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.
The Roanoke Pinball Museum at Center in the Square is celebrating its one-year anniversary by hosting a Bumper Bash Tournament on June 19!
Just in time for Father’s Day, this is a wonderful way to spend the day enjoying pinball with your family and learning the history behind the machines and the game. The tournament will be “pinball golf” style, and it allows amateurs to compete against experienced pinball players in a compelling and exciting game.
The first session will begin at 1 p.m. and the second will start at 3:30 p.m. with 30 slots each. Competitors will play to reach a designated score using as few balls as possible on machines like Gottlieb’s 1965 Kings and Queens and Williams 1995 Junkyard.
The tournament fee for Pinball Museum Members is just $10! For nonmembers, the fee is $15 for kids 6-8 and $20 for ages 9 and up. Your tournament fee includes museum admission for the day of the tournament and unlimited play on all machines in the museum. However, there is limited seating available! Purchase tickets online or at the box office until the time of the show.
For our 10th birthday (our first issue premiered in June 2006!), we profiled 10 local women who, against odds or in the face of uncertainty, raised the bar, achieved success, and continue to inspire those around them every day. Interviews will be posted throughout the month, and you can pick up a copy of our June issue to read all 10! Enjoy!
In local government, it is important to have strong women who represent the community and advocate for diverse interests. That’s why we love Krisha Chachra. Krisha is currently serving her second term on Blacksburg’s Town Council. In 2013, she became the first Indian-American and first under 40 professional to serve as Blacksburg’s Vice Mayor. She continues to be heavily involved in the community through her duties as a council member and by serving on several committees. She also published a book of essays about her experiences while growing up in Blacksburg entitled, Homecoming Journals: Dreaming big in a small town. When she isn’t attending to her professional commitments, Krisha enjoys spending time with her husband, Derek, and their 11-month-old daughter, Mina.
What makes you passionate about investing your time, energy, and education in Blacksburg?
Blacksburg is my hometown, and I think that no matter how far you travel and how much you explore, it is always important to remember where you came from. I was very interested in community service and running for office, and there was no better place than my hometown to pursue both. The people here helped me become who I am, travel far, and experience different things. I knew I would enjoy being able to give that back to the community.
What obstacles did you encounter as Blacksburg’s Vice Mayor? How did you overcome them?
I felt like I had to prove myself because I was younger than everyone that has ever held the position. I wanted to make sure people knew I was the real deal and that I had a vision for Blacksburg that was shared by many people in the community. I listened a lot and asked a lot of questions so I could represent my community in a very authentic manner. When I first got elected, some people were skeptical and had the wrong impression about what I stood for, but I just stayed focused and worked hard to build relationships. At the end of the day, the criticism faded and I was re-elected as Vice Mayor.
Making connections with local businesses is very important to you. Can you tell us more about why it is one of your main objectives?
The small business sector of the economy is Blacksburg’s future in terms of job providers and bringing the type of creative employees and professionals that we want to be the future leaders of Blacksburg. It is very important that we support small businesses so they can be successful and hire people who want to live, work, and build a life here. This will allow for a more creative and diverse economy for years to come.
What advice do you have for young professional women who are looking for additional ways to give back to their communities and better ways to manage their time?
All of us are busy. Everyone is doing things that are important to their families, communities, and career paths. Saying you’re busy is not a good excuse for not doing things that you are passionate about or not being involved in your community in a meaningful way.
Being organized, present, and having a sense of visualization helps me get through my day. In addition to that, I think it is important for women to know they don’t have to take on everything to be successful. It is better to do one or two things really well than to spread yourself too thin and do many things for the sake of being involved. You’re not going to be your best that way.
What is one thing that people may not know about your background?
My family was one of the first Indian-American families to come to Blacksburg and make this town our home. There were only a handful of Indians when we first came, but now it is very diverse. Back then, a lot of people didn’t know too much about where we came from. When I would tell people my family was from India, they would ask me what tribe! Back then I definitely stood out in my classroom, but I always took it as an opportunity to exchange ideas, learn about other cultures, and teach people about mine. I was never offended by people who didn’t know where I came from or who I was. When people are brave enough to ask, it is important to answer with respect.
