July 2016 Issue

  • House of Laposh makes a statement

    Lynchburg native India Watson has been creating her own clothing for nearly a decade. What started as a teenager expanding her wardrobe with a needle and thread has become a staple in the local fashion industry. Now known as India Laposh, she has managed to make her designs not only current and trendy, but also timeless and quite stunning.

    Q. What inspired the name of your fashion house, “House of Laposh”?

    A. I thought of Laposh years ago when I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was never intended to be more than just a Facebook name. From the beginning, I knew whatever name I came up with for my brand needed to be something original, something I had never heard before. I wanted this name to scream everything that I stood for, yet I wanted it be bold enough to catch people’s ears. Soon everyone had dropped the India in my name and just started calling me Laposh at that moment. That’s when I knew “House of Laposh” was perfect.

    Q. What statement do you want your designs to make?

    A. Every designer designs for the individual person, but you have to maintain a cohesive look within your designs. Everything that runs through my sewing machines is bold and very me. It can be risky, but what’s life without a little risk. I design for those seeking luxury and comfortability.

    Q. What do you feel are your proudest career achievements thus far?

    A. Each year as the New Year approaches, I set new goals for myself. I’ve set goals that some have thought to be unachievable, but I use that doubt to motivate me.  This year alone has been amazing. Not only did I achieve the goals I set, but I’ve already surpassed them. I was blessed with the opportunity to style a well-known transgender actress, Laverne Cox, of “Orange Is the New Black.” I worked with reality star Erica Mena. I recently styled Shauna Brooks. This was also my second year participating in Richmond Fashion Week. My designs were the finale of the fashion show. As the saying goes, they saved the best for last. Ultimately, the proudest moment of them all would have to be the first time I held my company’s LLC in my hands. Now, it’s official. Laposh is permanent.

    Q.  Obviously you’re a trendsetter, but who are your role models? Who inspires you?

    A. I really don’t have any role models in reference to designers. If you were to ask me to list my top ten favorite designers, I could only name about five because I don’t keep up with anything other than what I’m doing. Just so you know the level of extreme, I stopped watching television in the ninth grade to avoid the influence of other designs. I like to think of myself as my own role model. I inspire myself to be the best person that I can be and to never underestimate myself. I have those who give me support and encourage me to not give up. Mainly, my family, because they are the only ones whose loyalty I’ve never had to question. So when it all comes down, everything I do, it’s to secure a good life for me as well as my parents. I am a reflection of them and they deserve nothing but the best because they did an amazing job with me. They deserve the best in return.

    Q. You mentioned how supportive your family has been. It is a given that growing up and dealing with puberty is hard for all of us. I would imagine it was even more difficult for you, being born with a body that you didn’t identify with.  Was your family involved in your decision to transition from male to female?

    A. I can think back as far as before elementary school. I knew that the ideal life society had chosen for me to live wasn’t meant for me. I always go back to this very clear memory of me in my Grandma’s house, sitting on her living room carpet, thinking that one day I would be able to live the life that I wanted to live and become one with my womanhood. My transition began while I was in college in Atlanta, so I was surrounded by friends who were very supportive and protective of me. Transitioning in Atlanta was a big support in itself, as it’s known to be a welcoming place for African Americans in the LGBT community.

    I was nervous about coming back and facing family, only because it was somewhat unexpected to them. I was living in my truth and felt free when I was away from everyone, but when I came back home during college breaks, I was back to being restricted. So I did downplay the changes for a short amount of time until I couldn’t handle it anymore. I realized that I had to do what was right for me. I had to live for me. I told myself as long as my family knows and accepts me I’m 100 percent satisfied with that, so explaining to anybody else was irrelevant because I didn’t feel I owed an explanation to anyone. Once my family caught on, there was nothing more to be explained. It took a while to get used to, just like anything that you aren’t used to, but soon I found myself shopping with my Grandma for handbags and heels. So, honestly, life was better. My family accepted me. My Grandma told me one thing that I’ll always take with me: “Do what makes you happy, because you don’t want to grow old and living off of shoulda, coulda, wouldas.” That alone was all the advice I ever needed.

