JMU & the Valley Volume 33, 2010
Capturing the Presidency JMU Alum Lawrence Jackson Chronicles History as a White House Photographer
Hope for Haiti • A New Valley Vineyard • Making Classic Guitars • Hess Furniture, and More!
JMU & the Valley Volume 33, 2010 Executive Editors Megan Williams Anna Young Creative Director Rebecca Schneider Production Manager Hana Uman Articles Editors Sarah Coppinger Cory Kuklick Beth Principi Copy Editors Tina Dilegge Greg Hirsch Photography Editors Marie Christopher Jeff Harris Senior Editor Tim Chapman Contributors Lauren Babbage Robert Boag Ansa Edim Matthew Johnson Rebekah Lowe Kristin McGregor Hannah Pace Mary Potter Katie Thisdell Monica Wilder Dustin Woolridge Advisers Brad Jenkins David Wendelken
Curio is a regional generalinterest feature magazine published each year by students in the School of Media Arts & Design at James Madison University. Curio is a nonprofit organization supported by the College of Arts and Letters and the School of Media Arts & Design. Subscriptions are not available.
From the Editors: To our readers, As you peruse the pages of this magazine, we hope you enjoy the delightful articles highlighting various aspects of our community, including interesting people and places around the valley. From down the street on South Main to La Gonave, Haiti, we showcase community members who are actively making a difference. We also take a peek into the lives of Mennonites, business members and JMU professors. Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley has so many interesting places, people and things to see and do and we are glad to highlight just a few of them. Through the articles we have chosen to print, we hope you can see a real connection between faith, family and community throughout the Valley. We chose the cover story to illustrate how individuals such as Lawrence Jackson have contributed to both their school and their community and have moved on to enjoy great success. Despite the weather that resulted in many cancelled classes, which ultimately put our staff a bit behind schedule, we are proud to present this publication into which we have poured many hours and much effort. We hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we loved putting it together. We would like to thank everyone who has helped us along the way to make this the 33rd consecutive publication of this award-winning magazine, especially Dr. David Wendelken and Mr. Brad Jenkins. We hope you enjoy reading Curio and exploring the fascinating world we all have the pleasure to live in.
Megan Williams & Anna Young
On The Cover:
President Barack Obama and Sen. Ted Kennedy participate in a national service event at The SEED School of Washington, D.C., on April 21, 2009. Official White House Photo Photographed by Lawrence Jackson
Civil War tavern sees its name revived in Cross Keys Vineyard, a local winery in Mt. Crawford, Va. By Jeff Harris
The Sharp Sound
Luthier Ron Sharp constructs classic acoustic guitars in his backyard workshop. By Greg Hirsch
CommUnity for Christ
Relax in the Past
Traditional core values unite both liberal and conservative Mennonites across the Valley. By Sarah Coppinger
A familiar face in the community, Nelson Hess, offers unique items for store visitors. By Dustin Woolridge
By the Side of the Road Bed & Breakfast provides an escape for locals and a resting place for weary travelers. By Matt Johnson & Beth Principi
From Madison to Washington
Searching for Hope Amid the Ruins
From Fighting to Writing
New Hope Guitars Handcrafted in the Shenandoah Valley
JMU professor Tom Moran motivates children to succeed despite mental and physical disabilities. By Tim Chapman & Rebekah Lowe
Mennonite Community and Family Farm Create a Web of Values
JMU alum and accomplished photographer captures images of President Barack Obamaâ€™s term in office. By Anna Young
After a devastating earthquake in Haiti, JMU professor Mary Tacy returns to aid in relief efforts through ongoing partnership. By Hana Uman & Katie Thisdell
JMU Professor Returns to Haiti After Earthquake
Activism, poetry and music help JMU professor NIkitah Imani give passionate lectures to his students. By Ansa Edim
Not Just Any Place
Our Community Place community center brings people together through food, fellowship and support. By Monica Wilder
The Farm of Many Faces
Organic options and grass-fed animals make local market-farm, Polyface, Inc., a green and healthy alternative. By Tina Dilegge
Historic downtown Harrisonburg thrives while many businesses around the country struggle financially. By Cory Kuklick & Mary Potter
STAFF BIOS Megan Williams is a senior SMAD and anthropology double major from Fredericksburg, Va. She was an editor at The Breeze for two years and was the executive editor of Madison 101 last year. She has also spent the past two summers interning at The Free Lance-Star, the daily newspaper in Fredericksburg. After graduation, she hopes to get a journalism job. Anna Young is a senior SMAD and sociology
double major from Northern Virginia. She has held leadership positions on various publications, including The Breeze and Madison 101. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector and become a freelance magazine writer.
is a senior SMAD major and music industry minor from southern New Jersey. She is the editor-in-chief of The Bluestone, the universityâ€™s yearbook, and was also the editor of Curio last year. Upon graduation, she hopes to follow her passion for visual media and creative design in an entertainment or publication environment.
is a senior SMAD major and a political science minor from Reston, Va. She has spent two years on the executive board of the JMU College Democrats and as a Relay for Life team captain. She has participated in volunteer trips to New Orleans and Nicaragua, and is also a contributing writer for The Breeze. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector.
is a senior SMAD and English double major from Medway, Mass. She holds a leadership position in the JMU organization Student Ambassadors and is a member of the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta, as well as a contributing writer for The Breeze. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in journalism, editing and writing for a music, fashion or entertainment magazine.
Cory Kuklick is a senior SMAD major from
Ashburn, Va. He is an editorial assistant at the Mine Action Information Center, where he edits, researches and writes for the Journal of ERW and Mine Action, and is a contributing writer for The Breeze. After graduation he hopes to pursue a job in magazine editing or writing.
Beth Principi is a junior SMAD major and
creative writing minor from Braintree, Mass. She is the supervising editor of The Bluestone, and was previously a writer for the publication, as well as for CISAT Creative Services, an online publication for the College of Integrated Science and Technology. She was also a writer and designer for Potty Mouth, a bimonthly newsletter focused on health issues. After graduation, she hopes to attend law school.
Tina Dilegge is a senior SMAD major and creative writing minor from Stafford, Va. After graduation she is moving to Flagstaff, Ariz., to do volunteer conservation work and hopes to eventually pursue a career in journalism.
Greg Hirsch is a senior SMAD major from
Towson, Md. He has worked as a freelance writer and blogger, and also has experience in the technical writing field. After graduation, he will pursue a job in journalism or public relations.
Marie Christopher is a junior SMAD
major and music industry minor from Harrisonburg, Va. She has held numerous leadership positions, including president of SMAD Club and founder and president of a local recycling program. She has been employed as a photographer/videographer for the United States Navy since her freshman year. After graduation, she plans to be a photographer for a music magazine.
Jeff Harris is a senior SMAD major from Woodbridge, Va. He has held various positions with the JMU Orientation Program and is the photography editor of SMAD About You, SMADâ€™s alumni publication. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in photography and advertising. Tim Chapman
is a senior journalism major and Spanish minor from Centreville, Va. He was the editor-in-chief of The Breeze for two years after serving as the sports editor for one year. He has interned for Al Jazeera English and the Daily NewsRecord. He is a Society of Professional Journalists award-winning columnist and will pursue a career in journalism after graduation.
Valley Vino Two years after opening, family-owned Cross Keys Vineyard in Mt. Crawford brings a unique taste to local wine enthusiasts and visiting guests. Written & Photographed By Jeff Harris
ust under 10 miles down from historic Port Republic and Cross Keys roads, Cross Keys Vineyard sits among breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains. The Tuscan-inspired building is the product of owners Bob and Nikoo Bakhtiarâ€™s ambition to create something new of worth and significance in the Shenandoah Valley. Living on their 120-acre compound, the Bakhtiarâ€™s home is next to the winery off the very same entrance. Nikoo spends her time around the winery overseeing day-to-day operations as general manager. Her husband, Bob, makes sure the Cross Keys family is always properly equipped, addressing any concerns that come up.
always see the Bakhtiars around, they really care “W eabout this place, and the people that work here,”
said Stephan Heyns, head vintner at Cross Keys. Heyns, a native of South Africa, has international experience working on vineyards in South Africa and Australia, and in the United States at a winery in Charlottesville, Va.
Unearthing CROSS KEYS’ HISTORY
Cross Keys Vineyard, located at 6011 East Timber Ridge Road in Mt. Crawford, Va., opened in May 2008.
The name Cross Keys was taken from an old tavern that took in wounded soldiers and provided lodging to those in need during the American Civil War. The tavern was abandoned after the war and in 2007 was torn down. Its name, however, lived on when Cross Keys Vineyard opened Memorial Day weekend in 2008. The Cross Keys logo, a pair of crossed golden keys, is an old English symbol for hospitality that pubs and taverns have displayed since the days of King Richard II. This principle of hospitality that the old tavern represented is the chief way Cross Keys Vineyard operates on a daily basis.
The Vintner & his Wine “I love working in different places in the world because of all the different soil types,” Heyns said. “It helps me prepare for any situation in many different environments.” Coming to Cross Keys in 2007, Heyns previously worked at a vineyard in Charlottesville. “Here in the Valley we have lower humidity and wind, thanks to the mountains,” noted Heyns. “That means our soil is shallower and sandier than much of central Virginia.” The soil was confirmed to be of ideal
<< Photo Courtesy of Cross Keys Vineyard
quality thanks to suggested tests from Bakhtiar family friend, Joy Strickland, who is also the senior sales representative at the vineyard. The family had originally intended to use the land for crop farming, but Strickland advised that they try their hand at wine making. Soon after, soil samples were sent off for testing to labs at Virginia Tech’s horticultural program, and a week later the results came back positive for wine farming potential. In 2002, vines were purchased, seeds were planted, and Cross Keys Vineyard was in the ground and on its way up. The field and in-house staffs have worked day and night to build the vineyard into a success. They have since developed nine varieties of wine, including their newest wine, the Joy White, the second wine to be named in honor of Strickland. Each wine is made from the vine to the bottle on location. “We are one of the only vineyards in Virginia that grows French grapes here,” said Rebecca Haushalter, tasting and guest relations manager. “It’s a matter of quality control, making sure all our grapes are ripe and rot free. We lose less that way, especially less crushed grapes through shipping”. Cross Keys is able to grow Petit Verdot, a grape principally used in classic Bordeaux blends, thanks to a grafting process where a French grape clone is fused to an American root stock. American grapes are more resistant to a louse called the phylloxera, which makes its home in roots and feeds off them until the root dies, and then moves on to the next root. Since this immunity is not shared by French grape vines, the cloning and fusing process is especially important.
Wine making When late summer rolls in, and the grapes have all ripened, harvest begins. “Summertime can be a bit hectic”, Heyns said. “You are always on-call, there is always something to be done, indoors when it rains, and out in the fields when the weather permits.” Grapes are picked off the vine anywhere from mid-September to the last week in October. Depending on the variety of grapes, some are picked early in the harvest, and some are picked later. Once collected, the grapes go downstairs where all the wine is made. The fruit goes onto a sorting table that extends through the giant garage doors, where workers meticulously pick through grape after grape, inspecting for Stephan Heyns rot, insects or those unfit for wine making. Once cleared, the grapes are destemmed and go into the Europress, a machine used to carefully squeeze the juice out of the grapes without crushing the seeds. Crushing seeds produces an excess of tannins, a bitter acid responsible for the puckery taste in wine. Tannins can throw off the flavor of a wine if too many or too little are added. Next, the juice is left in steel drums anywhere from four to 17 months,
Wine List Joy White, 2009
Stainless steel fermentation of Vidal Blanc creates a refreshing and unique wine that is full of the aromas of peaches and white flowers. Bright acidity and a slight sweetness make it a fine pairing with spicy Asian or Middle Eastern dishes. $16.50
This delightful wine was barrel-fermented in new and used French oak for nine months. Pale straw in color with a bouquet of apple, flowers, honey and vanilla. This wine has a clean acidity and rich mouth-feel that makes it a perfect complement to semisoft cheeses or seafood and roasted poultry dishes. $18.00
Joy Red, 2008
This well-balanced barrel-aged wine is perfect for summertime with its fresh lime-like acidity allowing it to be enjoyed chilled or at room temperature. Deep-colored Chamberlin grapes give depth of character with fruit forward flavors of raspberry and currant. A fine complement to simple stews or more elegant fare and ripened cheeses. $16.50
Cabernet Franc, 2007
The complex aromas of blackberry and cherry accent red fruit and jam flavors. One year in French oak provides a soft, round character. Well suited to more complex dishes and mature cheeses. $21.00
Petit Verdot, 2008
10 months aging in a combination of French and American oak gives this rich, garnet-colored wine a softness and roundness that is balanced by a sound tannic structure. Blackberry and clove with hints of spiciness on the palate make a great pairing with bold, grilled flavors, red meat or strong blue cheese. An excellent wine to pair with chocolate. $26.00
This classic blend of 50 percent Merlot, 17 percent Cabernet Franc and 33 percent Petit Verdot has great red fruit extraction and smooth connected tannins. Fifteen months in new and used oak give the wine a smooth, elegant finish with notes of vanilla and spice. $26.00
Pinot Noir, 2008
The Estate Pinot Noir has bright fruit flavors reminiscent of cherry and violet, crisp acidity and the distinctive earthy qualities of a classic Burgundy. Excellent on its own but beautifully paired with an aged Gouda or a Manchego. $25.00
Ali d’Oro Dessert Wine
This brilliant wine celebrates the history and culture of Cross Keys. Named for Nikoo’s father, Ali, this late harvest Chardonelle combines the rich complexity of fruit with spice, honey and perfectly balanced acidity. Try with a flavorful, strong cheese. $30.00
This red garnet wine is a version of the asperitif port wine. It is made with 100 percent touriga nacional and aged two years in French and American oak barrels. It possesses distinctive aromas of dark cherries and prune with a hint of sweetened kumquat or orange peel on top of it. The right balance of sweetness and softness of the tannins combine to create a very round palate with a nice jam texture. This wine will pair beautifully with any chocolate dessert, dried fruits and nuts. $38.00
where the grape juice ferments into an alcoholic beverage. Once the juice ferments, a truck is backed up and connected to the drums and wine is pumped into American or French Oak barrels that intensify the flavors of the wine, adding tannins as it is stored at 55 degrees for nine to 24 months in a wine cave. The wine doesn’t make it to the bottle without Heyns’ approval. He taste tests every barrel and gives the OK to those that meet his standard, adjusting the ones that do not. “The wine doesn’t make the cut unless I approve it,” Heyns said. It is his sound judgment in the taste of the wines that is responsible for the quality of wine at Cross Keys. And quality is one reason that guests frequent the winery.
