Bloom Winter 2017

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New City Mayor Reflects On Life As Mentor

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Holly Marcus


your CAREER A team of women help downtown grow through their work at Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.


Roadmap To Service

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Holly Marcus

City Mayor Deanna Reed embodies the importance of empowering youth.


s a new year blooms, so does our wonderful Valley. With that inspiration, our staff chose to highlight the burgeoning representation of women in the Friendly City. Our cover girl, Deanna Reed, was elected to city council in November. She was then chosen by council to be the city’s next mayor — the first black woman to earn both achievements. The Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, a public-private partnership created in 2003 to revitalize downtown Harrisonburg, is run by a staff of almost all women. The group shares its story of working together as a team and breaking stereotypes of women in the workplace. As any working girl knows, a vacation can be important for revitalization and sanity. We got the scoop on the best ways to plan in the off-season while deals and opportunities are ripe. Our columnist, Christina Kunkle, shares some advice on how to actually improve your life amid the cliché world of “new year, new me.” We hope you see growth for yourself in 2017, and as always, keep blooming! Corey Tierney Editor


your TRAVEL Local experts have tips and tricks for planning a vacation far ahead.

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Fear Into Faith Christina Kunkle discusses the differences between our ego and our spirit.

Staff Corey Tierney, editor Aleda Johnson, staff writer Shelby Mertens, staff writer Sherrie Good, design Contributors

Christina Kunkle, columnist Preston Knight, writer

Bloom is a publication of Rockingham Publishing Co., Inc. Copyright © 2016 Rockingham Publishing Co., Inc. 231 S. Liberty St. Harrisonburg, VA 22801 For advertising information, call 540-574-6220.

Winter 2017



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The Women Behind HDR Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance Blooms With Help From Its Staff By Shelby Mertens • Photos by Holly Marcus

FROM LEFT: Kim Kirk, Lauren Huber and Andrea Dono are members of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance team whose offices are housed in the Hardesty-Higgins House on South Main Street.


low and steady wins the race, according to the women behind the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, a publicprivate partnership created in 2003 to revitalize downtown Harrisonburg. The current staff at HDR, which includes executive director Andrea L. Dono, director of resources Lauren Huber and chief marketing officer Kim Kirk, have built on the work of their predecessors to attract young professionals, families and

small businesses to live, play and work in downtown. HDR had been operated by an entirely all-female staff until the recent hire of Jeremiah Jenkins as the events coordinator. HDR also has volunteers who sit on the board and staff committees. Those groups are mixed, but Huber said there is definitely “strong female representation for sure.” Over the last decade, HDR has helped bring in dozens of restaurants and retail shops, making up the nearly 40

“I think because we’re incremental and we paced ourselves, that’s why downtown looks like it does today.” — Andrea Dono restaurants in the 40 blocks of downtown. Before HDR, many often described the area as almost like a ghost town, short on businesses

and excitement. Historic buildings were crumbling. But today, the Friendly City has built a reputation for its cuisine, becoming the first and only Culinary District in Virginia. Art galleries have popped up around Main Street and trendy loft apartments above restaurants and shops have drawn the young professional crowd, as well as kid-friendly activities for young families, like the Explore More Discovery Museum. “It’s something that takes time,” said Dono, who is Winter 2017


reaching her one year mark with HDR. “I think because we’re incremental and we paced ourselves, that’s why downtown looks like it does today. It didn’t happen overnight, and getting to that vision with protecting our historic buildings and our history, but also looking to our future and [seeing] where can we develop in some of the vacant areas, that’s going to take a lot of time.” Dono comes with an impressive background in historic preservation and economic development and revitalization. Brooklyn born and raised, Dono attended George Mason University for undergrad and received a historic preservation certificate from Goucher College in Baltimore. She worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Center, which is the entity that developed the widelyused Main Street approach for small towns, including Harrisonburg, for a decade. She then worked for the city of Manassas as the economic development coordinator. Dono was pursuing a master’s in urban planning at Virginia Tech, but didn’t finish because she took the job at HDR. As executive director, Dono leads the organization in implementing the fourpoint Main Street plan, which leverages the town’s assets. “It’s a downtown revitalization strategy that says you do historic preservation-based economic development, so you lead with assets and that’s your heritage, your history, your beautifully built environment that you don’t tear down buildings, you treat them as assets,” she said. “Your other assets are your people, who 4