    Q. What advice would you give to someone struggling with their own gender identity?

    A. I would say you’re not alone and it’s perfectly fine. For many years, in my younger days, I was under the impression that I was alone and I would have to flee everything just to be able to live how I wanted to — but that wasn’t true. Growing up in a city where being transgender was practically nonexistent, and people lacked the knowledge of what exactly transgender means, can be very difficult. No one can change how you feel on the inside. Until your outside matches your inside, that incomplete feeling will always be there. You have to live for yourself. You have to walk your own path. It’s a path only you can steer. Being transgender has absolutely nothing to do with being gay. Your gender identity doesn’t define your sexuality. Live your life, do what makes you happy, and be the best representation of you.

    Q. Do you feel that disclosure is a must when meeting new people? Dating can be a minefield. Do you think it’s harder for someone who is transgender? Speaking of which, how do you feel about the word transgender? Is it offensive?

    A. Disclosure for me is extremely important. I have always disclosed my past life. Usually when dating locally, people beat me to it. But I always give confirmation, which is why I get a lot of respect. Do I think it’s harder for a trans person to date? Absolutely not. Dating has never been an issue for me. When I meet guys, they want to know me, nothing more and nothing less. They want to know who I am. No, transgender isn’t offensive to me. It is what it is; I’m not super big on categorizing everyone. Society is.

    Q. Thank you for your openness in this interview. I have one last request. Describe yourself in one sentence. Who is India?

    A. India is a force to be reckoned with …

    Visit India’s website to view
    and purchase items from
    her clothing lines at

  • Publisher's Note

    “If you are going through Hell; keep going!”

    - Winston Churchill


    “If you can’t fly, then run.

    If you can’t run, then walk.

    If you can’t walk, then crawl.

    But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

    - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



    Determination, perseverance and prayer are what have gotten us here at ColorsVA magazine. That is our theme for celebrating our first anniversary issue. As I reflect on this past year, I look at the highs and the lows. It was a rough year! I took a concept of providing enlightening stories about communities that are not honored and talked about in a positive light that the larger communities don’t see.  I believe in positive things — don’t we all? In this negative media-rich society, we look at death and mayhem as if that is the only thing we see in this world. We forget to see our children playing, our loved ones celebrating their successes, our families remembering how they have grown and to appreciate their history. That’s why ColorsVA magazine exists, to provide educational and positive news to communities of color whose members otherwise will not experience it.

    While we stress stories that are positive, we want to write stories that uplift and challenge our readers to compassion and understanding. In our cover story, our Lynchburg editor Nakesha Renee Moore talks with India Laposh, a transgender fashion designer, about her work and experience being transgender in this community. Also, in our anniversary issue, we look at the concept and purpose of family reunions. In this story, we focus on the rich and beautiful family history of the Chubb family.  The Chubb legacy is preserved so their future children will know the importance of their family name.  We introduce Stedman Payne of Member One Credit Union, who will provide financial education. Danae Wensley, our copy editor, gives updates to some of the great stories we have written in the past year.

    I am grateful for those who have made this year at ColorsVA a success. I want to thank my fiancée, Tina; my mother, Evangeline; and my staff, who has been faithful and diligent in making our mission statement true. To the advertisers, I thank you so much for believing in this concept and valuing the importance of marketing to the communities of color in Southwest Virginia. Last but definitely not least, I thank the readers. Your enthusiasm in wanting to read, learn and understand our diverse community is truly how we continue to make this community a better place! 


    Robert L. Jeffrey Jr.



  • Reunion ties history and family bonds


    “Family reunions are important rituals that have long contributed to the survival, health and endurance of African American families, helping to maintain cultural heritage even in uncertain and turbulent times. Although there is variation in how African Americans hold family reunions these days, some key elements remain constant. One constant is that these events generate such power, in large part, from the participation of the elders — the keepers of the African American legacy.”
    — The American Society on Aging

    During centuries of enslavement, African Americans hardly had a chance to function as families. Consider the devastation that produces — to be separated from one another, and kept in degrading circumstances for generation after generation, in many cases. The stresses of the Jim Crow era, which continued arguably through the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, gave little opportunity for exploration of one’s ancestry to a people for whom recorded history was sometimes non-existent; few records were kept for slaves. Then in the late 1970s, Alex Haley’s book, “Roots: the Saga of an American Family” (1976) — and the resulting television miniseries — awoke a hunger to discover the path back to one’s origins and ancestors.

