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September 2010

The Greater Raleigh Court Civic League

R a l e i g h C o u rt — A H i s t o r I C A L N E I G H B O R H O O D L O O K I N G F O R WA R D

Virginia Heights gets new playground equipment Working with Roanoke Neighborhood Services Coordinator Bob Clement, the Civic League found the grant could be redirected to Virginia Heights Elementary. Over the past two years, the School Board has seen its budget reduced drastically as tax revenues in the city have fallen and the state has slashed its support for local school districts. As a result, there is no money in the school budget for “extras” such as playground equipment. Thus, Virginia Heights PTA President Patrice Freeland welcomed the offer and enthusiastically set to work on selecting the equipment. Just as we were about to order the equipment, budget cuts struck again. This time the City reduced the amount awarded for the grant by 30%. Freeland went to work, finding a parent who runs a construction company and was willing to install the equipment for free. She also got a substantial discount from the equipment distributor. In a unique partnership, a diverse group of community organizations have joined together to purchase new playground equipment at Virginia Heights Elementary. The equipment was finally installed in June, despite several setbacks caused by school and city budget cuts. In the spring of 2009, Raleigh Court Elementary parent approached the Civic League for help in securing a playground grant for that school. The Civic League met with the principal, parents and the PTA president to put together an application for a Neighborhood Development Grant through the City. Unfortunately, after we received the grant, budget cuts forced the closure of Raleigh Court Elementary.

Inside This Issue

President’s Message..................................................... 3 People’s Choice at Raleigh Court Library..................... 4 Grandin Automotive Goes Pure.................................. 5 Conversation with New City Manager........................ 5 Rebuilding Together................................................... 6 Spring Block Party a Big Success................................. 7 Downing Brothers...................................................... 8 Things You Need to Know........................................ 10 Calendar................................................................. 10

However, more funds were needed. Virginia Heights parent Susan Mabery organized a community yard sale with donations from almost 40 families. The PTA also used funds from the annual Walk-A-Thon organized by PTA Board chairperson Angela Crawford. Fifty-seven kids gathered donations, including support from JC Construction, Build-a-Bear, the Salem Red Sox and the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op. With —continued on page 3

September Meeting Potluck and Meet the GRCCL Everything old is new, as the Civic League starts a new year with a number of folks in new positions. Most are familiar faces, a few are new. Join us for a potluck dinner at 6:30 pm on Thursday, September 9, in the Fellowship Hall of Christ Lutheran Church, located at the corner of Grandin Road and Brandon Avenue. After dinner, at approximately 7:00 pm, our program will include an introduction of the volunteers who make the Civic League move. From Adopt-A-Highway chair to Webmaster, and all jobs in between, this talented and dedicated group of folks will be there to explain what we have in mind for the upcoming year.

Greater Raleigh Court Civic League Officers 2010-2011 OFFICERS President: Chad Braby 798-2576 Vice-President: Vacant Treasurer: Ruth Dickerson 345-2187

Martha Graves Immediate Past President: Susan Koch 345-9977 COMMITTEE CHAIRS: Membership: Greg Brock

Recording Secretary: Keith Dabbs 342-2446

Adopt-a-Highway: Kurt Navratil 343-7373

Corresponding Secretary: Cassandra Van Hyning 798-1996

Brook Dickson

Directors at Large: Greg Brock Melissa Morgan 312-3587 Jake Gilmer Matt Pritts

Special Projects: Tony Stavola 345-0010 Greenways: Mike Urbanski 344-1388 Building Management: Bobby Hoffman 904-279 Grandin Road Merchants Liaison: Kurt Navratil Web & Social Media: Jake Gilmer The Court Reporter is published by the Greater Raleigh Court Civic League fives times a year on or about the first week of September, November, January, March, and May.

