Three big industries in the Shenandoah Valley

Melodie Davis

© Bradley Striebig Photography

Our fall issue of Valley Living presents three individuals making a difference in three areas of life that affect us all: education, health care or industry. Either you or a family member likely works in one of these broad areas, or you know someone who does or did.

According to a blog entry titled “50 Largest Employers in Harrisonburg, Rockingham County,” (2012) by Scott Rogers, Funkhouser Real Estate Group, the top five employers in Harrisonburg/Rockingham County* are: James Madison University, Sentara/Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Rockingham County Schools, Cargill Meat Solutions and Wal-Mart.

Our main local stories in this issue focus on people who either work or volunteer for three of the top five: James Madison University, Sentara RMH Medical Center or Wal-Mart.

Let’s start with the Wal-Mart related story, which came to us first. Steve America has worked for the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Mt. Crawford for nine years and he tells how he seeks to better his own life and that of his co-workers through an employee incentive program called ZP. His goals to strengthen and improve family connections made a great fit for this publication. He was a $15,000 winner in Wal-Mart’s competition last year.

Deborah Thompson, director of volunteer services at Sentara RMH Medical Center suggested the story of how Dave Huyard, who lost his wife Anna Mary of 56 years, “got his life back” after he began volunteering at the local hospital. Dave is a multi-talented and experienced pastor, painter, chef (many will remember his restaurant in the Dayton Farmer’s Market) and violin maker.

Finally, a relative newcomer to the Valley, Smita Mathur, is a respected and loved professor in the education department at JMU. She shares how she teaches aspiring teachers to tap into the gifts and practical know-how of the parents and families of students—no matter if they work in the poultry industry, fixing cars or fixing meals—and how this educational approach has multiple benefits.

We’re pleased to share these stories not only because each of these institutions or businesses has a huge presence in the Valley and as such, “complaint” stories about them are frequent, also. But as these individuals in our Valley Living stories show, there are beautiful, hard working, caring people who strive to not only better their own lives, but the lives of everyone around them.

That is why we create this quarterly magazine: to highlight the positive and the encouraging—the good news which sometimes gets missed elsewhere. We are indebted to our faithful advertisers and sponsors (and some new ones in this issue!), our hard working sales representative Susan Huffman, several local writers, and the many fans and folks who send affirming and day-brightening notes and letters.

You can help us by reading and sharing the publication with friends and family, and patronizing the businesses you see here. Let them know you appreciate their support of this magazine, and being able to read moving and fascinating stories, educational articles and encouraging columns.

We also give a shout out to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce whose ranks we’ve recently joined, thanks to the efforts of Susan Huffman, our main representative there.

Our valley is a lovely place to live, work, go to school and practice deeply held faith beliefs. Many will visit the valley this fall: for autumn scenery, bringing young adults back and forth to college and to the many fall festivals held here. I first moved to the Shenandoah Valley almost 45 years ago as a college student. Like many others, I ended up staying, marrying and raising a family here. It’s a great place to call home.

(*Updated figures available from July 2015 reports at Virginia Labor Market Information. The separate reports for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County dovetail with Scott Roger’s list quoted above.)


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