additional patients needing admission being held in the Emergency Department. According to a joint statement released by Dr. Jonathan Snyder, chief medical officer, and Mary Blackburn, chief clinical officer and vice president care innovation, about 50% of those hospitalized at Hugh Chatham, and 90% of those patients are individuals who not been fully vaccinated. They did not provide a breakdown among those of who were partially vaccinated and those who have had no vaccine treatments.
At Northern, Robin Hodgin, senior vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer, said between 86%-90% of its COVID patients are not vaccinated.
“The state estimates that 90% of all cases are now Omicron,” she said of the Omicron variant of the virus, which heath officials have said has become the dominate strain, fueling the nationwide surge.
Officials with both hospitals said wait times for patients visiting their emergency departments can be much longer now than normal because of the overwhelming numbers of patients, but officials with neither facility could give an average wait time.
“Wait times are longer and vary depending on many variables,” Hodgin said. “The acuity of patients seen is higher, the volume of patients is higher pushing capacity restraints, which often results in longer waits.”
“Wait times, admission and transfer times…are dependent on multiple factors, and change quickly throughout any given day,” Hugh Chatham officials said.
Not only is the surge in patients affecting bed capacity at Surry County’s two hospitals, but patients needing transfer to other hospitals with more specialized care are finding those larger hospitals are also filled to capacity. Hodgin said Northern is holding such patients in the hospitals’ Emergency Department — sometimes for days — hoping for a bed to open at another facility.
Thus far, the flu season has been relatively mild. Hodgin said there have been a few cases at the hospital, but no wave of such cases. Officials at Hugh Chatham said none of their inpatients had tested positive for flu.
Northern has temporarily suspended all elective procedures that would require an inpatient admission. Officials at Hugh Chatham did not say if they had suspended such procedures.
All totaled, as of Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services said Surry County has seen 15,769 confirmed cases of COVID-19, although the department did not say how many of those are first-time cases and how many of those include people who have contracted the coronavirus multiple times. The county-wide death toll from the virus stood at 262. There have been 1,434 confirmed new cases in Surry County over the past 14 days, and 713 over the past seven days.
January 11, 2022
A cold January night seemed the perfect time to celebrate the craft of quilting, which involved members of a local group being recognized for efforts to honor military members while also preserving an important tradition.
Members of the Surry Quilters Guild — a longtime non-profit group dedicated to promoting and perpetuating that art — also serve as volunteers for the Quilt of Valor Foundation.
It is a national organization launched in 2003 by a mother of a soldier deployed in Iraq.
The foundation has altered its mission to recognize the contribution of all veterans and present military members. This is rooted in a belief that every man and woman in uniform who has sworn an oath to do whatever they are called upon to protect and defend the country is worthy of a Quilt of Valor.
That effort is supported by the Surry Quilters Guild, which has been making and awarding quilts to veterans and those now serving for 10 years.
As of the last Veterans Day observance in November, the group has presented 244 quilts.
“All of the quilts they make are, of course, handmade and are different,” Steve Yokeley of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners said during a meeting last Thursday when city officials put the Surry Quilters Guild in the spotlight.
This included praising its accomplishments as a whole and presenting members in attendance with city government certificates of appreciation for their efforts.
Yokeley himself has been a beneficiary of that, displaying a quilt at the meeting bearing a U.S. Navy design representing the branch of service in which he served. Quilts of Valor specifically designate this for each recipient, whether it involves the Army or others.
In addition to their efforts to honor military contributions, the Surry Quilters Guild makes comfort quilts for the Mount Airy Novant Oncology Department and ones for premature babies at Brenner Children’s Hospital.
Mayor Ron Niland referred to another key role the group plays in furthering an important part of cultural heritage which might otherwise be forgotten and fade into history.
“I’m glad that I’m seeing some young ladies,” Niland said while passing out the city certificates of recognition to members, some being awarded in absentia due to absences from the meeting prompted by reasons including COVID-19. “I’m glad to see this tradition is continuing.”
Group members issued certificates include:
Jan Bissell, Carolyn Brinkley, Debbie Brinkley, Gloria Bryant, Terri Cockerham, Linda Coffin, Diana Collins, Lida Conn, Donna Dobbins, Lucille Doyle, Sylvia Gentry, Dara Gillespie, Dee Hancock, Jane Hawks, Karen Haynes, Dianne Holder, Michele Holmes, Glenda Laster;
Also, Margaret Layman, Madison Moorefield, Sandra Nixon, Rhonda Parker, Mimi Patterson, Rhoda Paulhamus, Judy Powers, Betty Riddle, Sharon Sammons, Bonnie Shropshire, Debbie Stoltz, Deb Wagoner and Ramona York.
The group that has 33 members meets on the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the fellowship hall of Faith Baptist Church.
Housing Authority action
Among other business at their meeting, the city commissioners reappointed Lenise Lynch to another term on the governing board of the housing authority for Mount Airy.
Lynch’s present term is set to expire on Feb. 16 and she was approved for another five years on the board that oversees public housing facilities in the city.
The local woman who is the general manager of Hampton Inn on Rockford Street originally joined the housing group in 2017 to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Alton Gaither.
Lynch also has served with the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority among other public involvements.
January 11, 2022
Central Middle School recently held its annual spelling bee, with the winners advancing to the county spelling bee.
Those who won are Evie Dowd, who claimed the overall School Spelling Bee victory; Micah Whitley, seventh grade winner, Cooper Kaszowski, eighth grade winner, and Jack Hardy, sixth grade winner.
January 09, 2022
For anyone who has ever wanted to join the busy, buzzy world of beekeeping, this might be the perfect time.
That is because the county Extension Service office, in conjunction with the Surry County Beekeepers Association, will be starting two classes beginning later this month aimed at giving participants the knowledge they need to get started. One of the classes is aimed at adults, and other is a free course for youth age 5 to 16.
The reasons beekeepers start in the hobby can be many, said Extension Agent Joanna Radford.
“Some of it could be they are motivated because of the honey the bees produce, and it’s local honey. Some say eating local honey helps with allergies…It could be folks are just wanting to help pollinate. One in three bites of food are a result of pollinators,” she said. “A lot of them just want to get into beekeeping for that reason.”
Radford said there are about 50 members of the Surry County Beekeepers Association, although the actual number of beekeepers in the county is probably considerably higher. Still, she said, there is room for more.
“We need more beekeepers,” she said of the motivation behind the upcoming classes. “There’s people who are always asking about how do they get into beekeeping, and beginning beekeepers need resources.”
Thus, the upcoming courses, although this is far from the first time the two agencies have held the course.
“We do this annually. We’ve been doing this at least since 2012. This may be 10 years or more we’ve been doing it.”
For the adult class, Radford said teachers will go over the basics of beekeeping, review best practices needed to keep hives healthy all year, even in the cold winter months, as well as the equipment needed.
“There’s a lot of management of a bee hive, you can’t just establish them and leave them.”
For the youth class students will have the chance to learn the anatomy of bees, dress in a protective bee suit, light a smoker, open up a hive to see inside, and identify worker bees, drones, and queens.
One word of warning — she said beekeeping can become infectious.
“Most folks, with a back yard set-up, may start with 1 or 2 hives, but as the seasons go on they usually multiply, they usually end up with more than they ever anticipated. Especially if it’s been managed well.”
One worry many have is the idea of being stung, but Radford said that’s probably an overblown concern.
“Bees are very docile, they don’t sting often,” she said. While she said beekeepers do get stung, “that’s probably because they’ve stepped on one, or gotten their fingers too close to one.”
Cautionary practices can help beekeepers avoid too many stings along the way.
Both of the classes will run on the same day and same time at the Surry County Center at 915 E. Atkins St. in Dobson, which can accommodate families that have adults and youth interested in beekeeping.
The course is every Monday, from Feb. 7 to March 14, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The junior beekeeping program is free, and all who complete the class will be certified as a Junior Beekeeper by the local beekeeping association. Those wishing to register should call 336-401-8025.
The adult beekeeping school is $50 for an individual, $75 for a couple, along with an extra $25 charge for those who wish to buy “The Beekeeper’s Handbook, 5th Edition” by Diana Sammataro. For the adult class, at the end of the course there will be a drawing for a complete 10-frame set-up.
To register for the adult beekeeping school, either go to the Extension Service office in person or visit
Payments must be cash or check.
Registration deadline for both courses is Jan. 31.
January 09, 2022
Northern Regional Hospital is receiving a financial booster shot via a $500,000 state grant to aid construction of a medical office facility which will be accompanied by 50 new jobs.
The city of Mount Airy had applied for the building reuse grant, on behalf of the hospital, from the N.C. Department of Commerce, targeting state funding available for rural health facilities through a competitive process.
That step was authorized by municipal officials in late October, and they recently learned the application had been approved.
A grant of up to $500,000 was sought and the local project qualified for that entire sum due to the 50 jobs that will be created during a three-year expansion plan by Northern Regional Hospital, according to city government documents.
The money will go toward the development of a 25,000-square-foot medical office building on South Street just west of the main hospital campus bordering Rockford Street. It will house a primary care facility.
That structure is among an array of projects announced by the hospital last spring, with a total price tag estimated at $13.5 million, to accommodate its growth plans for the next 20 years.
A key part of that expansion is the new medical office building, for which the cost has been projected at $8.25 million. Plans have called for it to be completed in the spring of 2023, with new parking facilities including a 70-space deck also part of the expansion mix.
The building reuse grant received for the office structure is similar to those awarded to manufacturing companies to expand and upfit facilities.
And even though a new structure is involved rather than one to be reused, city Community Development Director Martin Collins has said the hospital project was still eligible for the state funding.
City match required
The successful grant award does come with a price — a 5% cash match in local funding totalling $25,000.
When Mount Airy officials authorized the application to the state agency in October, it was disclosed that the match could come from the city government or any other local contributor.
As it turns out, the money will be supplied by the municipality, which the city council has no problem with based on action it took during a meeting Thursday afternoon to accept the grant and provide the $25,000.
This should be considered a worthwhile investment, Mayor Ron Niland said then.
“The hospital is one of the biggest economic drivers in this community,” Niland observed in justifying the use of city dollars, which includes the fact that Northern Regional employs 950 people.
The mayor indicated that this expenditure can be viewed as supporting the critical mission of the hospital which affects Mount Airy, Surry County and the local economy.
“The things that are going on at Northern Regional Hospital will really benefit our community in the coming years,” Niland said.
January 09, 2022
The following marriage licenses were issued in Surry County:
– Ryan Watson Smith, 23, of Surry County to Brooke Lashea Moore, 25, of Surry County.
– Ethan Zeb Edwards, 24, of Carroll County, Virginia, to Courtney Michelle Bennett, 31, of Surry County.
– Matthew David Hearn, 45, of Surry County to Erica Rogers Greene, 41, of Surry County.
– Herbert Joseph Bennett, 62, of Surry County to Sherry Ann Arreola, 58, of Surry County.
– John Caleb Reavis, 29, of Yadkin County to Allison Lynette Lowe, 31, of Surry County.
– German Solorzano Alcazar, 25, of Surry County to Savannah Oshay Dickson, 28, of Surry County.
– Donald Frost Parker Jr., 30, of Siginaw County to Courtney Patricia Orange, 23, of Surry County.
– Nathan Isaiah White, 18, of Surry County to Destiny Desiree Lankford, 22, of Surry County.
– Kane Lonzie Lovill, 31, of Surry County to Victoria Alexis Grandee, 21, of Carroll County.
