Something Old, Something New

Every wedding season, writers search for new ideas to source for brides. In Spring 2016, brides were feeling overwhelmed about the Pinterest-perfect weddings — and their huge price tags. I put together this article to balance out the new, social-media standard with some old-fashioned sense.

Save Versus Splurge

By Danielle Verderame

Published in The Central VA Bridal Guide

To pin or not to pin, that is the question. Six years after the launch of Pinterest, most wedding planning starts with a collection of inspiration images. The difficulty lies in recreating the look on a budget. In central Virginia, brides can get the most of out their Pinboard by soliciting the help of local professionals. According to The Knot’s annual Real Weddings study, the average cost of wedding is approximately $32,641. Interestingly, The Knot’s report indicates that using professionals for their expertise is up and may be the key to getting the most value. Below, we have collected the top tips from local professionals on where you can save versus splurge.


Average cost: $14,788

At The Timberlake Tavern, event coordinator, Jennifer Reynolds, dialogues with brides to help them understand their options. She relishes the chance to help the bride create this part of their story. Reynolds explains, “The best case scenario is to visit your venue on the same day a year prior. Then, you can check out the temperature and landscaping. You can see

what’s blooming for outdoor pictures that time of year and the time of sunset.”

Save vs Splurge

Reynolds recommends, “…finding a venue that doesn’t have hidden fees but is more inclusive of linens and chairs.” For pinning, she explains, “It’s always helpful to have a picture of your vision.”


Average cost: $2,300

Cheryl, Owner at Cheryl’s Secret Garden has been helping with weddings for over 20 years. For a consultation, Cheryl emphasizes the bride’s personality by encouraging the bride to imagine what will make her happy. Cheryl explains, “I don’t start by talking about her budget. Instead, we talk about her desired look. How does the bride want to feel when she looks at her wedding? What will make her happy? Then, I find a combination of flowers that can create that look regardless of her budget.”

Save vs Splurge

While Cheryl explains that you can’t have “an orchid wedding for a carnation price” you can get a beautiful wedding

on any budget. Working with a florist can actually make perfect pins more attainable because floral arrangements can be repurposed during the event. For example, bridesmaids’ bouquets can become centerpieces, lowering the cost of table arrangements during the reception. Also, a spray on spray on an archway during the wedding ceremony can be moved to the food table for the reception.

Wedding Beauty

Average cost: $209

Several beauty experts gave advice to feel comfortable and confident. Samantha E. Hill, MD, FAAD Owner of Aesthetics by RidgeView Dermatology recommends two processes, CoolSculpting and MiraDry, may help a bride be more comfortable during the event. CoolSculpting supports exercise efforts and MiraDry reduces sweat. To start, Hill can recommend a personalize regimen to help a bride, “…become the most radiant and confident versions of themselves”. For each consultation, Hill discusses aesthetic goals, budget, and timeframe to make an individualized plan.

After 16 years of working with brides, Emily Garbee-Harris, a hairstylist, makeup artist, and manager at Body Works Day Spa, knows how to listen. Her assistance starts with the wedding consultation, typically two months before the wedding. During

this consultation, she carefully watches the bride’s reaction when she turns toward the mirror. According to Garbee-Harris, the only difference in budget is how many touchups the bride anticipates during the day.

Similarly, Jennifer Griffin, a cosmetic tattooist at Beyond the Surface, lends her artistic eye to lash extensions. Griffin works out of several locations, including Caspian Tattoo. Her extensions are customized to the bride’s eye shape and fullness. Also, the extensions can last up to three weeks leaving long lashes for the honeymoon.

Save vs Splurge

For wedding beauty, experts agree that professional experience that saves both time and touchups. Garbee-Harris encourages pinning because it helps clarify styles and expectations. Griffin also encourages pinning because brides may use terms like “dramatic” or “classic” differently.


Average cost: $2,618

Audra Lynne Rygh of Audra Lynne Creative explains her passion for weddings by saying, “I love knowing that a bride can trust me to capture one of the most important and special days of her entire life.” This trust starts with the consultation

where Rygh asks the bride what is most important. For example, some brides may be more focused on candid images over posed photos. Talking about these expectations early in the process focuses the shooting schedule.

Save vs Splurge

When it comes to Pinterest, Rygh says pins can help her create a checklist for the bride’s story. Also, a pinboard can create opportunities for Rygh to discuss the venue and how it may look in photos. For example, bride might choose to put more budget into fresh flowers and lighting because these photograph well.

To Pin or Not To Pin

When it comes to your wedding budget, the consensus is “pin away”. Don’t assume you can’t get the look on your budget and will need to resort to an overly ambitious DIY project. Local professionals can help you turn those inspirational photos into a personalized, budget-friendly look. In fact, their years of experience can help you find ways to save time, stress, and money. If you find yourself wondering if you can afford your dream wedding, start with the photos and let experienced professionals guide you.


1. The Knot Real Weddings Study,

A Wedding Listicle

Undertaking a wedding tops the most stressful experiences of my young life. The pressure of planning a party for my family, friends, coworkers, and (our parents’) acquaintances filled me with dread. Years later, I revisited that terror (with some much-needed levity) to put together a list of things brides forgot on their wedding day.

Oops, I Forgot…

by Danielle Verderame

Originally Published in Central VA Bridal Guide

On the morning of my wedding, my buzzing cell phone woke me from bridal daydreaming. “We’re calling to confirm your cake order for tomorrow night at seven,” said the baker on the other end of the phone.

“I’m getting married today,” I exclaimed. We quickly deduced the mix-up. When my fiancé ordered the cake, he confused the date of the wedding. Fortunately, wedding professionals are prepared for forgetful mistakes, and the baker delivered a beautiful, emergency wedding cake. Like my scenario, brides are bound to forget some large or small details. Below are some common oversights and humorous stories when brides say, “Oops! I forgot…”

Common Oversights
Even with a Pinterest checklist, a bride may overlook basic elements of the wedding as the many decisions and details overload her brain. The stories below highlight a few common oversights when wedding planning.

“I forgot to bring an invitation to the wedding to have photographed as part of the detail shots. The invitation was a design from my favorite stationery company, and we even chose our flowers with it in mind. So, I would’ve loved to have it in a photo with my flowers.”
–Christiann L., hand-lettering enthusiast and marketing associate

“We bought a bunch of food in bulk the day before and put it in the fridge. Some items got left in the fridge accidentally until the very end of the reception when everyone had already eaten their fill. We had a ton of leftovers!”
– Heather T., organized list-maker and project manager

“As a wedding planner, my boss always carries with him a big box of emergency supplies to make sure we can deal with this anything-can-come-up industry. We have everything that you can think of in that box from Advil to a sewing kit to sunscreen. And when we thought we had everything prepared, we still had to run out to buy a razor and shaving cream for our bride at the last wedding.”
– Annie, Wedding Coordinator at Jose Rolon Events, NY

“I had a really tight timeline for my wedding, so the photographer really didn’t have a chance to take pictures of just me on the day of my wedding. Luckily, I had her come take some bridal portraits when I did my hair and makeup consultation. I was able to use those to bridge some of the gaps of the actual wedding day photos.”
– Chaia, a Navy Nurse who married a Marine Corps Officer

Humorous Stories
Sometimes, brides encounter unique problems on their special day because they did not think something through. But these circumstances create hilarious stories for couple to retell at dinner parties during their newlywed months.

“The DJ had to start the song that the grandmothers and bridesmaids walked down the aisle to again because the grandmothers took longer than anticipated to get to their seats. So, the song was cut off abruptly. In the end, it was fine because I still got to walk down to the song I had chosen for my processional.”
– Heather T., organized list-maker and project manager

“We had our ceremony at around 5:30 p.m. It only lasted eight minutes, and we had the reception right after. Well, we planned on doing a sparkler send off, but I didn’t think about how long it would be until the sun set. It was actually around 8:20 p.m. in late May. So, all my guests started leaving before we were able to do the send-off! Luckily we were able to bribe enough people to stay for the photo.”
– Leah J., long-time Lynchburg resident and marketing professional

“One of my closest friends just married the love of her life. However, there is one ongoing battle in their relationship: The New York Yankees vs. The Boston Red Sox. The bride, a devoted Yankees fan and New York native, swore to me that she would never date a Red Sox fan. However, she fell in love and decided to marry a loyal Red Sox fan. When we traveled to New York to pick out the bridesmaid dresses, the abundance of Yankees hats inspired our epic rehearsal prank. The bride and bridesmaids walked down the aisle wearing Yankee hats. While our rehearsal prank went well, there was one thing we forgot—retaliation. Just as the bride reached the doors of the church on the wedding day, the groom placed a Red Sox hat onto his head. The room erupted with laughter, and the bride beamed with the sweetest, surprised smile. While these two may never see eye to eye on America’s greatest team, they are committed to loving each other, for better or for worse—including winning and losing seasons—as long as they both shall live. That kind of love? A home run.”
– Deana D., Lynchburg resident and social media professional

Whether you lose the marriage license or forget where you stored the rings, last-minute fixes make the wedding day memorable. While the advice above may make you a better planner, it’s important to remember that your love will last much longer than those forgotten wedding details.

