Image depicts multiple photos and illustrations of Annette over the years.

Annette Lewis: A Local Legacy

“When I came aboard TAP, I didn’t know how young it was,” says Annette Lewis, president and CEO. That was in 1988. TAP had been established 23 years prior, in 1965. “I thought it had been around forever. It was very well known in the community for helping people move out of poverty.” Now, in its 59th year, TAP’s still very well known, particularly by those who can use a helping hand. Annette is too. She’ll be leaving a legacy when she retires in March.

Annette worked for Allstate for nine years before leaving her job as manager to begin her time at TAP. Ironically, she recalls, “I decided I wasn’t going to manage anything or anybody else. I wanted a nine-to-five job.” TAP seemed a good fit with her existing social work degree, so she took a position as a summer youth employment counselor. “I fell in love with it,” she says. Teaching young people about the importance of showing up to work on time, finishing jobs in progress, communicating effectively with supervisors, and learning skills necessary to get and keep a job was invigorating. “I have run into many of them in recent years.  Here they are, professionals today, having gained this knowledge that they received [from TAP’s training].” 

“During my time at TAP, after deciding I didn’t want to become a manager, I became a supervisor with Head Start, I became a director,” she admits. And of course, ultimately, she became president and CEO.  

A Can-Do Culture

When Annette joined TAP 36 years ago, she discovered a can-do culture. “Early on, we were successful employing people with a passion. What they didn’t know they learned on the job. And this agency grew from that mindset,” she recalls. “If you had a skill, you could do just about anything.”

Annette tells the story of 21-passenger bus. At the time, she had been promoted to the coordinator of the Summer Youth Employment Program. She was taking youth on an overnight trip to a city 1.5 hours away. Due to the good relationship that the rental company had with TAP, the key was left so that the vehicle could be picked up if the office was closed. Surprisingly, the key was left for a 21-passenger bus. Annette looked at the vehicle, called her supervisor and said, “I don’t think I can drive this vehicle.”  She quickly realized her old way of thinking didn’t fit the TAP culture. Annette drove the bus that day, full of passengers. 

That passion and problem-solving spirit continues today. TAP is one of the main connectors in the community between those in need and area not-for-profits, according to a 2018 study. In fact, Virginia Tech’s research called TAP a “lynchpin,” critical in directing those in need to appropriate area providers. As a community action agency, TAP pays attention to what citizens are asking for and will often create initiatives and programs when other agencies can’t fill a void. With this mindset, the organization not only has a profound effect on the underprivileged in our area, but also the greater community as a whole. TAP’s yearly economic impact exceeds $35 million.   

Changing focus

Annette recalls that when she first started at TAP, services looked a little different than they do today. “We had many of the same programs we have now, youth programs, adult programs, workforce development programs, housing programs, a large Head Start program. TAP started the food bank [now Feeding Southwest Virginia] so we had food pantries. We also had clothes closets and other emergency services. We spent a lot of resources on those services. A decision was made to no longer provide emergency services.”

“I think the best decision that the agency made was to move out of the emergency services business into the human, community, and economic development services,” says Annette. “People will always need emergency services if they can’t stand on their own two feet. Equip people with the education and the skills that they need to stand on their own two feet and you’re changing lives, one family at a time.”

Funding Hope

Historically, TAP has relied heavily on grant funding. However, grant restrictions make it difficult to provide all of the services that families need. Grants also get discontinued and/or require annual reapplications without any ongoing funding guarantees. With more unrestricted funds and bigger community support, TAP can become more effective in its mission.

“Word of mouth drives people to knock on our door,” says Annette. She admits that influential people and those in a position to support TAP financially are less apt to know what TAP does. “I’m amazed, because I’m working in an environment where everyone knows us. That’s been interesting.”

To address this concern, TAP hired a director of fund development in 2023. TAP has tried several tactics to raise discretionary funds throughout the years, with varying success. This included special events. Annette explains that hosting a variety of concerts and other events raised some money, but not enough to start a program or keep one going.     