– Austin Leslie Bateman, 24, of Surry County to Raina May White, 23, of Surry County.
– Zaid Mujahid Qureshi, 24, of Henrico County, Virginia, to Meagan Marie Gilbert, 22, of Henrico County.
– Marco Antonio Secundino, 28, of Surry County to Ana Jesica Nunez-Mandujano, 25, of Surry County.
– Carl Anthony Berrier, 45, of Surry County to Jamie Leah Evans, 44, of Yadkin County.
– Donald Cole Marion, 28, of Surry County to Chelsea Marie Azbell, 25, of Surry County.
January 09, 2022
For the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce the organization’s annual meeting is one of the biggest events of the year. Chamber President Randy Collins suggests that you don’t let the name fool you; it is far from a stuffy business meeting.
This year’s meeting is scheduled for Jan. 27 from 6:30 – 9 p.m. at Cross Creek Country Club in Mount Airy. At the annual meeting, Collins and the chamber will “roll out the new year to the members.” They offer a chance to look at the year ahead and the goals the chamber has.
The theme for this year’s event is “Recognizing the Past, Embracing the Future” and a year in review slideshow will allow another chance to reflect on the work from the previous year.
Outgoing Chair of the Board Chris Lumsden of Northern Regional Hospital will offer comments and will welcome the new Chair, Connie Hamlin of RidgeCrest. The new 2022 board of directors for the chamber will be introduced as well.
This year an additional emphasis will be placed on giving recognition to the chamber’s work and members of years past. Past chairpersons and former Citizen of the Year honorees are being welcomed back as part of the recognition component.
The keynote speaker for this year’s annual meeting is Dr. Swanson Richards who Collins lauded as a “great resource for this community” for his decades of service to Surry County.
Remembered to many as the long serving president of Surry Community College from 1972-1994, Richards is also past chair of the chamber. He also had the honor of being selected for the “very prestigious” recognition of Citizen of the Year in 1980.
This is the chamber’s time to let loose a bit even though the name makes it sound like a business meeting, Collins said. “We try to have some fun.” With tickets available from the Chamber of Commerce website, or through the phone, the public is welcome to join. Guests will enjoy cocktails and dinner, and Jansen Huff will tickle the ivories for entertainment in addition to the guest speakers.
Business is business though, and what is a Chamber of Commerce event but a chance to meet and greet? This event embodies the essence of networking, and the chamber relishes playing a part in facilitating the business growth of its members.
Big businesses and small ones alike join the Chamber of Commerce for many reasons. What they get in return is an alliance of business people in their community who are driven by the same desire for success. Having a network of business subject matter experts in the community in which they live can be invaluable to any size business.
Chamber members support one another when they can, often in terms of cross promotion of events. In a small community like this, any additional support could have a large impact on a small business. “I wish we could do more,” Collins said.
The chamber is tireless in its efforts to find ways in which to aid the growth of the local economy for all its members and non-members alike. By an economic philosophy that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” a robust and growing economy will help all local players and grow the tax base. That growth is a winning proposition for the whole county.
The culmination of the annual meeting is the event with Collins calls “the icing on the cake,” the Citizen of the Year. These residents have been submitted for consideration by their peers, by those who have seen what they do when others may have not.
The slate of candidates this year was fuller than years past; Randy Collins was not sure why this may be. The general spirit of goodwill that pervades this community may have something to do with it. “This region has a lot of people who give back; in their professional lives, personal lives, and business lives.”
There were so many more submissions though, fifteen compared to a normal year when “four or five” was the normal count. These honors from the chamber are as good as it gets when it comes to local recognition, so that there are 15 people deserving of a nomination is surely a good problem for Collins and the chamber to have.
A tight lipped Collins would not let any information slip about who the Citizen of the Year for 2021 will be. That honoree will be featured at on Friday, Jan. 28 and in the Sunday, Jan. 30 print edition.
Early registration for the annual meeting is open through Jan. 15, standard registration runs Jan. 16 -24. Pricing for single tickets is $50 during early registration, $55 during standard. Non-chamber members are welcome to attend for $60 per ticket.
To reserve a table for eight is $400 during early registration, $440 during the standard registration period, and $480 for non-members.
More information can be found at:, where an Annual Meeting Tickets link is found on the homepage. Or, call the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce at 336-786-6116.
January 09, 2022
New books available at the Mount Airy Public Library:
Large Print Fiction
Someone Perfect – Mary Balogh
The Midnight Lock – Jeffrey Deaver
The Last Dance of the Debutante – Julia Kelly
The Becoming – Nora Roberts
The Age of A.I.: and Our Human Future – Henry Kissinger
The library story times are open for anyone who would like to come in and join us. Masks are recommended if you have not been vaccinated. Mondays at 4 p.m. Bilingual storytime for children — listen to a story in English and Spanish); Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., Toddler Time for children ages 2 and 3; Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Book Babies for children aged birth to 2 years old; Thursday at 11 a.m., Preschool Storytime for children ages 4 and 5.
Surry Community College is offering a fun and free English as Second Language (ESL) class at the Mount Airy Public Library Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Anyone interested should contact Jennifer Pardue at 336-386-3674.
Hooked – Come join our crochet and knitting club, every Wednesday at 3 p.m. Bring your own yarn and make the group project or bring your own project to work on.
Tai Chi has returned to the library. Join us each Friday at 10 a.m. This class is beneficial for those with limited mobility.
Make It Mondays will meet the third Monday of each month, craft materials will be provided. This month we are making paper snowflakes using a variety of materials. We will also discuss the many different ways the snowflakes can be used.
The Community Book Club meets the third Wednesday of the month at 1 p.m. The book for this month is This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash. Copies are available at the front desk.
It’s Yoga Y’all – Yoga with Ms. Heather will be the third Saturday of every month at 10:30 a.m. unless otherwise noted.
LACE, the Romance Readers Book Club meets on the last Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. This month’s book is Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn.
Classic Movie Monday. On Jan. 31, we will celebrate Sherlock Holmes’ birthday by watching, The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Hammer film production starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
The YVEDDI Retired Senior Volunteer Program & the Surry County Senior Center is partnering with the Mount Airy Public Library and the IRS to provide free tax preparation at the library. VITA sites provide free income tax preparation for low-to moderate income taxpayers (generally those who make $57,000 and below) who need help filing their returns. To schedule an appointment, call 336-415-4225.
An Author Visit is set for Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. for a visit with local author Tom Perry. He will be reading from his book, Murder In A Rear View Mirror.
Virtual Author Visit on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. to meet with author Wiley Cash virtually and hear him discuss his new book, When Ghosts Come Home.
Keep up with all events on our FaceBook pages, and or our website
January 08, 2022
• A man listed as homeless is facing charges of larceny and possession of stolen property stemming from an incident last Sunday at Dollar General on North Renfro Street, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
Cody Levi Dalton, 28, admitted during an investigation that he had property stolen from the store in his bag, police records state. This included Dollar General auto tire plugs, Secret women’s deodorant, Clorox bleach spray and candy, among other merchandise, which was mostly recovered intact.
The case is calendared for the Feb. 7 session of Surry District Court.
• Ronald Lee Carter, 57, of 221 Eleanor Ave., was jailed on outstanding warrants for charges of hit and run/leaving the scene of a collision involving property damage and operating a vehicle without insurance after a Jan. 1 traffic stop on Westfield Road.
The warrants had been issued on Dec. 3 by Jason Vindich of the N.C. Highway Patrol. Carter was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $500 secured bond with a March 8 court date set.
• Food Lion on South Andy Griffith Parkway was the scene of a larceny on Dec. 31, when an unknown suspect took items with total value of $42 from the store, including two large containers of Tide laundry detergent, a sirloin steak and Lipton tea.
• Jessica Lynn Barber, 28, of Tobaccoville, was arrested on a felony drug charge — possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver — after a Dec. 30 traffic stop in the area of East Pine Street and Riverside Drive.
Barber also is accused of three misdemeanors: simple possession of a Schedule III controlled substance, simple possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. The substances involved were not specified.
The Tobaccoville woman was jailed under a $5,000 secured bond and is slated for an appearance in District Court on Monday.
• Justin Harold McConkey, 32, of Walnut Cove, was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $25,000 secured bond after being encountered by city officers during a Dec. 29 traffic stop on Hamburg Street.
McConkey was the subject of two outstanding orders for arrest for failing to appear in court in Surry County which had been filed on Nov. 2. He was charged with resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer and possession of drug paraphernalia as a result of the traffic stop.
The Walnut Cove man is scheduled to be in District Court on Monday.
January 08, 2022
The Surry County Schools Board of Education appointed Melissa Key Atkinson, mother of two, and wife of the former sheriff Graham Atkinson, to fill its empty board seat on Friday night.
Atkinson will finish out the term for the South District seat, holding the seat until the next election, at which point she will be eligible to run. The seat was left open when former board member S. Earlie Coe resigned in November to pursue business opportunities.
Mamie Sutphin, board chair, said Atkinson was “extremely qualified,” citing her numerous years of experience in education.
“She has had a critical role in empowering students to achieve academic and personal success. With this in mind, I am confident that Mrs. Atkinson will help us continue to prioritize education and put students, staff, and our community at the forefront of all decisions made.”
Atkinson is a long-time member of the community, having resided in Surry County her entire life. Atkinson attended Copeland Elementary, kindergarten through eighth grade before attending Surry Central High School. After graduating in 1986, Atkinson attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in psychology. In 1991, she continued on to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and received her master’s degree in counseling.
Prior to retiring, Atkinson was employed by Surry Community College for 28 years in various roles. Over the course of her career, she has worked with high school students, middle school students, as well as adults. She has remained committed to improving communication between teachers at the middle and high school levels and college personnel.
Throughout her life in Surry County, Atkinson has been active in her community; serving as PTO president at Copeland Elementary School, volunteering at Copeland, Central Middle, and Surry Central High schools, and also serving her church and youth program at Blackwater United Methodist Church.
“I am honored to serve the people of Surry County as a member of the Board of Education,” she said. “I am excited to follow in the tradition of Mr. Coe who, as an educator and community leader, is respected for his knowledge and experience, but even more so for the way he treats people. I am eager to work hard and continue your ongoing efforts to guide Surry County Schools forward so that our students are best prepared for their futures.
“I want the community to know that I have a passion for the students of this district and maintaining the quality of education that Surry County Schools has, and I am approachable and eager to listen.”
January 08, 2022
Shoals Elementary School recently named its December leaders of the month.
“These students demonstrate leadership qualities in class as well as outside the classroom,” the school said of the students selected. They are pictured here in individual photographs because of COVID-19 social distancing rules.
January 08, 2022
Mount Airy has a new city manager who is coming here from Texas.
The appointment of Stan R. Farmer to that position was announced Thursday afternoon at a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, after a closed session was held to finalize the hiring details.
“Stan came highly recommended and has the credentials to lead our city forward,” says a statement issued during the meeting on behalf of the mayor and commissioners.
Farmer has served for the last 13.5 years as city manager of Horseshoe Bay, Texas, population 4,100, and before that held the same job in two North Carolina municipalities, Selma and Lucama.
His new role in Mount Airy was triggered by the retirement of longtime City Manager Barbara Jones, who had served since August 2010.
Jones announced her departure on Sept. 9, becoming effective on Oct. 1, which capped off a 30-year career in city government.
A process to find her successor was launched in September, which attracted 21 applicants. mostly from North Carolina but also representing various reaches of the nation including California, Texas, Ohio, Maine and Georgia, along with neighboring Virginia.
