Roanoke Buzz: The struggle is real

Published 10:30 pm Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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I am not sure why—but this month, I just did not have a good idea to write about. After writing this monthly column since January of 2014, I really struggled to put this one—my 80th—together.

Over the past seven and a half years, I have literally written about the rise and fall of the Roanoke—as well as the ups and downs of the work that Roanoke River Partners (RRP) does to foster economic vitality for our region. In the end, I decided to write about the day-to-day struggle to remain viable in order to positively impact our region.

If you have ever worked with a non-profit, you know that “the struggle” is real—even when you are not in the middle of a global pandemic. No matter how noble the cause you are engaged in—there just never seems to be enough time or resources to do all that needs to be done. And so—you try to find some peace in doing the best you can to stretch available time and resources to accomplish the good that is possible.

You are always mindful of what it takes for the initiative to “stay afloat”—and you are always pushing to ensure that, at the very least, that happens. It goes without saying that there are sleepless nights worrying about where to find the support to keep things moving forward.

A guiding principal for Roanoke River Partners has always been to cultivate a diverse group of committed partners to support and carry out the larger mission.

That mission is “to preserve, enhance and promote the natural, cultural and historic identity and integrity of the Roanoke River region through cultural and eco-heritage tourism and other environmentally sustainable activities that encourage economic development and social justice.”

It is a lofty mission to implement within such a large region (which includes Northampton, Halifax, Martin, Bertie, Washington and Chowan Counties along with some adjoining communities). It is a mission that requires a combination of public and private partners collaborating to create impactful enterprise for our region. Participating partners include: county and municipal governments; tourism authorities; historic and art groups; other organizations and small businesses; and interested supporters.

And then, there is keeping these partners engaged. With the geographic distance between partners stretched across the region—it is not easy to keep everybody engaged. It is admittedly a constant struggle. The level of involvement across our region varies. As you might imagine, some of our partnering counties are more vested than others. As with most things—the potential return is proportional to the investment of time and resources.

And finally, how can we be a positive force for the issues our region is facing. For the past twenty-three years, RRP has been engaging a wide variety of partners that work together for the overall good of our region. Together we have drawn thousands of visitors to our region to enjoy paddling and camping as one way to deliver revenues back to our regional economy. More recently, we have been engaging partners around our Underground Railroad history as another way to attract additional visitors and interest in our region.

For both of these initiatives, we seek local and regional support. We hope that if you are not already engaged with this development that you will consider getting involved and supporting this important work. The struggle is real—but so are the rewards.

Contact us to share your thoughts or learn more.

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