Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sugar Grove Yearbooks at Library of Virginia

Sugar Grove School’s yearbooks can now be accessed in high quality digital format on the Library of Virginia’s digital archives here. Sugar Grove School Alumni has featured digital yearbooks for several years on a facebook group however, that was not available to the general public. It has been a goal to make this collection available to anyone who would like to see it. Finding a proper means of doing that has been a challenge until now.

At this time, the yearbooks are partially available on this website and also available at the above listed site as a free resource. Many if not most of these yearbooks are no longer available at the school so there is even more of a reason to make them available.

Through this digitization project, anyone with an internet connection can access the yearbooks, search them and eventually, will be able to search the contents as the files are processed at LVA.

These images are of the highest available quality and hopefully will be enjoyed by everyone.

Importance of Community Resources

helpingLately, you may have found yourself snowed in for days on end with our most recent snow storm that dumped almost a foot of snow on our community and across the region.

During this time, we were fortunate not to lose power but we all know from previous years that electricity is usually the first resource that goes down in a storm like this. For those instances, we usually try to prepare beforehand as we are able by stocking up on fuel for heaters, no-cook food or foods that only need to be heated, candles, batteries, flashlights and plenty of other things that one may need to survive under harsh winter conditions.

Recently, we experienced several local closures affecting our community ranging from businesses to churches. It didn’t stop there–another thing we saw was community members who have resources (such as a 4 wheel drive vehicle or snow removal equipment) helping others out during this time.  The Sugar Grove Facebook Page even set up a non-emergency assistance request post so that those in the community could access it and post publicly if non-emergency assistance was needed somewhere in the community. The local fire department and rescue squad were also tagged in the post to keep them in the loop with what was happening just in case.

Requests ranged from people needing to get to a store to those who needed food, driveways cleared or help getting to or from work outside of the community. Even with all of these localized efforts, it’s important to understand that Sugar Grove still lacks many of the resources and amenities enjoyed by the rest of the county and surrounding region that include things like cellular service and Nixel relevant to our specific community. Having access to resources such as this would add a layer of safety and assurance for those who live in the community.

Having access to these services from other parts of the surrounding county does not provide the same kind of accurate information such as road conditions or accident information, closures, etc. for our community that would be specific to our community. Weather conditions can change drastically from one side of the mountain to the other very quickly and this necessitates resources for our community the same as every other community in Smyth County north of Interstate 81.

 

Sugar Grove School Meets SOL Goals!

Summer vacation has now begun and the end of the school year is behind us but we’d like to take a moment and recognize the students at Sugar Grove School for their accomplishments in meeting SOL standards. The entire school got to celebrate on June 4 for Field Day/SOL Celebration Day.  These efforts of encouragement began in March with our students. Each student was given an “Attitude is Everything” t-shirt. The school set goals for SOLs. Teachers and administrators agreed that if students met or exceeded the SOL goals, they would be allowed to throw pies at teachers, administrators and participating elected officials, dunk them in a dunk tank and watch as Principal Amy Wheeler kissed a cow.

On the morning of June 4, administrators, faculty and staff began setting up activities on the school grounds. Parents joined in to participate in the fun with their children throughout the day. Popcorn was made available along with bottled water and other freebies for the celebration. A dunk tank was set up in the middle of the activities where teachers took turns sitting on the platform while students tossed softballs at a target in attempts to dunk the teachers. Everyone got a chance to throw a ball.

In addition to the day’s activities, t-shirts were also made for Field Day.

Congratulations Sugar Grove School students and have a wonderful summer!

Gearing Up For Farmers Market

The community website is gearing up for the 2015 season of the Sugar Grove Farmers Market. We have even created a short commercial on YouTube for the event that you can watch above and share!  We look forward to this year being better than the previous two and therefore have made it easier and faster for vendors to let us know that they want to participate.

If you are a vendor, you can fill out a vendor application right here on this site with your information contained therein and it will be emailed directly to the market manager at which point, you will get a response from the manager closer to the market opening day as a reminder.

Sugar Grove Farmers market DatesThe market’s open dates have changed slightly since the previous two years to better serve the community and its needs and in order to not conflict with other ongoing events that may have been scheduled at the same time. We hope that this will make the market more accessible to vendors as well as customers. It is very important to sustainability to have the market available on dates that do not interfere with other events.

Vendors at the Sugar Grove Farmers Market sell for free and there are no setup fees. You keep 100% of your profits. It’s a win win for everyone involved. This farmers market exists to provide more opportunities for supporting local farmers, businesses, organizations and other vendors in our community while offering locals a chance to mingle and spend their money locally.