Upcoming Events Friday @ Cross K eys
Join Cross Keys for the stylings of Kelly May Brown (June 18, Aug. 13, Sept. 10) and Scruffy Murphy (July 9) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. $15/person includes appetizers. Please call to make your reservations. Limited seating.
R ed, White, & You: An All-American Celebration
Join Cross Keys on July 13, for an evening of music, fireworks and good company! Celebrate the freedom and pride of America at Cross Keys from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., featuring the stylings of “Standing Room Only”. Bring friends, family and a picnic (chairs & blankets) to relax under the stars. $20/person with reservations. $25/ person at the gate. Bring rain gear if necessary. No outside alcoholic beverages allowed. Wine sold by the glass or bottle.
Front Entrance of Cross Keys Photo Courtesy of Cross Keys Vineyard
Visiting Cross Keys Cross Keys loves to host guests for events in their many event rooms and outdoors. Banquets are held in the ballroom with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and meetings take place in the deluxe conference rooms. The vineyard just recently hosted a wedding outside on the stone terrace. If your visit is to see firsthand how the winery operates, then take a tour of the facility, going behind the scenes of the Cross Keys wine making process. “The tours are really fun, especially in the harvest months” Sydney Guokas said. “In the off-season we show off the machinery and the facility, but during harvest we get to really show off the process, the tools, everything just comes alive around here.” Fridays at Cross Keys are not to be missed, accommodating up to 200 guests, Cross Keys plays host to concerts throughout the summer months featuring a wide range of musicians and singers. Experience the beauty of this state-of-the-art facility and savor the taste of fine wines from Cross Keys. Discover where history and beauty blend perfectly with experience and tradition. Cross Keys Vineyards and Estate is open daily (April to December) 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours subject to change for special events and during the winter.
A local musician wanted the perfect acoustic guitar, so he decided to build it himself. By Greg Hirsch
on Sharp sits on the front porch of his Fort Defiance, Va., home, enjoying one of the first days of spring. His four English Setters run wildly around his large front yard. The chirping of birds, the low constant hum of lawn mowers, the barely audible music floating through the windows of passing cars: the sounds of spring. Sharp’s left hand glides naturally down the neck of his six-string guitar. He plucks the metal strings, adding his own song to the chorus of birds.
“A year ago this was a tree lying on the road. I drove by and said, ‘Look at that, let’s hear this tree sing.’” He handles the guitar with such ease that you might think he invented it. In reality, he perfected it. Sharp’s guitars, which are all acoustic, don his company name: New Hope. The guitars are made from some of the rarest, finest woods in the world. Red spruce makes up the hollowedout body of the guitars, mahogany from Honduras is used for the bridge, Brazilian rosewood is used for the fret board, African ebony is used for the neck, and pearls from off the coast of
Photographed by Anna Young CURIO 2010
4 Hawaii are used for various decorative aspects. Sharp has special permits that allow him to use these rare materials. “You can’t go to the store and buy these,” he explains. New Hope guitars are made with the same standards and materials as the famous guitars produced by C.F. Martin and Company in the 1930s. “Martin hasn’t made guitars like these since 1947,” Sharp remarks. “Pre’47 Martins are very expensive—$50,000 and up.” Sharp moved to Fort Defiance in 1991. About four years ago, he built a shop behind his home to manufacture and repair guitars. “I thought I might as well build guitars. It’s not like I have a big agenda for the next 20 years.” Before Sharp built the shop, he would spend many hours fixing old guitars in his basement. “They weren’t nearly as valuable as the ones I make now are,” he says.
Sharp’s shop is quite a sight. It’s roughly the size of a four-car garage and is full of works in progress. There are tables, saws, carving knives, a plethora of exotic woods and a glass-enclosed spray room. “I like to watch paint dry,” says Sharp, chuckling. He grew up in Cass, W.Va., and learned to play guitar at a young age. He
is also perfect for guitars because the wood helps the sound resonate most strongly. Sharp’s hometown of Cass is one of the few regions in the world that produces the “proper” red spruce trees. Sharp learned his craft from Wayne Henderson, a renowned guitar builder from Rugby, a small town in southern Virginia. Henderson has produced guitars for the likes of Eric Clapton, Tommy Emmanual and Gillian Welch, among others. “ Wa y n e … h e’s the man. He’s the best guitar builder in the world. He knows more about vintage guitars than probably anybody.” It didn’t always come this easy to Sharp. “First guitar I built? Absolutely too heavy,” he recalls. There’s a fine line between a guitar’s strength and how well its sound resonates. A lightweight guitar may have a better sound, but it will not be as durable. Accordingly, a guitar that is
“As long as I’m alive, you’ll have a great guitar. That’s about as good as I can do.” – Ron Sharp
has been learning about woodworking his entire life. “Woodworking was a way of life where I grew up. Logging is the only real industry over there,” he says. “When it comes to guitars, one of the keys is definitely the red spruce. I grew up looking out the window at this stuff.” Sharp says that the red spruce is the strongest wood in the world as far as its weight-to-strength ratio. The red spruce
5 1. Ron Sharp plays the guitar on his front porch. 2. Guitars built by Sharp’s students hang from the ceiling. 3. A work-in-progress guitar waits its turn to become a masterpiece. 4. Wood samples from all over the globe are showcased on the workshop walls. 5. Sharp walks toward his large workshop with two of his guitars in hand.
too heavy will not reach its maximum potential for sound quality. “That’s what Wayne knows. He knows that line. We’ve walked that line many Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.” Today, building guitars is second nature to Sharp. “Now it’s just: get a piece of wood and peck on it…you just know what to do with it.” Ron Sharp is a music maker, but he’s also a community man. He recently retired from the Rockingham County school system where he taught robotics. He has donated guitars to be auctioned off for the Rockingham Education Foundation, and he regularly gives his guitars to children. A 7-yearold boy from his neighborhood comes to his shop every Wednesday to learn the basics of guitar building and woodworking. Sharp has given thought to the decline of music courses in public schools. “I’d love to put a grassroots thing together. If I could teach guitar building in a grade school, I’d absolutely do it.” Sharp frequently plays his guitar to provide entertainment at retirement communities and Rotary Clubs. He seems to relish the opportunities to give back to the community while doing what he loves. Sharp sits up in his chair, about to strike up another tune. His dogs scurry around him in anticipation of the first chord. “As long as I’m alive, you’ll have a great guitar,” he says, smiling. “That’s about as good as I can do.” _________________ CURIO 2010
Tonya Showalter (middle), and sister-in-law, Amy (right), prepare for a bike ride, while Candace (left) hangs back to help in the chicken house.
CommUnity for Christ
Mennonite families in Rockingham County stay true to an Old-Order faithâ€™s core values in a fast-paced society. By Sarah Coppinger
lack bumpers. Amish people. The ones with the bonnets.
Mennonites in and around the Harrisonburg community have heard all of the ways that non-Mennonites have described them. What outsiders do not realize is that not every Mennonite is the same, and many do not practice any of the old customs that cause people to mistake them for the Amish. Their values, though, remain consistent throughout each community. Old Order Mennonites who ride horse-drawn buggies, conservative Mennonites who own only black-colored vehicles, and liberal Mennonites who can drive motorcycles, all share the same core values and belief in Jesus Christ. According to Third Way Media, a Web site supported by Mennonites nationwide that provides news and information on their Christian beliefs, Mennonites believe that following in the footsteps of Jesus is the right way to live, and peacemaking is the ticket to get to heaven. Photographed by Monica Wilder
The Liberal Mennonite: Open Minds & Open Hearts
In a cozy townhouse off Va. Route 42 on a quiet Thursday evening, Paul and Katrina Yoder, both Harrisonburg city school teachers, open their doors to a small group of young adults from their church, Mt. Clinton Mennonite. “The topic tonight is: ‘Aren’t the Gospels full of contradictions?’” said Paul, reading to the group from a book titled “Letters from a Skeptic.” Melissa Marquez explains the book is a compilation of letters written between a Christian man and his skeptical father. The group takes turns reading excerpts from the book, and after each letter, they reflect and discuss how the author’s words affect them. Their discussions are meant to be informal and function as a way of feeling more closely connected to the Mennonite community in the Harrisonburg area. Silent for longer than most people can stand, the small group sits in the Yoders’ living room, absorbed in their own thoughts. Marquez takes advantage of the silence and thinks about her faith. “There was a time where I doubted [my faith] and thought, ‘Am I cut out for this?’ or, ‘This is too hard.’ But I can’t turn away from it,” she said. Melissa Wenger, a member of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, said that her faith became strongest when she applied her beliefs to her everyday life, as opposed to when she listened to sermons in church as a little girl.
“Faith is about owning it yourself,” Wenger said. “So even if you’ve been born into a Christian family…it’s more than just what you believe. You have to own it.” Sitting across from Wenger, Patrick Weaver rests his hand on Marquez’s back as she speaks. Mt. Clinton Mennonite Married this past April, Weaver Discussion Group and Marquez demonstrate the model relationship for Christians. Weaver explains that the ring on his finger designed with a heart and key is called a purity ring, and he wears it to remind himself to save his heart, body and soul for one person. “A lot of people claim to be Christians, but you can often tell when people really believe in it because God has changed their lives in some way,” Weaver said. The son of a preacher, Weaver recalls memories of the church that his family started in Alabama, where he was born. One man that sticks out in his mind was an alcoholic who had come out of a bad marriage. “God literally changed his life, and he came out of his alcoholism,” Weaver said.
Different Church, Same Values: The Showalters
Living in the open fields of Dayton, Va., off Va. Route 33, Paul’s sister, Amy Showalter, practices a simpler, more conservative lifestyle than her brother. She, her husband, Blake, and their 2-year-old son, Alex, follow the stricter guidelines of Dayton Mennonite Church—a church, as Blake puts it, that’s “too conservative to be considered liberal and too liberal to be considered conservative”—and feel more comfortable in this way of life. “I just wasn’t really happy there [at Mt. Clinton Mennonite Church], and it didn’t feel like home,” Amy said. “It just wasn’t right.” Preparing whole-wheat dough for her homemade loaf of bread, Amy wears a sheer head covering and a short-sleeved dress down to her ankles while standing at her kitchen counter. Despite others’ opinions of this style of dress in the non-Mennonite community, Amy said she feels more herself dressing modestly and following the teachings of the Bible. “I sure never want to be responsible for a man lusting because of how I’m dressed.” Before becoming a member of Dayton Mennonite Church, “I even had my ears pierced,” Amy said. Now, Amy’s ears are bare and she wears no jewelry, which is another rule at her church; although, if she wants, she can wear a solid wedding band. While these guidelines are stricter than those of Amy’s old church, Blake grew up with even firmer rules in a family of Old Orders, who are the most conservative group of Mennonites. Until Blake was 10 years old, his family’s only mode of transportation
was a horse-drawn buggy. “I remember when I was younger, my sisters and I on the way to church, we would rag on mom and dad to get a vehicle. Clip clop, clip clop. We couldn’t take it no more. It just wasn’t cool.” By 1995, Blake’s family purchased their first vehicle. The only rule was that it had to be black. Conservative Mennonites can have only black vehicles. Physical differences aside, Amy stresses the importance of the core values of every Mennonite Christian. “Live by the Word, and strictly go by this,” Amy said fervently, smacking the Bible lying in front of her on the kitchen counter. “So many people try to kind of take a chunk out of [the Bible] that they like and live by that, and then make their own stuff up. I feel like that’s something really lost.” Agreeing with his wife, Blake adds that no matter how liberal or conservative, “It’s all about conviction.” For them, their convictions rest in living like Jesus, no matter what church they are in, and raising their son to do the same. “We don’t really care what others think,” said Blake. “We care about what Jesus thinks.” And, although some of their customs may differ, the spirit of helping each other runs through each order of Mennonites, from the most liberal to the Old Order, liberal and conservatives alike. “Blake’s cousin’s house burned down a month ago, and the whole community, people from all different kinds of churches, came and helped clean up and rebuild the house,” Amy said. CURIO 2010
Old-Order Family, Fast-Moving World Close to their hearts and down the road in Bridgewater, Va., resides the rest of Blake’s family, besides one married sister, Chelsa. Mike and Sarah Showalter live in a Civil War-era home with four of their six children on a 92-acre farm, complete with cattle and two chicken houses. With more than 12,000 hens producing around 11,000 eggs a day, the Showalters make a living by gathering the eggs for chicken hatcheries, along with selling the crops of the farm and their cattle. “We get by pretty good,” Sarah said, despite the harsh economy everywhere around them. Not only do they use their land as a source of income, but Sarah also maintains an enormous garden to produce fresh fruits and vegetables that feed her family. Growing just about every vegetable in existence—including asparagus, salad greens, peas, potatoes, lima beans, as well as fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes and black raspberries—the Showalters never have to worry about purchasing fresh produce. “I like the pretty lettuces and spinach and all that to make wonderful salads,” Sarah said. Sarah’s children reap the benefits of their mother’s extensive garden. Every Sunday, the Showalters sit down for a hearty meal after their morning worship services. Called the noon meal, a typical Sunday afternoon consists of these courses: wholesome bread with butter and homemade black raspberry jam, grilled pork with homemade gravy, grilled asparagus, fresh salad with sliced strawberries and vinegar dressing (prepared by their oldest daughter, Tonya), twice-baked potatoes and lima The Showalter family enjoys a plentiful noon meal every Sunday after church services.
beans in a white cream sauce. For dessert, fresh fruit salad and homemade whoopie pies are enjoyed. Sarah’s work in the kitchen doesn’t end there. She and other members of her church make a full-course meal three times a week for a church member with severe MS. Because the whole community is devoted to giving, each family’s turn to cook only comes around once every four months. Their culture is also rich with music. Blake plays guitar regularly for a prison ministry in Rockingham County. Joseph, Candace, and the youngest son, Carson, have all learned to play the fiddle. “Candace plays a beautiful jig,” Mike said of his daughter. “Think about goin’ up the Mississippi River while Candace plays this song.” As Candace fills the room with the melody of the folk tune, “Old Joe Clark,” Sarah and Mike look on with pride, tapping their toes to the beat. Her fingers move like lightning along the strings, and the veins in her neck tighten as the pace of the song quickens with each second. At the end of the song, her parents applaud her and Mike requests another song. “Somebody’s got to be the listener,” he said, smiling. As much as the Showalter family values music, prudence, their family and community, they value their relationship with God most. According to Sarah, praying during life’s ups and downs is at her soul’s core. “Just pouring your heart out to the Lord, that’s the best. All the other things are just added benefits that are given to me as a gift.” ______________________________________________
Treasure Lovable store owner Nelson Hess has always had a passion for two things: used furniture and carousels. By Dustin Woolridge
sign reading “Danger: No Smoking” hangs from the wall. A plethora of wooden chairs dangle from the ceiling rafters like icicles, circling the perimeter of the dark, musty room. Mountains of chairs stacked on top of chairs, tables, cabinets and dressers line the floor. For anyone brave enough to venture up the creaky stairs, it may take even more gumption to get to a chair you like in the attic of Hess Furniture, unless you’re OK with climbing up and over more furniture to get to it.
