Category Archives: Bella Features

Young Female Writers Club: Yasmeen Jaaber

Leading with the Written Word

Written by K.L. Kranes

The iconic Whitney Houston once sang of how children are the future and we should let them lead the way. Recent events have turned those lyrics into truth. Our children have stepped onto the world stage as the real leaders in the movement for equality and justice. Some speak out on television, such as the Parkland students. Others use a different medium, the written word. 

One such writer is 15-year-old Yasmeen Jaaber of Chesterfield, Virginia, who infuses her poems and stories with deeply personal experiences and ideas in the hopes of spreading a message of tolerance and love. It is the kind of leadership only our children seem to be able to achieve—honest, open and fearless.

Yasmeen started writing at a young age. In elementary school, she would come home every day and write stories on her sister’s computer. She’d always loved to read, but hated to finish a book. Writing gave her the power to continue stories as long as she wanted.    

At first, Yasmeen wrote what she called “silly stuff,” just for herself. As she grew older and entered her teen years, she started to view the world differently. “More issues became more prevalent to me,” Yasmeen explains. She suddenly found herself writing about her fears and hopes for America. 

As a Muslim-American and a black woman, Yasmeen feels it is important to talk about the issues facing minorities. “I need to use my voice as an artist to talk about something that really matters,” she says.

Talking to Yasmeen is like talking to a ray of sunshine. Her voice rings with positivity as she tells the story of how she made a video as a young girl in which she told her future self she would have a book published by the 9th grade. “My old-self was telling me what I could do,” Yasmeen says. This time-bending pep-talk exemplifies Yasmeen’s fearless, can-do attitude. 

Her younger self was also right. Yasmeen could do it. She recently published her first book, a picture book, through the Richmond Writer’s Workshop called Flea-Man. The book is about how a boy’s love of a superhero teaches him to learn to be himself. It can be purchased via the Richmond Writer’s Group website (http://www.richmondyoungwriters.com/picture-book-project/).

Although Yasmeen reveled in seeing her name on a book for the first time, it was one little boy’s response to her work that truly impacted her. “When I handed it to the little boy, he looked so excited and he ran upstairs to get his dad to read it to him,” Yasmeen explains. “That experience was really profound for me because it was the first time actually seeing the kids I was impacting with my story.”

Although Yasmeen oozes positivity, it does not always come naturally. “I often struggle with keeping a consistently positive attitude because it can be very exhausting.” It is not surprising. Prejudice has followed Yasmeen throughout her short life. “In school I’ve had many, many ignorant things said about my hijab,” Yasmeen explains. 

Like many minorities, Yasmeen feels as if she lives in a state of constant worry. The kind that makes her look over her shoulder or fear walking to the bus stop alone at night. “If I wasn’t Muslim or black or a woman, there’d be a lot of things I wouldn’t know. Being who I am, I’ve experienced things that have taught me lessons about being a minority in America.” 

Yasmeen channels these experiences into her writing, tackling topics many might view as controversial, such as homophobia and racism. Recently, she wrote a poem about burning the Confederate flag. It helped her sort through her emotions about the symbol, which she notes gives her shivers whenever she sees it. “When I finished it [the poem], it was more lyrical than I imagined,” Yasmeen says. “There was something so calming about it even though it was a crazy thing to write about.”

Yasmeen recognizes the importance of her role as a writer and how it can help change the world. “A lot of people just don’t know. If you grow up in a world where nobody tells you anything you’ll keep going as if what you’re doing is fine.” According to Yasmeen, writers have the power to open minds and change the world by sharing their perspectives in an intimate way, which is something Yasmeen does not shy away from doing. Yasmeen’s poems and stories tend to be intensely personal. 

One of the pieces Yasmeen is most proud of is a poem inspired by the recent #MeToo movement. In it, she writes a letter to the person who sexually assaulted her. “I felt the momentum from the #MeToo movement and I was so angry I had to get it out some way,” Yasmeen says. “I wrote the poem for myself, but I’m still insanely proud of myself for acknowledging it in such a detailed manner, and not breaking down. It’s really hard to talk about it, but writing about it is like going back in time.”

This type of raw strength to face personal injustice, prejudice and fear permeate everything Yasmeen writes. She is the type of fearless young woman needed not only in literature but in the world. She challenges the status quo, tries to help educate through her work and shares her own experiences to help open minds. Young women like Yasmeen Jaaber are our future and we will be lucky if they lead the way.

