Local News

Public health scam

08 scam keyboard 2The Cumberland County Health Department says some residents have received calls and voice messages from individuals claiming to be with the Health Department. Residents should beware of contact tracing scams seeking personal and financial information. These callers say it is about an “urgent health matter.”

Legitimate contact tracers with the COVID-19 Community Team will never ask for anyone’s social security number, bank or credit card numbers, or any other financial information. If you are asked for this information, hang up and call the Cumberland County Health Department at 910-433-3600 to report the incident Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact tracing is an important tool to combat the spread of COVID-19. Legitimate contact tracers will call, text or email individuals who have been in close contact with positive coronavirus cases. Information shared with the COVID-19 Community Team is a private health record and is strictly confidential. Contact tracers will never reveal the identity of persons who have tested positive.

Fayetteville Police solve 30-year-old rape cases

06 fayetteville police departmentDetectives with the Fayetteville Police Department’s Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit have arrested a 60-year-old Florida man alleged to have committed a pair of rapes which occurred thirty years ago. Timothy Keller has been charged with two counts each of 1st degree rape, 1st degree sex offense, 1st degree kidnapping and armed robbery in the abduction and sexual assault of two women.

One of the victims was attacked on Jan. 5, 1990. “The victim was walking to her vehicle in the parking lot of Bordeaux Shopping Center on Owen Drive when Keller kidnapped her at gunpoint,” police spokesman Jeremy Strickland said.

“He drove her to the rear of the shopping center where he then raped her.” Fayetteville and Hope Mills authorities have also accused Keller of kidnapping another woman at an ATM machine on Hope Mills Road on April 25, 1990. “Keller kidnapped her at gunpoint, drove her to an isolated location where he then raped her,” Strickland said.

Both cases went unsolved until now. Keller is being held in the Cumberland County Detention Center under $300,000 secured bond after being extradited from Florida.

Over the last five years city police have solved dozens of cold cases utilizing technologies provided by grants from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. The police department received an initial grant in 2015 and a second allocation in 2016 for a total of $1.2 million to test sexual assault kits, obtain technical training and prosecute sex crimes. The DOJ says that since June 2015, the FPD Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit has made nearly 60 arrests.

Police ask that anyone with information concerning a sexual assault cold case contact Detective D. Kocher with the FPD at 910-433-1500 ext. 2323 or Crime Stoppers at 910-

Health Department offers free flu immunizations

05 get flu shotMillions of people across the globe get flu shots each year to protect against influenza, but the vaccine might provide even greater benefits in 2020. As the world continues to confront the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, it’s imperative that people everywhere take necessary steps to protect themselves and others.

“We are still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Cumberland County,” said Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green. “As we enter the flu season, we must protect our healthcare and frontline workers. Getting your flu shot is a simple way to help these heroes who have been fighting this pandemic tirelessly since March.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that a flu vaccine will not protect people against COVID-19. However, flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of illness related to the flu. Those illnesses weaken people’s immune systems, making them more vulnerable to other viruses, including COVID-19.

Flu vaccines have also been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization. That’s a significant benefit of being vaccinated, as people who get their flu shots can indirectly help hospitals conserve potentially scarce resources. As the COVID-19 virus rapidly spread late in the winter of 2019-20, many hospitals across the country and even the globe were stretched incredibly thin. So, anything ordinary citizens can do to alleviate such burdens can help save lives while also making hospital workers’ jobs easier and less stressful.

The Cumberland County Department of Public Health is now offering free flu vaccinations regardless of insurance status. To protect the health and safety of staff and clients, flu vaccines at the Immunization Clinic located in the Health Department at 1235 Ramsey, St. are by appointment only.

The public must call 910-321-7116 to make an appointment to receive the flu vaccine at the Cumberland County Health Department Immunization Clinic. Upon arrival at the clinic, participants will complete a short registration form and if insured, a copy of insurance cards will be captured, and the insurance company will be billed. Participants will not receive a bill for flu vaccines.

Children, 18 and younger, can also receive a free flu vaccine through the Vaccines for Children program. Anyone accompanying a minor must show proof of custody.

Many people may be concerned about going out and getting a flu shot in 2020. That’s especially likely for people who live in communities where the COVID-19 virus is spreading. However, the CDC notes that getting a flu shot in 2020 is an essential part of protecting your health and the health of your family.