The agency finally struck the right chord when it introduced the Bringing Hope Home campaign four years ago. “Each year of the campaign, we raised more than our goal,” says Annette. “In three years, we’ve raised over $900,000. One hundred percent of the board participates.” With increasingly more effective funding initiatives, TAP can better provide for those it serves.

Looking Back

When asked what has brought the most joy from her tenure as president, Annette responds, “It’s the people that are assisted. It’s the lives that have been impacted. When I became a director and had graduation ceremonies—it’s the people who walk across the stage for the first time in their lives. Or a person who’s been abused and they don’t see any hope, who finds out they can get a safety plan and leave an abusive relationship. All of those things are just so rewarding.”

A few memories stick out in particular. Annette recalls a gentleman who worked at a manufacturing company for over 40 years until he retired in his 70s. “He never told anyone he couldn’t read.” She says she’ll never forget the moment when, after going through the TAP literacy program, he read a Valentine’s Day card to his wife for the very first time.  

“We had two federal Two-Generation grants that focused on assisting adults to continue their education so they could get a good-paying job while providing support for their children [through Head Start and other childcare programs],” she continues. “It was very successful. We have someone now who’s working on her masters in nursing as a result of our having a program like that. It is a best practice model for ending generational poverty. It’s not about the grant or just the individual. It’s about the family and their needs.”

The work TAP does with area youth is also a bright point. “At one time, schools in our region had children dropping out of school at an alarming rate of 500 kids each year. Most of them were Roanoke City Schools’ children. We started a dropout retrieval program and got over 900 back into education.” This was over a six-year period.

Finally, “To be in a home where you see sewage going up and down the walls and then seeing that home being repaired so the family can live in it safely and affordably is truly amazing,” she says. “People don’t realize how fortunate or blessed they are.”   

Pride in Standing Out

“We are not your typical non-profit,” says Annette. “We do so many things while operating over 20 programs. Our senior staff are on numerous boards and committees throughout the community to connect our families with resources to help them move out of poverty.”

She’s proud of a strong board and associated fund development initiatives. Bylaw changes shortened permitted tenure terms, which she finds helpful. “We’re able to bring in leaders from the community with new ideas and other connections to help keep our agency strong.”   

“When I think of things that started while I’ve been here, either under my leadership as a director or president of the agency, I am proud of the microenterprise loan fund program that has grown into a Community Development Financial Institution where we help small businesses get on their feet and become very strong and very respected in the community,” says Annette. 

She’s also proud of three other major initiatives started by her, “The dropout retrieval program” mentioned earlier that returned over 900 to education. Annette continues, “Sabrina’s Place, the only supervised visitation and safe exchange center in our region for victims of domestic violence and their children that has kept over 1,000 victims and their children safe. Families come from across the country to benefit from the program; and TAP’s Whole Family Initiative.”

As a result of TAP’s Whole Family focus, its programs aim to work in concert to meet the needs of each member in a family simultaneously. For example, a parent may be getting a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification through TAP’s adult education and employment programs while using childcare through Head Start. Looking at all family member needs has become a guiding principle for TAP.

 “I’m very excited about the direction the agency is going, to have a focus on the whole family and not operating in silos anymore,” Annette says.

“Annette has dedicated her life to helping the poor and those in need,” says Senator John S. Edwards. “Her extraordinary leadership at TAP has made life better for so many. Her leadership has extended to southwest Virginia and across the state in improving the lives for many families living in poverty.  I am proud to know her as a friend.”   Annette is the third president in TAP’s 59-year history. She’s served in this role for eight years. The agency has changed and evolved since she started as a summer youth employment counselor and so has she. Her last day at TAP will be March 1.

Two clapsed hands resting on a person's knee.

Building a More Resilient Community Through Social Connection

Compassion and social connection are fundamental aspects of human existence. This support plays a crucial, yet underestimated role in our daily lives. Data increasingly show that a lack of social bonds can lead to isolation—and ultimately impact one’s health.

