Medical student working with patient

RESTORE: One Graduate’s Story

Getting the support she needed: TAP’s Re-employment, Support, and Training for the Opioid-Related Epidemic (or RESTORE) program.

It’s fair to say that the pandemic has been tough on everyone over the past 16 months. But for those people already struggling before the pandemic, life got much harder. Before COVID-19 reached the Roanoke Valley, Tabitha Harper had gained full custody of her grandchildren but was unemployed and seeking a job. The economic downturn made that search much more difficult. “Life was rough. We were struggling,” she says. That’s when Tabitha joined our Re-employment, Support, and Training for the Opioid-Related Epidemic (or RESTORE) program.


TAP is one of five agencies in the country granted US Department of Labor funds to operate RESTORE. The program assists people impacted by the opioid epidemic by offering support, career services, job training, and certifications to women in recovery and their affected families—including Tabitha, who found herself with greater financial responsibility for sustaining her household due to the opioid crisis. “I joined RESTORE to get assistance with training and employment so that I could better myself for my grandchildren,” Tabitha says.

RESTORE ‘s training options include food service and safety, nursing assistant, clinical medical assistant, and various construction education and research certifications. Tabitha chose to build on her past experience and work toward a career in medicine. “I had previously worked in the medical field as a CNA. I wanted to further my career in the medical field and continue to help those in need,” she says.

Working Hard for Success

Working through the RESTORE program while taking on family responsibilities and the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t always easy. At times, Tabitha was stressed about squeezing in her studies while dealing with the pressure of her other obligations. She admits, “I did not think I was going to be able to finish the class.” However, she persevered, with a little help. Tabitha credits Program Mentor Jennifer Miller and Instructor Deborah Greimel (known as “Dr. G” to the students) with encouraging her to reach the finish line. “They helped me through some of the hardest times in my life and pushed me to succeed,” Tabitha says.

Now a certified clinical medical assistant, Tabitha started a new career with Carilion Clinic in April 2021. She recommends RESTORE, and other TAP programs, to others struggling as she was. Tabitha has a message to those people: “Keep moving forward. Do not be afraid to ask for help. The help is there.” 

Click here to find out more about RESTORE and other TAP programs.

Two women wearing medical masks standing in front of racks of clothing

Volunteer Spotlight: Angie and Sarah of Covington

The Second Chances Clothing Closet started small, but with the belief that small efforts can make big impacts. Beginning as a clothing drive offering donated men’s suits for job interviews, it now operates year-round at 118 S. Lexington Avenue in Covington, providing free clothing for men, women, and kids, housewares, and even furniture. The success of Second Chances is largely due to the work of Angie Campbell and Sarah Burnette.

Thinking bigger

A “labor of love” is how Angie describes Second Chances. Before it even had a name Angie and Sarah were involved in the closet’s early development, when it focused on providing job interview attire for TAP Virginia CARES clients. Steadily, the donations started to include clothing for all genders, ages, and needs. Both women saw the potential for growth, and decided to enlist some help from the community. “Angie was instrumental in recruiting area businesses,” says Sarah. Angie soon found the Covington branch of Balchem Corporation, who generously remodeled and—via employee vote—named the new Second Chances Clothing Closet.

Opening doors

On November 30, 2020, Second Chances officially opened. It has since served 50 families in the Alleghany Highlands, allowing clients to come and “shop” for themselves and anyone in their households. From the outside, clothing may seem like a small gesture to a struggling family, but Sarah and Angie know that it can change someone’s confidence and outlook on life. Through the closet, people can get needed items—such as suits, shoes, and winter coats—with “the respect and dignity they deserve,” says Sarah. The goal of Second Chances isn’t simply to provide clothing, but to improve quality of life and break the cycle of generational poverty.

Eyeing the future

These two women have done everything possible to keep the success rolling. “Sarah has sacrificed hours to bring the closet together. She has tirelessly given her heart and love to this project,” says Angie. The story doesn’t end here—Angie and Sarah are constantly thinking of ways to innovate and improve. “There are so many ways we all can help others,” says Angie. “I encourage everyone to think outside of the box. You never know whose life you will impact.”

Second Chances Clothing Closet is always accepting donations, especially for children’s clothing. To make a donation, call Sarah Burnette at (540) 460-8811 or Angie Campbell at (540) 969-9688.

Thank you to the Alleghany Journal for allowing us to use their photo of Angie and Sarah. You can also watch an interview they did with Angie and Sarah here.

TAP Personal Finance Services

Becoming Financially Independent

TAP’s Financial Services component offers a way for clients to become financially independent through an array of programs, including offering personal finance coaching, providing small business loans, assisting in the purchase of a house, and maximizing annual tax refunds. Now, perhaps more than ever, these programs are important avenues to give people the opportunities to succeed, even in difficult times.

The last year has been tough on everyone. We were all hoping for a fresh start with the new year, but the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still linger. Communities across the Roanoke Valley and beyond are still feeling the effects of high unemployment, affecting financial independence. Small businesses are struggling to stay afloat. TAP recognizes both the need to help and the need to keep clients and staff safe.

Encouraging entrepreneurs to become financially independent

Financial Services’ business loan and entrepreneurship programs assist businesses ranging from those with several employees to home businesses. Throughout the pandemic we’ve recognized the need to continue these programs.

While we are still providing low-interest loans, business plan assistance, and business coaching, things look a little different. Whenever possible, we are meeting with clients using virtual platforms. If those options aren’t available, we do allow in-person meetings when needed. During these meetings, clients and staff wear face coverings and respect the CDC’s guidelines on social distancing. This way, entrepreneurs can continue to pursue their small business dreams. We can get the economy back on track while keeping safe.

Free tax assistance

Each year, TAP offers free tax return preparation at its annual Tax Clinic. A team of certified tax preparers maximize clients’ refunds and secure any additional deserved benefits, such as earned income tax credits. The 2021 Tax Clinic opens on February 5, but this year, we are offering no-contact tax preparation. Taxpayers can either set up a virtual appointment or use our drop-off services. For the latter, clients schedule a drop-off time, collect the necessary tax information, drop it at the Dumas Center, and return for confirmation of filing. Despite the challenges, we expect to serve the same number of clients, assisting them in receiving their maximum refund quickly, easily, and safely.

Housing counseling

TAP’s Housing Counseling services help clients purchase their first homes through free workshops and one-on-one counseling. The program also offers down payment assistance for eligible clients as well as mortgage default and foreclosure prevention assistance. This year, our popular homebuyer workshops have moved online. In partnership with Virginia Housing, we are offering self-paced modules that go over the ins and outs of buying your first home. For potential homebuyers with more specific needs, our certified housing counselor continues one-on-one appointments. These sessions can be scheduled virtually through several platforms or in-person as space allows for proper social distancing.

We know that the community is struggling right now. Things are different but we are working hard to provide the same services to anyone who needs it and to do it safely. Community donations make this possible. Find out more about supporting TAP’s Financial Services or other TAP programs.