Amherst County Guidebook

I’ve worked with this publisher, Dan Curran, on several articles and several different publications. For this list of non profit organizations we aimed to include as many organizations as possible. To find the groups, we worked through several different resources, including talking to people in the community.

Then, I interviewed each of the organizations over phone and email. Additionally, I pulled some statistics on volunteerism — comparing the state with national averages.

You can read the full article at The Amherst County Guidebook or below.

Amherst County: Where We Value Our Volunteers & Their Work

Originally published in the Amherst County Guidebook

Volunteers are giving back, even if they don’t have a lot of money to donate. Their time has a real value to organizations, both large and small. When someone volunteers for a nonprofit group, they are worth about $24.14 per hour, according to an Independent Sector Study. Those efforts, at both a state and national level, have an important impact on communities.

National Statistics (2018)

  • 77.4 Million Americans Volunteered
  • 6.9 Billion Hours Served
  • $167 Billion Estimated Economic Value

Virginia Statistics (2017)

  • 2.2 Million Virginians Volunteered
  • 232 Million Hours Served
  • $5.5 Billion Estimated Economic Value

For nonprofit groups throughout Amherst, this volunteer support is critical. In fact, many of these beloved, local organizations rely on volunteers to do their good work. By working together, these people make this “Perfect Slice of Virginia” better all the time.

The following organizations are listed in alphabetical order…they are all important! If your organization was inadvertently left out, please accept our apology in advance and e-mail your groups’ information to

Amherst Association for Family & Community Education

(434) 846-6255  Email:
Cordelia Greene, President

The Amherst Association for Family and Community Education strengthens individuals, families, and communities through continuing education, developing leadership, and community action. They are a grass roots, volunteer organization. Their county membership is also joined with other clubs in the state of Virginia, which is under the National Association for Family and Community Education, Inc. with international affiliates.

Today’s AAFCE members promote literacy and volunteering. Some of the projects undertaken include: sewing and assembling bags for rescued, human-trafficking individuals; donations to Neighbors Helping Neighbors; sponsoring a child for Operation Smile surgery; donations to Patrick Henry Plantation, local elementary school teachers and Heifer International; collecting and assembling backpacks for Back Packs for School Children; and donations to help local children attend local 4-H Camp. They have also awarded scholarships to Amherst County High School seniors, given monetary donations to various ACHS clubs, and given monetary donations to Amherst County Fire and Rescue departments. Their main project is sponsoring the Amherst County Apple Harvest Festival!

Amherst Cares

(434) 946-7624    Email:
Beth Gamble, President; Marion Kanour, Vice President
Betty Hopkins, Secretary; Mike Stinnett, Treasurer

Amherst Cares is a nonprofit collaborative effort of school, church, and community to provide food to identified, food insecure Amherst County Public School students. They feed so that students may succeed. With this assistance, teachers report improved academic performance, decrease in absenteeism, closer attention to instruction, and a decrease in behavior issues in some students being served by Amherst Cares. For the 2018-2019 school year, Amherst Cares provided 18,454 bags of food to ACPS students. They have provided approximately 55,362 meals for the school year. They begin the program the first week of school.


Amherst County Habitat For Humanity Executive Director Debra Habel (standing, 3rd from left with several co-workers) was the 2019 recipient of the esteemed Harry L. Day Jr. Award, which honors the outstanding service of an individual to both the local business community and Amherst County Chamber of Commerce. The award was presented in May 2019 at the annual ACCC Awards Dinner.

Amherst County Habitat for Humanity

(434) 946-9596  Email:
Barbara Towler, Board President; Angie Johnson,VicePresident; Matthew Cox, Treasurer; Noel De Palma, Secretary; Debra Babcock Habel, Executive Director

Board Members: Leon Parrish , John Gregory Brown, Sarah Ryan, John Batman, Joseph Campbell, John Grieser, Beatrice Booker, Tammy Knight, David Garrison and Stuart Jones.

Amherst County Habitat for Humanity offers a unique solution that reduces dependency on government programs and breaks the cycle of generational poverty.  They start by partnering with families. Their buyers complete 300 hours of sweat equity and homeownership and financial education classes before purchasing their homes. Buyers must have reliable income to be able to pay back the mortgage.

Then, they charge zero percent interest on mortgages. Amherst County Habitat for Humanity finances in-house, so families start building equity, confidence and stability from their first payment.

Also, they build with volunteer labor and some donated materials or discounts. This, coupled with their 0% mortgage, means affordability! When Habitat for Humanity sells homes to low-income families, lowering their monthly expenses and building wealth in equity over-time, families no longer need the food bank for groceries or housing vouchers for affordable housing. All of Amherst County Habitat for Humanity’s office and payroll expenses are covered by their incoming mortgage payments allowing all donations go 100% into their building program.


Amherst County Lions Club

(434) 277-5616 Email:
Ron White, President; Ann White, Secretary
Butch Hammett, Treasurer

Members: Robert Branham, Lyle Garrette, Ricky Brightwell, Robert Garrette, Sharon L. Cash, Mark Huffines, Carrie Davila, Bob Langstaff, Jose Davila, Tom Loftus, Robin Davies, Hunter Nash, Bonnie Ferguson, Ronnie Unrue, Jimmy Floyd, and Tom Wallace.

The Amherst County Lions Club was formed when the Madison Heights Lion Club and the Amherst Lions Club merged in 2011 in order to better serve Amherst County. The Lion’s Motto is “We Serve”. Lions International is the world’s largest service organization. 

Their five major areas of emphasis are sight, hearing, hunger, diabetes, and pediatric cancer. Their club conducts the vision screenings in the Amherst County Schools for grades K, 3rd, 7th, and 10th grade students with a PediaVision Camera. Additionally, the club collects used eyeglasses and they recently purchased the machine to read the prescription or score the glasses. The glasses are then packed for distribution both in the U.S. and internationally.

Amherst County Lions Club conducts fundraisers throughout the year to support their donations to local fire departments, rescue squads, food banks, ball teams, and provide eyeglasses for those in need. New members are needed to continue the work of the club.


Amherst County Public Schools Education Foundation, Inc.

(434) 316-3900    Email:
Beverly Jones, Chairperson; Cynthia Hicks, Vice Chairperson
Wanda Burley, Secretary; Dana Jackson, Treasurer
Jenna Foster; Executive Director

Board Members: Ron Rasnake, Dr. William Wells (Asst. Superintendent of ACPS); Chelsey Tomlin, Adrienne Allen, Nat Marshall, Stephanie Moehlenkamp, Dr. Rob Arnold (Superintendent of ACPS).

Amherst County Public Schools Education Foundation, Inc. is dedicated to enhancing education for the students and teachers of Amherst County. The Foundation’s goal is to secure resources from the community by raising awareness of the importance of education and developing partnerships with local businesses. With these resources, the Foundation enriches many classrooms by providing items not traditionally funded within the annual school budget.

Each year, the Foundation is in need of corporate and individual sponsors to underwrite their three main fundraising events. The Winter Luncheon in February showcases the talents of their Amherst County students. The Captain’s Choice Golf Tournament in June kicks off the start of summer with a great lunch and a round of golf at one of Amherst’s most beautiful courses. The Back-to-School Raffle in late August provides a great selection of raffle items, cash prizes, and a delicious dinner. For more information about upcoming events and grants for teachers, please visit


Amherst Glebe Arts Response (AGAR)

(434) 989-3215  Email:
Lynn Kable, President; Lynn A. Hanson, Vice President
Edward Kable, Secretary & Treasurer

Amherst Glebe Arts Response (AGAR) is an Amherst County non-profit arts and humanities organization. AGAR commissions, produces, and presents an annual Amherst Chamber music series by professional performers in local settings. In 2019-2020 AGAR inaugurates a monthly jazz series featuring local professional musicians with Second Stage Amherst and Baines Coffee. AGAR conducts a series of acrylic painting classes at Central Virginia Alliance Community Living Greater Lynchburg nutrition sites and at CENTRA/ Fairmont Crossing, Amherst. AGAR has produced 21 documentary films based on 133 interviews of teachers and students at Amherst County Schools, from 1915-1975.

