Supporter Spotlight: Eddie Smith

Local business leader and lifelong Roanoker Eddie Smith believes that “the one characteristic that makes our community so special are our people.” It’s that love for his community and the people who live here that’s led him to be a long-time TAP supporter.

“When I was TAP board chair, I was always so amazed how various TAP programs positively affected so many people. There were so many success stories that were shared each month,” he explains. “Whether it was the former Head Start student that now is a college graduate with a good job, the domestic violence victim that had a place to turn for help, or the individuals saved from homelessness, TAP has a way of effectively addressing real issues facing our citizens and community. Over the years, TAP’s efforts to assist so many have multiplied many times and the success stories continue to build.”

Contributing to a Vibrant Community

As executive vice president and division leader of Marsh & McLennan Agency, Eddie encouraged his company to become involved as well. They have been a proud TAP supporter for the past several years. This year Marsh & McLennan is an Empower-level sponsor for our Bringing Hope Home annual fundraising campaign. “We see firsthand the impact TAP has on so many in our community,” he says. “From the very young to the elderly, TAP has a program that lifts people up and prepares them for success.”

They don’t stop at financial support. Marsh & McLennan staff make an effort to get involved in other ways as well. This year they hosted TAP Head Start students for trick-or-treating at their offices. “All of these efforts support our philosophy that a healthy, vibrant community is important to all of us. I am proud to work for a company that believes part of its mission is giving back to the communities it serves,” Eddie says.

When it comes to the community he holds dear, Eddie Smith doesn’t take a backseat—he takes action. “I think it is incumbent not only upon leaders but also upon all of us to be engaged in providing support and opportunities that positively impact our communities,” he says. “The health of our communities is dependent upon our ongoing support of our non-profits like TAP and those in need.”

Click here if you would like to learn more about supporting TAP.

Abby Verdillo Hamilton: 2022 Cabell Brand Hope Award Recipient

We are happy to announce that Abby Verdillo Hamilton, CEO of United Way Roanoke Valley, is the recipient of the 2022 Cabell Brand Hope Award!

Abby was born in the Philippines, and it is there that she developed her love for community service. In 2002 she began her career with the United Way of Roanoke Valley, where her leadership helped to make it one of the community’s cornerstone nonprofits. As she puts it, “Our role has always been about elevating the lives of people. We improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of people.” Abby was promoted to CEO in 2020, and is one of a handful of Asian United Way CEOs in the national United Way network.

Spirit of Collaboration

Abby has spent close to 15 years building and growing various collaborations. Her leadership style and inclination for engaging diverse audiences and collaborating with others have driven the development and growth of local and regional partnerships to improve outcomes in our community’s most pressing challenges. Among these are: Ready Regions West (formerly Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke); Bank On Roanoke Valley; and Healthy Roanoke Valley.

It is this same collaborative spirit that led Abby to initiate bi-weekly virtual COVID Response Meetings that brought together as many as 150 people during the height of the pandemic. These efforts helped with the coordination among local governments, health departments, and nonprofits to meet the most immediate needs of families during the crisis. She also actively assisted in the sourcing and local distribution of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to neighborhoods hardest hit by pandemic, and was among the first community volunteers at the local mass vaccination clinics.

Expert in the Field

Given her experience, Abby is often asked to serve on the core teams for state-funded pilots and learning cohorts to explore innovative strategies to address our community’s needs. She has worked with the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to help inform the design and replication of Virginia’s mixed delivery preschool program, quality rating and improvement system, early childhood data sharing systems, and coordinated preschool enrollment. She is also part of the Ready Regions Strategic Leadership Cohort, a statewide regional network of thought leaders working to increase knowledge about the value of the early childhood system to Virginia’s workforce, economy, and prosperity.

Abby was selected by fellow United Way CEOs to represent network membership in the United Way Worldwide Operating Model and Culture Task Force, which works closely with the UWW Board of Directors and Executive leadership team. In May 2022, she received the Roanoke NAACP Citizen of the Year – Humanitarian of the Year Award in recognition of her many contributions to the Roanoke Valley and beyond.