My life is richer for that experience, because I can connect with people from different backgrounds since I have enough respect to take interest in them. I think we need more people to show more interest about other cultures respectfully. The easiest way to do that is just by asking people questions about their origins. We have such a diverse community and we could really learn from each other if we just talked to each other more instead of assuming that we know people’s experiences.
Visit to www.blacksburg.gov for more information on Krisha’s background and accomplishments!
For our 10th birthday (our first issue premiered June 2006!), we profiled 10 local women who, against odds or in the face of uncertainty, raised the bar, achieved success, and continue to inspire those around them every day. We celebrate these women and their accomplishments because they encourage us to put one foot in front of the other, even when our strength is running low. They are a reminder that failure does not mean you will never meet your goals. Failure means you are one step closer to success. We will begin with Pearl Fu, Roanoke’s Ambassador of Goodwill and the founder of Roanoke’s premiere multicultural year round program, Local Colors. Her strength and compassion remind us to open our hearts and our ears to the stories of those around us—because every day is a chance to learn something new.
Outside of Roanoke, where is your favorite place to be? I have to be careful, because I have three daughters who are in different parts, and I love being with them. We all get together for Christmas in Boston. That’s where the oldest one lives. We call her number one daughter. Some people think it’s because I like number one most, but that’s not the reason. It’s by age. Number one, Penny, was born first. She works for New England Biolab. They recruited her from MIT.
My number two daughter, Wendy, majored in art and filming. She’s won awards ever since she was little. Her building was right across from the Twin Towers on 9/11. Afterwards she decided she wanted to do something to help our country. Today, she works for the government.
Number three, Colette, is an artist. After college, she had no idea what she wanted to be. I took her to my hometown in China to show her our heritage and she fell in love with it. She went there to teach English and every free moment she had she went to the villages to study her heritage. We are a Chinese minority, which is different from regular Chinese. There are 55 types of Chinese minorities, and each one has their own clothing, culture, and music. Colette travelled by herself and took pictures of the minorities in the mountainside. Art galleries in Roanoke exhibited her art, and from there she went on to get her masters degree and travel around the world. Today, she is a world-renowned artist.
All three of my children are very easy-going, hardworking, bright, and intelligent. People have said, “Don’t brag about your family.” I am proud to tell people about them. They are very kind. They care about people, and are very compassionate.
What is the most important thing you have learned while working with multiple ethnicities in our valley? I had never heard of Roanoke before we came here (in the 1980s). There was another family that worked with my husband that came before us and said that Roanoke was very unfriendly. They told us we would not be welcomed. When I heard that, I’m not one to sit there and wait. If they don’t come to me, I’ll go to them. I made Chinese bread and knocked on the doors of my neighbors. I introduced myself and they were really friendly. You really need to give people an opportunity. Don’t just block yourself.
You learn so much from each culture and there seems to be a fear of people that are different from you. There is a tendency to stay away from them. I notice people seem to gravitate towards others that are from their culture. There is so much to learn from each one’s background and culture, and if you learn from that then you can respect and understand the behavior of people. The more we approach people that are different and get to know them, the less we fear them.
People don’t realize that the American way of looking at things is so different from other countries. In China, many of our customs are opposite from America. If you didn’t know that, you would wonder why people behave the way they do. Once you learn that you can wipe that out and the world will be a much friendly place.
For example, in China, our lucky color is red, and so our wedding gowns are red. The unlucky color is white. If you give a gift to a Chinese person, and you wrap it up in white, they would be so upset. It’s like you are wishing them bad luck.
Tell us about one person who has inspired you over the years. Of all the countries that I wanted to go to, the most important one was America. It goes back to my grandfather. He always thought that America and China should be working together. He was the governor of Yunnan, and a very popular leader. At that time, if you said something like that, you could be executed. But deep down inside they knew what he said was true so he couldn’t be harmed. However, his position was taken away from him.
When President Nixon opened the door, my grandfather was reinstated as a hero in Chinese history. I feel like I am following in his legacy to not be afraid to say what you believe in. Money or power do not impress me, but people that care about others are so important.
