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Sen. Mark Warner praised Brand for his efforts to help people in need. "What a good steward you've been," the senator said.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Hundreds of people gathered in Roanoke on Sunday to celebrate the 90th birthday of Cabell Brand, the founder of the organization now called Total Action for Progress.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Cabell Brand’s 90th birthday bash broke up pretty much the way you’d expect.
“Now you all know what you need to do,” said master of ceremonies Ted Edlich, chief executive officer of Total Action for Progress, the community action agency Brand founded 48 years ago.
“Go change the world.”
That’s pretty much what the 250 people who gathered Sunday at the Holiday Inn at Valley View to mark Brand’s birthday believe he and his wife, Shirley, have done.
Brand and TAP pushed for children’s health care — creating a model in the Roanoke Valley that now benefits millions of kids across the nation, Sen. Mark Warner told the crowd.
The man and the agency he founded touched tens of thousands of people across the area, helping people find pathways out of poverty through educational programs such as Head Start and job training efforts, or with help with housing or by raising awareness of domestic abuse.
“A lot of people think left and right, liberal and conservative. … I’m not sure Cabell and Shirley would,” Warner said. “I think they think more about the future and past. I can’t think of anyone who is more optimistic about the future.”
Brand founded TAP, which used to be called Total Action Against Poverty, in 1965, and in 30 years as its president and chairman helped launch its Head Start program for preschool children, as well as the Child Health Investment Project ; Virginia CARES, a statewide network of re-entry programs for ex-offenders ; and the Virginia Water Project.
A Virginia Military Institute graduate, his studies were interrupted by service in World War II and memories of the sufferings of French families and starving Jews whom American troops liberated. Brand came back to Virginia to rebuild his father’s shoe business, which grew under his leadership to employ 1,000 people in its Salem plant.
But even as he did, he reserved time for his volunteer work, seeking social change.
And so the community took some time Sunday to say: thanks. Former vice president Al Gore sent a letter of congratulations.
“I am overwhelmed,” Brand told the crowd, which included state Sen. John Edwards, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers and Salem Mayor Randy Foley.
It was a rare feeling, evidently. There were plenty of stories Sunday about Brand’s persistence pursuing ways to give people a hand up, rather than a hand out.
There was the paper and pen he’d keep on hand, just in case visitors to his home or office forgot they’d be leaving with a list of things they could do to help the community. But then, too, there was the way that, when people felt there was simply too much to do, he’d help them sort out what was most important, and what needed to be done first.
There was that irritating way he had of being right.
And there was his way of getting people to pitch in their time and their money for good causes.
“Who else but Cabell would turn a 90th birthday party into a fundraiser for TAP ?” Warner said.
“What a good steward you’ve been,” Warner summed it up. “A steward not of what we are but what we ought to be.”
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