Last week’s shooting death of a Sandy Level resident – who died while riding in car on Soapstone Road with a Ridgeway man before they both wrecked in what investigators called a murder-suicide — has given new urgency to next Monday’s Stop the Violence walk and program.

The program, which has the theme of “2020 Vision,” was expanded to include a talk about healthy relationships, by Valerie Blevins of Piedmont Community Services, and Darlene Carter also will talk about domestic violence. Also, a skit created last month was ditched in favor of a new one called “A Thin Line Between Love and Violence.”

“I’m sure as other people get up and speak, it [the recent shootings] will come out in other ways, too,” said Garrett Dillard, the event’s organizer.

This annual event will start at 9 a.m. with a walk beginning at the Crossroad Store on Axton Road and conclude at St. John Baptist Church for a program. People may park at the church to get rides to the store for the beginning of the walk.

“The pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church, Jerry Lewis, has graciously allowed us to gather inside the church” for coffee and donuts before they leave for the walk, Dillard said.

He estimated the walk from Crossroads to St. John to be about 1.9 miles.

The program will include reflections and observances of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Halifax County minister Rodney Dillard will be the primary speaker. He is a cousin of Garrett Dillard and the son of Otis Dillard of Sandy Level, who now is the pastor of County Line Baptist Church in Halifax, Garrett Dillard said.

Rodney Dillard, who lives in Danville, grew up in Eden, N.C., and played football, Garrett Dillard said.

Travis Byrd of The Hope Center also will speak. The Hope Center is a ministry of Compassion Church to help people get off drugs in a long-term residential setting.

The kids of Future Generations will give a performance, including a dance-flag routine.

Local elected officials will have opportunities to speak.

Dionna Moyer is the coordinator of the skit, and other participants are Angela Dillard-Wilson, Tara Scales, Moyer’s daughter Deajah Hairston and her sister Daruis Hampton.

Moyer said the group has been presenting skits during the yearly Stop the Violence program for about four years. This year’s skit originally was different, but organizers had trouble getting some of the participants together to practice because of their work schedules.

Turn of events

They already had had the feeling they may have to change directions with the skit, Moyer said, when “there was a recent turn of events in the community. That kind of sparked the idea, but we know it is a sensitive subject being so recent.”

The skit will touch on domestic violence and “a little bit on mental health, trying to present the situation that maybe just acting out of love for someone could possibly prevent a violent situation from happening,” she said.

Although the topic is serious, the skit will have some moments of humor, she said.

Award presentation

A highlight of each year’s Stop the Violence event is the granting of the Howard Dillard Award.

Formerly called the Citizen Recognition Award, it was renamed for the late Howard Dillard, who is said to have epitomized the qualities the award celebrates during his 100 years of life. He died on Jan. 6, 2019.

This year’s event will have T-shirts custom made for the group by Scottie Dalton. “He likes our purpose and mission,” Dillard said, adding that he appreciates Dalton’s “time and effort” with the shirts.

The event “is open to everybody, not just the Sandy Level community,” Dillard said.

Lunch will be provided.

How it began

The first walk was in 2011, after Glen Dillard, Garrett Dillard’s brother, was fatally shot on Dec. 27, 2010.

The walk was conducted in memory of the members of the Sandy Level area who lost their lives because of violence, including Lawrence Clark, Nicky Clark, Jerry Dickerson, Glen Dillard, Lewis “AJ” Dillard, Bobby Green, Alton Hairston, Edward “Poo Poo” Hairston, Joe Willie Hairston, Marcus Hampton, May Liza Hampton, Donnell Inge, Pearline Inge, Kelvin Keen, Cora Little, Mary Jane Martin, Tiny Perkins Martin, Jemelle McDaniel, Akoreon “AJ” Murphy, Bennie Perkins, Clifford Perkins, Charlene Scales, Tom Scales, Silas Terry, Estelle Tinsley, Sykolin Tinsley and Ernest Wilkerson II.

There were no deaths to violence in Sandy Level from the beginning of the Stop the Violence program to last year, when Eric Adams and D.J. Peatross died.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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