September 2017 Issue

  • Taylor Tutoring Service aims to make children and adults smarter

    In April 2014, Renea Taylor succeeded in bringing to life her dream of creating a tutoring service unique among all others in Southwest Virginia. Taylor Tutoring Services focuses on skills building, rather than cramming and memorization, because she says, that is the key to truly unlocking learning potential, understanding, confidence and success.

    With a staff of teachers and retired teachers serving as subcontractors, Taylor Tutoring Services provides year-round evaluation and one-on-one skill-focused tutoring from pre-kindergarten through college, and services for adults seeking to obtain a GED. The company even provides services to adults wishing to excel on employment-related aptitude tests and military entrance exams. Taylor Tutoring has a 100 percent pass rate for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

    Taylor says tutoring begins with a diagnostic evaluation to find learning gaps. Rather than coaching in history or science, Taylor Tutoring focuses on basic literacy. No matter the subject, Taylor says reading and math are key to learning success. Once the diagnostic evaluation reveals the student’s current grade-level skills, Taylor and her teachers go to work with reading comprehension and its more basic elements: gathering facts from a paragraph, the main idea and the context. Ultimately, students learn how to draw conclusions from what they have read and how to comprehend the story.

    The mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome enrolled in third-grade receiving Ds and Fs in all her subjects, was at wits end until she found Taylor Tutoring. Now the child is reading and doing math on advanced levels, and is on the A-B honor roll. She is rated S.O.L. proficient, and her confidence is through the roof. Taylor says she is proud of the fact there are many such stories.

    The business model is simple. Teaching capacity is based on the number of students in the program at any given time. As the number grows, more teachers are hired to tutor, keeping the student-teacher ratio at a quality level. The student and the tutor meet at a public facility, such as a library, where tools like books and computers are available for those who may not have access to them at home. Being in a public setting also gets students to push the boundaries of their comfort zones; building confidence and socialization skills. Through word of mouth, Taylor Tutoring Service has gained tremendous momentum over the last year. They have students from a diverse economic background, which has allowed them to take on more teachers. In addition to growing her business, Taylor also wishes to help those in need. She works closely with Social Services and actively seeks grants and funding for students who are not able to afford tutoring.

    When asked if the need for tutoring services is due to any lack in America’s education system, Taylor says our schools are addressing everything to the best of their abilities. However, teachers often are constrained by time and required curriculums. External tutoring serves to supplement what is learned in school. It is a team effort.

    For more information on Taylor Tutoring Services, visit or email The phone number is 540-915-8897.

  • Stedman Speaks: Home Buying and Renovation Budget Prep

    Stedman Payne is an experienced financial professional who serves as Member One’s Market Executive in the Lynchburg area. His financial education series offers tips for making smart decisions when it comes to managing your finances.

    So you want to buy a house. Or, you’re considering a renovation. Looking at homes and upgrades is exciting, but don’t get ahead of yourself. While home- improvement shows make it look easy, purchasing a home or getting a second mortgage actually takes a lot of planning and preparation. Here are a few ways to get yourself ready.

    Q: How much should I budget for a first or second mortgage?
    SP: You should spend no more than 25-28 percent of your monthly take-home income on a mortgage. Look at your monthly paychecks (after taxes) to see what that percentage would be so you aren’t looking at homes out of your price range. If you’re considering a home equity loan (also known as a second mortgage), make sure the extra monthly expense keeps you in that 25-28 percent range.

    Q: What is a second mortgage and why would I need one?
    SP: A second mortgage is another name for a home equity loan or line of credit. These are for people who already own a home; they can be used for home improvements, debt consolidation, or even college expenses. Equity is the share of your home’s value that you own (versus that which you still owe the bank), and a home equity loan or line of credit allows you to borrow against that amount. Keep in mind that when taking on this type of loan, you’re essentially adding to your mortgage payment, so make sure you’re financially prepared.