The organization has presented history, video, theatre, poetry, and literature programs with Amherst County Museums, libraries, and Schools. AGAR’s board and administrative staff are volunteers. Current projects are funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Virginia Commission for the Arts, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation and CENTRA Foundation. Learn more at


Amherst Mountain Biking Club

Alex Motley, President; Carter Massie, Vice President
Jason Buendorf, Treasurer; Justin Ware, Secretary

Directors: Mike Hansen, Tim Ware, Drew Ramsey, Matt Ramsey and Jon Schjonning

Formed in 2018, the Amherst Mountain Biking Club is a non-profit organization with the goal of igniting a healthy lifestyle in the community; by means of mountain biking and trail development. AMBC hopes to provide that energy. 

Amherst’s first bike park is currently underway! After working with the town, the club has secured land within the L. Barnes Brockman Industrial Park to build trails. By establishing destinations in the county for people to bike, AMBC provides opportunities for riders to immerse themselves in the area’s natural beauty and local economy.

By hosting all-skill level group rides, trail digs, and participating in public events; the club aims to continue building an all-inclusive, bike friendly community here in Amherst, VA.

To become involved, follow the club on Facebook and Instagram for up-to-date announcements and volunteer opportunities. To join their mailing list, see the email address above.


Amherst Rotary Club

(434) 946-7657       Email:
Jim Glynn, President & Treasurer; Bob Hoffmann, Secretary
Jack Brandell, Foundation Chair; Ken Althouse, Membership Chair
Peter Bryan, Past President; J. Michael Gamble, President-Elect

The Amherst Rotary Club seeks to make a difference in the quality of life in their community, as well as, cooperating with Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation to improve conditions and understanding throughout the world.

Their major focus is on education. This is the 46th year that they have provided scholarships to graduating high-school seniors, which now approaches $250,000. For the last several years, they have provided a world globe to every 2nd grader in the Amherst school system.

Membership in Rotary is by invitation only, but sometimes they are not aware of a potentially great Rotarian in the community! They seek active and retired business and professional persons, who live or work in Amherst, and who are interested in making a difference in the community.


Blue Ledge Meals on Wheels

(434) 942-4864  Email:
Mike Mozingo, President; Amanda Hall, Treasurer
Kelli Hollowell, Secretary; Tammy Martin, Coordinator

Board Members: Nancy Banton, Food Service Coordinator; Joanna Harris, M.D., Client Liaison; Glen Mabrey & Brian Miles

Advisory Committee: Ashley Carter, Cindy Hart & Linda Zabloski

Blue Ledge Meals on Wheels supports the rural communities of Amherst County by delivering prepared meals to seniors and disabled individuals. By supplying food and daily contact with the outside world, they make it possible for homebound individuals to continue to lead independent lives and remain in their own homes. Their meals are prepared by local restaurants and churches. They receive no government funding, but instead draw support from individuals, businesses and religious and social organizations of the county. As a member of the Meals on Wheels Association of America, they embody the spirit of that organization’s Rural Initiative, striving to become an integral part of rural communities. The need is particularly great in Amherst County. To learn more, or volunteer, visit their website at

Central Virginia Land Conservancy (CVaLC)

(434) 942-4320  Email:
Wendy Kendrick, President; James Fulcher, Vice President
Ed Foster, Treasurer; Susan McSwain, Secretary

Central Virginia Land Conservancy (CVaLC) serves Amherst, Nelson, Appomattox, Campbell, and Buckingham Counties, and the City of Lynchburg. An all-volunteer organization, CVaLC promotes stewardship and conservation of central Virginia’s forests, farmlands, waterways and other natural and historic resources.

CVaLC assists landowners in creating conservation easements — a legal, binding agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that limits subdivision of land. A landowner maintains ownership and may live on their land, sell or pass it along to heirs, and use it for farming and forestry. CVaLC partners with area specialists and other organizations to ensure that landowners have the tools and resources to make wise decisions regarding preservation of their private land. Thousands of acres in central Virginia are now protected with conservation easements, ensuring for everyone that central Virginia remains a beautiful place to live! For more information, visit

Clifford Ruritan Club

(434) 826-1163 Email:
John Taylor, President; William Harlow, Vice-President
J.J. Montgomery, Secretary & Treasurer

Clifford Ruritan Club is a civic service organization with the purpose of creating a better understanding between people through volunteering in the community. The mission of Clifford Ruritan Club and all Ruritan Clubs is improving communities and building a better America through “Fellowship, Goodwill, and Community Service.” Each Ruritan Club surveys the needs of its community and then works to meet those needs. At Clifford Ruritan, they host several community events and fundraisers such as Easter Sunrise Service and their Sorghum Festival in October, which is their biggest fundraiser. With the funds, they can help neighbors in need, give scholarships to high school seniors, donations to area fire and rescue departments and much more. Ruritans believe the most important benefit of membership is the opportunity to work in fellowship with people who have a desire to make their communities better places to live.


Elon Ruritan Club

(434) 401-3834  Email:
Barry Tucker, President; John Oblinger, Vice President
Lynn Chaplin, Secretary; Jewel Newman, Treasurer

The Elon Ruritan Club was organized in 1968 as a civic organization which seeks to serve the community in ways that include support for local Fire and Rescue organizations, Hunters for the Hungry,  schools and scholarships for high school seniors. Members, men and women, young and old, enjoy fellowship at monthly meetings, cookouts, banquets, fundraisers and projects. Their overarching purpose is to create a better understanding among people and through volunteer community service, work toward making their community a better place in which to live and work. Club membership represents a cross-section of the community in which the club serves, and is not restrictive with regard to occupation, social position, or any other specific criteria. They’re always looking for additional members. They usually meet at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month. Find them on

GFWC- Amherst Woman’s Club

(434) 946-1056
Dana Purcell, President

The Amherst Woman’s Club is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs — an international organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.

Members of the club support the areas of arts, conservation, education, home life, international outreach, and public issues.

The club partners with Amherst County Public Schools. They also provide scholarships to high school seniors, sponsor an essay contest for middle school students, collect Box Tops for Education, donate books to elementary students, and purchase a pictorial dictionary for every third-grade student in each of the six elementary schools in the county.

Since 1972 they have supported HOBI, Doctors Without Borders, CASA, Patrick Henry Family Services, local nursing homes, Canine Companions, YWCA, many food banks, and local rescue squads and fire department.

Membership is open to all women whose interests are consistent with the objectives of this club.

Website: VA Womans Club

Humane Society of Amherst County (HSAC)

318 Shelter Ln., Amherst
(434) 946-2340 After hours: (434) 660-2504
Adoption Center Hours: Monday – Friday 10am-4pm
Wednesday – 10 am-6pm; Saturday – 9am – 1pm
Sunday – Closed

Dedicated to humane rescue, care and treatment of homeless animals with the goal of finding them a loving forever home. New pets come in on a daily basis. They welcome you to visit them at the shelter to see if they have what you are looking for.  Please consider adopting an older animal that may already be housebroken, spayed or neutered. For more information, visit

IRON Lives, Inc.

1-(800) 288-IRON   Email:
Derrick Brown, Chief Executive Officer/Founder
Sabrina Marth, Chief Development & Operations Officer

Board of Directors: Joseph Tucker, Geoffrey Kershner, Monique Minnick, Thomas Brennan, Daryl Calfee, Charity Medina, Robert Scheppegrell, Marcus Thomas, MBA; Christopher Glover, PhD; Nathaniel Marshall, Alonzo Mathews, Laurie Gulluscio and Michael Elliott.

At IRON Lives, their vision is for Central Virginia to be a positive community with a skilled workforce full of engaged citizens and thriving families. Their mission is to be a bridge between students and the community by providing positive youth development, committed mentoring, and character-centered athletics.

They began in 2009 as a simple meeting with nine young men, led by Derrick Brown at Amherst County High School. The purpose was to build a community of students who were dedicated to bettering themselves and each other. From nine young men to over 300 young men and young women, the impact of IRON is still significant in the Central Virginia area. Middle school and high school students participate in positive youth development programming, positive mentoring, and character-centered athletics.


