From Heartbreak to Change: Clarke County Graduate featured in Starbucks “Upstanders”

By Karolyn Mosher
It was an image seen by millions of people around the world, and one the world would not forget. Alan Kurdi was just three years old when he lost his life trying to flee Syria with his family in 2015. Images of his lifeless body that washed ashore on a beach in Turkey shocked everyone who saw it. Mary Poole, a 1999 graduate of Clarke County High School, was breastfeeding her nine-month-old son and scrolling through the web on her phone when images of Kurdi hit home. She said her heart broke and “as a mom nothing affected me like this photo did,” so she decided to do something.
First, she donated $20 to the United Nations refugee program, but felt that wasn’t enough. She began asking questions to members of her community, friends, and local officials if helping refugees was something they could do. She had meetings at Town Hall to openly discuss with community members about their reservations in becoming a host city. Soon, she co-founded Soft Landing Missoula, which is a non-profit in Missoula, Montana, where she currently resides with her husband Dan, a wildland firefighter, and their two children Jack and Grace. The foundation was created to help families escape war-torn countries. According to the Soft Landing website, the goal of the organization is “to be a welcoming, supportive and informed community that can assist refugees to integrate
and thrive.”
When Mary first started to ask questions about helping refugees in Missoula, she didn’t realize that it was a controversial topic or know government policies on relocation. She said she wanted to start a discussion within her community to see what they could do to help. She created Soft Landing Missoula to ask her community, “Is this something that we can do?”
Last year, The Starbucks Channel created an original series called “Upstanders” that was viewed by 80 million people worldwide. According to their website, the series is “a collection of short stories celebrating ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities.” In its second season, the show recognizes 11 people from across the nation for their courageous and humanitarian efforts. Mary Poole was one of them. Her story is featured in an eight-minute episode.
In the episode, Mary says that her decision to help, “wasn’t based on a political battle.” She just wanted to “help a couple of people.” When she first started making phone calls to see if creating a relocation program was possible, she discovered that Montana was one of two states that had none. She met with local and state officials to see if it was possible to help those wanting to relocate to Montana. After hard work, policies were changed to allow the first family to relocate
to Missoula.
When asked about those who oppose relocation she says that it was never about changing people’s minds but about opening up a discussion. She says that there are some “really tough questions” about relocation. She says, “It’s important to sit down together and share stories and discuss the issues.” She has made good friends out of these discussions.
In “Upstanders,” Mary, who studied nursing and later
became an arborist, is being recognized because she had no background in government policies, and yet is making a difference one family at a time. Missoula is now home to 30 families from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Eritrea, and Syria. 200 volunteers have donated their time to help these families adjust to their new life.
For Mary, change is about listening to each other. Her parents, Cathy and Leon Warner who are still Berryville residents, are proud of her accomplishments. Her mother Cathy said in a phone interview, “millions of people saw the images of Alan Kurdi, but how many did something?” Mary has been getting a lot of media attention but stays down to earth. In “Upstanders” she says, “It takes tiny steps to make change, but I think anyone can do it.”
You can watch Mary’s story “From War to Montana,” at
upstanders and on Amazon Prime. You can also learn more at