    Q: Do I need a lot of cash on hand to buy a home or make a renovation?
    Not necessarily. Traditionally, your down payment should be 20 percent of the purchase price to avoid paying more in interest and private mortgage insurance (PMI). If the home you want is $200,000, you should have $40,000 saved. There are mortgages that don’t require 20 percent down, but you’ll pay more in interest over time and you might have to pay PMI. If you’re planning to use your home’s equity to fund a renovation project, you still might have to pay closing costs, an inspection fee, appraisal fee and a lender’s fee.

    Q: What should I look for when choosing a mortgage lender?
    When choosing a lender, you’ll want to look at closing costs, interest rates and fees. If you’re looking to fund a home renovation, you should also consider if you want a lump sum upfront (home equity loan) or a revolving loan that works like a credit card (home equity line of credit). In general, lenders require an 80 percent loan-to-value ratio, which is the amount of the mortgage divided by the appraised value of the home, before allowing you to take on a home equity loan or line of credit. But shop around as some financial institutions allow for a higher ratio. 

    Q: What other expenses should I keep in mind when planning for a home purchase or renovation?
    SP: If you have enough money to comfortably buy a home now or make improvements, don’t forget about future expenses. Are you planning on starting a family soon? According to the USDA, a middle-income married couple spends an average of $727 a month on a child. Can your budget handle that with a mortgage? What if something breaks? You’re responsible for home repairs and must plan for those unexpected expenses.

    Q: My budget is set, and I’m ready to start shopping for a home or get going with my renovation. What’s next?
    SP: Once you determine your budget, it’s time for the fun part—house hunting or planning your renovation. But don’t let the thrill of the hunt or the excitement of picking out finishes overshadow the bottom line. Stick to your budget and be realistic about what you can afford. Don’t let yourself become “house poor”—while you may have a beautiful home with the latest upgrades, you still need to pay your bills. Do your homework and create a plan, and when you’re ready, your dream home (or renovation project) will be there.

    Watch out for Stedman Payne’s column in the next edition of ColorsVA for more useful financial tips.


  • Nutritionist Jeanell Smith, planting seeds of change to eradicate food desert in Lynchburg

    For almost seven years, Jeanell Smith has devoted her time to making a positive impact on her community. As an employee of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Jeanell provides nutrition education in Lynchburg. With alarming poverty rates, Lynchburg is a food desert. A food desert is an area where there is a lack of access to healthy and affordable nutritional options. Passionate, about not only her own health, but also the health of her clients, Jeanell works tirelessly to ensure Lynchburg will lose its food desert designation. With the proper education, it is possible to make healthy choices while saving money as well.

    Q: What brought you to Lynchburg?
    A: I moved here to Lynchburg 23 years ago. I grew up in Hunstville, Ala., where I met my husband. He transferred here for work, and I followed him.

    Q: Was that move difficult to make?
    A: Yes, incredibly so. Lynchburg was far less progressive then. I was used to bigger cities with more diversity. It’s been nice to observe the changes. There’s more diversity now. I also love the options for outside activities. The trail system here is wonderful.

    Q: Tell me about your job.
    A: So, it’s very complicated. I am a family nutrition program assistant. I primarily provide adult nutrition education. I work for Virginia Cooperative Extension, but I am a Virginia Tech employee. Normally my office would be at the Lynchburg Extension Office, but my situation is unique. I’m housed at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, which is a great partnership. I offer the education and they provide food for some of my programs. My target client would be a SNAP (food stamp) recipient, but our programs are open and free to others in the community.

    Q: Has your current career always been your goal?
    A: No, not at all. Even a few years ago, I wouldn’t have pictured myself as a teacher. I graduated college with degrees in chemistry and biology. I was a microbiologist for the city of Huntsville, testing water quality. It was a fun job. I wore a lab coat and tennis shoes to work every day. Every day was different. I enjoyed it; however, I was the first woman to work at the water department. It took a little while, but soon I was accepted. The older man treated me like a daughter, and the younger ones treated me like a sister. I enjoyed it.

