Situated alongside almost 800 acres that are part of property that Virginia Tech owns in Patrick County, the Reynolds Homestead in Critz, Virginia, is miles away from any town.

Staff at the Reynolds Homestead provide cultural and educational experiences to the residents of Patrick County and surrounding areas. Their job has been made easier with the addition of a 15-passenger bus funded by a $50,000 donation from long-time patrons Ray and Nancy Dietz, of Martinsville, Virginia.

Trips with a cultural theme had once been a staple of programming at the Reynolds Homestead, but charter buses for the excursions were expensive. With the Reynolds Homestead required to generate part of its operating costs, owning a small bus allows the center to bring back those activities while charging rates patrons can afford.

“We were looking for a good opportunity,” said Julie Walters Steele, director of the Reynolds Homestead, "something people had expressed interest in and that could also be a profit center for us.”

Paid bus excursions in the past year have included day trips to nearby locales, such as Staunton and Richmond, as well as overnight stays in Oak Island, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina. The trips serve a wide demographic, drawing participants from across the region.

The Reynolds Homestead, working with Patrick County, also set up college campus tours for local high school students. On average, the bus travels to one campus a month and, in conjunction with Virginia Tech’s College Access Collaborative, will expand services to Henry County in the coming year.

The free tours serve students who may not otherwise have the resources to visit college campuses.

“A lot of our students are going to be first-generation college students,” Steele said. “Their parents are working parents who don’t have a lot of flexibility in being able to take leave."

As a result, many students accepted to college had never set foot on a college campus.

The bus changes that with destinations tailored to the interests of the students. Tours have included four-year colleges, such as Virginia Tech, James Madison University, and Lynchburg College, as well as two-year community colleges and technical schools.

The Reynolds Homestead is part of Outreach and International Affairs. The boyhood home of R.J. Reynolds of tobacco fame is featured in an eight-minute video tour

Written by Melissa McKeown

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