Photographed by Kristin McGregor CURIO 2010
owever, some people don’t seem to mind so much.
“The upstairs is what makes Hess,” said Andi Arndt, a frequent customer at the used furniture store. The less crowded, yet still garage salelike downstairs has plenty of character as well. A sign that reads “Prices subject to change according to customer’s attitude” sits in the store’s front office window. It exemplifies the store owner’s tongue-incheek, brazen antics. Nelson Hess, who has owned Hess Furniture since 1954, recalls a time when a young couple was looking at the furniture upstairs around closing time at 5 p.m. No one spotted them among the chaos of used furniture, and they ended up locked inside the store. The next morning, Hess got an angry phone call from the girl’s mother. He recollects the following conversation: “Mr. Hess, what kind of place do you run?” she asked. “I don’t know, why? Did somebody get pregnant in here?” “You locked my daughter and her boyfriend up in your store last night.” “Have they ever heard of a telephone before?” Instead of calling somebody for help, the couple escaped through a window in Nancy and Nelson on their wedding day in 1949.
the store’s office. Hess Furniture has been a part of the scene in downtown Harrisonburg for many years, and located on North Liberty Street since 1961. Hess’ father also owned a furniture store, which was right across the street from what is today Hess Furniture. The building that once housed his father’s shop is now a music store. Every piece of furniture that’s for sale at Hess’ is used. Hess and his workers often go through the estates of recently deceased people to collect and buy their furniture. 2008
“We get stuff you shouldn’t even look at sometimes,” Hess said facetiously. Every day, something new comes in. Laura Ludholtz doesn’t believe there’s a better selection of furniture anywhere else in town. “I just bought end tables from here,” Ludholtz said. “It’s always neat to come in here and just look around for stuff. He’s got so much!” Other items that can be found at Hess include china, lamps, collectible dolls, bedposts, mirrors, silverware, golf clubs, walkers and shelves full of old vinyl records.
“I started coming here to look for props back when I directed plays. You can find just about anything here.” –Andi Arndt, customer
“We get stuff you shouldn’t even look at sometimes.” –Nelson Hess, owner
Arndt, who teaches drama at JMU, has always been fascinated with the wide array of items she can find at Hess Furniture. “I started coming here to look for props back when I directed plays,” Arndt said. “You can find just about anything here.” Much of the merchandise certainly fits the “antique” description, such as the china plate with the phrase “America’s First Family” and a portrait of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower imprinted on it. Because everything at Hess Furniture is used, the prices are very reasonable. For example, most of the wooden chairs hanging from the ceiling in the attic sell for $20 to $30. However, Hess admits that business isn’t what it used to be due to the struggling economy. Earl Turner, a longtime employee of Hess Furniture who is responsible for getting the furniture delivered to customers, admits there are good days and bad days.
“It runs in spells like a service station,” Turner said. “One time you’re busy and then the next time you’ve got nothing to do.” Regardless of whether or not business is booming, one thing is for sure: Once you’ve visited Hess Furniture, you will not soon forget it. Mike Stockwell, who just moved to Harrisonburg in the fall, visited Hess for the first time in search of a new chest of drawers. “This definitely looks like an interesting place,” Stockwell said with a wide grin.
A DREAM COME TRUE Hess’ personality is colorful, with a wonderfully unpredictable and wry sense of humor. He has lived in Harrisonburg his entire life and has been married to his wife, Nancy, for 61 years. The two were high school sweethearts.
The Hesses have two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Their daughter, Joy, lives in Texas, while their son, Gary, lives next door on their farm. The Hess farm is home to the Hess Corn Maze, a popular Harrisonburg attraction. It has been open to the public for four years, and from the end of August to mid-November, as many as 1,200 to 1,500 children can pass through in a single day. Gary oversees the corn maze, which is often a destination for elementary school field trips, while Nelson’s pride and joy lies elsewhere— and it’s not just his furniture store. “It was always his dream to someday own a carousel,” Nancy said. Three years ago, Nelson’s dream came true, when he and his son found a carousel for sale on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Comprised of 30 horses and measuring 36 feet wide, it took seven truckloads to get it
back to Harrisonburg. It is now commonly known as The Virginia Carousel. Broadway High School graduate Britney Mongold spent three winters repainting the carousel down to the very last detail. Its horses are all named after famous Virginians—everyone from James Madison to Robert E. Lee to Ella Fitzgerald, complete with a picture and some memorabilia. Other horses are names after prominent industries within the state. While Nelson claims to not have a favorite horse, Nancy is in love with the fashionable Belle Boyd, draped in lavender and lace. “The lace looks like you could pick it up and take it off,” she said, referring to her horse of choice. “It’s just fantastic!” Around the rounding board, Mongold painted Virginia landmarks separated by dogwood clusters. Nelson and Nancy couldn’t be more thrilled with how it turned out and thought that Mongold was a joy to work with.
The Virginia Carousel, located at Back Home on the Farm in Harrisonburg, is composed of 30 horses, all named after famous Virginians or industries in the Old Dominion. It took three winters to repaint the carousel.
“She didn’t do anything without the family OK’ing it,” Nancy said. “Well, we paid for it,” Nelson replied.
A GOOD MAN Nancy said the best thing about being married to a man like Nelson is his kindness and generosity. “Even when we were first married and didn’t have money, he would still do things for people,” she said. “He never gets mad, he never loses his temper, he’s just a very good man.” Her husband is also adored by the people of the Harrisonburg community. “There are ladies who live in an old folks home nearby who come by and have him zip their dresses up,” Nancy said. “Or some days they’ll say, ‘Nelson, I need a hug.’ He’s the type of man who’ll do anything for anybody.” Nevertheless, he loves to joke around, whether it’s with customers at his furniture store or the nurses at the doctor’s office.
Hess Furniture was once confused with Hess Orthopedics. One day, a woman called up Nelson at the store, and she was in a fit of rage after her daughter had broken her leg and not been given a written excuse from the orthopedics office to skip exercise class. When she was finally finished wringing him out, Nelson replied jokingly: “Bring her in at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon, and we’ll break the other damn leg.” The last thing he heard was a click. ______________________________________________________________
Dustin Woolridge is a junior SMAD major and sport communication minor from Roanoke, Va. He currently works as a freelance writer for The News Virginian in Waynesboro, Va., where he covers high school sports. After graduation, he hopes to land a job working for a sports magazine. Kristin McGregor is a junior SMAD major and studio art minor from Reston, Va. She is the photo editor for The Breeze and a features designer for The Bluestone. After graduation, she hopes to either pursue a career in journalism or a full-time ministry.
Relax Past in the
By the Side of the Road Bed & Breakfast reveals 220 years of rich history, and offers an optimistic future. By Matt Johnson & Beth Principi
urning left onto Garbers Church Road in Harrisonburg, one would think it is the beginning of a typical modern development. About a half mile up the road, amid the new suburban sprawl and high school, sits a colonial house. Many have and will drive by the home without a second thought as to its origin or inhabitants, while others turn right into the driveway and become part of a rich history, 220 years in the making. The three-story traditional home rests on the side of a hill facing a small pond that overlooks the Valley. The home has four visitor rooms, each unique. But what each room has in common is the window it provides into the past. Each with a four-poster bed, fireplace and a daily gourmet breakfast, guests have little reason to leave their room.
Photographed by Lauren Babbage CURIO 2010
Outside, to the right of the house, lay three quaint cottages popular among guests; two of which are recent additions to the bed and breakfast. Having a more modern feel, these cottages provide the same amenities as the house, but more seclusion for the guests. The third cottage, which was once the home’s summer kitchen, is two floors. By the Side of the Road Bed & Breakfast has a long history of war and peace in the Shenandoah Valley, dating back to around 1789 when it was built by the Miller family. According to Dennis Fitzgerald, the current owner of the bed and breakfast, the Millers ran into some trouble when building the home. The interior walls of the house are made of brick, Fitzgerald said, because when the house was first being built with wood, Indians would come during the evening to burn it down. To prevent the nightly burning, the Millers started to construct the inner walls with brick, which fought against the flames. Almost 75 years later, the interior brick walls, combined with the flame-retardant locust wood foundation timbers, helped the house survive Gen. Philip Henry Sheridan’s “Burning of the Valley.” In 1864, under the leadership of Gen. Sheridan, Union soldiers pillaged farms and homes before setting them on fire. According to Steve Shenk, executive director of the Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center, the burning is considered by some to be the worst actions against civilians in the Civil War, because the burning of the Valley was planned.
The house was one of the only buildings to survive the burning. Union soldiers tried three times to ignite the home, which was being used as a Confederate field hospital. According to Fitzgerald, local Mennonites owned the home before and after the war. Some speculate that Union soldiers took pity on northern sympathizers and spared the home because Mennonites, who were typically in favor of the Union, owned the home. After the war, the home remained under the ownership of the Mennonite community. It was then sold and used as a duplex house. One family used the half of the house that was built in the 1790s, and another family lived in the half built in 1840. In 1999, one couple bought the home and turned it into something the community had never seen before: a bed and breakfast. The current owners of this historic home, Janice and Dennis Fitzgerald, almost were not the owners. They lived in Annapolis, Md., and decided they wanted to move out of the “city” and into the country. They moved to the Valley in 1990. “ We just wanted a better place to raise the kids,” Dennis said. After living in Staunton for eight years, Dennis decided he wanted to find a new home to renovate, which is a hobby. “I came across the house by mistake,” Dennis said. “I was actually looking at a house down the street. So I asked my Realtor down in Staunton to show me that house, and she got confused and she brought me to this house instead.” According to Dennis, the best part about
Guests enjoy the serenity of the property. Some rooms are equipped with an elegant four-post bed and a jacuzzi. The cottages each share their history with guests through photo albums.
renovating is taking something that’s run-down, and preserving it and bringing it back to life. Dennis originally bought the house to renovate it, but as a family, the Fitzgeralds decided to turn the 5,000 square foothouse, their biggest project yet, into a bed and breakfast. When restoring the house, he tried to preserve some of the historic aspects; however, he did add a modern touch to parts, such as whirlpool tubs and gas-log fireplaces. Renovating a three-story house is a timely task, but for Dennis it took only three months. He began restoration in February and worked from sun-up to sundown, sometimes even until midnight. By late April, the renovations were complete. Since the renovations, the Fitzgeralds watched the community develop, seeing wide-open fields turn into mini-subdivisions. Some visitors to the bed and breakfast are shocked by the recent development, but their fears are put to rest upon entering the house. According to Janice, it’s these people who pull up into their driveway who make owning a bed and breakfast so great. “You could go into a room of innkeepers and they would all say the same thing, that it’s just a great opportunity to serve and talk and meet a very interesting part of the population,” Janice said. “The guests are just really nice, interesting people. We’ve had people from Japan, South Africa and right around the corner.” One special moment that Janice shared with her guests was the announcement of an engagement. “One of the most delightful experiences was when we first opened nearly 10 years ago,” Janice said. “We have a big front porch, and all of the guests and the innkeepers were gathered on the front porch, and we were having a chat, and this young couple came out and said they had become engaged. It brought this group of strangers together. We all got to share the joy.”