The Fundamentals of Well-Being

According to TAP’s 2022 Community Needs Assessment, lacking a support system is a common problem. Surveys of 559 individuals revealed that 56% of people across our service area face a lack of social support. However, this isn’t just a local problem—the issue has gained attention from national health institutions.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines social connection as “relationships that create a sense of belonging and being cared for, valued, and supported.” These relationships have a larger impact than one might think. As the CDC explains, “When people are socially connected and have stable and supportive relationships, they are more likely to make healthy choices and to have better mental and physical health outcomes. They are also better able to cope with hard times, stress, anxiety, and depression.” Strong social bonds have been shown to lower one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia. The impact on community health was also emphasized by the CDC, stating that, “Social connectedness can also help create trust and resilience within communities.”

Further, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion lists social and community support as one of the five social determinants of health. The Office notes, “Many people face challenges and dangers they can’t control—like unsafe neighborhoods, discrimination, or trouble affording the things they need. This can have a negative impact on health and safety throughout life. Positive relationships at home, at work, and in the community can help reduce these negative impacts.”

Compassion for Everyone

TAP is dedicated to confronting the social connection crisis through our range of programs, providing compassion and encouragement during tough times. We offer tailored support, paths to self-sufficiency, and services to address overlooked needs—all while fostering a community that builds networks and prevents isolation.

The impact of supporting those in need of connection can’t be overstated. By creating connections and opportunities, TAP aims to ignite the human spirit and build a more resilient community. Join us in making a difference! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay informed about our community’s evolving needs, and visit our website to learn more about our programs and explore ways to contribute. Together, let’s build a stronger and more supportive community!

Investor Spotlight: Delta Dental of Virginia

Delta Dental of Virginia has more than 50 years’ experience providing access to quality oral healthcare. With their headquarters located right here in Roanoke, they’re also dedicated community supporters.

“It’s important that we serve our members and promote good oral health, but we also feel that service in the communities where our team members live and work is vital to accomplishing our mission to create healthy smiles throughout Virginia,” says Jeremy Butterfield, senior manager of corporate communications for Delta Dental of Virginia.

When it comes to serving their community, they don’t stop at oral health. Delta Dental of Virginia’s strong volunteer program encourages employees to find and volunteer with organizations that are important to them. “Our employee-led Smile Ambassadors group guides our company efforts around philanthropy, volunteerism, and environmental stewardship,” Jeremy notes. Not only has Delta Dental of Virginia provided grants to TAP for various programs, they’ve also been an annual investor in our Bringing Hope Home fundraising campaign. When asked why they choose to support TAP, Jeremy notes that “TAP is a strong organization with a long history of service, which speaks to your capacity to earn support and make good use of it in the communities you serve.”

Stories of hope graphic with photos of Ben and Miz

2022-2023 Annual Report

You Improved the Lives of Over 5,700 People Last Year

We are proud to share some highlights and stories from the past year in our 2022-2023 Annual Report. Please take a look at the report to see how the work you support is making our community stronger, healthier, safer, and more prosperous—one person, one family at a time.

TAP Provides Opportunity and Hope

Poverty robs people of opportunity and crushes hope; it creates a vicious cycle that destroys lives and communities. That’s why at TAP we work day and night to help people get out of and stay out of poverty. It is a mission to restore hope by giving families and individuals the resources and opportunities they need to take charge of their lives. We do this through our more than twenty programs in the areas of education and employment, housing, financial services, and domestic violence and family services. Our 2022-2023 Annual Report provides a glimpse into these programs and the lives that are better today because of your generosity.

These stories inspire, and they show just how far TAP’s work extends. You’ll read about Miz and how she has broken free from the cycle of poverty through the support of TAP’s job-training programs and TAP Head Start. She is now giving back to the community as a healthcare professional. You’ll also read about Ben, who has been able to improve and make repairs to his family farm that might otherwise have been lost without the support of TAP’s Business Seed program. His business not only provides for his own livelihood, but also provides hay and livestock throughout the area.

Your Support Makes This Possible

Because TAP is local and has no national affiliations, 100% of your gift stays right here in our community. Your support provides hope to Miz and Ben and thousands like them, giving them the opportunity they need to take charge of their lives. We are all better because of it. To make your gift today, please visit our donation page.

