TAP Honors Annette Lewis with School Renaming and Launch of Endowment Fund

In a heartfelt tribute to a remarkable career and profound impact on education and community service, Total Action for Progress (TAP) celebrated the retirement of Ms. Annette M. Lewis on April 12. The highlight of the evening was the announcement of renaming the Greenvale School to the Annette Martin Lewis Head Start Center, in honor of Lewis’s visionary leadership and dedication to early childhood education.

Annette Lewis has served TAP with distinction for over 35 years, 9 of those as President and CEO. She has been instrumental in the agency’s growth and to empowering the youngest members of the community. The renaming ceremony underscored Lewis’s legacy as an advocate for the transformative power of education.

“I am in awe with the outpouring of support for my service at TAP.  The kind expressions shown to me have touched my heart,” stated Lewis. “Words cannot describe the amazement and honor I feel to have a Head Start Center named after me.  I love Head Start because of its mission and all it does for families and communities.”

The event also marked the formation of the Lewis Center Endowment, a fund established to ensure the perpetual care and support of the newly named Annette Martin Lewis Head Start Center. This endowment represents a sustainable commitment to guaranteeing that future generations will benefit from the same level of passion and dedication that she exemplified.

“We are incredibly proud to honor Ms. Lewis’s extraordinary contributions to TAP and to our community,” said Angela Penn, President and CEO at TAP. “Renaming the Head Start Center in her honor and establishing the Lewis Center Endowment are testaments to the lasting change she has inspired. We invite our supporters and friends to join us in building on this legacy.”

As TAP looks forward to this new chapter, the Annette Martin Lewis Head Start Center and the Lewis Center Endowment stand as symbols of hope, education, and the power of community support. For more information on the Annette Martin Lewis Head Start Center and how to support the Lewis Center Endowment, please visit: https://tapintohope.org/annette-lewis-head-start-center/.

SERCAP: From TAP Pilot Program to Helping Provide Safe Water Across Seven States

Southeast Rural Community Action Project (SERCAP) started as a TAP pilot program, the Virginia Water Project, to provide safe drinking water to Roanoke Valley residents. The program proved so successful that it spun off into its own organization in 1969. Today, SERCAP serves over one million households across seven states. They provide safe water, sanitary water disposal, and structurally sound housing. 

“In 1966 there were 278,000 families in Virginia with no indoor plumbing and no running water on the property,” explained the late Cabell Brand, founder of TAP and the creator of what ultimately became SERCAP. This expanded to the larger RCAP network, serving the entire United States with community development projects. His comments are captured in a video production by SERCAP. “So, we started a demonstration water project and got a grant from the Ford Foundation to test this idea. And what we found out was when you brought water to people, economic development started. People started putting roads in, and infrastructure, and people started building houses. So, this caught on with the State legislature, and our demonstration water project eventually became the Virginia Water Project, and the Virginia Water Project then became the National Water Project.”

“We are an organization that holds the hands of small rural communities that often tend to feel like they are left behind,” explains Hope F. Cupit, President & CEO of SERCAP. “We work with communities for the long term, over 30-40 years, to get them to where they need to be.” This includes providing support for economic development, job creation, and infrastructure. “We find ourselves working with many community-based projects, rather than individuals.”

Born and raised in Roanoke, Hope has both professional and personal ties to TAP. “My first introduction to TAP as a child that I recall is being at the Head Start center.” This was located at the YMCA in Gainsboro. “That’s where we all went. Had great memories there. The teachers were great to us. We felt nurtured.”

Hope’s a community success story herself. She was one of the first participants in Project Discovery. TAP took her to visit colleges and helped pay for entrance exam fees. She received an accounting degree from James Madison University, then became a licensed CPA. Hope later earned a master’s degree. She is now an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Virginia Western Community College. Two of her three children have gone on to earn college degrees.

Hope joined SERCAP in 2007 as the comptroller and became CEO two years later. “I finally got to meet the man who made this all possible and that was Cabell Brand,” she says. “That was the man who provided the necessary support to a group of folks who he did not have to help because he was already a self-made millionaire. He gave back to people who were less fortunate and he didn’t have to. I can’t thank him and his family enough.”

“This has come back full circle,” Hope explains. “I came back home to Roanoke working very closely with the Agency who gave me the support to get to where I am today. I want to make sure I’m in a position to give back to others because of the situation I found myself in years ago.”

This year, SERCAP became a TAP Corporate Investor.

Angela Penn Header 2

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.”

Kasey Scott - March Feature Story

Embracing Hope: The Transformative Power of Advocacy

Kasey Scott has worked hard to get her life on track. She’s beaten a drug addiction and battled homelessness, while working to build the best life for her three kids. When her daughter was non-verbal at the age of four, she reached out to TAP for help. In May 2022, she connected with Daisy Medina, a TAP Head Start home visitor. Since then, things have started looking up.

Kasey’s journey hasn’t been easy. She was living and working at the Daleville Holiday Inn when they closed. Her fiancé has chronic kidney disease, requiring dialysis three times a week. She’s faced challenges getting her daughter into the public school system. Transportation is difficult because she doesn’t have a car.