2010 Guest Rates 1790 Suite $99-$169
Ardor of Hope $99-$169
Bishop`s Retreat $99-$169
Eselyn Taylor Suite $99-$169
Bergey Cottage $219-$279
Fitzgerald Cottage $219-$279
Quill Cottage $219-$279
Gayle Darnell is a guest who has also found joy many times at By the Side of the Road. “We always stay at the bed and breakfast when we come to JMU,” said Darnell, whose son attends the university. “We are pretty much treated like family now.” As for the future of the bed and breakfast, not much is going to change. Once Dennis and his wife retire, his daughter plans to continue
the family business. “It’s a business that you cannot get away from,” Dennis said. “If you’re just sitting upstairs just watching TV, the phone still rings for reservations.” ______________________________________________ Matt Johnson is a junior SMAD major and creative writing minor from Louisa, Va. He is currently the managing editor of The Bluestone where he began as a writer. This summer he will be interning with the Virginia’s Association of Broadcasters in Charlottesville, Va. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in journalism, writing features and reviews for an entertainment magazine. Lauren Babbage is a senior SMAD major from Newtown, Conn. She is currently the art and design assistant editor for Madison 101 and contributing writer for the online magazine HerCampus. She recently finished an internship at WVPT TV where she was a production assistant. After graduation, she is moving to California and hopes to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
HISTORY & HERITAGE By the Side of the Road Bed & Breakfast has seen many owners throughout the years. Before it was a bed & breakfast the building was just another home along what is now Garbers Church road. Then in the late 18th century a Mennonite Bishop, Peter Burkholder, and his son, Martin, bought the property. According to Dennis Fitzgerald, the current owner of the bed and breakfast, as Martin grew up, he wanted to move out of the house. “According to the legend, Martin got married to a woman named Rebecca. His father wanted him to live in this house,” Fitzgerald said. To compromise, an addition to the house was constructed in the 1840s as a place for Martin and his wife to live.
Eventually Martin managed to move out of his father’s home, building his own home a half a mile down the road, where the new Harrisonburg High School is today. The original house has since been moved to the top of a hill behind the high school. According to Steve Shenk, executive director of the Valley BrethrenMennonite Heritage Center, Martin passed away in 1854 at age 43, seven years before the Civil War. Many say the stress of a possible economic recession caused Martin to worry himself to death. Martin’s wife was left to care for the farm during the Civil War and into the “Burning of the Valley.” During the burning, soldiers pillaged the farm, but did not burn it. According to Shenk, the soldiers may have
seen that she was a Mennonite widow and taken pity on her. The home remained with Martin’s family until 1904. Today the home has been restored to how it was during the Civil War-era and is part of the Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center.
Strides JMU professor Tom Moran inspires children with disabilities by excelling despite his struggle with Cerebral Palsy. By Tim Chapman & Rebekah Lowe
e was ready to call it quits. The kid from upstate New York, who had accomplished so much, had enough. For a moment it didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter that he graduated from one of the top physical education programs in the country. It didn’t matter that his doctorate was on the horizon from yet another premier program. It didn’t matter that he was proving most everyone wrong; everyone who said, “Tom, you can’t do that. You have cerebral palsy.” Photographed by Robert Boag & Kristin McGregor CURIO 2010
wenty-six-year-old Tom Moran didn’t see the point in continuing life. He couldn’t even go to class—and Tom would never miss class. He sat down in his Charlottesville, Va., apartment and wrote farewell notes to his parents and his girlfriend Nicole. None of it mattered, until he collapsed on the f loor. It wasn’t his first tumble. Tom had fallen countless times in his life — a reality of growing up with his disability. This fall was different. This fall was not like when his balance failed him as a kid trying to walk across the room with the aid of an overhead pulley system. It was not like him stumbling the first time he tested his forearm crutches or tried a cane. This time, Tom didn’t spring right back. He stopped, looked up and listened. “It was almost like [God] was speaking to me,” Tom said. “He was like, ‘Hang in there, pull through.’ And from that point on I rededicated myself and I was baptized.” Tom reverted himself back to the Tom that everyone knows. He snapped out of his funk, got his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, and moved on to teach at James Madison University. In just two years Tom has taken the JMU kinesiology department to new heights and, more importantly, revolutionized the Shenandoah Valley’s support of children with disabilities. To think he nearly gave up is to think that hundreds of disabled children wouldn’t be receiving the immense opportunities Tom and his students are providing. >>
The kid with CP Tom Moran grew up in Nunda, N.Y., a town of about 1,300. The oldest of three sons to Rick and Pam Moran, Tom was a constant motivation for his parents and his brothers. Though he was born two months premature, doctors didn’t initially diagnose Tom with any disabilities. When he still couldn’t sit up at nine months, they assumed it simply was due to his early birth. Tom had a number of surgeries early on, including a fivehour procedure in fifth grade. The operation, selective dorsal rhizotomy, severed problematic nerves’ roots in his spinal cord to relieve tension in his legs. He was left in a three-quarter-body cast for weeks. The youngster baffled doctors by refusing to take morphine following the surgery. He was more concerned about not disrupting Christmas. “Before he would consent to the doctor to have that surgery, he had to come home and call my husband’s aunt because we always went there Christmas day,” said Pam. “So, we had to go home and call Aunt Thelma.” The pain didn’t make Tom cry, instead he bawled when specialists would ask him to stay for extra days. “I don’t want to miss another day of school,” Tom would say. He just wanted to be with his peers in the classroom and outside at recess playing the sports that all the other kids played. Tom couldn’t participate in everything, and his crutches were considered “weapons,” preventing him from even playing Tee-ball. His peers accepted him anyway. Everyone appreciated his vigor. At home, Tom’s parents encouraged him to stay active. His father strung a rope through the middle of their long ranch house. He would hold onto a T-bar and his parents would set goals for how many times he had to walk across the house before dinner. The experiment didn’t last long. Frustrated after falling one evening,
After falling off his tricycle on his first go, Spencer McCormick gives it another attempt. With the help of Moran and his interns, Spencer and three other children tried bicycling for the first time at Hillandale Park on a sunny day in April.
Tom took the T-bar and smashed the family fish tank. He rarely lashed out like this, and his friends and family usually saw him as the go-lucky, resilient kid thriving despite his condition. But sometimes he cried himself to sleep. “I’d say, ‘Why God? Why me? Why couldn’t you have picked somebody else? I want to be out playing basketball.’” During physical education, he was one of just two students in the adaptive section and quickly grew bored of the activities. Pam remembers the teacher explaining how the other child, a girl with motor skill problems, would respond far more to Tom’s encouragement. Already, Tom was working for others with disabilities as much as he was for himself. In seventh grade, Tom introduced himself to the high school sports scene and by volunteering with the soccer and basketball teams. He would keep stats for the coaches and he sat behind the bench at basketball games, giving advice to players. “He was always anticipating a move for the kids,” said his father Rick, a highway superintendent. “He just always told the kids, ‘You can do better, or if you try a little harder you can do better.’” He analyzed the stats and pointed out bad tendencies. Coaches would even take him to other schools to scout for upcoming games. By senior year, he was so respected that he was invited to travel with exceptional soccer players to Europe for two games in Barcelona, Spain, and two in Brussels, Belgium. “He knew the game mentally better than anybody could play it,” Rick said. Physically, Tom continued to push himself. In an 11th grade evaluation with faculty and his parents, he refused to continue in the adaptive physical education class. The teachers gave in and allowed him to join his friends in regular activities. During
softball, runners would take over on the base path after he hit. In volleyball, he was allowed to catch the ball and send it back over instead of bumping. He did whatever he could to get in the game.
Cortland courts Tom As a freshman in high school, Tom was invited by a neighbor to stay with him at Cortland University for a weekend. The state institution in Cortland, N.Y., had one of the largest physical education departments in the country. He fell in love with the campus and college life and met Diane Craft, the head of the adaptive physical education department. Craft encouraged Tom to attend, and he didn’t hesitate. Tom enrolled four years later, immediately introducing himself to the men’s soccer coach and earning a spot as a volunteer assistant with the team. Word quickly spread about Tom, and a year later he was working as a paid assistant in the athletic department. In the classroom, Tom forced professors to explore new ways of teaching. Tom couldn’t earn grades the way his peers did because he couldn’t perform in certain sports and events. In track and field, Tom earned his grades by how much other students improved under his guidance. The high jump was out of the question, so Tom taught students how to increase their scores. Swimming was a bigger challenge. In order to pass the course, students had to swim 500 meters in 10 minutes or less. The course was for one-credit and although Tom couldn’t possibly make the time, he swam three extra days a week with the aid of a flotation device and another student. Tom was proving naysayers wrong, but not without consequence. The swimming had hyper-extended the muscles in his CURIO 2010
lower back, resulting in six months of physical therapy. Tom faced other serious limits. When he was approaching the higher-level courses in coaching, the men’s soccer coach told him that he would never be hired as a head coach at the college level. To even enroll in the courses, Tom would have to perform impossible tasks. “He said, ‘Listen, I’m not being rude. I’m just telling you the reality… they’ll look at you and say you’ve never played and you can’t play. How can you lead this team?’” Teaching adaptive physical education became Tom’s sole focus, and he graduated to the surprise of some. “One of my best memories out of the whole thing—and I just love proving people wrong—but I even had the dean of the college say to me, ‘You know, you’re not gonna hack it. Find a new major. Go to special ed. or go to recreation,’” Tom remembered. “And I walked across the stage and I got my diploma, and he was there, and I shook his hand and I go, ‘I told you so, you S.O.B.’ Yeah, right on stage.”
The Valley meets Tom The same short guy who walked funny had done it, and he slowed little after his first degree. He headed south and earned his doctorate at the University of Virginia. Tom began teaching at JMU in 2008 and continued building on programs and ideas he first explored at Cortland. During his senior year, Tom had developed a project called Just for Kicks for his adaptive physical education class. Fifty kids showed up. “I really think you got something,” his professor had told him. Now Tom runs Just for Kicks for kids with disabilities in the Valley. The nonprofit program meets a few times a week on JMU’s campus so children can practice shooting a basketball or riding a bike. One of these kids is 12-year-old Nathan, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. His mother, JMU kinesiology professor Jackie Williams, said Just for Kicks has given her son more confidence and a place where he feels he belongs. In public schools, “there are no after-school programs for
children with special abilities,” Williams said. And parents don’t always have the money to pay for private programs. Tom is “trying to level the playing field, which will take a long time,” said Bobby Lifka, a JMU kinesiology professor. “But as far as he’s concerned he’s taking those baby steps in providing those opportunities.” Through Just for Kicks, Tom and JMU kinesiology senior Shannon Dougherty, started another program called Helping Hands to send volunteers out to karate class or baseball practice with children with special needs. Instructors at community activities cannot always give children with disabilities the attention they need while coaching a team or teaching a class. “A lot of families don’t sign their kids up because of that,” Dougherty said. A Helping Hand, which is the name given to the volunteers, is “kind of like a second teacher just for them.” Just for Kicks teaches these kids motor skills they need when they are out at these community activities. They also get to strengthen their muscles at Tom’s weekend aquatics program. Toward the end of class one day, Tom saw a boy clinging to his swim instructor. Tom paddled over to them with his purple noodle and learned that the boy refused to swim anymore. “You only have five more minutes to show me what you can do,” Tom told him. Without hesitation, the boy let go and started floating around with a big grin on his face. Tom has a way with these kids that no one else has. “I think for some of the kids, he’s like them,” Williams said. “He too walks funny. He too is as short as they are.” Many of the Just for Kicks, Helping Hands and aquatics instructors are JMU kinesiology students. Tom also works along with them at the events and practices. “He’s out there in the trenches with the students showing them how to do these things,” said Chris Womack, the JMU kinesiology department head. “He’s got the enthusiasm and the ability and the energy.” Before Womack hired Tom in 2008, the kinesiology department didn’t have a professor who specialized in adaptive education. Now Tom is creating classes and programs that give his physical education students one-on-one experience with children with special needs. “It’s funny,” Williams said, “I don’t think they see Tom as having a disability at all.” Through his hard work, Tom shows his students that organizing programs, mobilizing volunteers and teaching children with disabilities takes diligence, but that it also makes a world of difference to the children and their families. “He’s walking what he’s talking,” Lifka said. “He’s a perfect example of what he expects out of his students.” Through Tom, one JMU student found his passion for helping children with disabilities. Kinesiology senior Greg Tidd always knew he wanted to work with kids, but it wasn’t until something “clicked” while he
Students work with Tom Moran on a prototype bike for people with disabilities.
watched Tom’s aquatics program that he knew he wanted to work with kids with special needs. “I just was going there to see what it was about,” Tidd said. “And right then I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do.” Now, as an intern for Just for Kicks, Tidd works with Williams’ son, Nathan, on bike riding. “When he started, he was completely terrified,” Tidd said. “Within like 20 minutes he was pedaling up and down the hallway going fast.” Nathan also recently went to a JMU event for kids in the community with a Helping Hand by his side. “For so long I wanted Nathan to be able to go to something like that, but the last thing he needs is his parent trailing behind him,” Williams said. “I didn’t have to worry…and I knew that he was fine.” Tom’s programs have given Nathan and dozens of other kids from Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro and all over the Valley the jolt of confidence they need to feel comfortable in their schools and communities, and Tom knows better than anyone how much they need that encouragement. “I don’t want anyone to go through what I did—to have that passion and that desire, whether they can communicate it or not, to actually want to be successful in something but nobody ever gives them the opportunity,” Tom said. Tom has big plans for Just For Kicks. He’s hoping JMU’s physical education program will someday get its own facility where Just for Kicks can run programs whenever it wants without interrupting the JMU sports schedule. Tom is working hard to get as much funding as he can to expand his programs to reach more kids and provide more activities for them. “This is something that started just as a small camp and it’s blown up into a thing with 70 families,” Dougherty said. The always smiling professor isn’t just making an impact on his own department. Moran’s reach has stretched across the JMU campus to the School of Engineering. The school is only two years old, but thanks to Tom its students are working on a practical project that has potential well
Measurements of Moran’s limbs are taken so the bike can be adjusted correctly.
beyond the campus laboratories. On Friday afternoons throughout the school year, Tom can be found in the basement of the Health and Human Services building trying out technology for a new bike. He has wanted a bike for years, but specialized bikes for people with disabilities can cost thousands of dollars. So, students have been looking for more reasonable solutions, both for Tom and others with disabilities. In the fall of 2009, students focused on studying how Tom’s muscles work and how they function with his brain. This spring, the students focused on implementing that research into prototypes of the bike. Measurements of his limbs have also been taken to meticulously adjust parts of the bike. “He really wants it and he’s putting as much time as he can into it to get it done and he also really wants to help our program out,” said senior engineering major Zack Murter. “He’s one of the happiest guys I’ve ever met. He has a positive outlook on everything he does.”__________________________________________________________________ R ebekah Lowe is a senior SMAD major and English minor from Leesburg, Va. This past summer, she worked as a writer for a nonprofit organization called Prison Fellowship Ministries. She is currently vice president of public relations for Sigma Alpha Lambda, a community service honor society, and the executive editor of SMAD About You. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in marketing publications or branding. Robert Boag is a sophomore SMAD, religion and political science major from Williamsburg, Va. He is currently the photo editor for The Breeze where he has been a senior photographer for the last two years. This summer he will be interning at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts as the staff photographer in the Washington, D.C. area. He plans to continue to grow his photography and media skills over the next two years at JMU and hopes to pursue a career in photography and web design or intelligence analysis.
