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.

2021-2022 TAP Annual Report

You helped TAP serve over 4,700 people last year

We are proud to share with you some bright moments and encouraging stories from the past year. Please peruse our 2021–2022 Annual Report. Be inspired by the good work you are helping to make possible right here in your backyard by supporting TAP.

Words from TAP clients

“If not for AACCI, I would not have learned how to meditate. Now I use meditation any time I am feeling stressed.”

“Our biggest goal is to show students that there is something beyond the zip code they live in.”

 “We’ve had more families that have been able to go to work and have an income.”

These are the words of a few TAP clients, staff, and partners who are featured in our most recent annual report. The report details how TAP provided opportunities for our neighbors—and yours—to overcome obstacles in their lives and achieve their vision of success.

TAP’s Annual Report highlights the work we do in the community

At the heart of our work is the goal to help people get out of and stay out of poverty. And we do it by creating opportunities through our more than 20 programs in the areas of education, employment, affordable housing, and creating safe and healthy environments for families. The TAP annual report provides a glimpse into these programs and the life-changing results they helped nearly 5,000 people in our community achieve over the past year.   

Please enjoy the inspiring stories of the changes two of our programs have made in the lives of individuals and the communities they live in. Through a partnership with TAP Head Start, the Craig County Child Care Center expanded and improved services for families. With the help of AACCI and Project Discovery, local student Ireland found her confidence and the desire to attend college.

None of this is possible without your support

While we celebrate their stories, we are also mindful that their victories didn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes all of us working together to support the work of community action. Thank you for your support.

How Jessi and Charles Make a Difference

At times, it can feel impossible to make a difference in your own life. And it can often feel even harder to change someone else’s life. Jessi and Charles St. Clair are a great example of how big a difference we can make. They show a little hope and a lot of determination can start a chain reaction.

When talking to them, it doesn’t take long to understand that their support of TAP comes from somewhere deep. Having struggled and succeeded in their own lives means they know what’s at stake. When they talk about giving, isn’t a performance or a gesture toward what they think they ought to be doing. They see supporting TAP’s programs as a chance to invest in part of an even bigger system of supports that makes a huge difference. Charles and Jessi know firsthand the good that comes from believing in people and investing in communities. At TAP, we know we’re very lucky to be their partners in community change.


TAP exists because people from southwest Virginia cared about making life better—for themselves and their neighbors. The interconnected nature of a small region like ours wasn’t lost on Cabell Brand. He founded TAP in 1965 believing that the fates of both affluent people and those struggling were not merely intertwined, but separated by fewer degrees than often suggested.

In short, Cabell saw that it’s our duty as citizens to fight for the opportunities our less fortunate brothers and sisters deserve. Jessi and Charles are two supporters who don’t just believe this idea, they act on it.


Before Jessi and Charles opened their own business, Affordable and Dependable Auto Services, Jessi worked at ARCH Services advocating for unhoused people. She took on that work with particular passion and dedication she attributes to the fact that she has experienced homelessness herself. “I’m passionate because of living it,” she says.

During her time as an advocate, Jessi learned that it’s common for people to lament the problems they see—whether it’s rising crime, homelessness, or even just a sense of hopelessness. It is a little less common for people to support the organizations working to solve them. She shakes her head as she says, “Lots of times those organizations don’t get all the attention—but they always have a need.”

Like Jessi, Charles also experienced homelessness. He worked hard to get where he is, and he’s every bit as candid about his experience as you would expect a good mechanic to be. He’s quick to emphasize that it’s a system that—like an engine—takes serious input and energy to work. Now with a successful business, he and Jessi want to contribute to the system that helped them turn things around. As Charles puts it, “The system has given me a lot. So, when I can take some kind of action…it feels good to give back.”


When asked why they chose to support TAP, Charles is quick to answer. He says, “It’s such a wide-ranging organization—whether it’s helping with school supplies, domestic violence, homelessness, people re-entering society from incarceration.” Jessi and Charles know what it takes to bounce back from a setback. They know the guts a person needs to look failure in the eye and come back stronger. They also know that a little help can make all the difference.