TAP Empowers Veterans: Nicholas

In life, there are moments when one’s determination and the right support can lead to profound changes. Today, we celebrate one such story of triumph and transformation: that of Nicholas, a veteran who has found his path to recovery and well-being through the dedicated efforts of TAP’s Veteran Services.

A Beacon of Hope for Veterans

Nicholas’s journey with TAP has been nothing short of remarkable. Further, he describes the experience as “night and day” compared to his previous interactions with other supportive services. Nicholas notes the speed and passion with which TAP’s team operates, providing him with support on his path to recovery.

“I was thinking earlier about if TAP could have a hospital, everyone I know would go there. It’s like angels have been sent to help me,” Nicholas shares, reflecting on the impact of TAP’s commitment to veterans’ well-being.

Changing Lives Through Supportive Services

TAP’s focus on supportive services for veterans has opened new doors for Nicholas post-service. Moreover, unlike his experience with other programs, where he felt a lack of individualized attention, TAP quickly found him a stable place to live and meaningful employment. Nicholas now enjoys a satisfying work-life balance and numerous opportunities for physical activity. He emphasizes how these changes have played a pivotal role in managing stress and improving his overall well-being. “If it wasn’t for TAP, I wouldn’t have a safety net.”

Nicholas, who works at the Kirk Family YMCA, underscores the YMCA’s significant impact on his journey. He describes the YMCA as a place that takes its mission seriously, providing scholarships and support to individuals in need. Just like TAP, the YMCA has become an integral part of his journey toward recovery and stability.

A Bright Future Beckons

As Nicholas continues to improve his physical health and well-being, he has ambitious plans for the future. He aspires to obtain a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certification and become a certified personal trainer, furthering his journey of self-improvement and helping others along the way.

The story Nicholas Anduiza shared with us serves as a testament to the unwavering commitment of TAP’s Veteran Services to empower veterans and improve their lives. It’s a story of resilience, hope, and the power of community.

If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of support, TAP stands ready to make a positive difference. Reach out today and embark on your own path to recovery, well-being, and a brighter future. Together, we can create more success stories like Nicholas’s.

To support the work we do to support veterans like Nicholas, please consider donating.

Dr. Faith R. Pasley Wins the 2023 Cabell Brand Hope Award

The annual Cabell Brand Hope Award, which celebrates outstanding service, leadership, and dedication to fighting poverty, proudly announces its 2023 winner: Dr. Faith R. Pasley, M.D., FAAFP.

Dedication to Healthcare for All

Dr. Pasley embodies the Cabell Brand Hope Award in her work as the Roanoke Rescue Mission’s Volunteer Medical Director at the Fralin Free Clinic. As the only free clinic in the state located on-site at a shelter, the Fralin Free Clinic helps thousands of people experiencing homelessness get the healthcare they need each year. Dr. Pasley’s work provides crucial healthcare and wellness services to people experiencing homelessness. She reviews all patient charts, provides patient care, and actively recruits other physicians and providers.

Holistic Care: For Everyone

Additionally, Dr. Pasley played a key role in developing the newly implemented Medical Street Outreach. The program seeks to decrease the number of unsheltered people living in outdoor camps throughout the Roanoke region. The scale of services the clinic provides is daunting.

In 2022, the Fralin Free Clinic provided 5,370 healthcare and wellness encounters including primary & preventative care, mental & behavioral health services, medication assistance, dentistry, optometry, and patient education. That same year, it provided 3,620 separate patient visits. Rescue Mission CEO Lee Clark estimates that the clinic has served over 12,000 different patients under Dr. Pasley’s leadership.

A Lifetime of Service

Dr. Pasley has guided the work of the Fralin Free Clinic for over 18 years. Her vision and dedication proved critical as the clinic faced the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Pasley was honored with the Rescue Misison’s Mission Angel award this past July for her efforts, which allowed the Rescue Mission to continue providing life-saving care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the pandemic. 

Her colleagues at the Rescue Mission also note that she is as compassionate in her duties as she is professional, and that her work has provided hope, healing, and empowerment to many people in the region. Dr. Pasley became the first board-certified female family physician in the Roanoke Valley, and from the very beginning, she has dedicated herself to a lifetime of learning, helping, and teaching others.

