By Ryan Cornell
FRONT ROYAL -- The national average price for a gallon of gasoline -- $3.21 -- is at the lowest it's been in 23 months. And for employees of the Southerlands assisted living community on Tuesday, it was even cheaper. It was free.
The community's 36 employees, who lined up at two pumps at the 7-Eleven on South Royal Avenue in Front Royal from 10 a.m. to noon, had their gas tanks filled up and paid for by their boss.
Richard Brewer is the CEO and president of the Charlottesville-based Commonwealth Assisted Living LLC, which added The Southerlands last year to its 18 other communities throughout Virginia. He said he was rewarding employees for recently earning a two-year license from the Virginia Department of Social Services.
"It's a big deal," he said. "It means they're providing quality care in the facility, they did well on their state inspections and it means the staff is working together to take care of our residents."
The facility will receive the license at the end of November when its current license expires.
Brewer said he started the tradition about 10 years ago to celebrate the company's facility in Gloucester when it earned its two-year license. It was also in Gloucester that Brewer said he hit his record high, spending $150 on a single tank of gas for a mini conversion van.
"I did it right when they shot up from $2 to $4 overnight," he said. "Everybody was stressing about how they were going to pay for everything."
On Tuesday, gas prices at the Front Royal 7-Eleven ranged from $2.99 for regular unleaded to $3.42 for super premium unleaded.
"It's a great way to meet all the staff that work on the different shifts," Brewer said. "Everybody needs a tank of gas."
Stacy Wolford, who's worked as a housekeeper at The Southerlands for less than a year, was getting the tank of her Buick LeSabre topped off by Brewer. She said employees were given about two weeks' notice not to fill their tanks.
Southerlands staff chose that particular 7-Eleven location because they had previously been allowed to hold bake sales in front of its convenience store.
The assisted living community, located at 600 Mountain View St. in Front Royal, has been providing senior care since 1996 and will be adding a new Sweet Memories wing next year for those experiencing memory losses, Alzheimer's or other dementia.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org