LIFE/STYLE: Campus ministry life during COVID

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by Jillian Smith, Sarah Wormald–

Virginia Tech’s campus ministries look drastically different amidst Coronavirus complications. For example, Cru, a Christian campus ministry would usually have a large group service in Squires’ Colonial Hall every Thursday night. However, under the current circumstances, Cru is continuing their large group service online, encouraging students to have safe watch parties together.

Another ministry, Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) is meeting in person on Tuesday nights for a socially-distanced, reduced capacity and masked service, similar to how some other ministries and churches in the area are operating.

There are elements of uncertainty when it comes to places and groups of worship during coronavirus, and those who find community in these groups will continue to adapt.

Life & Style: How to Stay Productive During Quarantine

by Hannah Brown, Christine O’Donnell–

photo by Christine O’Donnell

Due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Americans are urged to stay home to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. President Trump extended guidelines to practice social distancing until April 30th, leaving many citizens unsure as to what the future holds. In this time of uncertainty, there are many activities people can do to be productive at home. 

Physical activity like at-home workouts and yoga at home are ways to improve your health and elevate your energy levels. Exercising your brain is important, as well, and can be done by reading books and solving puzzles. Also, efforts around the house such as organizing and cleaning are a great use of this time spent at home. 

An important thing to keep in mind is that it is okay to feel a loss of control right now, but you should try to not be too hard on yourself because this will pass and life will soon return to normal.

Alumnus-owned cafe relocates

Blacksburg, Va., Feb 26 – SETTING UP SHOP: Foamo showed off its new location downtown at a grand opening on February 18. Photo: Sarah Carr

by Sarah Carr —

A cafe that once set up shop on Main Street, has now moved to a new location deeper into downtown Blacksburg. 

Foamo Cafe owner and recent Virginia Tech graduate, Youssef Rhanime, says that there were multiple reasons for the sudden relocation. 

“Families would be coming in with their kids and there was nowhere to sit. We were losing a lot of business because we couldn’t accommodate multiple people, so that was the initial reason I was looking for another spot,” said Rhanime. 

He came across a location downtown that was perfect for a new raw juice and smoothie business concept he had in the works. That’s when it all clicked for Rhanime. 

“I realized that the concept was so similar to what Foamo already does, so I might as well just move Foamo to the better location and kill two birds with one stone in terms of being able to add those things that I want to add.”

According to Restaurant Hospitality, two of the main reasons those in the food industry move their business is due to the desire for more space, or due to a rent increase that was out of the restaurant’s control. 

In Foamo’s case, an increase in space and a more central location to downtown will add what Rhanime hopes is more foot traffic coming in and out of the cafe. 

With the new location being closer to the Virginia Tech campus as well, students have better access to the cafe than before – a change that Virginia Tech student, Aditi Shukla, says is a great thing. 

“The previous location was kind of far from campus. If it moved right across from the Milk Parlor, the old salsa night place, then I think it will be easier for students to access, even during school hours,” said Shukla. 

Over 50% of the working population is employed by a small business according to Yahoo, highlighting the importance of businesses like Foamo and the impact it has on the community of Blacksburg. 

While the location is entirely new, the menu, decor and overall feel of the cafe has remained the same during the transition from Main Street to downtown, with the addition of smoothie and toast options coming in the following weeks. 

Overall Rhanime describes the transition to downtown as bittersweet, the relocation process having both its pros and cons. 

“It was kind of a sudden decision, we moved literally in about a two week time span. A lot of people thought it was a situation where we just left or we just closed up shop. The hardest thing is going to be trying to get everybody back through the doors.”


“Fitspiration” Phenomenon

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 10 – Fitspiration: There are many social media apps available for meal and workout inspiration. Photo: Sarah Carr

by Sarah Carr —

There’s no question that social media has influenced many parts of society today. From food, to travel to even fitness – there is an account for every interest. The question that then arises is, “is it a good thing?”

Kiara McGuire, a personal trainer at McComas Gym at Virginia Tech said she has seen first hand how impactful social media can be on fitness. 

“I had a client that came in, and one of their goals was to lose 40 pounds in two weeks. He showed me pictures on social media of the body he wanted to look like. We had to have a long talk.” said McGuire.

