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Help Somebody Spotlight: Marta Lefleor, The McShin Foundation

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in RVA.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members who are making a positive difference.

This month, we are recognizing an avid volunteer and board member at The McShin Foundation – Marta Lefleor.  The McShin Foundation is a recovery resource foundation whose mission is to deliver a message of hope to individuals with a Substance Use Disorder and to facilitate their journey to a healthier life.

Development Director, Alden Gregory shared Marta’s story and said, “I nominated Marta because of the love and empathy she has for the recovery community. She is a dedicated board member and volunteers weekly to spend time with our participants and share her story. She inspires me, personally, because I know how deeply she cares for all the staff, participants, and families of McShin. She is a living example of passion, selflessness, and gratitude. We love her!”

Marta and McShin alum Michael Quinn at the Houses for Hope fundraiser, a capital campaign started by Marta.

How does Marta demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Marta Lefleor is selfless, caring, tenacious, giving, and a fearless advocate for people with Substance Use Disorders. After losing her daughter, Brenna, to an overdose, Marta got involved with The McShin Foundation. Not only does she serve on our Board of Directors, but she spearheads our Philanthropy Committee, started our first capital campaign, advocates to our congressmen, volunteers at nearly every event and takes time out of her schedule each week to spend quality time with our participants.

Her tremendous outpouring of love spills out into our community. She has touched the lives of countless program participants who are just starting their recovery journey. Her patience and understanding allows them to open up and feel comforted. She shares her passions and interests with them, like crocheting, and teaches them new skills with each visit. She also shares stories of Brenna, her daughter. Because the loss of her daughter is what led Marta to McShin, Marta allows Brenna’s spirit to drive her involvement.

Marta and some of McShin’s program participants with the finished product from their quilting lesson.

Although working so closely with people with Substance Use Disorders can be challenging at times, Marta continues to push forward and refuses to see anything but hope and positivity in each life she comes across. She doesn’t let her own problems affect how she interacts and gives back. This attitude is contagious, and Marta’s presence puts a smile on the faces of our participants and staff each time she enters the recovery center. Marta has used the pain of her grief and loss of her daughter to provide hope and support for every single person she touches. This gift is irreplaceable, and truly saves lives.


What is the impact of Marta’s generosity? 

Marta’s generous giving of her time and energy has not only made a difference in the lives of participants at an individual level, but her dedication has allowed us to expand our organization. Through the capital campaign she started, Houses for Hope, and the scholarship fund started in Brenna’s name, Marta has allowed McShin to provide financial assistance and safe, comfortable environments for people to begin their recovery journeys. Marta truly makes a difference in the lives of others every day and the legacy of her love for this community and her love for her daughter will be her legacy.

Cynthia May and Marta volunteering at McShin’s Annual Bluegrass Festival and Brunswick Stew.

After leading one of her fist crocheting groups one Friday afternoon, Marta shared the following message: “I am so very blessed to have McShin. You all saved my life, truly. I had no willingness to continue living after Brenna died. She led me to McShin and is making a difference.” However, we see ourselves being blessed by Marta’s belonging to the McShin community rather than the other way around. She is a light of selflessness and growth when we need it the most and we are so grateful for everything she does for us.

Debbie Rosenbaum and Marta Lefleor at McShin’s 4th of July cookout.



About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

Read more →


Community Foundation Announces 2018 Community Impact Grants

The Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, together with its donors, is pleased to announce Community Impact grant awards for 2018, totaling $2.83 million to 78 organizations across the region. Community Impact grants support local nonprofits whose strategies and outcomes align with the Foundation’s four focus areas: community vibrancyeconomic prosperityeducational success, and health and wellness. Over the past year, the Foundation has adopted funding priorities in education, housing, and workforce development initiatives that will increase access and opportunity for low-income residents in Richmond.

A significant number of grants were awarded in the City of Richmond, where economic challenges tend to be the highest, with a focus on the East End, Northside and Southside (including the Jefferson Davis Corridor) neighborhoods. Ten grants were also awarded in the Petersburg area, primarily in education. The awards support nonprofit partners who are focused on high quality programming, systems, and advocacy and policy.

Community Vibrancy

Grants awarded in this category aim to ensure that community members enjoy good quality of life, with access to and an appreciation for the arts, cultural opportunities, and natural assets.

