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Meet Erica Snipes of Imagination Station!

When did you decide to start working for Imagination Station?
I needed a fun part-time job, and I have a twelve-year-old so we spent a lot of time in the toy store in Blacksburg. The owner put up a notice and said she was looking for help, so I decided that was a sign! Then, about half a year after I started working for them we decided we were going to move to Roanoke so my daughter could go to school here. The owner asked if I wanted to manage a toy store in Roanoke if they opened one. I thought about it, and a couple months later I said I would do it.

What is one important lesson that you’ve learned along the way as a manager?
Unlike some other retail businesses, you are growing up with the families and the kids. Establishing a relationship is really important. We are more than a place to come and shop. Upstairs we have a room that has toys, games, and books that we call our “chill out” room. You can just hang out; you don’t have to buy something. Go to Cups, grab a coffee, and bring your kids here.

With the technology we have available, why is this type of imaginative play still so important?
We are passionate about helping parents, caregivers, and teachers find ways to keep children engaged. With the advent of technology, it is so easy for all of us as caregivers to just hand over the cell phone or the iPad. There needs to be more tactile person-to-person play. For example, building blocks used to be the core of play. Everybody had building blocks, but people don’t really buy them anymore because they have so many pieces. They say their child doesn’t really know what to do with them. However, they need to be bored and build something because it helps with learning physics, gravity, and trial and error.

Find Imagination Station at www.imaginationstoys.com.

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!

Support the Arts in October!

We love all of the local talent showcased this month! Check out a couple of our favorite events below, and share your photos at those events with us on Facebook!

The Blue Ridge Potters Guild Show and Sale at Patrick Henry High School will open at 6:30pm on Friday, October 13. The show will continue through the weekend, allowing those in attendance to enjoy refreshments as they peruse the potters’ latest works and shop for holiday gifts at more than 50 booths. The largest all-pottery show in Virginia will be open Saturday from 10am to 6pm and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm. Demonstrations for adults and kids will be held throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. A favorite feature for both participants and customers is the Gallery. This year’s theme is “The Garden.” The Gallery is open to all Guild members to enter a piece based upon their interpretation of the theme. A wide range of work will be available at this event as more than 70 Blue Ridge Pottery Guild members are expected to participate! Visit www.blueridgepotters.com for more information.

The 42nd season of Opera Roanoke opens with a new production of Tosca on October 27 at 7:30pm and October 29 at 3pm in the Shaftman Performance Hall at the Jefferson Center. The show features a cast of Opera Roanoke returning favorites including Dinyar Vania (La Traviata ’16), Thomas Cannon (Madama Butterfly ’11), and Emily Johnson (Falstaff ’08). This Puccini selection is riveting and perfect for Halloween weekend. When romance and politics mix, the result is a thrilling melodrama focused on the haunting aftermath of jealousy, sabotage, and betrayal. To purchase tickets, visit www.operaroanoke.org.

Roanoke Valley Reads

Blue Ridge Literacy (BRL) will host events throughout the month around this year’s Roanoke Valley Reads “Big Reads” selection, When Breath Becomes Air, by Dr. Paul Kalinithi. The thought-provoking book is a personal journal following a diagnosis of terminal cancer. The community-wide gatherings are free and open to the public.

On October 12 at 7pm, there will be panel of leading religious leaders (Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic) from throughout the area at Hollins University Chapel who will share their respective faith tradition’s understanding of and practices in dealing with death and dying.

Members of the regional retirement community will have the opportunity to participate in a book review and discussion on When Breath Becomes Air on October 18 at 2pm at Richfield. Participating book clubs include Richfield, Brandon Oaks, The Glebe, Pheasant Ridge, Friendship, and several others. This discussion will include how the book speaks to their individual understanding of death and informs the meaning of life.

On November 1 at 7pm, Dr. Thomas Milam, a psychiatrist with Carilion, and chaplains from two area hospices will be joined by hospice patients, discussing death and dying from a front-line and first-hand perspective in the auditorium at the downtown Roanoke library.

On November 3, the Taubman Museum will host a discussion on “Death and the Medical Community.” This panel will talk about how a physician’s humanity and mortality informs their profession. Here, the medical community including students of Jefferson College and Virginia Tech-Carilion Medical School, will discuss the challenge of facing death, both personally and professionally.

There will also be a free showing of the film, WIT, based on the award-winning play of the same name, at the Community High School on November 13 at 7pm. The film concerns the experiences, observations, and relationships of a college professor who is dying of cancer. Go to www.roanokevalleyreads.com for details on upcoming events and how you can get involved!