National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (Amherst Chapter)

434-929-4128 Email:
Regent Ellen Pettyjohn

The Amherst DAR is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American’s history and securing America’s future through better education.  We partner with local historic preservation societies, schools and veterans organizations to fulfill our motto of service to God, Home and Country. Constitution Day/Week is observed beginning September 17th.  On 11-11, at 11 AM we hold an annual Veterans Day Service and (free) Luncheon at Ascension Episcopal Church. Other community and student events occur during the year. We meet monthly from September to May, on either the 2rd Tuesday at 12:30 PM or 2nd Saturday at 10:30 AM, the location varies. All women, 18 years of age, are welcome to join us with proof of ancestors in the struggle for American independence. Regular Membership Dues: $60, $18 for Associate. Contact Membership Chairman Anne Neff ( or Registrar Amy Whitaker ( for membership questions.  Additional information: under Chapters, District III and Amherst.

Website:, District III, Amherst

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

(434) 226-0019   Email:
Garry L. Friend, President; Charles Foster, Treasurer
Mike Ogden, Secretary; David Bryant, Director
Patsy Campbell, Director; Rev. Katharine B Chase, Director
Sonny Harvey, Director; Kelly Urbani, Director


Provide nutritious meals to the hungry of Amherst County

Educate the citizens of Amherst County on the needs of the hungry

Advocate for citizens in need

Promote self-sufficiency and improve quality of life for those in need.

Understand the challenges of poverty

Neighbors Helping Neighbors runs two food kitchens, open every Wednesday at Madison Heights Baptist Church 10:50am to 12:20 pm and Thursday at Ascension Church in Amherst 10:50 am – 12:20 pm. Both are sit-down meals.

They have a Food Warehouse Distribution (Client Choice) where clients come and shop for their groceries once a month. Open First & Third Saturday each month at 151 Mitchel Bell Road Madison Heights from 9:00am – to 12:00 noon. Read a summary of their activities online at with a video.

Pedlar Ruritan Club


The Pedlar Ruritan Club has a longstanding history in Western Amherst County. The club’s primary goal is to provide opportunities for members of the community to engage with one another. They host regular picnics and other community events such as their annual trick-or-treat and Christmas party. They also provide scholarship opportunities for young residents of the area who wish to pursue higher education opportunities. They meet on the second Monday of each month at New Prospect Baptist Church in Pleasant View at 7:00 PM. All are invited to attend their meetings. Look for their page on Facebook at

Second Stage Amherst

(434) 941-0997  Email:
Suny Monk, Board President; Michael Dowell, Treasurer
Penny Hawes, Operations Manager

Board Members: Chris Badgett, David Butcher, Monica Dean, Hazel Diggs, Cooke Harvey, John Patteson, Krista Templeton and Crystal Ungar

Their Mission is to inspire creativity and community by providing a place where the cultural, civic and economic vitality of Amherst County is encouraged.

Second Stage Amherst is a non-profit community cultural center housed in the former Amherst Baptist Church building on 2nd Street. They offer a gathering place for the community to enjoy music, movies, family events and more. From May – October, they host the Market @ Second Stage – a farmers market offering fresh, locally grown and produced fruits, vegetables, meats, and artisanal gifts.

Second Stage is home to several small businesses including artists, a massage therapist, a yoga studio, a jewelry designer and more. Their public rooms are available for rent for special occasions.

They are excited to be welcoming Amherst’s first coffee shop, Baine’s Amherst, in late summer 2019, making Second Stage an even more important part of the community. For more information, visit

Village Garden Club of Amherst

(434) 922-7094 Email:
Colleen Martinez, President; Sue Piepho and Anne Neff, 1st VP 

Joyce Hoffman and Yukiko Byrum, 2nd VP Nina Garrett, Recording Secretary; Linda Gurtler, Treasurer Yukiko Byrum, Historian; Carole Humphreys and Ruth Ann Warner, Chaplain; Octavia Starbuck, Corresponding Secretary

Services: Encourages conservation, civic improvement, maintains gardens at the Town of Amherst Traffic Circle, Amherst County Museum, Village Garden Club Memorial Park, Town Hall, Main Street flower boxes and Amherst Post Office, decorates all of the above for holidays, donate funds at Christmas to Meals on Wheels, and donate coats, scarves, and money to Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Meetings at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. Fees: Membership Dues annually


Other Community Organizations

Amherst Art Society

(434) 238-8452  Email:
Shannon Proffitt, President

The Monroe Community Center is the home of the Amherst Virginia Art Society. It offers a studio, classroom, and gallery where artists and members of varying skill levels share, create, and critique. Here some enjoy the company of other artists to help inspire and develop new art techniques at the weekly “Art Tuesday” between 10:00 a.m. and noon from September through May. Additionally, the studio is open to members five days a week from 8:30 to 5:00. Membership benefits include workshops in drawing, painting, lettering, alcohol inks, acrylic pouring, mosaics, encaustic, Zen drawing, art journaling, mono-printing and mixed media. Currently exhibit locations are at the Amherst Library, Madison Heights Library, Rehab Associates of Virginia, and the studio gallery. For additional information, visit

Save Our Animals Rescue  (S.O.A.R.)

(434) 907-9702  E-mail:
Amy L. Napior, Executive Director

An organization that seeks to help injured and sick animals in our community, Save Our Animal Rescues (SOAR) was formed to help animals in acute need of critical medical or surgical care. They seek to primarily help those animals in rescue situations, but also those belonging to individuals who prove financial need. They are currently limiting their services to Amherst County with hopes of expanding to other counties in the near future.

They ask that you refer those animal cases which meet our criteria for financial assistance. Applications are available at veterinarian offices located in Amherst County and their local shelter. Once approved, the requested funds are paid directly to the medical provider. Since their start in August 2011, they have provided assistance to over 125 animals (dogs, cats, a rabbit and even a parrot!) – all referred to them from local rescues and veterinarians.


Amherst County Churches Also Improve the Community

Coming alongside Amherst non-profit organizations are the local churches. Their activities mirror the work of religious groups across the country. Overall, churches take a role in addressing poverty, unemployment, educational issues in addition to serving youth, families and the elderly. According to a recent poll by Barna Group, a research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture, Americans perceive the impact of churches in several areas.

  • 29% identify addressing poverty and helping the poor as a way that churches help the community
  • 12% see the church as serving youth
  • 13% appreciate the church helping the elderly
  • 10% believe churches should assist through support groups or recovery programs
  • 7% think churches can assist in terms of financial, career-related or other educational programs

A study by The Pew Research Center revealed that about 60% of Americans believe churches are a positive influence. The study indicated “Among U.S. adults who are Christian, three-in-ten have a high level of congregational involvement, while 58% have a medium level and 12% fall into the low category.” Similar to secular organizations, churches rely on the activities of their members and volunteers to do their good work. Their faith-driven energy is the force behind many ameliorating initiatives.

A directory of Amherst County churches is on page 50.


Folded, Tabbed Fundraising Direct Mail

I put together a direct mail piece for Patrick Henry Family Services in Central VA. I started with two design options, both of which emphasized their impact and programs. My main goal: encourage the reader’s eyes to flow over the important information in the content.

Patrick Henry Family Services Direct Mail

This piece is folded and tabbed to create an inexpensive direct mail fundraising promotion.

Front cover of mailer
Inside spread
Mailer Back Cover

Significant parts of the design include the map with locations (showing their community impact), rounded images (to echo their “circle of care” concept), and the remittance envelope as a call-to-action.

Project Background

This project came to me through my work with Blair Marketing in Lynchburg, Virginia. Patrick Henry Family Services is one of their clients. They asked me to update a fundraising self-mailer that included a remittance envelope for donations. I didn’t write the text or take the photos — I made the layout for the mailer and envelope.

AltaVista Shopping Guide

“It’s kind of like living in Stars Hollow,” a friend of mine said when I mentioned my recent article about Altavista. Not being a fan, I hadn’t made that connection.

However, she was right. Altavista has a similar charm and cast of unique characters.

It was a rainy day when I found myself in AltaVista, walking from street to street. I wanted to see the hustle and bustle of Saturday traffic while keeping to a tight deadline. Even on a cloudy day, the atmosphere was delightfully warm. I snapped a few shots, interviewed shopkeepers and collected piles of notes that eventually became a guide to visiting this local gem.

Danielle Verderame working on an article

Published in Lynchburg Living Magazine

Just Down the Road in AltaVista

If you’re hoping to get away for the day, look no further than Altavista, Virginia—located only a 30-minute drive from Lynchburg.

When incorporated in 1912, the town encompassed a little under two square miles. Since then, it has more than doubled in size—adding new shops, restaurants and attractions. But Altavista still has always retained that small town feel. “Most of our businesses are locally owned and have been here for over 50 years or longer,” notes Lori Johnson, president of Altavista on Track.

Explore the heritage and history in this antique-lover’s haven by visiting its shops, restaurants, and sites.