Berryville Baptist Church Celebrates 245 Years

Story and Photos By Betsy Arnett

Berryville Baptist Church recently held an anniversary celebration to recognize the church’s 245 years of history in Clarke County.
When the church was founded in 1772, Virginia was a British colony under the rule of King George II.  Clarke County was part of the five-million-acre Northern Neck Proprietary owned by Thomas Fairfax, the Sixth Baron Fairfax of Cameron. The Town of Berryville was a rough settlement known as Battle Town.  And because the Church of England was the official state church, members of the new Church of
Christ in Buckmarsh were called “dissenters.”
The current Berryville Baptist Church building on Academy Street was completed in 1884 and is the third building that the congregation has occupied. The first church building was located north of the future town of Berryville.  An historical highway marker on the west side of Highway 340 marks the approximate location of the Buckmarsh church and its cemetery. The church’s second pastor was James Ireland who, prior to the Revolution, had been jailed in Culpeper County for preaching without a license. Ireland served the Buckmarsh Church from 1788 until his death in 1806 and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Old Buckmarsh Cemetery.
The congregation moved into the growing town of Berryville in the 1840s. They constructed a new brick church at the corner of Academy and Buckmarsh streets and established a cemetery on the west side of the church. During the Civil War, the church building was damaged, which led to the construction of the present church on the other side of the cemetery.
One unique feature of Berryville Baptist Church is the location of the sanctuary on the second floor. Spiral staircases on either side of the first floor entry lead to the sanctuary. Church legend holds that the previous church had been used as a stable during the Civil War and, when the new church was built, church leaders wanted to ensure that horses could never get into the sanctuary. According to church historian Dr. Dan Allen, churches were often used as stables during the war, but there is no evidence that Berryville Baptist Church was.
“I don’t know if the horse story is true or not,” says Dr. Allen. “But it makes a nice story.”

Retreat at Cool Spring

By Betsy Arnett

Heading east from Berryville on Route 7, right after crossing the Shenandoah River, turn left and drive north on Parker Lane. This narrow road winds through the woods along the Shenandoah, the river on one side and the western slope of the Blue Ridge on the other, for a mere one and a half miles before ending in front of a gracious white mansion known as The Retreat. Built in 1799 by Thomas Parker, The Retreat was the center of a 1,100 acre estate that remained in Parker family until 1872.  Today, thanks to the efforts of Suzanne Eblen and her husband, Pat, the house once again offers visitors a respite from a busy world as a vacation rental.

“It is shockingly calm here,” Suzanne says about the property. “Coming over the mountain from Loudoun County, I always feel like I’m going away on vacation.”

The house is surrounded by Shenandoah University’s 195-acre River Campus. Site of the Union Army’s staging area and artillery placements during the July 1864 Battle of Cool Spring, the land was developed into a golf course in the 1950s.  In 2013, after the golf course went bankrupt, the Civil War Trust purchased the property and conveyed it to Shenandoah University, ensuring its preservation as open space.

The Eblens purchased the house in January 2014. A girlfriend brought Suzanne to see The Retreat when it went on the market in May 2012, but at that time, the asking price put the property out of her range.

“I kept my eye on it, though,” Suzanne recalls. “A few days before Christmas 2013, I saw online that it had gone to short sale. We made an offer and closed the deal less than a month later.”

The previous owner, Scot Lessler, purchased the property in 2005 and began to restore it, but the scope of work needed – and the economic downturn – proved to be the project’s undoing.

“Honestly, if Scot hadn’t done the heavy lifting on the restoration, I couldn’t have afforded to finish it,” Suzanne says. Lessler replaced the roof, repaired the foundation, installed HVAC ducts, and began stripping centuries of paint and varnish from the floors and woodwork.

The Eblens spent a year completing the house’s restoration. When they purchased it, the house had crumbling walls, no functioning bathrooms and no kitchen at all. Today, the house boasts five bedrooms, plus a sleeping attic that can accommodate four. It is available for whole-house rentals year-round through the Vacation Rentals By Owner website (

Suzanne has furnished the house with a decidedly European flair, a style familiar to fans of her antique store and interior design business, The Old Lucketts Store, in Loudoun County. The subtle, monochromatic palette of the furnishings contributes to the house’s serenity.

She left the woodwork – which legend attributes to Hessian mercenaries placed in the charge of Daniel Morgan after the Revolutionary War – bare, stripped of paint by the previous owner.  The “pickled pine” look fits with the European aesthetic of the furnishings.

“I didn’t want to make it a museum, where people would be afraid to touch things and not feel comfortable,” Suzanne explains. “I want to honor the house’s total history. Leaving the woodwork the way it was when we bought it is part of that history.”

After opening in early 2015, The Retreat at Cool Spring quickly garnered a series of five-star reviews on the VRBO website. Words like “tranquil,” “relaxing,” and “quiet” appear frequently in the reviews, proving that The Retreat is living up to its name.

“When guests arrive, they are on their own,” says Jocelyn Zarcyzinski, The Retreat’s housekeeper. “It’s really lovely to be here, and guests appreciate that.”