A Deserved Recognition

Indeed, Dr. Pasley is a source of vital care for low-income people. She is inspiration to her peers. Above all, however, she is a source of hope for our community. We are proud to honor her with the 2023 Cabell Brand Hope Award.

TAP President Announces Upcoming Retirement

After 35 years of service to Total Action for Progress (TAP), Annette Lewis, its current president and CEO, will retire effective March 1, 2024. Mrs. Lewis became TAP’s president & CEO in May 2015.

Mrs. Lewis states, “My journey with TAP has been an amazing one. I started as a temporary employee 35 years ago, unsure that I would be asked to remain. I am so grateful that my supervisors and TAP’s president for 40 years, Ted Edlich, decided to keep me. Working at TAP has been tremendously rewarding. I have enjoyed seeing hope return to the eyes of the families we assist and the successes they’ve achieved. I have been amazed by the work of the staff that pour their best efforts into the lives of others to support them and celebrate with them during each accomplishment. I have been richly blessed to work with an administrative staff and team of senior leaders who are among the most talented, committed professionals that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I am indebted to a board of directors who had confidence in me, provide valuable guidance, contribute to the success of the agency, and continue to believe in TAP’s mission. With the help of each group that I’ve mentioned, TAP is strong, effective, and will make an impact across the region and state for years to come. I will remain eternally grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me to contribute to this outstanding organization.”

TAP Chairman Paul Nester expressed the Board of Directors’ “deep appreciation for Mrs. Lewis’ years of successful leadership of TAP,” and acknowledged the “numerous contributions made by Mrs. Lewis to the communities and citizens that TAP serves.” Nester further commented that the board of directors will soon begin a search for Mrs. Lewis’ replacement.  

Supporter Spotlight: Damon Williams

Damon Williams joined the staff of First Citizens Bank more than 23 years ago. He says they were already supporting TAP at that time. In the last three years, though, the relationship has expanded significantly. It’s due, in large part, to a $50 million grant fund,  which provides CRA-qualified philanthropic giving through 2025. This allows the bank to distribute monies in the communities it serves. “Through this benefits plan, we were able to provide more support,” Damon says.

Homegrown and headquartered in North Carolina, First Citizens is now the largest family-controlled bank in the country. “I was born and raised in Roanoke and familiar with TAP services in the community,” Damon explains. “TAP has been around this community for a very long time.” He sought to expand the relationship between the two institutions. “It was a great fit.”

The increased giving focus began through a 2020 initiative. It’s part of First Citizens’ five-year, $16 billion Community Benefits Plan that builds on the bank’s ongoing work to reinvest in low- and moderate-income communities and neighborhoods of color. The plan focuses on three areas: community development lending and investments, mortgages, and small business loans. Through this new effort, organizations can also apply for grants to fund programs.

TAP received $25,000 this year for our free Tax Clinic after applying for a grant. The bank doesn’t just provide money for the Tax Clinic, though. Over the years, First Citizens employees have volunteered their time to help complete tax returns for those we serve. “We try to participate and give back to the community as well,” says Damon.  

He practices what he preaches outside of work as well. Damon serves on the TAP Property Committee and has been involved in our Business Seed program. “That’s given me great perspective on what they [TAP] do,” he says.  

In his spare time, Damon runs Twin Hoops with his twin brother, Ramon, as a community service. The duo started this grassroots effort 27 years ago. Services are offered year-round, including basketball training and a summer camp for children ages 7–15. Most recently, Twin Hoops has supported basketball travel teams and tournaments. “We’re open to all participants who want to improve their skill set as players but also be good people in their communities,” explains Damon. “We do not turn anyone away. We want to give every kid an opportunity to participate and enjoy a fun, structured environment around basketball. We feel basketball is a game of life, too.” This summer, 250 came through the summer camp program.

Damon is currently a business development officer with First Citizens. Prior to that he was a community development officer. “We’re proud to be a supporter of TAP and the programs they provide,” he says. “We know they do the work that we don’t see on the surface, but behind the scenes in trying to provide quality services, affordable services, and we’re proud to help support the mission that they do. Of course, they’re wonderful people to work with, too.”