That pool subsequently was reduced to five people, with Mayor Ron Niland disclosing in December that a finalist had been selected after a round of interviews and would be named pending final negotiations.
Niland said Thursday afternoon that the starting pay for Farmer will be $135,000 per year.
The new city manager attended the meeting along with his wife Julie.
“His goal is to start by Feb. 1,” the mayor said of Farmer, who also offered remarks after his appointment was announced.
“I look forward to working with all the department heads,” the incoming manager said of those he’ll be leading in city government, “and getting to meet people here in town.”
Farmer grew up in Texas, but has a familiarity with North Carolina due to living in the Tar Heel State for 16 years including his time spent in Selma, Lucama and other venues.
The statement issued by the city notes Farmer’s “extensive educational background.” It includes a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in public administration from Appalachian State University
Farmer additionally holds a master’s of executive public leadership degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
He also attended a municipal administration program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) Senior Executive Leadership Institute at the University of Virginia.
Farmer possesses a well-rounded list of achievements to go along with his academic credentials, including serving five years in the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune and on the island of Okinawa in Japan. While in that country, he was an intelligence analyst with a top-secret security clearance.
The new city official has climbed Mount Fuji, Japan’s tallest peak, and Mount Elbert in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains’ highest summit.
Farmer is a past community theater actor who now is learning Spanish and the father of four children.
Commissioners react
Along with their unanimous vote to hire Farmer as manager after a brief closed session, members of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners offered warm remarks to him in the wake of that action. It occurred through a motion by Commissioner Tom Koch.
“This was a tough decision,” fellow council member Joe Zalescik said of a hiring process that went smoothly but required city officials to assess “a lot of people with a lot of qualifications.”
“I think we’re really lucky to have you,” Koch told Farmer during a round of comments that could be described as a Texas-size welcome for him.
This included praise from the mayor.
“I appreciate Stan from a professional standpoint,” Niland said as Farmer listened. “I am proud of what you have accomplished so far and what you will accomplish for us.”
Zalescik further cited Farmer’s willingness to relocate to Mount Airy from so far away, pointing out that he did the same thing in moving here from New Jersey in recent years.
Koch mentioned that none of the five commissioners hail from this city, but have made it their home. “And I hope you (Farmer) have the same experience.”
In addition to being pleased with Farmer from a qualifications standpoint, the open arms extended to his wife, whom board members also got to know during the selection procedure.
Commissioner Steve Yokeley said both are “genuinely” nice people.
“Getting to know her has been fantastic,” the board’s Marie Wood said of Julie Farmer. “She will be a great asset to the community.”
January 07, 2022
With a national shortage of blood products looming due to donations occurring at extremely low levels, a series of drives is scheduled in Surry County throughout January which are open to the public.
The American Red Cross, the nation’s chief blood-collecting agency, is experiencing its worst shortage in more than a decade. The dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants.
This crisis is coinciding with the observance of National Blood Donor Month, a time to recognize the importance of giving blood and platelets while celebrating the lifesaving impact of those who roll up their sleeves to help patients in need.
The American Red Cross office in Winston-Salem, which coordinates blood drives in Surry and other area counties, is urging those who are eligible to do just that during January.
In Surry County, the opportunities to donate are listed according to these dates, times and locations:
• Jan. 15 at Antioch Baptist Church, 137 Antioch Ave., Mount Airy, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
• Jan. 17, Elkin Rescue Squad, 940 N. Bridge St., 1:30 to 6 p.m.;
• Jan. 18, Shoals Elementary School, 1800 Shoals Road, Pinnacle, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 24, White Plains Elementary School, 710 Cadle Ford Road, Mount Airy, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 24, Pilot Mountain First United Methodist Church, 210 Marion St., noon to 4:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 27, Dobson Elementary School, 400 W. Atkins St., 1 to 5:30 p.m.
• Jan. 27, Cedar Ridge Elementary School, 734 Flippin Road, Lowgap, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 31, North Surry High School, 2440 W. Pine St., Mount Airy, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 31, Surry American Red Cross building, 844 Westlake Drive, Mount Airy, 2 to 6:30 p.m.
Would-be donors are encouraged to make appointments to give blood at or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.
A free Red Cross Blood Donor App — which allows one to find nearby drives, schedule and manage appointments and access other information — is available by texting “BLOODAPP” to 90999 or downloading it from the App StoreSM or the Google PlayTM store.
Based on Red Cross guidelines, individuals who are at least 16 years of age in most states, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in good health and feeling well can be eligible to donate.
January 07, 2022
The pop up winter weather event this week led much of the Surry County Board of Commissioners meeting to be postponed as presentation speakers and Eagle Scout honors were safest left for another time.
The commissioners heard from LaShene Lowe speaking for the African American Genealogical Society of Surry County and their umbrella group, the Save the Jones School Committee. She spoke on their continued desire to save the property, “We are here to let you know we are indeed seeking ownership of the school, and all properties associated with the site.”
“We want to remind you that a former slave donated the land where Jones sits and he owned the land where Graham Field was originally. His offspring sold it. We want all the history back. We want to remind you it is a National Historic Site because of the struggles current and former alumni experienced.”
The school building itself has value for its design elements and that physical link to the rich past of the Jones School. However, it is the emotional and spiritual connection to generations past that an institution such as Jones passes on and where legacies are founded.
Legacies and traditions like that of the Jones family themselves. From JJ and Ora Jones to son Leonidas and his wife Eleanor, a direct link to a love of education served the greater good of Surry County for many years.
“We are proud of our people, and we want out young people to be instilled with pride that Jones faculty and staff shares in their personal growth.”
“The morays, traditions and culture came from their personal experience within their families. It came from the prestigious HBCU, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, they attended.”
“This is our history you are trying to sell to support needs of Surry County,” she added. “We, the organization, are spearheading the effort to obtain our history. We don’t want it lost like our history has become in the United States.”
The comments from Lowe were made to the commissioners during the open forum of the meeting, and were not attached to any specific motion or action the board handled on the evening. Commissioner Eddie Harris stated that as a fan of history and genealogy himself, he wants to find the best way to preserve the Jones School “now and into perpetuity.”
The commissioners have all expressed an interest in preserving the school site. Commissioner Larry Johnson has brought up this point at several meetings where it was not on the agenda, a simple yet effective reminder to the public the issue is still on his mind.
The Board of Commissioners has planned a retreat-style meeting to have further discussions on Jones School.
In other Board of Commissioners news:
– The commissioners gave their approval to issuance of the Board of County Commissioners seal onto a commemorative plaque in the Sandy Level community. Julia Mitchell, representing Sandy Level, informed the board the plaque would be located near the site of the old Rosenwald school.
Rosenwald refers to the thousands of schools that were built primarily for the African-American population in the early 20th century through a fund created by Julius Rosenwald, a part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck and Company. The cost of the sign itself has already been covered, so this was a procedural vote from the board which approved the usage of their seal.
– The board gave approval to a new list of surplus items from the county. These are items that the county has determined are no longer needed, and what can be transferred to another county department will be. For example, the Dobson and Elkin rescue squads will receive transfer of power stretchers from excess stock in Surry County.
Items not being transferred will be available for auction being handled by Rogers Realty and Auction. Rogers has not yet set a date for the auction, but has begun the preparations for such. Items in the surplus items auction range from office equipment, obsolete airport signage, to flat beds and dump trucks. More information on the surplus items auction will be found here when available.
– A 911 Interlocal agreement needed the authorization of the board before it could be sent for approval from Mount Airy and Elkin. Surry County receives money for 911 funding, and the agreement stipulates how the funding can be used, as well as providing recourse if state funding is misused. Commissioner Mark Marion moved the agreement be accepted, and the board approved it.
– County Manager Chris Knopf delivered a late present from Santa in the form of additional grant money to the county. He asked the board to approve an amendment to the Earthquake Recovery Grant Program.
The board was notified that a $45,000 project to make repairs to the parking lot behind the permitting building was completed. Knopf also reported that $50,000 of repair work to Fisher River Park was partially completed.
Additional inspection from the state yielded an additional $30,000 to make repairs at the health department and also $75,000 for repairs to the Surry County Historic Courthouse in Dobson. The board agreed to enter into agreement with the revised grant amounts.
– The Surry County Rural Health Center is looking to expand again, and Todd Tucker of the Surry County Economic Development Council was on hand to field questions from the commissioners. The health center is eyeing an expansion totaling nearly $387,000 and creating an additional ten jobs. The state grant would facilitate up to $10,000 per job, for a total grant of $100,000.
Similar grants have been applied for by the health center before, and Tucker noted that the stipulations on those grants were met. Commissioner Mark Marion spoke firmly in his support for the health center and pointed that it has grown significantly to a mix of more than 40 full- and part-time employees servicing 6,100 rural patients. “It’s very well needed in that area, and I fully support it.”
Commissioner Johnson suggested the board cover the $5,000 grant application fee for this round of expansion. The measure passed 4-1 with the nay vote of Commissioner Harris being lodged over the grant application fee only. The Surry Rural Health Center expansion will move forward with a public hearing later this month.
January 06, 2022
• A felonious larceny has occurred in Mount Airy which involved a former tenant allegedly stealing housing appliances valued at $2,200 from a residence after being evicted, according to city police reports.
This is said to have occurred at a dwelling in the 200 block of Rockford Street, from which a Frigidaire stainless steel refrigerator and four window-unit air conditioners — the property of landlord Alene Casstevens Cail of Casstevens Road — were removed on Dec. 30.
The case was undergoing further investigation at last report.
• Jonathan Aron Riggs, 26, of King, was charged with larceny Monday at Walmart, where he allegedly stole assorted drinks, food and household items with a total value of $158 and also provided false information.
The merchandise is listed as recovered and Riggs was released under a $1,000 unsecured bond to appear in Surry District Court on Feb. 14.
• Kaniah Jymeel Robinson, 21, of 1800 Edgewood Place Lane, No. 201, was charged with injury to personal property Sunday after officers encountered her at another unit in the apartment complex at that location while responding to a damage call.
No details about the incident were listed in police records, which state that the case is set for next Monday’s District Court session.
• An attempt to obtain prescription medications by providing fraudulent information misrepresenting oneself occurred on Dec. 27 at Walgreens on West Independence Boulevard. An unknown party is said to have been involved in the incident to secure controlled substances including prednisone, phenergan and Z-Pak (zithromax).
• A traffic stop of a 2009 Ford Expedition triggered by an improper turn resulted in two women being jailed on felony drug charges on Dec. 21.
Sarah Ollie Marsh, 50, and Tammy Reane Rakes, 48, both listed as homeless, were encountered by police on Willow Street near Franklin Street and charged with possessing methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The two were confined in the Surry County Jail under $2,500 secured bonds and are scheduled to be in court on Jan. 31.
January 06, 2022
Now that Mount Airy officials have designated $67,000 in municipal funding for a downtown master plan, steps are being taken to develop it toward an ultimate goal of enhancing the central business district.
This includes the launching of an online public survey to help steer the plans for the downtown area, according to Lizzie Morrison, Main Street coordinator for the group Mount Airy Downtown Inc., who announced the survey this week.
Among other concerns, it is giving citizens a chance to weigh in on proposed changes such as implementing two-way traffic on North Street from the present one-way setup.
The downtown group is working with the city government and the Benchmark planning firm to update a previous master plan from 2004 to guide future investments there (public and private) in a coherent and cost-effective manner. The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted in November to allocate the $67,000 for the modernized plan, part of a total investment of about $125,000 also involving financial input from the downtown group.
