The News & Record
South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
Home   •   News   •   Sports   •   Classifieds   •   Community   •   Health   •   Entertainment   •   Obituaries   •   Opinions   •   Weather
Advertising | Contact | Register
Advanced Search
News

Fun times Saturday at Virgilina Summerfest

Solar lawsuit clears hurdle, to be heard

Summertime marks return of Prizery musical theatre


Sports

Baseball, softball begin regional play today


Community


Opinion


A&E

Opinion

‘Tis the season

SoVaNow.com / December 13, 2017

As Christmas approaches I feel a need to get right by Santa. Let’s see what we can contribute this week to the cause of peace and goodwill:

The end of the year is a fitting time to hand out awards, and the Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce held up its end of the bargain at the annual banquet and dinner meeting Thursday night in town. The Chamber bestowed the customary honors — Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year, Evelyn Hurst Volunteer Awards, and the lifetime achievement honor presented in memory of late mayor Kathleen Walker — and as usual, the recipients were all very deserving. But this year’s list of winners is perhaps especially noteworthy: I can’t think of a group more befitting of recognition. The Chamber did a superb job with its choices, as always, but the 2017 honorees are worth an extended mention.

Let’s start with Volunteer of the Year awards, three in all: recipients are Ann Pool Redd and J.C. and Nancy Eldreth. The Town of Clarksville’s success in organizing major events that draw people to the lake year-round is a marvel, but there’s no way the town would ever be so good punching above its proverbial weight if not for many, many hard-working folks carrying the proverbial load. The Eldreths and Redd typify the work ethic of the town’s volunteer cadre; their recognition is apt. I loved the choice of Business of the Year — The Cottage Barn, which sells home furnishings and gift items, hosts Annie Sloan Chalk Paint classes and craft parties, and sells ice cream, hot dogs and other treats from a soda fountain-style lunch counter. The shop has been a terrific asset for downtown. Devin Crisman, who runs the place, is just the sort of young entrepreneur every small town needs more of: smart, hard-working, forward-thinking. She and the staff bring fun to Virginia Avenue. The Cottage Barn is definitely worth a stop on your next visit to the lake.

Next, the two top honorees: Citizen of the Year Franklin Dover, and the winner of the Kathleen Walker Lifetime Achievement Award, Dale Hite. Taking the latter first, it’s hard to know what has held back the long overdue recognition of Dale Hite’s vast contributions to the Clarksville community — is it his ceaseless boosterism of all things related to UNC sports, or all the time he’s spent out of state attending Tar Heel ballgames? (I know that if Dale had given himself over fully to the Dark Side and become a Duke fan, you probably wouldn’t even be reading these words.) Setting aside this one arguable character flaw, no one can dispute the breadth of Dale’s work to make the town and area a better place. I’ve been known to bust through word count limits in this space from time to time, but not even I will attempt to summarize the full record of his accomplishments.

So let’s highlight just two aspects of Dale’s career: the first, running a small-town department store that also just so happens to be the anchor of Clarksville’s downtown district. If this sort of thing were easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy. Clarksville is very fortunate to have so many outstanding retail shops that add enormously to the overall vitality of the community. A vibrant downtown is a sign of a town that has a future. And keeping downtowns moving forward should be a priority for elected officeholders and ordinary citizens alike. As you’re running through your Christmas shopping list this season, please keep our local shops in mind; you won’t be disappointed.

And the second distinguishing resume entry of our award winner? If anyone has done more to support and promote youth sports in Mecklenburg County, please send me their names so we can feature them in future editions of this newspaper. Dixie Youth summer ball, Bluestone sports, you name it, Dale Hite most likely has had a hand in it. In doing so, he’s inculcated the best values of athletics — hard work, discipline, teamwork and fair play — in countless numbers of youths growing up in the community. A lifetime achievement award gets the matter exactly right.