Neighborhood Affairs Committee: Vacant Program: Melissa Morgan Mary Dykstra Dawn Werness 343-2151 Newsletter: Sam Carlson 266-0967

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From the President

President’s Message Change. It’s in the air. It’s all around. The leaves on the dogwoods are tingeing red, the leaves on the sycamores are getting crispy. Birds are getting quieter by the day in unspoken anticipation of fall and winter. If there’s one thing we can count on to stay the same, it’s that nothing will stay the same. The Greater Raleigh Court Civic League is not immune to this law. As happens every two years, we start fresh with a new President and a few new Board members. This change is a little discomforting, and it certainly creates some work in trying to fill volunteer and leadership spots. But the net effect of this change is positive, as new faces bring new ideas and energy, and the organization avoids some of the pitfalls of entrenched history. Although I’ve lived in the neighborhood for six years, and been involved with the Civic League for most of those, I’m a new face as President. I hope to continue the tradition of bringing some fresh perspective to the organization. To that end, our Board started off our year a few weeks ago when we gathered for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon to talk about the mission of the Civic League. Daunting stuff, this work of “vision-ing”, and maybe a little heavy for a midAugust weekend. But it’s important work, and it was a quality discussion. Facilitated by the highly competent Michael Gettings, a professor at Hollins University, the Board talked about its past efforts and its future goals. Historically, GRCCL has tended to be a many-tentacled organization. We organize block parties. We communicate with residents. We liaise with the City of Roanoke. We support some initiatives and development within the neighborhood, and oppose others. We obtain grant monies for projects like the Murray Run Greenway, Dan Wright trailhead, and Virginia Heights Playground. We support Grandin Village and manage the building that houses our favorite tenant, Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar.

headache. By making this choice, we each build community on our own. The Civic League serves to support our individual efforts. Granted, the theme of Building Community doesn’t provide an instant roadmap to how the Civic League should operate over the next year, or two, or ten. It does, however, give us a solid foundation. Our organization, as an all-volunteer effort, has limited resources and energy, and it’s important that we choose our path with some critical thought. While we’d like to be able to be all things to all neighbors, that’s not realistic. I welcome your input on this conversation. I also welcome your hand. With more volunteers and fresh ideas comes a more successful effort at Building Community. Our September 9 gathering is a great opportunity to see us in action. We’ll share a potluck dinner, and our meeting topic will be an introduction of our Board and critical volunteers and will include a conversation about where we could use fresh faces. Hope to see you there.

Playground—continued from page 1

the extra help, we finally had enough funds to purchase the equipment. Incoming PTA President Emily Flowers organized another team effort to install the equipment. Parents Josh Crawford and Michael Maina worked over two days to put up the equipment. Representatives from Roanoke Parks & Rec and from the equipment distributor helped. The playground at Virginia Heights is open to the community. Even though school is out for the summer, Raleigh Court parents and kids are already enjoying the new equipment. This playground grant is one of several the Civic League has received through the Neighborhood Development Grant program. Other recent grants were for a Rebuilding Together project, the Dan Wright Trailhead and banners in Grandin Village.

This list is long and distinguished, but it begs some questions; are any of these efforts more important than others? Are any less relevant than they were ten or twenty years ago? Which can we do best, and which are most crucial to the health of the neighborhood in the next ten or twenty years? These types of questions cannot be answered in a two-hour discussion, but the seeds of some direction were planted. With Mr. Getting’s guidance, we fell into general agreement on an overarching theme that might be best summed as, “The Civic League exists to Build Community”. We all live in Raleigh Court for the community. It’s a lifestyle we choose with intention. We want trees and sidewalks, and we desire the walkable retail hub that is Grandin Village. We prefer older homes with some history, even if they cause us an occasional page 3

