Home / Blog

News from the Community: Resident-Driven South Richmond Initiative Takes Shape

There’s a new local initiative that hopes to strengthen the Southside of Richmond with the input and direction of its residents. RVA Thrives is a project focusing on developing community-rooted initiatives and solutions along the Jeff Davis Corridor with the help of neighbors, nonprofits, funders, and local elected officials.

Recognizing a gap in resources and a need for community driven action, Altria, Robins Foundation, the Community Foundation, Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, and The Bob & Anna Lou Schaberg Fund at VNHC pooled collaborative funds to get RVA Thrives off the ground.

Last summer, community advocates led a robust Community Listening Process and prioritized three key issues – 1) Job Access 2) Neighborhood Beautification and 3) Neighborhood Safety. These three areas were then turned into working groups comprised of the cross-sector collaborators mentioned above. The working groups are currently researching and narrowing each issue into actionable and invest-able project proposals. They will continue to seek input and feedback from residents and stakeholders through community events and surveys.

In a recent press release, organizers said they want the Route 1 Corridor to “be a place where people come to raise their families, to work, to start a business, and to enjoy being part of the community. We want it to be a place where people come to shop, eat, and play. We are working diligently to be a place inclusively on the rise and to lead the way in redevelopment that does not push people out, but rather incorporates the wisdom, passion, energy, and leadership of neighbors already along the corridor.”

On Saturday, April 21, RVA Thrives is leading Corridor “Clean Up Day” from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., followed by lunch. At lunch, information will be shared about how to take further steps toward the beautification and thriving of the corridor and its surrounding neighborhoods. There will be door prizes and a free raffle at lunch for all who participate in the cleanup event!

If you are interested in signing up to help on April 21st, please go to www.thrivingcitiesgroup.com/rva-events.

Read more →

 

ConnectVA Spotlight: Sarah Hale, Executive Director, Urban Hope

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Sarah Hale, and I am the Executive Director of Urban Hope. For most of my career, I was in residential interior design. What I loved most about that work was the ability to improve the everyday lives of families through effective design, and it left me longing for a deeper, broader impact. We all understand the power of home, for better or for worse, and I came to Urban Hope with the intent of helping our city improve the prospects of home for those who need better.

What is the focus of your work?

Urban Hope exists to make home a cornerstone of opportunity. When someone comes into the Urban Hope family, we want it to be the beginning of a positive trajectory that will improve all areas of their life; we focus on housing, as it has such a profound effect on all areas of life, including health, education, and employment.

It is our aim that clients who come to us receive inspiring, solid financial instruction, and are given the support they need to improve their financial picture. For those who are financially ready, we provide safe, affordable, high quality housing in the East End.

The real estate market in the East End is challenging right now for those who need lower rent or are looking to purchase a home on a modest income. To address this, Urban Hope aims to secure and maintain as much affordable rental housing in the East End as possible, so that existing residents, especially long-time residents, are not forced to leave the neighborhood. We also have a homeownership option for those of our clients who are able to purchase a house, and we operate on a lease-to-purchase arrangement.

Urban Hope occupies a special niche in that we serve mostly families and individuals who make 50% or less – often much less – than the area median income. This is a challenging bracket in which to work; often folks who are at this income level are one flat tire away from devastating financial setback. It is our intent that with education, mentorship, and encouragement, more people will be able to improve their financial situation and achieve housing stability.

The year is ending soon! Will you help us close the gap?Visit www.urban-hope.org/donors/give-now/ to make a donation today!Help Urban Hope finish 2016 strong for all the right reasons– bringing shalom to our city!

Posted by Urban Hope on Wednesday, December 28, 2016

ABOVE: A video about Urban Hope’s mission to “bring families home”

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

The most rewarding thing about our work is the knowledge that what we do all day, every day, is very tangibly helping to improve the lives of our clients, as well as the future of this neighborhood, and by extension, our city. We envision a thriving community where everyone can feel at home; when we are securing affordable housing that will stay affordable, we are working toward that vision.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how have you handled them?

Well, as I mentioned, the real estate market is truly a challenge – and one of our biggest. We always have our ear to the ground to discover houses that will be solid properties for our portfolio, but real estate investors are making that increasingly challenging. For example, properties that might have been affordable at auction often now sell for well over what we feel is prudent to spend, as they must be purchased virtually sight-unseen. Speculators with deep pockets can and do pay top prices, and often hold on to abandoned properties without improving them, in hopes that their investments will appreciate. Instead, these properties sit untouched, and blight remains.

As mentioned in this 2017 article by Bob Adams and Laura Lafayette, the General Assembly has cleared the way for Virginia to create land banks. It is our hope, along with the authors’, that the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust will become the home of Richmond’s land bank, providing a better avenue for Urban Hope and other affordable housing nonprofits to acquire properties and develop them for the good of the city.

One great thing is that we have had properties donated to us, which is a huge blessing, and a great way to make a big impact, for those who are able. We continue to scout for properties that will make good homes, properties that are in solid shape and worthy of our hard work.