It’s “the crazy waves of trying to lose weight,” and other fitness fads that trainers like McGuire said can make the seemingly harmless “fitspiration” phenomenon so dangerous. 

According to a study done in INSIDER, “women who viewed a set of Instagram fitness images reported lower levels of body satisfaction than women who viewed a set of Instagram travel images.”

While social media sites such as Instagram can be a breeding ground for comparison to some, it also provides inspiration and a sense of community to others. 

Camden Carpenter, an avid social media user and student at Virginia Tech said that apps like Pinterest have helped her find new workouts and recipes, tailored to her liking. 

“With social media, it’s really easy to find someone that aligns with your dietary restrictions and allergies instead of having to flip through Google and use all of these search words where you still might not get a recipe,” said Carpenter.

It’s the ease and accessibility that makes social media so impactful on the fitness community. A study by Cleveland Clinic in Parade Magazine showed that 55% of Americans use social media for diet and workout advice. 

It seems that there are both positive and negative effects to social media’s impact on fitness, but it ultimately comes down to the user and how they react to these accounts when scrolling through their feed every day.

Blacksburg, Va., Feb 9. – Kiara McGuire, personal trainer at Virginia Tech. Photo: Sarah Carr
Blacksburg, Va., Feb 7 – Camden Carpenter, social media user and student at Virginia Tech. Photo: Sarah Carr

Valentine’s Day: Keeping your wallet (and their heart) whole

Blacksburg, Va., Feb 11 – PLENTY OF KISSES: Chocolates, like these iconic Hershey’s Kisses, can be a great low-budget gift for anyone with a sweet tooth. Hershey will produce nearly a billion of these candies for the Valentine’s Day holiday alone.

by Troy Clark –-

Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it, and Blacksburg offers plenty for couples both young and old to busy themselves with on this special day.  Here in town, there are options for couples looking to have an extravagant experience or a calm, reserved experience away from the crowds.

According to, the average Valentine’s Day couple spent almost $400 in 2019 – that’s $196.31 each, by their math – on gifts and experiences for the big day.  And with nearly a quarter of that cost going to dinner or a night out, it can be hard to choose the correct location.

“Booking typically happens fairly quickly,” remarked Shannon Faherty, bartender at 622 North. “We’re one of the hotspots for date night in Blacksburg.”

A wine bar and restaurant on North Main Street, 622 North is one of many locations in the area that provides a special, limited Valentine’s Day menu.  At a fairly affordable price of $67 per couple – or $47 without alcohol – this option offers an easy, upscale dinner at one of the highest-rated locations in town.  Faherty emphasized the care that their head chef and sommelier have put into the wine pairings with each dish, making this experience truly unique among similar offerings.

“They really take a lot of time and consideration while making the menu, and it really goes to show when we have all these people come in,” furthered Faherty.

Other restaurants in town, such as Ceritano’s, also on North Main Street, also offer a similar special menu option for Valentine’s Day reservations.  Not every couple is looking to spend a significant amount of money or time out, however, and there are plenty of ideas in Blacksburg for this as well.  Local venues are open as usual on Friday night, and the Lyric Theatre on College Avenue is no exception.  The Theatre has two showings of Uncut Gems scheduled for the night, and tickets will run $7 each or $6 with a membership.

However, many Virginia Tech students are simply staying home, or letting others do the planning for them.

“I have an exam on Friday, so I’ll take that,” said Megan Reilly, a junior at Virginia Tech.  “Then I have a date party. It’s more convenient to go to a Greek event than it is to make your own plans.”  Reilly’s sentiment echoes that of an ever-increasing demographic, with Business Insider reporting that 51% of Americans planned to celebrate the holiday in 2019, down 4% from the previous year. Reilly also mentioned how she has been inundated with homework so far this year, which has made Valentine’s Day hard to plan around.

No matter the choice couples make this year, there is always a backup plan: McDonald’s in Blacksburg will be open until midnight on Valentine’s Day.

Preparing for winter power outages

Blacksburg, Va., Dec 3 — LIGHTS OUT: The Alleghany neighborhood is one of the many Blacksburg communities experiencing blackouts. Photo: Samantha Hamilton

by Samantha Hamilton–

Families in the New River Valley are experiencing power outages that are believed to be a result of the temperature drops Southwest Virginia is currently experiencing. The outages have affected areas such as Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, Fairlawn, Shawsville, and some neighborhoods in Roanoke.