    The Chubb family has an unusual history as an African American family. They can trace their ancestry back to 1775, to a man whose circumstance of being free remains a mystery. “Nicholas Chubb” is listed as “a free colored male, head of a household,” age 45, in the 1820 census of Caswell County, in the slave state of North Carolina. His son Isaac Chubb, born about 1797, is also listed as a free black male in census records of the time. 

    As an adult Isaac immigrated with his family to the slave state of Georgia. Isaac appears in the 1850 census of Morgan County, Georgia, as “a free mulatto, head of household.” Family lore is that he possibly immigrated to Georgia to capitalize on a mid-19th century gold rush happening there. A blacksmith by profession, Isaac Chubb was able to support and keep his family together — an astounding feat in pre-Civil War Georgia. He and Mary Chubb had ten children: Anna and Jane plus eight sons: William, Henry, John, Thomas, Jacob, Isaac Jr., Nicholas and George.

    Together they were able to carve out a home place known as Chubbtown, in a somewhat isolated area near today’s Rome, Georgia. Chubbtown ran self-sufficiently. Approximately 200 free black families lived there. The eight brothers worked together to purchase several thousand acres of land where they farmed and built stores, a church, a gristmill, a blacksmith shop, a sawmill, a distillery, a post office and a lodge.They created and sold goods to others living outside Chubbtown.

    Kenneth Jones, the original family historian, said his grandfather told him that his grandfather remembered a Union soldier (possibly one of General William T. Sherman’s federal forces) coming to Chubbtown and asking, “Who do you belong to?” The soldier was told, “We are all free, just like everyone else in this town.” To the residents’ surprise and relief, the army moved on without troubling them.



    Andrea Chubb recalled, “My grandfather Leon spoke often of Chubbtown, Georgia.  He had only his memories to rely on, no pictures or tapes.  My father, Richard, was curious about this place so he took my grandfather, his younger sister Virginia, who was my great-aunt, and my cousins Connie, Brian and me back to Chubbtown for a visit in the ’70s when we were in our early teens.

    “After 56 years my grandfather remembered where buildings had been, and his stories of Chubbtown were vivid. I clearly remember him saying, ‘look for Boogie Hollow Road on narrow tree-lined road’… In the once self-sufficient town one of last structures remaining was the church.  On our first visit it had not been remodeled, [but] I could just imagine the labor of the eight brothers building a house of worship.  I could almost feel the presence of the brothers and their families working to make a better life.” 

    Thereafter, Chubb descendants began an annual Homecoming to the church in Chubbtown.  In 2013 it was decided to hold a larger gathering and Roanoke, Virginia, seemed the best central city with family members to hold it. The first, in 2014, brought approximately 100 family members; this year’s will welcome 185 or more.

    For many of us, potato salad, ham, pies and other favorite aunts’ recipes come to mind first thing when we hear the words, “family reunion.” But when I asked Richard Chubb and his cousin Raymond Bishop ‘Are there some favorite family recipes you’re looking forward to?’ I got a perplexed look at first.

    “This is not a potluck affair, no sir-ee; it’s all catered, big time,” was their answer. Almost 200 relatives are coming to this bi-annual event, from states including Michigan, Oklahoma, Ohio, Kansas, New York, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. The 2016 reunion during the Fourth of July weekend begins with a “hospitality night” and will continue through Sunday’s church service at a United Methodist Church. The banquet on Saturday will be formal Black Tie, with music. Photographs will be in abundance. A candlelight vigil will memorialize those who have passed. A talent show will be part of the entertainment. Planning has been underway for a year; besides the Chubb family in Roanoke, Alice Arney, LaRhonda Smith, Clemmie Whatley and Helen Charles have pulled families together from across the country.

