A Moment with Suzanna Erlichman, Family Support Specialist, Virginia Wounded Warrior Program: “I am the granddaughter, daughter, sister, niece and spouse of veterans. I’ve been surrounded by the veteran lifestyle my entire life. I got married when I was 19 and my husband was active duty Air Force. We moved from Fredericksburg cross country to Arizona and 6 months after we got married, he deployed. I relied heavily on the base for different resources and support groups. That inspired me to change my college major and I went on to get my degree in Family Studies and Human Development from the University of Arizona with a minor in Military Families.”
"How does it feel to be making a difference here in your hometown?"
"Virginia is really the place to be if you want to work with veterans because 1 in 10 Virginians are veterans themselves and 1 in 3 people are related to a veteran. I provide peer support services and run a Family Support Group on the 2nd Wednesday of each month where I relate to veteran families on a personal level and also connect them to resources. A common challenge for military families in this area is that they are not connected to each other. The support groups help families know that they are not alone and that there are other families going through the same issues."
"What is the most rewarding thing about your job?"
The initial contact that I have with people because they come in so stressed out and not knowing what to do and they have problems even sorting their thoughts. After I talk to them and tell them about the resources available to them, they are so relieved. I really love that aspect of my job, seeing the relief on their faces when they realize that finally someone really gets it.”
A Moment with Alea Bryar, President-elect of the Fredericksburg Area Service League: ”We are an organization of women, all volunteers, and we are dedicated to helping Fredericksburg area children. This is our 20th year and to date we have given over $600,000 to the community. Our biggest fundraisers are the Merry Market, Bids Helping Kids and the Junior Cotillion. In addition to supporting organizations financially, we have also given thousands of hours of service. I personally most enjoy working directly with the children. We have a Books in Hand and read aloud program at area schools and also provide support to many beneficiaries including Head Start, Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Hope House. Also, this year we are working with the Children’s Museum of Richmond to open a new satellite location here in Fredericksburg. Ever since I was a little girl, I have just always wanted reach out and help people. I have always felt compassion for those who don’t have a lot of opportunities.” For more information about the many ways the Fredericksburg Area Service League is contributing to our community, visit their newly updated website here: http://www.faserviceleague.com
A Moment with Sean Maroney, Executive Director of the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation: ”We are all about preserving history in all its forms. We’ve been around since 1955 and we are first and foremost a preservation advocacy group, so we lobby for preservation policies and also promote awareness in local preservation. Often, the complaint is that preservation is about freezing a place in time and not allowing any changes but that is entirely not what we are about. Preservation is more of a reasonable approach to change. Change is going to happen but we just want to make sure that we maintain those aspects that make this place unique. If you get rid of the things that define a town and make it unique, then you’ve lost an economic and cultural resource.” HFFI acquired its first preservation easement in 1965 and today, holds protective covenants on over 40 historic Fredericksburg properties.
A Moment with Dianna Flett of Girl Smarts, a series of workshops designed to promote self-esteem in 4th and 5th grade girls. Dianna, a retired Army officer and mother of 4 boys, taught leadership workshops for the FBI: ”At about that time, I was hearing from my middle school sons about all of the difficulties that young ladies were experiencing in their school. I noticed that the programs that I was presenting to the FBI were the same things that I thought needed to be discussed with the girls; things like goal setting, communication, motivation, values. I reached out to Laura Hooper, our middle school counselor and talked with her about designing workshops for the girls. As I did more research, I read a study that pinpointed 9 years old as the age at which young girls self-esteem peaks. My goal is to strengthen their sense of self at that age before they enter middle school. That’s how the program started.”
"Can you tell me about one of your most fulfilling moments with GirlSmarts?"
"Yes and I’m going to cry! One of the young ladies at a workshop years ago was a selective mute. We were doing one of the workshop designed to teach empathy within a group. We make a life size paper doll and give it likes and dislikes and traits and then at the end of the workshop, I bully the doll and we rip it. There is a portion of the workshop when the team comes up and introduces their doll and tells about their likes and dislikes. This young lady who was a selective mute talked. That’s all she did. But it just made me feel like we helped her find her voice. Since then part of my teaching for the Girl Smarts girls is to learn to live out loud and develop a sense of voice and let them know that it is perfect for them to have an opinion and that they need to speak it.
We also do something called a Values Jar. We teach the girls about what values are and help them identify 4 or 5 values that are most important to them, such as honesty, integrity, education, and family. We equate the girls values to jewels and let them know that these are the most valuable things in their lives. We teach them about making values-based decisions and that you will always have a comfort level if you make a decision based on your values.”
