On the Road Collaborative at the Depot

On the Road Collaborative at the Depot

On The Road Collaborative students with Asha and Charles

The Gaines Group has had a long-standing partnership with On The Road Collaborative and we could not be more excited to be a part of it again this year! On the Road Collaborative (OTRC) is an organization that gives middle and high-school students educational and hands-on opportunities outside of school, and their commitment to the youth and community, both in the future and in the here and now, is inspiring.

Throughout the years, we have participated in many opportunities with students, including a class on architecture as a career option to Skyline middle-schoolers that was led by Deborah and Charles in 2016 and a sustainable farm house tour in partnership with Eric Beck with Beck Builders. This year, Deborah is teaching another class about architecture called Design Hive to middle-schoolers from Skyline Middle School.

In this class, they’ll be learning about what architecture is and how it affects our communities and day to day lives. They’ll also learn the process of becoming an architect and what an architect does by going through the design process and understanding the thoughts and decisions that go into designing a building.

This week, we hosted these students at the Depot, our office building. Here Charles gave a tour to talk about the rich history of the building that used to be a railroad station. He showed them the many items, sketches, and photos that we have preserved here, as well as details of structural preservation: sections of floor that are different colors, charred doorframes, and old windows without panes. The students enjoyed interacting with the window especially, as you can see below.

Looking through the old pane-less window.

Touring the structure outside.

When asked what made her want to teach this class, Deborah said that “it’s fun to share about what I do with a group of students that are interested in learning about architecture.” Passing on excitement for design and giving opportunities for exposure to architecture for younger students is something that is very important to us.

Deborah is also structuring the class so that in the second half of the session, students will get a taste of what a college architecture studio class might be like. Students will work to create a neighborhood of houses designed by them. This neighborhood project is based on a similar project that her studio worked on during her time at Virginia Tech. They’ll draw out plans of their houses and then make cardboard models to see the neighborhood in 3D. We can’t wait to see what they create!

Design is everywhere, and whether or not each participating student decides to go into an architectural or design field, we hope that the experience enriches their understanding of how design impacts their daily lives. Awareness of this can be applicable to any field, and we’re grateful to OTRC for giving us this opportunity to meet these bright students from the community and pass on some of this knowledge. Check out their website to see how you can get more involved with OTRC!

A rising tide raises all ships

A rising tide raises all ships

A rising tide raises all ships is an interesting concept, but what does it have to do with our local economy? Look to Shenandoah Valley Partnership (SVP).

The economic health of a community is a complicated thing to fully understand. There are many moving parts to a local economy and it is constantly changing. Do you have a thriving business community? Is it growing or shrinking? Are there available workers with the right skills? Are there potential sites for future expansion or relocations? Are the local businesses supported in a way to allow them to thrive? Is there training available to ramp up the workers skills as needed? There are so many variables that impact our local economy and this doesn’t even start to consider government regulations, taxes, land cost, construction cost, cost of living.

With so many things that could impact viability for a new business to locate here or for an existing business to expand across multiple jurisdictions – who’s there to help? That’s the role of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership (SVP).

As an organization, SVP has been working across the valley to provide the forum for cooperation and collaboration that encourages businesses to establish operations in the Shenandoah Valley. They do this through capital investment and job creation, serving as an advocate for existing business expansion, and assisting with regional workforce development efforts.

As the current Vice-Chair of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership and a long-time board member, Charles has invested his time and energy in supporting these efforts for the last 7 years. He is now also serving on the Forward 2028 campaign to support the SVP 5 year capital campaign. SVP is focused on three key areas to support local economic vibrancy: talent attraction & retention, business retention expansion & attraction, and sites & infrastructure. If you are invested in seeing a vibrant local economy, please reach out to learn more about how you can invest in the Shenandoah Valley Partnership and support the idea that a rising tide raises all ships.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up? What a huge question that we ask students to answer at a point in their lives when they are just working on figuring out who they are at that moment.

Hosting high school students in our office has become a regular occurrence over the years. We believe that mentorship is not only a key component to the future of our industry, but simply put is the right thing to do. We want to help students figure out the right path to take before college, to answer the question What do you want to be when you grow up? Or at least what do you not want to be when you grow up. We have had students from a wide variety of high schools around the valley join us with some going on to architectural school and some finding out through their time in our office that architecture was not the right path for them. This year we hosted a student, Ryan, from Eastern Mennonite High School. (past job shadow blogs here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here)

Here is his story:

The question, ‘what do you plan to do after graduation?’ is really hard for a high school student to grasp as the scope of opportunities and jobs available to them is unknown. So for my junior year, I signed up for an internship at Gaines Group Architects. This is a 12-week internship (job shadow) where for about an hour and a half each day before heading to school I had a chance to be in their architectural office to see, hear, observe, and learn.