Listening to them speak about the hope and determination they feel when doing their part to make a difference isn’t just inspiring to us here at TAP. It’s the lifeblood of what we do. Whenever the world feels exhausting and overwhelming, a talk with Jessi and Charles is exactly what the doctor ordered. They’re as clear-eyed as any about how big the need is out there, and how it feels when you’re struggling. And they’re ready to be the change they want to see in their community.

At TAP, we’re not just honored to have their support. We’re inspired by it. Folks like Jessi and Charles are a source of hope and determination to us here at TAP. They challenge us in the best possible way to live up to our mission.

We hope you will consider joining Jessi and Charles in supporting TAP if you haven’t already, and make a difference of your own.

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. 

Project Discovery: Ramari

Ramari didn’t see the point of school. At the beginning of his high school career, he described it as “a scam” and “a drag.” Thanks to TAP, Project Discovery, and his mentor, Antonio Stovall, Ramari now realizes his potential and is on his way to a college education.

It’s All About Perspective

Without an understanding of how high school would help him in the real world, Ramari was regularly skipping class. When his sophomore year was interrupted due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it could have been a breaking point for Ramari. Instead, it led to a new perspective on education.

Ramari was enrolled in African American Culture and Contemporary Issues (AACCI), a class TAP offers at William Fleming High School. Despite the class being virtual, Ramari was inspired by the life lessons taught by instructor Antonio Stovall. “The class is 90% of why I grew as a person,” says Ramari. “He always told us that there is a higher purpose…he made me understand that I could be doing something great instead of wasting talent.”

Discovering a New Path

The support didn’t stop there. Antonio is also a mentor for TAP Project Discovery, and encouraged Ramari to participate. This program helps students prepare for college. It offers help with college applications, the financial aid process, college tours, and more.

Instantly, Ramari saw the genuine care that Project Discovery staff have for helping students. “It wasn’t a script with Mr. Stovall and Project Discovery,” says Ramari. “They were being honest and real and they let us know that they wanted the younger generations to be better than what they had growing up.”

Dear Mr. Stovall

Thanks to the things he learned and people he met through AACCI and Project Discovery, Ramari decided to buckle down and start planning for his future. In particular, Ramari credits Antonio with this change in trajectory. Not only did Antonio help Ramari academically, he also helped him build confidence and good habits like meditation and healthy eating.

During his last months of high school, Ramari decided to write a letter to Antonio thanking him for helping him realize his potential. Antonio didn’t just teach Ramari enduring lessons, but he’s also given him a lifelong mentor and friend.

A Bright Future

When asked how AACCI and Project Discovery helped him, Ramari has one answer: college. Ramari will be attending Norfolk State where he plans to major in fashion and marketing. He hopes to create his own clothing brand and later acquire his master’s.

Antonio couldn’t be prouder of Ramari’s growth. As he puts it: “I feel like the more he develops himself, he can make an impact on Roanoke City or wherever he goes in a very positive way.”

Find out more about TAP’s Youth Programs here.

Unknown female person silhouette in studio.

Domestic Violence Story

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Content warning: this story includes details of abuse.

Jane (not her real name) works in the medical field and is a devoted mom to six children. She works hard, loves dancing, and has a passion for interior design and decorating. She is also a domestic violence survivor.

Late one night, shortly after Jane had left an abusive relationship, her abuser showed up at her new apartment. He loudly demanded entry. “I was afraid he would wake my children,” she says, so she answered the door. He instantly grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out of the apartment, threatening to kill her. She was then forced her into her car and told her to start driving.

Trapped at gunpoint in a car going 60 miles per hour on Interstate 581, Jane didn’t know what to do. Her abuser then started shooting. She leapt from the vehicle and tumbled onto the road, skinning her whole body. Fueled by adrenaline, she thought only of reaching her children to protect them. She flagged down a passing car and asked the driver to drop her off at her apartment. Only once she got back home did she realize the extent of her injuries. 

