Tag Archives: giving back

Kindness Matters: House of Bread

To break bread is probably one of the oldest human traditions that continues to ignite the spirit of sharing. In the Christian faith, it is symbolic of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. To make bread is the activity that unites women who are participating in job training sessions offered by the House of Bread, a new non-profit in Roanoke.

The House of Bread was created in January 2017 to help formerly incarcerated women gain skills to strengthen their confidence and hope. Over the course of a six-week session, women learn new skills through hands on training in the Local Environmental Agricultural Project Kitchen (LEAP kitchen located in the West End) and gain spiritual development while baking and selling bread alongside volunteers from the community.

In addition to learning basic kitchen and baking skills, the women in the program receive ServSafe food handler training, develop marketing and customer service skills, and partner one-on-one with mentors who shepherd them through a job search and resume building process. The students are given a $50 weekly educational stipend and are expected to attend a weekly class and sell bread with the organization once a week. They meet weekly with their mentors. Each session culminates with the ServSafe certification exam and a mock interview clinic where students practice their interviewing skills and receive feedback. The first clinic was staffed by attorneys, business leaders, and people in the restaurant industry.

The inaugural session kicked off in October 2017. Most of the first session’s participants were chosen through Transitional Options for Women or Total Action for Progress. Six women began the program, and four graduated, all with ServSafe certifications. Alongside women from the community, the students learned how to bake a variety of breads and sold over 350 loaves, often selling out in an hour.

What was the recipe for this success? The baking skills honed at home and shared in the LEAP kitchen by Lisa Goad (co-founder), the organizational finesse of former teacher and current seminary student Jordan Hertz (co-founder), and the vision of licensed professional counselor and seminary student Jen Brothers (co-founder). Sprinkle in a handful of motivated students, passionate volunteers and mentors, wide-ranging community support, and generous funding from church grants and private donations, and House of Bread was born.

Brothers realistically anticipated some attrition, and it did happen in the case of one student, who relapsed after finding herself in an unsafe living situation. Her mentor did not give up, saying she wouldn’t leave her until she was ready to stand on her own two feet. She connected her mentee with resources to help her regain her footing and start a new job.

Currently in its second session, the House of Bread has big projects on the rise.   Transitional Options for Women, a recent recipient of a Roanoke Women’s Foundation grant, will open a coffee shop this January on 13th Ave. It will be staffed by TOFW residents and House of Bread graduates. A former HOB student and current House Manager at TOFW will manage the shop. HOB plans to rent a space beside the coffee shop to host meetings, hold interviews, and allow for greater connectivity to the neighborhood and its residents.

Brothers wants to hold the graduates together in community and is currently working on organizing weekly “soup nights” where program graduates, volunteers, and friends come together to break bread and share in storytelling and prayers, with local ministers presiding over a simple round table Communion service.

House of Bread fills a unique niche in our community, offering hope to those who may have lost it along the way and the tools to rebuild a life and become a healthy and productive citizen. It also allows for the formation of friendships across neighborhood and socio-economic divides. House of Bread actively seeks volunteers, donations, and customers. To learn more about House of Bread please visit www.houseofbreadroanoke.com.

Written by Kate Ericsson

 

Giving Back: Matthew’s Child

Matthew’s Child opened their doors in 2013 with the goal to help create happy kids and foster healthy relationships in the foster and adoptive community. Husband and wife team, Jesse and Melanie Couch, saw a need for support for foster families in the area. Their first-hand experience as foster parents and their relationship with the community helped them create programs that tailor to specific areas like first night meals, survival kits to meet basic needs, hygiene kits, car seats, clothing, and more.

“There is this false stereotype that the government pays you to be a foster parent and takes care of you. While there is a small monthly stipend, it doesn’t cover the full physical needs of the child,” Melanie says. “It’s definitely something that, when you choose to be a foster parent, you are expected to be able to provide for that child. We’re not talking about just the physical things, we’re talking about meeting their emotional needs and the support needs of the families so they don’t get burned out. [They need to be] able to find the resources they need so they are able to take care of that child. It takes a lot, so these families need a lot of support. Foster care can be on the fringe of society, so sometimes you don’t think about that need being here in your own backyard.”

To help foster families meet their needs, Matthew’s Child partners with psychologists and different local specialists to set up training for foster families and parents. Available trainings include, but are not limited to, ethnic hair care, biological family engagement, and independent living for teens. For those interested in becoming a member of a foster child’s team, they offer a course on working as a team member that includes information on the role of the foster parent, biological family engagement, the role of a caseworker, the role of the community, and the court process.

“It takes a village to raise a child, whether it’s teachers, volunteers, Big Brothers Big Sisters, CASA volunteers, special advocates, down to the Grandin Theatre across the street hiring teenagers who need experience,” Melanie explains. “Not everyone can be a parent, but everyone can offer support.”

With the holidays right around the corner, it is important to remember to help those out who might be experiencing a difficult year. If you can’t foster a child, consider donating gently used clothing and toys, or travel-sized hygiene products for the first night in foster care. Matthew’s Child is also accepting volunteers in any capacity.

If you are interested in helping out with foster care, or if you’d like to learn more about how Matthew’s Child can help your family, visit www.matthewschild.com or call 540-523-1580.

