SML Regional Chamber of Commerce award recipients (from left): Kelly Drinkard, Mariners Landing; Kevin and Sara Gray, Smith Mountain Lake Coffee House; Alicia Hodges, Neora; Jessica Bohn Bishop, JBohnBishop Mercantile; Jack Phillips, Bedford Landings Bed & Breakfast (outgoing board chairman); Cindy Bower, Kimberly Davenport and Lisa Spangler, Bank of Botetourt; and Carol Lee and Alan Fischer, EastLake Community Church. Photo courtesy of Rapid Imagery.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Smith Mountain Lake chamber honors business and community leaders

The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce honored area businesses and community advocates at its annual awards dinner last week.

Outstanding SMLRCC ambassador: Alicia Hodges, Neora

Outstanding tourism advocate: Mariners Landing

  • Also nominated: Bridgewater Marina and Boat Rentals, Drifter’s, JBohnBishop Mercantile, Mango’s Bar & Grill

Outstanding business: Smith Mountain Lake Coffee House

  • Also nominated: Bridgewater Marina and Boat Rentals, Drifter’s, JBohnBishop Mercantile, Capps Home Building Center, Re/Max Lakefront Realty

Outstanding professional service: Bank of Botetourt

  • Also nominated: Anchor Title SML LLC, Gilbert Law PC, Phyllis and Casey Johnson of RE/MAX Lakefront Realty, SML Virtual Assistant Services by Tina

Outstanding nonprofit: EastLake Community Church

  • Also nominated: Lake Christian Ministries, Smith Mountain Lake Association, SML Charity Home Tour, The Agape Center, SML Rotary Club

Outstanding community champion: Jessica Bohn Bishop, JBohnBishop Mercantile

  • Also nominated: Donnie Shaver of SoundDawgs Productions, Troy Keaton of EastLake Community Church, Ryan Waters of Bridgewater Marina and Boat Rentals, Lynette Webb of Mulch ‘N More!

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Google, Downtown Wytheville partner to offer digital training for small businesses

Downtown Wytheville Inc. has been selected as one of 10 organizations across the U.S. to work with Main Street America and Google to provide digital skills training and resources to local businesses.

Downtown Wytheville has joined Grow with Google as a member of its partner program, which provides digital coaches who offer free training and coaching to small businesses on topics including how to connect with customers, sell products online and improve business productivity.

Courtney Stringer will serve as Downtown Wytheville’s coach. Stringer is director of community and business development for the Office of Administration, Government Relations and Strategic Initiatives at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, where she manages teams focused on community development, entrepreneurship, professional development and coworking collaboration.

The program will launch April 13 with an event from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Millwald Theatre. Space is limited to 100 participants. Sign up online or contact Downtown Wytheville at 276-223-3343 or adminspc@downtownwytheville.orgs with questions.

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Wytheville creative writing contest opens for entries

This year’s Wytheville Chautauqua Festival’s creative writing contest is now accepting submissions.

The contest is open to amateur writers in these age groups: students in grades six-nine, students in grades 10-12, and adults. The categories are fiction (750-4,000 words), nonfiction (750-4,000 words) and poetry (less than 50 lines).

Prizes will be awarded in each category if the judges determine that the quality of the entries merits recognition. First-, second- and third-place prizes will be awarded, ranging from $10 to $50.

The contest is open only to amateur writers. You will be considered professional if you receive at least one-third of your income from writing or if you teach creative writing at the college level. Works that have been previously published are not eligible.

You may submit only one manuscript per category but may but enter as many categories as you wish. Include two typed originals or typed photocopies. Copies will not be returned.

Include a removable title page containing your name, address, phone number, email address, age group and literary category. Your name should not appear on any other page. Enclose a $15 check or money order for each adult category entry; there is no fee for sixth-12th grade student entries. Make checks payable to Wythe Arts Council.

Send entries to Julia Tomiak, chair, Chautauqua Creative Writing Contest, 1244 Laurel Run, Wytheville, VA 24382. Entries may also be emailed to Emailed entries must have a subject line with “Chautauqua Creative Writing,” the age group and the category. The entry attachment must be formatted in a Word document or saved as a pdf.

Entries must be postmarked by May 19. Winners will be notified before June 16, and awards will be presented June 23.

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Montgomery Museum recognized with statewide innovation award

The Montgomery Museum of Art and History is the 2023 recipient of the Virginia Association of Museums’s Innovation Award.

The award is given annually to one Virginia museum that demonstrates innovative and creative programming that brings change to its community. The Montgomery Museum’s new art therapy program series, “The Art of Happiness,” was selected for the award, according to a news release from the museum.

The “Art of Happiness” uses museum spaces and exhibits as tools for experiential self-help and coping strategies. The program offers avenues of art such as painting, sculpting and poetry to raise awareness and enhance access to mental health resources through positive psychology. For more information, visit

LewisGale Regional Health System provided support to expand the programming and offer additional sessions due to high demand.