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The Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance offers shopping and dining promotions for different downtown businesses.

are typically entrepreneurs, the people who want to volunteer, the people who want to get involved.” Dono is also tasked with providing assistance for existing businesses downtown and recruiting new businesses. In its 13 year history, HDR has funded 98 projects and awarded $175,000 in renovation grants, according to its website. “We get a lot of projects done with a very small staff,” Huber said. Huber works on the fundraising side of HDR, cultivating relationships and volunteers to bring resources to the nonprofit. Growing up on the West Coast, Huber graduated from the University of Oregon. Her background is primarily in sales and customer service, spending many years in the ski resort industry. Her job working at Snowshoe in West Virginia evolved into working for the resort’s foundation, which also led to a leadership role. When Huber eventually moved to Harrisonburg, she

wanted to continue working in the nonprofit sector. “For me personally, being new to the area, it’s been a lot of fun being part of the downtown community and watching new businesses that come in,” Huber said. “The sense of camaraderie and community is unique here.” Kirk oversees HDR’s branding and marketing efforts, and works with the downtown restaurants and shops to create promotional campaigns, including Taste of Downtown, the city’s restaurant week, and Small Business Saturday. Kirk graduated from James Madison University with a degree in media arts & design. She also has a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from West Virginia University. Before joining HDR, Kirk was the marketing and communications director at the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce. She joined HDR in May 2011. As the current staffer with the longest experience at

HDR, Kirk has witnessed the most change, from the largescale revitalization projects of The Ice House, The Hess Building and the Train Depot. One of the biggest achievements of HDR, Dono said, is the uptick in studio apartments downtown, many of which have waitlists. “There’s no higher vote of confidence than when people say, not only do I want to do hang out and spend money here, I actually want to live here because it’s that cool,” she said. The ladies at HDR said they are a work hard, play hard group. “We work well together and we all bring a different set of skills and strengths to every project we collaborate on,” Kirk said. “It’s rewarding to know that our organization is making a difference in the community. And the face of our organization is a young group of women, primarily.” The ladies work on the second floor of the Hardesty-Higgins House, where space is limited.

Getting along, Dono said, is paramount to the organization’s success. The women make sure to spend time with each other outside of the office, and even organized a staff retreat out of pocket for themselves. “I think we all really enjoy each other,” Dono said. “We have a pretty good dynamic where we can be open and honest with each other, but are supportive, too.” Dono said she has been asked before if there’s “passive aggressiveness” in the office because it’s all women. “All those stereotypes people have about all-female offices, I don’t know where that comes from, but it’s a stereotype that needs to die,” Dono said. “We’re professionals, we’re skilled, we work well together and we

The Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance team meets at the Hardesty-Higgins House. From left: Lauren Huber, Andrea Dono and Kim Kirk.

value what everyone brings to the table.” Dono said as a woman she “approaches things sensitively, that I value the personal relationships and the connections that I can make, that’s a strength in my job because a lot of it is working with people, so

being able to relate to them and engage with them is definitely something we’re all good at.” In the new year, HDR will be launching a market analysis project over the span of a few months. A consultant will research the local economy to find

opportunities and places for growth. The organization is currently working on two big projects: building a park out of the land next to Turner Pavilion, and Hotel Madison, a boutique hotel projected to open next fall, which will include a conference center. While the number of vacancies downtown is dwindling fast, and Dono is having to turn interested business owners away, she said the next step is to transform some of the city’s parking lots into mixed-use buildings. “We do need parking, but if we had a mixed-use development that incorporated parking with ground floor retail or ground floor commercial space, maybe loft apartments or condos even,” Dono said.

