Horses with Hearts – Changing Lives one Rider at a Time
Jun01

Horses with Hearts – Changing Lives one Rider at a Time

by M.T. Decker Horses with Hearts began as a simple dream – helping one horse lover get back on a horse after life-saving cancer surgery left her blind and robbed her of her motor skills. The horse lover in question was Lindsey Connelly, a young girl who refused to give up on her dream. When she met Lindsey in 1999, Kay Barkwill was touched by her love of horses and her determination to ride again; Kay became just as determined to get Lindsey back on a horse. She teamed up with Cathy Dodson, a thoroughbred riding instructor.  Together, they began researching what they would need to make Lindsey’s dream come true. Even though Lindsey’s family moved away, Kay and Cathy continued working towards the goal of getting her back on a horse. Unfortunately, Lindsey passed away before they could give her her miracle. But, they found a way to keep Lindsey’s dream alive by sharing it with others. This dream became Horses with Hearts, a not-for-profit center that provides equine activities for individuals with special needs. “It transforms the lives of everyone it touches,” Kay explains.  “And the changes are profound.” In many cases, the parents of a special needs child are told what their child will never be able to do.  Horses with Hearts takes that list and helps people with special needs, find another way. “Because a horse’s stride is close to a human stride, it engages the rider’s core,” Kay explains. For children who have to wear braces to stand, they have no real way to exercise. By engaging their core, horseback riding gives them the strength they need to walk. “I’ve seen children who were told they would never walk, learn to walk after riding…” And the changes don’t just stop there.  The volunteers at Horses with Hearts are reminded just how blessed they are. They are witnesses to, and part of, changing lives. When you can come out and work with the horses, it changes your life. When you’re disabled, and the world becomes a list of “you can’t,” working with a horse brings something normal and beautiful into your life. When you volunteer, you become a part of this miracle, and you get to witness the profound changes people experience. “We work with one rider at a time, and each rider has a horse that they ride,” Kay explains. Working with the horses also builds confidence and has broken through some barriers where nothing else worked. “We had one young man, he was on the autistic spectrum and non-verbal,” Kay explains.  “When his family moved, his mother told him that summer would be...

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Steak and Seafood for the Whole Family
Jun01

Steak and Seafood for the Whole Family

By PAUL LONG Hoss’s Steakhouse has 35 locations across Pennsylvania, from Chambersburg to Erie to Williamsport. But the restaurant at 195 Aikens Center in Martinsburg holds the distinction of being the only Hoss’s outside of Pennsylvania. And while other locations in New York and Virginia have closed in recent years, the Martinsburg Hoss’s is thriving, according to general manager Dallas Grim. “I feel like we have a very loyal customer base,” said Grim, who has been with Hoss’s since 1996, just three years after it opened in Martinsburg. The company itself was founded in 1983. Grim began his career as a dishwasher, making minimum wage – which was just $4.25 an hour at the time. He stayed with the company even after going away to college, and he worked his way up the ladder until, in 2006, he was promoted to general manager. Since then, he said, the local labor market has gotten tighter as Martinsburg and the Eastern Panhandle have continued to grow. There are more restaurants in the area now, and so potential employees have more options from which to choose. “When I started,” Grim said, “I could count the number of restaurants in Martinsburg. Now they’re everywhere.” Still, filling a vacancy has never been a struggle. Hoss’s currently has about 55 employees, both full- and part-time. Grim said his new hires often come through referrals from current employees, drawn by a set of perks that includes being closed for seven holidays every year, which, according to Grim, is practically unheard of in the restaurant industry. And once they arrive, many of those employees stick around for a while. One worker had been at Hoss’s for more than two decades before recently moving to Florida. A couple of them have been at the restaurant for more than 15 years, and several others have at least a decade of service under their belts. Many of Hoss’s customers come from Martinsburg, Spring Mills, Falling Waters and Shepherdstown, while some regulars come in from Maryland on a regular basis and a few found their way to Martinsburg after the Hoss’s location in Winchester closed a few years ago. The restaurant’s proximity to Interstate 81 has also been good for business. Grim sees people coming in from nearby hotels, and, he said, quite a few out-of-state travelers make a point of stopping at Hoss’s whenever they travel through Martinsburg. Grim said many of the children who used to come to Hoss’s when he first started working there are all grown up now and often bring their families into the restaurant. Hoss’s Restaurant is known for its all-you-can-eat salad bar, which also...