 “Usually power outages are a result of insufficient generation online to support the high demand surrounding them,” said technical electrician Antoine Holland.

Home electric power systems are made to withstand extreme weather in most cases says Holland. However, according to National Geographic, “If temperature extremes are worse than forecast or happen faster than forecast it can result in local or widespread overloads that may cause service to some neighborhoods to go offline automatically or switch to rotating blackouts.”

As the temperatures continue to fall and threats of more power outages increase many families are concerned about staying warm.

“Without power, you can’t have heat. Luckily, we have a gas stove so that can help us, but there are others who don’t have that,” said Blacksburg power outage victim Kyra Parker.

But it isn’t just heat that can be a problem, refrigerators will stop running causing food spoilage. Parker says her family makes sure to keep non-perishable foods in their pantry.

The time it takes to get back online varies based on circumstances with outages lasting anywhere from hours to weeks.

“Your region, neighborhood, circuit, powerlines, underground lines, even workers…they all have a role in determining how long it will take to restore power,” said Holland.

It’s scary not knowing, no one likes being in the dark Parker admits. Power companies have started adding ‘check outage status’ tabs to their websites allowing families to get an estimate on repair time.

“Appalachian Power keeps us updated,” said Parker. “Our recent outage only took 2 hours to restore power.”

According to Edison International, extreme weather isn’t the only cause of power loss. Vehicles, trees, animals, earthquakes and even people can be responsible. No matter the situation it’s always important to have a plan.

Holland believes taking the extra precautions now can protect your family when it matters.


Gettin’ thrifty

Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 4 – Brad Kesling, co-owner of VTThrift, takes pictures of his inventory to post to the company’s social media. Photo credit: Sarah Cundiff


by Sarah Cundiff–

When it comes to fashion and clothing, who doesn’t love a unique find? Or even better, one that doesn’t break the bank. Even greater than that, how about an option that is sustainable for the environment? If you ask Brad Kesling, co-owner of VTThrift, there’s nothing better.

Kesling is a senior at Virginia Tech studying accounting and marketing, who along with fellow Virginia Tech student and co-owner Kyle Tan, took over VTThrift back in 2017. 

“It started out as a thrifting hobby but now it’s much more,” said Kesling. “We didn’t create the actual Instagram page, VTThrift was created by Carter Davis and he had about 200 followers at the time. Me and Kyle [Tan] were avid customers and bought all the time.”

He wasn’t seeking out thrifting as a business venture (although according to a Fortune article, that proves to be very profitable), but when the opportunity arose, Kesling knew it was a chance to take this hobby and turn it into his passion.

“Going into my sophomore year, [Davis] said he was done with it and me and Kyle both messaged him at the same time saying we’ll take it over. We saw a much bigger vision for it,” said Kesling.

Now, VTThrift has over 3,000 followers on Instagram and has sold over 2,500 items. So what makes it special – besides the fact that it’s completely owned and operated by college students? Well for one thing, there is no brick-and-mortar location. At least not all the time. 

Besides online ordering via Instagram, VTThrift holds “pop-up” shops at distinct times in various locations around Blacksburg.

In addition to the fun of pop-up shops and the convenience of having orders delivered directly to customers’ doorsteps, VTThrift and thrifting as a whole, also provides a clothing buying option that is better for the environment, according to an article published by the University of California Berkeley.

Blacksburg resident Audra Bernard, thrifts for similar reasons. “First of all I think it’s cost-effective, it fits with my personal style, and it is Earth-friendly and sustainable,” said Bernard.

“I guess it’s important like our mission statement is to provide a sustainable source of fashion for college students at a discounted price,” said Kesling. “I think sustainability is also something we’re really trying to push because another big trend within clothing is fast fashion and people go through clothes so fast, but why do that when there’s so many existing clothes.”

Business plans and ambitions aside, for Kesling it all comes back to a love of thrifting.

“I think VTThrift is really good for people who maybe aren’t really in the thrifting scene and don’t really know how to find things,” said Kesling. “I really encourage people to go out and do it for themselves because it’s a really fun time.”