    Q: What is your favorite part of your current job?
    A: The people. I get to meet new people, and I learn from my clients as much as I teach them. I feel so happy seeing a client make a connection with what I am teaching and when they actually incorporate change I to their lives, the feelings are indescribable. Knowing that they might feel better & be healthier fills my heart. Never give up has always been my slogan for myself. I share that with my clients and I pay attention so they know I genuinely care. I always inquire about my client’s bowel habits as well. Such a great indicator or health. They freak at first, but I call it poo, and eventually everyone is OK with it.

    Q: So much of your job focuses on healthy habits. Has that always been important to you?
    My mom laid the foundation. Our meals were very healthy growing up. Then as I got older and started doing things on my own, I did what most teenagers do. I ate fast food and junk food. Over the years, I became more interested in cooking, which led me to my next career. I worked as a chef and started my own catering company – Greens and Grains Personal Chef Service. I think once my husband and I knew we wanted to start our family, that’s when I went back to that foundation my mother had laid.

    Q: I’m sure you hear this over and over. “Eating healthy is too expensive.” How do you respond?
    A: I understand. On the surface, it does appear that way. Fresh fruits and vegetables do cost more. But, there are ways to minimize that cost. That’s one of the core concepts in my program. You can buy your produce according to what’s in season, and buy frozen when it’s not. You can alternate your protein. You don’t have to have meat with every meal. Beans and eggs are great sources of protein and pretty affordable. Meal planning, shopping with a grocery list, utilizing your local farmers market… they are all ways to stretch your budget.

    Q: What challenges do your low-income clients face that affect their shopping and eating habits?
    A: Unfortunately, there are many challenges. Transportation and time are huge factors. If I need to go the store, I can get in my car and I’m done in an hour. But, for someone using the bus, that hour could take several hours. Cabs are an option, but they are expensive. I think if you’ve never lived without a car, you take that for granted.

    Q: Why do you think some people are intimidated by the thought of cooking their meals at home?
    A: It can seem overwhelming. But, anyone can cook. Having recipes, prepping things ahead of time will make it easier. Anything you can make at home is going to be better for you than something you take from the freezer and microwave. It’s a process, but that’s why I’m here. To help provide clients with the tools they need.

    Q: Sometimes you encounter people who are in the midst of trauma. How do you calm yourself after absorbing that on a daily basis?
    A: I work out. I run and enjoy yoga. It centers me. And, actually even in their struggles, my clients give me hope. I work in shelters and the stories I hear break my heart. But, to know the strength that it took for some of those women to leave their situations is inspiring. If they can survive their ideal, then anything is possible. I think that’s the message. It’s hope. Things can be bad, but they can also get better. It’s a community; we help each other.

    Q: What’s it like to have a daughter headed off to college soon?
    A: It’s different. It’s been the three of us for so long. I think my husband and I are both excited to see who she will be and where life will take her. On the one hand, it makes me analyze my parenting, but I’m looking forward to having a different relationship. I will no longer be the disciplinarian because she is an adult. So the relationship will evolve.

    Q: You are a mother, a wife, full-time employee, yet you still find the time to volunteer. Why?
    A: Because I am not happy with the way, things are. Lynchburg has the number one rate of poverty. So many people are struggling. So many people live paycheck to paycheck and just cannot get ahead. There’s this stereotype of what “low-income” looks like. The truth is it could be any of us. I cannot just sit on the sidelines and complain. I have to give credit to my parents. My mother and father have always been so accepting of everyone. This has always amazed me, since they were born in very rural Alabama in the ‘30s. They lived in Selma in the ‘60s and saw the deplorable treatment of African Americans. My Mother told me that she could not understand why one person would ever treat another that way. They were always completely intolerant of any form of racism, bigotry, or any ill treatment of anyone. My Mother also was the consummate volunteer. PTO president, Girl Scout troop leader and the list goes on. I was so lucky to have been raised by these phenomenal parents. Knowing how lucky I am, how can I not be there to help others? Isn’t that the point?

