Roanoke Buzz: Thanks for the Memories

Published 6:36 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2020

As I write this column, I am flooded with emotion. After being associated with Roanoke River Partners (RRP) for over fifteen years—I will complete my official tenure at the end of November.

There is so much that I want to say—mostly, I want to express great appreciation to all those who represent the small towns, counties, businesses and organizations that have supported the rural development that Roanoke River Partners have been engaged in for over two decades.

If there is one thing I have learned over the past fifteen years, it is that— it is the people throughout our rural region that are our greatest resource. It is our people that respond to our challenges with new ideas and solutions. It is these same people who had the vision to connect our river communities through a trail—a paddle trail that could draw visitors and new enterprise to our region.

During my time as director, I have met and collaborated with people who work tirelessly for the greater good of our rural communities. Many of them share a vision that by working together, we can accomplish more—with ever shrinking budgets. My sincere thanks to all those “get it” and have helped us demonstrate the value of this rural strategy.

As I think about what comes next for Roanoke River Partners, I see a bright future that includes many of the visionaries mentioned above—those who serve on our board and a host of other regional partners— who will continue to collaborate and bring favor, in many forms, to our rural communities. I predict that their collective efforts will contribute to the economic recovery that we will be seeking in the coming year.

As for me, my plan is to return to being a volunteer—with Roanoke River Partners among others. I am too invested to just walk away. I want to continue to build support for the renovation of our Hamilton Rosenwald School and for the on-going development of our Roanoke River Underground Railroad Trail. These projects remain near and dear to my heart.

Over the past ten years, I had the opportunity to connect our story to revive the historic Hamilton School with places as far away as Hamilton, New Zealand. Our school has been featured at both the 1st and the 2nd National Rosenwald School Conferences—at Tuskegee University in Alabama and in Durham respectively—as well as being a case study in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s publication, Preserving Rosenwald Schools. I believe that renovating this historic school to serve as the future Rosenwald River Center has economic value for our entire Roanoke River region.

Besides serving as a volunteer, I plan to finish the regional cookbook I was working on when I took this job. Silly me—I thought that I could complete it on the side. I look forward to immersing myself in our regional food culture as I reconnect with this pending project.

I also have plans to be a “tourist” here in our region. When conditions allow, I look forward to visiting some of the cool places I haven’t gotten to—other waterways, culinary experiences and points of historical interest are on my bucket list.

I plan to write one more column but with this one I wanted to thank all those who made it possible for me to have one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

It has been a joy to represent our region and to tell our story. Much thanks for all your support along the way and for all the great memories—from an ever devoted Roanoke River fan.

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