It is Pearl’s sincere desire to help immigrants, new citizens, visitors, and ethnic nationals to acclimate themselves to their communities. If you or someone you know could benefit from her knowledge of that process, do not hesitate to reach out. She can also point you in the right direction if you are looking for more information on the many different cultures represented throughout Roanoke. So, stop her if you see her out in town, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. Also, visit www.localcolors.org for more information on upcoming events like Taste of Culture, where participants can experience the music, culture, and food from different countries.
Stay tuned to our website for more interviews from extraordinary women throughout the month and pick up this month’s issue to read all 10!
Okay, so unpopular opinion time: I love the idea of trying to save the planet, but when it comes right down to it, I typically make decisions that are most convenient for me.
When I started working for the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT), I made more of an effort to keep the environment in mind when making daily decisions. I found that practicing sustainability didn’t just help the environment, it also made my life much easier.
Don’t believe me? Here are three totally selfish reasons to practice sustainability:
1) More space
Do you know what DOESN’T maximize space in your apartment? The ten thousand plastic grocery bags sitting on your washer and dryer. Carrying a reusable grocery bag immediately solves this problem (and HEVT gives these away for free, so if you need one hit us up). Also, most reusable grocery bags carry more groceries than plastic bags, which means less trips from the car. As for the stack of plastic bags already robbing you of your closet space? Micah’s Backpack and other organizations collect plastic bags so they can use them when packaging food for donation.
2) Money money money (monaaayyyy)
Even with gas prices going down, I still get that sinking feeling when the numbers at the pump go up and I can picture my balance at the bank going down. Opting to walk or take the bus a few times a week can make a large difference. If you are in the market for a new car, hybrids have been proven to save consumers money over time. Unplugging items such as coffee makers when you are not using them can also cut down electricity costs, which creates less of a burden on the environment.
3) Locally-grown food tastes better
Buying local is a good idea all around. Less travel means less pollution and gas consumption. Supporting local business means keeping money in the community. Seeing where your food comes gives you control over what hormones do and do not enter your body. But the biggest reason I buy local? It tastes So. Much. Better. Nothing can compete with a tomato picked fresh off the vine.
Written by Sara Lepley, the communication manager of the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech (HEVT). HEVT competes against 16 other universities in a four year competition in which they transform a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro into a hybrid electric vehicle. Their two headline sponsors, General Motors and the Department of Energy, challenge HEVT to reduce petroleum usage and greenhouse gas effects, while maintaining safety, performance and customer acceptability. They also help in mind cost and innovation. This is Sara’s second year on the team.
Starting a book club in Blacksburg can be a little intimidating. Of course, so can relocating to Virginia from Charlotte with your spouse and six children. Mims Driscoll is no stranger to hauling herself out of her comfort zone. Although the environment is new to the Driscoll family, they have learned to follow her lead by finding their inner resolve and challenging themselves to live in the moment. The Driscolls have faced individual personal struggles, sending their oldest sibling off to college, and even illness. Yet they have discovered that the best way to overcome any obstacle is to take matters into their own hands and fight for their own happiness.
Facing these challenges has also required open communication within their family. It sounds simple, but sometimes speaking openly with those we love can be a struggle—especially when you know that they are facing problems of their own. Driscoll admits, “I wasn’t aware of how fully [the move] would affect all of our children. It became a journey as a family. We reoriented ourselves as to what family life would look like.”
Her goal was to immediately engage everyone, including herself, into the community. Before moving, she began calling her children’s coaches. Over the summer, they were allowed to attend practices and workouts with their future teammates. As a result, they saw familiar faces at school from day one. Afterwards, she attended a “Blacksburg Newcomers Club” meeting–in spite of her nerves. It was a success. “Almost as soon as I arrived, people began introducing themselves. By the end of the night, I had already made a friend who invited me to the movies.”
Driscoll often reminds herself and her children, “We can’t control every dynamic we are going to be faced with, but we can control our responses. We will get back up on our feet with grace.”
She hopes that the book club will choose a book each month that focuses on the human spirit and its ability to overcome. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak is the club’s February selection. It is a reflection of community values, and how, “in the time of turmoil, everything within us comes out: especially the desire for good, inner strength, and resolve.”
“Books in the Burgs” will meet on the second Saturday of each month at 8 a.m. in the Blacksburg Recreation Center.