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

Something that is special about Urban Hope that I think might surprise people is that we are almost entirely privately funded; our model is impact investing, whereby investors place their money with Urban Hope for a modest return. At the end of their agreement with Urban Hope, their original investment is returned to them, or reinvested for more creation of affordable housing.

This is a great way for investors to make a huge impact and get a return, all at the same time. It’s a double bottom line, and people do well by doing good!

Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

Urban Hope offers engaging and informative financial instruction; our Money Smart classes are held monthly and are proving to be a very practical and effective help for those who attend faithfully. As part of this initiative, we have financial mentors who volunteer to help our clients work through their finances.

We also are planning our next round of acquisitions and renovations, which we hope will begin soon. This summer, we will be raising funds that will go, in part, toward lowering the renovation cost of our newest house, which will then lower the rent when it is complete.

This summer, we will be creating the Elevate Fund, which will help our tenants when they have challenges meeting their rent. Instead of resorting to payday loans, title loans, or other costly methods sometimes used to borrow money, tenants will be able to borrow from this fund at a modest 5% return, and as they repay that debt, they will be repairing their credit, and keeping a roof over their heads at the same time.

ABOVE: A recent video by ABC 8 News on Urban Hope’s Director of Housing and Family Services, Carolyn Lofton.

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Urban Hope is a member of RCDA (Richmond Community Development Alliance). We also are a member of the housing action team with Richmond Promise Neighborhoods, and we collaborate with the city’s Office of Community Wealth Building in the focus area of housing. We participated in the city’s 2017 Housing Summit and will continue to collaborate as invited. Urban Hope collaborates with the Neighborhood Resource Center for financial and job counseling. In addition, some of our clients receive down payment grants from HOME (Housing Opportunities Made Equal). We partner with Entrust Financial Credit Union to help facilitate our financial counseling. We participate in Transformation in Action, a group dedicated to the betterment of the commercial corridor on 25th Street. One of our staffers sits on the board of the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust, and we also participate in The Gathering (a group of local organizations founded on Christian principles), and BlessRVA (a group of local ministry leaders focused on effective collaboration for the City of Richmond).

Additionally, we have been awarded a sizable grant from the City of Richmond’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and we are looking forward to putting those funds to good use in our next round of renovations.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

We use ConnectVA to seek collaborations and resources we believe would help our clients and our mission. It makes us deeply hopeful that with increased connections and improvements in communication and collaboration, we can make some real, tangible progress in addressing the challenges faced by the citizens of our great city.

Anything else you would like to share?

It is my hope that we can find many more people who would like to engage with the challenges of affordable housing. Urban Hope has many ways to engage; check out our website to see all the options http://www.urban-hope.org! That said, we are one of several terrific organizations working on affordable housing in Richmond, and we are happy to be counted among these hard-working folks. Thanks for reading!

Read more →

 

ConnectVA Spotlight: Beth Roach, James River Association

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Beth Roach, and I’m the Grants Manager for the James River Association, the only nonprofit solely dedicated to protecting the James River watershed from the headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay. My conservation career began back in 2004 with Virginia State Parks; over the course of 7 years, I served as volunteer, seasonal interpreter, conservation intern, park ranger, chief ranger, and environmental programs manager. After my park work, I gained skills in exhibit design, volunteer management, and most recently, nonprofit accounting and administration. I am an enrolled member of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of VA and serve on the Tribal Council. As a Councilwoman, I’m a storyteller and I manage environmental programs. Recently, I was elected Vice Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice. I have a degree in History with a concentration in Public History from James Madison University.

What is the focus of your work?

I write and manage grants that support our core programs: Advocacy, Community Conservation, Education, Riverkeeper, and Watershed Restoration. The James River Association was founded in 1976 by a group of citizens who were gravely concerned about the health of the James River. Years leading up to ‘76, Kepone was being dumped in the river in Hopewell. This resulted in the James River being shut down to fishing for 13 years. In addition to the Kepone, poor stormwater management, sewage treatment, and farming practices also led to the degradation of the James River. Fast forward to 2018, the James River is regarded as one of the most resilient rivers in the nation. The 2017 State of the James report rated the health as a B-, which shows strong gains in fish and wildlife populations, habitat restoration, pollution reductions, and protection and restoration actions. While there is much to be celebrated, we know there is still much to do regarding sediment pollution, stormwater runoff, toxic floodwaters, and eroding shorelines. Our work addresses problems facing the James from the top down and the bottom up! We work with legislators, students, teachers, families, government officials, other nonprofits, and citizen volunteers.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I was raised along the shores of the Lower James River and spent most of my childhood swimming in the brackish water downstream from Hopewell. The James River was still closed to fishing when I was born. That ban lasted throughout my childhood and undoubtedly influenced the direction of my life’s work. I’m proud to now be a part of an amazing team of dedicated stewards of the river. Over the course of 4 years, I have helped to raise over $3 million dollars of restricted funding to support our work. That equates to thousands of trees planted, over 20,000 students educated, millions of dollars in stormwater funding protected, and hundreds of volunteer projects implemented!

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?

