Mecklenburg community united to face 2020

No one can deny that 2020 was a rollercoaster of a year. However, in the face of adversity Mecklenburg County stuck together to bring up a community that was suffering affects of the pandemic. Our Year in Review at The News Progress aims to remind you of all the good that shone through the county during this epidemic.

January

Mayor Eddie Bratton and the Chase City Town Council made the decision to hold off on voting to declare Chase City a Second Amendment (2A) Sanctuary until all the council members had a chance to review all relevant information. This decision allowed for council members to educate themselves on the legal ramifications involved. Staunch supporters of the second amendment stated, “You don’t understand the Second Amendment,” when Mayor Bratton announced his decision.

The Bluestone Junior Varsity basketball team achieved 6 wins in a row after beating both Nottoway (39-25) and Goochland (25-19). sophomore standout Makayla Mason continued her outstanding season leading all scorers in the game with 19 points.

February

In February, Chase City celebrated the 41 year-long career of local Mr. Earnest White and commended him for all of the work he has while serving as a correctional officer. Chase City mayor Eddie Bratton as well as coworkers, friends, and family all shared stories of Mr. White. Earnest’s children said, “He always provided for us and taught us what it meant to be a man.” His wife Tammy was the last to speak reminding everyone that “behind every good man is a strong woman.”

After delaying the decision in January, Mayor Eddie Bratton and Town Council members held the highly anticipated discussion to become a second amendment (2A) sanctuary. The Chase City Town Council voted unanimously for the 2A Sanctuary Resolution.

Neil Clayton, Jr. finished his stint as a Bluestone wrestler as state champion runner-up. Neil completed his wrestling career as a 2-time State Finalist and the 2019 220lb State Champion becoming a legend as a Bluestone wrestler and athlete.

March

On March 4, 88 cases of the novel Coronavirus had been reported in the United States, with two resulting deaths. None of the cases were reported in Virginia at that time.

On March 13, Governor Northam ordered all K-12 schools to close for a two week period due to concerns over the Coronavirus. As we now know, that two-week closure extended quite further than originally anticipated.

Four individuals were apprehended after an apparent home-invasion turned deadly on Skipwith Road in Boydton. One suspect was reported dead at the scene after clashing with deputies. Another suspect was transported to VCU Medical Center. The suspects that were detained following this home invasion were Jonathan T. Watson, Jack M. Heverin, Zaquan D. Meadows and Emily Spencer.

Microsoft volunteers teamed up with the Arbor Day Foundation and local foresters like Neal Oberholtzer to plant loblolly pine trees on privately owned land on White House Road in Clarksville. The volunteers and foundation were able to plant roughly 38,000 new trees at the location.

COVID-19 officially made its way to Mecklenburg County on March 20. The first reported case belonged to a man in his 50s that began isolating at home to curb the spread.

A statewide order was imposed on March 24 for schools to close for the remainder of the academic year. Additional guidelines were put in place limiting the number of people allowed at gatherings and the closure of recreational and non-essential businesses.

Mecklenburg Senior Citizens, Inc began changing their food distribution so that more individuals could be serviced and less would be waiting at any given time.

The hospital located at Buena Vista Circle began preparing for the likely surge in COVID-19 patients. This was a precautionary step taken to ensure that there would be capacity to handle any and all future patients.

At the end of March, Virginia Governor Northam declared the infamous “stay-at-home” order. This was a significant decision made in the battle against Coronavirus or the 2020 Pandemic.

April

SVCC declared a new pass/fail grading system in response to COVID-19. Representatives from the college explained that this decision was made to keep students from being disadvantaged by a global pandemic out of their control.

Sensing the need for public wifi, the Mecklenburg County Public Libraries made the decision to keep wifi public while libraries were closed. Residents did not need a library card or password to use the wifi. The Mecklenburg County Public Schools system also established public wifi while schools remained closed. Community members were able to use this wifi for school and work.

The Southside Health District’s first outbreak of Coronavirus was established at Sentara Meadowview Terrace. This marked the beginning of a trend where long term living facilities were most prone to deadly outbreaks.

April 13 marked the first death in the Southside Health District due to COVID. No additional information was reported to keep the family and friends of the individual protected. Condolences were offered by the Virginia Department of Health.