Arts and Culture

Art 180 – $25,000
To create and deliver innovative arts-based programs to youth in challenging circumstances.

Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia – $30,000
To execute and expand Hands on History, the BHMVA’s ongoing mission of providing invaluable opportunities to experience history and culture.

CultureWorks – $40,000
To support CultureWorks service and leadership for the Richmond and Tri-Cities region. (second year of a three-year grant)

Richmond Performing Arts Alliance – $25,000
To transform and expand Early Literacy Learning through the Arts programs to additional Pre-K classrooms.

Richmond Symphony – $20,000
To fund community-led Big Tent festivals and programming.

SPARC – $20,000
To support operating costs of SPARC’s outreach programs.

The Valentine – $30,000
To provide free access to interactive Richmond history programs in partnership with RPS and CIS.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Foundation – $20,000
To expand and diversify its presence in the community through its Family and Community Outreach programs.

Virginia Repertory Theatre – $20,000
To support operations of the model access program.

Community Building

Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers – $50,000
To advocate for equity-based transportation infrastructure through the development of safe and accessible places for people to bike and walk in greater Richmond.

Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities – $25,000
To fund inclusion and equity workshops, retreats, and assemblies for students, educators, business leaders, law enforcement, elected officials, and citizens.

Natural Resources

Capital Trees – $15,000
To restore and enhance Richmond’s urban green spaces and to support agency infrastructure.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden – $30,000
To support a corps of community volunteers trained to lead urban greening initiatives in their own neighborhoods.

Maymont Foundation – $30,000
To support operations and Immersive STEM Summer Camp pilot in partnership with Peter Paul Development Center.

Economic Prosperity

Grants awarded in this category aim to ensure that the region’s resources are sustainable, and its residents are economically stable and secure.

Adult Workforce Development

Children’s Home Society of Virginia – $20,000
To support the Possibilities Project, a collaborative program providing youth who age out of foster care with housing and life skills.

Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, Inc. – $40,000
To support planning for GCCVA to lead a consortium of partners to improve workforce development services for challenging populations.

RVA Rapid Transit – $20,000
To advance the work of educating, organizing, and advocating for regional public transportation.

The READ Center – $20,000
To support adult literacy programs that include reading, writing, math and digital skills to at least 250 adults in our community.

Homelessness Reduction

CARITAS –  $40,000
To support case management staff in the CARITAS shelter.

HomeAgain – $20,000
To support general operations of emergency shelters, bridge housing for veterans, rapid rehousing, and permanent and supportive housing.

Homeward – $50,000
To support Homeward’s collaborative work with over 30 public and nonprofit homeless service providers of the greater Richmond Continuum of Care and the development of strategic cross-sector partnerships (second year of a three-year grant).

Housing Families First – $40,000
To support strategic plan implementation and operation of Hilliard House and Building Neighbors.

St. Joseph’s Villa – $40,000
To support general operations of the Flagler Housing and Homeless Services Program, and educational and mental health services.

Virginia Supportive Housing – $40,000
To help our community end homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing services to ensure formerly homeless individuals remain stably housed.

Neighborhood Development

HumanKind – $40,000
To support individuals as they build their financial well-being through employment, financial and benefits coaching or through facilitation of a fair-interest vehicle loan.

Neighborhood Resource Center – $40,000
To serve 460 individuals through NRC Works and Case Management, Out-of-School-Time, gardening, and food programs.

Sacred Heart Center – $40,000
To support the general operating costs of the Sacred Heart Center, in providing educational and human service programs to adults, children, youth, and families.

Thriving Cities Group – $40,000
To further develop the RVA Thrives steering committee and the development of collaborative, community-rooted projects on the Jefferson Davis Corridor.

Virginia Local Initiatives Support Corporation – $20,000
To implementation neighborhood revitalization strategies in Highland Park.

Safe and Affordable Housing

Better Housing Coalition – $40,000
To support BHC’s operations as they address the affordable housing shortage in our community and work to empower their 2,100 residents.

Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia – $75,000
To provide mobility counseling to deconcentrate poverty, integrate schools, and reduce barriers that prevent Housing Choice Voucher holders from living in neighborhoods of opportunity.

Project:HOMES  – $40,000
To support the Immediate Response Fund that quickly addresses hazardous living conditions of low-income families.

Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity – $40,000
To revitalize 12 homes acquired from RRHA in the Maymont/Randolph neighborhood into safe, affordable, mixed-income housing for local individuals and families.

Educational Success

Grants awarded in this category aim to ensure that young people achieve in school, engage in their community and are prepared for the workforce.

College/Career Readiness

FutureRVA – $50,000
To support FutureRVA’s three-year talent development and talent attraction strategies (second year of a three-year grant).

Partnership for the Future – $40,000
To support programming for low-income, college bound students.

K-12 Academic Success – In-School

Blue Sky Fund – $20,000
 To support the Explorers program to over 2,700 Richmond Public School students.

Chesterfield County Education Foundation – $25,000
To grow the operating capacity to support a growing school division.

Communities In Schools of Chesterfield – $25,000
To support expansion of programming to Meadowbrook High School.

Communities In Schools of Petersburg – $25,000
To support Integrated Student Support Program at the elementary level and develop and implement a Middle School Transition Program.

Communities In Schools of Richmond – $100,000
To support coordination services for students in RPS, including targeted services for Latino students in Southside Richmond.

Goochland Education Foundation – $25,000
To provide broadband devices for at-risk students to actively engage in learning outside the classroom.

Henrico Education Foundation – $25,000
To develop and implement trauma-informed care practices at Glen Lea Elementary School.

Junior Achievement of Central Virginia – $25,000
To provide financial literacy, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship education for 900 middle and high school students at JA Finance Park.

Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation – $25,000
To support general operations and the strategic needs of the RPS Superintendent and School Board.

 The Literacy Lab – $25,000
To support 47 rigorously-trained, full-time tutors in high-need K-3 classrooms.

VCU Foundation – $100,000
To support the Richmond Teacher Residency program and a pilot in Petersburg to create a sustainable pipeline of highly-effective teachers committed to the students of RPS and PCPS for the long term.

K-12 Academic Success – Out-of-School

 Boys & Girls Club of Metro Richmond – $50,000
To support work in out-of-school time including creating and implementing trauma-informed systems within the five clubs and four neighborhoods they serve.

Higher Achievement Program, Inc. – $25,000
To support intensive program of expanded learning, mentorship, and opportunity for underserved middle school students.

NextUp RVA – $150,000
To expand a citywide afterschool network for Richmond’s youth through a unique model that multiplies the impact of investments by eliminating fragmented, duplicated services and removing cost and transportation barriers.

Peter Paul Development Center – $50,000
To support the after-school and summer educational program that helps strengthen the academic performance of students in grades 2-12 in Richmond’s East End.

The Science Museum of Virginia Foundation – $25,000
To support the first-year programming and strategic audience development of a broad range of applied STEM skills and affiliated career pathways through project-based learning.

United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg – $50,000
To support delivery of continuous improvement process for up to 50 sites, improvement of Richmond YPQI, expansion of professional learning community to regional youth program providers, and design/delivery of advanced trainings for staff.

Virginia Excels – $15,000
To support pilot operations and programming of comprehensive advocacy training to parents and community members of Richmond Public Schools.

YMCA of Greater Richmond – $50,000
To support youth and teen programs in Richmond and Petersburg.

Kindergarten Readiness

FRIENDS Association for Children – $25,000
To support early childhood, preschool, and school-age development programs.

Greater Richmond ARC- $20,000
To support services for children with disabilities by supporting therapists’ travel to the child’s natural environment and translation costs for non-English speaking families.

Partnership for Families – $40,000
To support a comprehensive planning process for a model that ensures child/parent success in early learning.

Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond – $100,000
To provide capacity building support (second year of a three-year grant).

Smart Beginnings Southeast – $25,000
To support quality and access to the early childhood system in Petersburg through Westview Early Learning Center.

Virginia Early Childhood Foundation – $20,000
To support Richmond Area Service Alliance (RASA) and steps to bolster two-generation supports for families in concentrated poverty.

Virginia Literacy Foundation – $40,000
To support a project that helps achieve equity in kindergarten readiness, and family and health literacy among Richmond’s Southside children and families.

YWCA of Richmond – $50,000
To provide operating support to create access to opportunities, strengthen resilience, and advance equitable systems for lifelong success.