Main Street

Avoca Museum

One of the first things to catch your eye after taking the Altavista exit off Route 29 is a beautiful American Queen Anne–style home. Built in 1901, the Avoca Museum is open to the public for tours Thursday through Saturday—and be prepared to learn about a range of local history.

“The site doesn’t mark one specific event or personality. Instead, Avoca interprets 12,000 years of human history from the local Native American civilization to present day,” explains Executive Director Michael Hudson.

Also on the grounds are a Victorian garden, an arboretum and a covered pavilion.

The Shoppes of Altavista

Offering a wide variety of farmhouse and primitive decor, The Shoppes of Altavista beckons you with wide windows featuring seasonal displays. As you walk in the door, you are immediately greeted by the smell of warm candles and a friendly “hello” from the counter.

Owner Barbara Gibson often finds herself directing visitors around the town and enjoys helping customers find what they need. “I love it when someone brings in a photo of a gallery wall in their home,” she says. “We look around the shop together to find something that would be the perfect fit.”

Main St. Cafe and Coffee & Main St. Shoppes

Conveniently located on the corner next to a free public parking lot, Main St. Cafe and Coffee smells of sweet treats. At the counter, you can order from a delicious menu full of sandwiches, wraps, soups, gluten-free options, and baked goods. Notable fare includes “The Italian Stallion” (a sandwich filled with Italian meats and spices), “The Fightin’ Colonel” (a Tex-Mex chicken dish), and “The Luigi” (a vegetarian panini).

Pass through the dining area after you eat and browse the Main St. Shoppes. Their eclectic selection includes Vera Bradley designs, luxury body products, and fine jewelry. The navy blue walls are contrasted with bright white displays and add a touch of elegance to your gift shopping experience.

The General Store and Inn

From the sidewalk, you can peek inside the windows of The General Store and Inn and see big barrels of old-fashioned candy. Candles, children’s toys, home decor, and locally-sourced groceries pack the floors. Talking to Manager Alison Patterson, you get a glimpse into the heart behind this unique store.
“The owner, Dale Moore, started the business because he grew up in a general store—his grandparents owned one,” explains Patterson. “His family wanted to bring some nostalgia back to Altavista. The General Store and Inn, along with their Main St. Shoppes and Main St. Cafe and Coffee, is one of the ways they celebrate local history.”
To feel truly transported back in time, you can enjoy ice cream at the counter or drink a glass bottle of soda at the gazebo out front. From that spot, you can see the beautiful winding staircase that leads to the boutique inn upstairs. It offers three private suites, each with a king-size bed, living area, work desk, treadmill and high-end bathroom with walk-in shower.

Pittsylvania Avenue

English Park

Already known as a great place for hiking, boating, and play, English Park is upgrading its amenities this summer. New additions include a splash pad, playground equipment, and additional shade structures.

Scoops Ice Cream Shop

Featuring 22 flavors of Hershey’s Hand-Dipped Ice Cream, Scoops Ice Cream Shop is one of the newer businesses to open in downtown Altavista. Choose a cake or waffle cone then fill it with your favorite flavor. They also sell Granny P’s cookies, cakes, and pies.

Elba Butcher Shoppe

As the main grocery store, Elba Butcher Shoppe is a locally-owned business offering fresh produce, meats and pantry items. In the back, you can view the “butcher” part of the name with a shining case of fresh pork, chicken, and beef.

Broad Street

Vital Edge Nutritional Center

As you enter Vital Edge Nutritional Center, you are welcomed by the smell of essential oils and pleasant greetings of the Rorer family, who decided to bring their knowledge about natural medicine, herbs, essential oils, and homeopathy to the local community. Rows of specialty items line the shelves—from delicious treats such as raw honey to natural air fresheners, this shop offers a variety of homeopathic solutions for your everyday life.

Vintage on Broad

As a shop that recently gained national attention through a feature on the History Channel’s “American Pickers” television show, Vintage on Broad doesn’t disappoint. From front to back, you can find primitive items, farmhouse-style decor, and classic antiques. As you walk along the long rows of interesting finds, you’ll quickly learn this shop is deceptively deep.
Pretty Please

With adjoining doors that make friendly business neighbors, Pretty Please sits right next to Vintage on Broad. Inside, the fashion finds take you on a whimsical, and often glittery, journey around the glamourous, light-filled space. You’ll find chic shelves overflowing with rhinestone costume jewelry, beaded masks, embroidered dresses, and sparkling platform heels.

Just Outside of Town

Bittersweet Antiques (1666 Wards Road)

With large, rustic furniture that you can see from the roadside, Bittersweet Antiques is already a head-turner on U.S. 29. Inside, their shelves overflow with primitives, vintage wall art, lighting, plants, and nostalgic decor.

Virginia Found Goods (710 Pocket Road)

Although Virginia Found Goods has an address in Hurt, the giant warehouse is just outside the town of Altavista. Drive along Pocket Road until you see the Instagram-friendly vintage trucks marking the entrance. After you grab a complimentary cup from their coffee bar, you can browse the large factory which is full of painted furniture, barn wood, and chippy, rusty goods.

If I see it, I can paint it.

Meeting with artist, Phyllis Hart made me wonder what my body of work might look like over a lifetime. Phyllis’ focuses on nature, flowers, birds and butterflies, with light colors. But, the mood from earliest work to her most recent projects shifts over time.

During our interview, Phyllis mentioned a frustration with her declining dexterity and vision. She gave me a tour of her paintings explaining her changing technique over the years.

I stopped before her painting of a sunset. It exuded a remarkable energy. Phyllis told me that she had painted it for her husband — one of his last requests before he passed away.

I imagined the labor of creating such a piece, experiencing deep pain but, making something beautiful for someone you love.

That is what commitment looks like — trying to make something beautiful out of difficulty.

For these articles, Mary Garner, the publisher uses both my articles and my photography to complete the magazine spread.

Meet Your Neighbor: Phyllis Hart

Originally Published in Life in the Ivy

Stepping through the front door of Phyllis Hart’s home, you feel like you entered a light-filled art gallery. The sun shines through the windows onto cream-colored walls. Framed art, mostly paintings featuring flowers, hangs from ceiling to floor. Phyllis has been painting her whole life and she won’t sell any of her work, saying, “It would be like selling one of my children.”

Phyllis uses painting and poetry to recount her life during these golden years.

Almost Heaven

Phyllis was born in Pineville, West Virginia to a hardworking family that loved the arts. Her life was full of activity, from swimming in the river, to singing in a choir with her sister, to canning homegrown vegetables with her mother. As a child, she picked up a pencil and realized, “I can draw anything that I can see.” 

Phyllis copied images out of catalogues just by looking at them. Among her favorite subjects were the Gibson Girls with their voluminous topknots and flowing curls. 

Drawing led to painting. “My favorites are the beautiful flowers the Lord gave us,” Phyllis notes from her collection. 

Many of the paintings bring back memories, starting in 1951 when she left home to work in Washington, D.C. 

“At that time, the government would come to small towns and administer tests like typing and shorthand,” Phyllis explains. She accepted an offer to work for the Civil Service Commission. 

“I had to get a worker’s permit because I was only seventeen,” recalls Phyllis. Initially, she was excited to live in America’s capital. Three long months later, she moved back to West Virginia, partially from homesickness and also to wed her high-school sweetheart, Harold Stafford.  

The newlyweds soon grew their family with a son, Jim Stafford. Unexpectedly, Harold died in an automobile accident. 

To support her son, Phyllis joined a telephone company in West Virginia. Next, she worked as a receptionist for Collins Radio Company and attended night school at Strayer Business College (now Strayer University) to brush up on her shorthand and typing.

“I loved that job and I loved the people,” Phyllis remembers. 

Moving back to D.C., Phyllis became the secretary for Rita Valeo, the executive director at the National Committee for Children and Youth. The job offered higher pay and more room for growth. 

Phyllis explains, “Her husband was Frank Valeo, the secretary for Mike Mansfield when he was Speaker of the House. So, she travelled some with President Kennedy. She was a good boss.” 

During that time, Phyllis became more interested in politics. She also met Michael Hart, a man from Connecticut, who would become her second husband and father to her second son, Michael Hart III. 

“We dated for about six months and got married, As they say, ‘…happily ever after,’” laughs Phyllis. “We were married for 45 years until Michael passed away. We lived in Ivy Hill together for 8 years and I’ve continued living here for another 10 years.”

Fishing and Flowers

“My husband was with Ford Motor Company for 28 years before he retired. Both of our sons were in Virginia at that time. So, we wanted to move closer. Also, my husband wanted to fish,” Phyllis lists as the reasons they chose Ivy Hill. 