Easter was the first holiday to fall victim to the pandemic. To provide a spot of cheer during unprecedented times, Chase City hosted the first of many drive-through parades. Many individuals such as the Mayor, Police Chief J. A. Jordan, and Fire Chief Charles Magann put on the parade with special guest the Easter Bunny!

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency in the county on April 13.

The Mecklenburg County YMCA was roused into action this year. They began a year of outstanding service to the community by first hosting a toiletries drive at both Chase City and Clarksville locations. This drive was hosted so that community members that were having trouble finding essentials—such as elderly community members or families—could find the toiletries they needed.

Victoria Messick—a Greensboro, North Carolina native—was declared the winner of the 2020 Lakefest Logo Contest. Clarksville remained positive that COVID-19 would not affect the 43rd Annual Lakefest at this time.

A call came through shortly after midnight on Tuesday, April 21 that would shake the South Hill Community. Brian’s Steakhouse, a local beloved restaurant was taken by fire. The restaurant had stood for over 46 years in South Hill. An outpouring of love and support came forth on social media from the community for owner Ronnie Well. This began the South Hill Strong mantra.

Penny, Shep & Jonathan Evans as well as a host of friends, family, and supporters were able to donate 319 Chemo/Radiation Care Bags to CMH. Penny has held this event for several years to benefit local cancer patients.  Penny remarked, “This community is known for its support, especially for cancer patients.” She continued, “They really did a wonderful job in providing bags for our community.”

May

Virginia Governor Northam announced the easing of Phase One restrictions early in May. This allowed for non-essential businesses to reopen with capacity restrictions.

The Mecklenburg County Tourism, Chase City Chamber of Commerce, Clarksville Chamber of Commerce and South Hill Chamber of Commerce joined together in May to create the Gift Card Matching program to benefit local businesses. They were excited to announce that the program was a great success and gift cards were sold out in mere hours after opening!

A second outbreak was reported in Mecklenburg County at Chase City Health and Rehab. This outbreak took the lives of at least 13 individuals at the facility.

In May’s election, long time Mayor of Chase City was defeated by newcomer Alden Fahringer. Michelle Wilson, Tommy Whittaker and Pauline Blackwell Keeton were elected to the Town Council.

The Chase City Town Council granted new stipends to long-time police officers in the town.

Two former Bluestone students, Jennifer and Malyka, have started a Facebook group to allow for people to "adopt" a student affected by the 2020 school closures.

Virginia announced new face mask requirements among other workplace guidelines to guarantee safety upon reopening.

June

Phase Two of reopening began on June 5.

After a shaky few months, the Class of 2020 was able to attend in-person graduation in June. Graduation took on quite a different form from year’s past, but the Class of 2020 was excited and grateful to be able to have a commencement ceremony.

A plan was announced in June to begin allowing summer school students to return for in-person teaching. This phased plan was created with the hopes that schools could resume in-person teaching for the next academic year.

The death of George Floyd inspired peaceful protests across the nation and even the world. Peaceful protests were held in Chase City, South Hill, Clarksville, and surrounding localities.

Donald Johnson, the first to contract COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County was able to return home after a full recovery.

Womack Publishing’s Director of Operations, Chad Harrison, was elected President of the Virginia Press Association.

Parents began expressing concerns over returning for face-to-face learning.

The Clarksville Chamber rescheduled the 43rd Annual Lakefest for mid-September after much deliberation.

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative received First Place in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Spotlight on Excellence awards for outstanding communication practices around the nation.

July

To celebrate July 4th safely, the Town of Clarksville held a boating parade. Boaters were excited to show their red, white and blue for this celebration and showed up in large numbers to show off their love for America!

The Mecklenburg School Board decided to put off the start date of the next academic year to September 8 in hopes to allow staff time to put in place safety protocols and develop virtual teaching options.

Virginia entered Phase Three of reopening which allowed Farmer’s Markets and recreational sports to continue.

In another move to support the community, locals Jennifer Diamond Garrett and Malyka S. Walton—both members of the Mecklenburg YMCA—teamed up with the Chase City Chamber of Commerce to bring ice cream to Mecklenburg localities. The Cottage Barn provided the truck and ice cream for this cheerful event!