As any fundraising professional knows, maintaining consistent funding is a challenge as the philanthropic landscape constantly changes. Staying on top of trends can be tricky. One avenue that has helped me is working with the Central Virginia Chapter of the Grant Professionals Association. We meet quarterly to share best practices and just support each other. While our realms are quite different, we often all face the same external and internal challenges. I now serve on the board of directors for the chapter as co-chair of programs. This allows me to identify areas in which I need help. Most of the time – we all need the same boost of training!

 

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

Ultimately, I want people to realize how amazing the James River is. How it’s more than our drinking water, it’s also a source of renewal and resilience. A lot of people think the river is unsafe for recreation. After a heavy rain, there may be cause for concern, but most of the time it is ok. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we post weekly water quality monitoring reports to help folks track how the water is by location. Check it out! www.JamesRiverWatch.org

Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

We do! This spring we are destined to plant over 3,500 trees to restore riparian buffers. That is by far more than we have ever planted in one season before. This is part of a 3-year grant with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. We also just launched a 3-year grant with NOAA Bay Watershed Education Training Program to work with all 5,100 sixth graders in the City of Richmond. We hope to hear soon about a green infrastructure program that will involve 5 libraries in the City of Richmond. Last year, we kicked off our Paint Out Pollution initiative, which involves implementing storm drain murals with native fish and fauna. Keep an eye out for more of those popping up around the Richmond Region!

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Partnerships are critical to our success. We work closely with the Capital Region Collaborative to lead the James River Work Group. We work with all school districts in the Greater Richmond Region. We have a strong relationship with the National Park Service and recently acquired a tract of land near Turkey Island Creek to connect with the Cap to Cap Trail. We recently opened up an outfitter service in the Upper James and we also just opened a new facility on the Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg/James City County. We also work with the James River Park System, James River Outdoor Coalition, James River Advisory Council, Middle James Roundtable and so many more.

 

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

For us to understand what needs exist, JRA has to keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening throughout the region. This site allows us to see what our partners are up to as well as what is happening in our communities. Also, ConnectVA is a great way for us to share meeting announcements for the Grant Professional Association.

Anything else you would like to share?

Please connect with us through one of our many programs! Either join us for a paddle on the James, become a River Hero Home, volunteer for our RiverRat program, or join and become a member – there are so many ways to help the James River.

Read more →

 

ConnectVA Spotlight: Verenda Cobbs, Program Director, Communities In Schools of Richmond (CIS)

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Verenda Cobbs and I serve as the Program Director for High Schools and Performance Learning Centers for Communities In Schools of Richmond (CIS). I hold a master’s in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University and have been in the human services field in some capacity since graduating from high school.

While at VCU I completed an internship at CIS that began my understanding of the impact of poverty on children and how outside issues (hunger, homelessness, lack of nutritional meals, etc.) can become barriers to learning when at school. I later completed internships at Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Richmond Public Schools, and the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls. Each of these experiences provided a different perspective on the effects of poverty on children.

As I case-managed and worked with students I realized that resilience and having a strong support system in place played a significant role in their success. After graduation, I worked in both the mental health field and in community development for other nonprofit organizations.  Each of these opportunities helped prepare and lead me back to CIS.

I have been working with Communities In Schools of Richmond for four years – starting as a school Site Coordinator at John Marshall High School and transitioning to my current role in 2016. Without a shadow of a doubt I would say that I am now at my dream job!

What is the focus of your work?

Communities in Schools of Richmond (CIS) works in 39 K-12 public schools in Richmond and Henrico. Our goal is to support students by assessing student needs and establishing relationships with local businesses, social service agencies, health care providers, and parent and volunteer organizations to provide needed resources.

CIS focuses on five things that we feel every student needs to thrive:

  1.     Safe place to learn and grow
  2.     One-on-one relationship with a caring adult
  3.     Healthy start and a healthy future
  4.     Marketable skill to use upon graduation
  5.     Chance to give back to peers and community

Through a school-based site coordinator, CIS strategically aligns and delivers needed resources so that students can focus on learning. In this pivotal role, the CIS Site Coordinator works with school staff to identify students at risk of not graduating. They assess school and student needs and harnesses the external resources necessary to make a difference in the life of a child.

Verenda with Ms. Chapman & Ms. James – CIS Site Coordinators at Highland Springs High School

The CIS mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Site coordinators often start by meeting basic needs such as food and school supplies. Soon, because they are dependable, consistent and positive, the CIS team begins to build relationships that will open opportunities to meet the more intensive needs of individual students.

CIS implements this model at every site – elementary, middle and high school – to ensure that students are connected to these basic needs so that they can succeed.  We’ve found that building a support network for students who lack resources is an undeniable piece of the puzzle that leads to strong student engagement and on-time graduation. But CIS does not work alone. During the last school year, there were more than 350 partners supporting Richmond and Henrico students and more than 1,200 volunteers who shared time with K-12 students. Together we were able to serve as a network of support to help students keep the doors of opportunity open. We are a link to positive relationships, mentors, emergency resources, community engagement and healthy activities for more than 18,000 students and families in Richmond and Henrico County.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

As a Program Director, the most rewarding part of my work is seeing my staff grow and develop. I have an absolutely amazing team of human service professionals that I get to champion every day!  I work with staff to develop data driven and evidence-based interventions and help them grow in their role as site coordinators.