The Retreat at Cool Spring is not Suzanne’s only Clarke County venture. This May, she will be bringing her Lucketts Spring Market to the Clarke County Fairgrounds.

Suzanne Eblen opened the Old Lucketts Store in 1996 and started the Spring Market a few years later.  She and her husband moved to Northern Virginia from Los Angeles in 1990. She was amazed by how much less expensive vintage furniture was in Virginia than in California. She began visiting auction houses and estate sales, reselling her purchases at “epic” barn sales on their farm outside Lovettsville.

“I always set a limit on how much I would spend at a sale,” Suzanne says. “It’s easy to get caught up in the bidding and pay too much for an item. I would look at something and ask myself, what would be a good price if I were buying it retail?”

Her vintage furniture and interior design business grew from there, starting with a booth in a Brunswick antique mall and culminating with the purchase of the abandoned general store on Route 15 north of Leesburg that became The Old Lucketts Store.

“We bought the store in March, I had a baby that spring, and we opened in August,” Suzanne remembers with a laugh. Today, The Old Lucketts Store has an international reputation for “vintage hip” furniture and décor.

The Lucketts Spring Market enjoys a similar reputation. Initially held on the grounds of the Lucketts Community Center, the market outgrew that site and has now outgrown its current location on Old Lucketts Store property. Last summer, Suzanne began looking for a new location and knew she had found it as soon as she saw the Clarke County Fairgrounds.

“Everyone in Clarke County has been so welcoming,” Suzanne says about moving the Spring Market to Berryville. “This year’s market is going to be spectacular.”

Over 130 vendors are signed up already and Suzanne is hoping to hit 200. She has a full line up of workshops, live music, food vendor and even a beer garden planned. The Lucketts Spring Market will be May 19, 20 and 21, 2017. All the details are on the website at

Hawk Awareness

By Doug Pifer

Maintaining a bird feeder close to the house can be fun and educational for kids, a great hobby for older folks and entertaining for everybody. It’s easy to forget it’s not a show but real life, with sometimes unintended consequences.

Lynne Crumpacker was reminded of this as she worked at her computer last week. She has set up several bird feeders about 12 feet outside her windows. That way she can see them while working, with camera and binoculars within reach.

Here are Lynne’s words: “In the corner of my eye I saw a scattering of birds and one large dark form dart towards the house and heard a huge thump. Out of curiosity I stood up and looked out on the ground. Often, a bird will be there, stunned or dead after hitting a window or side of the house. I don’t try to rescue them anymore. If they’re going to live they do it quite well on their own without the stress of me trying to revive them. This time there was this surprise.”

On the ground below the window, a small hawk stood over a motionless male cardinal. Lynne instinctively reached for her camera. She continues:

“At first, he was staring down at the cardinal, giving it the eagle-eye—then he looked around as if planning his next move. I thought he might have been stunned after hitting the side of the house but then I was amazed at how easily he picked the cardinal up and carried it off so fast through the trees that I couldn’t get an in-flight [camera] shot.”

Lynne still managed to snap the accompanying photograph of a young sharp-shinned hawk with vividly-colored prey. Captured cardinals are fighters and inflict real damage with their heavy bills. This one evidently hit hard against the house while fleeing the approaching raptor, offering it an easy meal.

Such high drama can be shocking. One of Lynne’s friends was horrified by the story behind the picture. People tell me they stopped feeding bids after such a thing happened. These feelings are understandable.

For me, the lesson here is nature has no favorites. And, hawks are imminently worth watching.

Predatory fire burns hot inside a sharp-shinned hawk. It’s named for the angular edges to the slim, yellow tarsal bones just above the talons. The nickname “sharpie” fits. Big, blazing eyes make the head look small—an effect heightened by a very short, sharply notched beak. Spikey nape feathers create a hooded, “king of birds” aspect. Add a fiery temper, relentless energy and deadly speed. Sharp is the word.

Such hawks travel a daily beat at high speed, darting bullet-like through clearings, zig-zagging though brushy tangles, or skimming low above the grass. You can bet they pass every bird feeder in the neighborhood. Any songbird within range is the target. Brief pursuit often ends in a tail-chase deep into a brush pile or thicket.