Health & Wellness

Grants awarded in this category aim to ensure that community members are healthy and safe.

Access to Primary Care

Family Lifeline – $25,000
To support early childhood development initiatives.

ChildSavers – $50,000
To support general operations and programs in outpatient children’s mental health and child development services.

Side by Side – $20,000
To support transgender youth by increasing access to mental health services.

Central Virginia Health Services – $25,000
To give access to behavioral health services for underserved areas in the Petersburg region using interns in counseling and case management.

Daily Planet Health Services – $25,000
To provide specialized trauma-informed care.

Free Clinic of Powhatan – $25,000
To support various operating expenses vital to patient care.

Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services – $25,000
To support medical, dental, and mental health services.

Pathways – $40,000
To address otherwise untreated mental health issues for youth participants. (third year of a three-year grant)

Richmond City Health District – $75,000
To empower leadership and connectivity in public housing residents and providers through a collective impact model.

Virginia League for Planned Parenthood – $25,000
To support the operations for comprehensive, high-quality primary health care.

Basic Physical Health

FeedMore – $50,000 
To support Meals on Wheels and Senior Nutrition Programs.

Shalom Farms – $25,000 
To improve the health and increase self-sufficiency of low-income communities with limited access to healthy food, resources, and supports to improve health.

Targeted Interventions

Greater Richmond SCAN – $25,000
To reduce the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), build community resilience, and reduce the prevalence of ACEs in the region.

The James House Intervention/Prevention Services – $25,000
To provide trauma informed care, safe shelter, and advocacy for children and adults in the Tri-Cities affected by sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking, and child abuse and neglect.

Virginia Home for Boys and Girls – $20,000
To support the Group Care Services program to help children heal from trauma so they can transition to foster care, adoption or biological family.

Virginia Voice – $20,000
To give individuals with vision impairments equitable access to newspapers, magazines, and live theater performances.

Total Grants                                                          $2,830,000

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The Community Foundation Launches New Brand and Renewed Purpose

The Community Foundation is excited to introduce our new brand—one that allows us to honor our past while preparing for our future. The world has changed since we were established 50 years ago. Our community is more diverse, our needs are different and our desire to give back is growing. But one thing has not changed, and that is the need for leadership to connect our community and be a catalyst for positive change.

With input from staff, board members, volunteers, donors, nonprofits and community members, this new platform allows us to proactively meet the challenges of today. With 50 years of experience and the region’s most expansive network of partners, the Community Foundation is uniquely positioned to catalyze change, address the balance of opportunity, and help our remarkable community rise to greater heights.

A new promise, “Together, we do more good,” captures our spirit of collaboration and the shared purpose running through our organization. We’ve identified three audiences with whom we hope to collaborate and serve: donors, nonprofits and community members.

To complement our renewed brand promise and audience messaging pillars is a logo with a mark that represents the ripple effect of good when we all work together.

Our new brand signifies a re-commitment to ourselves to deliver the leadership, expertise and partnership needed to do more good with, and for our community.  Read more about our 50 year history and the future of our philanthropy in this recent Richmond Times Dispatch article.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Sarah Williams, UnboundRVA

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Sarah Williams and I’m the Executive Director of UnBoundRVA.  I have a BBA and MBA from The College of William and Mary.  I grew up in Halifax, Virginia where giving back and the importance of small businesses for creating generational wealth were ingrained in me. The first business I started was at age 12 selling candy and drinks at my brother’s baseball games.

I served for six years on the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence Board- now part of the Community Foundation – with RVA superstars like Kathie Markel, Ted Chandler, Sherrie Armstrong and Kevin Allison – that set the bar high for excellence by our nonprofit sector.  My work with small business owners has been what I have loved as a banker and an investment advisor and for four years as Chairman of the Board of UnBoundRVA.

ABOVE: A video that shows the process for the UnboundRVA program – working with “high potentials” and partners

What is the focus of your work, the need you are addressing?

UnBoundRVA removes barriers such as access to capital and provides connections and access to an entrepreneurship curriculum for individuals from low income communities who aspire to become entrepreneurs.  We know through the work of the Kauffman Foundation that economic development and the vibrancy of communities is improved when small business startups are celebrated and open to all.  The entrepreneurship ecosystem in RVA includes the Main Street business owner and the entrepreneur from low income communities.  The need is to open the doors to entrepreneurship and change the community and that entrepreneur’s life and create generational wealth and thriving businesses.

