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Hope, frustration in virus battle
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Active cases drop, but 2 more die; vaccine increases


Hope: The number of active cases dropped by about 25 percent.

Frustration: 2 more people died from the disease, the Health Department announced Monday.

Hope: 150 people age 80 or older were vaccinated in a 1st-come, 1st-served clinic Saturday at Hampshire High School.

Frustration: People were turned away early; then a call went out at 1 p.m. for 17 more doses still available.

The deaths were a 77-year-old man from Romney and an 85-year-old woman living at Hampshire Center, the 4th death from an outbreak there. The Health Department offers no further identity information to protect family privacy.

Their passing brings to 21 the total deaths so far in Hampshire County. Of those, 15 have occurred in the last 4 weeks.

But while deaths spiked upward again, the number of active cases dropped to 121 Monday from 159 a week earlier and a peak of 221 late in December.

“Our number of cases each day are starting to drop,” Health Department Director Stephanie Shoemaker said. “We’re only seeing the low 20s, not even hitting 20 some days.”

She reminded residents that key to bringing the numbers down are the simple tasks of wearing face coverings, staying at least 6 feet apart and only making absolutely necessary forays into public places.

Shoemaker said she was pleased with Saturday’s clinic to vaccinate 80-year-olds, but acknowledged some frustrations.

“We ended up sending some people away before we should have,” she acknowledged.

The department was prepared to administer 150 doses on a first-come, first-served basis.

“It went very quick,” Shoemaker said. “We had a bunch of people at first.”

But when the numbers in line were tallied against doses, the staff put out a call early Saturday afternoon asking people to come back because 17 doses were still available.

Vaccinations for those 80 and over will continue in the next 2 weeks, but Shoemaker said the state has shifted its plan, grouping neighboring counties together.

“I’ve been in immunization planning all day in Moorefield,” she said Monday.

That’s where shots will be administered. Hampshire residents 80 and over can call the Health Department at 304-496-9640 to make an appointment.

Shoemaker said she expects the next group on the priority list to begin receiving vaccinations in early February, but she said she didn’t know what that group will be.

“It could be 70 and over,” she said. “It could be 65. It could be something else.”

Coach, agent, announcer, dad, friend
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Don Peters passed away Sunday.

“We were definitely sports oriented,” his son Darin said, whether it was football and basketball, golf or rabbit hunting.

The Hardy County native came to Romney as a young coach and stayed the rest of his life. He spent more years as a State Farm Insurance agent here than he did on the sidelines, but his impression on Hampshire High School athletics spanned the decades.

He was the voice of the Trojans from 1976 until 2000, only giving up the microphone when his grandsons began playing.

“He didn’t mind announcing for my brother and my football games,” Darin half joked, “but he wanted to watch his grandsons. He wanted to be able to pay more attention to their games.”

Longtime coach Jimmy Alkire said Don Peters was an influence on him and scores of athletes.

“Don had a good sense of humor,” Alkire reminisced Monday. “He was easy to get along with.”

Teaching colleague Bill Roomsburg agreed.

“He was a friend to everybody,” Roomsburg said. “He was a great coach. The kids all liked him.”

Along the way, Peters was an assistant coach for the 1961 Romney High School football team that ran up an undefeated season. When Hampshire High opened in 1964, Peters moved into the new school coaching football and basketball.

He unexpectedly became the 2nd head football coach at the school when Roger Parker resigned midway through the 1st season to move to North Carolina.

In 1972 he hung up his whistle to enter the insurance game. Peters maintained a strong friendship with Roomsburg, though.

“We hunted together — deer hunted,” Roomsburg recalled, Peters and sons Darin and Dana.

And as the years passed, Don and his wife, Phyllis, traveled with Bill and Dorothy Roomsburg, starting with a trip to Alaska.

Then it was Australia and New Zealand, followed by Hawaii. Ireland, Scotland, London and France. 

Enjoying life was typical Don Peters, his longtime pal Don Anderson says.

The pair met when Peters took over the State Farm agency and Anderson was a claims adjuster.

“He was a great story teller,” his friend recalled.

The Covid-19 pandemic cut their golfing down from 3 or 4 times a week with several buddies this year. Instead, Anderson said, just he and Peters would drive over to Mill Creek in Mineral County and shoot a round.

“Most of the time we didn’t even keep score,” Anderson said. “It was just fun to go hit a golf ball and see if we could find it.”

Even long friendships can have little secrets. For Anderson it was discovering Peters could also auctioneer.

“We were having a benefit golf tournament and we had some gifts to give away,” Anderson said. “I found out he actually could auctioneer.”

His gift for talking “made him a great agent” and showed up in his work in the Trojan press box.

 “He was one of the greatest,” Bill Roomsburg said Monday.

“I know one thing. I’ll miss him. He was part of the family.”

For Don Peters’ complete obituary, turn to Page 3A.

‘A blessing and an honor’
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In 2020, the Lancaster-based organization paired with Haven of Hope Greenhouse and Healing/Training Center in Hampshire County to provide boxes of food to those in need locally, with countless food giveaways at different locations in the county.