 

BoS Decides Categorical Funding for School System

budget watchGrovers should know that the Smyth County Board of Supervisors are looking out for us. At a recent meeting, the board decided to apply categorical funding to Smyth County Schools instead of traditional funding. This is beneficial to us because it makes sure that money is being spent where it was originally designated rather than allowing the Superintendent and school board to move funds around and decide how they would like to spend them.

Last year Sugar Grove School was consolidated causing irreversible damage to the community and school that moved us closer to closure in the future and certainly made us an easier target for it where budget was cited. The decision to close the school was largely based upon a supposed lack of funding that likely resulted from reckless spending in the recent past and new debts which had to be paid for.

Categorical funding works differently from traditional budget in that the Smyth County Board of Supervisors will appropriate sufficient funds to the school system but along with that, the funds will be divided into 6 or 7 different categories. In other words, the budget is already earmarked for the school board when appropriated. An example would be, if the school board says they need 3 new buses, money would be placed the budget specifically for 3 buses. They wouldn’t be able to decide later on to purchase only 2 buses and then move the rest to hire a new position for the central office, give raises or increase benefits as has largely been the case in the past. Rather than being able to move funding themselves, they would have to make a request to the Smyth County Board of Supervisors to re categorize funding and release it to a different budget area.

This is good for Sugar Grove because it brings about closer supervision where the budget and spending is concerned. It also takes into consideration the concerns of taxpayers when the school board recklessly spends budget money and then claims they need to make cuts in a community like ours resulting in lower property values and long term damage to a community.  These changes will allow for a better approach to budgeting from county officials and school officials.

Smyth County Schools adopted a budget of approximately 48.5 million and plan on asking Smyth County Board of Supervisors for an additional $545,512 in local funding.

Easter Egg Hunt Again

The 2nd Annual Sugar Grove Community Easter Egg Hunt was postponed last weekend due to snow of all things!  Imagine that, we got snow and freezing weather after all of the nice weather we have experienced.

We would like to remind everyone that the activities will begin 12-3 this time around on Saturday, April 4th in Maple Leaf Park. The Easter Bunny will fly in on WINGS at 1 PM. We have also confirmed that the radio station will be broadcasting live from the event!

Please join us for hopefully a much warmer community event that will be fun for everyone!

It’s Valentines Day

It’s Valentines Day, you’ve got somebody special and you’re looking for something special do to in the area. It’s a given that there’s probably not too many choices right here in Smyth County but if you travel outside of the county, the options are endless and quite spectacular. Come along with us in this short article if you’re looking for something to do and see where it takes you. Of course, we have some special things going on right here in Sugar Grove if you don’t want to travel!

Valentines Day Spaghetti SupperFundraiser meal with Spaghetti, salad, desserts and drink, all proceeds go to support our free event “Souled Out” To go plates available. Please help support this event and share with your friends and family.

Heartwood Valentines Day Celebration– $50 per couple, includes full course meal, entertainment and a complimentary rose and glass of wine.

Vow Renewal at The Collins House Inn, Marion, VA- Starting at $925.00 and includes one night at the Inn, civil ceremony, bouquet, option of indoor or outdoor ceremony, champagne for toasting and commemorative certificate.

Valentines Spa & Dinner Package, Charlottesville, VA-One night, dinner for two, chocolate dipped strawberries in your room, wine, breakfast for two, couples messages. Starts at $700

Martha Washington Valentines Day, Abingdon, VA- Starting at $175 with a free $75 spa credit and includes one night with dinner for two, champagne, box of chocolates, roses and a turn down along with breakfast before you head home.

Valentines Day at The Regency Hotel, Roanoke, VA- Starting at $176, there are a variety of packages available that include a weekend stay, one night stay and dinner for two among other options.

Barter Theatre’s Whole Shebang, Abingdon, VA- $85 will get you tickets to 2 Barter productions, 2 meals at The Barter Cafe, 2 gourmet deserts and 2 gourmet coffees.

Valentines Day at the Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA- $335 for a one night stay in the Jefferson Hotel that includes a dozen red roses and breakfast for two in the restaurant.

This concludes our Valentines Day article.  If you see anything that tickles your fancy, many of these deals are available for the entire weekend and several offer a trip that would allow you to see places you wouldn’t otherwise travel that are great couples locations in Virginia!

Go ahead, take a weekend trip and enjoy it!

Smyth County News Will No Longer Be Accessible Online

Recently an article was published on the parent website of Smyth County News & Messenger, SWVAToday.com indicating that a new subscription fee of nearly $50 per year would be imposed on those of us who would like to access articles and content online. What does this mean for Sugar Grove? What does it mean for other local media outlets?  We will look at these and more in this article.