Learning from Pet Adoption

I was featured in a video back in 2015. It was supposed to be a quick screen test for my business partner Dan Wensley. During the test, Dan kept the video running, and it turned into quite a testament to the influence pets can have on us. Sadly, this became a type of eulogy for my cat, Sydney. Shortly after making the video, Sydney developed diabetes and other complications and died on March 16, 2015. The following is an excerpt from that video, adapted for print:

Sydney

“I got Sydney, then aged one, spontaneously from Angels of Assisi in downtown Roanoke. I just popped down there, answered various questions, filled out the forms, and adopted him. He was mine.

I didn’t like cats at that time. I used to call the city to catch cats that wandered into my yard! It was all quite strange. I remember that first day when I got him, carrying him in the transportation box to various business meetings, quite at a loss on what to do with him! But I brought him home, and friends helped me get a litter box, food, toys, and a climbing tower.

Sydney

Since then, I have become one hundred percent blown away by how attached you can become to an animal. I was studying cats recently, the history of them. They weren’t pack animals. Before they were somewhat domesticated, they used to roam about on their own. I think that explains some of the mystery of their behaviors. They don’t necessarily bond in the way that some other pets do. Contrary to popular opinion, they are extremely affectionate. They like to be given attention, petted, and loved. When they’ve had enough of that, they just go off with no warning, and do their own thing. That’s what makes them tremendous I think, their little independent spirit, exploring, sleeping, and investigating for hours on end.

Sydney is the gentlest cat I have ever seen. With his sweet purring, the way he jumps on the bed and gives his soft little pushes to my face with his little head, curling up right against me. He likes to make sure his body is against mine when he sleeps. He’s never hissed, never scratched me, he’s really just totally perfect. But then he goes hunting and it’s like Jekyll and Hyde! He hasn’t lost those wild instincts.

A huge thing Sydney has taught me, is about my life with God. I’m a person who believes in Him. I think what moves me so much with Sydney is that I have nothing but affection for him. I want him to live the most exciting life possible, which he does– and I just know he’s gonna live for many years. He’s not gonna die young! But it can be heartbreaking, [when] I want to approach him, or give something to him that I know he’d like. He’s very timid, and he’ll run away. It’s like he won’t believe that what I’m going to do is a good thing. Sometimes I may believe in certain instances that God isn’t out for my good, or isn’t interested in me. And just seeing my relationship with Sydney and my desire for his best, I can’t help but think of God and me. I’m not meaning to humanize Sydney, but his lack of belief towards my goodness extended towards him is a learning experience. It’s like because of Sydney and his life with me, I can now experience so much more clearly the feeling of God being grieved when I don’t trust or respond to Him. Who would have thought that a cute little cat, adopted a whim, can have such an impact on one’s life!”

When Sydney died, I never would have expected the sense of loss I felt. I know this sounds silly, he is just a cat after all. As I said before, when I adopted Sydney I didn’t even like cats! However, on March 19, 2017, I was ready to adopt another cat.

Willow

I went to Petco, with my friend Ben, because they provide cats from Angels of Assisi. They had just one cat, Willow. Ben picked him up, cuddled him, and said, “He’s the one for you, River!” He was sure of it. So, I trusted Ben and we got Willow. It turns out Willow was a cat I met at Angels a few weeks earlier, when I was cat browsing, before he was moved to Petco!

Boy, could one cat be so different from another! The vet says Willow is “type A” personality, and feisty too! Unlike Sydney, who delicately nibbled on his food throughout the day, Willow sounds like a piglet when he eats and never has enough. He’s already on a weight loss diet!

Willow

Willow quickly won the hearts of many at The Aurora Studios in Downtown Roanoke, where I bring him to the office with me. He is an easygoing cat, riding in his carrier to work on the handlebars of my bicycle, like nothing out of the ordinary is happening!

I still miss Sydney. Writing this article is the first time I have looked at photos of him since he died. And I threw out everything that was his after he died. I just kept the photos. But now Willow lives with me and I love him.

River and Willow

Angels of Assisi have been wonderful throughout. If you can have a pet, please do consider adopting one from Angels. They have many available, and are terrific at helping you choose one that has the personality that suits you. Who knows what wonderful impact that cuddly bundle of sweet personality and mystery will have on you?

Visit www.angelsofassisi.org for more information on animals you can help through donations, adoption, and volunteering.

 

 

Written by River Laker

Meet Katy of GypsyPalooza Too!

What led you to the idea for GypsyPalooza Too?

When I first started, I was making jewelry, and I thought the space I rented in Salem would be my studio. Then I decided I really wanted a store. I love clothes and jewelry, and I love being around women who come in looking for something to make them feel pretty. [Opening a store] wasn’t my original intention, but it completely organically happened and I followed it.

What do you hope that your customers take away from their experience with you?

We do way more than sell dresses. We give women confidence and help them try on things outside of their comfort zone. I had a lady whose husband sent her with his credit card because he loved the way she looked when she went home. We are so hard on ourselves, and we need to be nice to ourselves and kind.