I’m often alerted to a hawk’s approach by the actions and calls of birds. Hawk-awareness is imbedded deep within them. As nestlings, they learn to recognize sharp, universally understood calls all birds make at a hawk’s approach. Constant hawk-awareness is key to their survival, part of everyday life.

Hawk-awareness enriches my own life.

Point-to-Point Rescheduled for April 23

By Rebecca Maynard

If you thought you had missed the 68th annual running of Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races in March, there is good news. The event was postponed due to cold weather causing unfavorable ground conditions and is now taking place rain or shine Sunday, April 23 at noon.

Everyone is invited to come enjoy the races, with an admission price of just $20 per carload. Brian Ferrell, MFH (Master of Foxhounds), chair of the races for the past six years, explains that the beautiful location of Woodley Farm is due to the generosity of Brooke and Michele Middleton. The historic 383 acre property, located at 490 Woodley Lane, two and a half miles south of Berryville, was originally bought by Daniel Sowers in the 1830s from George Washington’s cousin and has been used for fox hunting ever since.

One of the unique things about the property, Ferrell says, is that it has one of the only point-to-point courses in Virginia that allows spectators to see the entire course at one time. Parking is available with the $20 per car admission, but reservations can be made ahead of time to park cars and tailgate on the property’s hill for $150. For details on reservations, call Jenny Irwin at 202-664-4664.

The day will feature 9 or 10 races, depending on the horses available on the day, and will include three different types of races: flat, hurdle jumping and timber fence jumping. All should be exciting to watch with the spectacular view Woodley offers.

“It’s a fun day and a nice local event,” Ferrell says. The Enders and Boyce fire departments provide safety for the event, as well as local vets and a farrier. Many local businesses sponsor the races and Nantucket-Treweryn beagles will be on site for children (and children at heart) to see and play with.

As Norm Fine notes in his history, today’s followers of the Blue Ridge hounds ride over the same hills and fields and along the same twists and turns of the Shenandoah River as did George Washington nearly 300 years ago when he followed the hounds of his employer and friend Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax.

At 16, Washington had come to Fairfax’s Greenway Court in what is now White Post, to help survey Fairfax’s holdings. The two pursued the native gray fox behind hounds that Fairfax had sent over from England even prior to his arrival.

Fine explains that fox hunting in Virginia flourished privately until the massive changes after the Civil War set the stage for the formation of organized hunts and subscription packs. The period following the war saw a number of Englishmen moving to Virginia, many of whom were fox hunters in their native England. One such Englishman, Archibald Bevan, helped to organize the Blue Ridge Hunt in 1888, and he served as its first Master.

Well over a century later, the Blue Ridge Hunt is going strong and welcomes anyone who wants to enjoy the sport of fox chasing. Although that no doubt requires some experience, none is needed to come out and enjoy what promises to be a wonderful afternoon of point-to-point racing at Woodley Farm. Pack a picnic and bring the family! For more information, call Ferrell at 540-550-7015 or visit www.blueridgehunt

Keeping Smiles Bright On Main Street

By Rebecca Maynard

A dental visit isn’t necessarily something most of us anticipate with pleasure, but Dr. Ahmed Al Attar of Main Street Smiles in Berryville does his best to make sure you leave his office with a smile on your face.

Dr. Al Attar completed his B.A. in Biology from the University of Virginia in 2001. In 2005, he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. Following graduation, he spent a two year residency at the Hunter McGuire Veterans Administration Center in Richmond. After working in Toronto, Ontario and Buffalo, N.Y. as an associate dentist, Dr. Al Attar decided it was time to open his own family dental practice in Berryville.

He says he was attracted to the small town charm of the community and the ability in a smaller community to build long-lasting relationships with each patient. “There is a strong sense of community in Berryville that you don’t often find in larger cities,” Dr. Al Attar said. “It’s a slower pace of life that allows you to focus on family. I love that when my patients enter or leave they see another member of the community and stop to chat and catch up. It’s also a beautiful part of the state. Fall in particular is a beautiful time of year and a great time to get out with the family and enjoy the local fall festivals.”