Abby has a bachelor of science in agriculture from the University of the Philippines, masters in nonprofit management from Regis University in Colorado, and a certificate in leadership from the Hollins University – Batten Leadership Institute. 

Cabell Brand: A Lifetime of Hope and Hard Work

Cabell Brand was a force. He served his country in World War II. He saved his family’s business. He championed civil rights and worked tirelessly to fight for those trapped in poverty. He counted governors and senators among close friends. He is the reason that TAP exists today.

Shifting Worldview

Cabell grew up in a highly conservative, wealthy family in Salem, Virginia. Upon his graduation from Andrew Lewis High School in 1940, he decided to become the next in his family’s long line of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) graduates. It was during his time at VMI that he began to pay close attention to society’s injustices.

Liza Urso, Cabell’s stepdaughter, recalls a story he often told of being a young man and bringing a Black friend home to spend the night while he was passing through town. “Cabell was so surprised, aghast, and confused at his father’s violent, racist reaction, when Cabell had never thought of his friend as being any different…that really opened Cabell’s eyes, mind, and heart to the disparate opportunities of certain segments of the population,” she explains. 

During his first year at VMI, Cabell was called to Germany to serve in World War II. Following the war and his eventual graduation from VMI, Cabell returned to Europe to help implement the Marshall Plan. That experience spurred his life-long penchant for public service. “When he was in the war he was seeing the devastation. He was seeing the poverty and the homelessness that the war triggered. It just sort of opened his eyes to how lucky he was and how sheltered he’d been,” says Caroline Brand, Cabell’s daughter.

No Challenge Too Big

While in Europe, Cabell learned of another struggle taking place back home. His family’s shoe business, founded by his grandfather in 1904, was on the verge of collapse. Never one to back down from a fight, Cabell returned home and got to work. The soon-to-be Stuart McGuire Company became a booming business, with Cabell as its president.

Cabell’s work as a businessman allowed him to control his schedule, giving him the freedom to pursue his calling to fight poverty and injustice. “He believed that society was only as strong as its weakest member. We couldn’t really consider ourselves successful until we were all given the same opportunity and the same access to that opportunity. You have to level the playing field and then it’s fair,” explains Caroline.

Liza adds, “There are two main guidelines that he lived by. First, everybody is equal. The color of one’s skin or the size of one’s bank account or home has nothing to do with what kind of person someone is. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and with great respect. Second, those who have more opportunities have an obligation to help those who don’t have those opportunities.”

When President Lyndon Johnson announced his War on Poverty and accompanying Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, Cabell seized the chance to bring real, lasting change to the Roanoke Valley. The EOA provided federal funding for the creation of Community Action Agencies, designed to fight poverty at the local level. “When the Economic Opportunity Act was passed, I believe it spoke to these feelings and thoughts which had been concerning Cabell for 20 or more years, and he saw an opportunity to make a difference,” explains Liza. Cabell and his wife, Shirley, who was pregnant at the time, agreed that he would take six months off from Stuart McGuire to pursue this funding for their community.

It wasn’t an easy task. In fact, Cabell faced pushback nearly every step of the way. “You know, it’s hard to stand up in the Roanoke Valley in the 60s and say ‘I’m going to start this Community Action Agency to help underprivileged people,’ meanwhile people are burning crosses on his lawn,” explains Caroline.

But, yet again, Cabell persisted in the face of adversity. “His philosophy was don’t worry about what people think about you or what people say about you if you’re doing the right thing… If you’re doing the right thing then hold your head up high and go forward with it. Don’t let your naysayers hold you back,” says Liza.

Cabell studied the EOA’s provisions, and in 1965 he was able to use his considerable business and political connections to apply for federal funding and form a nonprofit Community Action Agency. Thus, TAP was chartered as the official anti-poverty agency in the Roanoke Valley, and the rest is history.

A Lasting Legacy

TAP’s first order of business was opening a Head Start program, which created the first integrated classrooms in the Roanoke Valley. With the help of Cabell’s leadership, TAP quickly grew to offer additional services in housing, job training, and more—an impact that is still felt today. “It’s cool to see that all that work he did is still paying off. He started something that has legs and longevity, and it’s really, truly making an impact,” notes Caroline.