When they first moved in, the house was dark and covered in wood. They renovated it — brightening the interior significantly. 

They quickly integrated into the local arts community. Phyllis joined the Lynchburg Academy of Fine Arts (now the Academy Center of the Arts). She showed her art at local galleries but, never wanted to sell. 

To explain the personal connection she has with each project, Phyllis points to a painting of a yellow butterfly on a flower. For several days, the butterfly would visit her as she worked in the garden. One day, she came out to find just the wings, sitting perfectly still on a branch, probably after a bird had snatched away the body. Phyllis carefully scooped up the wings and painted the butterfly into the garden scene where they had first met. 

Can’t Say Enough

In those moments, you understand why Phyllis says, “It’s great to set your feet on the floor every morning and breathe.” She takes notice of the world around her, commemorating it in paintings or poetry that she plans to leave behind to her family. 

She’s proud of both her children and grandchildren, appreciating the times they come to visit her and the moments they’ve shared together. 

When asked to reflect on her time, Phyllis will smile and say, “I’ve had ups and downs in my life but the Lord has been good to me. I can’t say enough about that.”

Pop-Up Banners

When Nick, the founder of The Listening, Inc. asked me to put together this series of banners, we discussed their multiple uses. The messages, and related images, are targeted to specific situations and audiences.

But, there are situations, like recruitment and fundraising where all three may live side-by-side.

I put together this design by staying in alignment with the Brand Guide we had previously developed. Stylistically, I opted to bring the images to life using cut-outs.

The resulting banners can stand independently or as a group.

Discussing Creative Non-Fiction

Whenever I attend an event for The Listening, Inc. I collect names of people who we can profile for artist interviews. Similar organizations send out surveys — a list of questions that they want the artist to fill out. They ask questions like “What inspires you?” and the answers sound like, well, exactly the answers you expect.

To put together my questions, I start by researching the artist’s body of work. Often, I notice themes that the artist has been unintentionally exploring for some time.

These conversations also leave room for smart follow-up questions. They give me a chance to ask for clarification, tease out an example, or encourage a moment for storytelling.

Artist Interview: Aidan Claire Daniel Lets The Birds Do the Talking

Originally Published at Talk That Talk

Cold, cold rain dripped from my rain slicker as I stomped into Dublin 3 Coffeehouse to talk to Aidan Claire Daniel. Waiting under the golden glow of an edison bulb, her warm aura reminded me of finding a dusky feather in the forest. 

I had birds on the brain from her recent performance at the “We the People” Open Mic. Ready to talk about her birds of a feather, Aidan nestled in to chat quietly about poetry and performance.

Danielle: Tell me a little about yourself.

Aidan: I went to Liberty University for my undergraduate degree – graduating in 2015. I’ve been working at Randolph College for about 2 years. Also, I’m working on my MFA in poetry at Randolph.

D: So, how does one decide to do an MFA in poetry?

A: I was writing for a while but, I felt like I had reached the end of what I could figure out on my own. It just felt right to receive proper instruction. It was the right time for me. I felt like I’d been out of school for so long. Then, looking back, it was just a few years.

D: How did you land in Lynchburg?

A: I came here six years ago for school and just stuck around after graduating. I love Lynchburg. I live with three great roommates and two cats. 

D: So, who are these cats?

A: The cats are Jo-Jo and Honey Lemon. They consider each other enemies but, we love them. 

D: Sounds like you guys belong to them. 

A: It’s just their domain and we’re living in it.

D: Where are you from originally?

A: Tricky question! My dad was in the Army. I say I’m from Williamsburg, Virginia because I lived there the longest. Now, Lynchburg is getting up there. 

D: I take that your dad travelled for most of your childhood.

A: Yes. Until highschool, we moved around — from Arizona to South Carolina to Georgia to Alabama. 

D: How did you start writing?

A: I started writing in high school — on and off — as a way to process emotions. When my dad passed away almost five years ago, writing took on a new meaning. He passed suddenly from a heart attack during my junior year of college. 

I turned to writing to process everything. Even now, when something happens, I must write it down. I must talk to people. But, that experience with my father was just too much to talk about. I needed to write it down to get it out of my head. 

I kept doing it and realized how much I loved doing it. That’s what got me here.

“I always thought it was “creative nonfiction.” I thought of them as essays. But, it was really poetry the whole time. ”

— Aidan Claire Daniel

D: At the time, were you writing poetry?

A: I always thought it was “creative nonfiction.” I thought of them as essays. But, it was really poetry the whole time. 

D: Because you were writing in a stream of consciousness. 

A: Yes. I would write things like, “My grief is like a hometown…” And I would build out the metaphor — not realizing it was really poetry.

D: How did you move from just writing down thoughts on paper to actually performing them?

A: I think the first time I performed was with The Listening. It was after the 2016 Lynchstock Music Festival and I was excited by the idea of performing. For the next year, I decided to audition. At that time, I thought all poetry had to be spoken word. I still really like performing spoken word. But, it was after that I realized I wanted to share even more. I wanted to write more things. 

D: Tell me about the other ways you share your writing.

A: I found myself recently working with visual forms. I asked myself, “What would it be like if a poem looked like a game board or a poem looked like a telegram?” I do like reading and performing because you get to connect with people. Other forms tend to feel isolating. 

D: Do you blog and post on social media? Or do you need that face-to-face interaction?

A: I used to post a lot more on Instagram with my poetry. I have since shied away from that. 

D: It can get performative.

A: Exactly. I found I wasn’t doing it for me. I was doing it for other people. It diminished the quality in my eyes. Instead of making things I believe in, I didn’t feel good about them because I felt pressured to work fast. 

D: You spoke about what got you started writing. What kicks you into writing gear?

A: I was just talking to my mentor about this. I write things down if I am afraid I will forget them. 

Also, I write things down when I feel overwhelmed by detail. For example, I read a poem at the recent Listening Open Mic Event that focused on a bird – the “butcher bird.” 

It’s technically a shrike. The shrike is called a butcher bird because it takes small animals and it impales them on spikes or thorns to kill them. At first I thought, “Maybe that makes sense if they don’t have claws that can kill.” But, I realized that isn’t necessary. They have huge claws. I researched why they do it. 

I became more overwhelmed with that detail. 

I get kicked into writing a poem when I don’t know what to do with information. I figure things out by writing through them. Most of the time, it provides a sense of closure. 

I say to myself, “I’m satisfied with this information now.”

D: It almost draws comparison to when a visual artist does a study and they must work through all the details as they sketch the parts. What they’re left with isn’t something you would ever frame. But, you’ve explored it. You’re doing that process with words. 

A: I like that. 

D: I did see you perform and I have to ask. What is going on with the birds? When did that start? You’re even wearing an embroidered bird on your collar right now. 

A: I’ve always loved birds. My dad was into ornithology and bird watching. He would always point out birds to me. I don’t remember the details of what he pointed out. 

But, I’ve always just liked birds. I like birds and flowers because they feel so innocent. They feel very pure. Untouched.

As I’ve explored birds more, I find details. 

I looked up this article about Zebra finches and their songs. All zebra finches learn their songs from their fathers. Only the males perform them. 

So, the son bird learns a song from his father. As he is trying to court a lady bird, she will compare that song to her own father’s song. It helps her evaluate him. 

Can he care for her? Is he a good match?

Birds have secrets. You can only find them by researching. And I want to tell people who have no interest in birds about the cool things they do. I want people to think about what it means for us, as people. 

D: That’s part of what fascinates me about birds. They’re symbolic creatures throughout art. Some of it’s accurate and some of it’s not. It’s what we’ve projected onto them. 

A: It’s subjective – the meaning we ascribe to things. 

D: You think of crows and ravens as these solemn figures— as dark omens. But, they’re really playful and noisy. 

A: They’re silly birds. They like shiny objects. I have so many thoughts about crows as well. Have you ever heard of crow funerals?

D: No. I am not familiar with crow funerals. 

A: I thought, on first hearing it, that people may be mourning crows. I thought, “Well, that is sad. I would throw a bird funeral.” 

Actually, crow funerals are when one of the birds finds another dead crow. It mourns. It gathers up other crows around the body to pay respect. 

D: They acknowledge their species. 

A: Corvidae are so intelligent. Comparing them to primates and whales, they’re so bright.

If you want more science behind our unscientific evaluations of bird intelligence, try reading these articles.

Crows Are as Intelligent as a Seven-Year-Old Child from Good Nature Habitat

Year of the Bird from National Geographic

D: Aren’t they as smart as dolphins? 

A: I think so. Like a young child. 

See — I get so excited about this. And poetry gives me something to do with that energy and information. 