We work together as a team to identify the challenges and issues their students are facing in school, at home, and in their community. By identifying these challenges, staff can engage in individual case-management and provide tiered levels of intervention and support to their student population. Each of the high school and Performance Learning Center staff has developed a unique vision for their school, which results in a stronger program and increased student engagement throughout the school year.

As an organization, I can say that the most rewarding part of our work is helping students succeed.  Success often starts with small steps –  a high five and smile in the hallway, attending school every day for a week, choosing to walk away from a negative situation instead of engaging –  and sometimes success looks like those last few steps across a stage at graduation, getting into a first-choice college, or having a game plan for after high school. Not many people have the honor and privilege of clearly seeing how their role at work changes lives. At CIS we help students succeed – to stay on track at school and make it to graduation – and helping students succeed is hands-down the most rewarding part of any job at CIS.

 

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?

I struggled like many of our students. Growing up in a single-parent home, I worked part-time through high school while balancing obligations of being the oldest of my siblings. I struggled academically during my transition to high school, experienced bullying, and had some challenges socially and emotionally. My high school experience was very difficult – and after failing out of the nursing technical education program that served my high school I was left with no plan for graduation. With the help of my guidance counselor and one of my friends, I was able to apply late to college and start in the spring instead of in the fall.  Had it not been for their guidance and interest in seeing me succeed, I don’t know where I would be now. This support system helped me through the financial aid process and connected me with resources to succeed in college – with their help I became the first person in my family to graduate from a four-year college. These experiences have helped me have a frame of reference as I work with both students and my team.

Sadly, my story is not unique. There are so many students in our region that need similar support.  At CIS we always need job mentoring/job shadowing experiences, career readiness enrichment, and training on financial planning, building healthy relationships, and mindfulness. At the high school level, it is common for parent engagement to decrease while mentoring, and enrichment programs are less available, thus requiring CIS staff to be creative in strategically creating programs that serve the needs of our students.

Site coordinators have developed mentoring programs and small groups that include interventions related to trauma-informed care and mindfulness, service learning, as well as parent engagement, resiliency, healthy relationships, and career-readiness. They do a phenomenal job implementing enrichment field trips, college tours and guest speakers to help the students on their caseload learn skills to help them prepare for graduation and success outside of school.

 

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

Although we have a variety of roles in our organization we all can work closely together to serve the needs of our students, families, our schools, and our community. Many of our staff serve on Citywide initiatives to support the larger community in areas of trauma informed care, mental health, workforce development, housing access and other areas of health/wellness.

Through our collaboration in these various initiatives we can work side by side with many other community organizations to support our students, not just at the school level but also at the community level. I think it is fair to say that for most CIS staff our role is not only a job, but an extension of our life’s work. We are engaged, excited, and enriched to provide for the students that we serve. Communities In Schools staff are passionate about the work and have extensive training to ensure that we are utilizing current evidence based interventions to serve our students.

Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

Each year we have the opportunity to take 300 students from area middle and high schools downtown to the General Assembly Building and the Supreme Court of Virginia for Rule of Law Day.  Students can learn about the three branches of government and discuss unique challenges in how they affect their generation with lawmakers. This is a program that our students look forward to every year.

Students serve as Justices during their Mock Trial at Supreme Court of Virginia

 

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

At CIS of Richmond we are thankful to partner with over 350 organizations throughout the Greater Richmond area. Our work would not be as robust without the support of these organizations and other area nonprofits. Together we are supporting over 18,000 students a year with mentors, lunch buddies, weekend food bags, grief counseling, reading partners, mindfulness moments — and more!

How are you leveraging ConnectVA and Community Foundation to achieve your mission?

The Community Foundation has been a long-time supporter of CIS of Richmond. We are so appreciative of this partnership that allows us to continue to support K-12 students who are at the greatest risk of dropping out.

ConnectVA has provided a wonderful resource to CIS. We post open positions through the ConnectVA website, share events through the site, and often check out the classifieds to see if any extra items might work for our CIS school sites.

 

Anything else you would like to share?

Here’s an inspirational video highlighting a George Wythe Highschool student, Alfredo and his CIS Coordinator Angela.

Read more →

 

Help Somebody Spotlight: Kris Folgner, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond

How does Kris demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?  Kris serves as one of our House Volunteers at RMHC Richmond. Our House Volunteers help with the day to day tasks to keep our house operations running smoothly for up to 9 families to stay per night who have a child receiving medical treatment in Richmond. For the past 2 years, Kris has dedicated 3 hours every Wednesday to RMHC Richmond which has totaled in over 220 hours.

Read more →

 

A Local Platform for Thanks and Recognition

This April will mark the fifth year The Spark Mill and HandsOn Greater Richmond, a program of the Community Foundation, have partnered together to host the “Power of Good” – a celebration for National Volunteer Week to honor community members who are making positive change in the region.

The event page says, “As believers that nonprofits can and do change the world, and that volunteers are essential to making that happen, this is our platform of thanks. We want to recognize all those in the region and are asking nonprofits, faith communities, schools, friends, and family to submit the people they know who power good.”