Lots of us enjoy being able to access news and information using the internet from the convenience of our connected devices and at just about any location whether it be at home, work or while out and about. If you are one of those people who read Smyth County News & Messenger in particular along with other local area newspapers that are part of SWVAToday.com, you are in for a rude awakening because Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffet have now said that they are placing a value on their content and thus it will no longer be freely accessible through their website. You’ll have to pay for it just the same as you would a paper subscription.

While some may not have a problem with this or take issue with it, there’s a few very important things that we as a small rural community with minimal media representation should take into consideration.

By creating a subscription based access to all content published by smaller local newspapers, you create a breach in the flow of information between the general public and branches of local government where public information of interest is concerned.  Also, when even basic public information is no longer freely available from the only existing newspaper covering an area, concerned citizens often have to go out of their way to obtain such information. Those of us who are keeping a close eye on matters concerning local government and the school board for instances, will be forced to either attend all meetings (even though some are held on the same night at the same times) and make FOIA requests for subsequent information in which case our Superintendent has indicated there will be a charge for procuring such information.  There should never be a charge for public information.

There should never be a fee associated with keeping up-to-date on basic happenings and public information around the community. It’s understood that you don’t get to view the whole entire paper or featured content for free and that there’s a point when you are expected to pay for the content but when that content happens to also include matters of local government and the paper is the single source of that information to the communities they serve, there’s a slightly problem.

In Sugar Grove’s particular case, Smyth County News is presently the only paper serving our community and the only paper available in the community. Should something major happen concerning our community or the rest of the county that the paper covered, there would be a shortage of copies in our community if the newspaper even decided to cover the happenings. This being said, it would be a great opportunity for any other area newspaper to pick up Sugar Grove as one of their coverage areas and provide media services to the community as well as some healthy competition for the no longer freely accessible content of our local paper.

If you would like to give input directly to the publishers of Smyth County News, please send an email to berkshire@berkshirehathaway.com or call 402-346-1400. Additionally, local input can be directed to Mark Sage at jsage@wythenews.com on this particular topic.

Sugar Grove in 2015

2014 to 2015 moving forwardWhen I look back over the previous year as I compose this article, I see both positive and negative things that have taken place and that have shaped our community during that time. The events that shaped our community even though some were negative must be looked at in a positive way with the purpose in mind of bringing about changes. Some are not positive at all but what we learned from those events can help us to safeguard and better plan our future as a community in the grand scheme of things.

At the start of a new year, lots of people will make New Years resolutions that range from being healthier to losing weight all the way to world peace. These are all great things and it’s good to have resolutions–I hope you keep yours!  This year, my only resolution is to continue to provide our community with innovative ideas and information that will move us forward and benefit us.  In order to make that happen, I need the community’s continued support.

There’s several things in 2015 that Sugar Grove needs to see happen and they are as follows:

  • Cellular service established
  • Maintaining our school and other community resources
  • Marketing the community and it’s resources to potential business/industry/employers
  • Maintaining regular and continuing positive media coverage of our community
  • Encouraging more locally owned businesses

This list could go on for miles but as I trimmed my list, these are the most important points that stand out as achievable and useful in efforts to improve Sugar Grove long-term.  In fact, we’re already on a roll where cellular services are concerned! If you read our recent article on Artemis, you already know that we hope to have another point of contact with the company and continue dialogue with them about potential services they may be able to offer. This is very exciting news for our community and also represents new information that was not available this time last year. Thanks to Supervisor Blake Frazier’s insight, it was brought to my attention in recent months and a point of contact was established with the company.

While the idea of any topic on Sugar Grove School is likely to bring up hard feelings between the community and the school board, we have to look at what’s already happened as a learning experience and work in such way as a community toward a unified goal of keeping the school open. The way to make this happen is not through negativity but through the management of the flow of valid information from the source to tax payers. Also another great way to look at this is that it provides another opportunity to point out all of the positives at Sugar Grove School. We have a wonderful school with excellent teachers and an awesome new principal. When you put good in, good comes out and that’s what’s happening right now at our school. We have one of the best learning environments in the county and even several achievements over the past year to speak of. Our school was the recipient of several grants and earned School Bucks dollars from school and community efforts collecting box tops and shopping at participating local grocers. The annual fall festival this past October also raised a significant amount of money while providing several fun opportunities for the community to come together and enjoy the festivities.

With the recent decision of the Smyth County Board of Supervisors to pull out of A-Corridor, it’s not a bad time for Sugar Grove to get in on things!  You never thought you’d live to see the day when Sugar Grove could be a location considered for development of a business or industry–the truth is, we have resources here that are valuable ones and hopefully some of those resources can be marketed in such way to bring employment opportunities to us here in Sugar Grove as well as other services–think about what it would be like to have a bank in our community–it sure would beat having to travel to Marion to make your deposits and conduct your business, now wouldn’t it? Our community boasted banking services at one point in time long ago. Having access to a local bank could stimulate business to come to the area.   The idea that the county plans to do their own marketing instead of paying membership to A-Corridor is a move in the right direction and we can have a piece of that over here in Sugar Grove if we will take it upon ourselves to let our elected officials know that we would welcome such an opportunity in the new year. That being said, let’s not forget the importance of locally owned businesses–every town, rural community and city needs more of them and we need to support the ones we have and encourage new ones to come to our area.