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Photo Illustration by Sherrie Good

Transform Fear Into Faith To

Grow Strong Can You Spot Your Ego’s Tricks? Here’s How To Grow Anyway By Christina Kunkle, CTA Certified Life and Wellness Coach, R.N.

who, among many other things, helped me see that my thoughts aren’t always the truth, and that my feelings aren’t always facts. Ends up, thoughts are just thoughts and feelings are only feelings until we assign meaning to them. And before we can do that with any degree of certainty, it’s essential that we wake up to the never-ending war within our minds and hearts — the fight between light and the dark, good and evil, love and fear, our ego and our spirit; otherwise known as the two wolves that live in each of us.

The Two Wolves So, here’s the story: A Cherokee elder told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside people. “My son, the battle is between the two ‘wolves’ that live inside us all,” he said. “One is Unhappiness. It is fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self-pity, resentment and inferiority. The other is Happiness. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, kindness, generosity, truth and compassion.” The grandson thought about it for a minute, then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” Which one are you feeding?

Winter 2017

Metro Creative


ere we are, well into the first quarter of a brand new year. A strong desire to shine bright, learn new things, have more fun and push our limits has prompted you to make some fresh, new decisions and big commitments. Maybe you’ve chosen to join a gym, sign up for a class or take a new career path. No doubt there are swirling questions, second thoughts and even a little anxiety mixed with excitement surrounding the whole idea of making an investment in yourself. If you’re anything like most of us, you’ve probably decided “yes, I really want to do this” about three times, and “no, what the heck was I thinking?” at least twice. Do any of the following thoughts sound familiar? If any of these statements ring true for you, then you’re right on track. “Maybe I should just wait until: Things slow down and I have more time and attention to give this? I gather more information, and consider other options? My friends, family or spouse finally agree this is a good idea? I can save extra money or have a more flexible job? I can figure out how to do it by myself? I get clearer about what I really want and need? I know who else has signed up for the class, I mean, what if I won’t fit in or they don’t like me? What happens if I don’t even like them? Believe me, I’ve got more, because there are a gazillion others that I’ve told myself when grappling with whether or not to spend my time, energy and resources on personal and professional growth opportunities that I know are designed to stretch and strengthen me. While some of the above thoughts are practical things to consider, if you look closely, you can clearly see that there are ego-driven elements of fear mixed in, too — voices from the panic zone that can scare us away from the edge of change and back into old habits, or stop us altogether. In the past, these thoughts would confuse, deplete and depress me into paralyzing self-doubt. Luckily, I was guided to a wise mentor


Ego Vs. Spirit One of my biggest “aha” moments was realizing the difference between my ego and my spirit. Here’s my understanding: Our ego is the image we have of ourselves — our social mask, the face we put on for the world. It’s our titles and roles (girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend, colleague). When our ego is in charge, we feel highly reactive and desperate for validation from other people to feel good about ourselves. We’re fear-driven, judgmental, anxious, frustrated, unforgiving, competitive, cynical, impatient, rushed, easily offended, focused on spawning win-lose solutions that keep us stuck, fearful of change and scared to take a risk. Ego guidance is loud, has a childish tone and suggestions, switches topics frequently, delays happiness “for someday when,” is sneaky and spiteful, depletes life-force energy leaving you exhausted, makes you feel cold and fearful with heart pain or headache, uses abusive and critical words, worries a lot and loves to compare you to others. (Yes, this is our “inner mean girl.”) Our spirit is our essence and true self; who we really are deep down below all the labels, roles, expectations and social masks. When our spirit is in charge, we are highly creative and loving toward ourselves and others. We are calm, forgiving of others and more easily able to accept people as they are, faults and all. We’re friendly, positive, reassuring, collaborative, tolerant, grateful and focused on generating win-win solutions that grow and expand us. Spirit/soul guidance has a mature tone and content, the same message consistently, talks about your life purpose, wants you to take

action now, is heart-centered, sounds supportive and motivational, is very direct and to the point and comes suddenly in response to a request or any type of prayer. Self-awareness is the key to hearing the gentle guidance of your spirit. You can learn to listen, trust in it and act on the advice it gives you.