Donations for Just for Kicks can be made to the Physical & Health Education Teacher Education (PHETE) Foundation, Account # 14683. Please specify: Adapted Outreach Programs. CURIO 2010
From Madison to Washington Lawrence Jackson, a JMU and Curio alum works for the White House to document the presidency of Barack Obama. By Anna Young Photography Courtesy of Lawrence Jackson & the White House
hile immersed in his undergraduate years at James Madison University, Lawrence Jackson never imagined that one day he would be photographing the man in one of the most powerful positions in the world. He took the knowledge he learned from various JMU professors and local photojournalists all the way to the White House, as he is one of only a handful of photographers chosen to document the presidency of Barack Obama. President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn of the White House to Marine One after a statement to the media about the release of two journalists from North Korea, on Aug. 5, 2009. Official White House Photo
rowing up in Richmond, Va., Jackson started taking pictures when he received a Pentax K1000 camera for Christmas at around age 12. “I still have that camera to this day,” he said. From there Jackson started working for his high school’s yearbook. When he came to JMU, he worked for various student publications, including The Breeze and Curio, as well the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record. “When I first came to JMU I wanted to be a television newscaster,” he said. “But I quickly learned that I preferred to be behind the camera than in front of the camera.” Jackson chose JMU for its well-known communications department, yet almost transferred at the end of his freshman year to go to a school for photography because it was then that
he realized he wanted to be a photographer. “But everyone talked me out of it and I’m glad that they did,” Jackson said. He had a rewarding four years at JMU. Tommy Thompson, a photojournalism instructor in the School of Media Arts & Design, said that Jackson was a natural for photography and a leader for the rest of the class. “Lawrence made my job much easier because he was a student that easily inspires others to give maximum output,” Thompson said. After graduating, Jackson got a year-long internship with Landmark Media Enterprises LLC (formerly Landmark Communications), where he worked for four months at three different newspapers in Norfolk, Va., Roanoke, Va., and Greensboro, N.C. The last stop in his internship was at the Virginian-Pilot, where the Norfolk newspaper extended his internship two times before hiring him. Jackson worked for nine and a half years at the Virginian-Pilot before applying to work for the Associated Press (AP) at the end of 2000. Once hired by the AP, Jackson lived in Boston for two years, and then transferred to Washington, D.C. He covered the Bush administration for the AP for seven years. While shooting for the AP, Jackson often worked next to fellow photographer and JMU alum Roger Wollenberg, who shoots for United Press International. Wollenberg said he has always aspired to take pictures like Jackson, who is “serious about the job but quick with a smile; dedicated to making the right picture but not at the cost of blocking someone else’s shot.” Now, even though Jackson has “moved over to the dark side” to work for the White House, Wollenberg says that he hasn’t changed a bit. Now, Jackson works with the animated and endearing Pete Souza, who is now the Chief Official
“There wouldn’t have been another president I would consider leaving the AP for other than President Obama.”
President Barack Obama escorts former First Lady Nancy Reagan in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on June 2, 2009, for the announcement and signing of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act, which commerated the late President Regan’s 100th Birthday in 2011. Official White House Photo
White House Photographer for President Barack Obama. Jackson attributes his previous experiences with Souza as the reason he was able to get his foot into the White House door, so to speak. “He knew me and he knew my work,” Jackson said of Souza. Jackson said it is great working with Souza. “He’s one of the hardest working people I work with—ever worked with for that matter,” Jackson said. Prior to the 2008 election Jackson decided that if Obama were to make it all the way to the White House, then he would apply. If not for Obama winning a historic presidential election, Jackson would have stayed at the AP and documented the presidency as a photojournalist. “There wouldn’t have been another president I would consider leaving the AP for other than President Obama,” he said. Jackson has been fortunate to witness two presidential administrations, even though he sees them in two different perspectives: For the Bush
administration he was a photojournalist working for a media outlet and for the Obama he is photographer working directly for the administration. “My roles are completely different,” said Jackson, adding that in his current position, he gets the chance to be a part of history and see the fine details of running a presidential administration from the other side of the velvet rope. As one of only a handful of White House photographers, Jackson is in charge of covering Obama’s professional life and public events. “It’s behind the curtains, but not behind closed doors,” Jackson pointed out, saying the latter is more of Souza’s job. According to Jackson, President Obama is an easygoing, considerate, regular guy. “For all of the things demanded of him, he takes it all in stride,” said Jackson, “he really does keep it all in perspective and he works really hard.”
Whenever Obama travels domestically or goes abroad, Souza and another photographer travel with him; if the first lady travels, then three photographers accompany the first couple. Traveling is just one of the perks of the job. Last year, Jackson visited two of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids in Egypt. While he doesn’t travel as frequently as Souza, when he does travel, Jackson is gone for longer periods of time. He also works 11-hour days at times, which may be difficult for his wife, Alyssa, and two young children, Patrick and Sophia, to handle. And then there are the slow days, where Obama doesn’t have any public events or has closed-door meetings. During these days, Jackson takes few, if any, pictures. When Jackson isn’t documenting the public life of the president, Jackson plays maintenance man, mainly with the computer server full of photographs. “When I’m not taking pictures of the president, I’m just trying to make things a little better, trying to make things run more smoothly.” And the system seems like it needs some maintenance. On average, the five White House photographers shoot 9,000 images a week. Up to this point, there are 606,000 images in the presidential archives. Although there may never be a “normal” day of work for Jackson, he knows to enjoy his job and not take it for granted because his position certainly is fleeting. He tries to soak up the interactions between Obama and the The United States Navy’s “Blue Angels” fly over the Naval Academy’s 2009 commencement ceremony in Delta Formation in Annapolis, Md., May 22, 2009. Official White House Photo
Left: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, along with the Kennedy Center honorees, stand for the national anthem at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6, 2009. Official White House Photo Below: Members of the military raise their hands during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House on May 1, 2009. Official White House Photo
Above: President Barack Obama talks by phone with U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, from the Oval Office on Sunday, July 12, 2009. Official White House Photo Right: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle wait for the start of a receiving line at the Ambassadors Reception in the White House on July 27, 2009. Official White House Photo
President Barack Obama waits in the Blue Room of the White House before being introduced at a prime time press conference in the East Room on July 22, 2009. Official White House Photo
public as much as he can. It’s the people who make Jackson’s job interesting. “Seeing the president interact with the public and his constituents in a genuine way,” said Jackson, and the way people are “moved by seeing the president, it’s their energy that energizes me.” Jackson also appreciates the White House residence staff. “You’ve got butlers and ushers who have worked for five president,” said Jackson, “and these are the guys that see the presidents, you know, at the end of the day or early in the morning when he’s about to start. It’s a bit more relaxed, it’s a lot more informal, and there’s a bond that’s made between the president and his family and the staff. I’m always learning something from those guys.” From running his own photography business
in Arlington, Va., to interacting with staff, to photographing the president, “it’s always been about people,” Jackson said. He looks for three things when photographing people: the emotion of the story, the story within the shot and the information in the story. So what goes through Jackson’s mind as he is photographing Obama? “Uh, don’t mess up,” he said. Jackson doesn’t know how to bounce back from being to a White House photographer to joining the ranks of an everyday photojournalist again once he’s finished at the White House. However, he plans on talking to a lot of former White House photographers to see how they transitioned. “I don’t know, maybe I’ll go back to JMU to teach,” Jackson joked. “But don’t tell Tommy Thompson that.” ____
HOPE amid the Ruins
Seven years ago, JMU Professor Mary Tacy created an organization dedicated to improving the lives of people in Haiti. In March, Tacy traveled back to Haiti for the first time since the earthquake, finding heartbreak, change and hope for the country’s future. By Hana Uman & Katie Thisdell
he Haitian streets were quieter in March. But quiet isn’t something that Mary Tacy is used to when she visits the country. Normally the streets are full of music and dancing, of joy and of life. But not during spring break this year. “They were very, very solemn,” Tacy said. “That’s one of the first things that hit me; people are very subdued because they’ve lost so much.” The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12 shocked people around the world, but for Tacy, the devastation was personal. “It will never be the same; it will never be the same. My husband, who is Haitian, he said ‘Haiti’s destroyed,’ you know, Haiti’s gone,” she said, tears forming in her eyes.
Tacy is the director of the International Partnership for La Gonave (IPLG), a group of organizations focused on improving the quality of life on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. In March, Tacy, a geographic sciences professor at James Madison University, boarded a plane to fly to Haiti for the seventh time; it was the first time she had been back since the earthquake. Tacy distributed supplies donated by three states, which included cement, building materials and between 12,000 and 16,000 pounds of rice. She spent two days of her trip distributing food throughout the country and assessing the situation. “There’s a town called Nan Boucan, where I found some of the most extreme poverty, where people eat once every two, three, four days,” Tacy said.
“We want to start monitoring some of the children, because there’s a potential for famine there, on this island, because they’re already stressed from not eating. There’s a lot of signs of malnourishment with the kids,” Tacy said. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was ranked as the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, according to the Brookings Institute. “One of the things that struck me is everywhere, everywhere, driving along from Miragoane down to Port-au-Prince, tent settlements everywhere,” Tacy said. “Hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of tent settlements.” It was not just because the buildings were down, but many people were scared to sleep indoors. Tremors rocked the country for weeks, and even after they subsided, buildings remained empty.
Photographs Courtesy of Mary Tacy
A boat transports Haitians from the sailboat in the distance to the shore of La Gonave.
CURIO 2010 35
Tacy was in Guatemala when it was struck by an earthquake in the 1970s, and the government forbid people to go back into their houses because of dangerous circumstances. After traveling around Haiti, Tacy ventured back to La Gonave, the focal point of her organization, and the island that stole her heart. In La Gonave, one of the major aftereffects of the earthquake was that the young people who had been in school or working in Port-au-Prince and sending money back to their families were forced to move back home. Homes have become overcrowded, and now the families have to feed more mouths than they can afford. “A lot of people have lost their source of income so they’re wondering how they’re going to eat. The suffering is just incredible,” Tacy said.
The Haiti Project Tacy has known Haiti for years; since 2003 she has visited at least 10 times. It all began when a priest from Pointe-aRaquette spoke to faculty at JMU, and three members decided to travel to La Gonave during the spring break that year. “When I got there, what we realized was a perfect place for the College of Integrated Science and Technology (CISAT), because we have health sciences, we have integrated science and technology with a lot of engineers, we have people in ISAT that are interested in energy and communications, we have the nursing department, we have psychology,” Tacy said. “So it just was so perfect and so we’ve been going back ever since and have lots of students and faculty involved.” Since that first trip, Tacy has worked with people throughout the region, country and world in aiding Haiti. The Partnership has installed solar pumps to provide water, repaired wells and established water purification systems. They constructed cisterns in 2005, but Tacy found many of them cracked and empty on her last trip. The International Partnership for La Gonave (IPLG) previously hired staff for a small clinic in Pointe-a-Raquette and has
Residents of Lotorre Boukan on La Gonave await a boat delivering rice.
provided medicine to several people with mental disorders. This year, the Partnership started another separate branch, SOAR: Support Organization for Aid and Reconstruction. Since the Partnership is part of the university, it cannot act as a nonprofit to raise money. SOAR, however, has tax exempt status and can accept donations. Sarah O’Connor, assistant director of the IPLG, described the partnership as an umbrella organization even before the earthquake. “There were so many international aid agencies doing small projects around the island, and parishes that were partnering with parishes on the island, and all that,” O’Connor said. “So there needed to be some way we could all communicate with one another.” Though she has never been to the island, O’Connor, a writing and rhetoric professor at JMU, said she feels a connection to the people of La Gonave, known as “the forgotten island” to locals. “Just to feel that I can contribute in some way to that, to the needs of people in another part of the world,” O’Connor said. The island hasn’t always been neglected. O’Connor said it used to be one of the best places to live in Haiti, offering farmland
and wildlife, until the 1980s when the government began to exploit the area. In classes at JMU, students have been learning more about the country since the earthquake, and every year, O’Connor has her writing students read stories about the country. “I think that all of this has contributed to international education at JMU,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s really important that there are people working in that area and not just teaching about it. That contributes to the education of students to know what work people are doing. And to know that international education is a lot more than studying abroad. It involves a lot more than that.”
Community Response In response to the earthquake, people and businesses around Harrisonburg have joined together to gather money, supplies, and support for the people in Haiti. In January, next-door neighbors A Bowl of Good Café and Artisan’s Hope, located on Mt. Clinton Pike, teamed up to hold a joint fundraiser to raise money for earthquake relief efforts. A Bowl of Good made Haitian-inspired dishes, and
Artisan’s Hope sold handmade Haitian crafts, with proceeds going back to Haiti. A Bowl of Good served between 400 to 500 people, and raised around $8,000 for the Mennonite Central Committee’s relief projects in Haiti. “We had rice and beans up to our ears!” said Katrina Didot, co-owner of A Bowl of Good.