Daisy serves as an advocate and resource provider for Kasey’s family. Her support has been crucial to helping them endure and overcome barriers. “Daisy has been like an angel to us,” says Kasey. “She has been a godsend and brings us clothes, food if we need it, activities to work on to progress the kids’ speech.” She’s even collected gloves from her grandkids to share with Kasey’s kids. Daisy is advocating to get Kasey’s daughter enrolled in public school by working with school personnel.

Each week, on Tuesday or Thursday, Daisy visits Kasey’s home. “This is something that the kids look forward to every week,” says Kasey. “Daisy has been one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. She genuinely cares for her kids. We’d be literally lost without her.”

Raising three kids while getting clean and being homeless is behind her. Kasey is determined to provide a good home and a better life for the entire family. She feels her kids’ developmental challenges were due to isolation during the pandemic. Kasey commends Daisy for their progress. “For my daughter not to be talking to now full-blown talking. Daisy spending that little bit of time with them has made their life and my life so much better.”

Today, Kasey’s daughter is putting together sentences and reading to her. Her two-year-old son has even started reading. Kasey is clean and looking for work. She credits TAP with giving her and her family the support they needed to thrive.

“TAP has been a godsend for us. It really has,” she says. “I would be really lost without TAP. I really think the world needs to know more about this program.”

Roanoke Gas Investor Spotlight

Investor Spotlight: Roanoke Gas

Celebrating 140 years in business this year, Roanoke Gas was established in 1883. Roanoke became a city just one year earlier. The company has served this community for a long time—not only through gas products and services, but also by improving residents’ well-being. Some of these efforts have occurred in concert with TAP.

“Roanoke Gas has a long, proud history of supporting TAP,” says Paul Nester, President & CEO of RGC Resources, Inc., the parent company of Roanoke Gas. Paul is also currently serving as TAP’s Chair of the Board. “I always admired the helping hand, a hand up more so than a hand out, of TAP,” he states. “We are meeting people where they have a need, eradicating poverty one person at a time.”

“We’ve got a fabulous board,” says Paul. “I like the tripartite nature of it.” This includes TAP clients, elected officials, and private sector leaders. Paul appreciates the diversity of ideas that come from board discussions. “Everyone has their heart and mind in the right place,” he says. Paul isn’t the first Roanoke Gas employee to chair the TAP Board, and other Roanoke Gas staffers participate on TAP committees.

Most recently, Roanoke Gas partnered with TAP and other local organizations on the Healthy Homes Roanoke initiative. This public-private collaboration aims to make homes safer and more comfortable for local families in need. This involves conducting a whole-house review, looking at issues like radon, mold, lead, and more. “We’re part of the HVAC piece,” Paul explains. “People who have benefited from that have had a real demonstrative need.” Roanoke Gas is also a supporter of TAP’s Bringing Hope Home annual campaign, and a sponsor of the agency’s annual meeting.

“As a not-for-profit, TAP does an incredible job of strategic planning,” says Paul. “TAP really is a very special organization. A lot of that is due to its history, its success, its employees. Roanoke Gas is invested in this community, as is TAP. Both are committed to the strength and health of the community. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to maintain that, to make our community a better place to live and work.”

TAP Announces Angela Penn as New President and CEO

The TAP Board of Directors announced on February 20, 2024 that it has appointed Ms. Angela Penn as TAP’s fourth President and CEO, succeeding Ms. Annette Lewis, who earlier in 2023 announced her March 1, 2024  retirement after 35 years of service.

Ms. Penn is currently the Senior Vice President and Director of Real Estate Development and Energy Conservation and Housing Rehab. She has spent 20 years at TAP leading its community and housing development initiatives.  “After a comprehensive, public search process, Angela’s experiences, educational background, leadership and commitment to TAP’s mission clearly have prepared her to be successful as TAP’s next President and CEO,” stated TAP Board Chair and Roanoke Gas President and CEO Paul Nester.

Ms. Penn has overseen successful major renovations of property owned by TAP, including the agency’s Head Start centers and its Terrace Apartments. She is also TAP’s administrator for the City of Roanoke’s Land Bank and serves as the chair of the City’s Equity and Empowerment Advisory Board. Ms. Penn is a former Commissioner on the Roanoke City Planning Commission, having served as chairperson for two years. “Her leadership skills are unquestionable,” stated TAP’s current president, Ms. Annette Lewis.

“I am very happy for Angela and TAP. She is a highly effective leader who is committed to TAP’s mission. Angela is also well respected by both the agency’s 300 plus employees and the community,” added Ms. Lewis.

Ms. Penn accepted the position by stating, “I am humbled and honored to have been selected to serve as the fourth president of TAP. I stand on the shoulders of such accomplished leaders as Bristow Hardin, Jr., Ted Edlich, and Annette Lewis. I look forward to the opportunity to build upon their legacy and move the agency forward in its quest to assist low to moderate income families to achieve their goals and move toward financial independence.”

Ms. Penn will begin her tenure as TAP’s President and CEO immediately after Ms. Lewis’ retirement.