UnboundRVA Class 4

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

The incredible energy and talent of the future entrepreneurs is so exciting.  A very smart friend of UnBoundRVA said that poverty creates a narrow vision of what can be.  He said UnBoundRVA expands that field of vision through education and connections that opens up possibilities.  I love seeing that process occur.

UnboundRVA’s website where you can learn more information and hire businesses they’ve supported

What would someone be surprised to know about UnboundRVA?

I think RVA would be surprised to know that UnBoundRVA, founded four years ago, has launched 12 businesses and is ready to launch Class 4 businesses in July.  The participants in the workshops connect with over 25 mentors and speakers and have over 120 hours of classroom work supported by over 100 volunteers for each class.

ABOVE: At TEDxRVA YouthIn in 2015, UnboundRVA Co-founders Sarah Mullins and Richard Luck shared how the entrepreneurship ecosystem that UnBoundRVa serves removes barriers for a path to success.

We are getting ready to recruit for Class 5.  Opportunity Lives in RVA Scholarships will kick off in July to support the participants with scholarships of up to $10,000 each to support Class 5.

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

We should be called UnBoundRVA/Partnership.  Our model works because of partnerships with over 30 nonprofits in RVA, over 100 volunteers for each class and some incredible corporate partnerships that allow us to deliver the model.  Village Bank, LeClair Ryan, Cherry Bekaert, Capital One, Big River, SunTrust and Union Bank and many more provide the critical partnerships that give our business owners access to best in class services. Capital One provides over 40 volunteers and the curriculum to teach our Strength Builder Series.

Class Four during the “Strength Builder Series” in partnership with Capital One.

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

I love the ConnectVA email update that arrives in my inbox about 4 o’clock each afternoon and the information is terrific.  I like the ability to post for new teammates and the access to individuals who give great advice and support to the nonprofit community.   The nonprofit world in RVA is thriving and vibrant…..thank you ConnectVA for your support and high standards!!

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Angela Harper, Northstar Academy

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in our RVA community.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members who are making a positive difference.

This month, we’re recognizing Angela Harper – an IEP/IAP Liaison at Northstar Academy.  Northstar Academy is a unique and highly successful non-profit school serving children in grades K-12. They promote educational excellence and career opportunities for students with disabilities who have academic, physical and social challenges.

Angela’s colleague (who asked to remain anonymous) nominated her, saying, “I nominated Angela because I thought she embodied the spirit of the Help Somebody Hall of Fame. She spends her days helping others. She works tirelessly to ensure both the nuts and bolts of special needs education as well as the creative magic of garnering individualized growth in her students.”

Here’s what else she had to say about Angela…..


How does Angela demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame?”

Here at Northstar, our students have academic, physical or social challenges. Angela works diligently to ensure our students and their families have someone to turn to when they need help. She meets with students to develop appropriate annual goals. She helps them talk through difficult problems. She encourages students to strive to be the very best version of themselves.

What really impresses me about Angela is that she has developed innovative approaches to ensure our students achieve their goals. Since our students have a wide range of disabilities, there is no one way to help students overcome their challenges. They benefit from tailored approaches.

For example, every tissue box at Northstar is decorated in conversation starter stickers because she created a game to teach one student how to have appropriate conversations. Another example is that all staff know when we go on vacations, to collect some “swag” from our hotel stay, because Angela has created a plan for another student to earn these goodies with good behavior, after she discovered he has a penchant for hotels. She has transformed her office into a cocoon full of coping strategies disguised as fun. In a prominent location, she has a photograph of another student’s pet dog, which she custom makes holiday-themed outfits, to decorate the image. This makes him smile most days, even when it is hard for him to do so.


What is the impact of Angela’s generosity?


Angela’s hard work and creativity has been instrumental in helping Northstar serve families. One parent was recently interviewed and exclaimed, “Northstar is a great new beginning for our son.” We pride ourselves on transforming lives, families and futures and we would not be able to do so without the tireless efforts of our teachers and staff.

I wish I had someone like Angela helping me through the trials and tribulations of childhood and young adulthood. I am glad that our students have Angela in their corner.