People’s Choice at the Raleigh Court Library Have you ever been disappointed when you visited the Raleigh Court Library and couldn’t find what you were looking for? Now’s your chance to get just what you want at the library. From now through mid-October, the Raleigh Court Library is running a special Wishlist Drive. Library visitors are invited to add their selections to the list librarian Diane McGuire and her staff are compiling. Thanks to two grants Raleigh Court Library has received, our neighborhood branch will be able to buy $2,500 worth of new adult, young adult and children’s books, as well as movies, music CDs, electronic books and magazine subscriptions. “The grants are especially important this year,” says McGuire. “Funding for new purchases has been slashed—the state cut its budget by 50%, while the city reduced its contribution by 30%. Additionally, our operating budget has been cut, and we’ve had to close on Thursday nights. It’s very frustrating, since more people than ever are using the library.” The grants came from the Dorothy Koch Family Foundation, with a partial match from the Friends of the Raleigh Court Library. The Dorothy Koch Family Foundation honors Dorothy Kautz Koch and her lifelong commitment to education. Mrs. Koch emphasized reading and education both in raising her four children and in her career as an elementary school teacher. She was an avid reader and public library supporter. The Raleigh Court Friends of the Library is a local group which raises funds and advocates for the Library. “Government budgets are going to be very tight for the next several years,” said Susan Koch, president of the Dorothy Koch Family Foundation. “We urge others to support our library by making tax deductible contributions to the Roanoke Public Library Foundation or to the Friends of the Library.” To add to the Raleigh Court Wishlist, just go to and click on “wish list.” Enter “Roanoke Public Libraries” in the Find someone’s Wish List box. You’re on your way! Or you can just stop by the Raleigh Court Library and add to the list. Everyone is welcome to submit selections to the Wishlist from now until October 12. Then Library staff will make final choices and purchase as much as the budget allows.

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Grandin Automotive Goes Pure Many of you have noticed a new color scheme and a change from Texaco to Pure gasoline at the Grandin Automotive on Grandin Road at Bluemont Avenue. What happened? Earlier this year Chevron-Texaco announced that it is pulling out of thirteen Mid-Atlantic states, so Grandin Automotive owner, Bill Millner, had to make a decision. He could go independent and sell unbranded gas, or switch brands. He chose to sell Pure brand gasoline, which enabled him to keep the same jobber (wholesaler) and to sign up to terms that suited his business – a mix of gasoline sales and service repair work. On a recent Monday, the station was a flurry of activity. Bill pumped gas at the full service island while roll-back tow trucks were hauling away a couple of cars. The Berglund Automotive truck was removing a Mazda minivan which had run over a small bear on I-81 over the weekend and destroyed the radiator. Big John's Towing carted off a Camaro. Mike, the mechanic, was busy with state inspections and test driving cars that didn't sound quite right to the owner.

From left, Tim Kessler, Mike Baldwin, Bill Millner

The driver of the Virginia Heights Baptist Church van patiently waited ten minutes for someone to come inside and take his gas money. During the wait he recalled that when Dallas Shelton and Bob “PeeWee” Hall moved the station to its present location around 1970 from the corner of Grandin and Memorial, the church repurchased the land which is now the amphitheater area. [Also see The Court Reporter, November 2009, article on The Grandin Road Texaco by Nelson Harris.] Bill, who has been in the auto service business since 1971, bought the business from Dallas and PeeWee in June 2003. This was right in the middle of Chevron's acquisition of Texaco, so Bill changed the name from Grandin Road Texaco to Grandin Automotive, not knowing whether the Texaco brand would be around. As it turned out, the Texaco brand proved to be so strong that Chevron did not abandon it. After all, “you can trust your car to the man who wears the star.” During his years in the business, Bill has seen gas shortage crises, and the transformation of the business model from gas-and-mechanical services to the convenience store approach. There are three employees plus Bill's wife Shirley, who does the bookkeeping. Tim Kessler, who lives two blocks away on Grandin Road, has completed 23 years at the station. Mike Baldwin is a 10-year employee. Tommy Burgess has been there four years. Both Mike and Tommy are seasoned mechanics who have operated their own businesses in the past. Grandin Automotive is a true neighborhood business. Some of the customers are great-grandchildren of Grandin Texaco customers. While the elderly lady who used to arrive in her 1948 Packard is no longer around, there are still a number of vintage cars making regular appearances at the station. Bill thinks that a 1966 Cadillac convertible is probably the oldest original condition car that they service. A man came in to pick up his car after getting a state inspection. It had received a rejection sticker for worn front brakes. This owner was inclined to do his own brake work, so Bill spent ten or fifteen minutes giving him a tutorial on what kind of parts to buy and how to distinguish between quality and junk. After he left, Bill remarked, “You know, he likes to do the small jobs like oil changes and brake work, but he had us replace his wiper blades. Go figure.”