Franklin and Carol Dover, co-winners of the Citizen of the Year Award, are well-known for their work with the Clarksville Ruritan Club, a go-getter organization with few equals. Both are fixtures at the Friday night Ruritan dances in town. Franklin, who also is a leader of the United Country Virginia Realty Cooking Crew, seemingly makes no concession to age: How many folks knocking on the door of age 80 spend their waking hours manning a hot grill, all for charity? Lord only knows how many groups and people have been blessed by the fundraising efforts of Franklin and his compatriots at UCVR. There’s much else that the Dovers do for people in the community that never gets noticed because they aren’t the types to talk about their good deeds. The decision to honor Mr. and Mrs. Dover is another great call by the Chamber.

All over Mecklenburg, we have individuals such as those mentioned above in our midst; the spirit celebrated by the Clarksville Chamber at its banquet last week runs throughout the county, from Bracey to Chase City to Buffalo Junction to Palmer Springs to points unmentioned. Everywhere you look, you’ll find people doing their level best to support their local communities and help out their neighbors and friends. In our atomized and digitized age, where people are wont to stick their noses into a smartphone screen (guilty as charged!) and let life go by, it’s heartening to know that civic engagement carries on — and makes a difference. Every once in a while, it’s useful to point these things out.

***

When Saint Paul’s College closed in 2013, the Town of Lawrenceville was left with a void in the heart of its local community: a stately campus with no students and no staff, sitting in the middle of town with no ongoing purpose and no sure future. Losing Saint Paul’s, one of a small number of Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBUCs) in the country, was a grievous blow for Brunswick County and Southside Virginia. Few things would be any better for the area than for Saint Paul’s to be put back into productive use.

The prospects for a new college being dim, the question is: what kind of use? With the recent sale of the campus property to a Chinese-tied firm, we’re unfortunately no closer to knowing the answer to the above question than we were when the site was tied up in the hands of the federal government’s pension guarantee agency. (The $2.5 million sale will go towards meeting the college’s remaining pension benefit obligations.) The purchaser, Xinhua Education Investment Corporation, and its registered agent, David Z. Lu, list a corporate address in Vienna. Our efforts to get in touch with Lu or company reps have been in vain.

In an online bio, Mr. Lu describes his firm, David Z. Lu & Associates, as engaged in promoting “business immigration, especially on international corporations and investment green card program in the U.S.” This points to the possibility that Saint Paul’s could become a gateway for heightened Chinese immigration to the U.S. This is the second time immigration has been raised as a potential driver of the campus’ future: the first instance was the proposal in 2014 to convert Saint Paul’s into a waystation for undocumented child immigrants from strife-torn central America counties. That plan for Saint Paul’s would have brought in considerable federal investment to restore and revitalize campus buildings that have fallen into disrepair, but the idea was quickly rejected by the community at-large, which brings us to where matters stand today.

We’ll just have to wait and see if the next proposal for Saint Paul’s also involves the hot topic of immigration, and how the community will react (if a plan emerges at all.) All ideas should be judged on their merits, and we have no preconceptions about the best use of the Saint Paul’s property, but it’s hard to imagine a plan going forward that doesn’t stir up some opposition. In far western Halifax County, a therapeutic boarding school for troubled high schoolers, The Carlbrook School, closed in 2015, later to be replaced by a behavioral health center for troubled adolescent teens. Each of these purposes might strike some as less than optimal, but both institutions have served a real need and brought much-needed professional employment to the area. It’s not hard to imagine a similar dynamic playing out in the near future in Lawrenceville.

Will the community accept an immigration-centric plan for Saint Paul’s future? Are people open to a potential influx of outsiders who could bolster the area’s economy? Let’s hope folks will at least keep an open mind to the possibility. We will see what the future brings, but the notion that rural communities can prosper without bending to the winds of change is, alas, not likely to pan out.





Advertising Flyer

Find out how you can reach more customers by advertising with The News & Record and The Mecklenburg Sun -- in print and online.