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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Angel Trees set up across area

Residents who want to bring a little Christmas cheer to children in the community this year now can grab an angel and fulfill a Christmas wish or two.

The Salvation Army of Nash and Edgecombe Counties placed angels on their Angel Trees this week. Salvation Army Maj. David Phelps and Maj. Amber Phelps are inviting their neighbors in the community to take an angel and make some dreams come true.

Roughly 672 angels were placed on the trees this year and are waiting for someone to claim them.

Angel Trees contain printed angels with the name of a child and a list of suggested gifts for Christmas. Some of these items include clothing and practical gifts whereas others are chosen to bring a smile to the face of a child who might otherwise get little or nothing for Christmas.

Amber Phelps said the Angel Tree program is her focus right now.

“The Angel Tree program helps us be able to make Christmas a little bit brighter this year for kids in this area,” she said.

Angel Trees are available in Rocky Mount at the Salvation Army office on Hunter Hill Road, the former site of the Rocky Mount Telegram. They also are available at the Golden East Crossing mall near the play area and one may soon be available at the Walmart in Rocky Mount.

In Tarboro, Angel Trees are up at the Walmart and at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Tarboro.

Angel patrons simply remove the angel they choose and bring one or more of the items on the list to the Salvation Army office on Hunter Hill Road by Dec. 14. The items on the list are just guidelines, Amber Phelps said, but they represent suggestions by family members as to what the child needs or wants.

“People can adopt more than one angel if they choose,” she said. “Sometimes churches or businesses or civic organizations want to adopt multiple angels. In that case, it is best to call us here at the office at 252-446-4496.”

With COVID concerns in mind, Walmart is working with the Salvation Army this year to offer a simpler way to get involved. Walmart has set up a Registry for Good on its website to allow people to contribute gifts to the program without having to physically pick out an angel or bring items to the Salvation Army. The link to the Registry for Good can be found at https://bit.ly/35Pb2Bc.

“This is great for people who want to give but don’t want to go out because of COVID or other reasons. Those items selected on the Registry for Good will come directly to us, and we will match them to an area child to help them have a good Christmas. We can use these to supplement items given to angels from the Angel Tree or to help ‘forgotten angels’ whose names don’t get pulled off the Angel Tree,” Amber Phelps said.

She said the Angel Tree program is an important part of the Christmas season, especially this year.

“I feel like this program gives people a little bit of hope and happiness at Christmas time. It is hard for a parent not to be able to give everything to a kid. This year is super hard, because of COVID and all the layoffs and all the extra expense that comes along with this pandemic,” she said.

For more information about the program, call 252-446-4496.

Work on downtown lofts progresses

A future residential and commercial development is taking shape in the heart of Rocky Mount.

Developer Troy Davis since February has been working to transform three side-by-side buildings in the 100 block of Southeast Main Street into the future Davis Lofts.

Davis early last week showed the progress of his project, which he told the Telegram will be complete by February 2021, with the plan being to have 22 high-quality upstairs apartments, four ground-level storefronts for businesses and a rooftop deck.

Asked by the Telegram to provide the status of the future Davis Lofts on a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being complete, Davis said, “We’re about a seven.”

“We’re pretty close,” Davis said. “We have six units that’ll be online hopefully Dec. 1.”

Of the apartments, Davis said, “We are still in the process of looking for more tenants. We have about six or seven of the units leased so far.”

Davis said he cannot be more specific about potential tenants in the commercial spaces due to privacy reasons.

“But I will let you know that we have quite a bit of inquiries in regards to these spaces,” Davis said.

Davis also received a boost when a majority of the City Council on Nov. 9 approved $300,000 in Housing Incentive Grant Program funds for his project.

City records said the private investment in the project totals at least $1.75 million. Those records state that a condition of the funding via the city calls for three of the 22 units to be set aside for affordable housing.

Davis did make clear to the Telegram the overall purpose of his project is to attract young professionals.

Davis also said that the downstairs part of the future Davis Lofts will include a fitness center and an on-site office for his operations.

With some exceptions, the part of downtown along the railroad line and between the Rocky Mount Event Center and Ben Braddock’s Station Square business and professional complex is lined with numerous vacant or abandoned storefronts. The future Davis Lofts is right along that area in need of an infill of occupancy.

Davis said of his project, “I think this should spark a flame” under some of the owners of buildings to kind of come and join in helping revitalize downtown.

Davis said that more than a few people have noticed the work going on at the future Davis Lofts and are stopping and asking questions.

Asked whether he stops what he is doing and provides tours, Davis said, “Absolutely.”

The addresses of the three buildings are, going south respectively, 143, 147 and 149 Southeast Main.

Davis acquired the three buildings, but the 149 Southeast Main building was in particularly horrendous condition, with the roof having collapsed.

“We had to start from the ground all the way up,” Davis said of work on that particular spot. “It was just the brick still standing.”

Davis also said that February and March were quite difficult due to rainy conditions. He also said that when an excavator was brought in for demolition work, the machine became stuck and a tow truck driver had to be called to pull the machine out.

Davis, 33, originally is from Philadelphia, but he has been in Rocky Mount since he was 5 years old and said he has lived all over the city.

Davis has been a developer for about 11 years.

Asked by the Telegram why he chose his occupation, Davis said, “I wanted to be able to ride past places and say, ‘Hey, I helped change that area.’”

Davis said the reason he chose to redevelop locations downtown is because the heart of Rocky Mount has great architecture and he wanted to be part of that.