    No arguments here…

    For more information on Jeanell’s program, visit

  • A Look at Your Health: ‘Manopause’ or Depression?

    We all know about menopause, the period of a woman’s life when hormone production ceases and her menstrual cycle ends.

    But fewer people know about “manopause,” which can affect middle-aged and senior men. It is more subtle than menopause and not all men experience it, but its health effects are worth noting.

    Also known as, “male menopause,” manopause causes a decline in the production of androgens, especially testosterone. It often begins with slight decreases in a man’s mid-40s and tends to drop off more dramatically by age 70. As they age and their hormone production decreases, men may experience symptoms that include:

    • Increased fatigue
    • Decreases in muscle mass
    • Depression
    • Decreased libido

    Men who experience these symptoms should consult with their primary care provider. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms. Be sure to include emotional changes as well as physical changes. These symptoms are not necessarily related to a decrease in testosterone. Your physician will consider low testosterone as well as other causes, which commonly include depression.

    It is also important to note that depression often manifests in men as anger. Men experience frustration and grief because they think they can no longer do things they used to be able to do. A blood test can measure testosterone levels and rule out any other underlying conditions. If testosterone levels are low, your provider may recommend changes to your diet or exercise routine designed to preserve muscle mass and improve energy and mood.

    In some cases, a provider may recommend hormone replacement therapy. There are some safety issues related to hormone therapy so patients need to be monitored. Another important thing to mention is that an accurate diagnosis is essential. Testosterone therapy does not treat depression, and you will want to work with your physician to ensure that all of your symptoms are addressed appropriately.

    For many men, age-related hormonal changes are not a health concern at all. You can have low testosterone and not experience any symptoms. Everyone’s experience with age-related conditions like manopause and menopause is different, and your best resource is always your primary care provider.

    For more information, visit

  • Bethlehem Restaurant and Grocery a major star in Northeast Roanoke

    When you hear the word Bethlehem, you begin to think of shepherds, angels and stars. But, I am giving you a different story, one that after reading will have you making your way to Bethlehem, a restaurant and grocery in the Star City of Roanoke.

    The unassuming building at 1613 Williamson Road has held an assortment of restaurants and businesses, but now boasts Halal food. Once inside you will find a grocery store to the left with lots of miscellaneous items ranging from canned meats, pickled vegetables and spices to Turkish delight and shisha. To the right is the restaurant with a few tables and booths for diners. Orders are taken at the counter where the wall is full of pictures of popular Mediterranean dishes, including chicken and kufta (ground beef or lamb) kebabs, lamb chops and rice, and of course, falafel.

    Osama Amli, a native of Palestine, recently was invited by his friends to join Bethlehem Restaurant and Grocery, as co-owner. The trained chef was living in Kentucky at the time, and about three months ago he decided to make the move to Roanoke for the opportunity. When speaking to Amli, automatically you detect his enthusiasm for the food. My family and I have eaten at this location several times in the past, so this trip we allowed Amli to select our meal. Our teenage daughter already had made up her mind and we did not attempt to sway her. For those of you out there with teenage children, you understand. He selected Whole Grilled Chicken. Note: should you choose to order this dish, allow an hour for preparation. Everything is made fresh. I don’t know about you reader, but I prefer my chicken to be thoroughly cooked!

    While waiting for our main course to finish, Amli brought us an appetizer to share – Kibbeh.  Please thank for the following definition of this dish: made of bulgur, minced onions and finely ground lean beef, lamb, goat, or camel meat with Middle Eastern spices. Other types of kibbeh may be shaped into balls or patties, and baked, cooked in broth, or served raw. Precisely! It is reminiscent of a large dumpling that has been deep fried and filled with a mixture of ground beef and lamb. The crispy outer “shell” is sweet and after reading the definition, it is definitely the bulgur, or cracked wheat batter causing that sweetness. The dumpling looks heavy but it isn't, and while it is mild in flavor it is served with a side of tzatziki for dipping.