K.L. Kranes is a blogger and author of young adult novels. Her debut novel, The Travelers, was published in 2016 by Saguaro Books, LLC. See more from K.L. at www.klkranes.com/blog.

Single Girl Travel

A few tips for exploring the world around you this summer

Traveling alone can be a little intimidating. However, with a little planning and some research, it is possible to plan a solo trip that you will never forget. Keep the following tips in mind as you plan your next adventure, and check out www.lovelybella.com for more tips throughout the summer!

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

 

Plan, then train.  Know approximately how far you will be walking. Work your way up to walking the distance you’ll need to walk to enjoy the places you want to see. Start small, and remember to stay active every day. If you work through the discomfort in your muscles now, your body will thank you later. 

Be frugal.  Traveling solo does not have to be expensive. For example, at the time this article was written, you could ride a Greyhound (www.greyhound.com) bus from Roanoke to Miami (one way) for $107 on June 1. The trip includes one hour (approx.) stops in Raleigh, Fayetteville, Savannah, and Orlando. The trip will take around 26.5 hours total. An Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) trip, with the same destination, was $157 for one reserved coach seat and takes approximately 32 hours with a three-hour transfer in Washington, D.C.

Want to travel outside of the United States? The trip may be more expensive, but you can still save money if you do it right. Great Value Vacations (www.greatvaluevacations.com) is a fantastic place to find and plan the trip of your dreams. At the time this article was written, you could purchase a six-night trip for one person to explore Ireland’s Wonderful West: Adare Villa for $916. This includes airfare, airport taxes, accommodations, full-size car rental, and tours.

Stay safe, but not afraid.   We are surrounded by reports of violence on television and social media. All of these stories can keep us from living our best lives and experiencing all that the world has to offer, but they don’t have to have such a powerful influence. The important thing to remember is to BE ALERT. Know your surroundings from the moment you step off a plane. Resist the urge to wear headphones or be distracted by your phone. (Really, you shouldn’t be scrolling through your newsfeed on vacation anyway). Being alert does not mean being fearful. In the same way that you would look both ways before crossing a street, be aware of the people around you. Learn how to avoid danger (and how to respond if it can’t be avoided) in Fearless by local author, Logan Doughty. 

Travel light.  Believe it or not, you can fit a week’s worth of clothes, toiletries, and basic necessities for one person into a standard backpack. This is great for road trips with friends or a small group, and it is even better if you are traveling by plane! As soon as you arrive, you simply throw your backpack over your shoulders and exit. There is no hassle in waiting for your luggage or digging through everyone’s belongings to find your suitcase. You are ready to begin your adventure from the moment you arrive. For more information on packing like a minimalist, visit www.theminimalists.com. To see minimalist travel in practice, check out www.thetravellinglight.com.

Virginia Made: TeTai

Meet Tabitha Venditti of TeTai

Summer vibes have finally arrived. Sunshine, warmth and vacations. Beaches are calling your name and cookouts on the weekends become norm. Fun in the sun is the theme for June as outdoor activities are planned for the entire family. Through all the chaos there’s one thing that sometimes takes the back burner. Skincare. That’s where Tabitha Venditti, founder of TeTai, a natural skincare line, comes in.

Tabitha grew up in Portland, Oregon and later moved to Pennsylvania. In 1993, she found herself in Lynchburg attending Liberty University. Twenty-five years, and a family later, Virginia is where they call home. Tabitha recently completed a degree in English from Lynchburg College. Raising a family, running a business and working for a local family as a personal chef while taking classes was not an easy task. Not a woman to back down from a challenge, Tabitha not only completed her degree but graduated with special recognition for her writing abilities.

TeTai began as a challenge as well. Named after her two daughters (Tegan and Taitum). It all started when Tabitha’s oldest daughter, Tegan’s, eczema became more and more problematic. An aunt in Hawaii sent the family a recipe for a scrub using oil and sea salt that helped but was too oily for the three-year-old. Tabitha took on the challenge of creating a product her daughter could use with success. The result was a unique scrub that combined seven unique oils, fine sea salt and essential oil of lavender. The natural product healed Tegan’s skin without all the harsh chemicals and created a demand among friends and families.