Walmart began requiring face coverings while shopping.

The Virginia Department of Education honored Microsoft with a 2020 Creating Excellence Award for their Business and Industry Partnership with Mecklenburg County Public Schools.

Virginia became the first in the nation to establish statewide emergency workplace standards.

Both the Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce and the Mecklenburg County Tourism Board received $10,000 grants from the Virginia Tourism Cooperation to support tourism sites around Virginia.

Purposeful Journey received several large donations to help them bring a youth studio to Chase City.

August

Virginia was the first state to test the Apple and Google COVIDWISE app. The app serves to alert users when they have been in contact with someone that has contracted COVID-19.

The Board of Supervisors brought up discussion regarding the Confederate Monument that stands outside the Boydton Courthouse. Many in the community came to the meeting to voice their concerns regarding removal of the monument.

John C. Lee, Jr., President and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative in Chase City and EMPOWER Broadband was chosen to represent Virginia on the Board of Directors of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Bluestone High School inducted both Neil Clayton, Jr. and Nealie Whitt III. Nealie Whitt III is the first Head Coach and creator of the Bluestone Wrestling program. Neil Clayton, Jr. was a three time James River District Champion, a two time State Wrestling Finalist and the 2019 VHSL 220lb State Champion as well as a 2020 VHSL 220lb State Runner-up.

Bluestone High School graduate Ky’Leah Walls made the decision to benefit from her time away from school in quarantine; she wrote a book of poetry entitled, Every Emotion Finally Being Spoken. A book signing was held in the Chase City Banquet Hall from 2:00p.m. to 4:00p.m. on Saturday, August 15.

Chase City’s Youth leaders hosted their own peaceful "Voices From Our Future" Rally on Saturday, August 15.

After heavy deliberation and a lengthy discussion, the Mecklenburg County School Board voted 4-3 in favor of continuing four day, face-to-face learning for grades Pre-K through 5, all special needs students, and all English as a second language students while grades 6 through 12 would be starting as full-time virtual learners.

The Boydton Public Library hosted the "Strong Men and Women in Virginia History Exhibition” from mid-August to mid-September.

The Clarksville Lake Country announced the cancellation of the Wine Festival in August. It was not the first nor the last event to fall victim to COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County.

September

Mecklenburg County Tourism in cooperation with the Town Chambers launched a second round of the successful Gift Match Program!

After postponing Lakefest to mid-September, the Clarksville Chamber officially cancelled Lakefest due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Historically black Schools of Mecklenburg County, VA group began efforts to preserve the memory of local black schools. The hope is to one day have an alumni museum and civic center.

A boat parade showing support for the re-election of President Donald Trump was held in Clarksville on September 6.

Chase City Town Council voted to move forward with hosting the annual Trunk-or-Treat event, albeit different from years’ past.

The Lake Country Detachment #1085 Marine Corps League is hosted their 8th Annual 5K Walk/Run to benefit their memorial scholarship fund. The run was hosted virtually this year due to restrictions.

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors heard from members of the community at a public hearing on Tuesday, September 15, regarding the future of the Confederate Statue that stands in front of the Courthouse in Boydton.

The Chase City Warehouse and Commercial Historic District was added to the Virginia Landmarks Registry. The district dates back to a mid-1700s crossroads community in northwest Mecklenburg County.

Park View High School teacher, Vicki Soyars, was named Regional Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Department of Education.

The Clarksville Lions Club volunteered at the Clarksville Food Pantry to help provide food to Clarksville residents during the pandemic.

Mecklenburg County broke 700 COVID cases with three new outbreaks following schools reopening.

Dedicated News Progress columnist and Mecklenburg County historian Dr. John Caknipe, Jr. passed.

Park View Middle School was named a National Blue Ribbon School as a high performing school making exemplary progress toward closing achievement gaps.

Governor and Lady Northam tested positive for COVID-19.

Clarksville hosted the Fall Open Marketplace in lieu of the normal Harvest Festival. Vendors sat at spaced out stalls located in a gated portion of Virginia Avenue.

October

The Ruritans donated $100 to every Clarksville Elementary teacher to buy items to use with the students in their classrooms.