Dr. Al Attar has been married to his wife Rose for 17 years, and together they have two young boys, Josef and Dani. Main Street Smiles employs a team of six people and their main focus is patients and their comfort. They are a family practice equipped to treat patients ranging from children to the elderly.  offer preventative care as well as restorative care (fillings), implants, crowns and bridges, dentures, root canals and extractions.

They also have a variety of treatments to help with anxiety, from nitrous oxide to I.V. sedation. They understand that people are busy during the week and offer flexible scheduling, including some Saturdays.

The staff at Main Street Smiles is dedicated to helping patients understand how their insurance will work best for them. While they work with all insurances, they are participating providers with Delta Dental Premiere & Cigna. They also accept Care Credit.

Potential patients are encouraged to call the office to discuss their options. The office is open Monday-Thursday, 8am-4:30pm, and can be reached at 844-692-2235 or by visiting

If you’ve been putting off that dental checkup for far too long or are interested in supporting the community by seeing a local dentist, why not give Main Street Smiles a try?

Help is on Hand with Budget Handyman Service

by Claire Stuart

Spring is the traditional time to clean up and catch up on the chores that didn’t get done in the winter. If you need help with your to-do list, Melvin and Susan Hallman, owners of Budget Handyman Service, invite you to call on them for jobs big and small. They are local, licensed and insured, and they guarantee their work. They promise to arrive on time and do the job right.

Their expertise includes carpentry, plumbing, and installation/repair of ceramic tile and laminate floors. They are also ready and willing to tackle odd jobs, from cleaning out the garage, pressure washing, and painting, to repairing drywall, installing locks and deadbolts, fixing garbage disposals and maintaining your landscape. They can replace windows and doors and spruce up your kitchen with new cabinets and countertops.

Budget Handyman Services is a husband-and-wife operation. They do almost all of the work themselves, with occasional help from reliable craftspeople they have worked with for years.

Susan provides the estimates, schedules the work, does the billing and generally deals with customers. She will even accompany you to home improvement stores to consult on materials. Susan worked in the office side of the construction industry for many years, including a stint with FEMA in home inspections, reviewing inspections and billing.

The growing season finds her at work outdoors in the landscaping end of the business. She mows, plants trees and flowers, mulches and weeds. In winter, she helps with snow removal. And, she says, “I will paint if I have to!”

Melvin has years of experience in all phases of construction, including custom flooring. His background also includes work with a local plumbing and heating company, dealing with everything from outside water and sewer to inside plumbing and fixtures. In addition, he worked for a builder doing “punchout” work, the final step in new construction where last-minute details are completed. This covers things like repairs to doors, wood trim or drywall that was damaged in the construction, hardware, adjusting installed appliances, minor electrical adjustments and touch-up painting.

“It could be anything from drywall to doorknobs,” Susan explained.

The Hallmans have been in business for themselves for over 16 years, the last eight years full-time. It began with Melvin working on custom ceramic tile floors in his spare time.

Susan recalled, “As he worked on a floor, someone might ask him to remove a toilet or a vanity, install fixtures. He’s very handy. If you want it done, he’ll figure out a way to do it!”

Thanks to his plumbing background, he could take on bigger jobs, leading into kitchen and bathroom remodeling. Both Melvin and Susan lost their jobs when the housing bubble burst, so they decided to take their part-time business full-time. They put out the word by sending out a bulk mailing describing their services.

“We only got four customers,” recalled Susan, “but we still have them!  We re-did one customer’s house and now we have the new owner.”

Their handyman business expanded in another direction when their son graduated high school.  “He wanted to go to college to study turf management and asked if we’d add landscaping,” Susan explained. “We did, and then he joined the army! So now Mom and Dad have the landscaping.”

She reports that they do not do mowing on a contract basis. “Some operators contract to mow on a certain day every week and do it whether it needs mowing or not. We do it when it is needed—sometimes there will only be two or three weeks when we need to mow. We’re old school – we agree with a handshake.”