A Conversation with the New City Manager GRCCL’s May, 2010 meeting featured a conversation with new Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill. At the time, Mr. Morrill had been on the job a few short months, so he mostly listened to a lineup of local dignitaries that expounded on various topics. Included in the speakers were:

spoke on the successes and needs of the Grandin Village business community. • Melissa Morgan, historic real estate specialist and owner of Renaissance Real Estate, talked about the issues facing the neighborhood housing market.

• Dr. Tony Stavola, a decades-long resident and Regional Medical Director for Carilion, shared his wisdom on the state of our schools and on the history and work of the Civic League. • Brenda McDaniel, another past president of the Civic League and current Executive Director of Alumni and Donor Relations at Hollins, talked about why people are so darn attracted to the neighborhood. • Jenny Prickett, owner of New to Me Consignment Boutique,

Mr. Morrill also took questions from the audience and shared a few of his goals as City Manager. A short term plan included conducting a thorough search for a new Chief of Police that would encompass outside candidates as well as in-house employees. Longer term goals included furthering the development and marketing of the region’s fantastic outdoors amenities, a feature of the Valley that was very prominent in attracting he and his family to take on the relocation and new job.

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Rebuilding Together On an April Saturday, Civic League and other volunteers gathered to help an elderly homeowner in Northwest Roanoke. Some were fortified with the Kiwanis pancake breakfast earlier in the morning. Everyone came ready to work on this Rebuilding Together project. One crew, led by Chad Van Hyning, stripped the concrete front porch and steps of shabby, worn-out carpeting and glued down a new version. Others, including volunteers from the Junior League, painted the house’s foundation. Another group, having determined that the wooden shutters were badly deteriorated, installed new vinyl ones. Mike Urbanski and relatives of the homeowner rebuilt a walkway which had been damaged by snow and rain. Inside, a bathroom received repairs to a leaking drain, all new paint on the walls and ceiling, and a new floor. The stage was set to accomplish all this work on the previous Wednesday when a small group of volunteers scraped the loose paint from the foundation and removed most of the old indoor-outdoor carpeting. Wednesday was also the day that a professional window crew replaced all of the house's old leaky windows with new vinyl units from Russco. Mrs. Miller, the homeowner, seemed to be enjoying every minute of the continual buzz around her. Her three daughters kept her company, and her sons-in-law helped with various tasks. Even the neighborhood got involved – a next door neighbor offered his water faucet for some cleanup work, and others brought the volunteers ice cream sandwiches. A Neighborhood Development Grant from the City funded the Civic League’s participation in Rebuilding Together. Rebuilding Together is a national organization that helps low income homeowners maintain their homes. The local chapter repaired over 25 homes in the Roanoke Valley this year. Rebuilding Together depends on volunteers and donations, and all the work is free to the homeowner. page 6

Spring Block Party a Big Success The annual Block Party, organized by the Grandin Village Business Association and the Civic League, was held in May was a big success. A spring thunderstorm briefly scattered folks, but didn’t dampen the overall enthusiasm of the large crowd. A debt of gratitude is owed to Susan Stump and Kelly List for their efforts in running the show.

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Virginia Heights Summer Concert

Downing Brothers Ron Downing (bass), Perry Downing (keyboards), Roger Dickenson (guitar), & Bobby Henry (drums) performed at the Virginia Heights Baptist Church Summer Concert Series on July 11, 2010.