Tremendous pain radiated through her ankle, back, and wrist. She spent the next week in the hospital recovering. Jane needed crutches when she left. 

Jane seeks help from TAP’s Domestic Violence Services

While Jane was in the hospital, her mom called TAP’s Domestic Violence Services (DVS) hotline and connected Jane with the program. Jane told DVS staff her concerns—particularly the safety of her children—and together they formed a plan. 

Since it was not safe for them to come to the hotel where she was staying, Jane’s children stayed with another relative while she recovered. 

During that time, she learned that her vehicle had been found, crashed, with its windows shot out. Her abuser had not been found. While she waited, hoping to hear news of his arrest, TAP staff arranged for her to visit her children at Sabrina’s Place—a secure safe exchange facility that is guarded by off-duty Roanoke police officers and designed to protect against violent abusers. 

Before Jane learned her abuser had been arrested, DVS staff had already helped her move into a new apartment. They also helped her make it safe by installing cameras. They continued to support her through the initial court process, and when her abuser came up for early parole. 

TAP has continued to be part of Jane’s support network—but her journey has just begun.

Jane is an incredible person with a bright future ahead of her. She advises others who are suffering domestic violence that they shouldn’t hesitate to find help. “Be concerned about your safety,” she tells others, “and make sure you are getting support.” Reflecting on her time working with TAP, she says, “I feel like I am getting my self-confidence back.”

If you need help

Our staff are available 24/7 by hotline, so please call/text us any time at (540) 580-0775 for emergencies, or (540) 283‑4813 during the daytime. 

Help Stop Domestic Violence in Virginia

Written by Stacey Sheppard, director of TAP’s Domestic Violence Services.

Violence is Up Statewide

Sexual and domestic violence advocacy agencies across the Commonwealth conducted a needs assessment in Virginia, with some shocking results. The forthcoming study’s findings for the Roanoke Valley make for no easier reading than the rest of it. As the director of TAP’s Domestic Violence Services program, I know all too well that domestic violence is here in our community. The good news is that together we can help stop it.

As an advocate working in the system described in the study, I feel both incredibly proud to be part of our statewide efforts to keep families safe and certain our communities must continue to help us in this work! The need was high, even before the pandemic. When we join the fight against domestic violence, we’re helping our neighbors, families, friends, and colleagues.

Elevated levels of violence in the past few years are testing the limits of the system statewide. As the report’s interviewers put it, “we could see and feel the cumulative stress/trauma in many of the agencies we visited.” High demand for critical services, burnout among workers, and threadbare funding streams to bolster advocacy programs—all of these and more raised the interviewers’ concerns. Further, these high rates of violence show no signs of slowing down. One advocate I know recently noted seeing “a lot more death than usual.” We are seeing more use of firearms, more untreated addiction, and an escalation in homelessness, food insecurities, and other needs. As one staff TAP DVS staff member put it, “The need and the lift is heavy.”

Doing Our Part to Stop Domestic Violence

At TAP DVS, we find it almost impossible to describe the work our advocates have done in the past few years. Even the term “superhero” comes up short. Our small staff, like everyone, has been navigating personal journeys of fear, anxiety, and confusion about the pandemic, and journeys of loss and grief and figuring out how to attend to their own health needs. They’ve worked tirelessly to find safe places for families to stay. They’ve responded to calls in the middle of the night over and over again, because they know what’s at stake.

They feel the weight of these challenges, but they’re made of stern stuff. Our front-line workers will put their best foot forward every day to save lives.

Among the forces buffeting our small staff have been an unprecedented level of burnout and stress; personal and family COVID-related needs; and the sense that no matter how hard they work, the number of people needing their skills and services is still rising. And the work is relentless, often entailing aiding clients who are in extreme danger. This means that both clients and staff spend hours—sometimes weeks—in a state of high alert. For the staff members who have clung on through these trials, and for the ones who joined the team knowing exactly what the need was, it was nothing short of heroic.