When they are called on to paint, says Susan, “We start by doing one room at our own pace so that you can see how we work. If you like it, you can tell us to go ahead with the rest. We are a time-and-material business. We work by the hour so you are only paying for when we actually work. You get all the receipts for material.”

Budget Handyman will tackle just about any job, large or small, except new construction. They have chinked and sealed historic log structures and changed a light bulb two stories up. They have even installed Christmas decorations for elderly folks who were no longer able to do it.  If you are on a fixed income and need work done, they will do their best to plan the work around your budget, prioritizing and doing what you can afford over a period of months.

Twenty-four hour emergency service is available for urgent problems like leaks, and they will get there within 24 hours and try to fix the problem the same day.

The Hallmans prefer to work close to home in Clarke and western Loudoun County, but they will travel to Frederick and parts of West Virginia. The farthest they have travelled for a job was to Alabama. “That was for family,” Susan laughed.

Call Budget Handyman Service at 540-327-1189 or 540-327-9130


Clarke Softball Field is Rededicated to Charles O. Grubbs

By Sinead Juday

When Susan Grubbs first started coaching softball for Clarke County High School, the field was “too small and behind the Presbyterian church with only a few benches and rusty backstop,” says her sister, Kim Braithwaite. Now, many years later, the new and enhanced softball field is dedicated to their father, Charles O. Grubbs, who was responsible for these improvements.

In the spring of 2001, the Clarke County High School softball field was first dedicated to Charles. Recently, a ceremony was held to rededicated the field to Grubbs following his death in October. On March 10, his family, friends, and the Clarke community gathered to celebrate the significant improvements that Grubbs had made, not only to the Clarke County High School softball field and program, but to the lives of many people.

After retiring in 1992, Grubbs took on the task of fixing up the Clarke County High School softball field. He spent most of his newfound free time soliciting people to assist him in upgrading the field and seeking out more who could help fund these improvements so the softball program wouldn’t have to bear all of the cost. Grubbs helped lead the way to build the visitor’s dugout, the concession stand, and the press box while also improving the backstop and repairing the batting cage. These renovations have helped to enhance both the Clarke County High School softball field and the softball program.

Grubbs, however, did not expect nor need to be recognized for all the work he put into this project. When the field was first dedicated, it came as a surprise to Grubbs. Although he took great pride in the softball field, the mere satisfaction of improving the field and helping softball program was enough for Grubbs. He took this on as a personal project.

As well as coordinating contributions for the softball program, he could often be seen mowing, digging holes, or trying to get water off the field himself. According to his family, Grubbs’ dedication to the field and joy for helping the softball program are some of the many virtues that possessed. These qualities are what inspired the decision to dedicate the softball field to Grubbs.

Charles Grubbs wasn’t the only one of his family to be involved in softball in Clarke County. With Grubbs as a role model, each member of the Grubbs family has shown enthusiasm to assist in bettering the Clarke softball programs. His daughter Susan Grubbs, who is currently a math teacher and softball coach, has been a part of the softball scene for many years. Kim Brathwaite, another of Grubbs’ daughters, has also been very involved with Clarke County Little League softball and baseball.

Because the majority of his family contribute to the Clarke County High School softball program,  many members were involved in the ceremony. His wife Shelby Grubbs threw the first pitch, and his grandchildren unveiled the new sign and scoreboard at the field. In addition to the scoreboard and sign, a chair with Grubbs’ jacket was displayed in the location where he often sat to watch the softball games.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” Grubbs would often say. His passion for helping others is echoed in this frequently spoken phrase. Even in the last couple years of his life, Grubbs was always looking for a way to help his family and to help others. The entirety of the Clarke softball community and all of Clarke County will remember Charles Grubbs for his humility, his dedication and his love for serving others.

“Our Place” Respite Center, an invaluable community resource

by Karen Cifala

Being a caretaker is one of the hardest jobs ever! Every caregiver goes through a “burnout” period when they feel exhausted and stressed out, and just not up to the responsibility. Here are a few burnout signs to look for if you are a caregiver of a loved one:

  • Not wanting to interact with people, especially family and close friends.
  • Not being as interested in your favorite hobbies, such as reading.
  • Thoughts of suicide or hurting your elderly loved one; feeling depressed.
  • Abnormal eating patterns.
  • Abnormal sleeping, not being able to fall asleep or have trouble getting up.
  • Not being able to shake a cold, signs of a reduced immune system or not really feeling good.
  • Irritability that triggers negative responses and actions.