Many doctor’s offices are now insisting patients wait in their cars until doctors are ready to see them, and masks may be required when entering the doctor’s office. Such measures can reduce the risk of getting the COVID-19 virus when visiting a doctor’s office for a flu shot or another visit, so patients should not be hesitant to receive their vaccinations in 2020. Patients can follow such protocols even if their doctors are not insisting they do so. The same safety measures can be followed by people who intend to get their flu shots from neighborhood pharmacies.

Community Flu Shot Clinics

The Health Department is also partnering with community agencies to offer free flu vaccine clinics throughout the county. The public can choose between drive-thru or in-person flu vaccine services. No appointments are required for community flu clinics. Drive-thru clinics begin Nov. 10.

To protect the health and safety of staff and clients, flu vaccinations given by drive-up cannot accommodate those on foot. Directional signage will guide the public through the registration line. Individuals receiving a vaccination must sit next to an operational window, be wearing a mask and remain in vehicles. Staff will administer flu vaccinations through the window. Individuals in middle or third row seats cannot be vaccinated.

There is a drive-thru flu clinic scheduled Nov. 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Falling Run Baptist Church located at 2852 Cedar Creek Rd.

Another drive-thru flu clinic is scheduled Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Alliance Health located at 711 Executive Pl.

An In-Person Community Clinic is scheduled Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fayetteville State University’s Rudolph Jones Student Center—The Bronco Lounge, located at 1200 Murchinson Rd.

No appointments are required for community flu clinics. As they are scheduled, additional community clinics will be posted on http://www.co.cumberland.nc.us/fluclinic
Is it flu or COVID-19?

There are some key differences between COVID-19 and the flu. COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. Another important difference is there is a vaccine to protect against flu. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to
the virus.

Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.

“While many unknowns surrounding COVID-19 remain, we do know having a cough, fever or fatigue can be symptoms of both the flu and COVID-19,” said Dr. Green. “At least one symptom that COVID-19 and flu do not share is the loss of taste many COVID-19 positive individuals report.”

While more is learned every day, there is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it. The CDC updates information daily and has the best available information to date.

School of Hope serves educational needs of autistic children

01 01 20201005 115840aThe School of Hope is a local non-profit serving children with autism and their families by providing resources and special needs education. Co-founders Amy and Rob Sparks decided to start the school after the death of their own son, Jarred, in 2011.

“We lost our son who was autistic and we had never really found a good school for him,” Rob Sparks said. “My wife said, ‘I really want to open a school to provide the special needs of these kids.’ After Jarred passed away we started talking about it, and said this is what we were supposed to do,” he said.

Amy said she made a promise to Jarred that she would never let his death be in vain, and opening a school for children with autism is a way of fulfilling that promise.

“It was a labor of love for my husband and I,” she said.

The duo raised money for six years, started the Jarred Bryan Sparks Foundation in memory of their son and then the School of Hope in 2017.

“We said we would never let Jarred’s memory die and he was my greatest teacher, you know when you think you're teaching kids that have disabilities, they're actually teaching you,” she said.

The education facility located in Fayetteville has grown from 5 students in 2017 to 23 this year.

“We service children who are severely autistic, all the way up to kids who are high functioning autistic,” Amy said. “We are not based according to grades, it's based on ability levels, socialization and skills and how we can meet the needs of these students.”

School of Hope is a private school that sees a lot of children with autism that public schools haven’t been a good fit for, she said.

There are no more than six children in each classroom compared to public schools with higher numbers, Rob said.

The school offers smaller classroom sizes, teachers, teaching assistants, Applied Behavior Analysis Therapists and Registered Behavior Technicians.

“Cumberland County schools do not allow RBT’s into the classrooms and that's where our parents have been distraught because they know that their kids need that extra person there to help them but yet they are not allowed to bring them in public schools,” Amy said. “We feel like we are meeting the needs of a lot of these families because we can provide services that meet the individual needs of our children.”

The School of Hope doesn’t follow an Individual Education Plan like public schools but focuses on a Personal Education Plan and takes into consideration the children's academic and socialization levels.

They assess students and then form a plan on how to best serve the child and their needs, she said.

“Because a lot of our children don't want to be around other people, they don't want to have conversations with people so we set up situations, teach them how to interact with their peers, something as simple as playing Uno, a game that teaches socialization how to take turns, follow directions,” Amy said.

The School of Hope serves not only civilians but also the military community, she said.

Rob Sparks said when he served in the Air Force, they struggled to find the right schools for their late son.

“We have been there where people tell you they can't do anything else with your kid or that there's nothing else … we can provide for their needs,” he said. “We just want to be able to try and do that.”

The couple hopes that the school will have about 100 children in the next 10 years.