Since the start of COVID, the staff at TAP DVS has:

  • Answered some 2,057 hotline calls
  • Found safe housing for 118 individuals
  • Relocated and additional 49 individuals
  • Provided personalized safety-planning and advocacy to 468 families
  • Facilitated donations of thousands of household items, clothes, and furniture. Every one of these efforts represent a step to help stop domestic violence in our community.

Sharing the Burden

At an agency like TAP, and for a small team like DVS, having partners in this work is essential. Other agencies like the Sexual Assault Response & Advocacy (SARA) program, Family Service of Roanoke Valley, and many others help ease the burden. But they, too, are feeling the same effects of being overburdened and exhausted. Law enforcement and hospital emergency departments also respond to domestic and sexual violence 24/7 and still have to perform their work with fluctuating levels of COVID-19. They, too, also face high rates of violence.

As an advocate, I can recognize the signs of the stress and trauma described in the state assessment throughout the whole system. As the director and colleague of these incredible warriors in a daily battle for peace, I could not be prouder to walk beside them.

To Do the Work, We Need Your Help, Too

Not everyone has the experience, the emotional inclination, and the training to get right on the front lines and do domestic and sexual violence advocacy. Even without those things, you can get involved—and make a big difference.

The families we’re serving have often fled violent homes, and they need basic things that we can’t always provide. From diapers and formula, to groceries, new work attire, school supplies, and furniture for new apartments, our families are so often starting over with nothing.

We’re relocating more families than ever before, which means local donations give my staff the ability to answer questions with, “don’t worry about that part—you focus on staying safe, and taking care of your family, and we will take care of the details.” This is true here at TAP-DVS, and it’s also true of our partners. There are more families in need than before, and when they make brave choices to start new, violence-free lives, the concrete support we provide helps them keep going in tough moments. These things are small, but they help stop domestic violence by keeping a family in a safe situation.

Domestic violence is all around us, and it’s often so well-hidden we don’t recognize it until it’s gotten out-of-hand. But each time we make a safety plan or relocate a family, we help stop domestic violence in one more family.

This October, Help Stop Domestic Violence

If you have an opportunity this October, thank an advocate—they have saved a life, and in some cases, they’ve saved hundreds of lives. And they might have helped someone you know—someone you work with, live next to, are even related to.

If you want to do more and don’t know where to start, please consider making a donation to TAP-DVS. Or to one of our partners (they’re facing the same needs, too!). Consider helping out as a volunteer. Organize a fundraiser: get church groups, parent groups, even weekly poker games to contribute this month. Write editorials. Talk to your friends and neighbors. All of it helps. Whatever feels right, please consider doing something more this month.

Together we can use the month of October as an opportunity to step it up across the whole region. We can impact so many families when we work collectively. We do this work because it’s not just the right thing to do, but because it feels good to take a stand against violence.

On behalf of TAP Domestic Violence Services, the staff, and on behalf of survivors, we need your help. This October, take a stand with us.

-Stacey Sheppard, Director of TAP Housing and Human Services, October 2022

Young white woman looks straight into camera

OnRamp: Connecting People with Careers

Mary (not her real name) wanted to rebuild her life after escaping domestic violence. She had a safe place to stay with a friend, but she needed a new start in her career. She also needed a safe, permanent home for her family. Mary reached out to the Virginia Career Works Center for job-training assistance. They referred her to the Onramp program.

Helping Mary navigate her choices

The Virginia workforce system has a lot of career-training programs and services, and maneuvering through the system can be difficult. Onramp provides a personal navigator to each client. This person guides clients and refers them to supportive services. Mary’s navigator referred her to TAP’s Domestic Violence Services, where she received case management and group counseling. Her TAP-DVS case manager helped her set a goal of getting a job in healthcare. Mary applied to a nurse aide training program.

