Local News

Loose leaf season has begun

05 01 loose leaf pickupIt’s the annual loose-leaf curbside season in Fayetteville, through Feb. 21. Residents are supposed to put their leaves and pine straw at the curb during the periods specified for pickup in their neighborhood. The city has created eight collection cycles based on postal ZIP codes. For example, if you live in the 28301 ZIP code area, your pickup period is Dec. 9 -20. Details are available on the city of Fayetteville’s website. Free trash bags are available at recreation centers and city fire stations. Officials ask that residents rake their leaves and pine needles to the curb by the day before their first scheduled collection day. Put the pile on the right of way but not in the street and away from obstructions.

Additional sections of I-95 to be widened

Thanks to a $22.5 million federal grant, the North Carolina Department of Transportation plans to widen and improve 27 additional miles of Interstate 05 02 I 95 signs95 in Robeson and Cumberland counties. It is the second major federal grant the NCDOT has received since the summer of 2018 to help fund major improvements along the I-95 corridor. The grant will help DOT improve mobility and safety along a section of I-95 that has been plagued by flooding during hurricanes. The interstate between mile markers 13 and 40 from Lumberton to near Hope Mills will be widened.

“These grants are highly competitive, and will help us modernize Interstate 95 in North Carolina,” said Grady Hunt, the North Carolina Board of Transportation’s representative from Robeson County. DOT will also raise portions of I-95 in low-lying areas that are vulnerable to floods. An earlier grant received for I-95 improvements came in June 2018 when $147 million was awarded for I-95 and U.S. 70 improvements. The grant was earmarked for widening two sections of I-95 north of Fayetteville to eight lanes.

Military retirement COLA increased for next year

05 03 cost of living adjustmentsMilitary retirees and eligible survivors will receive a 1.6% boost in their monthly paychecks beginning in January, based on the Pentagon’s annual cost of living adjustment, the Defense Department announced. The increased pay will be doled out to most military retirees, survivors of service members who died on active or inactive duty and survivors of retirees who participated in the Survivor Benefit Plan, which pays the family of someone who opted for monthly annuities following the death of an eligible military retiree. The Pentagon said the annual boosts are based on inflation numbers during the previous year as determined by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, a monthly measure of average changes to prices for goods and services across the nation. For retirees and survivors receiving the 1.6% boost, the increase amounts to an extra $16 for every $1,000 in government benefits received. Individuals who retired at the pay grade of E-7 and served 20 years will see about $38 extra per month. An individual who retired at the pay gradeof O-5 and served 20 years will see a $72 boost each month of 2020.

05 04 PWC truckFayetteville’s hometown utility wins award

The Fayetteville Public Works Commission has earned a Smart Energy Provider designation from the American Public Power Association for demonstrating commitment to and proficiency in initiatives that support providing low-cost, quality, safe and reliable electricity. The designations were announced during the association’s annual Customer Connections Conference held in New Orleans, Louisiana. The SEP two-year designation recognizes public power utilities for demonstrating leading practices in four key disciplines. This is the first year the association has offered the SEP designation. PWC is one of more than 60 public power utilities nationwide that were acknowledged, and one of two North Carolina public power utilities recognized this year. “We’re honored to be recognized for our efforts to support our community’s responsible energy use,” said David Trego, PWC 05 05 CVS HealthCEO/general manager. PWC’s initiatives noted in the designation include its community solar and battery storage project, time of use electric rates and customer incentive programs promoting energy conservation.

Alzheimer’s Association picks up big supporter

CVS Health has joined the Alzheimer’s Association in the fight to end Alzheimer’s as a new national, corporate partner. CVS Health has made a three-year, $10 million minimum commitment to the Alzheimer’s Association, including customer fundraising, caregiver support and national presenting sponsorship of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. CVS Health and the Alzheimer’s Association launched this new partnership this month. CVS is the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States with more than 295,000 colleagues across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Local hospital system wins big

08 ruralCape Fear Valley Health System has received a $1 million Duke Endowment grant to help grow its new psychiatry residency program. Launched in 2018, the program’s mission is to train new psychiatrists, who will hopefully practice in more rural areas of the state. The nation’s rural communities are struggling to attract new psychiatric specialists as older physicians retire out of the workforce.

Samuel Fleishman, M.D., is Cape Fear Valley’s chief medical officer. He said there are entire counties in the health system’s six-county coverage area that do not have local psychiatrists. “The need for behavioral healthcare and psychiatrists has always been a big issue for our region,” he said. “Our psychiatrists have long been challenged with an overwhelming community need.” The Duke Endowment grant will help offset the program’s start-up costs for the first three years.

The program launched with just four residents but will have 16 by 2020. That number will grow to 24 in 2022 when a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship is added. The program’s residents train by providing psychiatric care at Cape Fear Valley Health inpatient and outpatient facilities. “These residents help take care of those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse in our community,” said Scott Klenzak, M.D., Cape Fear Valley’s psychiatry residency program director.

