Picking Up the Mantle And Moving Forward – New President & CEO, Angela Penn Discusses Her Vision for TAP’s Future

On March 2, 2024, TAP welcomed its fourth President & CEO in its 59-year history when Angela Penn assumed the helm. Throughout her 20 years with the agency, she’s led TAP’s community and housing development initiatives. She also spent six years as the public information officer for the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Angela’s husband is from Roanoke. His 101-year-old grandmother was a TAP Head Start teacher at Lincoln Terrace.

Thinking Forward

“The way I view TAP, as it approaches its 60th anniversary next year, is it has been the agency that has helped families gain personal and economic independence,” Angela says. “TAP is at the heart of transforming lives. My role is to help make sure that we have all of the things in place in order to continue striving for that mission and continue to work with the community that we serve.”

In August 2023, TAP hired Dr. David Johns to fill a new role as Director of Fund Development. “I think that is an incredible positive focus for our agency,” says Angela. “We haven’t always had the capacity to have someone focused on fund development.” 

The Bringing Hope Home campaign is part of this effort to encourage local private sector support for TAP. It’s establishing an endowment and creating a forward-thinking perspective. “It helps us look at more creative and innovate ways to meet needs,” Angela explains. “We are a grant-driven organization where the funders prescribe what we can do with those dollars. For us to have the flexibility of unrestricted dollars will help us meet community needs at another level.”

Whole Family Focus

Angela’s predecessor, Annette Lewis, spearheaded the agency’s recent shift to a Whole Family focus. The initiative means TAP provides services to the entire household, rather than only the individual who walks through our doors. “I think that it is a much-needed approach,” says Angela. “I think it has done tremendous things for our organization because if you look at the structure of TAP, we really are a large organization with five to six small companies within it. When you operate like that, it’s very easy to get focused on [one thing].” Departments used to operate in silos. Angela welcomes more interdepartmental collaboration. 

“We do have two individuals that serve as Whole Family coordinators, so that when people come to the agency with needs, they will refer them to other departments, but they are not the only area of contact for Whole Family,” Angela says. “Whole Family needs to be the focus of all our case managers within our organization.” For example, does a Business Seed client need quality childcare? “Getting people to think and shift into that mindset of not just what they came in the door for, but how can we help them more completely.” TAP also refers to partners and other agencies in the community. 

TAP’s work supports four major areas: Education & Employment, Domestic Violence & Family Services, Financial Services, and Housing. “Each of those areas focus on helping families with sustainability,” Angela explains. “I think we can further that sustainability and independence of those families by making sure we follow the Whole Family approach. We can really impact them in a much greater way if we’re helping them with all of the services we can provide to them.”

TAP’s Community Development Impact

Throughout Angela’s tenure with TAP, she has had a hand in the success of dozens of community development initiatives. She’s particularly proud of the Terrace Apartments project. TAP acquired the building and renovated it. Built in the late 40s, this building now provides 187 units for low-income families. “In Roanoke right now there’s concern about affordable housing, so it’s important those units remain affordable housing for the community,” she says.

TAP recently became the land bank for the City of Roanoke. “We help other non-profit developers with the acquisition of property, so they can develop them into affordable housing,” Angela explains. Through these efforts, vacant property goes back on the tax rolls. These structures also foster community improvement.

Another project Angela cites is a five-year block grant program in the Pinehurst Heights and Thomastown neighborhoods of Bath County. TAP renovated about 27 structures for owner-occupied families. This included rebuilds and renovations. “This was truly a partnership working with Bath County,” Angela says.

Continuing a Legacy

“We are so appreciative of the work that [former TAP Presidents] Ted Edlich and Annette Lewis did. We stand on their shoulders,” she states. “They are giants in the Community Action world. We’re picking up the mantle from them and carrying the organization forward.” They listened to this community at TAP’s beginning; we enter our 60th year listening to the needs and challenges of individuals and families in our community today. “Until we eradicate poverty from this valley, we will have work to do.” It’s an enormous task, Angela admits. “But when we work together, anything is possible.”