Mary receives extra support through her career training

While Mary was in the training program, her Onramp navigator connected her with Feeding Southwest Virginia. They helped her contact the local Department of Social Services office to apply for SNAP benefits. Onramp also helped Mary with transit costs, so she could get to her classes. After gaining her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification, Mary got a job in a nursing home.

When a person is working to rebuild their life, gaining employment is only one step in the process. Referrals to supportive services play a key role in their success. The additional services Mary accessed with the help of the Onramp program allowed her to begin to build a stable life.

For more information or to sign up for a class, call 540.767.6204

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TAP History: Who is Bishop Marmion?

The Impact of Bishop Marmion

William H. Marmion had a vision to unite the diocese. His legacy lives on today through our Bishop Marmion Head Start Center. 

An Advocate for Social Justice

Bishop Marmion

As bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia from 1954 to 1979, Bishop Marmion joined the civil rights movement. Specifically, he had hopes of integrating the Episcopal Church. “He was very proactive in addressing the racism that had infected at least the denomination of the Episcopal Church,” says Ted Edlich, a friend of Bishop Marmion and former president of TAP. “He was a great guy.”

Bishop Marmion was a loyal supporter of a number of social movements. He was particularly passionate about the equal treatment of youth in the diocese and the right to an education, no matter one’s skin color. While many resisted the desegregation of Virginia’s public schools, Bishop Marmion embraced the change. He attempted to create an integrated youth center and conference for young Episcopalians. However, his efforts caused division among his diocese, forcing his work to be put on pause.

Bridging the Divide

After many years and the bishop’s patient persistence, the division was finally overcome. The integrated youth center opened, and the diocese hosted the youth conference. By the time of Bishop Marmion’s retirement in 1979, his dream of integrating the churches of the diocese had come true.

In fact, a building that housed one of the diocese’s Black congregations is now a TAP Head Start center. It was named the Bishop Marmion Head Start Center in honor of his inspirational fight for the integration of the Episcopal Church and equal treatment of all youth.

Small white building with blue doors

A Proud History

The Head Start center isn’t Bishop Marmion’s only connection to TAP. He also helped to create a training program for TAP employees. According to Ted, the program helped staff analyze how they “authentically dealt with each other,” especially when it came to social relationships and feelings toward each other. The training module was such a success that it gained national recognition.

TAP is proud to have such a close connection to Bishop Marmion, whose insight and passion made a lasting impact on our community. A plaque inside the Bishop Marmion Head Start Center features a quote from Presiding Bishop John Hines at the time of Bishop Marmion’s retirement: “His Christian charities outlived his severest critics.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Head Start preschool girls eating and looking up into the camera smiling

Campaign Update: Bringing Hope Home

We have just reached the end of our second Bringing Hope Home campaign to raise annual support for TAP. As we look back on the year, we have one thing to say: thank you!

Outpouring of Support

This year, we set an initial goal of $200,000 for Bringing Hope Home. During this challenging time, when many people have been struggling financially in the wake of COVID-19, we received an outpouring of support from generous individuals and businesses. The community surpassed our goal repeatedly.

Another Difficult Year

Ordinarily, TAP focuses on removing barriers to economic and personal independence by providing job training, childcare, and other services. This year, we provided not only our traditional services and those we created in response to urgent needs during the pandemic, but we began developing new ones with an eye toward the community’s long-term recovery needs. Without your donations, we could not have met the staggering needs of thousands of families in our community.    

You Make the Difference

Look for more details in our coming annual report about the impact you helped to make possible. In the meantime, know that your support truly made a difference in the lives of local families in need.

Thank you to everyone who has donated money or time to TAP over the past year. Together, we can continue to create pathways for low-income families in our community to live stable, full lives.

Finding a Path Forward with Job Training

It was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ann Ellis found herself unemployed and unprepared for the workplace. Caring for her daughter kept her busy, and she wasn’t sure how she could juggle work or job training on top of being a parent.