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Community Banking
Jun01

Community Banking

By M.T. Decker One Hundred and Forty-nine years ago, Jefferson Security Bank opened its doors on May 19th, 1869.  Operating as Jefferson Savings Bank, they were the first bank in Shepherdstown, WV. The bank’s objective was to provide the residents of Shepherdstown and the surrounding area the security and finances needed to rebuild after the civil war. They have remained a fixture in Shepherdstown ever since by staying true to their mission of supporting their community.  By evaluating what their customers need and focusing on the people rather than metrics and numbers, the bank has grown from its early beginnings, yet has remained true to the belief that a community bank best serves the people by focusing on their needs and their circumstances. Changes have been gradual.  In 1909 Jefferson Savings Bank became Jefferson Security Bank.  While their name changed, they remained focused on their community.  Over the years the bank has added branches to serve their customers better and they have expanded slowly, making sure they do not grow too big for the people they serve. Every step of the way has involved evaluating the community needs and making sure they continue to focus on their customers.  Today, Jefferson Security Bank has six branches.  In addition to the two branches in Shepherdstown, they have one serving Charles Town, WV.  Outside of Jefferson County, West Virginia, they have two branches in Berkeley County, WV and one in Washington County Maryland. The sense of community is strong at the bank; many of the tellers have grown up in the area and have served Jefferson Security Bank customers for over twenty years. “One of the things I love about the bank,” Sara Wasson, Director of Marketing and Community Relations explains, “is the fact that the tellers know their customers.” There are conversations about family and the comings and goings of family members.  The bank isn’t just a business, it is a business that focuses on its customers and knows that its customers are what makes it unique. “When we process a loan, we don’t just look at numbers, we know there is a story behind the numbers— and they do not tell the whole story,” Jenna Kesecker – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer adds. Because Jefferson Security Bank is a local bank, they can look at the customer and work with them to create a loan based on them as a customer and not as a series of numbers. “We’ve always been involved in the community – donating money to projects such as little league,” Jenna adds. This is because the community is more than just the people in...

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Burrito Bar adds some ‘sexi’ spice to Old Town
Jun01

Burrito Bar adds some ‘sexi’ spice to Old Town

By Josette Keelor WINCHESTER — Crissy Willis hears a common refrain from curious patrons of her Old Town burrito bar: Why the Mexican food? The answer is simple: It’s in her blood. Willis opened Sexi-Mexi Burrito Bar at 21 E. Boscawen St. last November and, until recently, also ran Cristina’s Café on King Street in Strasburg. “I’m the third generation of strong-willed women to own a restaurant in Strasburg,” she said. Now, having sold the business to Brandon and Kaitlyn Belland, who also run Cordial Coffee in Berryville and in Marshall, she’s excited to focus more attention on the new burrito bar. The sale of Cristina’s Café took effect May 1, and Willis called the transfer “perfect timing.” “I put 10 years of my life into that business,” she said. The 35-year-old mother of three lives on a farm in Fort Valley and gets her Mexican influence from her late grandmother, Florencia Cristina Valverde. Willis’ mother, Donna Cristina Johns, and grandmother both ran Mexican restaurants in Strasburg, before she and her sister, Wendy Cristina Willis, opened Cristina’s Café in its present location at 219 W. King St. Cristina’s Café features sandwiches and salads with a Mexican flair, but Willis said the burrito bar is different, focusing on fast, casual food that goes beyond the expected. At Sexi-Mexi, she said, “Our most famous burrito is The Cuban.” It features pulled pork from Willis’ farm and other “pickled things,” an idea she said builds on the classic Cuban sandwich of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. “That’s our flagship item,” she said. But like everything else at Sexi-Mexi, the Cuban burrito takes on a decidedly “sexi” twist. Cristina’s Crazy Cuban burrito is packed with pulled pork, black beans, jalapenos, pickled onions avocado, cheese and chipotle aioli. Sexi-Mexi is “high-quality food that’s not pretentious, not elitist,” Willis said. “This is a thing that needs to exist.” Willis grew up on her grandmother’s Mexican food and credits that experience to influencing her interest in first running a café, then a Mexican food truck and then a burrito bar — all infused with Mexican cuisine. “It’s like comfort food for me,” she said. But she also stressed that Sexi-Mexi doesn’t sell Mexican food. It’s fast, casual food with not just Mexican flavor but also Peruvian, Indian, South American and Thai influences. That’s where the Sexi-Mexi name — suggested by her sister, Wendy — comes from. It’s giving Mexican food “a sexy twist.” The menu is simple, which was part of Willis’ goal for the eatery: Offering a small menu and doing it really well. The food is “awesome,” she said, “and you...