This involves a major focus on economic development, public safety and quality of life, Morrison mentioned.
The survey — accessible at — is a part of that process, which also includes listening sessions with focus groups and stakeholders, as outlined by a Benchmark official.
Respondents can offer input in 16 different sections, including how often they visit downtown, their primary reasons for doing so, their favorite aspect of it and one where they can list something that would make them go there more often. They also are asked whether they own businesses in the district and demographic information including age and home locations.
Those participating in the survey further can list their least-favorite parts of the central business district and indicate their overall perceptions of the area such as “great,” “boring,” “unsafe” or “unattractive.“
It additionally seeks input on specific changes that have been suggested along North Main from Independence Boulevard to West Pine Street such as replacing traffic lights with stop signs where feasible, burying utility lines and widening sidewalks to create more outdoor dining and entertainment space, among others.
Traffic changes such as converting the present two lanes of one-way traffic to two-way or reducing it by one lane also are addressed in the survey.
One question asks respondents to rank downtown parking from “very easy” to “very difficult.”
The survey will close on Jan. 31.
January 06, 2022
Mount Airy has a new city manager.
The appointment of Stan R. Farmer to that position was announced Thursday afternoon at a city council meeting, after a closed session was held to finalize the hiring details.
“Stan came highly recommended and has the credentials to lead our city forward,” says a statement issued during the meeting on behalf of the mayor and commissioners.
Farmer has served for the last 13.5 years as city manager of Horseshoe Bay, Texas, population 4,100, and before that held the same job in two North Carolina municipalities, Selma and Lucama.
His new role in Mount Airy was triggered by the retirement of longtime City Manager Barbara Jones, who had served since August 2010.
Jones announced her departure on Sept. 9, becoming effective on Oct. 1, which capped off a 30-year career in city government.
A process to find her successor was launched in September, which attracted 21 applicants. mostly from North Carolina but also representing various reaches of the nation including California, Texas, Ohio, Maine and Georgia, along with neighboring Virginia.
That pool subsequently was reduced to five people, with Mayor Ron Niland disclosing in December that a finalist had been selected after a round of interviews and would be named pending final negotiations.
Niland said Thursday afternoon that the starting pay for Farmer will be $135,000 per year.
The new city manager attended the meeting along with his wife Julie.
“His goal is to start by Feb. 1,” the mayor said of Farmer, who also offered remarks after his appointment was announced.
“I look forward to working with all the department heads,” he said of those he will be leading in city government, “and getting to meet people here in town.”
Farmer grew up in Texas, but has a familiarity with North Carolina due to living in the Tar Heel State for 16 years including his time spent in Selma, Lucama and other venues.
The statement issued by the city cites Farmer’s “extensive educational background.” It includes a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in public administration from Appalachian State University
Farmer additionally holds a master’s of executive public leadership degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
He also attended a municipal administration program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) Senior Executive Leadership Institute at the University of Virginia.
Farmer has a well-rounded background to go along with his academic credentials, including serving five years in the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune and on the island of Okinawa in Japan. While in that country, he was an intelligence analyst with a top-secret security clearance.
The new city official has climbed Mount Fuji in Japan, that country’s tallest peak, and Mount Elbert in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains’ highest summit.
Farmer is a past community theater actor who now is learning Spanish.
He is the father of four children.
January 06, 2022
DOBSON — Most people likely are unaware that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers in the United States.
Each year about 22,000 people die from radon-induced lung cancer, and statistics show roughly 54% of those diagnosed with the early-stage form of the disease are expected to live no more than five years.
Given that threat, N.C. Cooperative Extension personnel in Surry County are taking part in a statewide program to provide free radon test kits to local residents to detect any in their homes.
“Since radon can’t be seen or smelled, it is a problem which can easily be overlooked,” Carmen Long, an area extension agent in family and consumer education, explained Thursday.
Radon is a natural, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium. The effects on families it touches can be just as devastating as lung cancer caused by smoking tobacco, experts say.
“Testing is the only way to know if your home has a radon issue,” Long emphasized.
The test kits can be ordered by citizens from the North Carolina Radon Program on a first-come, first-served basis due to limited quantities available. It began making 6,000 free short-term radon test kits available in connection with January being National Radon Action Month.
Kits can be can be ordered online only through the site. There is no charge for the kits, with both postage and analysis also free.
“If they need help ordering a kit, they may contact the extension office at 336-401-8025,” Long advised regarding efforts to aid Surry residents.
Measuring a home’s radon level is recommended for any residence in all locations throughout the year. But in January, the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations join efforts to increase awareness across the nation about an easily preventable source of lung cancer.
The North Carolina Radon Program, part of the state Department of Health and Human Services, educates families and homeowners about radon gas, how to test for it and how to lower radon levels within a home to lessen the cancer risk.
Program officials say the cost of lowering radon levels in a home averages around $1,500. They also remind that radon test kits can be bought at most hardware stores for under $20.
“Take action today to make sure your home is safe,” the local extension agent urged Thursday.
“Cooperative Extension is pleased to work with the North Carolina Radon Program to help educate our local communities.”
January 06, 2022
ARARAT, Va. — One definition of a “jam session” is the informal playing and/or singing of improvised music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements, which seems to describe the Willis Gap Community Center Open Jam pretty well.
It features regular Friday night gatherings of old-time , bluegrass, country and gospel performers wielding all-acoustic instruments in conforming to Appalachian traditions. This includes a session planned there this Friday, when the doors will open at 6 p.m. and the music is to begin at 7 p.m.
Musicians and singers of all skill levels are invited along with music fans.
In addition to the tunes rendered, dancing, food, fellowship and fun in a family friendly environment is offered, according to information from Mary Dellenback Hill, the secretary of the Willis Gap Community Center Board of Directors.
A kitchen at the center sells fresh slaw and chili for hot dogs, along with chips, cakes, candy, popcorn, soda, coffee, bottled water and hot chocolate. A 50-50 drawing also is part of the festivities.
The Willis Gap Community Center Open Jam originated in the mid-1990s, when groups of musicians would meet regularly at a local home.
Its growing popularity subsequently prompted a move of the jam sessions to the community center, located at 144 The Hollow Road in Ararat, where events are now slated each Friday night.
Along with providing entertainment, the gatherings are playing a historic role by helping to keep alive the music traditions of the region.
The Willis Gap open jam is an affiliated partner of The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. It links various communities in Southwest Virginia, such as Willis Gap and Floyd, which are helping to preserve the traditional genre through regular performance sites and in other ways.
Also as part of its status as a living Patrick County historical project, the Willis Gap Community Center Open Jam serves as an exhibit for the Crossroads: Changes in Rural America program.
That effort is being made possible in Stuart, through the Reynolds Homestead Creative Arts Center there, by Virginia Humanities, formerly known as the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities — an organization promoting the civic, cultural and intellectual life of the state.
Crossroads: Changes in Rural America is part of Museum on Main Street, a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils nationwide.
Among others involved are the Virginia Association of Museums, the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce, the county government and Virginia Tech.
January 05, 2022
This week’s rain and snow could obscure the fact that 2021 was a dry year in Mount Airy, including two months in a row — November and December — with precipitation totalling less than an inch.
Just .87 of an inch was logged last month at F.G. Doggett Water Plant, the city’s official weathering-monitoring station.
That was nearly three inches below the all-time local average of 3.74 inches. November had been even drier, with only .45 of an inch measured.
Measurable amounts occurred on just five days during December, with the largest amount recorded for a single day — .40 of an inch — occurring on Dec. 12.
Mount Airy finished the year with a total precipitation output of 41.44 inches, which is 6.92 inches, or 14.3%, below normal for the year. The historic local average is 48.36 inches.
Weather records have been maintained in Mount Airy since 1924.
High temps break records
Last month’s prevailing dryness was accompanied by higher-than-normal temperatures in reflecting the La Niña weather pattern that has been dictating climatic conditions in Surry County and elsewhere in recent months.
This included two records being broken and another tied.
The high temperature for the month of 76 degrees on Dec. 4 broke the previous record of 74 degrees for that date which had been set in 1982.
Later, on Dec. 27, a reading of 72 eclipsed a 70-degree high in 1971 which would hold up as the record for that date over the next 50 years.
The local high-temperature record for Dec. 3 of 72 degrees was tied last month, having been established in 2014.
On the other end of the spectrum, the low temperature for the month was a chilly 21 degrees — recorded on five different days: Dec. 1, 13-14 and 20-21.
All that added up to a warmer-than-usual December overall, with the average temperature of 45 degrees being nearly six degrees above the all-time local average of 39.3.
The monthly statistical report from F.G. Doggett Water Plant also showed that frost was noted on 12 days during December and fog on five.
January 05, 2022
Piedmont Land Conservancy recently transferred two tracts totaling 297 acres to the Town of Elkin for permanent ownership and management. The property is located on US Highway 21 near Stone Mountain State Park.
The properties, protected forever by a conservation easement held by the conservancy, protect several streams that form the headwaters of Elkin’s drinking water supply, Elkin Creek.
The properties are located on the steep, forested slopes of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, the region of significant elevation change leading up to the Blue Ridge. The Escarpment is one of the most ecologically significant landscapes in North Carolina due to the presence of extensive, unfragmented forests, headwaters streams, and habitat for many sensitive species of plants and animals.
One tract was donated to the conservancy by the Chatham Family in 1999 and Piedmont Land Conservancy acquired the other tract in 2020 from the C.S. Lassiter family. Combined the two tracts create a 297-acre preserve.
“The properties provide an excellent opportunity to create high quality, low-impact recreation and education opportunities for nearby residents and visitors,” the agency said in announcing the gift to the town. Volunteers with Elkin Valley Trails Association are already developing plans for a network of mountain biking and hiking trails to be created over the next couple of years. Historically, a part of this property was to become a portion of the Elkin & Alleghany Railroad.
“This was such an amazing opportunity to be able to take acquisition of almost 300 acres of woodlands that protect the headwaters of the Big Elkin Creek. With this perpetual conservation easement, the citizens of Elkin will always know their source of drinking water will be protected. On behalf of the Town of Elkin and its citizens, we would like to especially thank the hard work of the staff at Piedmont Land Conservancy as well as here locally, Watershed NOW and the Elkin Valley Trails Association” said Elkin Mayor Sam Bishop.
Piedmont Land Conservancy has protected significant sections of the Blue Ridge Escarpment within the north-central Piedmont, including the headwaters of the Mitchell River and the Fisher River, including Fisher Peak.
The Chatham Foundation, Amon G. Carter Foundation, Piedmont Land Conservancy supporters and the North Carolina Native Plant Society all made gifts to support the acquisition of the Elkin Creek Headwaters property from the Lassiter family.
Piedmont Land Conservancy is a grassroots land trust dedicated to permanently protecting important lands to conserve rivers and streams, natural and scenic areas, wildlife habitat and farmland. The agency has protected morethan 30,000 acres in 250 projects across its nine-county region of Alamance, Caswell, Forsyth, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin counties. To learn more about the conservancy, and how to support its efforts, visit or call 336-691-0088.
January 04, 2022
• A false-pretense investigation has led to the arrest of a Dobson man who allegedly bought a $27,893 recreational vehicle from a local business with a bad check, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
Zachary Allen Draughon, 31, of 210 Ridgecrest St., is charged in connection with an incident in late December in which Mount Airy Yamaha-Suzuki-Polaris on Rockford Street was victimized. Draughon used a check from a closed account to receive the property, a Yamaha 999cc side-by-side, police records state.