“Every product I make bears the names of my daughters and represent quality. I couldn’t sell it if I didn’t believe in its quality.” Each product created within the skincare line covers a variety of issues within the skin for both men and women. From extremely oily to dry, sensitive skin and acne, there’s a little something for everyone. Scrubs, bath bombs, toners, facial oils and essential oils are just a few naturally-based products offered. The newest additions of TeTai were motivated by Tabitha’s own need for a regime to combat large pores and sagging, aging skin. The TeTai Toner and facial oil combination of argan oil and organic lavender solved her problems better than any name brand skincare without costing hundreds of dollars.

Tabitha’s passion for her daughters and leading a natural lifestyle are what have built TeTai into a trusted brand amongst her clients. Her willingness to research, experiment, fall and get back up again are examples of the tenacity it takes to run a successful small business. As her friends were asked to describe Tabitha their words matched everything reflected in her business. Words like “passionate, young-at-heart, determined, quirky, vivacious and loving” were just a few mentioned. When she’s not experimenting for TeTai you can find Tabitha enjoying her college and high school-aged daughters, reading To Kill A Mockingbird, or watching Jumanji through tears. On Saturdays, catch TeTai at the Historic Roanoke City Market and various craft shows around Virginia.

Find TeTai:

www.etsy.com/shop/tetai   USE BELLA CODE: BELLA for 20% OFF

 

www.tetai365.com

Written by Faith Jones of Hill City Handmade

Faith Jones is a local entrepreneur, creative, and believer.  Her businesses include Faith Inspired and The Hill City Handmade. Faith has a degree in Art and Photography and is a former high school art and culinary teacher. She enjoys spending time with her family and travelling. Faith’s motto is, “Paris is always a good idea.” 

www.thehillcityhandmade.com

Let’s Travel… Locally!

Adventures are waiting for you—maybe even in your own backyard! 

Looking for a fun mini-vacation this month? Why not use this opportunity to support the local economy? There are plenty of fun places to visit and spend time with family and friends in Southwest and Central Virginia. Check out our favorites below…we may just see you there!

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Carvins Cove Natural Reserve – This is a beautiful experience for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. With over 12,000 acres of hardwood and mixed pine forests, 60 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, and more than 11,200 acres protected by the largest conservation easement in Virginia’s history, this is a place where you can truly appreciate the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At the reserve, take advantage of free-ride downhill trails, boat rentals (kayaks, 14’ boats, and paddle boats), stand up paddle boarding, and fishing opportunities. Hop on the free ride downhill trails or the cross country single track. Pack a lunch, and take a friend! www.roanokeoutside.com

Fairy Stone State Park – Warm weather is here, and that means it’s time to break out your camping gear! Fairy Stone State Park is the perfect place to spend a long weekend enjoying the scenery (including the 168-acre lake adjoining the Philpott Reservoir!). Attractions include cabins, a campground, group camping, an equestrian campground, a conference center, hiking trails, lake swimming, rowboats, canoes, paddle boats, kayaks, picnicking, and two playgrounds (one of which is in the water!). This is a great mini-vacation for children of all ages, as the park is one of few places in the world where you can find the legendary Fairy Stones. There are all kinds of superstitions attached to these stones, but the best part about them will be the special memories attached to the ones you find. www.dcr.virginia.gov

Apple Ridge Farm – You may already know Apple Ridge Farm for its reputation for providing environmental education and camping experiences for more than 70,000 youth, many from Roanoke’s inner-city neighborhoods and public housing projects. However, it’s also a great place for adults to relax and unwind! This unique location is surrounded by beautiful mountain views and five miles of hiking trails to take advantage of during your stay. The best part? Guests can book their stay in an actual train caboose car! Specifically, a remodeled 1978 Norfolk Southern Caboose Car. Outfitted with a queen size bed, sofa, table for two, and an attached outside deck, it provides a unique aesthetic you won’t soon forget! Your stay will include a complimentary breakfast basket, and all proceeds provide funds for Apple Ridge’s mission to “Help Kids Grow.” Book your stay on Airbnb. www.appleridge.orgBedford, Virginia – While we are on the subject of Airbnb, there are plenty of beautiful locations to choose from if you are interested in exploring the Bedford area. In Bedford, you can truly experience what it means to eat and shop local, supporting local farmers, artisans, and small business owners every step of the way. On the weekends, start your Saturday off right at the Forest Farmers Market. The selection may vary, but in the past vendors have offered fresh local fruits and vegetables, baked goods, arts and crafts, and more! For lunch, head to Town Kitchen Provisions! They offer specialty and deluxe deli sandwiches and super deluxe green salads in addition to espresso drinks, beer, and wine. Spend your afternoon on the Bedford Wine Trail, which includes Hickory Hill Vineyard, Peaks of Otter Winery, Ramulose Ridge Vineyards, Seven Doors Winery, LeoGrane Winery, and White Rock Vineyards. Or, visit the Bedford Visitors Center to learn about Bedford’s rich and intriguing history. Head to dinner and Olde Liberty Station, where you’ll choose from local cuisine options like steak, pork chops, and chicken paninis. www.visitbedford.com

