Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia will host their Over the Edge event on May 19-20. Participants will raise $1,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters, rappel 11 stories over the side of the Patrick Henry Hotel, and raise money for local Big/Little matches. One hundred percent of the money raised will stay in our community. The participant who raises the most money will receive tickets to Disney World for themselves and their Little.
To understand how important this event is for those who will benefit from the fundraising, we spoke to participant and Big Sister Sara Guerry. This will be Sara’s first time participating in Over the Edge. She looks at it as a way to raise money while setting an example for her Little.
“I haven’t found out exactly how she might need me yet, because we haven’t been paired very long,” she explains. “I’m getting to a place where I’m learning that she can be a little shy and unsure about new experiences. What better way to show her that it’s okay to be scared, but also to be brave, than by launching myself off a building?”
On a lot of different levels, the Over the Edge event symbolically mirrors that first step into creating a Big Sister/Little Sister relationship.
“The match process for Big Brothers Big Sisters is an extraordinary process,” Sara says. “They take the time to make sure the fit is the right one for both the child and the adult. That helped alleviate a little bit of fear, but at the same time she is someone else’s daughter and her family loves her so much. There is this other person that comes into her world and wants to be there for her. I hope this will show her how much I care about her, and how successful I know she will be.”
Although Sara did some rappelling and rock climbing in high school, she still finds herself getting a bit nervous as the day approaches. The scariest part, she says, will be climbing over the wall of a perfectly good building and realizing that she is about to go over it. However, the reward in the end will be much greater than any of the fear she is facing now. Sara hopes to win the tickets to Disney World for her Little.
“I would love nothing more to give her an experience that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to have,” she adds.
Yet, even if she doesn’t win the fundraising portion of the event, the symbolic gesture of rappelling 11 stories for her Little, her community, and in the face of her fear, is an important example in their relationship. If you’d like to help Sara, or any of the other participants reach their fundraising goals, visit www.bigslittles.org/ote for more information. We wish all participants good luck in this adventure!
Little Free Libraries are steadily growing in number across the United States and the world. The movement began in 2010 with its creator, Todd H. Bol, giving away 30 Little Free Libraries. Over the next few years, he watched them multiply. Today, they number over 50,000 registered locations, with a goal to reach 100,000 by the end of this year.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Little Free Library is a place where one can take a book or leave a book in a common neighborhood area. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books.
There are several little libraries scattered throughout neighborhoods in our area. Although the exteriors are different, the overall sense that each library steward is not only fostering a love for reading, but also cultivating a sense of social responsibility emanates from each carefully crafted box.
At Oak Grove Elementary, for example, a small green and blue library greets parents, students, and visitors near the entrance to the school. Fourth grade students designed, painted, and built three libraries as part of a Children’s Engineering/Project Based learning project in 2013-14. They chose this library for the school, and organized a book drive to stock it. In the years to come, they have pledged to continue to care for the location. From a young age, this encourages students to nurture their reading habit, seek out new books to read on a regular basis, and share their favorites with neighbors and friends.
Just as the students poured their creative spirit into this design, artists, craftsmen and women, designers, and architects are all expressing themselves through the new medium. Locally, Marijke and Steven Barber spent the better part of a cold winter making one. The beautiful painted library is located on 31st street. They completed it as the weather turned warm, and it has attracted visitors ever since. Like many of the others we visited throughout Roanoke, the façade almost echoes the exterior of their home.
On Wax Myrtle Drive, a small red and white library accents a family home with similar features. The library was built by a grandfather and grandson as a birthday present. When families love to read, and share that love with their neighborhood, it becomes a gift for everyone around them. These locations make for quirky and unique family road trips around the county, but also serve as an opportunity for local groups to promote civic engagement, and awareness about social and environmental issues. In fact, several of the locations we visited contained copies of the Constitution, left by a local political outreach group.
Of course, each location offers something for everyone, and not just in the form of literature. Our favorite stop was located at the trailhead of the Chisom Trial in the Roanoke County community of Laurel Woods. There is a picnic bench just beyond the little library, and it is an easy stop for hikers and explorers. “The library was established in memory of Charlene Lenox Denton (1942-2012),” steward, Brian Chisom, explains. “Charlene enjoyed outdoor activities: gardening, hiking, camping, and walking with friends. And, in many settings, she found ways to help others. The Little Free Library that bears her name is a testament to Charlene’s devotion to service and community.”