The Dobson man was held in the Surry County Jail under a $500 secured bond on the worthless check charge and is scheduled to appear in District Court next Monday.
• Michael Angelo Bisceglio Jr., a resident of Four Winds Trail, reported on Dec. 28 that property he owns with a total value of $1,743 had been stolen from an unsecured bedroom of another home on Windsor Lane.
Included were a Samsung Galaxy “phantom black” smartphone; Sony portable Bluetooth speakers, tan in color; gold Versace sunglasses; a black floral hat; and a Zeus gold and black vape product. The property was taken by an unknown party.
• Travis Ray Hicks, 45, of 118 Randy Lane, was jailed without bond after officers responded to an assault call at the Sheetz convenience store on Rockford Street on Christmas Day.
Hicks was charged with violating a 50B domestic violence protective order — a type of restraining order meant to protect someone from another individual with whom they’ve had a personal relationship — by being in the presence of and engaging in a verbal altercation with Tammy Lynn Tolbert, who resides at another address on Randy Lane.
The case is set for the Jan. 19 session of Surry District Court.
• A traffic stop for speeding on Dec. 20 on South Main Street at Arlington Street resulted in the arrest of Brennon Lucas McBride, 28, of 1226 J.C. Cox Road, Westfield.
An investigation revealed that McBride was the subject of an outstanding order for arrest for failing to appear in court in Surry County which had been issued on Nov. 16. He also was charged during the traffic stop with carrying a concealed handgun and expired registration.
McBride was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $10,000 secured bond and slated for a Jan. 31 District Court appearance.
January 04, 2022
Michella Huff of the Surry County Board of Elections appeared in front of the Board of Commissioners Monday nights to make a funding request for her office to facilitate two mailings to residents. Her explanation of a straightforward mailing to voters illuminated how the machine of Raleigh politics can have an impact in every district across the state.
The business end of Huff’s request is the simple part: due to the recent updates to congressional district maps, her board voted and decided to send a notification card to all registered voters in the county. The new district maps take Surry County from a “split house” district into one where the county has one state representative and one state senator.
To let residents know where they would vote, and on what seats they would be voting for, Huff asked for $24,175 to send a card to all 47,000 voters. Second, she is required by law to notify 5,761 residents of consolidation of their local voting precinct, and those affected will be notified by mail.
Huff’s simple funding request then hits the turbulence caused by a prevailing current of hot air blowing from Wake County. The upheaval to the elections at the local level is being felt due to the lawsuits involving the redrawn congressional maps.
Of many things this state has gained fame for, the electoral maps are not one upon which a hat is often found hung. Claims of gerrymandering have been levied at the maps created by the 2020 census, and also ones well before that.
For those not familiar with North Carolina district maps, they have gained this notoriety for good reason. Strangely drawn creatures they are, that bisect counties or communities, they find their lines at times driven and drawn by politics and power.
For those within these strange boundaries, it may feel that the representation that matters most is the person doing it and not the people for which is it being done. It is often for the benefit of that one elected official that all this legal leg work with maps is done, it seems to the more cynical among the population.
So, North Carolina is here again in another cycle of litigation, finger pointing and the same us versus them politics that has driven societal discourse to its knees across America.
Money is being spent in piles on lawyers while local candidates can’t file and get their campaigns going in earnest. They sit and wait on the lawsuits, lawsuits that debate the merits and methods of drawing lines around human beings in just the right way.
“The lawsuits are to stop the maps that were introduced by the General Assembly. Those maps then were then put in place in front of filing for Dec. 6,” Huff said in giving an explanation of the current status of the pause in North Carolina’s election processes to the commissioners.
“Then the lawsuit happened on Dec. 8, stopping everything. So we are in limbo now as to what happen with the maps, but if the maps stay then we would have to notify, or my board has voted to notify every Surry County voter of the change.”
This perpetual waiting game is furthered by the fact, as Huff pointed out, this could all have to be done again if a new set of lawsuits are filed. “Everything is still on hold, there is not much of an update there, I apologize,” Huff told the Board of Commissioners. “Everything is still on hold with the lawsuits as far as the maps go and as far as filings go.”
Commissioner Eddie Harris asked if Huff could provide any insight into the timeline as to when the litigation cold be settled. “The order itself actually can go up to mid-March before they determine filing to be open again. Nothing has been said as to whether that can be that long or not, anything definite.
“But next week there is actually the first hearing of a judge panel to do the first ruling. We’re hoping something will come next week.”
Questions on resetting the filing deadlines and such are premature, and being asked at the wrong level she said. Once the lawsuits have been cleared, Huff said the state would then issue new guidance on filing deadlines and the like. Meanwhile the limbo goes on, and the local first time candidate is still sitting, waiting.
Commissioner Larry Johnson wanted to cut through and get to the real heart of the funding issue that was on the table before the board. If the lawsuits prevail, this mailing would be irrelevant as the new maps would be tossed and the districts would not change. He did not need to wait to know that he did not want to pay for something that isn’t needed.
There was a sense of frustration in the question and answering between the board and Huff because of the uncertainty of it all. With balls still in the air, the Board of Elections simply cannot act yet. “We will do no mailings unless we have to,” Huff assured Johnson.
County Manager Chris Knopf suggested the board attach a contingency onto that line item, and the final unanimous passage of both spending items contained that language. In the end, what was needed got done as the smaller mailing was mandated due to district consolidation within the county, and would have to have been paid for regardless.
January 04, 2022
A Mount Airy man was killed in a single-car crash near Fuquay-Varina, a small town southwest of Raleigh, over the weekend.
Jesus David Luna Onsorno, 23, of Mount Airy, died in the wreck, according to Sgt. Chris Knox of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
The sergeant said Onsorno was driving his vehicle on North Carolina Road 2727 when the vehicle crossed the center line, struck a ditch, then came to rest against a line of trees. He said the vehicle, which was traveling in excess of the posted speed limit, then caught on fire.
“Speed was the primary factor behind the wreck,” Knox said, who added that no one else was in the vehicle.
The wreck, in Wake County, occurred at 6:47 a.m. on Sunday. Knox said that was the only information available from a preliminary report filed with his office. Attempts to reach the highway patrol officer who worked the wreck for additional information were not successful.
January 04, 2022
A new manufacturing firm will be opening its doors in Pilot Mountain later this month, with plans to eventually invest more than $3 million there and create up to 40 jobs.
Young Door Company, which formed in April, will occupy about 45,000 square feet of a building at 523 South Stephens Street in Pilot Mountain; where the firm will share the building with the current tenant, SPX.
The company will produce interior doors that will be sold at home improvement stores and other retailers where millwork is sold.
Young Door was started by Mark Stukenborg and Tom Brown, two long-time veterans of the door manufacturing industry.
“We had been pretty successful in our careers, working for other companies,” Stukenborg said Tuesday, alluding to the more than 60 combined years the two had worked in the industry. “We felt confident we could do the same thing on our own.”
He said the two both left the industry a couple of years ago, but had kept up with contacts in the retail end of the door industry.
“There is a lot of demand,” he said. “We felt confident it was the right time.”
“Tom and I are very excited to be starting our manufacturing business in Pilot Mountain. It is a great location for the customers we are targeting and we are looking forward to being a part of the community,” Stukenborg said.
Stukenborg said both he and Brown grew up in small towns, and they were looking for a smaller community where a strong work ethic is common among its residents, and he said they needed a building large enough and designed in a way that would allow them to turn it into a manufacturing facility.
“It took us many, many months to find a building,” he said, explaining he and his partner had searched throughout the region — unable to find a suitable facility in communities such as Hickory, Mooresville, Statesville, High Point and elsewhere.
“We looked everywhere,” he said. “Industrial building availability is extremely tight.”
Once they discovered the facility in Pilot Mountain, and researched the local workforce, the pair moved ahead, contacting Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Commission.
“I will tell you, we had good contacts with other communities, but I think Todd and his crew and everybody else we’ve met with have been very supportive,” he said of working with Tucker and the local organization. “We’re very happy to be here in Surry County…it feels like home to us.
“We were looking for a community like Pilot Mountain.” He explained that throughout their careers in the industry, they found that generally the most productive plants came from small towns, where folks had a strong work ethic, yet the towns were close to larger areas where they could get supplies and easily ship their products. Pilot, he said, seems to fit that bill on all fronts.
For local officials, the announcement is welcome news.
“Manufacturers like Young Door recognize that Pilot Mountain offers not only a competitive place to do business, but also a good quality of life for prospective employees. We welcome their investment in our community,” said Pilot Mountain Mayor Evan Cockerham.
“The Surry County Economic Development Partnership is happy to have been able to help Mark and his team get started in Pilot Mountain,” Tucker said. “We believe that this will be a great location for them and look forward to helping them grow their business here in Surry County.”
Stukenborg said the company hopes to have operations up and running later this month or in early February, with eight to ten employees initially, then growing from there. Anyone interested in pursuing work with the firm can email Stukenborg at [email protected]
January 03, 2022
It’s a new year, but the same old story unfolded in Mount Airy when unattended cooking sparked a house fire — and though no human injuries resulted, the blaze took its toll on another form of life.
“We had four canine fatalities,” city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said of the incident that occurred Sunday afternoon at 928 N. South St. in the vicinity of Mount Airy High School.
Along with the dogs being lost, the fire that “basically gutted” the structure resulted in damages estimated at $40,000 and displaced the homeowner, identified as Paul C. Westmoreland.
Firefighters arrived at the scene shortly before 1:45 p.m. and noted heavy smoke and flames visible from the rear of the structure, according to Poindexter.
The blaze was brought under control within 30 minutes.
“There were a lot of animals in the residence — mostly dogs,” the fire chief said of the single-story house where Westmoreland was the lone human occupant.
Among the animals saved was a small dog rescued from a bedroom closet where it had taken refuge.
“And it was well after the fire was out,” Poindexter said, explaining that the dog was discovered when Westmoreland entered the structure in an effort to salvage some of his belongings.
Damage to the house was put at $30,000 and $10,000 to its contents.
Westmoreland is being assisted with temporary housing by the American Red Cross.
Cooking culprit
With unattended cooking determined to be the cause of the blaze, Chief Poindexter said it provides further evidence of local residents needing to be more vigilant in not leaving food on hot stoves.
“As I say pretty often, it is the number one cause of fires in our city,” he reminded.
This includes ones with serious consequences — such as Sunday’s fire on North South Street — and others that are quickly extinguished as a result of smoke alarm alerts or burn themselves out while not making headlines.
All of these add up to a problem that is all too prevalent in town.
“A lot of times it doesn’t go to this extreme,” Poindexter added regarding the weekend incident — which he said not only involved cooking being left unattended but the homeowner leaving the house altogether.
The Mount Airy Fire Department was assisted by members of other local units through a mutual aid agreement, including the Franklin and Four-Way volunteer fire departments. The Mount Airy Rescue Squad also responded.
January 03, 2022
After a warm weather period that brought days of record or near-record high temperatures to the region, it seemed only natural for this week to begin with snow and continue the strange weather pattern.
Rain overnight Sunday was followed by snowfall on Monday morning as a more-typical January cold snap took hold, accompanied by a rash of traffic accidents across the area.
“Once the snow hit, we had call after call,” First Sgt. J.M. Church of the Surry-Stokes unit of the N.C. Highway Patrol summed up around noon Monday.
“Plenty of cars in ditches,” added Church, who said extra troopers were called out to handle the heavy volume that included mishaps involving tractor-trailers. “We’ve been really busy, (but) no really bad wrecks — nobody seriously hurt in Surry or Stokes.”