 

Recognize Your Volunteers

The recognition element of the Power of Good is simple and straight-forward.  Just fill in the online form with the person’s information (and yours) and in 20 words or less, explain why they “power good in Greater Richmond”.   It can be a volunteer, a neighbor, a colleague, a family member or friend and you can submit as many names as you want, by April 9th.

The Power of Good form asks you to recognize a volunteer in 20 words or less.

The person will be notified of the recognition and invited to a celebration later in the month (more details below).  An interactive map on the website shows “where all the good work is being done in our region” – a new element added this year that plots out the various organizations where volunteers have been recognized.

Get Helpful Resources

On the Power of Good website there are recognition resources, ideas and tools for nonprofits to use during April’s National Volunteer Month/Week and throughout the year.  You can download a “thank you” postcard to send out, watch recognition webinars and learn about other national award opportunities.  There is also a place for nonprofits to publicize their own local volunteer recognition event, award, or campaigns to the rest of the community.

You can download “thank you” postcards to send to volunteers in the resource collection for National Volunteer month.

Celebrate the Power of Good

On Tuesday, April 17th, from 5:30-8:30pm, the organizers are hosting a free community celebration at Blue Bee Cider in Scott’s Addition. The event will be a chance to learn about the great work being done by Richmonders and the impact of volunteers across the region.  There will be a visual recognition of all the volunteers and everyone is invited to meet up with honorees, community organizations, and neighbors for food, cider, and fun. Honorees and those who submitted them will get a special treat at the event.  The Power of Good celebration event is family friendly and an open-house, drop in format. Tickets are required and can be reserved here:  https://powerofgoodcelebration2018.eventbrite.com.

The 2017 Power of Good celebration where 250 volunteers from 150 organizations were recognized on a wall display.

Read more →

 

ConnectVA Spotlight: Julie Adams-Buchanan, Executive Director, The Shepherd’s Center of Richmond (TSCOR)

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Julie Adams-Buchanan and I am the Executive Director at The Shepherd’s Center of Richmond (TSCOR).  I have been at TSCOR over 10 years and have been its director for almost four of those years.  I was the Coordinator of Client Services previously, overseeing transportation and other assistance provided by volunteers to seniors in Richmond.  I have a B.S. in Sociology/Anthropology and M.S. in Sociology from VCU.  I obtained a Certification in Volunteer Administration (CVA) in 2013, solidifying my belief in the immense importance of contributions made by volunteers.

What is the focus of your work?

The Shepherd’s Center is dedicated to encouraging the older population to remain active and independent through enrichment programs and volunteer services to their peers.  Those programs and services include lifelong learning; transportation to medical appointments and grocery stores; handyman assistance with small, but necessary, household repairs; and group travel on both one-day and overnight trips.

We advocate positive aging, recognizing that older adults have a lot of experience and wisdom to offer their communities and that giving back is enriching and rewarding as well.  TSCOR’s mission addresses the social issues of inadequate transportation, food insecurity, and isolation, as well as the need for meaningful social interaction and intellectual challenge through volunteer service, educational programs, and organized tours.

TSCOR provides free services, offered by volunteers, to seniors in our community who, for a variety of reasons, cannot provide those services for themselves.  The most important services TSCOR provides are handyman (or woman) assistance and transportation to those who are 60 and older.  Handy individuals assist seniors with minor home repairs, like changing a light bulb or a washer in the kitchen sink – tasks that have become a challenge.

Transportation, by far, is our most requested and most-needed service.  We provide door-to-door transportation to medical appointments, grocery stores, and food pantries. These rides are given by volunteers who use their own cars with no reimbursement – pretty amazing individuals! TSCOR is one of three remaining organizations still utilizing volunteer drivers to provide free transportation to seniors in the Richmond area (and our service areas do not overlap).  Last year, TSCOR volunteers provided 1,264 round trip, rides to seniors.

I never knew how much of an issue transportation was, especially for seniors, until I began working at the Center. The ability to drive is equivalent to independence. Losing independence is a leading fear as people age. For various reasons, older people can lose this independence. Our volunteers help empower these individuals by giving them the control and freedom to secure their own transportation without feeling like a burden to family and friends.

It’s more than just rides. For many of our clients, a trip to the doctor is the only time they get out of their homes and interact with others. We become friends with them and some consider us family. We are their touchstone, their friendly ear, their sound board. Sometimes they just need a kind word; to know that someone cares about what they have to say. Volunteers often report that the one-on-one companionship and support throughout the trip is just as important to clients as the medical appointment itself . . . and important to drivers, as well.  Our volunteers often tell me that they get more out of the experience than what they give.  As one driver said, “It’s an awesome feeling helping others and you make new friends too.”

The Shepherd’s Center seeks to offer opportunities to get older adults involved, keep them active, and eliminate social isolation.  Our lifelong learning program, OPEN UNIVERSITY, offers just that with classes and lectures each fall, winter, and spring.  The courses and lectures are geared to those who are 50 and older and are taught by well-qualified volunteers, including both current and retired faculty from area colleges and universities.  The subjects range from yoga to opera, languages to literature, history to understanding the stock market.  In addition, each class day includes a luncheon speaker, a local celebrity who presents a talk on a topic of special interest.  The average attendance for each three-month term is 275.