D: You mentioned your father would point out birds to you. I know birds have several identifiers. How did he identify birds?

A: He mostly used visual cues. As much as I love them, I’m a bad bird-watcher. But, I have little tidbits that still enthrall me. For example, I love spotting female cardinals because they are a very soft tone compared to the males. They have a little bit of red. I remember the first time my dad explained that to me.

And the tufted titmouse is my favorite. 

D: To keep on the bird theme – outside of your own work, can you think of another piece of art that you feel encapsulates birds.

A: I have a favorite poem by Paige Lewis about bird watchers. It talks about the people gathering together in someone’s house to watch a bird. They turn the perspective around. 

Also, I love the Audubon Bird Guide Illustrations.

More on Paige Lewis

Paige Lewis at Poetry Foundation

On Beloveds, Birds, and the Expansiveness of Space: Talking with Paige Lewis from The Rumpus

D: What other themes tend to show up in your work? 

A: Recently, I’ve noticed that I focus on diminutive or passed-over things. It’s become a way for me to talk about womanhood — not something I intended to talk about. 

Back to that “butcher bird” poem, it turns into a persona poem at the end. That’s when you write as another person or a group of people. The poet’s voice still comes through. It allows me to say things I can’t say otherwise. I find myself saying things through small voices. 

D: It reorients what matters to you.

A: That’s why I started writing in the first place. I wrote about my dad and tried to sort through all the things that mattered. 

D: You mentioned that one of the first times you performed was with The Listening. Talk about what that was like — getting ready to perform for the first time.

A: I was still in school and The Listening was doing a casting call. The theatre department at Liberty University has practice rooms for performers and musicians. My friend reserved one and set up the camera. 

They’re not soundproof so, my big poet voice carried outside the room. 

In front of people, my legs always shake. It’s getting better but, I have to contain that.

D: Your name was on the poster – you can’t shake!

A: That’s how I felt. I was so nervous and excited. Right before I thought, “Why am I here? What am I doing? I’m just some lady that wants to talk about my birds.”

I had expressed that to my mentor and she said, “No. There is no room for that. As a woman, you can’t do that.” 

D: Your mentor challenged the feeling of, “I don’t belong here.”

A: I always feel like I am doing something wrong. Like I get up on stage and I should apologize. 

D: It’s so disproportionate. I think people only paid $5 to be there. And you certainly gave them more than $5 worth.

A: Yes, I owe it to them. The whole $5. 

D: Not that it’s trivial but, it is interesting to think how obligated you feel to deliver. It’s a pretty friendly crowd. 

A: In a lecture, one of my teachers spoke about performing poetry. He said, “Anxiety is just another form of excitement.” I believe that. 

D: Anxiety doesn’t always come off as nervousness to the crowd. It often looks like passion. 

A: I try to be casual — just a person. 

D: When you were thinking about meeting up for this interview, is there anything you hoped we might talk about.

A: Well, I have always loved strange things. I love talking about “what ifs.” The author, Shirley Jackson, is my favorite. She changed my life. 

D: What’s the first Shirley Jackson story you read?

A: The Bus. I heard it read on “Selected Shorts” by Paul Giamati. It was beautiful. I was so scared and uncomfortable.

Then, I discovered “Showdown” where the main character lives his day over and over again. It made me consider “what ifs.”

It brings me back to Stephen King’s advice in “On Writing”.

D: One of my favorites — that and “The Elements of Style.”

A: I have a red, cloth-bound edition. 

D: Every time I do one of these interviews, it turns into a lot of homework for the reader. Lot’s of backlinking of things they need to read, watch and listen to. 

A: That’s comforting to me because I came to literature through theatre. So, I don’t have a wide base of literary knowledge. I’m always encouraged when I can make those connections for both myself and others.

If you liked this

If you enjoyed this interview, you can see more from Aidan Claire Daniel on her Instagram account

To read more of Danielle Verderame’s interviews with artists who have performed for The Listening, CLICK HERE.

Senior Living Guide

I’ve spent some time on the senior circut lately, writing about managing medications and Forest, VA history. This article folded neatly with that point of view.

As a special section within Lynchburg Living Magazine, this article focused on the local options available to retirees.

Make Yourself at Home in a Retirement Community

Originally Published in the Senior Planning Guide

Life doesn’t stop with retirement — and neither should day-to-day comforts. In Central Virginia, independent and assisted living communities help residents feel at home with care customized to resident’s needs. 

For most communities, this begins with reviewing your life plan — a short written document that captures your hopes and goals for the future. It explains your ideal retirement situation to both your loved ones and those providing your continuing care. By describing your daily expectations, and long-term dreams, you can find a place that feels like home. 

Westminster Canterbury

Westminster Canterbury of Lynchburg is a non-profit retirement community that offers housing and healthcare services for older adults. Located in a residential neighborhood, Westminster Canterbury provides both cottage homes and apartments. The interfaith, nonprofit, Life Plan Virginia Retirement Community is known for its quiet, nature-filled setting. 

“Residents help develop their plan of care, centered and directed around their lives, preferences and life rhythms. This is the residents’ home and our team members support their community living,” explains Lisa Martin, Director of Resident Life & Wellness at Westminster Canterbury.

“Prospective residents who join our community in independent living start by visiting our marketing department. They go through the steps of how to become a community member. Then their information is reviewed by our admissions committee. The review process includes their medical records as well as their social, psychosocial, spiritual and intellectual aspects, plus background on their personal life stories. The process is similar for older adults who seek to join Westminster Canterbury’s Hearthside Assisted Living neighborhood.”

Westminster Canterbury have been working to add a housing option based on the household model. Residents wake up and eat breakfast when they choose. It allows elders to live on their own terms by starting the day at their own pace.

Available care levels include assisted living, memory care, Medicare-certified home care, and hospice. Within assisted living, they have several plans for healthcare from unlimited coverage to a fee-for-service model. This allows residents to pick the healthcare plan to suit their needs.

Flexible dining programs, weekly housekeeping, scheduled transportation,and an urgent response system with licensed nurse, ensure the comfort and safety of residents. Amenities extend to a wellness center, onsite health clinic, indoor pool, walking trails, art studios, billiard room, and library. 

Runk & Pratt

Family owned and operated since 1992, Runk & Pratt Senior Living Communities aim to create an environment where residents can thrive. Each campus features unique amenities. For example, Liberty Ridge residents enjoy their garden-to-table dining from their hydroponic tower gardens. Similarly, their multi-sensory Snoezelen Room envelops memory care residents with soothing stimuli to promote self-esteem, calm aggressive behavior, and improve overall mood. 

Runk & Pratt operates several communities to support a variety of senior living situations, located throughout Central Virginia. Available care levels include independent living, assisted living, and memory care, depending on the location. Healthcare options include 24 hour care, physician appointments, medical oversight, medication management, and mobile x-rays. 

Featured amenities include an activities center, aerobics classes, wellness center, library, day rooms, outdoor gardens, and church services. Runk & Pratt fills the calendar cooking lessons, art classes, seasonal festivals, shopping trips, fashion shows, birthday parties, live music, exercise classes, bingo, and pet visits.

The Summit

At The Summit, residents enjoy the feeling of freedom on the 143-acre campus. Located next to Wyndhurst, residents can walk to boutiques, spas, restaurants, gift shops, and coffee houses.

Whether requiring independent living, assisted living, short-term rehabilitation, or long term care, individuals have access to the comprehensive care provided by Centra. The facility actually began as a partnership between Centra and The Disciples of Christ, Christian Church in Virginia. 

During admissions for their assisted living community, residents follow several key steps, according to Brenda Dixon, Marketing Director at The Summit. First, you and your family meet on site to ask questions and view the community. Then, a nurse assesses your needs to help create an individualized service plan. A doctor assessment follows to ensure your medical needs are met. Afterward, you fill out an application and related paperwork. Finally, you enjoy move-in day.

“One of the greatest fears regarding Assisted Living, or even Independent Living, is that you lose your independence. On the contrary, the services and amenities in place, along with excellent care, help people live their best life allowing them to be as independent as possible,” says Dixon.

For example, residents can bring their own furnishings like pictures or curtains to personalize their space.

In this Life Plan community, residents can access a continuum of care according to their needs. Healthcare plans include fee-for-service or monthly service fee options, depending on the level of care required. Available services include meal plans, housekeeping, laundry, scheduled transportation, and social events. 

The facilities feature restaurant-style dining, private dining room, fully-functional library, spa, game room, creative arts room, billiards room, fitness center, wellness clinic, and chapel. Outside you’ll find a lake, gazebo, boat house, garden house, raised garden beds, and walking trails.