Floyd, Virginia – FloydFest isn’t the only time of year to visit and support Floyd’s local economy! Start making your trek up the mountain this month, and check out the small businesses that offer products and experiences you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll love the wood fired pizzas at DogTown Roadhouse (www.dogtownroadhouse.com). On the weekends, they offer live music as well! There are many dining and shopping options to choose from in downtown Floyd. Set up your tent or RV at Chantilly Farm and spend the weekend exploring everything this part of the Blue Ridge Mountains has to offer! At Chantilly Farm, you can wake up and enjoy bike riding, walking, and running in their wide open spaces. They also offer a wooded hiking trail, two disc golf baskets, and rentable corn hole boards. www.chantillyfarm.com

Abingdon, Virginia – There is nothing quite like a stay at the Martha Washington Inn and Spa in Abingdon, Virginia. A short road trip from Roanoke, the inn sits right on Main Street, allowing visitors to experience the relaxing environment of the spa before spending a day (or night) on the town! Take a ride on The Virginia Creeper Trail and return to the Martha in the evening for a generous glass of port wine at the front desk. If you stay at the Martha, use their complimentary town bikes to ride down Main Street, relax in a therapeutic salt water heated pool, and unwind by the fire-pit. Dine at one of the many excellent restaurants in Abingdon before catching a play at the Barter Theatre. Visit the restored train station now known as The Arts Depot, where you can mingle with working artists. You could easily spend a whole week in Abingdon and still find new things to do every day. www.visitabingdonvirgina.com

Bella Finds

Raw Sugar Living 

Raw Sugar Living was started by a husband and wife team, Ronnie Shugar and Donda Mullis, who love to live a natural, real and healthy life. Raw Sugar products are made with sustainable ingredients and are all vegan friendly and cruelty free and come in some wonderful scent combinations (like “coconut and mango” and “pineapple, Maqui berry and coconut”).

Raw Sugar Living offers bath fizzers, shampoos and conditioners, body butters, sugar scrubs, facial care products, sensitive skin products and a hair masque. And even better, for each product sold, a fresh bar of soap is donated to a family in need. Raw Sugar living is only available at Target (nationwide) and Target.com. For more info on their entire product line and their mission, visit www.rawsugarliving.com

Get Outside!

Map out your summer with adventures from Blue Ridge Land Conservancy! 

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Ready to get outside and enjoy the warm weather? We are too! That’s why we are excited for the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy’s (BRLC) schedule of events for the summer. Check out what they have planned below, and visit their website, www.blueridgelandconservancy.org, for up to date info on events, registration fees, and more!

Take part in a guided hike up Sinking Creek Mountain to Chimney Rock on May 20 from 9am-3pm. This journey will take place on Bruce and Elaine Ingram’s conserved property. Pack a lunch, bring bug spray, and prepare for amazing views! This is for intermediate to advanced hikers. Registration is $6 for the general public and $3 for friends of the BRLC. 

On June 2, check out the Pollinator Potluck from 4-5pm at Mill Mountain! This is a great opportunity to meet new friends who care about the land around you, watch a beekeeping demonstration, and take a guided walk through the Wildflower Garden as representatives from the Mill Mountain Garden Club share their exciting new projects. Bring a dish to share, as a potluck will follow! Registration for this event is free.

On July 14, the BRLC will host a Locavore Walk and Talk in Botetourt County. Enjoy a “locavore” meal, walk, and talk with Bruce and Elaine Ingram, noted conservationists in the area. Learn how to make your land more appealing to wildlife, identify edible wild foods, learn about living off the land, and see how the Ingrams have “gone solar.” Each participant will receive Bruce’s new book and a locavore meal! Registration is $25 for the general public, and $20 for friends of the BRLC. 