    Chubb descendants have often continued to be leaders in their far-flung communities. Roanoke’s Richard Chubb is a retired noted educator; Mignon Chubb-Hale and Perneller Chubb-Wilson are active in many community organizations. Dr. Nathaniel L. Bishop is president of Roanoke’s Jefferson College of Health Sciences. Cousin Raymond Bishop, a retired Naval lieutenant commander with 40 years of service, has compiled the detailed and growing family history from which much of this article is drawn.

    “When I got out of the Navy after 40 years of travelling the world,” said Raymond Bishop, “I said, ‘God, what will you have me do now?’ The rest of my life will be focused on legacy. Not just my own family’s … I want other people to see how they can empty their shoeboxes (of photos and other ephemera), and create their own family history for their children. If you don’t, all that becomes just oral history, and oral history has a certain degree of distortion. But a picture is worth a thousand words. What do you leave your children?” Bishop says with passion in his voice. “Just money? Or do you give them a sense of who they are, where they came from?”

    We look through the collected photographs, copies of census records and land grants of the Chubb family that go back well into the 19th century. These are very moving documents of real people who — because they stuck together and worked hard — survived and prospered. Their living kin including Andrea Chubb, Richard’s daughter who has been very involved in reunion planning, and Nathalie Bishop, age 7, sit around me in Richard Chubb’s living room.

    Richard Chubb, age 80, explains what is, for him, the highlight of the family reunion. “Seeing the young people, seeing them get invested in their own goals and dreams. We lost four people since the last reunion and it’s so good we have a lot of young people coming along. It’s good for them to get to know each other. So if someday they need a place to stay when they are traveling, or need a job, there are people they can call. They won’t be lonesome coming through.”


    Edith Wagner, editor of Reunions Magazine (http://reunionsmag.com/), offers these seven tips for first-time reunion planners:

    Start early, especially if your group is large: A year ahead is not too soon. Working adults need to plan for time off; kids’ schedules need to be accommodated. And some families need time to save for travel expenses.

    Don’t go it alone: The more people involved in the planning, the more people will feel invested in the event. Planning a reunion, especially a large one, is not a one-person job. Put someone in charge of securing lodging, another in charge of food, a third can plan activities.

    Size matters: How do you define family? Siblings, grandparents and grandchildren? Cousins, uncles and great-nephews? In general, the larger the group, the more planning time required. If this is your first reunion, it’s best to start small – and then grow.

    Location, location location: Choose a place that’s equidistant for everyone, or a long way from all; a place you’ve been before, or a place you’ve always wanted to explore. National and state parks are popular choices; so, too, are urban centers (though consider booking hotel rooms in the suburbs to save money). Almost any place a family can vacation will work. Many larger hotels and resorts have group planners who can help you get organized. Or check with the region’s visitor’s bureau for itinerary ideas.

    Activities for all: Survey your family to find out what’s important: golf, shopping, fishing, nightlife? “Some older family members may be fine with a comfortable folding chair under a shade tree,” said Wagner, though that’s usually not enough for the majority. Young adults are the most difficult to attract to reunions – so plan some activities specifically for them.

    Remember, too, the importance of down time. Too many activities can be as much of a problem as too few.

    Pay attention to price: Young families, in particular, typically don’t have a large travel budget. Keep finances in mind when you’re considering potential destinations.

    Choosing the date: Some families tie their reunion to an important event – a milestone wedding anniversary or birthday. Other groups build their gathering around a holiday (July Fourth is a popular choice). Whatever date you choose, don’t move it once it’s set. Invariably, someone won’t be able to come. But as soon as you move the date for one, you’ll be pressured to move it for another.

    Family reunions: By
    the numbers

    63 percent: Americans who say they have attended a family reunion

    5 days: Average length of a reunion trip

    8 adults, 4 kids: Average size of family gathering

    28 percent: Reunion-goers who say “drinking too much” is the top way to offend family members (in second place: “paying too much attention to your phone”)

    Family Reunion
    Survey, 201

  • Stedman Speaks

    Stedman Payne joined Member One 12 years ago and has risen rapidly through the ranks. Most recently, he was the market leader of Member One’s main retail center in downtown Roanoke. A native of Lynchburg, Stedman is about to assume the role of market executive in Lynchburg, where he will take overall responsibility for servicing this important and growing market.

