A TAP Program Changed His Life

Vernon Gilbert, better known as “Kooney Frog” in the Mountain Valley community, had lived his entire life in the wheat-packing house his father built.

Unliveable Conditions

The house—which lacked even basic necessities such as electricity, running water, and plumbing—endured years of weather damage and general wear and tear, eventually becoming so sub-standard it was unsafe to live in. After 69-year-old Vernon suffered a number of falls and other health scares, his neighbors began working to get him into a safer home, eventually reaching out to TAP for help.

A Community Pulls Together

With land and a number of services and materials donated by community members, TAP’s Indoor Plumbing Rehabilitation program recently began construction on a brand new home for Mr. Gilbert.

Because of the community’s generosity, the program has been able to install a number of “green” features such as solar panels to create an energy-efficient home with low utility costs. With construction almost complete, Vernon will soon be living comfortably in his new and safe home.

With more funding, we can help more people like Vernon. To make a donation, Click Here

Why Sell The Dumas, A Valuable Piece Of History

A message from Annette Lewis, CEO and President of TAP.

Many of you have heard speculation that the Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Development is for sale. This is indeed true. The building is currently on the market for the list price of $1,075,000.


In the early 1990s, at the request of then Mayor Noel C. Taylor, TAP agreed to take ownership of the former Hotel Dumas on Henry Street in order to save it from demolition. The decades after World War II were not kind to Henry Street, which suffered greatly due to the decline of the railroads (the Norfolk & Western railroad was a major employer in Roanoke and fueled the area’s growth), changing demographics, and misguided urban renewal. Redlining and disinvestment hindered the survival of the once-thriving neighborhood. As part of our continued community development efforts, the agency decided to spearhead the effort to transform the Dumas into a music and arts center, returning it to its former purpose as a place of cultural exchange.

The renovations were completed in two phases: Phase one was funded by a $212,000 loan from the City of Roanoke (later forgiven) and a $600,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. The funds were used to remove asbestos, shore up walls, and create a usable stage, kitchen, and restrooms. Phase two cost over $4 million and was funded by a variety of sources, including New Markets and Federal Historic Tax Credits, grants and donations from the broad community. Additionally, TAP invested $821,574 of its own resources in the facility. The end result is that today the Dumas has been fully renovated into a state-of-the-art, 178-seat theater conducive for musicals, plays, workshops, offices and community events.

The Dumas has played—and continues to play—a role in the neighborhood’s rebirth by attracting interest and investment while preserving the neighborhood’s legacy through observance and celebration of its cultural identity. Since its renovation, a number of positive changes have taken place. Organizations —both arts-related and not—have called the Dumas home and the surrounding streets are experiencing a renaissance of residential, institutional, and commercial redevelopment. The redevelopment includes the renovation of a landmark facility, the Ebony Club, which is now the Claude Moore Education Complex. Additionally, TAP advocated along with the Roanoke Branch of the NAACP and the Roanoke Valley SCLC to build the high quality Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Statue.

A Difficult Decision

The decision to sell the Dumas Center was not an easy one. We—I, the Board of Directors, TAP staff—recognize its importance in Roanoke’s, and more specifically Henry Street’s history. Built in 1917, the Dumas was a hot spot for entertainers traveling through Roanoke’s Henry Street District—the hub of an African American neighborhood also known as “The Yard”—during the district’s rise throughout the 1930s. During the Dumas’ prime, performers such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horn, Lionel Hampton, and many more visited to entertain one of the few integrated crowds in western Virginia. Aside from the entertainment taking place downstairs, the hotel was one of the only lodging establishments in the area that accommodated black travelers during the Jim Crow era.

With all of its rich history, why is TAP selling the property? TAP wants to pay off the remaining loan debt and recover as much of our investment as possible. TAP’s mission is to help individuals and families achieve economic and personal independence through education, employment, affordable housing and safe and healthy environments. The sale of the Dumas will allow us to focus our attention and resources on programs that are vital to our community and fall in line with our mission.

Many times throughout its history, TAP has taken on a program, or in the case of the Dumas Center, a very important project, nurtured its development and growth, and then handed it over to capable hands. We feel that now is the right time to do that with the Dumas. It is our desire to sell the Dumas to an individual, organization or group whose mission aligns with the purpose of this beautifully renovated facility. We are confident that the Dumas will continue to be a reminder of the rich history and culture of its community.

Anyone interested in more information about the sale of the Dumas Center should contact 540-855-3654. To read Roanoke Times’ article, please Click Here

How Local Support Saved the Fathers First Program

Finding out he was going to become a father changed Kenyatta Cole’s life. He joined Fathers First to help build the skills he knew would help him be the best father he could be. However, there very nearly was no Fathers First program for him to join.

In September of 2015 Fathers First saw its strong renewal application refused funding in the very same week it was asked to share some of its innovative programming at a national conference. The loss of five years’ funding totaling millions of dollars was a huge blow to what had become one of TAP’s most successful and beloved programs. Despite facing an enormous funding shortfall, the program has remained operational since then—thanks in large part to local donations and TAP’s general fund.

“Dads are a real underserved population”

Fathers First program manager Nick Kline has seen changes in the lives of hundreds of fathers who have come through the program, which gives participants the tools and skills they need to be great parents. “Dads are a real underserved population—especially in this area,” he says.

The challenges facing new fathers are certainly not simple ones. Classes address not only parenting, but everything else fathers need in order to give their children a stable, healthy home. The course list includes workshops on: job readiness, and how to keep their jobs while making time to parent; co-parenting; discipline; and how to communicate with children.

Because home life is so crucial to a child’s social, emotional, and academic foundations, Fathers First represents an amazing chance to not only help the current generation of fathers, but build the foundation for the next generation, too.


Kenyatta Cole joined the program in 2016, completing it shortly before his daughter Harmony was born. He talks about how his experience in Fathers First helped him realize his vision of how a good father should act. “The main thing I took from the class,” he says, “is selflessness. You learn how to put your family, maybe your job, career, school in front of unnecessary things that you may yourself want.”

We see every day what a difference TAP programs make in helping low-income families reach their goals, and how that makes life better for everyone here in the Valley. Local donations to the general fund allow us to bring in larger grants by meeting their match requirements and help keep great programs like Fathers First going even when the federal grants fall through.

“For a while it looked like we were going to be stranded,” Kline says, looking back on when they were informed the program’s funding would not be renewed. But thanks to local support, Fathers First is still open for business, and fathers like Kenyatta Cole can concentrate on what they need to do to be great dads to their sons and daughters.

With more funding, we will be able to help more people like Kenyatta; consider making a donation today. Learn more about Kenyatta in this story from WDBJ7.

YALE students

TAP Education Programs Make A Difference

Royanik and Mina, former YALE students, found it hard to stay out of trouble. Mina even admits she got locked up, fought a lot, and disrespected her mother and other authority figures. With guidance from the YALE program, the girls were able to turn things around and set their lives on the right track.

After enrolling in the program, Royanik said the YALE staff helped her through job readiness services, college tours, and community service learning projects.

Finding a New Path

Mina noted that the program helped her get a lifeguard certification and find employment. Despite having graduated from the program, she explained that she still communicates regularly with YALE staff and appreciates their commitment to making sure students past and present flourish. Hoping to pay it forward, both girls have now returned to the program in order to act as role models for future graduates!

With more funding, we can help more people like Royanik and Mina. Show your support by donating to TAP today.