On August 19, bring your friends and participate in a James River Float! At 9 am, participants will depart from Buchanan and float along the James River. Disembark at BRLC-conserved property, and bring a sandwich and water! There will be a picnic at the conclusion of the trip. This adventure will be for intermediate to advanced floaters and is scheduled to end at 3pm. Registration is $35 for the general public and $30 for friends of the BRLC.

Join a Cahas Mountain Hike on September 9 from 9am-3pm. Hike to the top of Cahas Mountain, the tallest mountain in Franklin County, and experience the conserved property. The hike will end on House Rock, where hikers will see breathtaking views of the Roanoke Valley! This trip is for intermediate to advanced hikers. Registration is $6 for the general public, and $3 for friends of the BRLC.

Finally, on October 5 from 6:30-8:30pm, learn how to build a bat box! The Roanoke Unitarian Universalist Church and the BRLC will host a documentary on bats and teach participants how to build their own bat box. This event is part of the Unitarian Universalist Church Earth Friendly Fridays. Beginners are welcome at this event. Registration is $25 for the general public, and $20 for friends of the BRLC.

Human Trafficking in Southwest & Central Virginia 

Learn the signs & what one local group is doing to help save lives.

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

The Blue Campaign, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ‘unified voice’ to combat human trafficking, defines the crime as “modern-day slavery [that] involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Contrary to the myth, human trafficking does not require children to be smuggled across a border or kidnapped while visiting another country. Instead, this is a crime happening while children are still in school. Perpetrators can include people that parents know and trust in their community. Sometimes, they even include family members. The crime can happen unbeknownst to parents while a child remains under their roof. As a community, we have a responsibility to report signs of trafficking when we see them. With human trafficking on the rise, it’s important to know the signs and indicators that can help identify traffickers, and lead to the rescue of their victims. Here are a few from the Blue Campaign:

First, be aware of changes to a child’s physical state. Increased anxiety, symptoms of depression, nervousness, and submissive behavior can be signs that something is wrong. Victims may also defer to another person to speak for them in certain situations. Traffickers look for victims who are vulnerable, and often create the illusion that they are the only ones on whom their victim can depend. Despite the abuse, a victim will often feel loyalty to their trafficker. They begin to shut out friends and family and opportunities for socialization outside of their time with a trafficker often cease to exist.

Additionally, if you spot a child that could be in a dangerous situation, it is important to notice if they have been harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities. These indicators alone may not necessarily mean that someone is a victim of human trafficking. However, they are important warning signs to observe, document, and report if necessary. If you believe you have identified a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888. In fact, take a moment right now to save that number in your contacts. You never know when you may have the opportunity to save a life. 

You may be asking, “What happens next? Once you report a potential case, how do victims receive the help they need to regain their independence?”

The answer is complicated. Human trafficking is a much bigger problem locally than many may realize. As more perpetrators are exposed every year, the need for resources for victims increases. Law enforcement are being trained to understand that those being trafficked are victims, not perpetrators. However, there are some services that law enforcement cannot provide to victims as this can be misconstrued as coercion to testify against their trafficker. Locally, organizations like Street Ransom play a huge part in helping victims take back their lives.

Street Ransom is a ministry of Straight Street, an inner-city outreach that has been around since 1994. Straight Street works on a variety of programming such as mentoring and operating a drop-in center for youth who are at risk. They provide a safe place to go have fun that includes programs specific for different demographics, teen parents, and Christmas programs for children with incarcerated parents. Over the years, they have developed a relationship with law enforcement. In 2013, local law enforcement rescued a victim of sex trafficking in Roanoke. By that time, known cases of human trafficking had escalated significantly, and they began to realize there were few options for victims, specifically those under the age of 18. 

Law enforcement reached out to Straight Street and asked if they would be willing to form a program or shelter for young girls being trafficked in our area, and, as a result, Street Ransom began in 2014. 

Their mission is, first, to educate the community through awareness and prevention education.“We talk to law enforcement and different professionals who may come in contact with victims. Beyond that, we do presentations in the community to the general public that include answers to questions like, ‘Who are these victims?’ ‘How did people get involved in this?’ ‘What is Street Ransom doing, and what can I do to help?’ We explain warning signs and what to do if someone believes they have identified a victim of sex trafficking,” says Rebekah Broughton, Street Ransom’s Communication Coordinator.

Next, Street Ransom wants to meet victims and survivors where they are and provide for their basic needs. They can do things like donate clothing gift cards, provide legal aid, and support survivors through court proceedings. They also offer access to services like counseling and therapy. Their connections with professionals in the community allow Street Ransom to help survivors get whatever counseling they need specific to the trauma they have experienced. 