    Not only is Stedman highly accomplished in the financial services field, he is extremely active in the community. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, the Board of Commissioners of This Valley Works, and in a trusted advisory capacity with American National University.

    In the first of his financial educational series, and since we’re in the middle of home-buying season, Stedman wants to share some tips on applying for a mortgage and what you should look out for.


    Q: What’s the difference between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages?


    Stedman Payne: A fixed-rate mortgage means your interest rate is set and will never change for the life of the mortgage. That makes it easy for you to budget, knowing that your monthly payment will remain the same. With an adjustable rate mortgage, commonly called an ARM, the interest rate may go up or down. Many ARMs will start at a lower rate than a fixed-rate mortgage, and may stay the same for a number of years. When that introductory period is up, however, your rate is likely to increase, and so is your payment.


    Q: So wouldn’t it make sense to just go with a fixed-rate mortgage?


    SP: Not necessarily. Say you only intend to stay in the home you buy for a few years — it might be a better bet to take advantage of the initial lower rate of an ARM and sell before your rate changes. It really depends on your plans. And your appetite for risk! You should definitely consult an experienced mortgage lender who can guide you in the right direction.


    Q: Isn’t it just easier to get a mortgage through one of those online lenders rather than going to a bank or credit union?


    SP: It might seem easier, but what you miss out on with online lenders is that personal touch. At Member One, for instance, our mortgage loan originators take into account a member’s overall financial situation. You’d be surprised, for example, how much house you could afford simply by refinancing your car loan or consolidating outstanding debt. Having a sit-down discussion with an experienced mortgage professional isn’t something you can do on the Internet.


    Q: Isn’t it important to clean up your credit before you apply for a mortgage?


    SP: Absolutely! Lenders look very closely at your credit score and your credit history. The first thing to do is check your credit report. You can get copies from the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. If you find any errors, file a dispute immediately. 


    Q: What other steps should you take?

    SP: Pay down your credit cards or at least make more than the minimum payments each month. That will boost your credit score and save you some money on interest. It also shows lenders you’re serious about making repayments. Speaking of credit cards, don’t apply for new cards — or any other form of credit, for that matter — during the house-buying process. You want that credit report to look as clean as possible when you apply for a mortgage.

    Q: So once you’ve closed on your home, you can go crazy with the credit cards?


    SP: Please don’t! Obviously, your savings take a hit when you make the down payment, and it’s tempting to rely on credit cards to take up the slack. Try to cut back on fixed expenses so you can replenish your savings. Remember, it’s always good to have six months’ worth of living expenses to fall back on in case of need.


    Q: Lenders usually lend up to 80 percent of the home’s value, right? What if you can’t come up with a 20 percent down payment?


    SP: Yes, the 80-20 ratio is the rule of thumb. But like all rules, there are exceptions. At Member One, we can lend up to 90 percent of a home’s appraised value for applicants with good credit. That really helps out with the upfront cash you have to put down.


    Watch out for Stedman Payne’s column in the next edition of ColorsVA. He’ll be coming up with some more useful financial tips.

  • Looking Back

    In celebration of our one-year anniversary, we thought we’d take a look back at some of our past articles and see what some of the people featured are up to now.

    In our premiere issue (July 2015), Alexia Stone shared the story of the Monacan Indian Nation — the members’ history, some of their struggles, and their hopes and dreams for the future. We regret to share that tribe Chief Sharon Bryant passed away around the same time our initial story was published. She was 54 and died of cancer. Bryant was the first woman to serve as chief of the Monacan Nation.  Dean Branham, who was assistant chief to Bryant, now serves as chief.
    In July of last year (shortly after our issue came out), the Pamunkey Indian Nation became the first Virginia tribe to gain federal recognition. But the Monacan and several other tribes are still waiting. The Monacan business venture, Monacan Nation Enterprises, is still in the process of getting an 8 (a) certification from the Small Business Association.

