There are few areas with as rich a sense of pride as the Top of Virginia region. The community comes together in a multitude of ways, from taking care of those who are disadvantaged to celebrating the natural beauty of the area.
Valley Assistance Network
One program that demonstrates a great sense of community pride is the Valley Assistance Network, which is part of United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley. The program launched in October 2017 and is a result of the Community Needs Assessment, which examined the financial stability of the area, among other things. The assessment highlighted the number of working families in the area who are struggling financially.
“The goal is to provide an easily accessible coordinated network of services to help people navigate resources in our community,” said Jennifer Hall, director of community engagement at United Way of Shenandoah Valley.
During the first phase, clients receive help in finding appropriate resources and moving from crisis to stability. There’s a second phase of the program, as well, that provides financial education and coaching to help families move from stability to financial security. During the first nine months of the program, Valley Assistance Network served 400 clients and made 1,000 referrals to community partners, Hall noted.
Valley Assistance Network is funded through an endowment from United Way North Shenandoah Valley, grants and support from area businesses and individuals. Volunteers serve as resource navigators, helping families find the best community services to meet their needs, and as mobility mentoring coaches who work directly with families to set goals that will lead to financial stability.
Dr. Terry Sinclair Health Clinic
A community with a strong sense of pride takes care of its residents. In the Top of Virginia area, the Dr. Terry Sinclair Health Clinic is one indicator of how much people in the region care about one another.
“We serve patients that are uninsured and meet certain income requirements and would not receive health care in any other venue,” said Brandon T. Jennings, executive director at the Dr. Terry Sinclair Health Clinic.
The clinic is staff based rather than volunteer based, which is unusual for a free and charitable clinic. Volunteer medical providers do come in, particularly to provide specialty care, to supplement the paid staff in order to resemble a standard doctor’s office.
“The clinic was founded 32 years ago. Dr. Sinclair and his colleagues noticed there was a segment of the population not getting care. He is still on the board, and one of our current challenges is getting a new generation interested,” Jennings said.
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival
In addition to charitable activities, events that celebrate the natural beauty of the region provide an opportunity for residents to express civic pride. The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is one of the most anticipated events of the year.
“The festival is the ultimate opportunity for local citizens and businesses and institutions to ‘show off’ before a greatly expanded public eye,” said John Rosenberger II, executive director, Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, Inc.
The fact that residents in the area are proud of the festival is obvious when you consider who manages and runs the event. The festival maintains professional staff of five but a “volunteer army” of around 2,000 helps the event run smoothly each year.
“I’m sure that festival volunteerism is indicative of a sense of community pride; but, it is also indicative of an impassioned community love of our nearly-100-year-old signature event; and, it is indicative of a general sense of civic duty that is still present in the valley,” Rosenberger said.
Beyond being a staple of the community, the festival is award-winning. In the last two years alone, it has won national awards from Fodor’s Travel, USA Today and Expedia.