An orange life saver is hanging on a white wall

How to Help Someone Who Is Experiencing Domestic Violence

Nearly one in every four women and one in seven men have experienced domestic abuse. Despite how frequently it occurs, most don’t know how to help when domestic violence happens to someone they know.

One commonly asked question is, “Why don’t they just leave?”

Most domestic violence situations are complicated by multiple factors. Abusers use fears as leverage in order to trap a survivor or limit their options. For example, a male client once told us he stayed with his abuser because he felt it would make his kids safer. He said that if she was hitting him, then he knew she wasn’t hitting their kids. To him, this was far more important than his own physical safety. Further complicating the matter, many male survivors perceive that they will struggle in court to prove that they are victims of abuse and that they should retain sole custody of their children.

Listen and empower

Each situation is different. The best thing you can do to help is to be an advocate—listen and support, offer counsel, but always remember that abuse is a form of control. Empowering survivors means encouraging them to make their own decisions. After all, they’re the ones who have to live with the consequences.

Making sure victims don’t feel alone is also important. Abusers are often able to perpetuate their abuse because they isolate their victims. Refer them to a domestic violence hotline, such as our 24/7 help hotline at 540-580-0775. You can also click here to learn more about our program for domestic violence survivors.

How to help if you think someone is in danger

Learning these facts will help you become more informed, but it’s only the first step. Research and share information about the resources in your area. Recommending specific resources and how they help can increase the likelihood of the person using those resources—it could make the difference between life and death.

If you or someone you know has been abused, TAP Domestic Violence Services has a 24/7 hotline at 540-580-0775. If you are unsure of the local resources in your region, call the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. We can all be a source of hope.

Dr. Johns Joins the Team!

TAP has worked to improve the lives of those in our community for decades, from providing free childcare to protecting survivors of domestic violence to helping jumpstart new careers, and more.  TAP has mostly relied on grant funding; however, grant restrictions make it difficult to provide all of the services that families need.  Additionally, sometimes grants that meet major needs are discontinued adversely impacting the community. With more unrestricted funds, TAP can enhance its support of our community. For that reason, we’re excited to welcome Dr. David Johns, TAP’s newly hired Director of Fund Development!

Strengthening Local Communities

Dr. Johns graduated from Malone University with a degree in religious studies, earned master’s degrees in theology and library science, and was awarded a Ph.D. from Duquesne University. Dr. Johns then spent many years as a professor of religion and philosophy, teaching in Ohio and Indiana. He became increasingly involved with organizational leadership and became a college vice president in southeastern Kentucky. Most recently, Dr. Johns served as president of Ferrum College.

Throughout his career in higher education, Dr. Johns has been committed to improving the lives of those in need. After finishing his doctorate, he spent a sabbatical working with a nonprofit in Mexico City that focused on addressing poverty and strengthening local communities. As president of Ferrum College, Dr. Johns worked with local community leaders, elected officials, and other supporters to develop resources to support student success, especially students from families of great need. Throughout his administrative work in higher education, Dr. Johns has managed institutional budgets, overseen fundraising efforts, done strategic planning and assessment, and has been involved with alumni and community relations, all to support the institutions he has served.

Right at Home

Although he didn’t grow up in the area, Dr. Johns says that he and his wife, Susan, a speech therapist in the Roanoke City Public Schools, feel at home in the Roanoke Valley where they have lived for nearly six years. The mission of TAP resonates with him. Growing up in rural Appalachia, Dr. Johns has worked in and supported many small towns and communities. “It’s personal for me,” he notes. “If I had grown up in the Roanoke Valley, my family would have been served by TAP.”

We’re thrilled to have Dr. Johns join our family and look forward to seeing how his skill and passion for helping others can further TAP’s efforts in the communities we serve.

To donate to TAP, click here!

How One Class is Changing Teens’ Futures

Before entering her first year at William Fleming High School, Ireland Maxey was nervous. Nervous about her new school, nervous about taking more difficult classes, and nervous about her future.