The snow began falling about 8 a.m. Monday at F.G. Doggett Water Plant in Mount Airy, the city’s official weather-monitoring station, and lasted until just before 10 a.m.
But it left a mark with an accumulation of 0.7 inches, according to the measurement at the water facility.
In addition to traffic accidents, tree-in-roadway and other incidents including downed electrical lines were responded to by local public safety crews.
“We had about a dozen reports of trees or power lines,” said Eric Southern, the county’s director of emergency services, regarding calls handled by Surry EMS crews. “We had a couple of fender benders — some people slid off the road — nobody was hurt, thankfully.”
Greater amounts of wet snow were reported in Carroll County and other parts of Virginia, where totals ranged from 2 to 5 inches, depending on factors including elevation.
In light of the falling temperatures and the wintry mix across the area, Mount Airy City Schools were closed for students Monday, when an optional workday was in place for teachers.
Surry County Schools already were scheduled to be closed Monday for students, with an optional teacher workday planned for teachers.
Warm weather prelude
Strangely, the wintry weather came after a weekend of balmy conditions across the region.
On Sunday, for example, the mercury had hit 77 degrees, according to water plant statistics, but this oddly was not enough to break the record for the city for the Jan. 2 date. It fell one degree short of the 78-degree high mark set in 1952. Weather records have been kept in Mount Airy since 1924.
Saturday’s high here was a pleasant 61 degrees, no threat to the 67-degree record temperature for New Year’s Day in Mount Airy which also was established in 1952.
The mercury did break a record on Dec. 27, when the high of 72 topped the previous one for that date locally of 70 degrees set in 1971.
January 02, 2022
With hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continuing to rise at an alarming rate across North Carolina, boosters remain the most important thing you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones out of the hospital, officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services noted this past week.
Hospitalizations of COVID cases in North Carolina have been increasing to levels never seen to date in the entirety for the pandemic, and sadly we are not alone. In the last seven days North Carolina has reported 67,913 new cases of the virus. Contrast that with the average for the previous seven days of 29,701 new cases and the numbers speak for themselves.
For Surry County in the last 14 days there have been 798 new cases of the virus reported, and 440 in the last seven days. Overnight, 93 new cases were reported, if that number were to hold steady that would mean 651 new cases this coming week.
The trend is not unique to North Carolina as last week the country twice broke its record for daily COVID cases, according to New York Times data. On Thursday alone the US had more than 580,000 new COVID cases. However, over the past two weeks, while the number of COVID cases in the United States has increased by 181%, and the number of hospitalizations has increased by 19%, the number of deaths has decreased by 5%.
“Now is the time to get your booster shot,” said Kody H. Kinsley, Chief Deputy Secretary for Health and Incoming DHHS Secretary. “We have plenty of vaccine in state, and getting a booster shot, or getting vaccinated if you aren’t already, dramatically decreases the risk of severe illness and hospitalization from the Omicron variant.” Vaccines are available for everyone 5 years and older from county health departments, your doctor and pharmacy chains across the county free of charge.
NCDHHS has also adopted revised guidance from Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, which outlines what individuals should do if they contract or are exposed to COVID to help slow the spread to others. What has not changed is that if you have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status – you should get tested and isolate from others while you wait for a result.
Not all the COVID news today is bad news, as more studies on the omicron variant are being published that now suggest omicron, “is doing its own thing in many ways,” according to Ravindra Gupta, a researcher on virus variants at Cambridge University, and an author of one of the studies. “The biology of the virus is not the same as it was before. It’s almost a new thing.”
These published studies included lab tests that found the omicron variant yielded less damaging infections to the lungs, and instead limited its damage largely to the nose, throat, and windpipe.
“It seems to be less virulent,” said Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. “We seem to have so much more immunity in December 2021” that during previous waves.
This is no time for anyone to let their guard down, just because omicron may not be as lethal as previous variants. Justin Lessler, an epidemiology professor at the University of North Carolina stated, “With Omicron, our surges are so big, even if it’s on average … much less severe than previous variants, the sheer number of cases is such that hospital systems are going to be overwhelmed and there is risks to individuals because it’s so likely you will be infected.”
Hospital overcrowding and the strain on scarce medical resources has been of concern since the beginning of the pandemic. Not too long removed are the memories of of tired nurses reusing the same mask for a month while folks at home were making masks out of t-shirts and hankies. Everyone has the power to prevent this from happening again and can take some of the strain off of the local health care workers and public health officials by following the guidelines.
The Surry County Health and Nutrition Center has sent out the following reminder that if you are not able to be tested, follow the guidance below as though you are positive.
If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are:
• Not vaccinated – stay away from others for 5 days, get tested on day 5 after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for 5 additional days.
• Vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but not yet boosted – stay away from others for 5 days, get tested on day 5 after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for 5 additional days.
• Vaccinated and have either received your booster or are not yet eligible for a booster – you do not need to stay away from others, but you should wear a mask for 10 days.
If you test positive, regardless of vaccination status, and:
• Do not have symptoms – isolate yourself from others for 5 days, then wear a mask for 5 additional days when you return to normal activities.
• Have symptoms – isolate yourself from others until you are fever-free for 24-hours and your symptoms are improving. You should isolate for at least 5 days since your symptoms began. Once you stop isolating, you should wear a mask for 5 additional days.
People who have received two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are eligible for a booster shot after 6 months, and those who got a Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine initially should receive a booster after 2 months.
According to the CDC, those who are eligible for boosters and have not received them should follow the stricter guidance for quarantine and masks.
The CDC guidance cites initial data from South Africa showing that two mRNA doses provide 35 percent protection against infection. With a booster shot, that increases to 75 percent.
The CDC recommends a well-fitting mask is and if possible, people are encouraged to wear a surgical or procedure mask, a KN95 or an N95 respirator. In general, the CDC recommends all unvaccinated people 2 years old or older wear a mask indoors.
Surry County Health and Nutrition Center will offer vaccine and booster doses Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Call 336-401-8400 to schedule an appointment, but walk-ins will be accepted.
The CDC, NCDHSS and Surry County Health and Nutrition Center ask that you do not visit the emergency room to get tested. The golden rule for COVID remains: if you do not feel well, err on the side of caution for the protection of your loved ones and neighbors and stay home.
For more information on vaccines, testing, and COVID-19 guidance, please call the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center or visit
January 02, 2022
Although it will be given more than two weeks after Christmas, the Rotary Club of Mount Airy has announced plans to distribute funding to seven different entities to further their various missions in the community.
Those tapped for the grant assistance include Vincent’s Legacy, Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter, Mayberry for Paws, Equality in Action, the Satterfield House and Friends of the Mount Airy Police Department.
The work of some of those groups is self-explanatory based on their names.
• Vincent’s Legacy, one that might be less well known, stemmed from the death of a local youth, Vincent Puckett. He took his own life in 2017 in response “to the severity of the bullying he experienced,” according to statements on a website for the non-profit organization.
“The actions of other students and the complacency of school staff and parents of his abusers led his mother and father, Roxanne and Cary, to start Vincent’s Legacy as a way to help educate others on the effects of bullying and prevent bullying-related suicide,” the website adds.
Since its formation, Vincent’s Legacy has sought to garner resources to address those problems in the teen community.
• Mayberry For Paws, meanwhile, is focused on increasing the number of dogs that are spayed and neutered in order to reduce their ranks at the local kill shelter. It also offers short-term foster care for canines while working to place them in permanent homes.
• The multi-pronged mission of Equality in Action includes advocacy for social and economic equity, opportunities for at-risk youth and promoting health and wellness for the underserved in this community.
• The Satterfield House on the corner of North Franklin Road and West Virginia Street was the first deeded to an African-American in Surry County, where efforts are now under way to develop a thriving community center. A Rosenwald school also was once located near the house, with the Rotary funding to pay for a plaque there.
Each of the seven organizations will be presented with $1,000 awards during a luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of Mount Airy on Jan. 11 at Cross Creek Country Club.
Representatives of all those groups will have five minutes to describe their projects approved for the grants and the overall mission of each.
“We look forward to seeing these community projects come to fruition,” advised Tonda Phillips, the 2021-2022 president of the Rotary Club of Mount Airy.
Phillips explained that a March Madness fundraiser was held at White Elephant Beer Co., along with a parking campaign at First Community Bank during the Autumn Leaves Festival, to provide money for the budgeted grants and other projects.
“This $7,000 grant infusion into the local community is the second-largest of our contributions for the fiscal 2021-2022 year,” Phillips added.
“Our first and largest focus for this fiscal year is the Substance Use/Opioid Awareness Seminar we have already held and are planning other projects around — we have $10,000 budgeted for those focused service projects.”
January 02, 2022
Multiple organizations reportedly are supporting efforts to buy the former all-black J.J. Jones High School in Mount Airy and prevent what one supporter calls “the purchase of our history” by an outside entity.
It initially was disclosed that the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County was spearheading that effort, which resulted from Surry officials declaring the old campus surplus property in July.
The county government owns the site on Jones School Road and for years has leased it to YVEDDI, an area community action agency that operates a number of agencies there which are collectively part of Jones Family Resource Center.
More groups with ties to the black community also are on board with the effort to buy the former campus, according to updated information from LaShene Lowe, the president of the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society.
These include the local NAACP, the Mount Airy/Surry County Branch of the National Association of University Women and the Visions group.
An organizational meeting was scheduled Thursday afternoon at Jones Family Resource Center for interested persons to discuss how to go about acquiring the old school through major fundraisers or other means, Lowe has said.
J.J. Jones opened in 1936 and said good-bye to its final high school graduating class in 1966 — coinciding with the desegregation of public education locally. The school was named for John Jarvis Jones, a pioneering black educator who moved to Mount Airy in 1914 and built on land donated by a former slave, Bob Dyson.
Although it has not been occupied by students for years, the former campus remains a source of pride for area African-Americans, including being added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.
County officials have opted to try to sell the property due to rising maintenance costs posed by the aging facilities.
At last report, no prospective buyers had emerged, a role Lowe and others are eager to take on for several reasons.
“We can ill afford for our rich heritage to be lost,” is among those listed by the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society president, who is a retired educator. “Are we going to allow some outside entity to purchase our history?”
Lowe also believes the affected community shouldn’t “sit idly by” while this history is “disregarded and destroyed,” as have other parts of its heritage.
She also questions why there seems to be an urgency on the part of Surry officials to sell the former school, which is among other holdings surplused including Graham Field nearby and the former Westfield School.
“We want our history back in our hands,” Lowe said in a statement. “We want it now.”
December 31, 2021
Positive COVID-19 test rates and hospitalizations in North Carolina soared during the long holiday weekend, state health officials announced this week, as a spike in cases led largely by the contagious omicron variant continues globally.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported that almost 22% of tests performed this Sunday were positive, reaching a record high during the entirety of the pandemic. The positivity rate was more than double the percentage from a week earlier.
State government closures for Christmas meant that state officials had not released daily coronavirus figures in many days, leading to a lag in reporting data. As the week continued, the trend in North Carolina has mirrored that found across the country. Just as with the thanksgiving holiday before, a spike is being seen following a period of school closures and close quarters celebrations during the holiday season.
North Carolina reported more than 32,000 new cases over the previous six days, an increase of nearly 10,000 compared to the six days prior to that stretch. In the last seven days, Surry County has reported over 600 new cases, and NCDHHS reports 64 new cases in the county since yesterday.
Northern Regional Hospital reports they have 33 in-patients who are positive with the virus, totaling 42% of their entire acute care census. Currently both the intensive care unit and the step-down unit are full, and space is at a premium throughout the hospital.