It is the best bargain for lifelong learning in the Richmond area and if I didn’t have to work, I would be there the whole time!  It is like college without the papers and tests.  You can just take it all in and enjoy.  It is equally enjoyable for our volunteer instructors who get to do what they love to do – teach!  They get to share their knowledge with people who really want to learn and they also have no papers to grade or tests to prepare.

We also offer group trips, 2-3 times a year, organized by our Travel Committee.  These trips are available to TSCOR members and friends at a minimal cost.  In recent years these single-day and multi-day excursions have included trips to New York City to see Broadway shows, Washington to visit Arena Stage and Wolf Trap, Baltimore to see the National Aquarium, Southwest Virginia for a trip down the Crooked Road to explore its musical heritage, and Norfolk to tour the U.S. Naval Base.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I love working with our volunteers. They assist in all aspects of programs and services, helping our clients, teaching our students, running our organization and generally sharing their incredible talents.  TSCOR wouldn’t be here without all of them.  Their experience guides and forms the work we do every day, and I am continually bowled over by their dedication and generosity.  When I talk to a client who says she doesn’t know what she would do without our drivers, or a student who was enthralled with a lecture, or a traveler who has had an experience of a lifetime, I am so proud and honored to be a part of this organization.  The Shepherd’s Center model is unique with such a wide variety of opportunities to join in, to learn, and help make Richmond a more caring community for older adults.  I am a people person, and the people at The Shepherd’s Center are the kind of people you want to be around.  I have learned so much from all of them and am excited about our future together.

I feel strongly about respecting, empowering and caring for our older Americans and I think we can do better.  Through the mission of TSCOR, I am able to do a bit more to contribute to that goal and at the end of the day, that is a good feeling.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?

We will be celebrating our 35th anniversary in March of 2019 and there are still so many people in Richmond that do not know who we are.  It is such a gem of an organization and it has been, and continues to be, my goal to change that.  A variation of this challenge is that if people do know about us, it is either the Open University or the transportation service that they are familiar with – rarely is it both.  And travel is often a surprise, let alone all the volunteer opportunities. So if you are reading this right now, please help us out and tell someone about us today!

I would be remiss not to mention our constant need for more volunteer drivers. The Age Wave has arrived, with Baby Boomers turning 65 every year and we have seen its impact in the steady increase of the number of requests and new clients we acquire each year.  We need to keep up with the demand by recruiting a comparable amount of new volunteers.  We have a project in progress to increase the visibility of this need and hope to not only sustain our transportation service, but grow it, in order to serve more individuals in metro Richmond.

 

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

The Shepherd’s Center is not a place or a building, nor a “senior center,” nor a religious organization.  I like to call it a “Center Without Walls.”  We meet at various locations around the city, and our participants are anything but old – a perfect example of the saying, 60 is the new 40.

But the biggest misconception is that we are a religious organization.  This is primarily because of our name (Shepherd’s), although we try to discourage that connection by using sheep in much of our media (AND we have a huge collection scattered all around the office!)  TSCOR could be called multi-denominational to the point of being non-denominational.  It is not affiliated with any particular religious organization.  We do partner with all faiths in the Richmond community, and know that we have the capability to leverage the efforts of congregations and work together to do what cannot always be done separately.

This misconception is perpetuated because our courses and lectures are held in a Lutheran, a Presbyterian and a Catholic church.  Here’s something that people don’t think about, but churches typically have large buildings with classroom space that is empty during the week, so we help them put it to good use!  It’s a win-win situation.

 Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Lunch and Life, presented in partnership with St. Mary Catholic Church, is a free four-week lecture series on Wednesdays, open to the public and offered at the beginning of each Open University session.  No TSCOR membership or Open University tuition is required.  Attendees are asked to bring their sandwiches and enjoy snacks, desserts, and beverages provided by the church.  Recent lecturers have included Dr. Edward Ayers, President Emeritus, University of Richmond; Ed Slipek, Architectural Historian; John Bernier, Chief Meteorologist at WRIC TV-8; Curtis Monk, President and CEO of Commonwealth Public Broadcasting; Bill Lohmann, author and Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist; and Ray McAllister, author and former editor of Boomer Magazine.

Anything else you would like to share?

TSCOR is an affiliate of a national network of almost 60 Shepherd’s Centers, all of which are offshoots of Shepherd’s Centers of America, founded in 1972 by the Reverend Elbert C. Cole in Kansas City, Missouri, who realized that older adults need meaning and purpose throughout their mature years.  Shepherd’s Centers all have a commonly understood mission: to empower older adults to use their wisdom and skills for the good of their communities.

TSCOR is the first of eight Shepherd’s Centers in Virginia.  Our Center helped mentor the Centers in Chesterfield and Oakton-Vienna, and the latter mentored five more Centers in Northern Virginia. Those planning, providing, and participating in the services of that first Shepherd’s Center were older people themselves.  That continues to be an important feature of all Shepherd’s Centers: older people helping older people.