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Things you need to know… New Additions to Grandin Village The Yoga Center moves to Grandin Village, after 12 years at Piccadilly Square. Please join us in welcoming Debbie Stevens, the owner of the Yoga Center to the heart of Grandin Village at 1316 B Grandin Rd., above Grace's Place Pizzeria. Debbie is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), with 22 years teaching experience, offering classes for all ages and all levels. Free classes are offered the 3rd Friday each month at 3:30 PM. The Yoga Center joins the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-Op and other Grandin area business serving families with a focus on health and wellness. More information can be found at On July 30, Local Roots Café started operations at its new location adjacent to the Grandin Theatre. Owner Diane Elliot is excited about the new prime location and the amenities they’ll offer, including a full bar, outdoor seating, and indoor “porch”, and a wood-fired brick oven. In the notto-distant future, Elliot hopes to offer live music. Local Roots Café has an eclectic and varying menu created by a talented chef, and features locally grown ingredients and foods. More at facebook/localrootscafe.

Community Markets Charge Into Autumn

The theme this year is Heroes and Villains. Costumes are optional, but certainly add to the fun. Come to enjoy live music from Monkey Fuzz, a silent auction, hors d oeuvres, cash bar. Tickets for the event, held at the adjacent Roanoke Ballet Theatre, are $35, with $5 off for Movie Maker Members. Contact Marketing Director Barbara Wise for more at

Grandin Children’s Holiday Parade Will be held Saturday November 20 at 11 am. The event is organized by the Grandin Village Business Association, and the Civic League assists with providing volunteers for traffic control at the closed cross streets. We need volunteers. It’s easy duty; you can watch the parade with your family while wearing a snazzy orange vest. Contact Chad Braby at Thanks!!

Patrick Henry High School Football PH home football dates this year are August 27, September 10, September 24, October 1, October 15, and October 22. Come check out a fun Friday evening in the neighborhood! All games start at 7 pm. Also look to for other PH home sports events.

The Grandin Village Community Market will continue selling local produce and products every Saturday, 8am – 12 pm through October, at its location behind the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op. The West End Community Market will continue at its location at the corner of Patterson Ave and 13th St every Wednesday evening, 4-7 pm, through September. But wait, there’s more! Market organizer Brent Cochran has announced that the market season will continue indoors through December at the West End Center on the same schedule, every Wednesday evening, 4-7 pm. Keep current on your locavore needs at

Women’s 5k in Raleigh Court The 28th annual Star City Women’s 5k will be held Saturday, October 2. Race director Amy Rockhill is organizing the latest edition of the longest continual all-female nonscholastic race in Virginia. The course starts at the Post Office and winds through the neighborhood, finishing in the Village. Proceeds from the race benefit the Star City Strider’s and its charity partner, Children’s Trust. More info and online sign-up available at

Grandin Theatre Soiree The annual benefit bash for the Grandin Theatre Foundation will be Saturday, October 30 at 7:30 pm.

Calendar Sept Membership Meeting & Potluck..... Thurs, Sept 9, 6:30pm PH Home Football vs Pulaski....................................Fri, Sept 10 PH Home Football vs Blacksburg..............................Fri, Sept 24 PH Home Football vs Christiansburg...........................Fri, Oct 1 Star City Women’s 5k.................................................. Sat, Oct 2 PH Home Football vs Franklin County......................Fri, Oct 15 PH Home Football vs Wm Fleming...........................Fri, Oct 22 Grand Theatre Soiree................................................. Sat, Oct 30 Grandin Children’s Holiday Parade...........................Sat, Nov 20

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Greater Raleigh Court Civic League P.O. Box 3092 Roanoke, VA 24015


Address Service Requested

Membership Form

q new member q renewing member New members are welcome to join the Civic League at any time. Your mailing label shows when it’s time to renew your membership. You may pay your dues at the next membership meeting. Multiyear or life memberships are welcome! The Civic League is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Donations may be claimed as charitable deductions for tax purposes.

Please mail your membership dues ($10 family, $15 business, or $100 life membership) or gifts to: GRCCL, P.O. Box 3092, Roanoke, VA 24015 Or go to and click on “JOIN US” to fill out a membership application online. Name Address

E-mail Address



Home Phone

Business Phone

Amount Enclosed I’d like to help out with:


Donation q in memory of q in honor of

GRCCL newsletter 2010-09  


GRCCL newsletter 2010-09