“Our spirit is our essence and true self; who we really are deep down below all the labels, roles, expectations and social masks.” You can’t create the life you’re dreaming of while staying the person you are in the life you’re living right now. You have to get uncomfortable. You have to be willing to do things differently. You have to be willing to change. To be fair, it’s incredibly hard at times. But from personal experience, I promise that if you to tap into this deeper part of you even a few minutes a day, your life will improve in many beautiful ways. My greatest wish is for the right people, places and circumstances unfold in perfect timing around you. For you to feel like the universe is gently pushing you forward, and create a new level of relationship with your potential. Let’s help each other spot the ego’s tricks, transform fear into faith and grow anyway.

Metro Creative

Christina Kunkle, R.N. and CTA certified life and wellness coach, is founder of “Synergy Life and Wellness Coaching, LLC” and creator of the “Synergy Success Circle.” She helps busy women prevent burnout by promoting bounce-back resilience to stay focused, positive and excited about the challenges of work and life. For more information, Visit or call 540-746-5206.


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Roadmap To Service By Aleda Johnson Photos by Holly Marcus

It takes a village to raise a child.

Deanna Reed sits at the wide, chrome table of a conference room in The Hub in downtown Harrisonburg, recalling all the ways in which she is living proof of the adage’s validity. The 50-year-old Harrisonburg native describes how her mother and grandmother raised her with help from the other women in the Northeast Neighborhood.

Deanna Reed was elected to serve on Harrisonburg’s City Council.


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Deanna Reed (center) poses for a photo with (from left) T’Airra Belcher, Harmony Wilson, Taya Whitley and Cierra Pharr. On the Road Collaborative is a start-up educational nonprofit where Reed works with area youth at the downtown workspace, The Hub, on Bruce Street.

Barbara Blakey, the only black high school teacher in a 1980s Harrisonburg High School, made sure a young Reed and the other black students got the same opportunities as the white students. Wilhelmina Johnson, Reed’s grandmother’s closest friend, encouraged her to go to summer camp, get a job and make her own money. And Reed’s aunt, Doris Allen, taught her that community activism and service was part of being a contributing member of society. “It was back in the old days when you couldn’t do anything because in those days your mom’s friends and grandmother’s friends could discipline you,” Reed recalls. “It made me feel loved and cared for even if at times it was tough love, and I didn’t understand it.” The village of women who raised Reed gave her the resilience to succeed, not just as a black woman, but as a person who always gives herself to those in need. It inspired her to become a mentor to other young black women and help found On the Road Collaborative to give all youth the skills they need to succeed, before taking that creed to a new level this year: Becoming the first black woman on Harrisonburg City Council and the first black woman to be elected Harrisonburg mayor.

Serving City Youth Reed has come a long way from the awkward, self-conscious preteen who was first influenced by the women in her community. Following in Allen’s footsteps, whether she was volunteering at soup kitchens or the Salvation Army, she served. 12

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In 2010, her dedication to carry on the lessons she learned as a young woman came to fruition. Reed began the nonprofit Ruby Slippers with a group of her friends and began mentoring middleschool girls. They soon caught the attention of Scott Kizner, superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools, who wanted to integrate it into the schools under the umbrella of Beyond the Bell, which was run by Brent Holsinger out of Smithland Elementary School. Holsinger and Reed instantly clicked with their mutual mission of providing better support for young people. Reed then added a boys program called Titanium to Ruby Slippers comprising Precious Gems Academy within Beyond the Bell. Despite their success, grant money ended in 2013, causing the pair to re-evaluate. No matter the outcome, they refused to leave their students in the lurch. “One thing I always tell my kids is, ‘I’m not going to leave you,’” Reed said. “You will leave me before I leave you. It was important for me to continue to work — whatever that meant.” What resulted was a new nonprofit, named for a TED talk given by teacher and education advocate Rita Pierson about giving kids tools for a successful life and putting them on the road to something: On The Road Collaborative. While Holsinger is president and founder, Reed acts as program director, running a staff of 10-15 volunteers and implementing the programming — sometimes directly — for students. And she was a natural.