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Modern Day Slavery A Look at Human Trafficking
Apr01

Modern Day Slavery A Look at Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking is widely defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex or labor services act, in which a commercial sex act or labor service is induced by force, fraud, or coercion” (Trafficking Victims Protection Act-TVPA). Let’s break that definition down. There are two main types of trafficking: labor and sex trafficking. Labor trafficking, in practice, looks like farm work with little to no pay and unhealthy living conditions or a false promise of a grand job in a far-away land, only for the applicant to arrive and be exploited. Sex trafficking, in practice, would be a husband selling his wife for drugs or a pimp exploiting the need for love in a 14-year-old girl and selling her to “Johns” (purchasers of sex) within the community. Unfortunately, this heinous act is occurring in communities like ours across the country. Shenandoah Women’s Center (SWC), the only licensed victim service provider in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, reported that it saw more than 80 victims of human trafficking in 2017. Out of those 80, 78 were born in the U.S., and most of them are from the Eastern Panhandle. The most common forms of trafficking throughout the I-81 corridor are familial trafficking and intimate partner trafficking. Familial trafficking involves a family member or guardian selling his or her child/family member for sex or labor services to profit. Intimate partner trafficking is a similar situation, with an intimate partner trafficking his or her partner for profit. Katie Spriggs, Executive Director at SWC, tells the story of a victim SWC served within the last few years: “She presented to us as a victim of sexual assault, but the more we heard, the more we suspected she was being trafficked. She was 19 years old when we met her, but had been trafficked by her boyfriend for more than 3 years. She met him through friends when she was 15, and he was 25. She came from a home with two successful parents and self-identified as someone who had a loving family. He took time to groom her (grooming defined in WV Code as “predatory act” means an act directed at a stranger or at a person with whom a relationship has been established or promoted for the primary purpose of victimization). He showered her with attention and love and convinced her that she was destined for more than what this small community had to offer. He told her, in order for them to get out of here, she needed to help him earn money. He convinced her that a quick way to make money...

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Unite with the United Way for a Better Society
Apr01

Unite with the United Way for a Better Society

Article By: Bonnie Williamson Photos By: Josh Triggs Making life better for the residents of the West Virginia counties of Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan is the mission of the volunteer-driven nonprofit United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, Inc. Through grants, donations and hard-working volunteers, the United Way partners with a variety of community organizations to foster hope, prosperity and opportunity for everyone, according to Penny Porter, the organization’s CEO. Porter says the three areas her organization concentrates on are education, financial stability and health. “Through our Community Solutions Fund, we currently fund 34 programs at 29 different organizations in the tri-county area,” Porter says. “Those programs align with specific goals in our collective, community impact model. We also work to build partnerships that help to leverage the financial investment of our grants. Our volunteers are currently reviewing new grant applications.” Porter, who has been CEO for three years, graduated from Hedgesville High School and received her degree in accounting from then Shepherd College [now Shepherd University]. Right out of college she went to work in Washington, DC, for U.S. Senator Jay John Davison “Jay” Rockefeller IV, who represented West Virginia from 1985 to 2015. Starting a career with the United Way was a good fit. “I wanted to continue working on the issues he cared so deeply about,” she says. Porter shares that commitment. “I feel privileged to work for United Way as it provides an opportunity to help make a difference in the community I call home,” Porter says. “I grew up in Martinsburg and am grateful for the chance to raise my own daughters in our beautiful Mountain State. My family’s roots were also heavily influenced by poverty so many of the issues that we try to address at United Way are near and dear to my heart.” The United Way movement started more than 128 years ago in Colorado when interested citizens developed a central, volunteer-driven organization and process to evaluate their community’s growing charitable needs. Porter said a trophy owned by the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle notes a date of 1928, celebrating the conduct of a Martinsburg Community Fund Campaign. “Pictures and minute books note the later founding of our other county United Ways. These items are a testament to the long history of the United Way in the Eastern Panhandle. In one form or another, United Way has been making a difference in the lives of Eastern Panhandle citizens for more than 80 years,” Porter says. The United Way of the Eastern Panhandle seeks to improve the community and create opportunities to help families become financially secure. “We want to provide pathways...

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