Though race falls during the university’s fall break, the Ten Miler is on the list of volunteer opportunities for students and staff through the Center for Community Engagement. Cindy Ferguson who heads the center has indicated she is looking for additional volunteers.
By Hunter Epperson, William Deitz, William Masselli & Andrew Wheeler
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Central Virginia and Liberty University moves to online classes after an outbreak in their first week of school, students at the University of Lynchburg say they still feel safe on campus.
“An average of 32 cases per day were reported in Lynchburg, a 47 percent increase from the average two weeks ago. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1 in 10 residents have been infected, a total of 8,326 reported cases. Right now, Lynchburg is at an extremely high risk for unvaccinated people,” according to the New York Times Lynchburg, Virginia COVID case tracker.
According to Liberty University’s COVID-19 Dashboard, which has not been updated since Aug. 25, there were a total of 159 active cases; 124 of those were active student cases, and the other 35 were active faculty/staff cases. There are also 274 on campus students in quarantine, as well as 111 commuters and 107 employees.
One year after quarantine hit full force, vendors at the Lynchburg Community Market indicate that it was a very profitable year.
When the pandemic hit roughly one year ago, and efforts to stay home and stay safe increased, small businesses took a massive blow. According to a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank, 30% of surveyed business owners indicated that their business would likely not survive the impact of the pandemic.
However, farmers in Lynchburg, Va., and surrounding areas, tell a different story.
Virginia has passed two new bills that are designed to protect victims from forced sex crimes if they are victims of human trafficking.
House Bill 2133 was voted on during the 2021 General Assembly and was unanimously approved. It seeks to allow victims of human trafficking who had been, “solicited, invited, recruited, encouraged, forced, intimidated, or deceived by another to engage in acts of prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse for money or its equivalent” to apply to have convictions as a result of those terms to be vacated. This means that, although the record of that conviction will still be in place, it will be considered dismissed by a court of law.
The Claytor Nature Center is home to the Belk Astronomical Observatory, and work done there furthers the discoveries of the NASA Solar System Ambassador program.
The NASA Solar System Ambassadors (SSA) website page describes the program by saying, “The NASA Solar System Ambassadors program is a public engagement effort that works with motivated volunteers across the nation to communicate the science and excitement of NASA’s space exploration missions and discoveries with the people in their communities.”
Trish Cerulli is one of those motivated volunteers. She said, “I became an SSA in Jan. 2021, after hearing about it last year from one of our dedicated docents, Ray Bradley. As the Outreach Coordinator for the Belk Observatory, much of my work there is already aligned with the mission of the SSA program, so I was happy to be selected as a volunteer SSA for NASA! I am the only SSA serving in the Lynchburg, Va., area, and I hope to be able to visit local libraries, scout troops, campus events, and other Lynchburg community opportunities to spread the word about space science and Belk Observatory!”
The Academy Center of the Arts will be hosting Brett Thomas, a mobile Raku artist, for a pottery session in which attendees can create pieces in outdoor kilns. The class will take place in two sessions on April 23 and April 24.
Thomas has been coming to the Academy since Oct. of 2016 and this will be his ninth time teaching classes.
“I think people are really wowed by the process because of its immediate response,” said Ted Batt, the director of Visual arts who also oversees the Pottery Studio at the Academy. “You get these really cool metallic colors that you do not get from firing okay, and it’s got a long history it actually dates back to Japanese processes.”
It has been one year since COVID-19 emerged, bringing challenges and even closure for many small businesses due to lack of customers. However, a few local Lynchburg businesses are standing strong.
CBS News stated, “nine million small firms are at risk of closing for good this year.” Outside the Cone and Mission House Coffee are local businesses in Lynchburg, Va., that have defeated the odds and remained strong during the pandemic.
Kyle Spangler, owner and manager of Outside the Cone an ice cream shop in Wyndhurst, said, “Definitely feel very blessed and lucky to be able to have a shop that is doing so well in a time like this.”
The coronavirus continues to linger in the Lynchburg community even though thousands have received vaccinations and is still impacting local nonprofits such as the University of Lynchburg.
Nationally, there has been a strict enforcement of social distancing policies and many nonprofits were forced to cancel fundraisers, which were their primary sources of income to keep their organization operating.
The University of Lynchburg and city of Lynchburg have been working closely together to remove College Lake Dam, which is an ongoing project that is expected to be completed within the next three years.
In 2018, the dam was nearly destroyed after it overflowed, which is one of the reasons the school and city have decided to remove it entirely. The goal is to remove the lake and turn it into thriving wetlands.
The city of Lynchburg has released a specific plan to remove the dam, and this plan lists several reasons for why the dam is a hazard. Still, there are people who believe the dam removal is unnecessary.
On Saturday, Feb. 6, Lynchburg hosted its first Polar Plunge event.
Event coordinator Katherine Clement said, “In past winters, Lynchburg residents already felt cooped up and this year with COVID-19 extending that cabin fever all year, we wanted to provide a safe and unique activity for everyone to find an excuse to get outside. Another reason this event was held was to support the Lynchburg Parks and Recreation scholarship fund.”
Clement also said that even though there were many COVID-19 safety precautions, the participants still had fun. “This is our inaugural year offering the Lynchburg Polar Plunge. As with all changes to our lives due to COVID-9, we had to take measures to prevent the spread and asked all involved to wear a mask and remain socially distanced. I believe the plunge was a success and everyone seemed to have a great time plunging. We had families, friends and a participant hailing from Nashville show up to plunge,” said Clement.
The University of Lynchburg will celebrate Black History Month 2021 under the theme, “Good Trouble: Uniting Our Dreams & Voices for Justice.”
The calendar of events is being co-sponsored by the Black History Month Planning Committee and the Johnson Health Center.
Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and planning committee chair, Dr. Robert Canida said, “This year’s theme was chosen, one to pay homage to the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the well known Drum Major for justice and righteousness! And two, to honor the late Honorable Congressman John Lewis and his contribution to social justice, equality and unity. Both of these remarkable men were icons of Good Trouble!”