“I don’t know anybody who has a better ability to build relations with anybody, whether talking to kids, to parents, to donors. to volunteers or teachers,” Holsinger said. “She’s able to — in this really special way — relate to anybody she’s talking with.” In its second year, On The Road Collaborative works with 100 fifth- through seventh-graders and 20 kids for its Eighth Grade Academy. The nonprofit offers 14 career enrichment classes over the course of a school semester, often run by community professionals, as well as academic support and a parent leadership program. Eschewing the term “at risk youth” with a look of disgust, Reed explains the diversity of the kids in the program, who make up a variety of races, creeds and skill level. The goal of the program is to prepare students for life after high school. “We do evaluations, assessments and surveys to make sure the students are improving in behavior and academics,” Reed said. “The goal is to keep those kids as they progress through high school and into college and their career.” For now, Reed only keeps informal contact with students who have graduated from the program, but she and Holsinger hope to expand into the high school in the future.

Making History Other than being the first black girl from Harrisonburg High School to attend American Legion Auxiliary Girls State — an educational trip focused on local and state government — Reed didn’t think about local politics again until learning more about overpopulation at her alma mater. Running for public office was more a byproduct of her continuing dedication to service than a lifelong dream.

“I thought about running … when I started going to city council meetings because of the overcrowded issue with the high school.” —Deanna Reed

“I thought about running for something when I started going to city council meetings because of the overcrowded issue with the high school,” Reed said. “Something needed to be done because our kids we worked with were filtering into the high school.” The more meetings she spent sitting in the audience listening to the officials, the more she realized there was a voice missing from the council seats. Only three women have ever been on city council — the last one in 2010 — and none of them were women of color. “That’s a voice that’s missing here, and it’s a woman’s voice,” Reed said. “It’s that single mother who needs to be heard, that voice I grew up with. That person who’s working two or three jobs to make ends meet and living paycheck to paycheck.” As is typical of Reed’s humble nature, she started her search by looking elsewhere for a possible candidate. Gathering her friends around, she asked for possible options that checked off her criteria: black, female, political experience. After a few weeks of hunting, a friend asked Reed why she didn’t run. Reed had initially disqualified herself due to her lack of political

On The Road Collaborative works with 100 fifth- through seventh-graders and 20 kids for its Eighth Grade Academy. The nonprofit offers 14 career enrichment classes over the course of a school semester, often run by community professionals, as well as academic support and a parent leadership program.

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On Nov. 8, Reed garnered 9,036 votes — more than any other candidate on the ballot — to become the first black woman on city council. On Jan. 3, she made history again when she was unanimously voted Harrisonburg’s first black female mayor by the other council members.

experience before rethinking what a city councilperson should bring to the table. “I was looking for someone who knew politics, and then I realized that’s not what Harrisonburg wants,” Reed said. “They want that everyday person, because when you look at what was going on in our national political arena, we were getting tired of politics.” “Everyday leader for everyday people” became her campaign slogan, and it clearly resonated. On Nov. 8, Reed garnered 9,036 votes — more than any other candidate on the ballot — to become the first black woman on city council. On Jan. 3, she made history again when she was unanimously voted Harrisonburg’s first black female mayor by the other council members. Despite knowing it was a possibility, Reed was still surprised to hear the outcome. She admits she’s not worried about her new position, but feels the weight of the responsibility that accompanies the office. “I didn’t run to be mayor,” Reed said. “I ran to serve my city, to serve my community and to serve my hometown. That has not changed.” At the top of her to-do list is her focus on city youth and education. Spearheading the high school overpopulation issue will be one focus, but so will aiding Harrisonburg’s refugee and immigrant population. “I’ve come in contact with a lot of refugee families, and they’re scared,” Reed said. “When I was growing up, you see the sign ‘Friendly City,’ and now we’re ‘The Welcoming City.’ I want to make sure we’re who we say we are.” She is only one woman and can’t tackle everything on the city’s agenda, but with four years ahead of her, Reed has time.