“Due to the high volume of patients being seen, we are seeing a higher number of patients being held in the Emergency Department awaiting an inpatient bed,” Robin Hodgin, Senior Vice President of Patient Services and Chief Nursing Officer for Northern. “We do have some space adjacent to the emergency department that is used as an overflow area to treat patients. Northern has not activated any diversion plans or status diverting patients away from our hospital.”
The number of North Carolinians identified as hospitalized COVID patients reached 2,258 as of last report, a sharp uptick from the beginning of December. When compared to one month ago, there were only 1,105 people hospitalized with the virus on November 29 across the whole state.
The case count numbers for the state are enough to create a sense of dread, 9,379 residents of this state are in the hospital right now with COVID-19. Over 480 people of those hospitalized as of Monday were in intensive care units, DHHS data said.
The lagging data is catching up, and these numbers are likely to rise further as tests sent off to labs come back and then those results are logged on the appropriate day of the test being taken. Right after thanksgiving, there were 1,725 cases in the state, there are over five time as many cases in now.
In a news conference this week, the director of the World Health Organization warned that as the Delta and Omicron variants circulate the globe simultaneously, the world could see a “tsunami” of COVID cases in the coming months.
“Right now, Delta and Omicron are twin threats that are driving up cases to record numbers, which again is leading to spikes in hospitalizations and deaths,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “I am highly concerned that Omicron being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta – is leading to a tsunami of cases.”
In a new development, the CDC and FDA announced that results of two studies showed that the Johnson & Johnson booster shot provided strong protection from the much-feared omicron variant. According to a statement from Johnson & Johnson, two of their shots reduced the risk of hospitalization from omicron by upwards of 85% during their trial.
A separate study on the Johnson & Johnson booster showed that when paired with the Pfizer two-shot vaccination regimen, a 41-fold increase in neutralizing antibody response was found. This is good news for those uncertain if taking a booster shot is right for them, or even necessary when they see the likes of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt refusing his booster.
Vaccination rates in Surry County are holding at the same approximate levels and residents in the most vulnerable category, age 65 and up, still have the best vaccination rate with 82% of seniors being fully vaccinated. That number falls to 59% for those over age 18 being fully vaccinated, and 49% is the current rate of full vaccination for all residents of the county. The rate of full vaccination for all age groups nationally currently stands at 61.9%.
“No vaccine is perfect, for one thing,” said Dr. Egon Ozer an infectious diseases specialist at Northwestern Medicine. “Especially with so much virus that’s still circulating, there’s always potential that there’s going to be some breakthrough, that people are still going to be able to get some degree of the virus. That’s certainly been the case with delta, as well.”
Some protection, doctors agree, is better than no protection at all. At Northern Regional Hospital, 88% of their patients are unvaccinated. COVID-19 vaccinations, and boosters are available locally from the county, and from private drug stores and pharmacies free of charge. Walgreens is even incentivizing getting booster shots and flu shots at the same time. “Flu cases have started to rise,” Hodgin reports, “However are not to the pre-covid level we normally see this time of year.”
December 31, 2021
While there seems to be no end in sight for the coronavirus, 2021 was a good year in terms of gains made to subdue another health menace, Alzheimer’s disease, including a promising drug emerging.
“More people are becoming aware and more people are getting involved,” said Pamela Padgett, who is helping to spearhead efforts in Surry County addressing the debilitating condition affecting 6.2 million Americans.
This included Padgett’s co-chairing of the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s held at Riverside Park in Mount Airy on Sept. 18, with Robin Portis, and other efforts to generate funds needed for the fight and bring attention to the issue.
“As the year comes to an end and the last of the fundraising that supports our local walk is ending, we are in awe of all the awareness and funds that have been raised,” added Padgett.
She is human resources director for Behavioral Services Inc. in Mount Airy, and like many people has lost someone to Alzheimer’s — a grandmother, Mae Holt, in 2018 — which has motivated her to get involved in efforts to find a cure.
Although the walk was held in December as a major fundraising effort for that cause with the help of teams, money has continued to be generated as 2021 comes to a close.
“Our final total for the year is $77,582,” Padgett reported Wednesday, which she said is a record sum.
“This total speaks to the dedication to end Alzheimer’s,” she observed. “To still be in a pandemic and be able to raise this much money is phenomenal.”
A true team effort
After the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s was conducted on a virtual basis in 2020 — because of COVID — but returned to normal in a big way.
“This year we had 66 teams, which is the most teams in the history of our local walk and had 368 participants, which also was a record-breaking number,” Padgett mentioned regarding the event. It is held in conjunction with the Western Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The individual teams — of businesses, families, churches and civic groups — conducted mini-campaigns that added up to the total, with one involving G & B Energy (captained by Natalie Eidson) leading the way by generating $11,000.
Other top teams were fielded by the RidgeCrest retirement community, which raised $9,468 under the leadership of Jennifer Johnson-Brown; The A Team led by Robin Portis, the co-chair of the walk, which raised $6,003; Memories of Mae, led by Padgett in generating $4,231; and Team Phil, (captained by Vickie Jordan), $3,170.
“All the teams in our walk did a wonderful job of not only fundraising, but raising awareness,” Badgett emphasized.
“Many people do Facebook fundraisers to raise funds for their teams — this makes it so easy to participate and this accounts for a big increase in dollars donated.”
More than walking
As is the case with any such campaign, more than just a single event such as a walk is required, with keeping the issue before the public in a variety of ways also needed.
This was true in 2021 for the local Alzheimer’s disease efforts, which also included a Paint the Town Purple campaign during the summer. “Purple is the official color of Alzheimer’s,” Padgett explained.
Stores in downtown Mount Airy displayed windows decorated in purple as part of a contest to generate awareness, accompanied by some merchants launching fundraisers.
First place went to F. Rees, second to The Spotted Moon, third to Fabric Menagerie and fourth, Mayberry Primitives.
“Even though they were not on Main Street, Dr. John Gravitte’s office did a phenomenal display to raise awareness, had a team in the walk and was also a sponsor (of that event),” Padgett noted.
RidgCrest further features a lighted Christmas display annually as a fundraiser.
“The beauty of its lights sends a message of hope for anyone who is associated with Alzheimer’s whether it be a patient, a caregiver, family member or an advocate,” Padgett mentioned.
“We are so thankful that they have chosen to do this every year.”
Meanwhile, local advocates also had floats in both the Fourth of July and Christmas parades in downtown Mount Airy.
Drug breakthrough
The money raised aids care, support and research programs of the Alzheimer’s Association.
This includes a variety of services gearing toward disease sufferers and their families, including its 24/7 Helpline at, educational programs, support groups and more.
On the research side of things, Padgett said definite progress occurred during 2021 in the form of a new drug that came on the market in June. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval to Aduhelm (aducanumab) for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Padgett said this is the first drug available to slow its progression.
“I think that was a good outcome of all the years of research,” she said of proof that financial support does make a difference. “I think that was the highlight of the year.”
In May, Padgett also addressed members of Congress, via video conferencing, to lobby for federal legislation to advance research and enhance treatment and support services for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
She is heartened by so many facets of this community joining to tackle a terrible disease that has affected everyone to some degree through family members or friends being afflicted.
The includes a growing array of sponsors: Behavioral Services, Surry Communications, Carolina West, Surry Insurance, Altec, Carport Central, First Presbyterian Church of Mount Airy, Home Instead, Northern Regional Hospital, Hugh Chatham Hospital, Kindred at Home, Cardinal CT, J.G. Coram Construction, Dr John Gravitte, Hayco Construction, Nester Hosiery, Rogers Realty, SouthData, Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. and Wayne Farms.
“We are grateful to our community for all their support,” Padgett summed-up in closing out 2021, which she believes was a positive period both locally and for the Alzheimer’s Association overall.
December 30, 2021
DOBSON — One never knows when some natural disaster might strike — just ask folks in Kentucky — and in that vein a program is offered in early January to ready local residents for such occurrences.
“The best way to survive a disaster and be able to quickly recover is to be prepared,” explained Carmen Long of the local N.C. Cooperative Extension unit based in Dobson.
“There are a number of things that you can do to make sure you and your family are ready when a disaster strikes,” added Long, an area extension agent for family and consumer education who covers Surry and Alleghany counties.
These will be outlined next Thursday at 11 a.m. during the program offered in conjunction with an Extension and Community Association (ECA) component of the agency.
“At Home with ECA — Disaster Preparedness” is the first in a 2022 series of workshops that are scheduled on the first Thursday of each month at the same time.
There is no charge for accessing the workshops to be conducted on the Eventbrite website used for such presentations, but those wanting to do must register beforehand at
Participants aren’t required to sign up for all the programs and can pick and choose ones they are interested in, according to Long, who said other topics throughout the year are still to be determined. “You can sign up for each one separately.”
As evidenced by the one next week on disaster-preparedness, the overall subject matter will be geared toward quality-of-life issues.
Long said partnerships with two local entities will allow participation by residents lacking computers, who can access the workshops from devices at Dobson Community Library and Surry Senior Center in Mount Airy.
Another convenient aspect is that one does not have to take part at the actual time a program is presented, according to Long.
“If you are not able to attend in real time, those registered will be emailed a video of the session after it is over which can be watched at your convenience.”
Alternate outreach approach
The upcoming series was spawned by a similar effort launched for 2021 which recognized the realities of the coronavirus in restricting public gatherings.
In lieu of a traditional meeting setting, the digital route was adopted.
“And it was extremely successful,” Long said. “And we decided we would continue to do this.”
N.C. Cooperative Extension has sought to distribute information to people for more than 100 years, and the At Home with ECA workshop series involves a new means of providing such outreach — embracing both the realities and technical alternatives of today.
“We’re just trying to continue to meet the needs of families,” Long said. “This is a way we can reach people and provide some information to those who might not be able to come to a meeting.”
During the first year of the program, topics included cooking and stress management as part of an emphasis on connecting with citizens to teach them new life skills, with an exercise segment also featured.
“Disaster preparedness we thought would be a good one in January,” Long said, “with the tornadoes we just had.”
But ironically, those recent occurrences in areas such as Kentucky were not the catalyst for that workshop. “This was already planned before that happened,” Long said.
The series will be presented by family and consumer sciences agents of the North Central District of N.C. Cooperative Extension, covering 14 counties altogether. “It’s a group effort,” Long said.
Ashley Beard of Yadkin County will lead the program on disaster preparedness.
December 30, 2021
Westfield Elementary was transformed into a magical Winter Wonderland on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21.
The teachers and staff members brought” Snowmen at Night” by Caralyn Buehner to life as the teachers read the story aloud to their students during a story walk through the school. The staff worked together to transform the school for the event. Kayla Edwards was the “cocoa mama” and served hot chocolate to all students while Alyssa Cox dressed up as Olaf and greeted the students.
December 29, 2021
First Lego League clubs have become prominent in Surry County with local schools making it to regional and state championships.
First Lego League, or FLL, is a club that allows students to participate in the creation of a Lego robot. They learn technical skills, how to code, and the wide array of steps it takes to build a functioning robot.
These robots that the students build compete at local competitions in hopes to advance to regionals. After the regional competition they compete at the state level for top prize.
The competitions are split up into four areas. The students and their robots are judged on these.
In early 2012, Dr. Ashley Hinson, then the superintendent of Surry County Schools, was contacted by Sam McCormick and Joe Kromer about starting a Lego league in Surry County.