On campus, a student-run campaign, “30 For 30: Travay pou Chanjman” was developed to raise money for Haiti relief. The goal was to raise $30,000 in 30 days to split between three organizations, Partners in Health, Haiti Outreach Foundation, and Fonkoze, located on the ground in Haiti. At the conclusion of the campaign the group raised about $10,000. “You sort of have to ride the crest of these events, and if you miss it, it’s much harder to raise awareness and money,” said O’Connor, who helped coordinate faculty donations. “Whatever they collect is going to be a big help, so I don’t feel bad about that.” The students created a Web site for donations, held collection tables on campus, organized envelope campaigns, and had a benefit dinner in March to raise money. The group also worked to plan benefit concerts in many downtown venues. Even before the earthquake, Tacy got the Harrisonburg and JMU communities involved in the Partnership’s projects. Tacy has worked with church groups and other organizations to help raise money to build
cisterns and solar cell systems. She has also worked with students from CISAT to developed maps of La Gonave and help with fundraising efforts. Additionally, the first Internet connection on the south side of the island was the result of two CISAT students’ senior project. Brad Striebig, an engineering professor at JMU, is working with Tacy to develop long-term sustainable projects that students can participate in. “One of the things students can help with is the longer-term issues and the capacity building issues: reinvigorating educational infrastructure, societal infrastructure, helping community groups,” Striebig said. Striebig has a background in environmental engineering and has worked on sustainable projects in sub-Saharan African countries, such as Rwanda. Striebig is in his second year teaching at JMU, and said he was interested in working with the partnership because of Tacy’s commitment to finding solutions in Haiti, particularly before the earthquake. “These are not things that change with
Right: Residents of Bodin line up for rice. Below: A white cloth hangs over ruins in Leogane, one of the hardest hit towns on the mainland.
“You know, this is a chance. Haiti was given enough attention, maybe this will be the point when things can turn around.” – Mary Tacy CURIO 2010
Young women on La Gonave sort through earrings sent by JMU staff and students.
an earthquake or a tornado or a tsunami, these are ongoing problems, and I think that’s where Dr. Tacy’s and my interests lie,” Striebig said. Instead of using the word “help,” Striebig prefers to use the world “connect” to refer to how best to aid people in countries like Haiti. Striebig said it’s important that the students going to Haiti with Tacy and the IPLG make connections with the people and the communities in La Gonave, because they can figure out what [their] needs truly are. “People identify you as different, as somebody who will come back, who will
return if you’re working with Dr. Tacy; that’s a valuable asset to have if you want to do projects that are both educational and may result in helping out a community in another part of the planet that needs help,” Striebig said. Another geographic sciences professor, Zack Bortolot, is also interested in helping Haiti. Although actually going there isn’t an option for him right now, he said he’s always hearing about what others are doing there. In one of Bortolot’s classes this past semester, a group of students is working on a proposal for a nonprofit organization on the island for future construction projects. He also planned for the geography faculty to meet and discuss a joint project—which would possibly focus on Haiti. Tacy “has such an intimate knowledge of the island, so her work is very positive,” Bortolot said. “She really goes off of the beaten path.” Below: Gina Kudrav from International Student Services, Tacy (second to left) and JMU students pose in front of the Haitian palace during a Spring Break trip in 2008. The palace was destroyed in the 2009 earthquake.
The Future of Haiti As Tacy and the partnership work to rebuild the country, the people of Haiti must work to rebuild their lives. There has been the humanitarian relief effort: the Red Cross, international organizations and countries around the world, but the hurt is still there. Family members are still missing and some will never know what actually happened to those who they love. More than 200,000 people have died from the earthquake. Tacy shares the stories that her friends on the island told her about their suffering. One friend lost her granddaughter in Port-au-Prince. The friend’s daughter was holding the baby under her arm, when a wall fell down and trapped her arm and the baby’s face, suffocating the infant. “Another very, very good friend, he was with his son in a grocery store and the earthquake hit and he said to his son ‘We’ve got to get out,’ and said ‘Come on.’ His son never came out and they never found the body.” Tacy’s grandmother-in-law died in the streets of Carrefour. Tacy and her husband had been planning the spring break trip to visit his grandmother, who had been doing poorly. After the earthquake, Tacy’s husband couldn’t go because of fear for his safety, although he had promised to be one of her pallbearers. But things are looking up for the country, and Tacy has hope that the Haitians will get through it. After hitting rock bottom, Tacy believes this is Haiti’s chance to survive. “I know when the earthquake hit, I think I cried for the first two days, but then I thought, ‘You know, this is a chance. Haiti was given enough attention, maybe this will be the point when things can turn around.’”___________________ Katie Thisdell is a junior journalism and religion major, and writing and rhetoric minor, from Roanoke, Va. She is the current editor-inchief of The Breeze after serving as the news editor for one year. She has interned with WSLS Channel 10 in Roanoke and this summer will intern with the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record. She hopes to pursue a career in newspaper or broadcast journalism.
From Fighting Nikitah Imani challenged racism in his community, institutions and even the KKK to become a highly recommended college sociology professor.
By Ansa Edim
ikitah Imani is a poet, author, ordained minister, rapper—and a professor at James Madison University. He wears jeans, a baggy, hooded sweatshirt that reads “Shady” across the chest and Timberland boots. His glasses are just about the only thing scholarly looking about him. With no lesson plan, he speaks with conviction and passion, not unlike a preacher. One of his classes, a senior seminar in Afrocentric thought, focuses on challenging Eurocentrism, the practice of viewing the world from a Western perspective. He is an emotional orator, often drawing from personal experience to make his point. “Eurocentrism is the vampire that slowly sucks
out your blood,” he explained to his students, who seldom speak up, but nod in agreement. They are shy and quiet, and the lecture is mostly filled with his ringing voice. As the two-and-a-half hour lecture continues, Imani hits a balance of seemingly random tangents, personal opinion and fact. He is an unconventional professor who students take, retake and recommend again and again. “The minute he started to talk, I was just captivated,” said CJ Cooper, who has taken Imani’s classes several times. “He’s not what you would expect walking into a classroom.” Imani has the same effect on other students. Leanna Magnotti, a JMU senior, believes that beyond the material, Imani is an inspiration.
Photographed by Hannah Pace CURIO 2010
“When I think of Dr. Imani, I just think of a wealth of knowledge,” she said. “He is down to earth and humorous. It’s worth it to come for the entire two-and-a-half hours.” “Dr. Imani teaches you things outside of the realm of academia and to better understand the world around you,” added Cooper, who has also been a teaching assistant to Imani twice. He tries to describe the professor but is met with some difficulty.
to God”) in 1993. “I wanted an African name that spoke to my spirit,” Imani said. His mother was a civil rights activist, and as punishment for their involvement, activists were either put in jail, or were the subjects of forced medical testing by the government. At the age of 8, while in foster care, his mother passed away as a result of medical testing on her heart. “The defining event for me that made me a soldier was that when my mother died, the state had unbelievable nerve in inviting me to her funeral. The mother who I was not allowed to see until she was dead. I declared war on a society that would let this be. My life became fighting this war,” Imani said. Imani became consumed with just that: fighting a war. He explains, “I went through my Black Panther phase, my self-destruction phase when I thought I could drug and alcohol myself out of existence; my spirituality phase, my criminal phase. I was going to be Robin Hood.” He identified with black heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. This led to his goal to become educated. “As good as Malcolm was, he would have been really influential if he had the [educational] credentials of Dr. King. Right then, I decided to go to school.” Imani was awarded the Georgia-Pacific scholarship for outstanding students to go to the University of Florida. As an undergraduate, he was a throwback to the ’60s. He was such an activist that he received what he calls “Love Letters” from the Ku Klux Klan in 1992. He ran for class president under the “DISM” (diss ‘em) party. As a graduate student, the state of Florida subpoenaed him when the SGA refused to give money to the Black History Month fund. Black
“Life taught me that life itself is the lesson, and class is not dismissed until you die.” – Nikitah Imani “Intelligence doesn’t even sum it up. It’s hard to describe him in words. It’s something you have to experience yourself.” After an hour of connecting mathematics, recording artist Prince and the spiritual world, Imani seamlessly shifts back to Eurocentrism. His lecture material ranges from deformed chickens to rappers abusing Eurocentrism for their own personal gains. He smiles and chuckles to himself about his lecture. “I very much believe that teaching is a spiritual act,” Imani explained after class. As a student, he didn’t like being taught by PowerPoint presentations. He would ask, “If you can plan it in that much detail, why don’t you just give me the slides so I can go home?” So, as a professor, he is committed to never writing a lecture out. Imani had an atypical path to teaching. He was born Clifford Carthan in 1967 but later changed his name to Nikitah Okembe-RA Imani (“faith and power in service
The many Hats of Nikitah Imani:
internet radio show host rapper
record label owner 40
students staged a sit-in blocking SGA members from leaving their meeting. The SWAT team was called and Imani was called in to negotiate on behalf of the students staging the sit-in but was not involved in planning or carrying it out. As Commandant Clifford Strong of the Loyal Order of the 99, based on the structure of the Black Panthers, Imani and his friends continued the fight for equality at their school even against strong opposition. The Loyal Order was a group of black students who wanted more people to be educated about black culture by the year 1999. They fought the struggle for equality and justice. The KKK went as far as sending a letter from their main office in North Carolina to a local Gainesville newspaper reporting on Imani asking them to stop encouraging him. He continued to strive for academic achievement and went on to earn two doctorate degrees, one in sociology and one in metaphysics. After teaching at the University of Florida for a year in 1994 to 1995, Imani was on his way to Hampton University to begin a career when he stopped in Harrisonburg. Hampton had yet to send him a contract and there was an opening in the sociology department at James Madison University, a
Nikitah Imani during his college years. Photo Courtesy of Imani
school he had never heard of. He applied, got the position and has been teaching at JMU ever since. A tenured professor, Imani teaches classes that are meaningful to his personal history. He was once told a story about the importance of the dash between the two dates on your tombstone. He believes that it stands for what you do between those years. “It means ‘He was here. He was alive.’ Every time I walk in front of a class, I’m putting something in that dash.” As a child, the method of solving the “black orphan issue,” was dropping them on their heads. To this day, he has migraines from surviving a drop. “I’m here despite the system,” he said. He is most proud of survival, continuing to live despite his setbacks—losing his mother to racial injustice, having to find his identity in a world of social unrest, and going through phases that led him to drugs and alcohol. “Perfect, no, but still here. I will live until I’m dead.” Today, Imani’s goal is to educate young minds to think on their own. It is what drives his teaching and what drives him. “The future of dependent people is never good,” he explains. “Life taught me that life itself is the lesson, and class is not dismissed until you die.”___________________________________________________ Ansa Edim is a senior SMAD and spanish double major from Springfield, Va. She is the media specialist for recruiting services at JMU and is currently a contributing writer at Esteem Yourself. After graduation, she plans to begin a career in journalism and online media, and to travel. Hannah Pace is a senior SMAD major from Crozet, Va. She is currently the assistant photography editor for Madison 101. She is also a photographer for The Bluestone and the media and advertising executive chair for the JMU Nicaraguan Orphan Fund. She interned in New York City last summer for Free Agent Media and hopes to move to New York after graduation to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
Education & Career • Bachelor of Science in Foreign Science (BSFS), Georgetown School of Foreign Science, 1989 • Master of Political Science, University of Florida, 1991 • Master of Sociology, University of Florida, 1992 • Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Florida, 1995 • Professor, University of Florida, 1994-1995 • Professor, James Madison University, 1996-present
Just Any Place Our Community Place provides meals, programs, unity and optimism to a community with diverse interests and needs. Written & Photographed By Monica Wilder
Our Community Farm >> At Our Community Farm, the son of owners Ken and Emily Wettig, Malakai, greets guests and residents in the farmâ€™s driveway.
Before long, customers donated more food and is mission was simple: “I wanted money for the weekly meal than the little restaurant could to take the price tag off of human interaction and see what manage. Copeland began eyeing the empty building across the street and soon came up with the idea of starting a happened.”
