My Neighbor’s Voice is an organization which facilitates hospitable gatherings where neighbors share a simple meal and listen to each other’s stories and perspectives. In order to achieve the richest experience, the model is designed to welcome community members with a broad spectrum of viewpoints.
My Neighbor’s Voice™ was started by two friends, Victoria Chance and Mary Anne Inglis, both South Carolinians who together recognized that the way to bridging our political challenges and conflicts in our communities and in our nation was by creating an atmosphere of deep and generous hospitality for the purpose of listening to one another speak about our civic concerns. For Victoria and Mary Anne, My Neighbor’s Voice™ is a concrete and productive way to effect positive change. By offering opportunities for all interested members of our community to share a meal and a moment together, they have repeatedly demonstrated our capacity to discover many shared ideals and expectations for our civic life. It’s that discovery that brings hope and inspires confidence in our American democracy.
Interestingly, My Neighbor’s Voice™ is not designed to educate, or to change minds, though these can certainly happen; rather it is designed to bring us together in order to just be heard, to speak of our thoughts and experiences about how best to live together in this world so that we can begin to move more intentionally and respectfully in that direction.
Victoria Chance is a former high school English teacher in Travelers Rest, South Carolina. She taught in the public system for 27 years. She graduated from Furman University and has a Master’s degree in Contemplative Education from Naropa University. She is a board member of Greenville’s Interfaith Forum and a member of St James Episcopal Church. Her husband Bob is an Art professor at Furman University. She has two children Cody Chance and Anna Chance Friddle and two grandchildren, Olivia and Savannah James.
Mary Anne Inglis currently teaches English as a Second Language at Michelin’s French Bilingual School in Greenville, SC. Previously, she managed her husband’s political campaigns for SC-4 Congressional District. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in International Relations. She is a member of St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church and a board member of Happy Hooves Therapeutic Equestrian Center. Her husband is Executive Director of RepublicEN, a non-profit whose goal is to educate and encourage Republicans about free enterprise solutions to climate change. Together, they have five children, Robert, Mary Ashton, McCullough, Andrews and Meade.
Kristen Marakoff is an English teacher at Travelers Rest High School. She attended her first My Neighbor’s Voice dinner in the spring of 2017, and was excited by the changes she saw in the guests’ beliefs simply through respectful conversation and listening. Kristen is now a moderator for My Neighbor’s Voice, and serves as board member and secretary for the My Neighbor’s Voice Board.
Samuel Lyons is retired from the Federal Government after serving in the US Air Force and working in Human Resources in the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Interior and the United States Railroad Retirement Board. He grew up in Abbeville County, SC and went on to graduate from South Carolina State University with continuing education at George Washington University, the University of Georgia and the Federal Executive Institute in Denver, Colorado. Upon retiring in 1993, he has traveled extensively both in the US and abroad and has been an active volunteer in serving the underprivileged in the communities he has lived in from Louisiana to South Carolina.
Greg Valente is an entrepreneur and small business owner in Greenville, South Carolina. Originally from New Haven, Connecticut, he graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and later received a Master of Computer Science degree from Clemson University. He’s a former employee of GE Aircraft Engines and GE Gas Turbines, and an expert in the field of turbine metrology. His wife Diana, a native of Bogota, Colombia, is a ceramic sculptor, cultural agent and mentor to Latino artists. Greg has a keen interest in politics and enjoys discussing and debating political issues, but always in deference to and in consideration of others’ ideas and opinions.
We at My Neighbor’s Voice join multitudes of others grieving the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists and neo-Nazis showed the utmost of hatred towards their fellow Americans in their violent protests of the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue which ended in tragedy.
We would also like to hold out hope that what we are doing in My Neighbor’s Voice is offering a better way for us to communicate with those we don’t agree with along ideological lines. Around our tables, we find common purpose even if common solutions are elusive. In bringing people together to listen to one another’s views, we are breaking down barriers of distrust and disrespect. We are actively building community that is vibrant because it builds on respect for one another using a sustainable model. Our model involves bringing 10-12 people together to go through 4 rounds of questions related to our civic life together. As we answer the questions, we listen to one another without the opportunity to respond in rebuttal. Over and over we have seen people come to a greater understanding of their neighbor’s views. It is this kind of understanding that would keep them from ever participating in violence like we saw in Charlottesville. Please take this opportunity to join in one of our dinners and see how we can build stronger communities, by building each other up, not tearing each other down, either physically or verbally. We look forward to seeing you at table.
Mary Anne Inglis