There are six newspaper boxes, donated by the Roanoke Times, interspersed throughout the map. The Roanoke Arts Commission hired artist Dan Kuehl to transform them by covering the exterior with familiar landmarks from the Roanoke region. Each box has a steward that is responsible for its upkeep.
Although every library is different, they serve as a direct reflection of our community’s growing dedication to the arts, literature, and service. If you are interested in exploring the locations with family and friends, or simply looking for a new book to take you on an adventure, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.
We believe that one of the most important things you can foster in your child’s life is a love for reading. It serves as the foundation for developing skills that will serve them in every facet of life. Recently, we were ecstatic to learn that Kathryn Starke, author and native of Richmond, Virginia, is helping parents and educators everywhere achieve that goal.
Starke has experience teaching multiple grades in elementary schools, and served as a literary specialist for over a decade in Richmond and Chesterfield’s public school systems. Her multicultural children’s book, Amy’s Travels, is used in schools in over twenty countries.
Tackle Reading, her most recent book, combines her expertise with advice from valuable community mentors and resources including NFL players, celebrities, and authors to inspire children, parents, and fellow educators. It includes lesson plans, activities, and guidance to improve literacy for all children.
The impact of this book is just beginning. Thousands of copies of Tackle Reading were donated to inner city elementary schools nationwide thanks to charitable giving and sponsorship. Regardless of your role in a child’s life, it can be a great tool to nurture their love for reading. To purchase your copy and learn more about Starke, visit www.creativemindspublications.com.
We are currently compiling our list of ways to give back in the coming months. Beginning in February, we will replace “Giving Back” with an active volunteering article. The goal is to promote a general understanding of the commitment many nonprofits need to survive and help those in need right here in Southwest and Central Virginia.
To begin this series, we want to tell you about smaller efforts we are making as a staff to brighten up the world around us. We hope that they will inspire you to complete random acts of kindness in your own life so we can all work together to make our community a better place.
We adore the girls over at Project Goodness (www.withgoodness.com). They are “a community dedicated to noticing and adding to the goodness in and around us.” Their interactive signs are popping up all over the country, and encourage passersby to take a random act of goodness to complete during their day. They send PDFS out for free, and you are welcome to contact them or us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for copies of your own! (Just make sure to ask permission before you hang them!)
We are also captivated by the Craftivist Collective community. Created by activist Sarah Corbett, it allows artists to approach activism in a gentle, respectful, yet target manner. Sarah’s goal is to explore global issues “using craft for critical thinking.” Check out some of their awesome projects like “Stitchable Change-makers” at www.craftivist-collective.com.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the information and resources available for the cause you want to support most, but don’t let it distract you from your purpose. A simple, random act of kindness or a moment spent learning and reflecting on the lives of others can help you achieve the personal growth you seek on a daily basis. Give one (or both!) of these a try and stay tuned for our volunteer adventures in 2017!
There are a lot of opinions floating around on social media about the donning of a safety pin on one’s apparel. Some would agree that it is a visible sign that the person wearing it will help provide a safe place for people who identify as a member of the many targeted groups who have experienced hate crimes throughout history. Others have argued that it is something of a shield—an easy way for the wearer to escape any real action helping the same marginalized groups while still identifying themselves as one of the “good guys.”
I would like to respectfully address the latter.
I understand the argument comes from a place of anger, and perhaps the writer’s own embarrassment. Believe me when I say, I’m embarrassed also. I’m embarrassed that, despite my belief that those in the LGBTQ community should always enjoy the same rights and freedoms I occasionally take for granted, I let their recent victory in the Supreme Court make me lazy.
I’m ashamed that I took my extra money over the last few months and bought coffee or treats for myself while women in more conservative states feared that key resources like Planned Parenthood would disappear because of the life-saving, professional services they offer to some patients who choose not to carry their pregnancy to term for whatever reason.
I’m furious with myself for not engaging with those on social media who posted memes about gun control, subtly and not-so-subtly identifying Muslims as the force behind the violence we’ve witnessed in recent months. Additionally, I’m horrified that pressing a “delete” button or demurring from the “sensitive” topic of immigration and violence against minorities was my choice approach for so long. It was such because I believed that we lived in a country where yes, fear has a voice, but compassion, kindness, and acceptance were so close to eradicating it.
I’m embarrassed, but not by my safety pin.
We are surrounded by distractions that let us fall into the monotony of modern life without considering the hate and discrimination befalling humans across this planet and across our nation. A tragedy occurs and we change our profile pictures to represent our sympathy, but by the following week things are back to normal unless you are directly affected by the incident. Nothing is ever going to change unless we realize that we have a responsibility, as humans, to stand up for one another. Even when it is uncomfortable. Even when our newsfeeds are filled with engagements, babies, and accomplishments.