Giving Back: Craftsmen’s Classic

The Craftsmen’s Classic Show at the Berglund Center is the second largest food drive all year for Feeding America Southwest Virginia. The event will take place October 13-15, and offers free admission with a food donation. In years past, the event has brought in thousands of pounds of food for the area. Food banks like Feeding America Southwest Virginia are essential to our community. According to www.faswva.org, “The USDA estimates that 42.2 Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.”

Without that knowledge, it is difficult to imagine that so many of your neighbors could be going hungry. This makes holding donations for admission to events like the Craftsmen’s Classic Show an integral part of helping meet the nutritional needs of families in Southwest Virginia.

In addition to helping out local families, this is a great opportunity to get a head start on your holiday shopping and support artisans at a time of year when every penny counts for small businesses. Nine Craftsmen’s Classics are held annually and throughout the year in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Gilmore Enterprises, Inc. takes producing each event seriously. Every show contains a careful balance of traditional and contemporary works. Ultimately, hundreds of artists and craftsmen from over 20 states are featured. They are juried and selected for originality and creative excellence.

Because these qualities are so important, there is something for everyone at this event. Enjoy new exhibitors and familiar favorites as you browse pottery, fine art, glass, jewelry, baskets, weaving, clothing, furniture, sculpture, photography, wood, and more! The event will also include specialty foods. All items are made by the participating artists and craftsmen. You won’t find any of these items in the “big box” retail stores. Many exhibitors even welcome requests for custom work, allowing them to explore their creativity to create a personalized gift for you or your loved one. Between collectibles, home accessories, and personal treasures for all ages, you have an opportunity to find something for everyone on your list!

Visit www.craftshow.com for more information on this event! We look forward to seeing you there!

Virginia Western Community Arboretum

The Virginia Western Community Arboretum began 24 years ago when the state college allowed use of the property with the understanding that it would be developed and maintained using private donated funds. The grounds have one full-time and one part-time staff member, and they rely on volunteer assistance to accomplish the many tasks that face them throughout the growing season.
“Our volunteer program is vital to us because of our limited budget,” explains Clark BeCraft. “Right now we have twelve regular volunteers who come out weekly and help us in the gardens. We have six tour guide volunteers that help us with groups that come into the Arboretum.”
Tour guide volunteers also help out with children’s tours, and will often provide assistance with activities like a scavenger hunt or a learning activity with the children that is related to nature or gardening. Additionally, the Arboretum hosts horticulture students though a program that allows them to complete a one semester internship there.
The garden helper is one of their most popular volunteer opportunities. Garden helpers visit the Arboretum twice a week during growing season, and work closely with an Arboretum tech, Sarah Isley, to care for the plants.
“There is no specific skill set needed,” adds Clark. “We help you identify weeds and instruct you on how to plant things if that is part of the task for the day. Sarah and I work with [volunteers] to answer any questions they have.”
A majority of the current volunteers are retirement age, but the Arboretum is open to all volunteers ages 16 and up. Although they have a need for volunteers who can work during the week, they are open to setting up times for those who work on weekdays to volunteer on occasional Saturdays or evenings if there is enough interest. Every volunteer is required to complete a background check as they are acting as an agent of the college.
“Our volunteers look forward to coming to the Arboretum to work. For many, it is the highlight of their week. They enjoy working in the gardens because it is for the community, but also an opportunity to come out and fellowship with one another. We look at it as getting work done, but it is also a nice way for our volunteers to spend time together and work in the gardens,” says Clark.
If you’ve ever visited any of their gardens, you know that the community effort results in an unforgettable experience. That effort includes a partnership with the Roanoke Master Gardeners, who have worked with the Virginia Western Community Arboretum since 2008. In 2016, the Arboretum logged over 700 volunteer hours, showing that the volunteer program is an essential part of their success in serving the community. Many of the volunteers are Friends of the Arboretum as well, contributing both time and money to maintaining the location.
You can also support the Arboretum by attending one of their events. They will offer a Garden Tour to the Gardens of Pennsylvania and Delaware featuring Longwood Gardens September 7-9, and host a Fall Accent Plant Sale on September 23 from 10am-1pm.
To learn more about the Virginia Western Community Arboretum, and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.virginiawester.edu/arboretum

Spoonie Essentials Box

(featured photo credit: Momma Without a Clue)

Spoonie Essentials Box is not like other subscription boxes you’ve seen before. Behind every box is a community for chronic illness warriors around the world to turn to for support and validation. This amazing group of people seek to make sure every chronic illness warrior knows that they are seen, heard, and loved. The core mission of Spoonie Essentials Box is a personal one to the entire staff, who all volunteer. Each of them has been inspired to do so by their own battles with chronic illness. CEO Brittani Daniels has battled DRESS Syndrome, Lupus, severe Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer all while running Spoonie Essentials Box.

“I realized there was a need for something tangible for people to feel like they were not invisible,” she explains. “This was greater because it doesn’t just give you a box. It gives you a community to belong to.”

We are giving away one Spoonie Essentials Box to a chronic illness warrior in southwest Virginia on our Facebook page on Monday, August 7. You can also purchase a box for the chronic illness warrior in your life by visiting www.spoonieessentialsbox.com. Pay close attention to what comes in those boxes, whether you are personally impacted by a chronic illness or not. You may learn something.

“Once you become educated on chronic illness you will become an advocate with us. You don’t just stand idly by while people are being mistreated and looked down upon,” Brittani says. “When you teach someone about what you’re going through, they can better understand you and help other people.”