While most people would assume an architect’s job would be to design immediately on computers, Charles directed me through the thought process and the restrictions real life can play on a project. We looked online for a plot of land for sale and brainstormed our ‘client’ and their requirements. These things would play into my clients’ budget and restrictions on how I could design the house. For anything I wanted to design, I needed to justify value for the design decision. 

I was given the goal of making a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1300 square foot house. This right off the bat was extremely difficult because a lot of the standard living sizes for several rooms would require more square feet than I was provided. Charles used this to help me realize that sometimes, customers might come in with unrealistic goals and it is our job to find the best compromise for them. This house is for a younger family with 2 kids so it needs to be large enough for the family but also big enough that they could resell it if/when they are ready to upgrade.

I learned several of the basic principles for designing a house from sketching to spending the first couple of weeks just designing and reiterating the house on paper. I learned how to draw different wall thicknesses and how to think reasonably space. By the end of the first month, I had completed a paper sketch of the house for my ‘client’ that was 1614 square ft.

I have always loved designing and creating new things with my hands or on online design programs, and drawing the house on paper was my favorite part of the process. The next step was for me to learn another design software, Trimble Sketchup

Trimble Sketchup is an online CAD software that allowed me to design the entire home on my Chromebook. This process is what I spent the last 9-10 weeks of the internship working on. I learned, experimented, and then implemented new and different building techniques into the house. I was able to import furniture and utilities to create a complete 3D model of what the house might look like if it was built in real life.

Celebrating 2022 Architecture Fun!

Celebrating 2022 Architecture Fun!

We loved celebrating together in 2022 all the architecture fun things, special days, and events! We are a small team and many of us have been together for many years understanding the overall goals of the firm and joining together to achieve them. We look for ways to infuse fun into every project while supporting our community and each other.

This year several of us kicked off the new year by attending the Young Architect Winter Series. This gathering of like minded designers focused on making us better people so we can be the best architects possible. Read more here.

young architect winter series

January 26 marked National Shelfie Day – see what we have on our shelfs here.


February 9th we joined together to celebrate #NationalPizzaDay by sharing some slices.

February 17th we celebrated kindness on #nationalactsofkindnessday

March 8th we celebrated the women of the firm on #internationalwomensday including Adrienne, Deborah, Annie

In April we celebrated the beautiful spring weather by playing in the Eastern Mennonite School golf tournament.

May 7 we celebrated #NationalTrainday at the Depot by remembering Tinky Bryant.

May 15th we celebrated James for #nationalpoliceweek

Pictures of James to celebrate national police week.

June 17th #nationalmascotday, want to see Charles with the Virginia Tech mascot – a lot of people requested it.

In June, the Harrisonburg Urban Forestry Program partnered with Rocktown Urban wood to host a birdhouse build day and we had the chance to design the birdhouse!

building birdhouses

In June we celebrated Deborah’s graduation from the Harrisonburg Rockingham Chamber of Commerce Leadership traning program: leadership graduation

June 21 we looked back at some of our projects that feature amazing natural lighting #NationalDaylightAppreciation

At the end of June we all gathered to wish Roger well in his retirement.

Ray and Roger

In September several of us attended the Fan the Flame Auction to support our client Eastern Mennonite School.

In September we were able to support Big Brother Big Sisters by playing a round of mini-golf together.

Charles joined other Rotarians to assist with a Give Solar barn raising in September.

Give Solar Barn Raising

Sept 16 Many of us in the office balance being parents and architects and this marked the day to celebrate #NationalWorkingParents

Adrienne holding child while working

Each month of the years from March – December we celebrate local arts with our First Friday gallery openings.

August marked the return of the Sing me high festival hosted at the Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center – another of our clients.

Oct 3 was #worldarchitectureday and we celebrated healthy and happy designs that build a better future for all.

In October we joined the Rocktown Energy Fair to help cut our community carbon footprint and share energy efficiency strategies with the community.

October featured #teamErika, the team we sponsored for Fake Singing, Real People, supporting a great cause: Any Given Child.

WMRA Book and Brews is held at Pale Fire Brewing company and we sponsor the event. We have had some amazing authors.

