According to southern tradition, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to usher in prosperity. Mary Frances Fannon introduced the tradition to Laurel Mills more than a quarter-century ago, and the new hosts of this tradition will be Linda Isaacs and Danny Hitt who will both be running the store beginning in January.

For those of us familiar with the establishment, it is a beloved fixture in the tiny hamlet, flanked by a whimsical garden stocked by the neighbors, namely Linda and Danny, with all manner of happy statuary.

Typically the event on New Year’s Day draws large crowds of new-year celebrants gathered under the bright January sunshine on the porch at Laurel Mills. It’s a picture worthy of Norman Rockwell, the festivities celebrating not only the food, black-eyed peas served with cornbread and hot apple cider, but also the warmth and camaraderie of neighbors and friends. Jerry Compton, often over the years, is the master-chef and uses a recipe inherited from his mother — who used to run the Laurel Mills Store for Mary Frances when he was just a baby!

The black-eyed peas tradition, it is said, harkens back to the Civil War. One origin of the custom is associated with General William T. Sherman’s march of the Union Army, during which they pillaged the Confederates’ food supplies. Peas and salted pork were said to have been left untouched, because of the belief that they were animal food unfit for human consumption. Southerners considered themselves lucky to be left with some supplies to help them survive the winter, and black-eyed peas evolved into a representation of good luck. In another Southern tradition, black-eyed peas were a symbol of emancipation for African-Americans who had previously been enslaved, and who after the Civil War were officially freed on New Year’s Day.

So it is with great reverence for a centuries old tradition that Laurel Mills residents and friends will celebrate the coming of a brand new year and thank you Mary Frances for introducing the custom to Laurel Mills over a quarter-century ago. To Linda and Danny, we thank you for not only continuing the tradition but we also welcome your new proprietorship. Congratulations!

Our own ‘Senior Village’

Rappahannock is home to many a non-profit, many a volunteer, and forward thinking residents along with numerous generous benefactors. So it is not surprising that the county enjoys being home to a “Senior Village” — called Rapp at Home — and the status of being the most rural of more than 200 such villages across the United States.

A senior village is part of a national network. The Village to Village Network, which supports senior village efforts around the country, describes villages as “hyperlocal neighborhood groups of vibrant members engaged in their communities.” Rapp at Home provides services and activities to help area seniors engage with the community, stave off isolation, and remain in their homes longer. The organization is also involved in larger, regional efforts to improve transportation and healthcare options for the community as a whole.

Longtime resident and community activist Hal Hunter, inspired by working village organizations around the country, brought the concept to Rappahannock.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Eve Brooks at the town of Washington Christmas parade (she manned a table filled with brochures and shared with exuberance the mission of Rapp At Home) and she told of their current recruiting drive, a goal of attracting 100 more members, and naturally volunteers are always welcome.

There are many of us in the community perhaps unaware of this wonderful service provided to hundreds of folks living in a rural community, where they offer a ride or a prescription pick up that is so gratefully accepted. Share this much needed operation with your neighbors and friends so that they may join. Also, for so many of us, volunteering provides an opportunity to not only do good works, but also a chance to meet and befriend many fellow residents. In rural settings such as Rappahannock, it is a challenge for many, especially newcomers, to meet new neighbors and friends.

Rapp at Home board members include Sharon Pierce, Dennis Barry, Ed Eagar, Emery Lazar, Eve Brooks and Patty Hardee. MK Ishee is the executive director and Lindsay Sonnett is the volunteer coordinator.

Services offered include transportation, a one call service center, grocery and prescription delivery, rides to medical appointments, house minding and home safety checks, help with decluttering and downsizing, and relief of a spouse who is primary caregiver.

Moreover, social activities such as trips to events are offered, monthly luncheons, education and seminars, eating companions are provided, and healthy physical activities such as group walks and senior weight training classes are compliments of Virginia Tech. There are also services that may include short term pet care, financial management, preparing tax forms and much more.

The website,, is quite informative and includes a calendar of events and a fascinating blog.

For further information on how you can become a volunteer and/or a member wishing to utilize services provided, contact the group at 540-937-4663. The office is 567 Mount Salem Avenue in Washington.

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