Read more →

 

Effective Communication at Your Nonprofit and Learning About Your Style

We caught up with George Milton, Principal of Targeted Performance Group, to learn more about the course he’s instructing at the Community Foundation later this month.  George is leading “What’s My Communication Style?” – a day-long nonprofit management training where participants will undergo a personal communication style assessment and then dive-deep into related topics like, delivering a message, conflicts, written communication and more and is a “is a powerful centerpiece for management development and interpersonal skills training.”
Here’s some insight he gave us on the course, effectively communicating at your nonprofit and learning more about your personal communication style:

Why is it important to know and understand what your communication style is?

Effective communication is the very lifeblood of any organization. If communication is not clear and persuasive between managers and employees, and employees and customers, then other vital goals are forever out of reach.  Say goodbye to your aspirations for successful leadership, teamwork, customer service, or even the ability to execute a coherent business strategy.

 Tell us a little bit about each communication style in the assessment.

If you want to bring about meaningful improvements in communication skills, the best way to begin is to build a better understanding of personal communication styles and their effects on other people. What’s My Communication Style? is a training assessment that identifies an individual’s dominant communication style – Direct, Spirited, Considerate, or Systematic – and the communication behaviors that distinguish it.

What generally surprises someone when learning more about their communication style?

Participants are generally not ‘surprised’ to learn of their style –  but appreciate now being able to name their style.  They are typically more ‘surprised’ at how quickly they can pick up on the communication style of others and then leverage this new knowledge to build relationships and accomplish goals.

Why should someone take this course?

A nonprofit professional should take this course If they have any challenges around communication, especially in the workplace, want to learn more about understanding others and being understood, want to learn best practices for gaining consensus, etc.

Register for What’s My Communication Style? on March 28th from 9am to 4pm at the Community Foundation by signing in and visiting the “Learning Center” on ConnectVA!

Read more →

 

ConnectVA Spotlight: Monica Callahan, Director of Workforce Programs, ChamberRVA

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Monica Callahan I am the Director of Workforce Programs at ChamberRVA. I have been in this role since September 2017. Prior to moving over to the Chamber, I most recently served as the Director of Outreach and Development for Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond an LLC of ChamberRVA that focuses on the earliest end of the workforce pipeline, children 0-5.  Prior to that, I was the Community Engagement Director for Richmond 2015, the organization responsible for the 2015 UCI Road World Cycling Championships.

 

What is the focus of your work?

Workforce Development is essential to economic prosperity and growth of the community and is of great interest to businesses in the region and to businesses looking to move into the region. Workforce Development is also the pathway to economic vitality and sustainability.

ChamberRVA has taken the initiative to look at the workforce supply in the region vs. the demand that will be needed over the next 10 years. The Chamber is uniquely situated to lead this effort to improve the talent pipeline and advocacy because we are the only local business membership organization devoted to the success of the entire region.

FutureRVA is a dedicated fund managed by ChamberRVA that will 1) lead to a more robust local talent pipeline, 2) enhance our ability to attract talent, 3) foster regional sustainability, and 4) improve our quality of life.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I am extremely excited to be at the helm of this very important work in our region. I am researching future workforce demands and using that data and information to create a case that we can use to help drive education to ensure that all children are workforce ready.

I have learned so much in such a short period of time from our FutureRVA investors about where they see their future workforce needs and more specifically, the shortages in skills and qualifications that will be needed in order for them to compete in the global marketplace.

As a native Richmonder, I know that RVA is a great place to live, work and play. I am excited to be a part of this initiative that will help to ensure that all students in this region will have a quality education that will give them the tools to be workplace ready which will ultimately lead to a rich quality of life for us all.

 

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

ChamberRVA is not just a membership organization that hosts local networking events. We partner with companies to understand their needs when it comes to growth and development then build out robust programming to act as an extension of their HR department. We focus on developing the future leaders of Richmond through self-awareness, leadership and influence at all stages of their careers. As a small, but mighty, team of 12 full-time employees, we manage over 20 development programs and 4 signature events that bring public and private sectors together to build a thriving regional community.

 

Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

The work of FutureRVA is off to a great start. The skills gap analysis is well underway. I am looking at data and meeting with industry cluster groups comprised of our FutureRVA investors. I am looking at supply versus demand, future growth in industries and occupation groups and the skills and credentialing that will be needed to fill those demand occupations.

ChamberRVA is pleased to be taking a delegation of supporters to Nashville this spring to learn more about the Academies of Nashville and how their chamber has worked with education and business to change their approach to high school to prepare their students for the workforce. In addition, we will publish our inaugural bi-annual FutureRVA report this spring that will show our findings so far and set the stage for what’s next in our 3-year process.

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

ChamberRVA is all about collaborations and partnerships; we could not do what we do to support one city, one town and seven counties without collaborations. The work of FutureRVA will have me working very closely with business leaders, superintendents and school boards, community colleges, local and state government, and economic development professionals to assess the workforce needs in the region.

How are you leveraging the Community Foundation to achieve your mission?