Small and locally owned businesses are far better for the local economy than retail businesses and tend to provide better services, employment and products to those they serve. 2015 is the time to open a new business in Sugar Grove. In fact, as this article is being drafted, several commercial properties are available in Sugar Grove.

Lastly, and potentially one of the most important things we can do during the new year for our community is establish and maintain a line of communication with local news outlets. You may have already noticed that our local newspaper, Smyth County News & Messenger has often failed quite miserably to give Sugar Grove coverage on positive things. In fact, recently, we saw an article placing our community in the “Memoriam” section among deaths and other negatives with not one mention elsewhere in the article of anything positive happening in 2014. What can we do about this? It’s simple–if you have a group, organization, business or are an individual involved in such group or organization, you can take it upon yourself to create your own press releases or informative articles and send them to a variety of media outlets serving our area. If our newspaper won’t publish it, this blog will! Perhaps other media outlets such as the Independence Declaration and The Galax Gazette would also be interested in covering some topics in our community–they have been willing in the past even though we are not part of their coverage area.  Nonetheless, we as a community need to strive toward carving a positive place in local media.

2015 promises to be a very positive year if we work together as a community to make it happen!  Please join me in my New Years resolution to improve Sugar Grove in 2015!

 

Cedar Springs Gets A Cell Tower

Cedar Springs Rural Retreat Cellular TowerA new cellular tower is up in the Cedar Springs & Rural Retreat area. This tower provides services to approximately 1180 US Cellular customers along Cedar Springs Road, Speedwell and Rural Retreat communities. The tower was activated earlier this week.

This is the second tower that has been placed near Sugar Grove providing service to US Cellular customers while Sugar Grove has been told by the provider that the geography is not acceptable and that there’s not enough people to justify the construction and cost of building a cellular tower.  The first tower that came to our community’s attention was turned on last November (2013) in neighboring Grayson County. The tower stands atop a ridge in the Volney area and provides service to US Cellular customers all the way to Troutdale and within 5 miles of Sugar Grove.

It has been said that this particular tower was constructed as part of a communications requirement established by River North Prison located in Independence, VA that would allow for communications along Route 16 into Marion however, it would seem that for some reason or another, that line of communication was not completed. On the Smyth County end of things, It has been determined that US Cellular examined a piece of land for the purpose of a new tower construction (the location was not disclosed) and rejected this site requesting one at a higher elevation approximately one mile from the established site. This property was subsequently on forest service land and was not available.

This tower is situated in the Cedar Springs area is just across the county line on the Wythe County side. It is disconcerting to know that Sugar Grove is one of the few areas left in Smyth County that has absolutely no cellular service available and apparently a very low prospect of having it established according to Smyth County Board of Supervisors and their recent findings with providers.

The task at this point should be to look into why areas similar in geography and population are able to get services that Sugar Grove is not. Perhaps it has something to do with the way tax dollars are currently being handled in Smyth County. The school board can account for the expense of approximately half of the tax dollars in Smyth County while another portion of tax dollars are being spent on projects in other parts of the county.

Earlier in the year, Smyth County School Board established a marketing agreement with Milestone Communications (Milestone’s article here.) that placed a variety of county owned properties on a marketing list. Milestone will market these properties to cellular service providers who are interested in servicing an area. Subsequently, the Sugar Grove School property is the only property on the list in the Sugar Grove Area. All of the rest of the properties are in areas of Smyth County that are currently being served by one or more cellular providers.

Some Sugar Grove land owners have placed their name and contact information as well as land parcel information on a list that is locally maintained as well as numerous tower management and acquisition lists that have been available to take information should the opportunity arise for a provider to service the area and lease property locally. For now, these efforts have not been fruitful for the area and we need to look at other alternatives beginning with the reasons why providers are serving other areas nearby similar in population and geography. Perhaps these providers and our elected officials need some encouragement to service Sugar Grove!  Our community can no longer sit idly by while other communities and surrounding counties move ahead by unprecedented leaps and bounds leaving us behind in a technological age where these services are absolutely necessary for day-to-day operations.

We have the support of our Board of Supervisors but they can only do their jobs if we continue to let them know that we have needs that haven’t been met. Getting results requires input from everyone. Majority wins. There’s no reason we cannot all work together to make this happen for Sugar Grove.