Here’s a round-up of briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Carilion receives $1 million gift to help employee education

Carilion Clinic announced it has received a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor couple that will support the health system’s YES (Your Efforts, Supported) program for employees.

Carilion’s human resources team was developing the YES Program late last year when the donors approached the health system with an idea to help individuals improve their education, their careers and their financial health, according to a statement from the hospital.

YES will launch later this year. Its goal is to pave a path for eligible entry-level employees to learn, earn additional certifications and further their education to meet career goals, all while helping to fill in-demand positions within the health system.

Carilion will financially support all YES Program participants by paying for their enrollment in either a degree program or an industry-recognized credential or certificate program, as well as their regular wages and benefits while they are in school. In addition, the organization will pay for expenses such as books, fees, uniforms and may provide other support employees need to balance work and home responsibilities.

The anonymous gift will be used to establish The John Cooker Endowment Fund, so named at the donors’ request, which will reimburse Carilion for costs associated with supporting African-American employees who are enrolled in the program.

The donors were motivated to make the gift upon learning that their forebears profited from the labor of enslaved African-Americans, according to a release from Carilion. “John Cooker” was the name that the donor’s grandfather had given to the Black man who served his family when the grandfather was a young boy. While the family had a close relationship with Cooker, in keeping with the segregated norms of the time, he was never viewed as an equal.

The donors chose to name the scholarship program to both honor Cooker and recognize his potential had times been different.

“Although John Cooker has long since passed, his memory will live on through other African-Americans who’ll have the opportunity to achieve the dreams John was never able to realize,” the donor said in a statement released by Carilion. “It’s the key reason why we will remain anonymous, and John will not. Our hope is that this gift will inspire others to help hard-working employees improve their lives through education.”

The YES program will be open to all eligible entry-level employees regardless of their race or ethnicity or any other characteristic when it launches later this year.

Disclosure: Carilion is one of our donors but donors have no say in news decisions. Read our policy and full list of donors.

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Kathleen Smith (front center), wife of the late Richard Smith, and Smith family members, together with Ferrum College President David Johns (front right), Vice President of Institutional Advancement and External Relations Wilson Paine (front left), history faculty both past and present, and alumni cut the ribbon to the new Richard L. Smith Center for International Programs. Courtesy of Ferrum College.

Ferrum College dedicates international center

Ferrum College has dedicated the new Richard L. Smith Center for International Programs.

The center is named in honor of the late professor of history and Williams Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities Richard Lee Smith, who was an avid world traveler. According to Ferrum, “The newly named international center welcomes students from around the world to campus; opens the world to Ferrum students through study abroad; and offers programs designed to broaden perspectives and help students connect to the rest of the world.”

Smith, who died Feb. 24, 2021, at the age of 75, taught history at Ferrum College for 42 years. As a college professor, Smith taught more than 8,000 students, more than 7,000 of them at the college. 

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VCEDA approves grant for St. Paul coffee shop

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has approved a $10,000 seed capital matching grant for The Coffee Station in St. Paul. The business is a full-service coffee shop and mini-bakery owned by Andrea Hicks.

“The VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund was created to encourage entrepreneurship in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and we have seen that happen since its inception,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel, in a statement. “The seed capital grant recently approved for The Coffee Station is projected to create three full-time and two part-time jobs within three years.”

Hicks first opened The Coffee Station in March 2021 in one location of St. Paul, but after purchasing the former Carter Bank building in St. Paul, she temporarily shut down the original location and is in the process of renovating the new space which she expects will be complete in time for an early summer re-opening of the business.

In addition to providing coffees and baked goods on site, catering for small events will be offered and in addition to providing seating for restaurant customers, the Coffee Station has an upstairs area Hicks is calling the Orchard Barn Studio and Event Space, which may be rented for private events and can accommodate up to 60 people.

Hicks worked with the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College in developing her application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Wise County Industrial Development Authority.

About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell and Wise counties and the city of Norton.

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Wise County students plant more than 1,000 trees on former coal mine

Nearly 200 Wise County ninth-graders planted more than 1,000 trees on a former coal mine at the 16th annual Virginia Arbor Day celebration, according to the Virginia Department of Energy. This is the 150th anniversary of the first Arbor Day celebration that took place in Nebraska.

Students and volunteers planted apple, dogwood, black locust, red maple, southern red oak, white oak, persimmon and pine trees on 3 acres known as Project Intersection. It is now under development to make way for new industries in Wise County in part due to funding from Virginia Energy’s Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization program.

Since Virginia’s Arbor Day celebration began in 2005, more than 10,000 trees have been planted on nearly 40 acres of mined land. Project Intersection is located where U.S. highways 58 Alternate and 23 meet. The total development is over 100 acres and was a surface coal mine in the 1960s. Virginia Energy’s AMLER program has aided in the reclamation and development of this site. Over $9.2 million in grant funds has been awarded to the Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority to turn the former coal mine into an industrial development site. The trees planted today will be next to a new home for an Earthlink customer service center.

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