Asked why he chose these three buildings, Davis said it was because he wanted a rooftop deck and because one of the buildings, 149 Southeast Main, allows one to readily access the top of that building.

Davis made clear to the Telegram that he is not going to stop with this project and that he would like to do more along Main Street.

“Anybody that’s willing to sell their buildings, they can reach out to me,” Davis said.

Braddock and City Downtown Development Manager Kevin Harris accompanied Davis on the tour of the project.

“I think what he has done is a huge accomplishment,” said Braddock, 40, who has known Davis for about 3½ to four years.

“And I think that a lot of people have talked about doing what he is doing — and he is actually doing it,” Braddock said. “Instead of talking about it, he’s showing everybody how to do it.”

“I think that the key to downtown redevelopment is having a residential component,” Braddock said. “I think we have to have people living downtown in order to support having businesses downtown again.

“I think people want to be downtown, but until they’re provided a space where they could go, then we really don’t have anything to offer them,” Braddock said.

Harris, 61, said Davis approached him and that he and Davis worked to acquire the three buildings along Southeast Main.

As for getting people downtown, Harris said, “One of the biggest things we need is for the people that live in Rocky Mount to support the things that we have in place.”

Noting the restaurants downtown, Harris said, “When they’re supported and people see that they’re making money, then new restaurants will want to come.

“And when those restaurants or eateries or those businesses want to come downtown, then these building owners will be motivated to renovate their buildings,” Harris said.

After Davis gave the tour of the future Davis Lofts, Braddock, who also is a contractor, showed the Telegram a project he is leading: The transformation of the former Music City & Lights — at 131 and 135 Southeast Main — into a combination upstairs residential and ground-level commercial development.

The former Music City & Lights location presently is in the care of Andrew Clark and Nicole Kleinstreuer of the Raleigh-Durham area.

Local coronavirus deaths keep climbing

The Nash County Health Department reported 14 more COVID-related deaths Friday for a total of 19 deaths reported this week.

Nash County Health Director Bill Hill presented the grim news Friday at a meeting of the Nash County COVID-19 Response Team.

“The strongest and most damaging part of my report today is that we have received reports of 14 deaths since Wednesday,” Hill said. “However, some of these deaths extend as far back as Oct. 22. We are not sure why it is taking so long for reports of these deaths to drop into the system.”

Hill said most of the reported deaths were from residents of rehab centers and long-term care facilities.

Among the recent deaths was a man in his early 80s who died on Oct. 22, a man in his early 80s who died Oct. 24 and a woman in her late 80s who died on Oct. 25. Two Nash County residents, a man in his early 80s and a woman in her mid-80s, died Oct. 26. Another woman, whose age exceeded 100, succumbed to COVID-19 on Oct. 27.

In addition, a woman in her late 70s died on Nov. 1 and another woman in her early 80s died Nov. 2. Two men, one in his early 80s and the other in his early 70s, died on Nov. 7. A man in his mid-80s died on Nov. 14, and two other Nash County residents, a woman in her early 70s and a man in his late 70s, died Wednesday from complications associated with COVID-19. The latest victim, a woman in her early 60s, died Friday.

All these patients were reported as having underlying health conditions.

These recent deaths bring the death toll in Nash County to 104.

“This is a serious number for our population,” Hill said.

Hill said the increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19 had slowed at the end of the week with 55 new cases reported over Thursday and Friday. These recent additions bring the total number of cumulative confirmed positive cases to 4,211 in the county.

More than 4.43 percent of Nash County residents have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

Roughly 2,388 Nash County residents are considered recovered from the virus and 1,699 currently are isolated at home with active cases of the virus. Hospitalizations also have increased slightly to 20.

The Edgecombe County Health Department reported 34 new cases Friday, bringing the cumulative number of cases in that county to 2,335. Of that number, 2,092 people are considered recovered and 79 have died. Roughly 164 Edgecombe County residents are isolated with active cases of COVID-19.

Police charge two women in shooting at business

Two women — including one with an earlier felony assault case pending against her — are accused of committing felony offenses in connection with shots fired at the Taps adult recreation facility on the northwest side of the city.

Adina Oneal, 24, is charged with discharging a weapon into an occupied building and Swanzetta Whitehead, 25, is charged with being an accessory after the fact, authorities said and judicial system records show.

Officers at 1:31 a.m. on Oct. 24 responded to Taps, which is in the 900 block of North Wesleyan Boulevard, and found out Jokita Phillips, who owns the business, had asked a disorderly customer, Oneal, to leave, a city spokesman said.

Oneal assaulted Phillips before leaving, entered the passenger side of a vehicle being driven by Whitehead and began shooting into the business before fleeing from the scene, the spokesman said.

Specifically, Oneal discharged the firearm while patrons and employees were inside the business, Nash County District Court records said. Whitehead drove Oneal away from the scene, the court records said.

Oneal, who listed an address in the 1300 block of Dancy Street in Tarboro, is free on a $5,000 secured bond.

Whitehead, who listed an address in the 1200 block of Blue Rug Road, is free on a $2,000 secured bond.

The Telegram found out about the shooting by backtracking through the local Police to Citizen website, which provides postings of incidents.

The Telegram also found out that Oneal is facing a charge in Edgecombe County of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.

Edgecombe County District Court records said Oneal is accused of assaulting Tanya McGuire with a 2015 Nissan vehicle on May 18. The records said the Tarboro Police Department is the complaining law enforcement agency in that case.

Bond for Oneal in that case was set at $1,000 unsecured.