With the help of sponsors such as Insteel Industries, SouthData, Northern Regional Hospital, Renfro Brands, NCFI, and Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, this was able to become a reality.
Dr. Hinson soon contacted Dr. Greg Little, who at that time was superintendent of Mount Airy City Schools. They joined forces to offer this new opportunity to both school systems.
In March of 2012, the first Surry County Lego teams were created.
Since 2012, the number of students participating has grown with there being 150 kids in Surry County on a Lego team.
“Mount Airy Middle School consistently has two Lego teams compete,” says School Counselor and Lego Team volunteer, Kelly Anders.
Technology teacher and faithful parent volunteer, Rick Haynes, plays a pivotal role on the Lego team. Haynes assists the students with building their robots as well as coding their robots.
Austin Taylor and Kelly Anders assist in creating projects that the kids take to tournaments.
This year there were two teams at Mount Airy Middle School, the Postal Bots, and the Kargo Kids. they were tasked with finding solutions to cargo issues in our community.
The Kargo Kids won “Best Robot Design” at this year’s Surry County Lego League Competition.
“Both teams went to Regionals and were in the running to go to States but unfortunately fell short,” said Anders.
The Kargo Kids will be an alternate for the upcoming state competition.
Mount Airy Middle School has had plenty of success in the past winning multiple awards in Surry County Competitions as well as Regionals. They have been Design Champs multiple times as well as winning a handful of Innovation awards, Judges Awards, and Robot Runs.
Mount Airy Middle School also went to states during the 2019-2020 school year.
“The FLL (First Lego League) competition allows our students to authentically engage in team building and real-world problem solving. The experience that these students are given builds leadership skills in a dynamic fashion,” said Principal of Mount Airy Middle School Levi Goins.
FLL teams are evaluated in four areas. Innovative Project, Robot Design, Core Values, and Robot Run.
For Innovative Project a theme is given each year. This year’s theme was “Cargo Connect.”
Teams had to prepare a five-minute presentation using the following elements that revolved around how we transport goods.
Identify and research a problem to solve within cargo transport. Design a solution that helps others or your community. Create a model or prototype of your solution. Share your ideas, collect feedback, and iterate on your solution. Then, this solution is communicated at a competition.
The Ice Cream Scoopers from Pilot Mountain Middle School were the Innovative Project Champion at this year’s Surry County competition.
Robot Design is another five-minute presentation given by students. They are tasked with identifying a mission strategy and designing and programming the robot to accomplish different tasks. The robot must be built with Legos and be coded to find a solution to their mission strategy.
The Kargo Kids from Mount Airy Middle School were the Robot Design Champions at this year’s Surry County competition.
The Core Values award is given to the team who exhibits the core values of FLL during all their presentations and during the Robot Games.
The core values include applying teamwork and discovery to explore a challenge, innovate with new ideas about your robot and project, show how your team and your solutions will have an impact, and having fun in everything you do.
The CMS Fury from Central Middle School were the Core Values Champions this year at the Surry County competition.
Robot Game is the last of the four events. Teams are to build and program a Lego robot to accomplish various missions on the robot game table. Teams have two and a half minutes to complete as many missions as possible.
The CyberElks from Elkin Middle School were the Robot Game Champion at this year’s Surry County Competition.
Several Surry County Schools have made it to State level competitions.
Gentry Middle School currently still has two teams in the competition and will compete at States in January.
Pilot Mountain Middle School has one team acting as an alternate in the Greensboro Qualifier Event.
December 29, 2021
A Mount Airy church is finding itself high and dry with plans to build in a new location that lacks all-important access to municipal water and sewer service.
At a recent council meeting, city Public Works Director Mitch Williams described that site along U.S. 52 at the southern edge of town as being in “No Man’s Land” for purposes of such utility availability.
However, Refuge City Church might at least take some solace in the fact it is not alone in being cut off from easy access to those services, based on an investigation by Williams into the situation surrounding the church and other property owners.
Williams displayed a map during his Dec. 16 presentation at a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting showing sections all around town with either no public water or sewer access — including some without both.
Roughly 140 parcels lack sewer availability alone, he said.
Most cases involve open land being developed over the years with adjoining portions behind property lines left vacant and effectively cut off from access.
That is the predicament facing Refuge City Church, which owns 4.18 acres along the northbound portion of South Andy Griffith Parkway (U.S. 52) west of Newsome Street, about a quarter-mile north of the Chili Verdi restaurant.
“For whatever the reason that property was cut out,” Williams said of it being isolated from existing connection points. “It’s sort of a mystery.”
The church with about 100 members now rents space in a small shopping center on South Main Street. The triangular-shaped land along U.S. 52 was donated to Refuge Ministry Inc. and it has intended to construct a new facility there — until encountering the utility-access roadblock.
$300,000-plus price tag
Andrew Bullins, a co-pastor of Refuge City Church, had appeared at an earlier, Dec. 2 council meeting to request the city water/sewer service, which sparked the research by the public works director into the utility issue.
Williams reported back on Dec. 16 that the cost of extending a 1,300-foot 8-inch water line to the site from the Newsome Street intersection along the U.S. 52 right of way and an 8-inch sewer line would total $302,520.
City officials bristled at that sum.
“It’s a lot of money,” Mayor Ron Niland said of the cost to serve a relatively small user. Niland also gained an assurance from City Attorney Hugh Campbell that there is no legal requirement for the municipality to supply the lines under its policy or past precedent.
This counters the assumption by some that being inside the city limits guarantees utility access.
In pointing out that not funding the line extension would be consistent with actions of the past, Niland said the Refuge City Church request boils down to a board decision.
And the commissioners seemed unanimous in their objections to the project.
“I don’t think it’s our responsibility to do that,” the board’s Jon Cawley said of furnishing water and sewer service to a landlocked site. “Our responsibility was to get it to the property before it was divided — and we did.”
The city government must be able to justify such costs, according to Cawley, who said, for example, that if was a matter of serving a building that would hire 300 people, the municipality eventually would recoup its outlay.
“We are under oath up here to take care of city funds.”
”The economics don’t make it work,” Niland concurred regarding the prospects of serving the church.
“As it is now, I don’t see how we can fund it,” said Commissioner Marie Wood.
“I agree with Marie — $300,000 is just not feasible,” fellow board member Tom Koch remarked.
The request from the church essentially was denied by consensus.
“It sounds right now that it’s 5-0 not to do that,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley said of approval.
“I guess what I’m hearing is a reluctance by the city,” the mayor said in summarizing the discussion.
However, Mount Airy officials were sympathetic to the church’s plight.
“Sorry we couldn’t give you the answer you wanted,” Niland told Bullins, seated in the audience. “We know your heart’s in the right place.”
Alternate measures
Williams, the public works director, mentioned that Refuge City Church likely could address the sewer need by installing a septic tank on its property.
But the water service can’t be supplied through the usual alternative of digging a well, which would not provide enough pressure to suppress a fire in the building as would hydrants on the city system.
Suggestions including possibly getting a neighboring property owner to allow access for the extensions emerged during the meeting.
An extension project through nearby apartments was ruled out because of the major disruption Williams said this would cause there.
Mayor Niland also told Bullins that Refuge City Church might consider selling its parcel along U.S. 52 and using the proceeds to buy property elsewhere for the new facility.
The co-pastor replied that he believes it was God’s will for the church to have the land.
December 29, 2021
The Surry Arts Council will be celebrating Christmas the old-time way with the Blue Ridge Mountain holiday musical tradition “Breaking Up Christmas” on Saturday, January 1, at 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Earle Theatre, 142 North Main Street in Mount Airy.
The dance will feature live music from Backstep, featuring Chester McMillian on guitar, Nick McMillian on bass, Michael Motley playing banjo, and Mac Traynham on the fiddle.
This Christmas tradition takes its name from music and dance celebrations in this area, where residents used to “Break up Christmas.” The celebration included two weeks of nightly house parties that were filled with music. Each night musicians would announce the location of the following night’s celebration. The hosts would move all the furniture to make room for dancing.
“They’d go from house to house almost – have a dance at one house, then go off to the next one the following night and all such as that. The week before Christmas and the week after, that’s when the big time was,” Lawrence Bolt a fiddler from Galax has said of the celebration.
“They’d play a tune called ‘Breakin’ Up Christmas’, that was the last dance they’d have on Christmas, they’d have Wallace Spanger play Breakin’ Up Christmas. There’s an old feller by the name of Bozwell, he’d cry every time.”
A song and an event that still evoke memories is just the reason for having the dance at the Historic Earle Theatre again this year. “Maintaining area traditional music and old-time traditions remains important to the Surry Arts Council, especially during these continued challenging times,” said Tanya Jones the Surry Arts Council’s Executive Director.
Beyond maintaining the connection to the traditions of the past, the dance is a terrific opportunity to cut loose. “It’s a great chance for folks to get out and dance or just listen and tap their feet,” Jones suggested.
Tommy Jarrell and numerous other local musicians recorded the tune “Breaking Up” Christmas.” The popular lyrics are –
“Hoo-ray Jake and Hoo-ray John
Breakin’ UP Christmas all night long.
Way back yonder a long time ago
The old folks danced the do-si-do,
Way down yonder alongside the creek
I seen Santy Claus washin’ his feet.
Santa Claus come, done and gone,
Breaking up Christmas right along…”
Backstep, an award-winning old-time band, performs old-time string band music in the “Round Peak Style.” Known for its driving rhythms and prominent melodies, Round Peak music is just the thing to make you kick up your heels and dance. In 2004, Backstep won first prize at both the Fiddler’s Grove fiddler’s convention and the Mount Airy Fiddler’s Convention.
Chester McMillian, one of the founders of the band, was born in Carroll County, Virginia, into a musical family and community. He has played traditional Old-time Round Peak style music since childhood. Chester is the recipient of the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award.
Chester played guitar with Tommy Jarrell for fifteen years, and he developed his guitar style specifically to play with Tommy. He has also played and recorded with Dix Freeman, Kirk Sutphin, and Greg Hooven, with whom he founded Backstep.
Nick McMillian, Chester’s son, was raised in the Round Peak community surrounded by music. He is truly of the tradition, bringing a whole family history into his banjo, fiddle and bass playing. Nick’s musical mentors include Fred Cockerham, his grandfather Dix Freeman, and of course, his father Chester McMillian.
Michael Motley plays banjo with the band and is well-known for his old-time banjo and his dancing. Mac Traynham, an award-winning master, is an advocate for the traditional ‘sound’ of old-time music and is a multi-instrumentalist specializing in Clawhammer banjo and old-time fiddle in a style that attracts flatfoot dancers. He has worked with numerous old-time bands playing for local community events, and has performed for audiences in the UK, Denmark, and Australia over the past eight years.
Come and join the Surry Arts Council and Backstep as they continue a tradition only found right here. For those who cannot attend or for whom curiosity will not allow them to wait, please find a link to a recording of Tommy Jarrell and string band, at the Edwards-Franklin House during the annual Sonker Festival, July, 1983:
Tickets are $10 General Admission, and can be purchased online at, at the Surry Arts Council office (336) 786-7998, 218 Rockford St, Mount Airy, NC, or at the door one hour before the show.
December 28, 2021
The celebration of the new year will be accompanied by changes in garbage-collection schedules for the city of Mount Airy.
This includes no commercial collections next Monday, although these will operate under the normal schedule on Friday, New Year’s Eve.
The Friday residential routes also are to be serviced as usual.
However, no yard-waste pickups will occur next Monday.
City offices are scheduled to be closed Friday in observance of the New Year’s Day holiday.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News


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