Any of these signs might be a clue that caring is becoming too draining on you and that you need a break.

Our Place Respite Center, formerly housed at the Episcopal Church is Berryville, is now located at Crums Methodist Church, on Crums Church Road in Clarke County. Our Place is a social model program developed by the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA) and the Brookdale Foundation, and has been in existence for 14 years. You don’t have to be a Clarke County resident to attend, as SAAA also operates another respite center in Edinburg. You can choose whichever is closest to where you live.

Our Place in Clarke County offers a break to caregivers of persons with dementia, early to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disabilities. This program provides a benefit to both the caregiver and the participants. It is very affordable, with a sliding scale daily fee ($10­–25) which includes lunch and snacks. Participating adults need to be mobile (which includes using a walker) and able to participate as well as able to toilet themselves. The food is provided by Meals on Wheels and is delivered daily for the participants. Participants need to provide their own transportation to and from the program which runs in Clarke County from 10am to 3pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Reverend Tom Barnard, pastor at Crums United Methodist Church, describes “the church” as, “We are the People of God,” and extends his belief that the church, in some respect, is also a hospital where help is offered in many forms; physically, mentally and spiritually for all people. Pastor Tom is very pleased to be able to provide a space for this community service. Crums Methodist also has an all-volunteer food delivery distribution for needy families. They also have a K-1 st grade “backpack program” where they collect easy to eat snack food donations for needy kids. Please support their youth mission to Rosebud Reservation by attending their fundraiser pancake supper on April 29th at Enders Firehouse, in Berryville, from 5-7:30.

A typical day at Our Place might look like:

  • 10:00 Coffee, snack, greetings, puzzles, brain teasers, word games
  • 10:30 Exercise: balloon volleyball in chairs, basketball, stretching or walking
  • 11:30 Lunch provided by Meals on Wheels
  • 12:30 Rest with background music in reclining chairs with a blanket
  • 1:00 Craft
  • 2:00 Restroom break
  • 2:15 Game, dominoes, checkers, card games
  • 2:45 Prepare for departure

“An invaluable program,” says Tony Hopson, whose wife has been a regular participant at Our Place for several years. Kathy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Our Place has not only freed him up to do regular chores that we take for granted like grocery shopping, but the therapeutic interaction that Our Place offers is very encouraging to Tony as he continues to see small incremental positive changes in his wife’s behavior.

Another wonderful man I talked to, Leroy, who is the sole caretaker of his wife Mareta, explains that her dementia has supercharged her personality and behaviors to the point where she can’t remember what happened even two minutes ago. Our Place has proven to be something that he can’t live without and wishes that they could offer more than three days a week. His wife loves to stay busy every minute and the positive interaction, games, and exercise brings her more pleasure than staying at home all the time. Plus as you can imagine, down time for yourself is non-existent in a situation like this and Our Place gives Leroy the peace of mind that his wife is being well taken care of while he takes some time for himself.

As I walked around the facility I noticed a lovely wall with family collages. Each participant is encouraged to bring in pictures to make a collage of their own. The participants also have raised garden beds to grow vegetables and flowers; they go outside for walks, bake in the kitchen and join in spontaneous singing whenever the moment strikes. How can i forget this song, I heard it at least a dozen times during my interview; “This is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in Him. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.”

Along with individual care plans and respite for the caregivers, Our Place occasionally offers support group meetings and other collaborative resources for the family.

For more information or to make an appointment with SAAA regarding care for your loved one contact Charity Michael, case manager for SAAA, call 540-635-7141, ext.# 1016

Karen Cifala is a Realtor for Remax Roots in Berryville, VA with a special interest in our aging population. She can be reached on her cell 303-817-9374, office 540-955-0911 or by email. She is happy to take article requests!