Of course, Cabell didn’t stop with the Roanoke Valley. He helped turn several TAP programs into statewide organizations. He was instrumental in VMI’s decision to allow Black students into his alma mater. He even traveled to more than 100 countries and did consulting work with the United Nations. As Caroline puts it, “No challenge was ever too big for him… He always figured out a way or found the people to figure out how to make the problem solvable.”

Honoring Cabell Brand

TAP is proud to honor Cabell’s legacy by presenting the Cabell Brand Hope Award. Each year, the award is given to a member of the community who shares in Cabell’s relentless pursuit of social change and work for the common good.

“People who receive this award need to feel that there’s always something else to do to help somebody else. There’s always another step and another thing on the list. They need to have that kind of vision and be forward thinking,” says Caroline.

We are currently accepting nominations from the community for this award. For more information or to submit a nomination click below.

Wells Fargo: A Bank with a Mission

Wells Fargo is committed to supporting a healthier financial future for all. “Through our businesses and the Wells Fargo Foundation, we align our resources and expertise to make a positive impact in communities, address complex societal issues, and help build a more inclusive, sustainable future for all,” says Juan Austin, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Foundation.

Impact on the Local Front

Wells Fargo makes it a point to support nonprofits that provide solutions to societal barriers, including TAP. “We support our communities through local grants to local nonprofits that align with our four strategic focus areas: financial health, housing affordability, small business growth, and sustainability and environmental justice,” explains Juan. Most particularly, he says, the bank prioritizes programming that supports “low- to moderate-income communities, addressing racial and social equity, and accelerating an inclusive economy.”

In addition to being one of our Bringing Hope Home campaign’s Hope Sponsors, Wells Fargo has supported several of our programs. The bank provided grant funds to Business Seed, which assists entrepreneurs who want to start and manage a small business. It also helped fund our annual free Tax Clinic, and partners with our Housing Counseling program for first-time homebuyers. “They have been instrumental in helping our Financial Services department achieve life-changing results for individuals in our community,” states Curtis Thompson, Vice President of Financial Services.

In Tune with Communities

Recent years have been difficult for communities across the country. Wells Fargo listened to the hardships faced by its customers and worked to lend a helping hand. It partnered with Feeding America to provide 82 million meals, committed $420 million to bolster small businesses through its Open for Business Fund, and donated more than $80 million to support housing initiatives and eviction mitigation.

Wells Fargo believes in finding solutions and knows the importance of engaging with the communities they serve. We’re grateful for partners like them who lead with empathy, kindness, and compassion to help those in underserved communities achieve economic empowerment. That is a mission we can all believe in.

Man looking straight into camera

Employment, Housing, and Peace of Mind

One Veteran’s Story

Kevin Stone is a veteran who served in the Marines as an aviation mechanic for five years. When he returned from the base in Cherry Point, North Carolina, to his hometown of Danville, he said, “there was nothing for me there.” He traveled from place to place in search of a job with decent pay. When he arrived in Salem, he was homeless and unemployed. That’s when someone from another local nonprofit connected Kevin with TAP.

Making the Difference

Our Veterans Services help veterans keep or gain housing, usually by helping them find employment. The program is designed to fill gaps in the assistance that the Veterans Health Administration provides. This includes offerings such as transportation to and from jobs, a nice outfit to wear to interviews, and financial management classes.

For Kevin, receiving one-on-one help with job searches made the difference. When he met with our job coordinator for homeless youth, Kathleen Nettnin, she helped him improve his résumé, look for jobs, and prepare for interviews. After securing multiple interviews and then multiple job offers, he accepted a job.

A Fresh Start

Shortly after starting his new job, Kevin hit a rough patch and distanced himself from services for a while. Kathleen reached out to him regularly to offer further help. When he was ready, Kevin came back and worked with Kathleen to find another job. Veterans Services provided him with bus passes and other supplies, plus the option of mental health referrals.

After a successful job search, Kevin decided to put his skills to use as a diesel mechanic. His new job allowed him to move out of the temporary housing that Veterans Services had provided. He got his own permanent housing in an area of his choice.