Valley View Retirement Community

Valley View Retirement Community takes pride in their role as Lynchburg’s best value for senior living. They are a rental retirement community with no long-term commitment, no entrance fee, and no buy-in expense. They offer both independent living and assisted care. 

Since they opened in 1988, this community has encouraged residents to make their home inside the quiet, park-like campus. The apartments have private balconies or patios where you can enjoy fresh air and listen to bird songs.

Their staff plans community events such as outings and volunteer opportunities, a daily exercise program, special holiday meal functions, and picnics. Their popular services include free chauffeured transportation, restaurant-style dining, housekeeping, consulting nurse, a fitness and rehab center, a wellness clinic, and a daily exercise program. 

The location provides a community store, fireplace lounge, community library, activity room, sunroom, community patio, and billiards room. Outside you can explore walking paths and raised beds for flower gardening.

The Williams Home

A non-profit organization, The Williams Home, Inc. provides independent and assisted living housing to exclusively female residents. Their property sits on 6 acres within a residential neighborhood. By bringing together senior ladies, they have created a secure and comforting environment where residents can build like-minded friendships.

Heritage Green

Quality of care is a top priority at Heritage Green Assisted Living and Memory Care. Their programming was created to maximize independence by providing options for both physical wellness and social well-being. Specifically, they offer FOX rehabilitation, a leading provider of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and wellness services.

Bentley Commons

As a residential senior living community, Bentley Commons at Lynchburg encourages each resident in their independence. The facility was created for those who like to direct their social interactions and leisure activities but, just need some services or support to move through their day. 

The Elms of Lynchburg

The Elms of Lynchburg offers both assisted living and memory care to residents who wish to create their “best life.” With close proximity to Central Lynchburg General Hospital, they are conveniently positioned to meet residents ongoing healthcare needs. 

McGurk House

Close to the bus line, storefronts, and restaurants, McGurk House appeals to seniors looking for convenience in a country setting. Prospective residents must have an adjusted income which does not exceed federally established income limits for the Lynchburg area.

Virginia Commonwealth Games

When Lynchburg Business Magazine asked me to enter the world of amateur sports, I didn’t know how deep the research would take me. I did a half dozen interviews, even though everyone didn’t provide a quote for the piece. Sorting through those stories and voices helped me understand the impact that the Virginia Commonwealth Games would have on the local economy.

It’s been fun looking back at the article after the games wrapped up in 2019.

Published in Lynchburg Business Guide (June 2019)

Ahead of the Game: A National Event Draws Attention to Central Virginia’s Growing Sports Tourism Industry

Visitors already flock to the greater Lynchburg region for our historical sites, beautiful scenery, and thriving active lifestyle. Now, with the addition of a national sporting event to the city’s itinerary, Central Virginia continues to build its reputation as a sports tourism destination.

This summer, an estimated 35,000 visitors will descend upon the area for the State Games of America July 31-Aug. 4. The Olympic-style event will bring 15,000 winners from each state’s games across the country.

Lisa Meriwether, tourism sales manager for the City of Lynchburg, says securing this event was a joint effort between the city, Liberty University, and Virginia Amateur Sports. The three groups first started working together in 2015 when they won a successful bid to host the Virginia Commonwealth Games from 2016 to 2021. Previously, those games had been held in Roanoke with sports scattered throughout the city and neighboring areas. When the games moved to Liberty University’s campus in 2016, most of the events were consolidated into the city of Lynchburg.

On the heels of a successful first year of the Virginia Commonwealth Games, the team starting eyeing its next goal—attracting the national games to the Hill City. Previously, only large, well-known cities such as St. Louis, San Diego, and Colorado Springs had hosted the State Games of America.

Officials from Lynchburg made a presentation before the National Congress of State Games (NCSG), competing against two other cities to host the event. One of the major points they included in their presentation was the region’s strong higher education system. “We have a lot of colleges and universities here that are community-focused. They open their doors wide and let local groups use their facilities,” says Meriwether.

Notably, Liberty University has developed its campus to include state-of-the art facilities including a baseball stadium, football complex, and natatorium. “[Bidding to host] the State Games was a no-brainer,” says Mitria Vaughter, director of events management at Liberty University. “We thought of it as an event that could benefit the whole community.”

In October 2016, a few months after Lynchburg had hosted the Virginia Commonwealth Games for the first time, officials learned Lynchburg had been selected to host the State Games of America in 2019. The NCSG says it chose Lynchburg for its “wonderful world-class Division 1 facilities” as well as the “enriched culture” that Liberty University and Lynchburg have to offer. Diane Williams, marketing director at the Roanoke-based Virginia Amateur Sports, describes the partnership they’ve had with Liberty University and the City of Lynchburg as “successful.”

“Each year we have held [the Virginia Commonwealth Games in Lynchburg], we have seen growth. Growth in number of attendees and growth in economic impact,” Williams says. “[The State Games of America] is going to put Lynchburg on the national stage. It’s a pioneer event where we can showcase Lynchburg as a sports destination. It should help [the city] bring in other large, national events.”

Through this partnership and cooperation, Lynchburg expects to continue to grow both tourism and the local economy by positioning the city as an ideal destination for sports fans, active adventurers, and athletes at all levels. Helping with this mission is the Central Virginia Sports Commission (CVSC). Created in late 2018, the organization is dedicated to showcasing the impact sports have on this area while supporting sports businesses and ideas. “The CVSC is building an understanding in the community of the importance of sports and the impact on quality of life by creating, supporting, and recruiting events through engaging partnerships,” says Executive Director Billy Russo.

The CVSC’s services include event recruitment and marketing, bid proposals/preparation and venue selection. They will also provide event support services for local, regional and national events.

Leading up to the State Games of America, Meriwether has been meeting with local stakeholders such as hotels, restaurants, and retailers to ensure the entire city is prepared for a surge in visitors. “What does it look like for 15,000 athletes to descend upon Lynchburg?” she asks. “We’re doing trainings and meetings to help people get ready.”

Those preparations range from gathering and training volunteers to working with local businesses to make sure they have all of their information updated online and on social media. “This applies mainly to retail stores and restaurants. We want to make sure that visitors can find them,” said Anna Bentson, assistant economic development director of the City of Lynchburg, who has been working with the Small Business Development Center to organize a series of workshops. “This is great information for our tourism stakeholders to have anytime, especially ahead of a large event like this.”

During the first weekend of the Virginia Commonwealth Games in 2016, the city reported that the events and competitors created an economic impact of $1.2 million with a total of $60,819 in local tax revenue. That event brought $2.6 million in 2017.

Through the State Games of America this summer, city officials estimate an economic impact of over $10 million in direct visitor spending. As of February 15, approximately 1,200 hotel rooms had been booked with an additional 5,000 hotel rooms and Liberty University dorm rooms expected to be filled.

By creating a positive experience for each and every guest this summer, Central Virginia is redefining what sports tourism can mean for the long-term outlook of the local economy. As far as Meriwether is concerned, their time in the Hill City won’t be limited to that one week in late summer.

“… we know they’ll come back, over and over and over again,” says Meriwether.

Other notable sports headlines in Lynchburg

1960 – Since 1960, the Central Virginia Invitational Tennis Tournament has attracted athletes to Lynchburg to play tennis, stay overnight in host homes, and socialize between games.

1974 – In 1974, Rudy Straub, a founding member of the Lynchburg Road Runners, organized the first Virginia 10 Miler race. The event brought in top athletes—such as Bill Rogers, Frank Shorter, Rod Dixon, and Joan Benoit Samuelson. The race continues to garner national interest, under the name Genworth Virginia 10 Miler and through the efforts of the current race director, Jeff Fedorko.

2016 – A major renovation of the City Stadium complex, completed in late 2016, renewed excitement for local varsity football and the Hillcats baseball team. Originally built in 1939, the complex provided both football and baseball stadiums for the city. After the facelift, the Lynchburg Hillcats, the EC Glass High School varsity football team, the Heritage High School varsity football team and their devoted fans have enjoyed the new and improved amenities.

2018 – Further pushing Lynchburg into the national spotlight, Liberty University joined the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN) in July 2018. Eight of nine men’s programs and nine of 11 women’s programs moved to the conference, not only making Liberty part of a more regionally diverse league but also allowing them to compete with a different class of players.


Any Virginia resident may participate in the State Games of America. Anyone competing from other states must have earned a medal in the two years leading up to the State Games of America.

Spectators at the event can enjoy viewing over 50 different sports such as yoga, Ninja Warrior Challenge, pickleball, or archery.

If you would like to volunteer at the event, visit