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.
Stephanie is currently the Instructional Coach at Travelers Rest High School and formerly taught English at Berea High School. She is currently working on a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at Mercer University. Her love of people and travel and culture led her to become a board member of My Neighbor’s Voice in August 2018. She grew up just outside of Detroit, MI, and now takes advantage of the beauty of Greenville to explore with friends and her dog, Rosie. She is also a member of Emmanuel Bible Church in Mauldin.
Gracen attends Bob Jones University and is pursuing a degree in International Studies. She grew up on her family’s produce farm found just north of Travelers Rest, SC. She is a member on the Bob Jones’ women’s basketball team and in her free time enjoys reading, watching movies, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. She is also a member of Marietta First Baptist Church in Marietta, SC.
Involved in education throughout her career, Jane Thomas earned degrees in English from Winthrop College and Florida State University. She taught English, French and History in high schools in South Carolina, Texas and North Carolina. After coming with her family to Greenville in 1985, she served as the Director of Educational Services/Newspaper in Education at the Greenville News-Piedmont. In that capacity she was in direct contact with dozens of teachers and students throughout the Upstate, and served also as the newspaper’s liaison with the Greenville Literacy Association as a member of GLA’s Board of Directors. In 1998 she joined the Greenville Literacy administrative staff as Program Director, and assumed the role of Executive Director in 2000, helping advance the agency to a national ranking in the top 3% of Adult Literacy Programs. In 2013, the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Services honored her with their annual Adult Literacy award for going “above and beyond in the quest to eliminate illiteracy.” During her tenure at GLA Jane oversaw the expansion of literacy programs to six learning centers across Greenville County. She was instrumental also in establishing GLA’s sound financial footing through a number of development events, including the Corporate Spelling Bee, A Novel Event, and the Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale, which has become a Greenville institution.
Since her retirement in 2013 Jane continues to serve as a volunteer with the Greenville Public Schools and with Greenville Literacy. She is an active and founding member of The Tuesday Book Club in the Carillion community. She and her husband Bill divide their time between their homes in Greenville and in Celo, NC; they enjoy traveling, gardening, cooking and spending time with family and friends and with their children and grandson, Will.
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