Now, Kevin has gotten situated in civilian life. He’s received support to overcome obstacles to getting and keeping a job, and gained a consistent advocate to whom he can always turn for advice and encouragement. When asked how things have changed for him because of the program, Kevin said he has “a good job, multiple job opportunities even still, [and] somewhere to lay my head at night. Really just peace of mind.”

Kevin has some advice, too. “Don’t be afraid to reach out. Everybody needs help at some point in their life.”

Mental Health in a Pandemic

A Shoulder to Lean On

We’re now almost a year in to the pandemic that stopped life as we knew it in its tracks. As families around the world are feeling the strain, some right here in our own community now have a new shoulder to lean on.

Monique Worrell, a licensed clinical social worker and TAP Head Start’s behavioral health coordinator, recently started a mental health support group for Head Start and Early Head Start parents during these trying times. As she puts it, “Our current challenging times come along with increased stress, financial hardships, and social isolation that can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms and depression.”

Monique hopes that by providing a community of support, as well as a series of workshops focusing on mental health and wellness topics, local families will have the tools they need to better manage the “new normal.” The workshops span an array of topics that many families may currently be struggling with, such as How to Deal with Your Child’s Behavior and Emotional Support for Virtual Learning.

Small Steps Make a Big Difference

While these workshops certainly provide invaluable information, one of the most important things a parent can do for his or her family is to make sure their own mental health is in check. Monique emphasizes basic mental wellness tips that anyone can follow, including:

  • Setting limits on when and for how long you consume news, as well as verifying sources and making sure they are reputable;
  • Following a daily routine, including getting dressed and practicing good hygiene;
  • Taking care of yourself through exercise and mindfulness; and
  • Doing meaningful things in your free time such as reading a book, crafting, organizing your home, or journaling.

Above all, Monique says it’s important to stay connected with others, maintain your social networks, and reach out for help when you need it. Whether it’s an email to friends and family, participating in a virtual support group, or calling a peer support line, sharing how you’re feeling and connecting with others who may share your experiences can go a long way in alleviating the feelings of isolation and anxiety that many are experiencing.

Lastly, you can remain confident that TAP will continue working hard to create communities of support for those who need it most—in the good times and bad.

Support for working parents

Support for Working Parents

Support for working parents through TAP SwiftStart

Sometimes all it takes to change your life is having the right people in your corner. For two young mothers in our SwiftStart program, those right people were SwiftStart career mentors—and each other.

SwiftStart works by removing some of the common barriers parents face when looking for well-paying jobs, including lack of access to job training and high-quality childcare. The program offers paths to industry-recognized job certifications in the high-demand fields of health care, information technology, and manufacturing, as well as access to childcare and other supports, including individualized mentorship.

It takes a village of support

For SwiftStart participants Brianna and Kayla, that mentorship was a game-changer. “Our mentor Ms. Angela is so different. She stands for our work. She’ll pray with you. She cried plenty of times with us. She was like a mother figure, she took in our babies and she took us in as if we were her own. She didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear, she told you what you needed to hear. And a lot of people needed that. I honestly think that our class got through because of Ms. Angela,” said Brianna. Kayla added, “She has always been encouraging. She’s never not been there for us, anything we needed.”

SwiftStart did more than connect Brianna and Kayla to a career mentor—it connected them to each other, helping them to expand the support networks that are crucial to working parents. “We prayed with each other, we cried with each other. We have encouraged each other. We stayed up late studying with each other and stayed up late with each other’s kids. It’s more than just a friendship and a coworking‐type deal,” said Brianna.

Brighter Days Ahead

Having graduated from SwiftStart, Brianna and Kayla can now support themselves and their children with jobs that they’re proud of—they even get to work together at the same medical practice. “I can actually now say that I have a career that I enjoy doing,” Kayla explained. “I have two children that need me, so it’s been great to be in the SwiftStart program. Before the SwiftStart program, I didn’t want to go to work because first, I was away from my children, and second, the pay that I was getting, I thought, what am I doing this for? Now I love my job, I really do.”

Learn more about our Adult Education and Employment programs and find out how this program provides support for working parents.