Who are your biggest inspirations?

Iris Apfel (fair to say, she is also one of our biggest inspirations) and Magnolia Pearl

Do you have a favorite quote that guides you in your role as a business owner?

“Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.” Minor Myers

What is your favorite up incoming style?

I love layering up lacy summer pieces, or dressing them up with clothes for colder weather! For example, adding a cozy sweater and a funky pair of boots. I love vintage hats too!

Find GypsyPalooza Too on Facebook!

Get Outside: Survival 101 Women’s Course

The Survival 101 Women’s Course, offered by Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Catawba, Virginia is an amazing, and potentially life-changing, two-day excursion. The unique Survival 101 is geared specifically toward women, and helps develop keys to success that they already possess. Through the simulation, participants become familiar with wilderness safety, preparedness, and camping skills. They have an option to spend the night in a tent, a hammock, or the Mountain Shepherd lodge.

Dina Bennett, Vice President and Instructor for Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School, was inspired to offer this opportunity by a survival course she took in 2006 with her now-husband, Reggie Bennett. Women who take her course will learn the basics like building a fire, wilderness first aid, communicating with rescuers, acquiring shelter, purifying water, and finding food.

“Knowing how to do things gives you more confidence,” Dina says. “That confidence will make you more likely to go out, explore, and do things.”

The course also offers many parallels to everyday life. Dina, who built a career in the corporate world early in life, speaks about the similarities and how spending time developing your self-confidence in the outdoors can change your mindset once you resume daily activities.

“If you can survive the back country, then you can survive the front country,” she explains. From assessing what is the most important first step to solving a problem and proceeding with confidence, to identifying your shelter (yoga, family, etc.), to seek in times of trouble, this is about cultivating a positive attitude in order to achieve your goals and live a fulfilling life.

“Fire is our passion. There is a process to building a fire where you start with a foundation and a platform. There is a big parallel here that relates to staying true to who you are. Signaling is about communicating, and how we are sending out our signals so they can be received. We all face stress, and the more that you know yourself and how you react and respond to stress, the better you are going to handle it,” Dina adds.

One of Dina’s favorite things about the course are the friendships that often result from it.

“I’ve built some life-long friendships from this course, which is priceless to me. Women attend from all over the country, so fortunately through technology and social media, we get to stay in touch that way,” she says.

If you would like to attend a Survival 101 Women’s Course, or any of the courses offered at the Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School, visit www.mountainshepherd.com. The next Survival 101 Women’s Course will be offered September 23-24.

Roanoke’s Kid-Made Market

In January of 2016, one of Chad Young’s sons had a dream.

“He came to me and said, ‘Hey, there is a nice Star Wars Lego set I want to buy.’ I told him that was great, and we would go see how much it was and see if we could make it happen,” Chad recalls. “I hadn’t bought a Lego set in 30 years, so I didn’t realize how expensive they were.”

At the store, both Chad and his son were shocked to see that they would have to pay $80 or $90 for the toy. Even with the money his son earned from doing chores around the house, he was still far from the hefty price tag. They would have to come up with another way for him to raise the money he needed to fund the purchase.

“We decided to take the farmers market idea that is so big right now and do it for kids. That way, they can make their own stuff, sell it, and make their own money,” Chad explains.

So, the Kid-Made Market was born. Now in its second year, the monthly market allows kids ages 6-17 to come and sell their creations to the public. Unlike many local markets, the event does not charge the children who participate. The creativity at this event is second to none. One child went as far as to convert a bicycle so that, when pedaled, it turned a rotor inside of a blender and made smoothies. Customers had the opportunity to make their own smoothie on-site. The harder they pedaled, the more it mixed.

Another girl used sections that her father cut from a fallen tree in their yard to create tic-tac-toe boards. She painted them by hand, and sold one to Chad himself.

“I’m a throwback guy, so I like old nostalgic games and toys,” he says. “I’m also a Fruit Loops junkie. If it’s Fruit Loops, I’m all about it, because it reminds me of my childhood. There is a young lady who has been coming since we started, and she makes her own bath salts, bath bombs, scrubs, and lotions. She makes this bath scrub that smells like Fruit Loops. I bought a little jar of it and use it all the time.”

“That is what is so rewarding about putting this function on,” he adds. “The smile on the kids’ faces when people come taste and test their products and buy their stuff.”

Chad hopes that, in addition to providing a platform for children to express their creativity, participating in this event will allow kids to learn valuable life lessons. For example, understanding the value of money and learning to interact with the public. There is something for everyone at this market, and as the holidays approach it is also a great place to start looking for and purchasing gifts. The next market will take place this Saturday, September 16 from 9am-1pm. Find them at 3716 Colonial Avenue, Roanoke. Follow their Facebook page for up-to-date information on future markets and participants!