Challenging The Norm Being a black woman is much easier today than it was when Johnson, Allen or Blakey were young women, but it still poses challenges. The biggest objection Reed’s critics have of her political aspirations is her lack of qualifications, but others thought she was just playing the “woman card” or the “black card” to glean votes. That didn’t stop Reed. She would argue that those in office need to have experience with more than how to draft legislation to make a difference. “I looked at city council and saw a lawyer, a real estate agent and I just run an after-school program,” Reed admitted. “I didn’t feel I had the experience or had all of what they have. But I have something they didn’t have.” Reed’s grandfather was a janitor, her grandmother was a housekeeper for four white families and her parents were factory workers. The black women who helped raise her were activists with faith, courage, strength, class and sass. “They stood up for what they believed in, made a difference, worked hard, struggled and they gave all of that to me. Over the years, it formed who I am,” Reed said. “I could pull pieces from each one of them who were important in my growing up.” Listening to the older generation illustrated the struggle of not being able to drink out of the same water fountain as a white person. Having her aunt and grandmother alive to tell those stories kept everything in perspective. It gave her the tools to handle whatever society dished out. “Even though now I’m a different generation, I go back to what 14

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Richard Baugh (left) speaks during a Harrisonburg City Council Candidates’ Forum at the Lucy F. Simms School on Oct. 7, along with other candidates George Hirschmann, Deanna Reed and Paul Somers. Candidates answered questions submitted from the audience.

they had to deal with and how they went through all of that,” Reed said. “I’m not going to get knocked down and not get back up.” Reed will continue to work with On The Road Collaborative as she serves on city council. Managing her time will be easy because “that’s what we women do.” Holsinger thinks Reed’s knack for understanding people will aid her immensely in her political career. “Her ability to relate with anybody is such a gift, and I know it serves her well in On The Road Collaborative,” he said. “I expect that to shine through in other ways she’s involved in the community. I expect amazing things from her in the years to come.” As an everyday person, Reed brings a level of compassion, kindness and love to leadership she feels is sorely lacking, especially on a national scale. “I believe that’s what people are looking for because there are a lot of people who feel that they live here, but they’re not part of Harrisonburg,” she said. “Me running for city council and getting elected is me serving the people of Harrisonburg.”

Setting An Example When not encouraging city youth to be all they can be, Reed is rooting for her beloved Dallas Cowboys or at a University of Virginia football game as a season ticket holder. Influenced by her grandfather, who began the first black marching band in Harrisonburg in the 1950s, Reed is always listening to music and watching movies in her spare time. Never seeming to completely throw off her dedication to service, she is president-elect of the Harrisonburg Women’s Service League and advisor for the James Madison University chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta public service sorority. She remains close to the women who raised her and spends time with her siblings and cousins as a close-knit family unit. Although she has no biological offspring, when asked if she has children, she responds strongly in the affirmative, counting all the children she has mentored over the years. Nowhere is this more true than with the young black women she mentors when not at city council meetings, running On The Road events or worshiping at the John Wesley United Methodist Church. Reed believes she was never meant to have children because she became a mother figure to other children.