Ten years later, colorful murals cover the bright blue walls in the front of a building in downtown Harrisonburg. Several splintered steps lead up to a door that has a crumpled piece of paper on it. It reads: “Our Community Place, owned by Ron Copeland.” If you happen to come through during Monday’s weekly lunch, 20 to 30 people can be found lined up around the room, holding hands and saying what they’re thankful for. “I’m thankful to have two socks on today,” said a man with a weary sigh. One man stepped up and said, “I’m thankful for OCP.” An air of optimism and a sense of community filled the room. In 1998, Ron Copeland was 24 years old and the owner of Little Grill Collective, the restaurant located across the street. Copeland considered himself a “quasi-hippie,” and was feeling “weirded out” by owning a restaurant in a poor neighborhood. He had just attended a “Rainbow Gathering,” which he described as a gathering of hippies in national forests to share a free meal. “You’d have these runaways and ex-cons and every kind of ragtag person in the world,” Copeland said. “They’re all eating dinner together, and it’s free.” Inspired by the gathering, Copeland began shutting down the restaurant every Monday to provide a free community meal. “I was wondering if we could have community meals— rainbow-style meals—that would just be free!” As it turned out, they could.
community center. “I thought that was really cool,” said Jonathon Schrag, who was an employee at Little Grill at the time. He was not alone. When Copeland held a meeting to see if anyone was interested, the overwhelming response was “yes!” Our Community Place (OCP) became incorporated one year later. Copeland’s vision was of a place where “anyone’s welcome.” After two years of fundraising, a down payment was placed on the building. Through loans from individuals in the community and a series of donations, Copeland purchased the building for $65,000. But the building turned out to be a “nightmare property,” Copeland said. “It was essentially a concrete shell.” Volunteers proceeded to put time and money into gutting the building, redoing all the electrical, plumbing, roof and windows, and ridding the walls and floors of asbestos. By 2006, debts were paid and progress was made. But for Copeland, something had changed. After years of not practicing Christianity he had what he calls “a mystical experience,” that led him back to God. He felt that his calling was clear. So, he turned Little Grill into a worker-owned collective and went to seminary at Eastern Mennonite University. Three years later, Copeland graduated and started his own Mennonite congregation apart from OCP, Early Church. Early Church meets regularly in the OCP building. In 2008, after 7 years, OCP received its license to open. Ron Copeland
One project of OCP has culminated into a fully staffed recovery farm, Our Community Farm (OCF), where people battling addiction can go to live and work in a substance-free environment. Through the program, people are given a place to live and earn money, with a chance to graduate and become employees. Five men and one woman currently live on the farm, along with staff-members Ken and Emily Wettig and their three children. The farm also houses five alpacas, four chickens, three cows, two dogs and a cat. OCF is a branch of the program Our Community Works (OCW), started by Jason Wagner. The program provides jobs and training for work ranging from yard maintenance to small-scale construction. 75 percent of wages go directly toward paying off the employee’s rent and utility costs, 10 percent goes to OCP and the remainder goes directly to the employee. “I love this idea,” explained Ron Copeland. “If you hire OCW to build a fence at your house, that’s money you were going to spend anyways. Now with that same dollar you’ve gotten somebody work who hasn’t been employable. Plus 75 cents of that dollar is going toward housing for that person, and you’re building [capital] in OCP.” CURIO 2010
But with Copeland’s strong ties to the church, a problem arose. OCP had always been considered a secular organization, but Copeland felt God was responsible for its success. Copeland finally told the board that he couldn’t pretend anymore that Christ wasn’t the center of the project. “It’s been painful,” Copeland said. “People I really love and care about who aren’t Christians feel betrayed.” The board voted to become a Christian organization in 2009. The Christian symbols painted on the walls indicate that the transition is complete. “Somehow things have just always worked out,” said Schrag, who now is community resource director. His primary responsibility is finding ways for volunteers to use their individual talents and skills at OCP. Today the vision has evolved from one free meal per week to three meals, six days per week at the center. The meals are only a small piece of what OCP offers. Every day begins at 7 a.m. with a worship service followed by a variety of activities such as GED courses, craft nights, counseling, evening movies and computer classes. OCP also has a bike shop. Special events are held throughout the year as new programs and opportunities develop, such as a plant sale and talent shows. In addition to Copeland and Schrag’s full-time positions, there are six part-time employees. One of the employees, Sigi Chabrier, came to OCP on a slightly different route. Chabrier came to OCP seeking work to pay off community fees such as court costs and fines. As he reached out to others in the program, his value became apparent and an individual donor provided the funds to hire him. He became officially known as the Recovery Coordinator and Latino Liaison. Chabrier is in charge of Nuestra Communidad, a program that connects Our Community Place welcomes anyone to join in the free community meals offered three times a day, Monday through Saturday.
members of the Latino community with OCP’s resources. He also serves as a coordinator for Friends of Recovery, a group for recovering addicts that meets every day. “Our program is unique because it provides a place for people to start every day with the right mindset,” Chabrier explained. Chabrier believes alcoholism is the biggest problem in Harrisonburg; most of those suffering from addiction have been abused or neglected, he said. “There’s no detox center in Harrisonburg,” Chabrier said. Friends of Recovery offers an important outlet for those in need of support. Many of the people who come through the various programs have dealt with addiction, abuse and homelessness. But Chabrier and Schrag say that the biggest misconception about OCP is that it is only a place for homeless people. “It’s not just a charity or a homeless shelter,” Schrag said. “Our mission isn’t to serve the poor, our purpose is to build community. We’re open to everyone with nowhere to go.” “Anyone could come walking through those doors and will all be treated the same,” said Chabrier. “Be it the President of the Seventh Day Adventist or whoever.” Although there is much more to the center, homelessness is still a problem—one that Mike Kline is all too familiar with. Having once been homeless, Kline also battled addiction himself. However, he has turned his life around and has now been with OCP eight years and substance free for 20 years. He currently serves as an advocate for the homeless as well as a co-founder of Harrisonburg and Rockingham Thermal Shelter (HARTS). The program helps to house and feed 12 homeless people at various
Our Community Place opened its doors in 2008 at 17 E. Johnson St. in Harrisonburg.
churches and residences in the community. “I don’t want anyone to hurt like I had to,” Kline said. “I know what it’s like.” Kline has also compiled a book of community resources that can help people in the community get connected with organizations that help with resources like food distribution, clothing and utility payments. With the cost of 90 meals per day, six days per week and keeping the building running, the center costs $10,000 a month to run. “We do a lot with very little,” Schrag said. “Fundraising from the outside is very important.” Besides donating money, volunteers also assist in a variety of ways from teaching art classes, cooking meals and helping on the farm. Schrag’s job is to find ways to use volunteer’s talents at OCP. Many people who come for help end up volunteering, and those who come to volunteer are surprised how much they get back. “I’m now being paid to help others,” Chabrier said. “But I ended up helping myself a lot more. It’s made me come to a much deeper faith.” Copeland said while the donations and volunteering are nice, he loves the idea of becoming as self-sufficient as possible. He encourages people to hire OCW and come to
Night Out, where OCP turns into a restaurant. They get a bar and tables from Little Grill, Copeland explained. “Everyone loves it, everyone cooks and serves and waits on them.” “If you’re on the fence about going out, come to here instead and give the money you would have spent to OCP.” The suggested donation for the evening is $15 per person. Usually $1,500 to $1,800 is raised, and they recently began sending 25 percent of the proceeds to a village in Haiti. The future of OCP seems to only be limited to Copeland’s imagination. He predicts the farm may expand, a second floor will be added to OCP, and they will get a building in town to hold a program called Our Community Housing (to provide cheap housing without the “chaos of slum housing”). He imagines the future also involving a store, theater, retreat center, a home for single pregnant women as well as a home for people with mental illness. “This is all of course in 10 or 15 years,” Copeland said. “But then again, maybe not! Look how far we’ve come in a year and a half!”_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Monica Wilder is a senior SMAD and political science major from Northern Virginia. She is studying abroad in Florence this summer and plans on completing her degree in August after three years at JMU. She hopes to attend law school in the fall of 2011 after a term with Americorps.
The Farm of ‘Many Faces’ Local farmer Joel Salatin uses nature’s patterns to raise healthy, clean and organic produce at Polyface, Inc., a local market-farm in the Shenandoah Valley. By Tina Dilegge
Photographed by Marie Christopher 46
ucked away in the rolling fields and pastures of Swoope, Va., lays Polyface, Inc., a small family-operated farm nationally known for its innovative and organic agricultural methods. On a warm Saturday in March, visitors and customers wander the 550-acre farm freely, collecting eggs from the Eggmobile or stopping to look at pigs, who greet gawking children with friendly snorts. Several customers, such as Ann Janney-Schultz, come to Polyface after reading the best-seller “Omnivore’s Dilemma” or watching the documentary “Food, Inc.”. Both feature the farm for its role in grass-based agriculture and a sustainable food movement. “The farm is beautiful and peaceful,” said JanneySchultz, a first time visitor who traveled to Polyface from Roanoke. “I took a picture of the chicken who donated her eggs and [told her], ‘Thank you.’” A multi-generational farm, Polyface has come a long way since William and Lucille Salatin purchased the rugged land in 1961. The Salatins, who moved to Shenandoah Valley from Venezuela, took on 150 years of erosion and exhaustion caused by tenant farms. “It had been so abused that it was the poorest, most gullied farm in the area,” said the Salatin’s son, Joel, who runs the farm full-time. The Salatin family immediately went to work, using nature and historical patterns of herbivores and perennials to mold their environmentally-friendly farming techniques. “Dad was an environmentalist way ahead of his time,” said Joel, 53. “He was organic before Rachel Carson wrote ‘Silent Spring.’” The Salatin’s got the farm up-and-running through controlled grazing of cows, putting in electric fences and portable shade mobiles, which attracted cows to drop manure in various areas throughout the pasture. The cows moved to new fields every day and healed the land by creating natural fertilizer. Eventually other animals, such as poultry and pigs, were introduced to the farm. “We never planted a seed and never brought in a bag of fertilizer,” Joel said. In 1967, 10-year-old Joel took it upon himself to put Polyface into the direct market by selling hen eggs to the community. “I had a flock of chickens, my first flock of chickens, and I sold eggs to people
at church, to schools, to a couple of restaurants, to people here on the block and the business gradually grew and grew,” Joel said. “We couldn’t make it on the commodity because the farm wasn’t big enough to produce enough volume to justify doing a commodity deal so that pushed us into going into a direct market clientele.” Today, Polyface, Inc. is a flourishing local-market farm that serves more than 3,000 families, 50 restaurants and 10 retail outlets in Virginia and Maryland. It functions through on-farm sales and buying clubs, which allow customers to order products online and pick up meat from a delivery location within their area. “Polyface is very respectable,” said Michele Simmers, an employee at Kate’s Natural Products in Harrisonburg. “They go through great lengths to keep animals happy and healthy. They take care of the environment they live on, too.” Kate’s Natural Products, a retail store that specializes in health foods, carries Polyface ground beef and eggs. Simmers said that Polyface products are a hit with customers. “One lady won’t have any other eggs but Polyface eggs,” Simmers said. “We have lots of repeat buyers.”
Above: At age 10, Joel Salatin began selling hen eggs. Left: The farm’s fertilizer and seed-free grass leads up to the Polyface farmhouse, the home of the Salatins.
Joel Salatin and his son, Daniel, cut wooden boards from a tree that they cut 30 minutes prior.
Polyface attracts customers seeking an alternative to meat produced by industrial farms, sometimes known for raising livestock in unnatural environments with a corn-fed diet averse to what their stomachs are created to eat. At Polyface, the livestock graze in grass fields, called the “salad bar,” untouched by chemicals or seed. The salad bar template is designed to replicate nature as closely as possible. The herd is moved to new pasture paddocks daily, which ensures
that they eat only forage and not other dead animals, grain, chicken manure or fermented forage. “The animals here are looked at as animals and not just a way to produce food,” said Matthew Robertson, a Polyface apprentice. “They’re living in a much more natural, healthy way.” Robertson, 23, sits behind a small counter in the Polyface sales building as customers pick out meat from the freezer, pick up cartons to collect eggs and browse shelves of Joel Salatin’s published books. After reading “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Robertson came to the farm from Little Rock, Ark., in October for a year-long apprenticeship. Robertson is one of three annual apprentices selected from 60 applicants who live on the farm and tend to its different needs, such as taking care of animals, helping with construction and mowing the lawn. In exchange, apprentices receive room, Polyface products, a monthly stipend and a valuable education. “We’re like [the Salatin’s] children,” Robertson said. “We have dinner with them every night.” The role of apprentices is another trait that sets Polyface apart from industrial farms.
“We like people on the farm. Most farmers don’t want any people around. The average farmer is 60 years old with no helpers or partners,” Joel said. “We want you to be able to drive in here at one o’clock, honk the horn and there be people around.” Although Saturdays are set aside as the on-farm sales day, Polyface welcomes people to stop by the farm any time during the week. “You cannot have accountability without transparency. Without transparency, you can’t have integrity,” Joel said. “The only way we’re going to have a food system with integrity is to be able to have a transparent one in which everybody can see what goes in the front door and what comes out the back door.” The Salatin’s open-door policy exemplifies the Polyface principle of the farm being close with its community. “We want people to be able to come and see their food in the fields whether it’s animals or plants. We want them to meet the farmer and have a connection, so that when they sit down and eat, there’s an emotional and physical connection to the food, rather than it just being ‘stuff ’ on a plate,” Joel said. Since receiving national recognition, Polyface has seen an increase in the number of visitors and the demand for products. To handle the increasing volume and interest, the Salatin’s plan to rebuild the sales building this year and add more seminar dates. And the chickens may want to lay more eggs. “The eggs are unbelievable,” said Mason Hulen of Waynesboro, Va. “You can even see a difference when you break an egg—the yellow is like the sun.” ____________________________________________
What Recession? Despite the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, business in downtown Harrisonburg is booming. By Cory Kuklick & Mary Potter
hile the rest of the country struggles with unemployment and foreclosure, Harrisonburg, Va., has been economically stable. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2009, the unemployment rate was 10.4 percent while Harrisonburgâ€™s was only 6.1 percent. Because of the universities and strong industries in and around town, including Coors Brewing Company and Tyson Foods, Inc., most people have kept their jobs and live similarly to how they did before the recession.
Photographed by Marie Christopher & Rebecca Schneider CURIO 2010
Cuchi Guidos chef serves up a northern-inspired cheese pizza.
According to Eddie Bumbaugh, the executive director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, although the economic climate is different than it was two years ago, it’s not deterring people with entrepreneurial spirit from realizing their dreams in downtown Harrisonburg. In the past year, seven new restaurants have opened, and two are set to open within the next few months. Where the Italian restaurant Luigi’s once stood is the new Cuchi Guidos. Its gigantic sign is bright green, red and white and can’t be missed. Across the street is the cozy corner home of Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint. The sign hanging from the front looks aged, but that’s just an illusion. Jack Brown’s, like so many others, is new to this town. Around the corner where restaurant Downtown 56 had a brief stint, is the Local Chop and Grill House. The old, brick Wetsel Seed building has apartments on the top portion, and a restaurant on the bottom. The economy of Harrisonburg just isn’t like those of other towns, said Bumbaugh “The economy in general, the number of unemployed, stats are better than most communities,” said Bumbaugh. “However, credit is extremely tight.” Despite Harrisonburg’s more promising economic climate, he is still taken aback by the sudden surge of downtown business. “It’s actually a surprise to me, as I attend main street stops around the state, there’s not that level of activity in other communities,” he said. He attributes this to not only the strong entrepreneurial spirit of many Harrisonburg residents, but also to the revitalization efforts. Bumbaugh said the surge in downtown business stems partly from the increased number of people living downtown. The Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, a group that works with the city government and community leaders to develop a plan to “revitalize downtown Harrisonburg into a prosperous and vibrant city center,” was born six-and-a-half years ago, the downtown population has nearly tripled. JMU, a 15-minute walk from downtown, provides an influx of money into downtown businesses.
