ROANOKE BUZZ: Leading the way to a brighter future

Published 11:28 am Wednesday, December 5, 2018

As I sit down to write this — my 60th column — aimed at sharing what’s happening along the Roanoke with the surrounding communities, my heart is full.

I am lucky that in my role as director of Roanoke River Partners, I get to work with some very dedicated community leaders who care about their communities and the larger region that binds us together.

Over the past five years I have had the distinct privilege of learning more about what’s happening in our small towns. I am grateful for a front row seat to witness our towns explore new possibilities to restore economic prosperity.

Some of our towns have recruited volunteer corps to clean and spruce up their communities. Some are being transformed by downtown revitalization initiatives.

Some are showcasing their cultural arts and rich history, while others are developing state and even nationally recognized events.

In many cases, a dedicated force of community leaders is giving their time and resources to ensure a brighter future for our small towns — and we need to applaud and support their efforts.

Through meetings, social media and other interactions, I have met community champions that are stepping up and really making a difference. Without naming names (since there are too many to name here), chances are you know some in your own community.

You may even be one of them. If you’re not, let me invite you to join their ranks, whether to take on some small tasks or a really big one. In our communities with limited resources, working together is one of the best investments we can make in this special place we call home.

I recently read some social media comments from folks that don’t live here anymore about how sad they thought things were in many of our small towns, including the one where I live. I realized from their comments that when they come back, they may not get to “see” or learn about all the efforts going on to re-create our hometowns. I realized that they are not aware of the hope that many of us have to cultivate new promise within our communities.

That is why I decided to write my last column for 2018 —my 60th column —about the synergy that is happening here. Though perhaps not always apparent to those just passing through or returning for brief visits, make no mistake — we are banding together to address the daunting task of finding new opportunities for our rural communities.

A host of our Roanoke River Partners as well as other community development initiatives are engaged in identifying, sharing and implementing new strategies to capitalize on our assets. None of us has all the answers but we are all focused on finding new solutions that can be applied in a rural region like ours.

In the New Year that is rapidly approaching, let’s all look for and find new ways to contribute to building a stronger, more resilient Roanoke River Region. And while we’re at it, let’s share our success stories to serve as inspiration as we go.

We can’t wait on others to get it done. Let’s roll up our sleeves, reach across boundaries and lead the way.

And with that, here’s to a brighter, merrier future for us all right here along the Roanoke!

Carol Jones Shields is the Executive Director of Roanoke River Partners, Inc. You can contact her at (252) 798-3920 or You can learn more about Roanoke River Partners at