By Pam Dudding-Burch
When locals are asked if they know a lady named Debbie Snead, their responses usually include descriptions of how big her heart is as well as her country charm.
“I cannot think of a more deserving individual to give a special tribute to than Debbie Snead,” Enola Ross shared. “I’ve known Debbie since the ’70s and worked with her for 17 years at the Craig County Extension Office.”
Snead did not grow up in Craig, yet when she and her husband, George “Chip” Snead, moved to the area 45 years ago, they immediately fell in love with the place.
“We lived in Blacksburg and wanted to live in this beautiful rural, agriculturally based area,” Snead said. “We also wanted to start raising beef cattle, and Craig has a pristine environment for good quality air, water and grazing.”
Snead taught Special Education classes in Montgomery County for three years. She also worked for Virginia Tech’s Cooperative Extension for 28 years which served Craig, Alleghany, Botetourt and Roanoke Counties.
Her warm comment was, “Working with the Extension was tremendously rewarding, and I have very fond memories of teaching children in 4-H and later serving as family and child development specialist in the area.”
Ross said, “She had a thriving 4-H Program and helped so many of our children blossom into strong, competent adults.”
Ross added: “This area was in dire need of quality child care and during the early 1990s and Snead heeded the call. She formed the Craig Youth and Community Services (CCY&CS) to serve as a board for the project.”
The county allowed her to have the old high school gym. However, she had to find the funds for it. “This project took me five years of begging and grant writing, but we finally opened it in September 1996, licensed by the state, fully remodeled and almost furnished,” she said. “The Craig County Child Care Center (CCCCC) is currently under the direction of Teresa Oliver, and we have just received new licensing for 100 children.”
The CCCCC is partners with Head Start, Early Head Start, United Way and Smart Beginnings and currently ranks fourth out of five in Virginia’s Star Quality Initiative. The CCCCC was recently awarded a federal grant to reach additional low-income families and enhance the Center.
Oliver shared, “A long time ago, when the child care center first opened, we nicknamed her ‘Mother Hen.’ I would say she is definitely like a mother to a lot of young adults and children that she has in some way made a positive difference in their lives, mine included.”
With much excitement, Snead was pleased to announce that they are also developing the Craig Field of Dreams Sports Complex (FOD). “The grounds are completed; hydro seeded and now have three regulation ball fields,” she said. “The vision of Craig youth being able to practice, play and host ball games in their own community is now a reality.”
Walter Marsden, president of the Craig County Rural Health Care Corporation, added that “Snead is our vice president and was greatly instrumental in bringing in the Monroe Health Center. She is a wonderful lady to work with! I don’t know how she does all that she does, but do know that she is also a big champion of our FOD.”
“Debbie is always supportive of Craig County youth groups,” Oliver added. “Debbie, herself, was one of my very best students at Patrick Henry High School.”
Snead also serves on several boards: Craig Health and Dental Centers, the Craig Volunteer Rescue Squad and the Virginia Beef Industry Council. “She’s all about helping this county,” Marsden added.
By being a descendant of Joseph Little of Massachusetts, Snead was able to become a member of Craig Valley DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). She was recognized in 2009 with a Community Service Award, given by DAR groups to volunteers who contribute to civic, patriotic or humanitarian efforts.
“I fondly remember Debbie from her days as Cooperative Extension agent,” Diane Givens, DAR Regent, shared. “She kept several groups of Extension Homemakers going, well organized and was always lovely to work with.”
“Working with Debbie over the years has taught me so much, and I will always be indebted to her for her kindness, patience and knowledge that she always shared with my family and me,” Ross shared. “I am so proud of her many accomplishments.”
When Snead was asked what she considers her biggest blessing regarding her community involvement, she said, “The interaction with children and families in my work that gave me the opportunity to hopefully help them be a bit healthier and happier. And, in retirement, the Lord has given me the opportunity to continue being involved with these organizations as a volunteer.”
Snead’s husband served as Craig’s County administrator prior to working with the City of Roanoke. “He has now retired from local government to our Mountain Branch Farm, of which we are co-owners and operators,” Snead shared. “We have a good size cow herd and calf crop, a farm manager and a couple of farm hands that are a wonderful help in caring for the cattle and farms.”
She added, “I attend and participate in Bethel United Methodist Church and have a wonderful church family. Also, my mom, brother and family live in Roanoke, which is great.”
Snead recently shared with a close friend, that after a busy career and lots of traveling around, that her favorite thing now is that she’s able to be on a permanent “staycation.”
Still, if there is anything she could do for Craig, she said, “I’d like to help our Board of Supervisors find a hidden treasure to help them provide more funds for our schools and the many services our citizens need, as it’s a constant challenge, but I do appreciate all of their efforts to balance the budget.”
Snead concluded with a warm smile, “I pray that all of us will serve as good role models for our children. Spend quality time with them. Be in constant communication, show them that discipline is love and help them have gain confidence. I guess I never will really retire from teaching.”