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Commercial appeal

Virginia Credit Union TV spot stars local talent
When Virginia Credit Union decided to produce television commercials featuring its members, among the stars who rose to the top in tryouts was Henrico resident Ronald Lanier.

Although he has long been active in the music ministry at Cedar Street Baptist Church, Lanier tends toward the sidelines and considers himself somewhat shy.

As director of the Virginia Department of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH), he keeps a low profile as well, helping to coordinate statewide services for the hearing-impaired.

But when the call went out from VACU for members to strut their stuff at an audition, Lanier couldn’t pass it up. “I fit the criteria, and the rehearsals fit my own schedule,” he recalls.

What’s more, Lanier just plain loves to sing.

“Singing has been a part of me,” he says, “from way back.”

Lanier (pictured) showed up at the studio audition fully prepared to sing the National Anthem – a number he is comfortable with after opening a baseball game at The Diamond. But he expected only to sing, having read that dancing was an optional part of tryouts.

After hearing him sing a few lines, however, the judges asked him to dance.

“That I was not prepared for,” he says. “So I put on an embarrassing display of the Electric Slide!”

Henrico residents featured
More than 80 VACU members tried out for the commercial, according to Glenn Birch, director of public and media relations at VACU. The tryouts were held “American-Idol-style,” with local celebrities as judges. “Everyone had fun,” Birch says, “even the people who didn’t make it [into the commercial].”

One dozen members participated in the first commercial that began airing in March, and another dozen (including Lanier) starred in the second commercial that launched this month.

Among other participants with Henrico connections are Stacy Barnett, who teaches English at Highland Springs H.S., and Robbie Cunningham, an Eastern Henrico resident and self-employed jazz musician; both joined Lanier in the second commercial. Justin Morris of Glen Allen, a long-time member of the gospel group The Soulsters, was in the first commercial.

Now that the 30-second spot has been seen locally, Lanier says he is constantly recognized and asked for his autograph.

While the fame and the positive feedback have been rewarding, Lanier says the highlight of the experience was a conversation he had with VACU Vice President of Marketing Deb Wreden, about the importance of providing closed captioning for the commercial.

“She was quick to assure me that it would be done,” says Lanier, “as they had not even thought of it before.” 

Captions for the grandkids
A native of Roanoke, Lanier was hit by a car as a child, and doctors discovered soon afterwards that he had suffered a hearing loss.

Between the hearing impairment and his shyness, it took some time for Lanier’s musical talents to come to light.

But, he says now, he always felt that he had something to offer vocally. In his senior year of high school he finally “took the big step” and joined the choir; before long, he was singing the occasional solo.

After moving to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, he became a Henrico resident in the late 1970s, and has been a VACU member for 25 years.

Birch says that upon meeting Lanier, he was impressed not only by his efforts to advocate for closed captioning, but also by his commitment to “helping those with hearing difficulties navigate a culture that assumes everyone can hear.”

What’s more, says Birch, Lanier’s commitment to this goal extends beyond his professional interests to a family and personal level. Lanier and his wife adopted a deaf child, now 31; and their son has two children of his own, who are also deaf.

Lanier points out that lobbying for closed captioning does not just benefit those who are deaf and hard of hearing; it also makes sense from the advertiser standpoint.

“Seriously,” he says, “when television programs and commercials are captioned, you invite even more customers into the mix.”

But Lanier readily admits that captioning the VACU commercial benefits him personally as well, by allowing hearing-impaired family members to better appreciate the ad.

“I especially wanted my two grandkids,” he says, “to know what their grandfather is singing and dancing about!”

To view the VACU commercials, visit http://youtube.com/watch?v=sxv9WSKRCUY and http://youtube.com/VACreditUnion; or visit the Virginia Credit Union page on Facebook for photos and clips from the ads.
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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Bon Secours Richmond Health System will host “Support Your Girls,” a Cancer Care Fund fundraiser, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Short Pump Town Center. Enjoy wine and food… Full text

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