Finally, Street Ransom is developing a crisis shelter for juveniles who have been trafficked in Virginia. Right now, victims of trafficking under the age of 18 do not have shelter care services specifically designed to meet their needs.

“The crisis shelter is the first place girls will come once they are recovered, unless they are highly addicted to drugs and need to detox first. The survivors we serve can stay in our shelter for up to 90 days, and during that time, we will assess what the next step is for reuniting them with their families or placing them in foster care homes,” explains Broughton. Each foster care home, of course, would need to be a trained therapeutic foster family. An alternative option would be to transfer survivors to a long-term care facility. 

Broughton emphasizes that victims do not always fit the stereotypical mold we see in movies or on television. Sometimes, it is as simple as a teenager with a significantly older boyfriend. 

“[A trafficker] will see an opportunity to get in their lives and gain trust. He will isolate the girl from people who care about her and exploit that need. She doesn’t realize she’s being trafficked and manipulated. She’s roped into this life, isolated, and he will exploit her over and over again,” she explains.

“He will make her stay, by either physical violence or threatening her in some way so she will comply with him. At that point, she’s stuck in that cycle, and it’s hard for her to get out,” she adds.  “We are pushing to dispel the myth that these girls are prostitutes, or that they chose this life for themselves. The fact is that there is no such thing as a child prostitute. You are automatically considered a victim if you are under the age of 18.”

Street Ransom offers many resources to help educate parents, teachers, and community leaders how to recognize victims and prevent sex trafficking of children within our community. Learn more about Street Ransom by visiting 

www.streetransom.com. For more information on the Blue Campaign, visit www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign.

Hayleigh Worgan is an independent author, freelance writer, minimalist, and nomad. She enjoys adventuring with her husband and two dogs. Find out how you can support her work at  www.hayleighworgan.com.

Virginia Made: Sew Brave Designs

Meet May Gonzalez

Written by Faith Jones of Hill City Handmade

“April showers bring May flowers.” How often have we heard this old adage quoted? Every April, as we experience rainy days more often than not, we try to look on the bright side. We think about the reward and beauty the gloomy days will bring. That philosophy can be applied to May Gonzalez and the inspiring purpose that was birthed from her storm. 

Born in the Bronx and experiencing foster care in Texas, May eventually found her way to Richmond, VA. She jokes, “Oh boy, I have a Lifetime story, I’ve seen a lot in my 31 years.” In April 2012, May and her husband lost their first child to Trisomy 13, a genetic disorder which is considered incompatible with life. After receiving the news at 19 weeks, they made the difficult decision to go through with the pregnancy. Caleb was born “sleeping” at 32 weeks. Amidst the devastation and loss, May turned to sewing to deal with the grief. What began as hand sewing personalized pillows and baby moccasins soon manifested into much more.  

With her passion ignited, May began to focus on what she really loved, bags. Armed with a sewing machine (gifted from her mother-in-law), a few lessons from her husband’s aunt and plenty of YouTube videos, Sew Brave Designs was born. The name for the business came to her in a dream. “It was pretty clear from God. I wanted to combine my experience in life with my passion. I love sewing and I wanted to remind people that they too can be brave no matter what they face.”  

The handmade bags feature bold flowered fabrics combined with leather and are not only beautiful but make a difference. A portion of the proceeds for each one is donated to Noah’s Children in Richmond. The Bon Secours organization provides for the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. Each donation is made in memory of Caleb and he lives on each time May sees someone carrying one of her creations. 

Though faced with the showers of life, May Gonzalez has found her flowers. She and her husband have since been blessed with two fun-loving boys, ages five and seven months. Life is not always easy but they face it together. Assuming there isn’t a Golden Girls marathon on, you might find May enjoying a date night involving tacos and movies or just hanging out and laughing with the family. Wherever she is, whatever she’s doing, you can be sure that May is counting her blessings and enjoying the flowers after the storm. 

www.sewbravedesigns.etsy.com

Faith Jones is a local entrepreneur, creative, and believer.  Her businesses include Faith Inspired and The Hill City Handmade. Faith has a degree in Art and Photography and is a former high school art and culinary teacher. She enjoys spending time with her family and travelling. Faith’s motto is, “Paris is always a good idea.” www.thehillcityhandmade.com