“I don’t feel like I could give as much as I’ve given to these girls if I had my own children,” Reed said. “I was always like, ‘If it happened, it happened.’ As I got older, this was my calling: To be a part of children’s lives, and it fulfilled that need for me.” When not working with the kids at On The Road Collaborative, Reed is acting as influencer to four older girls she met through her community just like her mentors did for her. Usually on a one-onone basis, Reed will have them over to her house to talk about their lives and navigate whatever issues are plaguing the girls. Cierra Pharr joins two other mentees in On The Road Collaborative offices on a chilly December morning, having just been picked up by Reed and promised breakfast out (Reed admits the only thing she never learned from her idols growing up was how to cook). Pharr was a freshman in high school when she first met Reed. Now 19 years old, Reed has helped Pharr through high school drama, choosing a college, dealing with roommate issues and changing majors. But Reed’s influence stretched beyond a simple “how to” of academics and college applications. She helped coax the shy, quiet high-schooler out of her shell and show her that her goals were attainable. “I actually started to look at careers I wanted to do,” Pharr, who is now a freshman at Radford University, said. “I knew I wanted to go to college, but didn’t know how. She was the how.” Harmony Wilson just met Reed last August at a Delta Sigma Theta back-to-school cookout. Wilson, 17, who is in the process of applying to colleges, didn’t know what options were available to her, and Reed stepped in to open her eyes. “I was around the environment of the Deltas and saw how welcoming they were,” Wilson said with a smile. “Ms. Deanna was a way to get assimilated into that community where you can be around people like you who want to be educated and aspire toward the things that you do.” But just like the women who raised her, Reed also knew when to dole out some tough love. She was a “kick in the butt” for 17-year-old Taya Whitley, who never thought herself smart enough for college and held off on applying. “[Reed] always made sure I did stuff, so I wouldn’t procrastinate, and I had my applications out in time,” Whitley said, as she sits wearing a NASA T-shirt. “She encouraged me to keep trying and try different ways. Like if one way didn’t work, to try a different way.” Working with their mothers and encouraging her mentees, Reed gave these young women the strength to take what they wanted from life. The only thing Reed fears as she watches them grow up is their diminished reliance on her. “I’m afraid of that because they won’t need me anymore, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Reed said, referencing the heart-warming text messages she still receives from other mentees. “I want to see these girls grow up and see what they become, because it’s going to be something fabulous.” She hopes Wilson, Whitley and Pharr will become mentors of their own someday, becoming the next generation of inspiring black women like Reed and her mentors before her — being voices for the community, starting their own village. Reed vocalizes her wishes, and all three girls respond without hesitation. “Challenge accepted.”

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HOLIDAY HEAD START Early Vacation Planning Has Its Benefits By Preston Knight

Metro Creative

flight, you better get a jump on booking, as last-minute deals are less likely, advises Cindy Jones, an agent with Earman & Associates Travel in Harrisonburg. Most airlines have their own tour companies and can offer lower airfares, and package deals can save you even further, versus booking individual items — hotel and flight, basically — separately. “We’re thinking of hundreds of things that we don’t even explain to you,” Turner said. Jones said: “Whether it’s us or someone else, use a qualified travel agent. If you run into issues during travel, we know the answers to get.”


he way vacations often go, people normally need a break upon their return from paradise. The last thing they need, then, is any added stress in advance of the trip to bookend it all. Actually, the planning portion has proven to be the best part (apparently). An article last summer from The Huffington Post cites a 2010 study in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life as stating that just planning 16

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or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it. The perfect vacation, from getting the best price to reaching the proper destination, can require months of such planning. Whether you go at it alone or seek the services of a travel agent, the earlier you prepare, the more you will be rewarded in the short and long run. Charles Turner, president of Turner Travel in Harrisonburg, suggests

booking tickets up to a year in advance in some situations, such as trips to Africa or Australia. Meanwhile, cruises should be locked in about six months ahead of time, or nine months in the case of longer cruises, which last two weeks or more, he said. Airlines offer different pricing based on the time of the year, week, or even day, making the ticket-buying process even trickier. And, if you have specific needs, such as desiring a nonstop

“Whether it’s us or someone else, use a qualified travel agent. If you run into issues during travel, we know the answers to get.” —Cindy Jones Before you scoff at having to pay for a travel agent when you’re already planning a pricey vacation, it’s important to know that hotels, vacation package companies and

cruise lines already include travel agent commissions in their pricing. “People believe travel agents charge an exorbitant amount of money. That’s not true,” Jones said. “[We charge a fee] only if all you’re booking with us is air. If you’re cruising, going on a honeymoon, etc., there’s no fee. The vendor pays us to book everything for them. It’s always good to have help.” If you prefer spending a lot of time browsing the internet or on the phone trying to lock down that ideal vacation, nobody will stop you. Travel experts, though, have a knack for getting you more through agency partnerships with vendors, such as free breakfasts and shipboard credits, according to the

website of Meredith Wells, a Harrisonburg-based agent for Travel Leaders. “We want you to pay as little as possible,” Turner said. A little perspective will also come in handy when setting a budget. Jones booked a trip to Disney for a Danish client, who marveled at how affordable it was. “People here,” she said of Americans, “it’s [viewed as] so expensive. It’s nothing for someone from Europe to take two, three weeks off at a time.”

