Welcome Aimee Lawson to the Team

Welcome Aimee Lawson to the Team

A big welcome to Aimee Lawson, our newest team member and Designer! In June, Aimee joined us all the way from Florida where she has lived all her life as well as where she attended college.

Aimee Lawson in front of flowers outside.

Aimee attended the University of Florida, earning a B.S. in Architecture with minors in Sustainability and Landscape Architecture. Now she works as a Designer (architect in training) at our firm. In her short time here working under the direction of Deborah Smith, she has already made an impact. Her current project, an addition to a local elementary school, is well on its way to construction documents. 

She grew up in Palm Harbor, Florida, and is grateful to have come from a family of 6, saying “I am very grateful for this because having siblings is like having built-in friends, and they are some of my best ones.” Now in Virginia, she lives with her 8-year-old cat named Eloise.

Growing up in Florida, Aimee is no stranger to alligators. When asked about interesting facts about her hometown she says that alligators are everywhere, which lends itself to interesting stories such as the one where: “One time when I was a kid, I got out of taking out the trash because there was an alligator on our driveway next to the trash can.” 

In her free time, she can be found making pottery, painting, crocheting, and watching movies. Her favorite TV show is NCIS because she loves to try to guess the outcomes and enjoys the suspense, and she also enjoys Parks and Rec when she’s in a lighter mood.

She describes herself as quirky and is appreciative of that characteristic because it helps make others more comfortable around her and creates a more lighthearted and fun environment. We are thrilled to have the addition of her skills and personality to our team!

Welcome Aliyah D. White to the Team

Welcome Aliyah D. White to the Team

We are thrilled to welcome Aliyah D. White to our team as one of our newest full-time Designers! Aliyah grew up in Virginia Beach, VA and after attending the University of Virginia School of Architecture, now calls Charlottesville home. As a 2023 graduate from the UVA School of Architecture with a B.S. in Architecture and a minor in English, she brings fresh design experience and skills to the team. 

Now Aliyah offers her design eye, growing level of experience, and energy to our projects as a Designer (Architect in training) at our firm. In addition, Aliyah brings her writing talents to our team along with organizational and leadership traits that are important for a designer. She is most often working with Ray and Adrienne to develop our luxury living community projects doing unit design, elevation creation, and updating the construction documents needed for a successful project.

Aliyah in graduation stoles.

Aliyah offers her design eye, growing level of experience, and energy to our projects as a Designer (Architect in training) at our firm. In addition, Aliyah brings her writing talents to our team along with organizational and leadership traits that are important for a designer. She is most often working with Ray and Adrienne to develop our luxury living community projects doing unit design, elevation creation, and updating the construction documents needed for a successful project.

While in school, Aliyah was dedicated to equity both in and out of the classroom. Her contributions to the university centered on fairly and accurately narrating Black history at UVA in order to build a more equitable school for future students of color. Her extracurricular time was mainly spent serving on the Cavalier Daily student newspaper as a Social Issues Columnist, the School of Architecture Student Council, and as Social Awareness Chair for her residential college. Through these endeavors, she further developed her skills in leadership, programming, narrative story-telling, and advocacy, all of which are very important aspects to being an architect. Upon her graduation, she received the 2023 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in recognition of her excellence of character and service to humanity. 

Outside of the office, she can be found reading, writing, or baking. She may also be found watching The Boondocks which she says is as wildly inappropriate as it is hilarious. 

Two important qualities that Aliyah names are her determination and flexibility. She appreciates these qualities saying that they “allow me to succeed in anything I find interest in and put my hands on”. We’re excited about the addition of her talents and personality to our team and community.

Welcome Jarod Sankar to the Team

Welcome Jarod Sankar to the Team

Still working towards graduation, Jarod Sankar jumped into the Gaines Group Architects in April at a full sprint as our Interior Designer while finishing his senior year at Liberty and working another part-time job. In May he graduated with a BS in Interior Design. In this busy time for Jarod and the company, it’s been a few months coming, but we are thrilled to officially introduce Jarod on our blog!

Jarod Sankar

A Virginia native, born in Harrisonburg and raised in Augusta County, Jarod grew up watching home renovation shows with his parents and looking at houses his grandparents were building. It was from these experiences at a young age that he knew that he wanted to immerse himself in the architecture field, first gaining a BS in Interior Design from Liberty University and now working towards licensure as an interior designer. In the future, his goals are set on becoming licensed architect.

Now Jarod works at our firm as an Interior Designer, helping to guide clients in the right direction when making interior and exterior material or design choices. He knows that there are countless options available to consumers looking to build both commercially and residentially, and he works to narrow down those options to help our clients find the “perfect fit.”  Our approach as a firm is to make the design process fun and as low-stress as possible, so having Jarod’s skills help you through selections aligns well with that goal. He brings organizational and design experience from his previous job as Project Coordinator at W. Boutros and Company, INC.

When you meet Jarod, it won’t take you long to realize that he is an avid car lover. He enjoys all things car-related and one of his favorite pastimes is to go for a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway with the windows down. It’s no surprise that he has also previously worked as a Product Specialist at CMAs Valley Honda. There he bolstered both his passion for cars as well as experience with customer relations.

