‘I wanted to be a giver’ : Singletary finds ways to help Kenbridge

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 16, 2024

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She’s known in Kenbridge and across the area as Dr. Dan’s daughter. And Janie Baugh Singletary is following in her father’s footsteps, both in helping her hometown and being named as Lunenburg County’s Citizen of the Year. Singletary was honored in late January with the award, given out each year by the Chamber of Commerce. 

“He’s a person I modeled my life after,” Singletary said of her father. “I followed my mom and dad’s lead growing up. And while my contributions to Lunenburg are paltry compared to his, it still warms my heart to no end that I get to share this with him. It’s a great feeling.” 

Dr. Emerson Daniel Baugh Jr. was a highly respected doctor here in Kenbridge, where he practiced for nearly 50 years. You could just do a search on The Dispatch’s website and find mentions of the work he did and the people he helped. And about 25 years ago, he was recognized for that work with the Citizen of the Year award. Now county officials are doing the same for his daughter. 

“He did all he could for his community with his talents and now I’m doing what I can with my talents,” Singletary said. 

Janie Singletary’s work in Kenbridge 

Singletary grew up in Kenbridge during the late 50’s and 60’s, in what she believes was the town’s ‘hey-day’.

“Tobacco was king, every storefront was occupied, downtown was bustling, and we all knew how to say yes ma’am, no sir, and thank you,” Singletary said. “Eldridge Bagley did a painting titled “Downtown” that depicts this eloquently. He shows a feeling of vitality evoked by the color in the awnings and cars and storefronts.” 

And it was that image, that picture of color and vitality from her hometown, which stuck with Singletary through the years. So when she retired and moved back to Kenbridge, Singletary wanted to bring some of that back. 

“My parents, Dr. Dan and Helen Jane Baugh, were big givers to this town they made home,” Singletary said. “They made a difference. I knew that I wanted to be a giver too.” 

She saw a town that lacked that color and vitality that Singletary remembered from Mr. Bagley’s painting. And in that, she found a way to help. 

“I can’t paint buildings, I can’t hang colorful awnings, but I do know a thing or two about flowers,” Singletary said. “Beauty has a profound impact on people’s lives. It just makes you feel better. When I arrived, there were already a few plant pots in various places, but they were filled with dead plants! And in my view, having dead plants is worse than having none at all. If you’re driving through a town that’s gray, that’s not inspiring.” 

And so, Singletary got to work. She went door to door, getting store owners to buy flower pots, soil and pay for the setup. She did everything else, free of charge. She planted the flowers, helped them grow and now takes care of their upkeep. 

“If I started a beautification program, I thought it would make people care more.” 

Now it’s extended beyond just businesses. You’ll also find flowerpots and growing flowers in other parts of the downtown as well. As of February, there are almost 60 flower pots spread out. 

You can see Singletary once a week, driving around with her vintage Jeep Wagoneer to water plants when shops are closed. 

A mural and more to come

Beyond the flowers, Singletary has also helped the town in another way. As you drive through downtown Kenbridge, you can see the results of her effort in the form of a mural painted on the wall, one with the town logo, letting people know

“I felt that we desperately needed a new sign, a badge,” Singletary said. “I took a logo that Kenbridge already had, redrew it with a little extra charm, (then) got the blessings of the Historic District Architectural Review Board and the Town Council.” 

The wall was donated and then refurbished by the Smyths, with Benchmark agreeing to fund the mural and then found an artist, that is a muralist from North Carolina, who could put it all together. After two years of work, the mural was unveiled in October of 2023. 

And she’s not done. Singletary says there’s more work needed and pieces she wants to work on. 

“The town cemetery needs big attention,” Singletary said. “It won’t happen this year, but in the future, there needs to be some sort of cemetery committee.” 

She also wants to continue the work of bringing color and vitality to downtown and the surrounding areas.

“There will be more beautification to come, the ripple effect is a powerful one!” Singletary said. “I want people to see it is cool to be from a small town and it is cool to live in a small town.”