If my safety pin tells you that I am a safe space, that is a wonderful thing. I will stand next to you, and I will give you a shoulder on which you can cry, lean, or use to climb up and achieve your dreams.
But that little silver trinket is not, nor will it ever be, a plea for recognition or a pat on the back.
It is a reminder that history, in fact, does repeat itself if we aren’t careful. The Emmett Tills and Matthew Shepards of this world are still out there suffering. And when I look at my wrist, I make a promise to them that I will never let myself get lazy again.
This week, Alex from Member One Federal Credit Union helped kids from the Community Youth Program make hot cocoa to sell at their their craft sale on December 13 from 6-8 pm. The event will take place at St. John’s Episcopal Church, and all of the proceeds will benefit the church.
The Community Youth Program began 17 years ago through the efforts of parishioners at the church. Today, it continues to encourage learning and the development of a positive self-image and to provide a network of support for 4th-8th grade students and their families. This upcoming sale is part of their financial literacy programming and will tie into their family night event. These events are designed to support community bonding and conversations by hosting a sit down dinner with families from the program.
If you have ever met Monique Ingram, you know that she is an amazing woman who gives her all to her commitments and truly changes the lives she touches for the better. She is involved in many aspects of our community from her role as a health educator for Roanoke’s Planned Parenthood Health Services to volunteering with the Showtimers Community Theatre. Her interests have taken her around the world, and we feel very fortunate that she continues to share her knowledge and experience with the people in our area.
What inspired you to get involved with Planned Parenthood?
As an adolescent, I found out that my grandmother had breast cancer and I didn’t know what that meant until she was leaving us. I remember hearing conversations in hushed tones between my family members about doctors and reproductive health. After she died, I knew I wanted to have a career where I could teach people, particularly women, about their bodies and how to help themselves.
I thought the only way I could do something with women’s reproductive health was to be a doctor or an OBGYN. I started talking to people at Roanoke College, particularly Dr. Deneen Evans. We discussed how to craft my academic career to achieve my goals. There was a need in our area for women of color, and for women in general, to know their choices and how to find their voice when it came to reproductive healthcare.
My mom helped encourage me to fill that void. She is a strong woman, a minster. We started out in a small community where she was told she couldn’t be a preacher. She found a church home where they embraced women in ministry. I recognized that same fire in me too, and I started to create my own path. I looked into an internship at Planned Parenthood, and there I was mentored by Dina Hackley-Hunt. I used to watch her and think, “Man, I want to be just like her.” Some of my students say that about me now, and it’s crazy because I can’t believe I’ve come full circle.
After I completed my undergraduate degree, I went home for a while before deciding that I wanted to go to graduate school at Virginia Tech. There was a job opening at Planned Parenthood. I thought, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to get that because I need my masters degree.”
However, my mom encouraged me and told me to apply because I might get it. I did, and they hired me.
I am so thankful for all of the wonderful women in my life. They’ve invited me to climb on their shoulders and see the endless possibilities of the world. They knew I would have a limited vantage point from my place on the ground. I love them so much for encouraging me to dream bigger, be better, and pay it forward.
What is your wish for every woman?
I wish that every woman could have the time and the space to find her voice—to figure out how loud she wants it to be and when or if she wants to use it. That is my wish for every person. It’s a difficult thing to try to figure out who you are and it takes time, effort, and some tears. You have to flesh out what you’re scared of, what you’re willing to stand for, and how you’re willing to grow. Growth is a huge part of finding your voice and figuring out who you are. One of my favorite quotes is, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a member at the Showtimers Community Theatre, and I’ve been part of that family for about ten years. I don’t mind being on stage, but I adore being stage manager. I love being behind the scenes and bossing people around. That’s my comfort zone. I’m the cochair of the hospitality committee and we put on all the opening night parties for our patrons and actors to thank them for their support. Actors are volunteers, so they don’t get paid. This gives us an opportunity to recognize the gift of their time and efforts. Showtimers couldn’t happen if it weren’t for the patrons and the actors.
I am also an education partner with Project Real Talk, an all girls leadership and life enhancement nonprofit in Roanoke. Additionally, I serve on the board of Girls Rock Roanoke.
What do the upcoming months have in store for you?
