Martinsville, VA – In January of 2015, Martinsville, Virginia gained a new resident. Shelia Dye relocated to the area from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and was full of enthusiasm and desire to get involved in her new community.
The transition was challenging. Dye noted that it was “extremely difficult moving to a city of 13 thousand residents after living downtown in a city of 250,000. Finding things to do, finding cultural events and recreation, shopping, and just meeting people was a task.” She added “Ask anybody who knows me, and they will tell you that I had one foot crossing the state line back to North Carolina. I was so unhappy.”
Soon Dye found ways to become engaged in the community. She started off by volunteering at the Smithsonian-affiliated Virginia Museum of Natural History and became a member of Piedmont Arts Association.
In June of 2016, Shelia made a new discovery about her community by picking up a copy of the Martinsville-Henry County Activity Guide that is published annually by the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation (EDC). She was lured by the idea of having Fun in Record Time, and Dye reports that by using both the guide and the companion website VisitMartinsville.com: “I have learned more than I have living and driving in town these past 16 months!” She added, “One brochure has made me a happier person!”
During her time exploring attractions and businesses listed in the guide, Dye visited Serendipity Café where she picked up a copy of the EDC’s publication “MHC for Kids: 40 Free or Low-Cost Activities for Young Travelers.” The list of activity ideas contained a challenge that offered a free t-shirt to those that visit all 40 locations. Dye took the challenge stating, “I thought what a great idea! I think it’s great not only for kids but newcomers and visitors.”
Dye visited art galleries, farms, trails, parks and museums during the challenge. When asked about her favorite, Dye noted that “most of them were special because it was the first time visiting them, but a few stand out.” Her favorite site on the list was Philpott Marina. She visited on a Sunday morning before church. Dye recalled that “There were a few early boaters about to launch and an attendant there. It was quiet, peaceful. Maybe, because it was a Sunday, I could feel and see and hear all of God’s creation around me. It was very special.”
Along the journey, Dye was able to meet many new people. Martinsville Parks & Recreation Director Zach Morris helped her when she had difficulty finding the Silverbell Trail. “He was great,” she reported, “We went over several maps, discussed some of my other visits, and parks in the area. Off I went to find the trail.” Stonehaus Farms was another memorable visit for her. She recalled “Elliott, the owner, introduced me to every animal there! I wish I could remember them all. Seeing the animals and the farm remind you that there is more to life than the hustles and bustles of work and schedules!” While on the farm she bought fresh eggs and stated that “this is a place I’ll want to visit over and over and definitely buy eggs!”
Additionally, she met Aleen Wilson, a glass artist at Gallery 22 and has and has ideas for two projects that she would like to make at the studio. Rick Ward of the Blue Ridge Regional Library loaned her free use of a fishing pole and tackle. Gloria Stephens of the YMCA’s Bike Barn explained the bike program and its popularity within the community and the terrain and distances of the local trails. Katie Hastings at the Virginia Museum of Natural History helped her with the geocache search and Karen Despot of de Spot School of art gave her encouragement to try her hand at quilting.
Dye pointed out, “If I had to nominate young people for doing the “right thing”, it would be Emma and Margaret at the Sandy River Equestrian Center and Matt at the Bike Barn. They were the most courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable young people I’ve met in Martinsville. I hope they keep up the good work and wish them the best!”
While the challenge required only one photo per destination to show proof of the visit, Dye went above and beyond submitting more than 130 photos of her adventures in a photo slideshow, complete with captions and music. According to Jennifer Doss, Director of Tourism with the EDC, “It was wonderful! Our team was blown away by Ms. Dye’s submission and we can truly see from the photos and effort put into the project that she had a wonderful time exploring our community. The photos showcase that there are plenty of fun activities in the area for families to enjoy.”
Dye’s photo slideshow titled “Explore, Dream, and Discover: A Newcomers Adventure in Martinsville” Is available for view at Facebook.com/VisitMartinsville.
While watching the slideshow, viewers will begin to see a common theme. A book is placed in at least one photo from each site. The book is “The Intermediaries: Beat and Case,” a novel about angels, written by her son Taylor Dye. Hiding the book as an Easter egg in the photos is one of the many ways Dye, retired from years in the marketing and sales industry, helps support her son’s writing career.
For those wishing to explore, free copies of the publication “MHC for Kids” are available online at www.VisitMartinsville.com/family-fun and in print format at the MHC Visitor Center, located inside the New College Institute on Moss Street. Additional list publications are also available there including, “25 Hidden Treasures in MHC,” “A Walking Tour of Public Art,” and the “Henry County Barn Quilt Trail”
Doss noted that a new challenge will be offered later this fall featuring more places in Martinsville-Henry County for visitors and residents to find.