A ceremonial check representing the up to $244,126 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) for Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) to be used for workforce development and training in support of renewable and alternative energy, as well as the installation of a solar panel project on campus, was recently presented to the SWCC Educational Foundation. From left are Dr. Tommy Wright, SWCC president; Susan Lowe, SWCC vice president of institutional advancement; and executive director of SWCC’s educational foundation and Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send items for possible inclusion to news@cardinalnews.org.

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VCEDA awards funds from new renewable energy fund to SWCC

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has awarded a $244,126 grant to Southwest Virginia Community College to be used for workforce development and training in support of renewable and alternative energy, as well as the installation of a solar panel project on campus.

The funding marks one of the first awards from VCEDA’s newly created Renewable Energy Fund. Included in the project is the installation of 10KW of solar panels in connection with a pending new student housing project on the SWCC campus. The solar panels will be installed on the housing units.

Currently, SWCC offers a renewable energy and energy efficiency career studies certificate and an electrical/electronics associate of applied science two-year degree program.  In order to expand these programs, SWCC began examining ways to expand its lab capacity to serve more students at one time, to provide students access to lab trainers that emulate and simulate the current equipment and emerging technology found in the industry, to integrate programs of study into an environment with real-world installations and opportunities to maintain and analyze the benefits of the installed alternative energy technologies and to build partnerships to have opportunities for students to complete internships, cooperative education and future employment. 

In order to accomplish this, SWCC identified the need for funds to provide training for instructors in industry-recognized certifications, solar equipment, tools and supplies. 

With the project calling for the installation of the solar panels, students involved in the training program will be able to see fully installed systems and assist maintenance crews with routine maintenance opportunities through internships and/or cooperative education opportunities, providing them with real-world experience to help them obtain employment upon graduation. 

The VCEDA Renewable Energy Fund was created using funds received by VCEDA from the state’s Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit.  Because this tax credit was repealed by the General Assembly in 2021, future funding of the VCEDA Renewable Energy Fund will depend in part on whether this funding can be restored or replaced in some manner, according to Belcher.  An additional award by VCEDA from the Renewable Energy Fund is planned to be announced in the coming weeks.

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USDA announces broadband grants for Giles and Washington counties, water grants for Scott and Bland counties

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced four grants for localities in Southwest Virginia, according to Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem. They are:

Water systems:

  • Bland County: A $3,840,000 grant and a loan of $3,203,000, a total of $7,043,000, to the Bland County Service Authority for improvements to the water distribution system. This will improve the water distribution system and extend new service to approximately 100 homes. Construction includes the installation of 78,550 linear feet of 8-inch water line, one water storage tank, two pump stations, the replacement of 9,800 linear feet of 8-inch water line, and related appurtenances.
  • Scott County: A $10,270,000 grant and a loan of $3,783,000, a total of $14,053,000, to the Scott County Public Service Authority for public water service. This will will provide public water for residents in the Central Scott area and correct deficiencies in the Nickelsville water system. Construction includes approximately 19 miles of 3/4-inch to 8-inch water lines, a pump station, a 100,000-gallon water storage tank, water meters, fire hydrants and other related appurtenances.


  • Giles County: A $1,204,502 Community Connect grant will be used to construct a 20.5-mile Fiber-to-the-Premises system benefiting 311 residents and one business in the Springdale service area.
  • Washington County:  $3 million to iGo Technology for broadband. This will be used to construct a 56-mile Fiber-to-the-Premises system benefiting 887 residents and seven businesses.

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The check presentation

First Bank & Trust Co. gives $50,000 to Emory & Henry College School of Business

First Bank & Trust Co. has presented given $50,000 to the Emory & Henry College School of Business. 

This support will allow the College to connect with students throughout the region via an education space in the East Wing of Carriger Hall, home of the School of Business, according to a news release from the school. The space will be dedicated to engaging learners digitally via state of the art technology.

