May Membership Meeting: A Focus on Gun Violence Awareness, Prevention, and Action

As next month is Gun Violence Awareness Month across our nation, and as gun violence is ever-increasingly in our daily headlines, in our neighborhoods, and for far, far too many for too long, in our and our loved ones’ lives, RVDW is humbled and honored to welcome three distinguished guest speakers for our May 26th Monthly Membership Meeting: Dr. Catherine Koebel Stromberg, Ms. Rita Joyce, and Vice-Mayor Joe Cobb to address gun violence and gun violence awareness. (Read more about speakers below.)

This year, the 9th annual Gun Violence Awareness Day will be recognized here and across the country on June 2. In anticipation and preparation for this and other activities and activism of the next several weeks, we hope you will join us on Friday, May 26th. Each of our guests will share their experiences and expertise in gun violence and gun violence prevention and bring us information on how and where to get involved during June and beyond. A sampling of upcoming events to support and amplify includes June 2-4, WEAR ORANGE: Roanoke Gun Violence Awareness Weekend, 2023 Annual Community Prayer Breakfast, and June 24, Groceries Not Guns – 2023 Buyback Event.

Meeting details: Friday, May 26 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

@Jersey Lily’s Roadhouse, 1650 Braeburn Dr., Ridgewood Farms Shopping Center, Salem, VA. Our program begins at 12:OO noon followed by the business meeting. Please arrive at 11:30 if you are ordering lunch.

Our May Guest Speakers

Dr. Catherine Koebel Stromberg. Catherine is the daughter of Nancy, a public school teacher, and Ted, a professor of urban planning at Virginia Tech. She was born in Louisville, KY and grew up in Blacksburg, VA. She is a graduate of Blacksburg High School and the College of William and Mary.

In 2007 she earned her doctorate in Immunology from Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), showing how the immune system recognizes and controls cancer cells. In 2008 Catherine returned to Virginia with her husband, Paul Stromberg, MD. Catherine and Paul later returned to southwestern Virginia, settling in Roanoke in 2013.

In response to the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, Catherine dedicated herself to improving Virginia gun laws, leading numerous lobbying trips in Richmond and pressuring politicians to stop catering to the gun industry. Catherine’s decades-long effort to change gun laws bore fruit in 2020, with the implementation of universal background checks and a gun violence restraining order, laws barring those under domestic violence restraining orders from gun possession, and laws allowing localities to ban guns from public buildings and parks and participate in gun buybacks.

Once gun buybacks were legalized, Catherine partnered with the Roanoke Branch NAACP, the Roanoke City Gun Violence Prevention Commission, the Roanoke Quaker Meeting, and the Roanoke Police Department to create Groceries Not Guns. Groceries Not Guns was the first gun buyback in Virginia since buybacks were legalized and has been the model other localities in Virginia have followed.

In addition, Catherine helped write and implement the Locked Guns Save Kids Family Safety Pledge, wherein Roanoke City school parents and guardians pledge to lock up guns and drugs of abuse to keep them inaccessible to curious children and impulsive teenagers.

When Catherine is not fighting the deadly lies and propaganda of the gun industry, she is cheering on her kids, Colin and Carolyn Stromberg.

Contact Catherine:

Rita Joyce. Rita is the current President and a founding member of FedUp (Families Expecting Deliverance Using Prayer). FedUp was formed in 2005 by a group of women who had experienced the loss of a loved one to gun violence. “We found ourselves in a position where we had no one to talk to who understood what we were going through,” explains Rita. “Our stories were all similar and we knew that we had formed a common bond.”

Rita Joyce

Rita lost her son Joey to gun violence in 2004 at the age of 24. By far the worst day of her life. Rita found herself helpless and burdened with the fact that she was burying her son, survived by four young children who were suddenly without their dad.

Rita’s loss had a purpose behind it. Instead of grieving internally, she decided to go to the funeral of another young man, a man whose mother she knew. Rita reached out to her to share her story and to talk about how they, both Grandmothers, were now caregivers to the children left behind. It was at that point that each realized they were not alone. They began reaching out to other families who were experiencing the same type of sudden loss.

Thus, FedUp was formed. “For years,” reflects Rita, “six women have met with families to share our stories and to provide the resources to help them through such a hurtful time.”

Forming this grassroots organization saved Rita. Sharing her story over and over helped get her through her grief and realize her purpose: to be a help to others.

“It is not the purpose I hoped for my life but God’s will.”

Contact Rita:

Vice Mayor Joe Cobb. Rev. Joe Cobb believes that our greatest calling as human beings is to love one another by honoring and celebrating what makes us unique and by discovering what we can create together. This calling both inspires and informs his devotion to public service in Roanoke city, the region, and around the world.

Joe is the Vice Mayor and a member of the Roanoke City Council (elected 2018 and re-elected in 2022). He also served as Vice Mayor from 2018 – 2020. He is Chaplain at Hermitage Roanoke, a senior living community in Northwest Roanoke.

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Joe has been a resident of Roanoke, Virginia, since 2001 where he lives with his husband, James, and their two children, Ginny and JJ, both students at James Madison Middle School. Their family also includes daughter, Emma (Connor) Gwin, and son, Taylor. Joe has two grandchildren, Harper Jane and William Brindley Gwin.

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