Plowshare Peace Center is a grassroots organization focused on working for peace and justice for all beings. We serve Southwest Virginia and link with groups in Virginia and across the nation.We work together to facilitate awareness, and to reach out to other groups who share our vision. Whether you’re ready to lend a hand at one of our activities, have photos or articles to share, want to contribute financially or with ideas we welcome you! Call 989-0393 .
Plowshare Peace Center is a diverse representation of people working at the grassroots level, where change can and must come for all people. It serves Southwest Virginia and networks with groups throughout Virginia and across the nation. Roanoke was the first area in Virginia to form a peace center, expanding in its creative efforts to promote social justice, peace through reconciliation, and non-violence as a way of life.
The Peace Center began in 1973 as an Ecumenical Peace Fellowship; people gathered from local churches who were dissatisfied with the lack of concern that most of their community felt about the Vietnam War. After our withdrawal from Vietnam, the group successfully initiated positive discussion and action between community members and the Roanoke City Council focused on the arms race. It was just this positive interaction with one another in the community that helped the center expand its possibilities.
By 1979 the center had incorporated as Plowshare Peace Center; our educational resource center with information on hunger, justice, environment, community living, simple lifestyles, disarmament, government policies and statistics, economics, military service and its alternatives, Third World updates…..
The wide range of resources available to the community has been made possible by individual contributions, dedicated volunteers and strong direction. The first part-time coordinator was Pete Herby, who had just completed a year of peace studies in England. His work was followed by Rodney and Emily Click, Church of the Brethern volunteers, until Jim and Melva Jimerson were hired. Melva was also working for Church Women United, and Jim was serving as secretary to the Institute for Security and Cooperation in Outer Space (ISCOS). Jack and Marianne Miller tirelessly co-cordinated the center through the Eighties, with the help of a terrific steering commitee with members including Bob and Susie Fetter, Tom Nasta and Herb Beskar. The Millers designed and organized the continuing peace vigils downtown, and the beautiful Hiroshima and Nagasaki annual Candle Floats down the Roanoke River.
Plowshare worked to help form other social special interest groups, such as the local chapter of Amnesty International, Southwest Virginians to Abolish the Death Penalty, Southern Africa and Central America Working Groups, and the Quest for Peace, which sent humanitarian aid to the people of Nicaragua in May, 1987. If course, there are many concerns that the community could help with. It is your voice we continue to work with and love to hear. The Peace Center works with and evolves for the people, and we as community members are the energy behind its movement—the hammer falling. Plowshare supports your concerns and welcomes your requests and, ideas and help. During the eightiest the center was open five days a week at 125 West Kirk Avenue. downtown. The public was welcome to visit our library and reading room to help in your own personal search for peace. Poetry Slams and Conflict Resolution practices were held, and the first Local Colors was on Kirk Ave. below our offices.
Since that fifteenth anniversary celebration, Plowshare has gone on hammering!
In the years after the anniversary celebration, Plowshare continued to work on Central America issues and for the anti-nuclear weapons campaign. In 1990 we organized peace actions during the Persian Gulf War and later to help the people of Iraq. In 2003 we sponsored peace events during the Iraq War. And meanwhile a broad range of activities was happening: death penalty vigils, marches, forums (the Middle East, feminism, the draft), discussions, festivals (Peace Wave), films, education (the Center library), lobbying, tabling, readings, concerts, speakers (Brian Wilson, Mitch Snyder, Pastors for Peace, Helen Prejean), workshops (Healing Racism, Alternatives to Violence, Conflict Resolution), union support (the Pittston Coal Strike) and protests. We also networked with other peace centers in Virginia through the annual Peace Summit. (The projects and the actions taken for those projects are actually too numerous to list in detail. This is only a representation). In 1996 we got our first computer. The Kirk Avenue office was moved to Grandin Road in 1996, and it was closed in 2005.
Directors and Office Coordinators subsequent to the Millers included Pat Pratali, Jack Payden-Travers, Polly Branch, Ricardo Valdivieso, Lucy Lee, Beth Wellington, Anne Meador, Willow Dees, Carrie Traub and Gary Sandman.
Recently Plowshare has been organizing silent peace vigils against the Iraq War; issue and skills workshops; New River Free Press distribution; carpooling to distant demonstrations; speakers and forums; and death penalty vigils. We have put together a pledge drive to stabilize our finances. An email list goes to about 400 people; a quarterly newsletter is mailed to about 900 people; and a website has been established. We send volunteers to speak to groups interested in peace. We are taking on interns and seeking grants. We are looking at lobbying, counter-recruitment and other projects. Bring us your ideas and energy for new projects.
Plowshare Peace Center is now the oldest continuous peace group in Virginia. So please join us as we continue to hammer swords into plowshares!
We now share an office space for meetings in Grandin Gardens, 1719 Grandin Rd. Roanoke, near the Raliegh Court post office.
Last edit and update by Polly Branch, Feb 8, 2012
Plowshare Peace Center
PO Box 4367, Roanoke VA 24015