This generosity and help to the community lands Blessings of Hope on the list of the Review’s Spirit of Hampshire for 2020.

Naomi King with Haven of Hope said it simply, “Our mission is to use food as a tool to help people experience God’s love in their time of need.”

Blessings of Hope was started in 2006 and operated independently under the parent organization Light of Hope Ministries.

Their presence in Hampshire County this year did, in fact, offer a light of hope. With the pandemic surging, community need was more present than ever. So, Blessings of Hope, which had hosted food giveaways at Romney Elementary in the past, hosted additional events where folks could pick up free boxes of food, helping those affected by the pandemic.

During a time when it seemed like all the news stories were about numbers (positivity and transmission rates, case numbers, etc.), Blessings of Hope added a little bit of good news.

Good numbers, like 2,340 food boxes handed out in Augusta at the beginning of October.

Or, later on in October, when Haven of Hope partnered with them, distributing 800 boxes of food to local people and 1,300 boxes to ministries.

Or, 500 percent: the amount of growth that Blessings of Hope saw since Covid hit in March.

Talk about positive numbers.

“2020 has been an intense year for us with all of the Covid needs out there,” said David Lapp, Blessings of Hope CEO. “It’s been an interesting year.”

Lapp said Blessings of Hope serves a 200-mile radius on a weekly basis, including New York City, sites west of Pittsburgh and, of course, Hampshire County.

“Our main focus when we started out was to supply smaller food pantries with quality food that might have been wasted,” Lapp explained. “The way we adapted (when Covid hit) was we did a lot more packing ahead of time in our warehouse, and we switched to a drive-through style delivery instead of a walk-in system.”

Blessings of Hope has about 120-140 suppliers who donate food to their main location, and their community outreach saw communities like Hampshire County receiving prepackaged aid during a time of immense need.

With the organization’s “Hands of Hope” food box programs, Blessings of Hope was able to prepare food boxes for delivery, allowing giveaways to be done with minimal contact while social distancing.

 “We were honored to be a part of supporting our local community and offering hope during 2020,” King said about the year’s food giveaways.

It’s faith above everything for Blessings of Hope.

“Our mission is to empower the church to help the community,” Lapp said. “It’s just been a blessing and an honor to be able to serve the community in this way.”

ELECTION TURNOVER: Hands-on attitude for prosecutor
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Miller, a Romney native, has been the assistant prosecutor for about 3 and a half years. After winning the election in November, she’s making her way up the food chain.

“It’s really hard not to say ‘assistant,’” Miller said with a laugh. “I started (as assistant prosecutor) in May 2017 until just this past December. So, I was making a phone call the other day and I had to stop and think.”

When she was being sworn in, Judge Charlie Carl pointed out that Miller is the 1st female prosecutor from Hampshire County.

“It’s a lot of firsts,” he said. “She’s worked hard to get to this position. It’s nice to see one of our own be successful, and we’re really proud of her.”

That work ethic that Judge Carl mentioned is evident when Miller talks about her goals for the position. She said she’s “super excited” to get back into working with felony court, something that she delved a little bit into this past term, but she’s rearing to get back into it fully.

One of the biggest challenges Miller is facing with her new position is the backlog.

“If you think about it, we missed a term last year, so there is that backlog that needs to be processed,” Miller explained. “And, since Covid numbers were up, we weren’t able to have January, and I’m hoping we can get that term scheduled as soon as is practical. We can do as much as we can do.”

Covid has certainly put a damper and a delay on most everything these days, but Miller is thinking optimistically about her goal.

“The goal this year is to get through the cases we have and try to move forward and not have that backlog,” she said. “I want to get current again.”

During her campaign, Miller really stressed her passion about dealing with abuse and neglect cases in Hampshire County. With the kids learning from home, referral numbers are down across the state, but Hampshire is seeing the opposite. Referral numbers are up here, and Miller said that department was “overloaded” last year.

“There’s so much crime that happens in Hampshire County,” she said. “Hampshire had referrals all the time. At least we had the public sending referrals to make sure the children are safe. We do have a great bunch of citizens reporting it. It’s amazing.”

Miller even brought back a familiar face to handle the abuse, neglect and juvenile cases in Hampshire: Charlie Johnson III, who started in the position earlier this month.

While Covid provides a major hurdle for Miller in her quest to thin out the county’s backlog, she has a couple of other things to tackle as well.

Organization, for one. She said she wants to get her office on 1 database, with the calendar, the contacts and other information in a centralized location.

One of the qualities that Miller brings to the position is probably her biggest strength: her ability to be hands-on with local law enforcement and her availability.

“I’m available 24/7 to the officers, and they know that, so (I’m) getting back into that and being able to help when asked and when needed,” she explained.

While she’s working on settling into her groove, there is 1 thing Miller is certain about: the importance of teamwork within her office and with the community.

“It is my office, but we have to work together. That’s the big thing,” she pointed out. “We’re all here for a common goal of finding the crime in Hampshire County that’s off the charts. I think it’s going to be a good year, and a good next 4 years, and I’m looking forward to it.”