In rural areas, especially, friendships run deep.
Neighbors are practically family, equipment is shared, pastures leased, bartering is commonplace and sir and ma’am are always ready words on the lips of children and adults as well. Respect is earned, hard work expected and in such hamlets and villages, folks are all on a first name basis. Many are actively involved in church groups, organizations of every kind survive and thrive, and the tight knit community is revered, protected and celebrated.
Denise Chandler is a good friend to many, who along with her husband, Donald, give much time and devotion to the county. Many know Denise as a successful realtor, her quaint cozy office located on Gay Street and know of her volunteerism. Indeed, for many a year she was the organizer for the annual Town of Little Washington Christmas parade, a job as many know of unenviable work scope. Donald is a world renown architect and a man of great humor and extraordinary talent. While his health is no longer 100 percent, his gentle smile continues to warm many a heart. Denise is unfailingly by his side, his protector, and his best friend.
In recent days she took him to Richmond to celebrate the holidays and spend some time at the Jefferson Hotel. I suggested she might enjoy dining at Pasture, an award winning restaurant within walking distance of the hotel and where my son Hans is a chef. True to her generous spirit, she sent the following message to the Rappahannock Ladies Lunch Bunch, a group of women numbering over 250 and growing. Her show of genuine enthusiasm warmed a mom’s heart, namely mine. Thanks Denise, you are the best. I hold your friendship dear and appreciate your kindness:
“To all the ladies in the lunch bunch. When I told Chris my husband and I were on our way to The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond for Christmas, she said “stop by the restaurant where my son Hans is chef. He’s wonderful.
“I expect every mother to say that, however it is true! Hans is a gentleman and chef extraordinaire.
“We had a fabulous dinner at ‘Pasture’ and owe it to Hans. His fried ribs were incredible, the steak with rosemary grit cake divine, and the desserts perfect. Couple that with a visit with Hans, the evening was ‘delicious.’ So, if you haven’t been to Richmond in a while, savor The Jefferson and Pasture. It is a true treat . . . and Chris definitely has bragging rights!”
On the subject of kindness and caring and ushering in the New Year, in recent days I received a note from Pam Anderson, a friend who thought I’d be interested in writing about a Rappahannock County High School student-driven club called Rapp Care, headed up by high school English teacher Darlene Mathieson.
Basically, explained Pam, “The school is a collection site for anyone who has items to offer (food, clothes, toys, necessities, etc.). Students from several clubs (the National Honor Society, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Student Council Association) assist Rapp Care, sort/size the items, pack snack bags for the children, and donations are delivered once-a-month to those who have needs in McDowell County, West Virginia.” Thus far, twenty-six tons of supplies have been delivered to McDowell County through Rapp Care’s efforts.
The school collects throughout the year. You just drop off items inside the front entry, and let the receptionist know it’s for Rapp Care.” Updates on needed supplies can be obtained from Mrs. Mathieson at the high school: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In chatting with Darlene, she shared the group’s inception and the mission in more detail. A couple of years ago, an idea was launched to formulate a community service outreach project run by students. Many ideas were floated about, and just at that time, as many may recall, severe flooding ravaged parts of West Virginia and Kentucky.
Particularly hard hit was impoverished McDowell County, a remote area in Appalachia made up of 150 hollows, home to the Hatfields and McCoys, and suffering desperate poverty and the highest rural opioid rate in the United States.
Darlene elaborated, “West Virginia had the highest drug-overdose death rate in the US in 2014. The children (many orphans), the elderly, the disabled, and the animals — pets, strays, and livestock — are caught in the middle of this nightmare. Rapp Care makes a difference by providing for the needs of the innocent, the victims of this terrible poverty and drug plague. Many have no heat, no electricity, no strong roof, no solid floors, no clean water source, no safety, no hope. We give them a thread of hope, the knowledge that someone out here cares about them and their situation. Even a jar of peanut butter and some jelly and bread are far better than an empty belly. We provide what we can: blankets, sleeping bags, water, food, and a hand to hold with a promise of more to come.”