Jarod takes pride in his work and, alongside working full-time as an Interior Designer, he works part-time as a graphic designer and digital designer for Standout Arts, LLC. Outside of work, Jarod enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring nature and going on hikes, and traveling. He also enjoys taking on “some sort of more than likely unnecessary and time-consuming house repair.” 

Finally, a unique fact about Jarod is that he grew up as an only child and an only grandchild. Now, he lives solo with his “obnoxiously large and obnoxiously cute & forgivable Great Pyrenees named Kevin.” He is grateful to live within 5 minutes of his family and usually spends a large portion of his weekends with them.

Jarod’s energy is infectious, and he brings together design knowledge, work experience, and a love for people that really shows in his work. We are thrilled to welcome the additions of both his professional and personal gifts at our firm.

Harrisonburg headquarters

Harrisonburg headquarters

We have been so busy over the last month we failed to post photos from our big party! Here is the press release and some photos from the event.

Gaines Group Architects moves firm headquarters to renovated historic Harrisonburg train station.

The Gaines Group, PLC, Architects is pleased to announce the relocation of its firm headquarters to the historic Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot in the heart of Harrisonburg, Virginia. This milestone marks multiple points of celebration for the firm. Over the last 37 years this business has grown from a one-person operation to a thriving two-location small architectural firm serving communities across four states including Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. In the last 15 years it has experienced a substantial increase in the number and average size of projects and has doubled the size of the firm. This year Raymond Gaines and Charles Hendricks were joined by Paul Tassell, Adrienne Stronge, Deborah Smith, and James Halstead as principals, thus increasing the businesses’ resilience. The firm is celebrating six new hires who bring a diverse set of talents to the organization. Providing architectural services for a project base that includes custom residential, multi-family residential, industrial, educational, commercial, renovation, child care, and more has allowed the firm to continue to grow in spite of the COVID pandemic.

Charles attributes the firm’s growth to its focus on design that creates a better future for all. He says, “Our focus is to find ways to build a stronger community for everyone. We do this through our projects, designing sustainable solutions into every project. We use design strategies that are durable, energy-efficient, and healthy that not only benefit our client, but the community as a whole. We also seek out organizations in our communities that we can partner with and support through volunteer efforts to further this goal. From our work on boards and commissions, to giving our time and skills, we want our legacy to be one of caring for others, the environment, and our collective future.“

Celebrations and a Site Visit

Celebrations and a Site Visit

We’ve had a lot to celebrate recently, from a ribbon cutting to graduations to many new people joining our team to a new arrival soon joining the family of one of our team members. This has given our offices chances to celebrate and get to know each other in this transition time of our company. Thank you to everyone who has celebrated these milestones and changes with us.

Below is a glimpse into some of these celebrations.

On Friday, June 2nd, we had a large party at the Chesapeake Western Depot that combined our ribbon cutting ceremony with our monthly First Friday celebration, this time featuring three artists (Veronica, Asha, and the Clymer & Kurtz band)!

Photos of speeches and the Clymer & Kurtz band by Tony DiStefano

At the ceremony, Deborah Smith, Mayor Deanna Reed, Charles Hendricks, Raymond Gaines, and Rockingham County Circuit Court Clerk Chaz Haywood spoke about the importance of community. It really was a community event, and we felt the love and support. Thank you to everyone who came out to join us in this celebration!


Yesterday we celebrated our team members and their accomplishments: new family additions, graduation from three universities (UVA, JMU, and Liberty), and welcoming the hiring of six new staff members in the past year!

Team Lunch

Myles takes a selfie with the staff at the Timberville Taphouse.

Site visit to 5|Row Apartments, a project that Paul, Ray, and Adrienne are working on, to see up-close what the process looks like.

We are so excited for all of the additions to the team and perspectives and skills that they bring. There’s surely a lot to celebrate.

Celebrate the women of Gaines Group Architects #InternationalWomensDay

Celebrate the women of Gaines Group Architects #InternationalWomensDay

On #InternationalWomensDay we highlight the women of Gaines Group Architects! Adrienne, Deborah, Carla, Mariya, and Asha are all integral team members that bring diversity, skill, and knowledge to each and every project we work on in the office. We appreciate them every day, but especially today on International Women’s Day we take the opportunity to celebrate them and all of the knowledge and skills that they bring to Gaines Group and the community.

Adrienne Stronge

Adrienne is a partner in the Charlottesville office, leads our multi-family project division and is our go-to for ADA compliance questions. She balances being a mom, wife, and small business owner with taking care of our clients on some of biggest scope projects.

Deborah has one of the hardest tasks in the firm, she works directly with Charles. She is a partner in Harrisonburg and runs the Harrisonburg office. She has become the go-to for building code compliance questions in our office and is often the one that is tasked with “finishing” the projects that Charles starts. She is a dog mom, a business school graduate from EMU, and a active volunteer with the Harrisonburg Women’s Service League

Carla Gaines

Carla has been with the firm the longest of all the women in our team and does all the behind the scenes finance work, running the accounting department single handed. She is active in her church community and balances being a wife and mom to her two children.

Mariya is a new designer for our team and is learning our processes and standards. She works with Deborah and Adrienne on a variety of projects while balancing her volunteer efforts at her church.

Asha is our newest addition to the team joining us as our Harrisonburg office manager and marketing team leader. She recently graduated from EMU, is balancing between two part-time jobs, and spends her free time creating art and caring for her plants.