In the Community: Kids Choir with Mariya

We’re so proud to have such involved people at Gaines Group Architects who are committed to giving their time to the community. This week we highlight Mariya Chesnov. Mariya is a designer on our team that previously attended Massanutten Technical Center (MTC). You can learn more about MTC here.

Outside of her designer role, Mariya helps to lead the kids choir program at First Russian Baptist Church in weekly practices and services on special holidays and celebrations, like Christmas and Easter. Below, Mariya answers a few questions about her involvement with kids choir.

Kids stand in a line in the front of church and one holds a mic to sing. Other kids sit in pews behind.
Kids sing at First Russian Baptist Church

How did you first start helping with kids choir?

I started doing kids choir back in 2021 after I got baptized. I’ve always loved serving so I wanted to have a new way to serve the Lord. I love kids and singing so that was one of my top options.

What do you do specifically?

Specifically, I do the poems and verses for the choir. When we participate in church I basically give each child a small poem to learn to say in church.

Can you tell me a little bit more about what it’s like to work with the kids?

It can be stressful and challenging with 50 kids at times but I am so happy I joined because I get to serve the Lord with some of my closest friends with a passion that we have in common. There are many other ways to serve but to me children are so pure and wholesome. It is a beautiful reminder to me that the Lord wants us to be like them, trusting, humble, and forgiving.

Thank you Mariya for your time, energy, and gifts that you share with the kids in our community.

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!

Massanutten Technical Center (MTC) Housing Auction

Each year the talented students at Massanutten Technical Center (MTC) (  have an opportunity to build a house. This is a wonderful way to learn all that it takes to put together a home. Massanutten Technical Center not only provides excellent hands-on education but gives students real-world experience at the same time.

Charles Hendricks has served on the MTC Foundation ( for a number of years and has had the opportunity to work in many ways to support the school. He loves that MTC brings so many resources to local students that want to learn a trade before going out into a career or continuing on at a University. This past summer he returned to teach in the architectural camp for middle school students. The quality of education provided at MTC makes our community better as these students have hands-on experiences that they will use for a lifetime. Charles says “I am always blown away by the quality of teachers and their passion for the students. Of course, the administration at MTC is also top-notch!”

The house this year will be sold through sealed bids. Gaines Group Architects is proud to have designed the current version of home they have been building now for a few years. It has an efficient and open floorplan, 3 bedrooms, and 2 baths. There is an optional stair for a full basement or that space could become a closet if your lot demands a crawl space.

If you are in the market for a new house, take a look at this project. The quality will be exceptional and the purchase of the house itself supports the students for years to come.

The biggest competition in the architectural profession is “no design.”

The architectural industry is an interesting one (and the only one I really know, so probably not unlike any others) in that as architects we compete for a very small pool of projects against each other, but we all rely on each other to promote the industry as a whole. The biggest competition for an architect is “no design” and boy does that happen a lot! Many don’t know what we (architects) do, don’t understand our value, or simply think they cannot afford to hire an architect.


I spend a lot of time promoting the idea of design. I know it brings me opportunities, because my clients have told me they want good design. I know it benefits our industry because it brings awareness to the idea of design and therefore it helps other architects. It is important to me that everyone understand the value added to having good design for the built environment as it impacts our community, our daily life, and our future. Here are some folks in our industry that are doing way more than I could ever do and having a tremendous impact on our world.

Studio MM promotes good design by promoting other architects. Marica posts a different architect’s work on her social media pages every week showing off design that she loves that is done by others. This is an incredibly generous gift to give that other architect, but also a wonderful way to share her love of design with her potential clients.


I am forever grateful to Cherise Schacter for her constant and overwhelming support of our industry on social media. Cherise is an incredible person / professional / Kraken that tirelessly promotes excellence in the design industry. I am not sure how she manages to keep up with all of the relationships she has built on SM and in person, but she does it with passion. Her work to promote the design industry is helping us all.


Joshua Lloyd works hard to teach others about sustainable residential design. This is a huge help to those of us focused on green design. First his work helps me know better the right solutions for my clients and second he is promoting a similar message so potential clients hear it from multiple sources. I have heard from many other design firms that don’t believe SM is important for our industry, I think Joshua is showing that it is very important.


Bob Borson created a series that is geared to show what we do as architects. The #ArchiTalks series includes some of the best architectural thinkers of our time! I know I have learned from these posts and it is certainly promoting our industry in a positive manner. Bob specifically brings the profession down to a human scale by showing the life of an architect from Christmas lists, to moving into a new office, to helping the next generation understand the industry.His approach to outreach is informal, fun, and inviting. This is how you promote an industry in a positive manner.


A team approach leads to successful construction projects.

Buildings are more complicated now than they have ever been in history. Your home is the most complex and interconnected machine that you own. In order to achieve a high performance home (healthy, energy-efficient, and durable) you need a team working together towards a common goal.

 So, is there really friction between the architect and builder as presented in this article?

harrisonburg homepage

An Architect is trained to plan and design buildings, and oversees their construction. At least that is what architects used to do before giving up many of their duties in the process to other experts.  At one time the Architect was the Master Builder that handled everything including structural design, aesthetics, function, and construction. Today the modern iteration of the architect is often relegated to code compliance and aesthetic solutions. In general, I don’t believe this is a bad thing for the client, although I would add building science, product selection, indoor air quality, and function of the space to the architect’s role.

yoga studio design

Again, Buildings are more complicated now than they have ever been in history. It takes an integrated team to pull all the pieces together in a comprehensive, comfortable, user-friendly, efficient, and functional whole. We often work with builders during the design process that can consult on best practices, costs, schedule, and material availability in order to produce the best design solution for a client. In turn, the builder often prefers the architect be involved during construction to keep an eye on design intent and code compliance issues. While I would love to be the Master Builder again, I don’t think it is possible to deliver the highest possible quality solution to a client without having experts on the team from both the design and execution side of the process. Creating a balanced approach such as this and having a team mentality will eliminate tension and lead to successful projects. As our friends at BuilderFish always remind us: “planning from a collaborative approach saves money and time as all the primary players know and understand the process. This eliminates excuses like “I wish I had known.” Good planning on the front end with the entire team more than pays for itself and makes the construction process glide smoothly instead of bumping along.”