But after learning about TAP and our SwiftStart program, Ann began to see a path forward. “TAP just opened up the door for me,” she says. “It was the right recipe for me to reconnect and get started.”

A Helping Hand

Job training was what initially drew Ann to TAP, but we were able to help her and her daughter with other challenges, too. Ann ultimately connected with several programs at TAP, which provided her with critical supports as she worked through our Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) training. She recalls that receiving housing support from our HELP coordinator, Hannah, was especially impactful, as it provided the stability necessary for her to focus on her studies.

Ann explained that Hannah went the extra mile to provide the tools she needed to become established in her new apartment. “It was a tremendous help, and the help has not ceased,” she says.

One Foot in Front of the Other

Balancing work and life during the CCMA course was challenging, as Ann knew it would be. She felt the pressure of raising her daughter while taking classes herself. Ann knew she had to prioritize her education. “I had to get this job so that we could keep our heads above water,” Ann explains.

Reflecting on her time in the CCMA program at TAP, Ann says, “I didn’t know how tough I was until I took that course.” She didn’t know how she would do it, but she was determined to complete the course. When things got hard, Ann’s SwiftStart mentor, Jennifer, encouraged her to come up with solutions rather than excuses. “All I had to do is put one foot in front of the other, and that’s exactly what I did,” Ann reflects.

She completed the TAP CCMA program in December and gained employment at Carilion Clinic soon after. She now works in a competitive position with Carilion General Surgery where she’s challenging herself and learning new skills daily.

Paying it Forward

With these resources and experiences from TAP under her belt, Ann’s next goal is to pay it forward. She says, “I want to transition from being the person seeking and needing help to the person who can actually be help. Instead of being the receiver, I’ll be the giver.”

Ann’s advice to other individuals interested in TAP’s programs is to keep moving forward; “…to not give up on yourself, and to thank God first,” she says. Ann reminds others not to feel ashamed of falling down. “There are resources set in place to help you, and all you’ve got to do is go after them.”

Starting Again with Job Training

Laura Richardson had a tough couple of years. While dealing with health issues, she lost both her medical assistant certification and her job. Her path to recertification became more difficult when local programs turned her down, but Laura didn’t give up. “I was determined to get back in the medical field,” she says. “I didn’t let my health problems hold me down.” Things started looking up when a friend at church told her about TAP’s CareerForge program.

Laura’s Path

In partnership with Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, CareerForge trains adults in the Appalachian region for new careers. It offers certifications for nursing assistants, phlebotomists, and truck drivers. TAP’s career mentors offer guidance and support to CareerForge clients.

Eager to stay in the medical field, Laura chose to pursue a phlebotomy certification. Her career mentor, Katrina Caul, played a key role in getting Laura enrolled in the course.  “Katrina was very helpful. If she can’t help you, she’ll find somebody that can.”

Katrina’s encouragement also buoyed Laura during her time in CareerForge. Laura admits the program was challenging, but her determination and faith pushed her through. “My mom always taught me to keep my head up and keep pushing forward. Not to let anything hold you back.”

Pursuing Her Goals

Katrina remembers that Laura was determined to finish her certification and get back to doing what she loved. She studied hard, did well in class, and had clear goals.

Once she got her phlebotomy certification, Laura began her job search but found she lacked confidence in her interviewing skills. After practicing in mock interviews with Katrina, her renewed confidence landed her two job offers. She accepted a position as a patient care technician at a kidney care center.

But Laura didn’t stop there. While working her new job, she earned a certificate in dialysis. She plans to take her state board tests to become a certified dialysis technician later this year.

Encouraging Others

Laura is grateful for the program and for Katrina in particular. In fact, she was so pleased with the program that she encouraged her daughter to enroll. Her daughter is studying to earn her phlebotomy certification and wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Laura’s advice to others? “You’re never too old to learn. If you have the mindset to do it, you can do it. Don’t let your age hold you back.”