“Supporting Emory & Henry College is a natural fit for our organization. They are the only four year private college in Washington County, Virginia and we are the only bank headquartered in the county, and that alone makes our partnership impactful on many levels,” said Mark Nelson, president and CEO of First Bank & Trust Co., in a statement. “We look forward to building on our long-standing relationship with the college by supporting their undertaking with the School of Business.”

As part of the partnership, the School of Business will offer programming for First Bank & Trust Co. employees and rising leaders, focusing on skills needed to successfully lead organizations from within. The programming aims to prepare First Bank & Trust Co. employees to become more effective business builders and systems thinkers who have a breadth of diverse manager knowledge, and who are extremely skilled at navigating uncertainties and challenges on the way to superior business performance.

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Danville institute’s ‘wreaths for a cause’ raises $16,000 for local charities

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research raised more than $16,000 for local charities through a new “Wreaths for a Cause” holiday program, according to a release from the Danville institute. More than 100 guests attended the Dec. 14 open house to celebrate the holidays, enjoy door prizes and participate in a live and silent auction of wreaths – all to benefit area nonprofit organizations.

Similar to IALR’s former “Decorating the Trees for a Cause” program, this year area businesses and organizations created and displayed 65 wreaths in IALR’s atrium in honor of their selected charities to raise funds in the form of votes, or donations. The public visited IALR’s atrium Nov. 29-Dec. 14 to vote for wreaths with a donation. Each of the more than 50 charities represented retained those funds, and the wreath that collected the most money (donated by Goodyear Tire and Rubber to support United Way of Danville-Pittsylvania County) received a bonus of $500 at the open house. Two random drawings of all wreaths awarded additional $500 bonus awards to participating charities Danville Pittsylvania County Cancer Association, supported by Computer Bookkeeping & Tax Service, and Caswell Pet Lifeline Rescue, supported by Linden Rose Boutique. All wreaths were then auctioned off, raising more funds for the supported charities.

At the open house, Austin Scher of the Danville Otterbots (and chair of the United Way of Danville-Pittsylvania County campaign) served as master of ceremonies, and Rita Smith of River City Auction served as wreath auctioneer. All guests had an opportunity to win door prizes donated from local businesses. The nearly $1,300 in proceeds from the event ticket sales went to the United Way of Danville-Pittsylvania County. 

“Wreaths for a Cause” sponsors included URW Community Federal Credit Union, an anonymous donor, Commonwealth Home Health Care, Piedmont Infusion Services and Links Coffee House Café. Since IALR began a holiday fundraising program for nonprofits in 2010, more than $135,000 has been raised for charitable causes.

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Students in Amanda Keesee’s kindergarten class at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Martinsville watch a video from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam congratulating them on being future SEED Fund students.  Courtesy of The Harvest Foundation.

Northam congratulates future SEED Fund students

Governor Ralph Northam congratulated future SEED Fund students in Martinsville-Henry County with a video.

The Harvest Foundation in September announced a $10.3 million investment over 13 years to guarantee the SEED Fund at Patrick & Henry Community College will provide a college education at no cost for high school graduates in Martinsville and Henry County. (We had a story about this program here.)

Northam said to this year’s kindergarten class: “We believe in you. We want to be with you every step of the way and help you make your dreams come true. Listen to your parents and teachers when they tell you college is possible and waiting for you at home. We know you can do it. We are so proud of you and what your future holds.” 

In a statement released by The Harvest Foundation, G.W. Carver Elementary School kindergarten Teacher Jeannie Lowery said: “It’s such a great feeling to talk to a kindergartner about their dreams for the future, about going to college to fulfill those dreams, and knowing that it’s a reality for them.”

Students are eligible immediately following graduation from high school, completing a GED program (high-school age population only), or a homeschool program. Once an application to the fall semester at P&HCC is completed, an application to the SEED Fund must be completed on time.

To find out more about the SEED Fund, visit www.patrickhenry.edu/seed. Visit www.theharvestfoundation.org for additional information on the foundation and its programming.