Hope, Encouragement, and Cheerful Thoughts From The Sadlers

You might have noticed a sign with refreshing messages on it when you drive through Old Trail, more precisely, Rowcross Street. These words come from Mike and Ellen Sadler, a couple striving to convey cheerfulness, particularly in these trying times. Mike met Ellen when he was five years old, with Ellen being two years old, and have now been married for 45 years. Mike and Ellen hold degrees from VCU and the University of Richmond, respectively, and both hold master degrees from UVA. Mike was CEO of Jefferson Area Builders (now known as Charlottesville Area Builders), and Ellen has been an elementary teacher throughout the area and still teaches locally. When this pandemic first placed its feet down, our Governor closed schools for two weeks, starting on March 13th. As the cases grew and spread, he quickly prolonged the closure through June. This unique situation prompted Ellen to do what she does in her classroom: encourage, nurture, and teach.

With her being quite accustomed to chalkboards and whiteboards, a large whiteboard used for family games became the delivery method for daily messages of hope, encouragement, and positive thoughts.

At first, she felt embarrassed, fearful that the messages might come across as intrusive or "self-righteous". The messages turned out to be a success and got people talking about it all across the neighborhood. There's a new message put on the board nearly every day, for they have only repeated messages twice. For two days, they invited passers-by to use chalk and write down what they were thankful for, and the second time was Oct. 4 and 5 as we celebrated the 200th day of "the board".

So, how does Ellen and Mike split up the work? Ellen does the messaging and writing, and Mike holds the title of "Chairman of the Board" because he carries it in and out of the house each day and night. They have tried to stay anonymous by carefully slipping in and out of the house unseen since they didn't want any attention or praise for their efforts; they just wanted to share hope and joy. To stray away from sided messaging, they've avoided politics, "preaching," and judging on their sign. Back when the Sadlers first started this inspirational message board, Ellen also put out a "children's corner" every day. This corner included a children's book and a stuffed animal or toys arranged in a vignette to go with the story. The heat damaged the books, so, sadly, that had to come to an end. As long as COVID-19 influences life in so many unusual ways, they will continue to put out daily messages.

"We want to thank the many kind neighbors who have left flowers, books, and notes thanking us for our efforts. Even if only one person is encouraged by a message on any given day, we have fulfilled the "mission" of the board."