We sponsor the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale each year and Deborah volunteers! So much good food for a good cause.

October Charles joined the EMS We Serve club to pick up trash along Rt. 42.

We had plenty of opportunities to learn more from industry expects while sharing lunch.

The Pints for Polio event was a great time to come together to support Rockingham Rotary Club and help fund Polio vaccinations around the world.

Oct 15 was #universalmusicday and we all shared what we were listening to with Annie compiling it into one playlist.

We also got to visit a Job site this Fall while getting some photos of this beautiful home we designed.

HDR’s Celebration this year took place in November celebrating many incredible people and projects supporting downtown.

HDRs Celebration

November featured a tour of Explore More Museum.

Touring Explore More Museum

Dec 23 we aired our grievances to celebrate Festivus

December Charles stuffed stockings with EMS We Serve club.

EMS We Serve Club stuffing stockings.

Christmas at the Depot was an amazing party again this year!

Finally in late December we all came together for a party with our families! It was a really good year and this was a really good way to celebrate it!

office party with families. People around a pool table

Building a Stronger Community.

Building a Stronger Community.

We hold to our belief that it requires action, time, and energy to build a stronger, more vibrant community. Community has many scales and our collective actions create a ripple effect. Last week Charles had a full schedule of events and he was reminded of the value each of us plays in serving our community. He attended his regular Tuesday morning Rotary Club of Rockingham County meeting which focused on Polio vaccinations around the world. This terrible disease is very close to eradication but simultaneously on the brink of another worldwide outbreak. The work of Rotarians to raise awareness, money, and to take action has made a significant difference with now only two countries in the world reporting wild Polio cases. As an aside, there has been a minor outbreak in a small community in New York, but it is not reported as a wild outbreak. These cases in New York remind everyone of the critical importance of vaccinations.

Mary Baldwin University

After Rotary, Charles headed South to Mary Baldwin University to talk sustainability with business majors. The first class he participated in consisted of freshman students who were eager to discuss and learn how an architect applies sustainability to their work. The excellent conversation and questions showed these students have deep desires to understand the impacts business has on the environment how they can be a part of creating a better future for everyone. The second class was a small group of students who have a primary focus and deep understanding of sustainability in business. The conversation was focused on how to build a sustainable business using the three principles of sustainability; people, planet, and profit.

Charles hit the road after meeting with the MBU students and went directly to Eastern Mennonite School for a second day of teaching Sketch Up and floor plan creation to high school students. The class is tasked with designing a 900 square foot house with 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom as a tool to learn this software and create three dimensional spaces.

To round out his day of service, Charles participated in a spirit night that he helped organize at Harmony Square Dairy Queen. Named “Pints for Polio” this twist on a traditional fundraiser is an annual event that raises Polio awareness in a family0friendly environment.

Not all of our days can be this jam-packed with community service, but is not lost on us how it takes many hands and willing hearts to intentionally build a better, stronger, more vibrant community.

A Weekend with Rotary and SLI

A Weekend with Rotary and SLI

Charles with students from Eastern Mennonite School picking up trash.

It was a busy weekend for Rockingham Rotary Club and Eastern Mennonite School’s Interact Club as they teamed up to pick up trash along Rt. 42 in Rockingham County. As a sponsor and liaison between these two clubs, Charles helps these clubs collaborate on projects. This clean up effort happens twice a year and and is necessary for keeping our community clean. The sunshine and cheerful volunteers made this weekend’s cleanup extra special!

The work of Rotary is known around the world for putting service above self. This organization’s main work is to eradicate Polio worldwide, to build friendships through service to the community, and to make the world a better place. Charles says that seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the Interact members inspires him to do more service for the community. If you want to be involved in serving your community or have a potential service project, feel free to reach out to Charles to learn more about the power of Rotary or learn more here and here.

Later into the weekend, we were thrilled to join the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Scholars Latino Initiative. This organization goes beyond an after-school program or mentor pairing system or college preparation group. SLI is a family that supports each other to help fulfill dreams, break down barriers, share frustrations, and achieve goals. Their mission reads “Scholars Latino Initiative supports Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships.” 

The celebration last night was filled with fun and friends as well as incredible Latino inspired foods. There were celebrations of past successes and reunions of old friends. Lua Project played a fusion of Appalachian and Latino music and the medleys were magical.

The important work being done through SLI is critical for our community. We all need to come together to help one another and those that are the most marginalized need systems in place like SLI to find their full potential. 

Congratulations on 10 years, we look forward to the next decade.