“Cute Little Man” Comes to Town
With JMU students in mind, Andrew Caesare Fernando opened Cuchi Guidos. “I saw the opportunity downtown,” said Fernando. “I built this for JMU. I built this because 30 percent of the students at JMU are out of state.” Fernando is from New Jersey and of Filipino descent. He talks with an accent, though it’s hard to tell where from. His style is laidback and he often has a cigarette in his hand. As people come and go from Cuchi Guidos, he makes a point to interact with them. He asks if they’re having fun and how their food was, but he’s already sure what their response will be. At 5:30 p.m. on a weekend, Cuchi Guidos is already packed. Its bustling downstairs has little seating and is mainly used as the
kitchen and takeout area, but as you make your way up the narrow spiral staircase, you seem to enter a different restaurant. Once night falls, the upstairs turns into what appears to be “Caesare’s speakeasy,” said Fernando. Funky lighting and strobe lights are turned on, and Cuchi Guidos begins to look less like a family restaurant and more like a dance club. Under the wall-sized Cuchi Guidos sign sits a small stage for bands and comedy acts to perform. As one of the only downtown spots open past 2 a.m., Cuchi Guidos gets a surge of business after the bars close. Fernando wants his restaurant to be “Anti-Dave’s.” He wants Cuchi Guidos to give off more of a fun and relaxing vibe rather than one of drinking and partying. “I love Dave’s,” he said. “I want you to go here afterwards….” Fernando said that Cuchi Guidos will be the first restaurant in Harrisonburg that does the Philly cheesesteak justice. “You need somebody to say, ‘Come here; let me show you what a cheesesteak is.’ You guys are so used to steak and cheese that you don’t know what a cheesesteak is,” he said. Fernando said Cuchi Guidos uses only fresh-sliced rib eye and fresh, untoasted bread when making their cheesesteaks. Cuchi Guidos has another Virginia exclusive, the Panzarotti. According to the menu, their Panzarotti consists of deep fried pockets of dough stuffed with generous portions of mozzarella and the customer’s choice of Italian meats, mushrooms, extra cheese or any combination of the above. Fernando claims the rights to panzarotti in Virginia, so others need to purchase it directly from Cuchi Guidos. “I don’t care where you go. There’s nothing like this anywhere in Virginia,” he insisted.
Though some may be tight on money and worried about the future, Fernando takes things on a day-by-day basis. “Someone’s got money, someone’s got entrepreneurial spirit. Everything’s a risk. I spend it now, I spend it tomorrow, it doesn’t matter,” he said. Fernando is taking marketing to the extreme. Unlike other independently owned pizza places in Harrisonburg, Fernando said, Cuchi Guidos invests in its own boxes with the Cuchi Guidos logo on the front. When you dine in, they hand you a bottle of their own Cuchi Guidos-labeled water. Listening to a local radio station, you notice that the music’s coming to your speakers from Cuchi Guidos’ studios. Kiss FM, Country KCY and 98 Rock are all broadcasted from their studio, which is on University Boulevard. “We’re connected with the clear channel system so we can get into any of the radio stations that are connected with clear channel,” said Maria Beckett, human resource manager of Cuchi Guidos. The marketing of Cuchi Guidos is taken care of solely by Fernando, who is a self-proclaimed “marketing genius.” Fernando graduated from Penn State with a marketing degree and went on to Rowan University to earn his teaching degree. He also attended Princeton University for a year. “Attended is the keyword,” he said, laughing. He hopes to develop Cuchi Guidos into the number one cheesesteak franchise. That is if people can get past the name’s derogatory-sounding English context. “Everybody talks about my name, everybody wants a little cuchi,” said Fernando. “It means cute or little, Cuchi, and Guidos is man. Cute little man.”
Escape to Elegance
On the higher-end of the downtown-dining spectrum lies The Local Chop and Grill House, which opened in October. The Local Chop and Grill House, according to the owner, Craig Moore, “is a chop house with an innovative new twist, using local ingredients as much as possible.” Meals range from $15 to $28 and diners can choose from a varied menu, with everything from filet mignon to duck breast to lamb rack. Diners are allowed their choice of preparation including the house rub, garden rub, seasonal rub, sea salt and cracked black pepper. They then choose from a number of sauces in the categories of sweet, savory and spicy. Finally, diners are allowed
Local Chop and Grill House Dining Room.
Draft specials at the Local Chop and Grill House.
their choice of two side dishes from a list that includes haricot vert (green beans) or macaroni and goat cheese. Moore, who has owned four restaurants in the last 30 years, decided to get back into business after a six-year hiatus. “If you’d asked me six years ago, ‘Would I be back in the business?’ I would have said, ‘No way.’ But it kind of gets in your blood and it seems to be what I do best,” said Moore. After graduating from JMU in 1983, Moore opened Calhoun’s in an old building downtown. Although three other restaurants had come and gone in the building, his restaurant survived. The old Calhoun’s is now Cally’s on Court Square. After selling Calhoun’s, he opened The Joshua Wilton House in what used to be a fraternity house. “We used to have our Rugby parties there, so I wasn’t totally innocent of what went on in that place,” said Moore. “I saw a motorcycle go up the stairs; I saw a lot of stuff. So it was interesting to remodel it and bring it back to life.” Moore consulted for Downtown 56 before it closed and attempted to help keep the business afloat. Through this, experience, he learned a great deal about the building and the restaurant’s operation. “I knew what the potential was, I’d been in [t]here, I knew the bones of the place, the equipment and everything. I got some partners together and made an offer… and here we are.” What once was an old seed building is now one of downtown’s most beautiful and inviting restaurants. CURIO 2010
Pennies form unique designs on each table at Pennybackers.
1 Sandwich, 800 Pennies
For Tammy Brown and her husband, Ted, the road to opening Pennybackers was the road back home. Tammy, a 1994 JMU graduate, met Ted at JMU and the two were married in 1995. After receiving their graduate degrees, the couple began moving across the East Coast, residing in Northern Virginia, Richmond, Nashville, Baltimore, and Charlotte. “Ted has always had the dream to own his own restaurant,” Tammy said. “All of the cities we lived in, we looked at commercial space.” With the intention of opening up a restaurant focusing on soups, salads and sandwiches, the couple made their way back to Harrisonburg, where they began looking more seriously into purchasing a building. In 2007, two and a half years before Pennybackers would officially open, the couple purchased a building in Harrisonburg. “This is where our roots are,” Tammy said. After getting help on a business plan from Dave Miller of Dave’s Taverna and securing loans with banks, the couple began working with the Harrisonburg Planning Commission and the fire marshal to get the building—an ex-apartment complex located on Water Street dating back to the 1950s —up to code ,and up to the couple’s vision. Pennybackers’ Wine Rack “We really wanted to highlight the history of this building,” Tammy said. “We wanted to keep it real comfortable and casual.” The two-story building contained asbestos which had to be removed, as well as wood paneling which was removed in favor of concrete flooring. The couple kept the brick ceiling upstairs and used local lumber for the rest of the construction to give a rustic, local feel to the restaurant. They also added a wine rack and introduced their own twist for seating. Each table features a glass covering, with the tail[s] side of hundreds of pennies forming a design underneath, ranging from the JMU logo to people’s faces, an ode to an early owner of the building, Derrick Pennybacker. On Dec. 31, 2009, during First Night Harrisonburg, a New Year’s celebration downtown, the couple began handing out coupons for Pennybackers in preparation for the grand opening on Jan. 8. The economic landscape, however, was different from when the couple first purchased the building in 2007. The economy played a role in the menu of Pennybackers, with the majority of the sandwiches priced below $8. “When you can get a sandwich, tater tots and a drink for under
$10, you know you’re set,” said 20-year-old JMU senior Laura Tittle, whose favorite sandwich is the Monterey chicken. With JMU and other schools on break, the opening also gave Pennybackers the opportunity to see how it could operate without the direct support of students, and allowed them time to get the dayto-day operations of the restaurant figured out before business got more hectic. “We want to embrace JMU and have them feel welcome, but then again it’s kind of nice they weren’t there,” Tammy said. While the Browns recognize a shift in the economy, they also see an increase in local business openings as a shift in attitude, and a sign that more entrepreneus are choosing downtown Harrisonburg as their business location. “It’s been so exciting to see downtown growing and becoming a destination for people,” said Tammy, who believes the diversity of every new restaurant breeds a welcoming atmosphere, not one of competition. The Browns say they have had steady business since opening in January. Tammy attributes the consistency of people going out to eat, despite the struggling economy, to a new-found willingness to make cuts in big expenses, while still finding ways to enjoy the little things. “Harrisonburg and JMU are kind of protected,” she said. “Certainly people have been affected [by the economy], but college students are college students. They need to eat.”
Boards & Business Plans
Mike Hill sits at the checkout counter of Wonder Skate Culture, a black hat shading his eyes as he scans his laptop for new merchandise. To his right are a rack of skateboards covering the wall, to his left is a flat-screen television playing a video of skateboarders grinding down rails and flipping their boards down stairs. In front of Hill sits an array of blue and black jeans, jackets and shirts, folded neatly on tables or hanging on racks against the wall. Hill is one of three owners of Wonder Skate, and at 23, he is one of the youngest business owners in Harrisonburg. Wonder Skate is the vision of Hill, Jeremiah Jenkins and Greg Pelletier, local skaters who, according to Hill, “started hanging out and skating and eventually came to the idea of opening a skate shop,” according to Hill. In 2008, the group took their first step toward opening a business together by attending the Action Sports Retailer (ASR) Conference in San Diego, a trade show for action sports where retailers show off their newest lines.“We got to meet with a lot of companies to narrow down the shape of the shop – like whether we wanted it to be a core skate shop or a
boutique,” Hill recalled. After dipping their feet at the ASR Conference, the trio formally started Wonder Skate by drawing up a business plan and meeting with Downtown Renaissance, a non-profit organization working to bring more businesses to downtown Harrisonburg. The business plan spelled out in detail everything an investor would want to see, from the competition from other shops to the type of brands the store would sell. “It was basically showing why your business is worthy of being open and to show people who may not even know what a skateboard is, why this shop would be a good idea,” Hill said. The grounp got the support from local skateboarders as well, who were excited by the idea of a skate shop opening up in the downtown area. “Every skateboarder wants a community spot to get everything they need and have a group of people that are involved with the local skateboard scene,” said Alex Kent, 22, a JMU student and local skateboarder. Following the creation of the business plan, the group received a small business loan from Downtown Renaissance, as well as from BB&T Bank and private investors. When it came to the location, the group settled on Water Street. With large windows showing off the inside of the expanside inside of the store, this is what the group was looking for. After a year of planning and getting the store set up for business, Wonder Skate opened on Nov. 7 of 2009. The effects of the recession were felt during the beginning phases of the business and when trying to obtain loans. Although the group still feels a financial burden, they remain optimistic about the future. “The economy isn’t turning at the speed we want it to, but I can only see it going forward, with people coming out and spending more,” Hill said. “If it was any other area I think we would have felt a bigger pull from it, but there’s no other shop like this in town, which has been a comforting feeling
through the whole process.” Kent agrees that the economy is causing skateboarders to watch their budgets, but is grateful for their continued support. “I think that all the people that skate around here want to see it succeed; there’s no other place around here to get a quality board,” he said. The stuggling economy has forced the business into different marketing tactics to promote the store while keeping costs down. The initiatives have been innovative, ranging from posting flyers in apartment complexes to what the group call “guerilla marketing,” where they post stickers promoting the shop around town. Despite forcing the group to stretch its creative thinking, the economy has proved vital in showing the owners how to properly stock and run the business. “You’re able to kick back and see what other stores did wrong,” said Hill, referring to other stores that overstocked and couldn’t pay for future purchases. Wonder Skate has developed into a store that Hill believes caters to everything a skateboarder could need. The store recently held an art auction for earthquake recovery in Haiti, and Hill sees the store expanding to host bands, workshops, and creating “more of a community space where kids can just hang out.” But for now, Hill sits at his laptop, filling orders and letting the wheels of Wonder Skate roll. _________________________________________________ Mary Potter is a senior SMAD major and writing and rhetoric minor from Suffolk, Va. She is currently the copy chief for both Madison 101 and SMAD About You. She holds an internship with the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum where she produces an online newsletter. She also is broadcast live on the weekends on Harrisonburg’s local radio station, Q101. After graduation, she hopes to begin a career within the field of journalism.
Mike Hill, 23, owns Wonder Skate Shop and is one of the youngest business owners in downtown Harrisonburg.
Society of Professional Journalists
2009 Mark of Excellence Awards Annually, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) presents the Mark of Excellence Awards honoring the best in student journalism. More than 3600 entries were submitted in 2009. Judges choose one national winner in each category and two national finalists. Winners and finalists were previously recognized by receiving first place in one of the SPJâ€™s 12 regional competitions. Each first place regional winner advanced to the national competition. Northwestern University was the national winner, and Syracuse University was the other finalist.
Best Student Magazine -National Finalist -First Place, Region 2 Editors: Joanna Brenner, Ashton Smith and Rebecca Schneider
Best Non-Fiction Magazine Article, Region 2 First Place: From Rucksack to Backpack By Matt Voegel and Nicole Brigagliano Photographed by Ashley Beaudin, Megan Mori, Jessica Rice and Matt Voegel
Second Place: Faces of the Forgotten Written by Anna Young Photographed by Ashley Beaudin
Published on Feb 9, 2011
Curio is a regional general-interest feature magazine published each year by students in the School of Media Arts & Design at James Madison...