    In our premiere issue, we also met Denitra Birkes of So Unique Candy Apples. As writer Linda Pharis shared, Birkes has never been one to say “can’t,” and that outlook has led to a thriving business. Since our article one year ago, Birkes has secured distributors in Georgia, New York and Los Angeles, and is working on a few others. She ships internationally, and has even been asked to supply products for the Emmys and Oscars. “They’ve asked me to come out and set up at the pre-Emmy party for the celebrities and producers,” she said. That will take place in October, and she will do a similar event for the Oscars in 2017. Business really is sweet for Denitra Birkes!

    In November 2015, Raul Diaz became Chief of the Lynchburg Police Department, and earlier this year we featured a Q&A by Alexia Stone. Recently the Police Department has set aside funding and is working with city management to improve its infrastructure, which will not only help things run more smoothly, but will also make the Police Department a better place to work overall.


    The Department has also been working hard to achieve greater diversity. The recruitment process and team have changed greatly; they are seeking employees via different methods than in the past, and are even utilizing officers as part-time recruiters, in order to dispel fears or misconceptions people may have about being police officers.


    Probably the most significant change is that three months ago the Department established a Community Action Team (CAT) to focus on community policing. The team is made up of four officers and a sergeant, who work hand-in-hand with various organizations - government, interfaith and otherwise - to get to the root of issues in the community. The kind of change they are seeking takes time, but Diaz says there has been incredible success thus far. The team has also received wonderful support from Lynchburg citizens.


    “The outpouring of support we’ve received makes us as a Police Department much stronger. We know the community is definitely on our side. It has been uplifting and powerful for us as an agency,” Diaz said.

    In January 2016, Danae Wensley introduced us to Mark Wright of Madison Heights. His persistence after a severe spinal cord injury, and overall outlook on life, is truly remarkable. This article has been chosen as ColorsVA’s Story of the Year. Wright said the article has not had much of an impact on his business, but it has allowed people to learn about him as a person. “A lot of people came up to me and said it was nice to know my story,” he said.

    Since January, Wright has hired an additional employee to work in the office of The Wright Company, his trucking business that contracts with the United States Postal Service. He was also asked to be a mentor through the Spinal Cord Association of America. People who are interested in being mentored apply and are matched with someone in their area. Wright currently mentors two men. In addition, this month Wright will speak at Mary Baldwin College regarding adaptive living.

    In March, Danae Wensley shed light on the Flint Water Crisis, and what the Omega Psi Phi fraternity was doing to help. Mike Hamlar reports that the fraternity collected 96,000 bottles of water and $1,500. The water and money was safely delivered to the Omega Psi Phi chapter near Flint and distributed to those in need. Hamlar would like to thank all the volunteers and donors who made the drive possible, and especially God’s Pit Crew, which provided the semi tractor-trailer, the shrink wrap and the transportation all free of charge. The fraternity has not held any more water bottle drives, but is still accepting monetary donations.

    These articles are just a handful of what we covered this year. We also shared stories of immigrants, learned about cultural holidays and religious rituals, profiled new businesses, featured inspiring poetry, tried new foods and met a lot of interesting people along the way. We have loved giving a face and voice to some issues that are not often discussed. We look forward to doing it all again for another year and many more years to come!

  • Independence Day Safety

    The United States of America declared independence from Great Britain on July 4 th 1776. Since then, we

    the people have taken part in an annual commemoration of the event with exceptional displays of

    fireworks and the consumption of a variety of home cooked foods that warm the soul and just feel like

    home. While the best way to enjoy fireworks and to prevent potential injuries is to attend a professional

    public fireworks display, below are helpful reminders designed to increase your safety this 4 th of July.

     Follow all warning labels and take extra precautions to properly handle fireworks to avoid

    injury. Don’t leave children unsupervised. Fireworks are ignited with a flame and can cause

    burn injuries if mishandled. Even sparklers are designed to throw off showers of hot sparks with

    temperatures exceeding 1200 degrees.

     Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks and light only one firework at a time to allow

    time to quickly clear the area. Most fireworks contain an explosive element and projectile that

    can cause eye injuries, burns, cuts and bruises if misdirected. Always ensure fireworks are

    placed in a clear, outdoor area on a firm and solid base pointed away from any people, buildings

    or other obstructions before igniting. Never place a firework in your pocket or in a metal or glass


     Do not drink alcohol while using fireworks.

    A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities without impairment. Save your

    alcohol for after the show.

     Never relight a “dud” firework. 

    Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water. Always have a bucket of water and

    charged hose nearby. Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a

    metal trashcan away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.

     Do not experiment with homemade explosives and obey all local laws regarding the use of

    fireworks. When in doubt, leave the show to the professionals.

    In comparison to explosives, your food may seem harmless, but food that has not been properly stored

    and cooked can have you rushing to the emergency room just as fast. It is important to remember that

    harmful bacteria can start to grow when perishable food is between temperatures of 41 and 135 °F;

    perishable food transported without ice or a heat source won’t stay safe long. When preparing meals

    remember to follow these safety tips:

     Clean Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils, and countertops with warm soapy water for 20

    seconds before handling food.

     Separate Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to- eat foods. If possible use

    separate cutting boards and utensil for raw meat, poultry and seafood.

     Cook Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature:

    145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming),

    155°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry.

     Chill – Keep your refrigerator below 40°F, and refrigerate food that will spoil. Leftovers should

    be eaten, frozen or discarded within 3 to 4 days. When reheating, make sure there are no cold

    spots in the food and the temperature reaches 165°F throughout to eliminate most harmful


    Grills burn too. The following tips can help reduce the risk for injuries and help prevent fires while

    cooking your Independence Day meal:

     Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Keep children and pets clear of the grilling area.

     Remember to keep your grill clean and remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it

    cannot be accidentally ignited.

     Propane and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed

    spaces, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and

    potential asphyxiation. Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under

    eaves and overhanging branches.

     With charcoal grills, only use charcoal starter fluids designed for barbecue grills and do not add

    fluid after coals have been lit.

     With gas grills, be sure that the hose connection is tight and check hoses carefully for leaks.

    Applying soapy water to the hoses will easily and safely reveal any leaks. If you detect a leak,

    immediately turn off the gas and don’t light the grill.

    If you experience symptoms of food poisoning such as vomiting or have an injury this 4 th of July, please

    visit your local healthcare professional or dial 911.

    For additional public health Information visit the Virginia health department website at

    http://www.vdh.virginia.gov or the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at


    For additional information on firework safety please visit the US Consumer and Produces Safety

    Commissions Fireworks Information Center online at www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-


    -- -- -- -- -- --

    This article is part one of a five-part series from the Roanoke Alleghany District of the Virginia

    Department of Health meant to inform local residents about the risks and preventive measures they can

    take to protect the health of their families and friends this summer.

    The Roanoke Alleghany Health District works to prevent epidemics and the spread of disease, protect the

    environment, prevent injury, promote and encourage healthy behavior, respond to disasters and assist

    communities in recovery, and assure the quality and accessibility of health services for all members of

    our community.

  • Success in a sandwich


    Unless you have been living under a rock for the past five years, you will have noticed the rise in food trucks. Once confined to big cities, food trucks are making a name for themselves all across the United States. Because there has been such a rise in food on wheels, many truck owners look for that special niche that will make them stand out, and they do this by offering signature items. The DoJo Grill Food Truck, established in 2015, has found a niche in its offering of artisan grilled sandwiches.

    Native Roanoker and food truck owner Latoia “Toya” Jones is no stranger to owning a business. In fact, prior to DoJo’s birth, she was the proprietor of a coffee shop. After closing that business she looked into tiny homes (another trend on the rise), which sparked the idea of a “rolling” coffee shop. After some more brainstorming, she decided on grilled cheese instead. “Everyone loves grilled cheese and I noticed there were no grilled cheese food trucks in the Roanoke area,” says Toya.  I was curious about how they come up with sandwich ideas and she tells me “no joke, we are thinking of sandwiches all day, every day…sometimes it gets to be too much because we can’t turn it off, but it’s cool!” 