For more information about Dianna’s amazing workshops, check out http://www.girlsmarts.net
A moment with Michelle LeDrew who just opened her new shop, Glam at Ava Laurenne Bride on Caroline St. Michelle will be keeping her luscious “Accessory Bar” stocked with exclusive finds from around the world. ”My philosophy is that we all have basic pieces that can be turned into fabulous outfits by the way we pull it together and the way we accessorize it. The Glam jewelry line is the perfect fit for me. It’s all about paying attention to the details. Details make the statement.” Michelle is also partnering with Ava Laurenne Bride to bring special occasion, bridesmaids, Mother-of-the Bride and prom dresses to downtown. For the groomsmen, there will even be a masculine space in the back of the shop complete with pool table, bar, and flat screen TV. Grand Opening Gala red carpet event and fashion show will be taking place on Feb 8, 2014. Also, look out for Michelle’s monthly fashion workshops!
Before I had even had my second cup of tea this morning, Paula Bartello, director of FeedFred, had served breakfast to over 70 needy members of our community. And not just any breakfast; Paula spends her Sunday mornings serving up her signature burritos that she prepares herself and today’s menu included Philly Cheesesteak Burritos. I caught up with her in front of the library where she was serving lunch from her car. “I struggled a lot myself and I have just been blessed since I met my husband and started this company. We say that we do this for selfish reasons. We just love these people. When I first started doing this, maybe my second or third breakfast, there was a young homeless pregnant girl who came and ate. She started crying and said, ‘Thank you so much! I just felt my baby kick for the first time!’ and right then, I thought, Yes, this is the right thing for me.” ”What are your goals for the future?” “I would love to have a food truck. There are a lot of kids in this community living in motels and a lot of them haven’t had a home cooked meal. I would love to be able to deliver hot food to them.” As Paula and I chatted, one of the gentleman there said, “I love you all. You make my life bearable.” Thank you FeedFred!
A Moment with Jaime Cammack, veteran’s spouse and co-founder of the Fredericksburg chapter of Team Red, White and Blue. Team RWB is designed to connect veterans to their community through physical and social activity and is open to all members of the community. “We started this chapter because it’s been really hard for my husband and me to make friends in town. We felt completely isolated and didn’t know how to find people. Our group is all about trying to find people that might not have a community and getting them engaged in social and physical activities that are good for them and will help the bottom line of happiness. We have multiple runs every week, started yoga classes in Quantico and have lots of activities for members of all ability levels. There have been a lot of really awesome highlights in starting this group but the best is finding people that really care about other people and having a community that is willing to support each other and not just there to compete. Team RWB really supports people doing momentous things in their own individual lives.”
A moment with Sara Pagano, who celebrated her 35th birthday by performing 35 Random Acts of Kindness: “What I really liked about my project was watching it snowball and seeing other people start doing it in their communities. Growing up, I saw my mom doing kind things for people and it became second nature for me to try to do kind things as well. When my daughter was with me and we gave free donuts to a man behind us in line, she said ‘This is the best part, mom! Now everyone will start doing kind things for each other!’” Thank you for the inspiration, Sara!
"The best thing about being a dad is actually watching your child develop into the adult that you want them to be. All of my kids are doing positive things with their lives and that tells me that I’m doing the right thing."
"What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a parent?"
"That you have to parent each child differently. Each one has a unique personality and you have to cater to that. There’s no one fix for every child. The biggest challenge is trying to get the kids to realize that although Dad doesn’t know everything, he knows a little bit more than they think he knows. I try to steer them away from the little pitfalls but sometimes you have to let them go there."
A Moment with Jason Mueller, Missions Pastor at Salem Fields Community Church: ”I have discovered that my children are a gift and they are a gift in the way that they are always teaching me. Gracie, my daughter, is super compassionate and wants to be involved in what I do. She was planning her birthday party and I told her that the morning after the party I would be delivering Christmas presents for Angel Tree. (Angel Tree Minstries delivers gifts to children whose parents are incarcerated). She said, ‘Can we do that, too?’ The girls had a sleepover and were up until 4 in the morning, got up the next morning around 8 am and hand-delivered presents to these kids. They got a lot of joy out of it. The biggest lesson I have learned in my ministries is gratitude. When you help someone less fortunate than yourself, then you see exactly what you have and you realize it and you are grateful and then you get the satisfaction of helping someone else.”
— at Sophia Street Studios.
"Who do you admire most in your life?"
"My husband because he’s just truly good. Right now he is going in once a week to a retirement home just to play the guitar and to brighten up their day. It makes him happy to make people smile. They sing and they dance and it gives him joy to break up their monotonous day."