The Community Foundation is a supporter of FutureRVA. Their support of ChamberRVA is helping to further the organization’s over-all mission of building a thriving regional community. We appreciate the Community Foundation’s support of this work.

 

Do you know someone whose nonprofit work should be featured on ConnectVA?  Send us a suggestions at admin@connectva.org!

Read more →

 

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Gets a Refreshed Brand

PLANTING THE SEED

In summer of 2016, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was presented with an opportunity. The Garden was embarking on master site planning, working with 3North charting the course for future development of the Garden.

Part of the master site planning process was to assemble internal and external stakeholders for research about visions of what the Garden could be for the community. Participants represented a range of diverse groups, including staff and volunteers, community leaders, even fourth-graders! Some had close relationships to the Garden, others may have never or rarely visited.

Part of 3North’s process was an activity called an IQ Charrette. A charrette is a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to map solutions; the “IQ” stands for intangible qualities. Part of the exercise was for participants to choose colors, fonts and other visuals to express themselves. At the end of the day, the Garden had 3-pronged vision to be a Garden of:

1) Timeliness: A Garden of All Ages
2) Community: A Garden for Cultivating Community
3) Awakening: Mind, Spirit, Body

Stakeholders participating in IQ Charette to decide on which font would best represent the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden brand.

IDEAS TAKE ROOT

At the same time, the Garden’s ad agency Elevation had been suggesting a brand refresh. In its 30+ year history, the Garden had never had a brand platform. The Garden only had a logo featuring the Conservatory and a one-pager with guidance on fonts and color.

The Conservatory logo was designed by Elevation in 2003 when the Conservatory opened. Since that time, the Conservatory has become a focal point and one of the most recognized landmarks in the Richmond Region. It is tied to the development of the Garden and its consistent ranking among the top 10 public gardens in the U.S.

However, the Garden of today is much different than that of 2003, for instance the addition of a Children’s Garden and a growing involvement in community gardening.

It was time for a refresh.

Executive Director Shane Tippett agreed; however, his direction was to keep the Conservatory logo. Elevation concurred, citing the value of the brand equity already built into the logo.

Then something remarkable happened. The Garden, 3North and Elevation met to discuss the IQ Charrette results. Clearly what the Garden is today and what the community wants the Garden to be in the future has changed since 2003. The results of the IQ Charrette were the basis for a brand refresh for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Community Leaders, Volunteers, Staff and even 4th Graders participate in the IQ Charette process.

 

A FRESH LOOK EMERGES

Elevation went to work. Principals Aaron Dotson and Frank Gilliam presented the challenge and Art Director Scott Vadas and Account Manager Sydney Stoddard led the project.

Elevation created approximately 50 different concepts based on the research, then narrowed it down to half a dozen. Then they invited Tippett and others from the Garden to Elevation’s offices and put the 6 concepts on the wall. Each concept was considered and discussed at length.

Perhaps the most dramatic departure was the suggestion to not have a logo, but to use a wordmark of the Garden’s name instead. There were strong reasons for this, both philosophical and practical. Principal Frank Gillam, principal and creative director at Elevation said, “We wanted to complement the natural beauty of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden — which is integral to a visitor’s experience. We also wanted to make sure our brand was appealing to current and future patrons. This resulted in the creation of a contemporary logotype and a set of watercolor icons that represent flowers, seasons and events you will find at Lewis Ginter throughout the year. ”

The logo featuring the Conservatory that originated in 2003.

The Conservatory is certainly a centerpiece building that has helped make the growth of the Garden possible. At the same time, this growth has made the Conservatory part of a bigger whole. The Conservatory logo of 2003 emphasized one building; now there are opportunities to show the many facets of the Garden using a natural and organic feel. In addition, the Conservatory is almost always featured as the Garden’s hero shot anyway; this “two Conservatories” approach using it in the logo and a photo was redundant.

From a practical standpoint, the media landscape is more competitive and crowded than ever before. The Garden needed its name to stand out on everything from billboards to digital ads on smartphones. The wordmark allows the Garden’s name to be read.

Elevation created a watermark in combination with watercolor illustrations to represent the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden brand.

 

A BRAND BLOOMS

The Garden chose a graphic direction supported by the IQ Charrette feedback; a look that was colorful and natural, appealing to all ages, and most of all, welcoming.

As part of the brand platform, Elevation included illustrations that can be used in combination with the wordmark, depending on what and how the Garden is trying to communicate. This “toolkit” approach provides incredible flexibility and brings a freshness and variety to all Garden materials. A 44-page Brand Standards document helps the Garden maintain the consistency of the brand. This consistency is extremely important in today’s business world, yet it is not something many nonprofits have.

A refreshed look for the LGBG website.

Recognizing the Garden does not have the resources to do an immediate change-over to the brand refresh, it will be implemented throughout 2018 as opportunities occur and materials need to be replaced. The Garden now has new nametags and business cards reflecting the brand refresh and it will blossom as the centerpiece for the spring advertising campaign for A Million Blooms starting March 31.

 

This article was shared by Beth Monroe, Public Relations & Marketing Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  Does your nonprofit have a best practice or story to share?  Email us at admin@connectva.org and let us know!

Read more →