Lin Hollowell, Director of The Duke Endowment’s Health Care program area, said funding programs like Cape Fear Valley’s is important because the need for psychiatrists will only grow in coming years. “The shortage of psychiatrists is particularly dire in rural regions,” he said. “The program at Cape Fear Valley Health will expand access to quality care for people in need and lay the groundwork for providing important services in the future.”

Cape Fear Valley CEO Mike Nagowski said he is grateful the Duke Endowment chose to invest in Cape Fear Valley’s fledgling residency program and its mission.

“We are so excited about this new partnership,” Nagowski said. “The Duke Endowment understands the importance of the psychiatry residency program to our region, as well as the funding challenges that come with starting these kinds of programs.”

Based in Charlotte, the Duke Endowment has distributed more than $3.6 billion in grants since its creation in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke. The private foundation’s mission is to strengthen North Carolina and South Carolina communities by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits.

Cape Fear Valley Health is a 950-bed health system serving a region of more than 800,000 people in Southeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit system is the state’s eighth-largest health system and made up of 7,000 team members and 850 physicians, eight hospitals, and more than 60 primary care and specialty clinics. Cape Fear Valley Health offers residencies in emergency medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry and general surgery as well as a transitional year internship in affiliation with the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine at Campbell University. For more information, visit www.CapeFearValley.com.

Honoring military dogs of war

07 StatueEver since a raid that targeted ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month, military working dogs have been in the spotlight. A Belgian Malinois, whose name was later declassified and revealed to be Conan, was slightly hurt while taking part in the mission that cornered Baghdadi in Syria. But Department of Defense leaders said he was recovering and had already returned to duty after the raid.

There are hundreds of military working dogs across the service branches serving day-in and day-out alongside our service members. Their missions include drug and explosive detection, subduing fleeing suspects and search and rescue missions. U.S. war dogs, as they are called, and their handlers from every military service, are deployed worldwide. About 1,600 dogs are either in the field or helping veterans, the military said.

On July 27, 2013, the first bronze statue of a Special Operations Force K9 was unveiled on the grounds of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. Over 2,000 people gathered to honor brave K9s and remember what they have done for our country. The statue depicts a life-size Belgian Malinois wearing his full deployment kit. SOF dogs are called super dogs. They parachute from planes with their handlers and can track enemy forces in difficult conditions.

Most U.S. military war dogs are German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois breeds, said Army Col. David Rolfe, director of the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Program. That’s also true of K9s involved in police work. The Fayetteville Police Department’s dogs are bred and initially trained in Europe. The Belgian Malinois, in particular, is high-strung, “very aggressive, very smart, very loyal and very athletic,” Rolfe said.

Master Sculptor Lena Toritch has created several K9 military dog statues for different branches of the U.S. Military. The statue at the ASOM is a bronze monument depicting a life-size Belgian Malinois wearing his full deployment kit. The monument is a symbol of respect and mourning for SOF dogs that have died in the line of duty. Each of those dogs is represented by a paver that is placed at the base of the statue and includes the dog’s name and the year and theater in which it was killed.

The SOF bronze statue by Toritch was the first monument in the world depicting this type of a military dog. SOF super dogs are trained to jump out of planes and float to the ground with their partners. They can track and seize the enemy in the most difficult conditions. The SOF K9 Memorial Foundation continues its work by helping K9 Handlers remember their canine partners by assisting with the purchase of memorial plaques, photos, headstones or anything else the handler would like to memorialize his partner.

Fort Bragg offers food pantry

06 calle macarone Vl78eNdiJaQ unsplashIt’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, football season is wrapping up, and people are preparing their homes and stomachs for the festivities of the holiday season. Part of the tradition of American Thanksgiving is the spirit of service. One of the most effective ways for people to give back during the holiday season is to donate to a local food bank. In the U.S. alone in 2015, nearly one in eight households suffered from food insecurity. In the military services, some young families depend on food stamps to get by. 

A new food pantry serving lower-ranking soldiers and their families is up and running at Fort Bragg just in time for the holidays. The pantry, designed to provide families with free, nonperishable food items, is operated by the Armed Services YMCA, said Michelle Baumgarten, associate executive director of the YMCA.

Families needing additional assistance are referred to their unit’s chaplain or Army Community Service for financial planning and budgeting classes, Baumgarten added. “This came about as people expressed a need for food support.”
Fort Bragg’s Religious Services Office provides financial support through chaplains assigned to specific units — typically by providing commissary gift cards to families in need. Baumgarten said families with unexpected, special needs are among those the YMCA’s food pantry was established to serve. “That’s what we’re here for,” she said.

The partnership is also beneficial to the Religious Services Office, said Lt. Col. Jeff Masengale, Fort Bragg’s deputy garrison chaplain.

The pantry is open to any active duty soldier, military family member and veterans. It runs on an honor system, with no rules on what families can help themselves to. Information is private and is not available to the chain of command. Baumgarten said the only things that are tracked are how many pounds of food go out the door and how many times a person uses the food pantry.

A young military spouse whose husband is a private first class is typical of those in need. She asked that her name not be used. The young parents have two children, ages two and 16-months-old. “Honestly … it saved me like almost half of the items that I needed to get from the commissary.” 