    The DoJo Grill is a 1980 mini bus that was gutted and converted into a fully functioning rolling kitchen. It is painted a fun shade of turquoise that reminds me of sunny days. The truck was connected to a generator located in the back of an Oldsmobile Bravada SUV. According to the truck’s website, the crew members are quite active; from festivals to breweries, they barely have time to catch their breath. “I never thought it would happen this fast, and it takes a considerable amount of dedication,” she explains when asked what she thinks about how busy they are.

    Per Toya, there are definitely benefits and challenges to storefront ownership and food truck ownership. A storefront can offer an appearance of security even if it’s not that way at all, but you do have a home base. With a food truck you are able to go where the people are instead of waiting for them to come to you. “There are many things people don’t see with the food trucks, all the hustle and bustle. Yes, it’s fun, but a two-hour lunch takes time before to prep and time after for breakdown and clean-up … it just looks easy,” she explains.

    My initial encounter with DoJo was a dabbling in breakfast at 8 a.m., at Jefferson Street and Church Avenue in downtown Roanoke. The menu, written on a dry erase board, offered the following sandwiches: Fried Bologna and Cheddar; Hot Ham and Cheddar; and Peanut Butter and Banana. I chose the Peanut Butter, and my companion opted for the Fried Bologna. Both sandwiches were grilled on a buttered white bread that remained crispy on our way home with our goodies. My sandwich was generously coated in peanut butter and thickly sliced bananas; it was very tasty and had me wishing for a glass of milk to go along with it. Alas, my coffee had to do. My companion said his sandwich was nostalgic, a salty guilty pleasure and reminiscent of a late-night snack after a night out at the club while in college.

    The next time I visited DoJo was at Dr Pepper Park, an event venue in Roanoke where on this evening a Led Zeppelin tribute band was performing. Can you think of a better concert food than grilled cheese? Me neither! This is also one of Toya’s favorite types of events because she “enjoys taking food to the people, especially concerts and music festivals.” For a girl’s night out, I had my best friend, sister and daughter along with me, but we each seemed to be on the same wavelength with food selection. Two of us ordered the DoJo’s MoJo and the other two the Buffalo Chicken.

    We arrived in line just in time, because after we ordered a decent crowd started to form that wanted grilled cheese as well. We gave our orders and the crew member at the window took my name and told me to stay close and that she would call my name when ready. A few minutes later I received my vegetarian selection, DoJo’s MoJo, which contains fresh spinach, basil, pesto and mozzarella. All ingredients are locally sourced, and I was excited about my sandwich. Gooey cheese oozed from wide pan sourdough bread that was grilled and sliced in half alongside potato chips that are served with each sandwich. The first unmistakable taste is the earthy flavor of the fresh basil and spinach, and then all the flavors and textures start to come together. The crispness from the buttery bread and the mildness from the mozzarella combined, yet I did feel something was missing. Maybe a sweet element such as tomato would have done the trick.

    My daughter and best friend both enjoyed their selection of the Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese. The heat level of this sandwich was described upon ordering as being three and a half on a scale of one to ten and after having a bite, I would say that is pretty accurate. The sandwich, also served on grilled sourdough, contains grilled chicken, mild cheddar and buffalo sauce; it was finished by both ladies. (These sandwiches are easily shared between two light eaters.)  The chicken was tender and moist and the sauce described as “tangy.” While it did not contain the ooey-gooey cheese of my sandwich, the cheddar was present among the flavors. My friend tells me that she would follow this food truck for this sandwich. That is a great compliment!

    If you have never tried food truck cuisine, first, you are definitely missing out … second, go see the crew at DoJo Grill Food Truck! Both occasions that I visited, it was service with a smile and some tasty food to go along. You can find where DoJo is rolling next by checking out their Facebook, Instagram and the calendar with highlighted dates on their website, dojogrill.weebly.com. Toya’s parting words to me were, “We want people to try food trucks … it’s OK. We are hardworking, dedicated and want to give you good food.”

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