Set Your Sights While everyone would prefer paying the best price, the location and type of vacation certainly varies. If you walk into Turner’s office, he has one prerequisite: Have a general idea of what you want.

“Passport renewal already takes about six weeks, and many destinations require foreign passports to be valid for months after your trip.” —SmarterTravel “Most people have an idea of a feeling they’d like to experience,” he said. “If we don’t understand the basic motivation for the trip, it’s very hard for us to be helpful. … If you understand the motivation of the client, it becomes so much easier. “There are some people who need forced leisure. Some want to ‘see and do.’

Some are looking to rekindle a romance, or maybe going for a family reunion trip. … Half the time clients end up booking something else [than expected].” For example, Turner recently secured a trip to Hawaii for an older client who sought a warm destination, but not a cruise. The agent advised that, given the length of the flight, “now” might be the time to make that trip. “‘Hawaii’ had not ever entered his head,” Turner said. “It never occurred to him.” Vacations that are currently popular include Cuba, group outings to Scotland or Ireland, escort trips to national parks, coach tours out West, and river cruising in Europe. The latter appeals to retirees and older

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vacationers, Turner said, and generally entails docking in the middle of towns. “It just so happens that your hotel is floating in the river,” he said.

This is in contrast to the ordinary cruise, which, while still a special experience, “Where you’re really going is on the ship,” Turner said. If vacation takes you

out of the country this year, Jones has another important piece of advice: If you are getting or renewing your passport in 2017, do it immediately. In 2007, a law enacted by the 9/11 Commission made passports necessary for all travel to and from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. At the time, the U.S. State Department saw an “unprecedented surge” in applications, according to SmarterTravel, an advice website. Millions of travelers acquired 10-year passports in 2007 as a result, and now they’re all about to expire. “It’s safe to assume many of those passport holders will need to renew, which means that passport applications will jump significantly once again,” SmarterTravel says.

“Passport renewal already takes about six weeks, and many destinations require foreign passports to be valid for months after your trip. Factor in unknown delays, and you might have a lot less time to renew than you thought.” If you want vacation to truly be vacation, who wants all of that stress before you even step out of the door? Besides, planning is the fun part, right? Jeroen Nawijn, lead author of the study cited by The Huffington Post last year, told The New York Times as much. “The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip,” he told the Times.

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Visit Us At: 240 Lucy Dr., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 Call to schedule your appointment today

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540.434.3831 or 800.545.3348

540.434.3831 or 800.545.3348

540.434.3831 or 800.545.3348

2291 Evelyn Byrd Ave. Harrisonburg, VA

2291 Evelyn Byrd Ave. Harrisonburg, VA

2291 Evelyn Byrd Ave. Harrisonburg, VA

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Spotlight on Health & Medical in the Valley (continued) Shenandoah Chiropractic Neurology Clinic Louis E. Nelsen, III, MD, FACOG is a caring and compassionate health care professional. He has been caring for women in the Shenandoah Valley for over twenty years.

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540-438-1314 •


FAITH These area houses of worship invite you to join them. It could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

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JESUS MT. OLIVET CHRISTIAN CHURCH 38 Mt. Olivet Church Road, Elkton, VA 22827

Pastor Wayne Wright


240 Lucy Drive Harrisonburg, VA 22801

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New Hope Christian Church 1020 Smithland Rd., Harrisonburg 540-434-4810

“The Country Church In The City”

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A Ministry of the Mt. Bethel ChurCh of the Brethren Located at 8516 Robinson Rd., Dayton adjacent to the Mt. Bethel Church of the Brethren (formerly the Mt. Bethel COB parsonage)

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