    Amli wrapped our meal in a foil pan when it was ready because we were bringing it home. The pan also contained thick cut French Fries, salad, pita bread and sauces including mayonnaise, hummus and baba ghanouj. We eagerly open our meal when we arrive home, like children unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. We note immediately that we have a whole spatchcock, or butterflied chicken, and our home is filled with smells of spices and charcoal. “The meat is marinated with only two or three things; you can easily make this for yourself at home,” Amli tells me when I later ask about the preparation.  The chicken has its skin, which is not flabby at all, and you can taste the citrusy marinade throughout each tender bite.

    Amli calls the vegetable dish served with the chicken, salad, but it is actually a pickled red cabbage slaw with bits of iceberg lettuce throughout. The cabbage is very fresh and acidity and mimics a palate cleanser. The meal of grilled chicken, cabbage and fries works well because everything served with the chicken has picked up the wonderful charcoal flavor. There is definitely no way to eat this dish and keep your hands clean. You really have to get your hands on it to appreciate it!

    Chicken Shawarma, my teenage daughter’s choice, was well received, and her take on her meal is as follows: “There is plenty of chicken to fill the wrap and the meat is tender and seasoned well. The addition of pickles add a nice acidity and the onions add a crunchy change of texture. The pita itself holds up well. It held everything inside together without spilling out. The tahini that is served on the side adds a creaminess when dipped that really ties everything together. The size is perfect for a dinner sized portion and is served with a side of fries.”

    Most ingredients are imported from overseas especially “halal items such as the chicken, lamb and goat,” says Amli. “Some items are purchased locally, the ones that make sense.” He also informs me they cook everything from scratch and everyone in the kitchen cooks.

    The restaurant is usually busy all day on Monday and Thursday, but there is not any particular time that can be pinpointed as the busiest. The owners also cater lunches and events for over 200 refugees in Blacksburg and at Virginia Tech. Bethlehem has become extremely popular and there are plans to open a second location.

    This establishment receives two thumbs-up from the frequent Dudley family diners. Osama Amli says he reads all reviews because he wants to know what his customers think he needs to tweak. Stop by the restaurant Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. or Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. You also may place a phone order at 540.904.6606. Do not be surprised if you become a frequent diner as well.


  • Publisher's Note

    “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela

    “This is the 21st century, and we would all like to think racism is dead in America. Actually, that's not the case: still there are some racial issues that are out across this nation, and so we have a responsibility as compassionate citizens of America, no matter what our ethnic group happens to be, to confront these issues when they arise.” Alveda King

    The definition of terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. The events that occurred in Charlottesville orchestrated by the Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and the Alt-right group, clearly define this definition. However, this is not surprising in regards to the history of these organizations. According to the FBI, there was a 23.3 percent increase in hate crimes in 2016. The rise in crime began in the first term of President Obama’s administration and has dramatically increased under Trump’s. So what’s fueling the surge in hate?
    One theory, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is that people of color in America currently represent about 36 percent of the population. By 2040, people of color will represent 52 percent of individuals in this country. This means white people will become the minority for the first time in the history of our country. That fact is alarming to some white people because they fear they will lose control and power. Further, they fear the hate and violence their ancestors thrust upon people of color throughout past generations will lead to retaliatory behavior when they are no longer the majority race. That is just plain stinking thinking.

    We as a community need to make a stand that no forms of bigotry and hatred are welcome here. We should treat the terrorist acts perpetrated by the hate groups we witnessed in Charlottesville last month, in the same manner as the terrorist acts of 9-11. These acts of terrorism are immoral and illegal.

    Recent actions so close to home have caused me to reflect more often on the state of American race relations. I find myself turning to Mahatma Gandhi for inspiration: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." We must move forward to grow this great country for ALL of us. Love and faith are the cornerstones of building community and bringing all people together. I started ColorsVA magazine because I truly believe that ALL people can live together in harmony and if we understand each other’s differences, we can understand the great commonalities that we share. I know we ALL share this. Let’s continue to act! 

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