This is the story of how eight strangers set out to change the world enact positive change in their community.

It all started at a historic resort beside an ancient dry lakebed deep in the woods of southwest Virginia. Brought together by outside forces the group was unsuspecting of the ways their lives would become intertwined. They were equally unaware of how significant the unseen water below that dry lakebed would be to their story.

The group, dubbed the Government Team, was tasked with developing a program to shed light on an issue impacting our region. It only took a couple weeks of research to reveal their true purpose and it wouldn’t be long before they were meeting weekly to plan how to bring a message of change to the Leadership Roanoke Valley Class of 2018.

Their purpose was to make significant steps toward improving the health of Roanoke’s waterways but they realized their objectives would have to be obtainable. After deliberation and encouragement from their advisors, they settled on these objectives:

• Define a waterway, how it works, and describe why clean waterways are necessary.
• Recognize the challenges our area has with stormwater infrastructure.
• Identify the roles government, citizens, and businesses have regarding stormwater management, mitigation, and treatment.
• Apply mitigation strategies in participant’s personal and professional spheres of influence.

Each team member contributed to finding expert speakers who would help accomplish their objectives. They worked collaboratively to find financial and in-kind sponsors, even completing their program with a surplus. Throughout the entire planning process every member flexed their leadership muscles, offered their unique talents, and fully engaged in the process.

A few bumps in the road presented themselves just before and during the program. An illness of a main speaker and panelist, an early morning parking snafu, a misestimation of timing, and miscommunication at a venue were all challenges that were handled with grace and professionalism.

Ultimately, the team presented the program—Discovering a Hidden Issue: Aging Infrastructure and Roanoke’s Waterways—to over 60 local leaders. The day was full of discovery, action, and fun. The attendees were challenged to take what they learned and incorporate it into their daily lives. The following calls to action were offered as starting points:

• Increase the number of citizens that participate in community-sponsored stormwater workshops or activities.
• Annually increase the number of citizens adopting stormwater management best practices for single-family residences.
• Continue to support community leaders in increasing the number of volunteers involved in community waterways clean-up activities.
• Spread awareness.
• Plant something!
• Visit the Roanoke Stormwater Management website and read the idea book for single-family residences.
• Attend the Storm Drain Art Project on Earth Day is April 22.

Post-program surveys were positive and showed that attendees discovered an issue they were previously unaware of. Most importantly, they had fun while doing it—a sentiment shared by the entire Government Team! And to think it all started with a dry lakebed.

Team Participants:

• Scott Miller, Keller Williams Realty Roanoke – Government Team Chairperson
• Libby Dembski, Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia – Government Team Secretary
• Erin Bly, BB&T – Government Team Treasurer
• Megan Wade, Member One FCU – Government Team Historian
• Aaron Boush, Carilion Clinic
• Brad Timofeev, WebArt
• Jeremy Rakes, Trane
• Eric Eversole, Merrill Lynch

Team Advisors:

• Tim Cerebe, Freedom First, – Government Team Lead Advisor
• Stephanie Frost, Comcast
• Tara Nepper, Virginia Western Community College
• Dr. Eric Anderson, Forest Park Academy

A special thank you to the following businesses and organizations for providing sponsorships and/or in-kind gifts:
BB&T, Pillar, Spilman, Thomas, and Battle, Boxley, Northwest True Value, Meridium, design2influence, Chocolate Paper, Deschutes, Source4, Martin’s, Earth Fare, Starbucks
Chick-fil-A, Park Roanoke.