Baumgarten credited the North Post Commissary with helping to initially stock the food pantry. The commissary provides weekly donations and serves as a collection point for monetary donations.

Those wanting to help can also host food drives or drop off donations or dry goods at the YMCA’s food pantry. Donations should be nonperishable, unexpired and unopened. Personal hygiene items such as diapers, razors and shaving cream are accepted. Popular items include baby food, formula and canned tuna and chicken. The food pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Fort Bragg YMCA building 2-2411 off Rodney Trail. Those wanting to visit, provide a donation or volunteer can call 910-436-0500.

Teacher goes above and beyond

05 01 Caitlin Hunt 2Caitlin Hunt, 25, a sixth-grade English Language Arts teacher at South View Middle School, noticed that some of her students needed warm clothing. She coordinated efforts to purchase every sixth-grade student a sweatshirt.
“Mrs. Hunt feeds the minds of her students every day with knowledge, but she also feeds their hearts and souls with love,” said Jody Phillips, the media coordinator at South View, who nominated Hunt for this month’s Cumberland County Schools’ Extra Mile Award. Hunt received a plaque and was recognized by the Cumberland County Board of Education at its meeting Nov. 12. The Extra Mile Award is designed to acknowledge employees who demonstrate a sustained high level of performance and inspire others to do their best.

To learn more about CCS’ Extra Mile Award, visit www.extramileaward.ccs.k12.nc.us.

Downtown Fayetteville for the holiday

The 20th annual A Dickens Holiday will be held this year on Friday, Nov. 29, in downtown Fayetteville. Presented by the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, downtown is transformed to the Victorian era. Costumed re-enactors will stroll Hay Street. Activities include a candlelight procession and carriage rides. Horse-drawn carriages, carrying shoppers the old-fashioned way, will pass merchants’ windows adorned with Victorian holiday decorations. Father Christmas will be in attendance for photo opportunities.

05 02 Dickens HolidayOn Dec. 5, the Cool Spring Downtown District presents a candlelight loft tour from 6-9 p.m. 

Carriage rides with Santa Claus are scheduled Dec. 14-17.

Blood Platelet shortage is ongoing

The Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center is in urgent need of blood platelet donations. Blood platelets aid the healing process. Donated platelets must be used within five days, resulting in the constant need for donations. Platelets are the cells that circulate within our blood and bind together when they recognize damaged blood vessels. Demand for the life-saving blood product far exceeds current availability in Cumberland and surrounding counties.

05 03 Blood Elements graphicIdeal platelet donors have AB+, AB-, A+, A-, B+ and O+ blood types. Cancer patients are the primary recipients of blood platelet transfusions because of chemotherapy side effects. Transfusions replenish the patient’s blood supply, heal injury sites and prevent life-threatening hemorrhages. Blood platelet transfusions are also used for premature babies, surgical patients and patients with other life-threatening conditions. Platelet donors can give as often as every two weeks.

New platelet donors will receive tokens of appreciation from the blood donor center located at 3357 Village Drive across from Cape Fear Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Department. For more information, call 910-615-3305.

Sign up for solar

PWC Community Solar is a large-scale, ground-mount solar array offering its electric customers a shared renewable energy option and an alternative to rooftop solar. PWC is taking applications now. Avoid the effort and expense of installing solar panels at your home or business. Interested electricity customers pay a monthly subscription fee and in exchange receive a bill credit for the value of the solar less the cost to operate. Helping provide cleaner, greener power for the community is the ultimate benefit. Log in to PWC’s Online Account Manager. Look for the Community Solar Enrollment link under Customer Enrollments and complete the application. For additional information or if you have questions, call 910-223-4950 or go customerprogramscsr@faypwc.com.

05 04 PWC Solar Farm 2Highway safety update

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is using several innovative intersection designs across the state to improve traffic and pedestrian safety. Kevin Lacy, DOT’s chief traffic engineer, told a group in Robeson County the agency is constructing various safety improvement projects — from rumble strips to all-way stops, and from roundabouts to reduced-conflict intersections. Robeson County is one of the least safe counties in the state, where an average of 45 people die in crashes each year, according to the department’s Mobility and Safety Division.  “We have a lot of tools in our toolbox to make our roadways safer, and we are deploying them where they are needed and can make an important difference,” Lacy told a group of locally elected officials and other community stakeholders committed to reducing traffic deaths.

Master gardening

Cumberland County’s Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program will offer training classes for people interested in becoming Master Gardener Volunteers beginning Jan. 23 and continuing 05 05 Highway Crash Scenethrough April 9, 2020. The class will meet every Thursday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the Cooperative Extension Service Auditorium at 301 East Mountain Dr. There is a fee to cover the cost of training supplies and manuals. Applications are now being accepted and can be obtained by calling the Extension office at 910-321-6405 or by going online at http://cumberland.ces.ncsu.edu. For more information about the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program, contact Jason Weathington at 910-321-6870.

Picture 1: Caitlin Hunt

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