This summer, I will travel to Uganda to work with women and children who are HIV positive and hopefully shadow some educators in and around Kampala. I want to listen and learn how certain educators in other parts of the world approach sex education, particularly in areas where it is difficult to be comprehensive about it.
In July, I will be going to Cyprus to work with high school students from around the United States on a service learning trip. Then, I will head back to Roanoke and start graduate school to get my Master of Public Health degree.
I am also hoping to help schedule “Are You An Askable Parent?” workshops through Planned Parenthood for parents and adults that work with young people and teenagers. The goal is to get them to a place where they feel comfortable having conversations with young people about sex education. Ultimately, our goal is to get parents to a place where they feel more comfortable having those conversations no matter what is going on with their teens or how they identify.
Visit our website during the month of June for Monique’s full interview! If you are interested in learning more about the programs that Planned Parenthood offers our community, go to www.plannedparenthood.org. To view a full list of upcoming performances by The Showtimers Community Theatre, visit www.showtimers.org.
Janet Scheid is one of the most inspirational women we know. Since her retirement five years ago, she has given much of her time and energy back to our community as a volunteer with several organizations and as a Vinton Town Council member. She is passionate about helping the town of Vinton grow and flourish as a place for both residents and visitors.
How did you become involved with the Vinton Town Council?
One of the council members, Wes Nance, had to leave council last July. He moved to Bedford, where he is the Deputy Commonwealth Attorney. His term will expire at the end of June, so council decided to appoint someone to fill his unexpired term. They sent out an advertisement, took applications, interviewed people, and selected me.
It’s been nine months since, and the term that I’m filling will expire at the end of this month. Last month, I was re-elected by the Town of Vinton to continue serving on the council.
What have you learned since you joined the town council, and what are you most passionate about as a member? When I started, there were those who said, “You’re retired. You don’t need this.” However, I’ve always believed that if you want to see something change, you have to be willing to work and make that change. My mother always said, “If you’re going to whine then do something about it.” There isn’t a lot that needs to be changed, but there are some things and it is an opportunity for me to step up to the plate and make those changes happen that I think are important. Vinton is a wonderful small town with a great small town feel to it. In order to keep Vinton a place to live and raise a family, I think we need to invigorate the downtown area. That is starting to happen with some redevelopment projects in town that are going to bring people to live here. I think it will lead to the demand for more shops and restaurants.
You grew up in Washington, D.C. How did that influence who you are today? Well, even back then, the first restaurants I can remember visiting were Chinese restaurants. This was in the early 1960s. There is a proliferation of them now, but back then there were very few. I was exposed to a lot of food from different cultures—French food, German food. I was also exposed to a lot of different ethnicities. My dad worked for the government and he was also a student getting his master’s degree. He had a whole network of foreign students that had come to DC to go to school, and he would have them all over to the house for the 4th of July. I think my exposure to so many different cultures just gave me a view of the world that maybe is bigger.
What organizations are you currently involved with and how did you get started volunteering with them? I’ve served on the board for Susan G. Komen for the last five years—two of which were as president. I also served on the board of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy for 18 years. Currently, I am the secretary of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Public service has always been important to me. My dad was proud of the fact that he was a government employee. He instilled in me that giving back is important. It’s one of the reasons that I retired as early as I did. I wanted to spend more time doing volunteer work.
Years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, I am proud to say that I am a 20-year-survivor. It is an important part of my life, and there is no doubt that it changed my perspective when it happened. I had a great job, but I was ready to start paying it forward and doing all of these things I wanted to do with various organizations. The thing is, I know I get more out of it than I give. I’ve met wonderful people. It definitely keeps me busy.
What advice would you give to women who seek to be more involved in their community? There is a lot to do. Now that I’ve been doing it for five years, it is amazing to me how much there is to do. I can’t imagine how some of these organizations will keep going without a dedicated core of volunteers to help do things. My advice is to jump in with both feet. Meet people, ask questions, and go to events. For me, Susan G. Komen came naturally and the land conservancy did too because I had an environmental background. You have to find what you are passionate about. Maybe it’s animals, church, or maybe it’s children. There are just so many opportunities out there for volunteering.
What’s next for you? I am excited to continue serving on town council, and I have another year and a half or so on the Komen board. I’m going to be figuring out what’s next for me over the next couple of years. Some things are going to start to end, and I’ld like to branch off into some new areas. I haven’t figured out where the’s going to be. I know I’ll be busy. It’s not in my nature to sit. However, I am learning to say no. It’s an art I haven’t mastered before—but I’m getting there.