“Our greatest goal is that this school will go on forever when we are long gone and will touch lives even after us,” Amy said.

They need to find people they can trust and know are going to love these children and do what’s best for them when she and her husband are no longer able to run the school, Amy said.

“It makes me feel great, I mean I love giving back to the community especially an area I am familiar in,” Rob said. “My son didn’t have these opportunities, so I like to be able to create those opportunities and resources for autistic kids and I am just glad to be one of those resources.”

The foundation and school host various fundraisers and events in the fall and spring to raise money for both non-profits. The next one is the Riding for Hope fundraiser scheduled for Nov. 14 to raise money for playground equipment and other needs of the school, Amy said.

The fundraiser will have a motorcycle ride, raffles and a silent auction. The event will also serve to raise awareness about autism and answer questions that people may have, she said.

“I think it's important that we are advocates for our children,” Amy said. “Our children are very unique, and this isn't a cookie cutter disability, and the number of autistic children is going up so it’s important we raise awareness because autism isn’t going away.”

Rob said that the pandemic has slowed down the efforts to raise money and grow and this fundraiser will help move things along.

“You know you can write grants and hope and pray that you get them but just because you write them doesn't mean you will get them,” Amy said. “We need this money to help for new playground equipment, when our kids go outside they can be engaged, have physical exercise,” Amy said.

The goal of the fundraiser is to raise at least $10,000. If someone can’t attend but still wants to donate they can do so at the website https://theschoolofhope.networkforgood.com/projects/94356-make-a-difference-in-the-lives-of-children-with-autism

For more information visit https://www.theschoolofhope.net and https://www.jarredbryansparksfoundation.org

The Riding for Hope event starts at 10 a.m. Nov. 14 at the Fayetteville Community Church located at 2010 Middle River Loop. The bike ride will stop at the Seven Gables Skating Rink in Clinton and return to Fayetteville. Registration will be from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Rider tickets are $20, passengers are $10. Pre-registration email is sohfundraiser2020@gmail.com

01 02 Rob and Amy Sparks

01 03 20201027 133150











(Left) Amy and Rob Sparks opened the School of Hope for austistic children in 2017 in honor of their late son, Jarred.
(Right) The Riding for Hope event on Nov. 14 will raise funds for playground equipment for students and other school needs.


The continuity of teaching math online amid COVID-19

12 N2004P64099HMarch 13, 2020, is a date that will be added to our ever-growing dates of historical events in the United States. Why? It was the date many of our states’ governors issued stay-at-home orders for all of its citizens amid growing concerns related to the coronavirus. By 5 p.m. on March 13, CNN.com reported that at least 1,666 coronavirus cases and 41 deaths had been confirmed in the U.S.

At Fayetteville Technical Community College, we were already on alert, as the news of the deadly virus spread. Faculty received training on how to use Blackboard Collaborate, a tool much like Zoom or Google, and were directed to teach from home. In addition to this training, College administrators surveyed students regarding their access to wi-fi services and computers when away from the campus.

I will admit that when the notification of the email flashed across my i-phone, I was a little taken aback. I knew how to prepare for a snow storm or hurricane but not a pandemic.

Thoughts filled my head about what I needed to do and how to get it done. The only computer I had at my home was more than ten years old and had no web-camera. I had no printer, and to be honest, I did not have the money to purchase what I needed to continue serving my students.

Fortunately for me, FTCC provided the needed computer with a web-camera for my use. I still had no printer, but because I teach math, my job doesn’t entail a great deal of printing. Internet service providers offered free internet service, and my cell phone service provider gave an additional 8 GB of data for the remainder of the month of March.

That Saturday back in March, I was busily trying to help my middle-schooler adapt to his new learning environment—the kitchen table—while I set up my new office in the dining room.

I fielded myriad emails from students.

I did my best to reassure my students that we would all work together to get through this ordeal. Then the day arrived for us to have our first of many virtual class meetings.

My experience felt like the first day of school all over again … I had to take time to help students find their virtual classroom, navigate the tools within the software and go over proper etiquette for meeting online.

Needless to say, by the end of the first day, I was exhausted yet very pleased that my students could continue learning. They could continue to explore the concepts of binomial experiments, hypothesis testing and compounding interest rates!

Fast forward, and here we are in month eight of this pandemic. Even though no one knows if and when our COVID-19 situation will go away, one thing is for sure: at FTCC, we are working to ensure that our students can continue to learn.

Spring classes begin January 11; we hope you will register today and begin the new year staying connected to something positive — education at FTCC.


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