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Support by the slice / August 03, 2017
Two local charities will be the beneficiaries of South Boston’s newest festival — the Pizza Festival, organized by Vinny Sarnataro of Italian Delight and Frutopia.

M.J. Roark of the Halifax Dog Squad said the Pizza Festival, set Saturday, Oct. 14 at Halifax Square Shopping Center, will be the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year.

The same goes for Misunderstood, the other recipient of the festival proceeds, agreed Marvin Ballou.

“That money will go along way to help us operate throughout the year.”

Roark said her group tries to rescue as many abandoned dogs as possible before they are taken to the local animal pound. That gets to be quite a job, especially after hunting season when many dogs are abandoned.

Halifax Dog Squad works to ensure that the dogs that are taken in by their clients remain well cared for. “It’s like an adoption process,” she said, noting that those who adopt dogs must submit an application. A Dog Squad member will then visit the home to be assured that the dog will have a good home and that their shots are kept up to date.

Roark said over the past two years of the group’s existence, members have rescued over 1,000 dogs, some coming from as far away as Granville and Pittsylvania counties.

“We look on Facebook for dogs that have been found or look at the newspapers for information about stray dogs, or simply from word of mouth.” They also work with the Humane Society and try to report seeing dogs that they find tied up or caged up, she said.

It’s a labor of love: one member of the group, Laura Larkins, offers her Turbeville farm as a foster home while member Vicky Allen also fosters as many animals as she can handle until homes are found for the animals. The dogs have to be spayed and neutered before they can be adopted and the group does not discriminate about breed or age, but takes as many dogs as they can find.

Both Food Lion and Tractor Supply have been great supporters of the group offering food supplies, as well as opportunities for adoption programs, Roark said.

Ballou said his Misunderstood program has been working with young boys ages 10 to 18, guiding them to be upstanding citizens.

“We mentor the boys, teaching them respect and how to get along with others. And we try to talk with them about their individual situations. We also try to introduce them to things they might not otherwise experience, such as visiting colleges and talking with business people and politicians.

The boys are encouraged to learn how to play chess and participate in spelling bees.”

Ballou said he was excited when one of the boys recently told him that he had been able to swim from a boat to a nearby dock, something that the youth never thought he would be able to do.

Misunderstood, which is headed by Anthony Womack, works with the United Way, the Mentor Role Model Program, Tri-County Community Action, the Salvation Army, Sinai Fun Day, the Department of Social Services, Night Out and Habitat for Humanity. Each year the group offers free hair cuts for youngsters as they head back to school. They have given out 1,500 free cuts over the past six years.

The Pizza Festival will be held at Halifax Square Shopping Center on Saturday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and will feature free admission, live music by local bands and a DJ, kids games, door prizes and a silent auction. The first 500 people will receive a free slice of pizza and a drink. Local pizza businesses will donate the pizzas for the event and Palmer Properties of Virginia is the corporate sponsor.

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