Expanding Horizons

During her first semester, she took African American Culture and Contemporary Issues (AACCI), a class offered by TAP in partnership with the school. It gave Ireland the guidance she needed to be excited about her high school journey and beyond. AACCI teaches the diverse history and culture of Africa and examines the experiences of Black people in America, all while teaching students a myriad of useful skills, from conflict resolution to mindfulness. Project Discovery, a TAP program, works in tandem with AACCI to prepare students for college success. Lateefah Trent, Project Discovery’s program coordinator, states, “Our biggest goal is to show students that there is something beyond the zip code they live in.” Once in class, Ireland blossomed.

“After a few weeks in class, she became less reserved,”says Antonio Stovall, who teaches AACCI. “She started asking meaningful questions about history and cultural identity. Then she began thinking more about college… Her overall outlook on life changed.” Now, thanks to AACCI and Project Discovery, Ireland plans to graduate high school early and attend college.

Thinking Beyond High School

“I want to major in psychology after learning about mindfulness in class,” says Ireland. “If not for AACCI, I would have never learned how to meditate. Now I use meditation any time I’m feeling stressed.” Recently, Project Discovery has taken to the outdoors, leading students on hikes, through ropes courses, and on other confidence building and stress-reducing excursions meant to both broaden students’ horizons and reinforce the benefits of outdoor activity on physical and mental health. Antonio sees these trips as integral to Ireland’s success.

Not many students have the initiative to participate outside of class, but “when we have activities outside of school, like hikes or wilderness survival classes, Ireland is always there,” he says.

Together, AACCI and Project Discovery have given Ireland a new perspective and the tools she needs to achieve her goals. Given the programs’ impact on her, Antonio says he sees Ireland “going on to college and doing great things.”

Learn more

To learn more about this program, email  

Supporter Spotlight: Roanoke Higher Education Center

In order to serve over 5,000 people each year, TAP relies on the help of community partners. This is especially true of the Roanoke Higher Education Center (RHEC). Not only are they a sponsor of our Bringing Hope Home campaign, but the building also houses several TAP programs.

A One-Stop Shop

Located in downtown Roanoke, the RHEC provides a state-of-the-art facility for colleges and workforce agencies. Kay Dunkley, executive director of the RHEC, explains, “The Center was established to provide access to education and training opportunities to meet the needs of the citizens of our localities.” The similarities in our missions made the move of TAP’s This Valley Works youth and adult education programs to the RHEC a natural next step. This addition made the RHEC a one-stop shop for those hoping to improve their lives through education and job training.

“The RHEC has been home to This Valley Works for more than 20 years. It not only houses the majority of our programs but serves as a learning tool to our students. Sharing the same hallways and classrooms as college students helps our students understand that they really aren’t different; they are equal and can succeed in a world that has always seemed a distant, unachievable dream to many,” explains Jo Nelson, director of TAP This Valley Works.

Serving the Community Together

Kay notes that the services of TAP and the RHEC dovetail perfectly to serve the community. “TAP, through all their programs—Head Start, Project Discovery, workforce readiness, housing assistance, veterans, etc.—contribute[s] to the quality of life of the citizens of our region. RHEC’s mission is aligned,” she says.  “Both our organizations contribute to creating a productive workforce and lending support to human capital results in positive economic development.”

Reinforcing their support of this shared mission, the RHEC has been an annual sponsor of TAP’s Bringing Hope Home campaign. Kay notes that she’s seen firsthand how TAP helps individuals in the region achieve their goals. “TAP gives hope to so many people in our community to better their lives,” she says. “Securing affordable housing means folks can support their families. Earning job skills results in increased earnings. Having a TAP mentor and/or a coach who believes in you gives you confidence and motivation to be a better person. All of these things boost changes for success!”

Here at TAP, we are incredibly grateful for the support of the Roanoke Higher Education Center and look forward to continuing our partnership in creating opportunities for education in our community. If you’d like to become a Bringing Hope Home sponsor and contribute to change in your community, contact Robin Reynolds at or 540.283.4866.