Chase City Elementary School thanked the Clarksville Ruritans Club for their generous donation to the instructional staff. 

Deb's Concessions brought fair food to the Town of Chase City in October. They set up food stands as well as a balloon game and a high/low striker for Chase City residents to enjoy this year. The display was located in the parking lot beside the "Old Southside Furniture Building" on Main Street.

The Mac Callum More Museum and Gardens hosted their second annual Garden Gift Gala where local artists were able to showcase and sell their quality works to the public.

The Town of Clarksville voted against hosting Halloween plans due to insufficient planning.

Beloved Chase City Elementary teacher, Mrs. Sherry Collier, passed after a total of 31 years devoted to teaching. Mrs. Collier was followed shortly by her husband after the couple contracted and battled COVID-19.

Chase City hosted its Trunk-or-Treat event at the Chase City Fairgrounds. Families were able to drive-through the event.

Mecklenburg Tourism and Chambers kicked off Round 3 of the Gift Card Match Program bringing another $100,000 back to small businesses in the area.

November

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-3 to relocate the Confederate Monument located in front of the Boydton Courthouse. Glenn Barbour, Chairman of the Board, shared, “I would never have voted to destroy this statue; I voted to relocate this statue.”

The Mecklenburg County Emergency Communications Center announced the availability of the new Text-to-911 services.

After a laborious few days of counting votes, Joe Biden was declared the winner of the November 2020 General Election. Mecklenburg County voted red. Republican Senate runner Daniel Gade won against Mark Warner, and Bob Good took home the representative seat for Virginia’s 5th district.

Tina Wood, Executive Director of the Chase City Chamber of Commerce, penned a thankful letter for all the individuals and groups that helped make the Trunk-or-Treat event successful.

The Clarksville Chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, the Glory Quilters, presented 26 quilts to area Veterans on Wednesday, November 11. The Glory Quilters held a drive-thru style presentation this year. Veterans lined up in cars by the police station and the Subway parking lot to receive their quilts.

Mecklenburg County Public Libraries began offering hotspots for checkout to aid families in virtual learning.

Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce received $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program, designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of the state grants funds.

The Staunton-Meherrin Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Bluestone High School delivered Thanksgiving Boxes full of Thanksgiving yumminess to six families-in-need in the area before Thanksgiving. Bluestone High School collected and donated all the side items for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The Staunton-Meherrin NWTF chapter purchased and donated the turkeys.

The Mac Callum More Museum and Gardens unveiled Virginia’s newest LOVEWorks sculpture located in the gardens of Chase City. Artist Fred Cartwright—a metalworker for over 30 years—conceptualized and realized the design of the newest sculpture.

The Kickin’ it for Kyler Lopez Memorial Walk went off as usual with face masks and social distancing enforced so that community members could enjoy the event while staying safe.

December

Mecklenburg broke 1,000 as COVID case numbers surged in Virginia.

Purposeful Journey along with Felicia Young and McDean General Contractors passed out pre-packaged ingredients for Thanksgiving meals to 25 families in need on November 23. Volunteers gathered in the newly renovated Purposeful Journey building on Main Street to hand out supplies all day.

Mecklenburg County Public Schools decided to switch to all-virtual learning through the New Year due to significant community transmission rates.

Chase City Health and Rehab received a large donation from Sergeant

Stembridge along with Amy Hite of Mecklenburg County Social Services. Stockings for Seniors as well as COVID boxes for seniors were given to the center.

Mecklenburg County’s Averett School and Wharton Memorial Church and Wharton Cemetery site—collectively known as the Wharton Memorial Church Complex—was approved and inducted into the Virginia Landmarks Registry.

VCU CMH nurse Connie Puryear, RN, BSN, Clinical Nurse II was awarded the The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. This award is part of the DAISY

Foundation's mission to recognize the extraordinary, compassionate nursing care they provide patients and families every day.

VCU CMH received donations of baby hats and blankets ahead of the winter holidays. An anonymous donor knitted 20 baby hats and Susan Dawson of Kenbridge, Virginia, donated six handmade, colorful quilts for babies.

And at the very end of 2020, CVS began its initiative to vaccinate vulnerable long-term living facility residents and frontline healthcare workers with the newly developed Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.