Lancerlot partners with TAP to feed struggling families

By Debbie Adams

The Lancerlot Sports Complex in Vinton is partnering with TAP (Total Action for Progress) to provide food and warm winter hats, scarves, socks, and gloves for struggling families in the Roanoke Valley.

The community (in addition to Lancerlot members) is being asked to participate in “Bridging the Community Gap” by bringing donations of canned goods, boxed foods like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, pasta, and cereal, staples like peanut butter and rice, as well as winter clothing accessories to the Lancerlot between December 7 and December 29. (The Lancerlot is open from 6 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. for drop-off of items).

Leave your donations under the Christmas tree in the entrance lobby. Remember to wear a face mask. Stop by the front desk in the fitness area to receive a thank you gift of appreciation from TAP.

Lancerlot Administrative Manager Kathleen Sink says this is the second year of the partnership with the non-profit TAP organization in this effort. “The community response last year was great.”

Troy Gusler, Special Projects Manager at TAP, says “Bridging the Community Gap” got its start five years ago in an attempt to bring the various communities and organizations in the Roanoke area together and to coordinate their efforts.

A special event is held in Roanoke each year to kick off the food drive campaign. This year’s is scheduled for Thursday, December 10, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge near the Higher Education Center in downtown Roanoke. Due to COVID restrictions on crowd size limited to 25, the event will be live-streamed.

Gusler says the goal of TAP is to give a “hand-up” not a “hand-out,” to those it works with. “TAP works with lots of people with lots of different needs.” He also says that anything donated to TAP, “we have a program that can use it.”

Gusler will be picking up the Lancerlot contributions before Christmas. Volunteers in their youth programs will then sort the goods to distribute to three neighborhoods—Melrose/Rugby, Loudon/Melrose, and Hurt Park. TAP will be delivering the items collected to families identified by the neighborhood organizations “by need” during the first week of January. Multiple organizations are involved in the giving again this year.

TAP partners include: Melrose/Rugby, Loudon/Melrose, Hurt Park, RCPO, YouthH@Goodwill, Roanoke City Council, Task Force to Reduce Gun Violence, City of Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Family Services of Roanoke Valley, Oak Grove Church of the Brethren Peace and Justice Committee, Central Church of the Brethren Race Education Team, Virginia Career Works Roanoke Center, TAP Project Discovery, and TAP Domestic Violence Services.

The Lancerlot Sports Complex in Vinton is partnering with TAP to provide food and winter clothing accessories for those who are strugglng. Drop off donations under the tree in the lobby at the Lancerlot by December 29.

Gsuler says many in the community are suffering more than usual this year. Organizations providing meals and shelter for the indigent have had to make adjustments due to the pandemic, with COVID screenings, social distancing, required facial coverings, and capacity limits, resulting in reduced services in some cases.

TAP sponsors over 30 different programs to benefit the community at large, including education, employment training, family services, financial services, and housing.

They assist adults in completing GED’s, in training for specific jobs, and in earning industry certifications.

TAP works with youth, starting as early as middle school, in cultural workshops, guidance in class selection, SOL and SAT preparatory classes, workshops in financial aid and college life, and college campus tours.

They provide Early Childhood Education in preparation for kindergarten through Early Head Start (up to two years of age) and Head Start (ages three and four).

TAP Head Start/Early Head Start has had an enormous impact on the community by partnering with the United Way Roanoke Valley on the new Smart2Start program.  This program provides a single point of contact for parents to learn about and enroll their children in early care and education programs throughout the region, including Head Start and Early Head Start. This program has helped families in local school systems with placement of students using remote learning or hybrid learning (part-time) instruction.

TAP’s Dental Health Initiative (DHI) offers clients a matched savings plan for dental care, including cleaning, orthodontia, surgery, and dentures.

The Virginia CARES program they offer helps ex-offenders transition back into the community with job training, job searches, interview preparation, transportation, and applications for rights restoration.

TAP provides Supportive Services for Veteran Families, in helping them find a new home or keep their current one.

Sabrina’s Place provides a safe place for supervised visitation or exchange of children.

Their Domestic Violence Services help with emergency assistance and transportation, emergency relocation, counseling, crisis intervention, legal advocacy, court preparation and accompaniment, support groups, and education and outreach for the community.

There are TAP programs to help individuals learn the essentials of money and banking and to help fledgling entrepreneurs launch a business.

Tap sponsors a tax clinic, personal finance counseling, housing assistance for first-time home buyers and helps those in danger of foreclosure.

They offer a Real Estate Development program to offer project and management services on a wide range of projects in cooperation with local governments and housing authorities. They work with families on issues ranging from rehabilitating their homes to building new houses.

If you are homeless, at-risk of losing your home, or own your home but lack basic utilities and safety features, there are TAP programs to help.

They can assist with zero cost loans for repair of failed septic systems or rehabilitation of homes without indoor bathrooms with the Indoor Plumbing Rehabilitation program.

TAP also offers programs on improving the energy efficiency of homes, lowering utility bills, weatherizing homes, and providing emergency home repairs, including dangerous electrical systems and rotted floors.

Gusler says this summer TAP began working with the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program proving assistance to individuals at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income who have experienced a loss of income due to the coronavirus pandemic: from loss of employment or reduced work hours, the need to stay home to care for children due to closures of day care or schools, loss of child support, the inability to find work, missed work due to contracting COVID-19, or those at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who are unable to participate in their previous employment.

In 2020, TAP is celebrating 55 years of service to the community.

“Over the decades, we have been committed to providing programs to help individuals and families achieve economic and personal independence through education, employment, affordable housing, and safe and healthy environments. This year’s unprecedented challenges have reinforced our calling: to create spaces that foster hope and allow equal participation in our society,” is their message.

In 2019, TAP served close to 5,000 individuals; 254 families received safety-related repairs to their homes; 976 individuals used tax preparation services; 107 families were kept safe through the safe exchange and supervision program; 1057 domestic violence hotline calls were answered; six businesses were started or expanded; 100 percent of TAP Youth Employment Program students (most who were court-involved) graduated and found employment; and 95 percent of veterans served obtained safe and stable housing.

TAP is the designated community action agency for 11 jurisdictions in southwest Virginia, including the cities of Roanoke, Salem, Covington, Lexington, and Buena Vista and the Counties of Roanoke, Alleghany, Bath, Botetourt, Craig, and Rockbridge.

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Gusler and Sink says the plan is to make “Bridging the Community Gap” an annual event with the Lancerlot, involving its members and the Vinton community.

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