About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

Read more →


ConnectVA Spotlight: Maggie Smith, CodeVA

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Maggie Smith, and I am the Director of Children’s Programs at CodeVA. My background is in arts education and curation. My career had been focused on fine craft from involvement in the creation of the organization of Cabbage Town Clay & Glassworks, a neighborhood community art center in Atlanta to curating an exhibition of recycled jewelry from a program called The Radical Jewelry Makeover; I have always enjoyed learning and teaching about craft. CodeVA has given me the opportunity to combine my love for craft and education by providing me the challenge of creating arts integrated computer science curricula. Computer science is a craft in the sense that people are creating a “thing” that is useful for other people and enhance daily life.

What is the focus of your work, the need you are addressing?

CodeVA’s mission is to provide equitable computer science education to all students in Virginia. Through our children’s programs, we strive to provide fun and engaging activities to excite both students and parents about computer science. We offer Summer Camp, After-school, and other outreach arts integrated experiences.

A picture taken at CodeDay in May 2018. CodeDay is a student run worldwide event where student programmers, artists, musicians, actors, and everyone else can get together and build apps & games for 24 hours.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

Coming to CodeVA was quite a career switch for me. The thought of working with computer science was initially very intimidating. I quickly realized that feeling of intense “not for me,” and intimidation is a part of the educational conflict CodeVA is here to neutralize.

Using hands-on art activities to get students excited and confident in the human side of computers has been a refreshing challenge. The most rewarding part of my job is watching my staff create positive connections with kiddos from a wide variety of communities.

What are some major challenges you have faced?

As our organization has grown, my biggest challenge has been a beautiful problem to have, how to keep up with demand. This session will be our 5th year offering summer camps, and luckily the program gets better each season. I am very fortunate to have an all-star staff that has supported our growth and maintained a mission focused program.

What’s a misconception the public has about your work?

Coming into CodeVA, I had several misconceptions about computer science. I find many adults have similar misconceptions when it comes to their student’s computer science education. When speaking to parents at events I often hear two statements that indicate a disconnect between computer science education and technology in general. One is that their student does need STEM education because they a wiz with a smartphone, or alternatively that after a week of camp their child should be fully versed in all text-based programming languages. Computer science is why and how we use computers. By aiming for 50% on and off-screen activities, we are providing experiences that will hopefully open student’s minds to problem solving, creativity, and making. Computers are not smart; they are following directions given by people. It’s pretty fun to imagine the possibilities. I love seeing kids make discoveries in the classroom. There is a confidence and excitement in knowing computers are tools made by humans for humans. CodeVA is here to introduce computer science to young learners and possibly stir up some curiosity that encourages them to seek developmentally appropriate coding education.

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

Summertime is our busiest and most exciting season. This year we will be serving students from all over the city through summer camps and off-site workshops. Simultaneously CodeVA’s teacher training programs are expanding this summer in anticipation of the new Computer Science SOLs that go into effect in the 2019 – 20 school year. We are offering training in six locations across the state for K-12 public school teachers. We have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Our partnerships are one of the reasons I have so much fun at camp. Through support from our generous fiscal sponsors, we can provide approximately 45% of our student’s financial aid. We partner with several organizations such as St. Andrew’s School, Friend’s Association for Children, Richmond Cycling Corps, STEP, Mosby Court Tenants Association, and Gap 4 Lyfe. Growing our community brings so much to our educational environment that allows everyone to grow.

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

I feel very fortunate that my staff, as well as myself, have been able to participate in educational and professional development opportunities provided by ConnectVA and the Community Foundation. The Community Conversations have been helpful in bringing essential and timely topics back into our space and continuing the conversation with our staff.

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Learning Center Tips: Get Resource Guides from Community Conversations

For many years, the Community Foundation has offered learning opportunities for nonprofit professionals in a variety of formats – leadership programs, networking opportunities, classes and training, to name a few.  Earlier this year, we announced a few programming changes, which you can read more about here.

A new element that has been added is a focus on emerging trends in the sector (locally or nationally) called “Community Conversations”.  The seats for these events are free, but limited, and tend to go quickly.

On the Learning Center you can now view resources from those conversations, in case you couldn’t make it to the event or if you want copies of digital versions of handouts, power point slides, relevant links or community curated content.

To be able to access these resource guides (or sign up for any class) you must:

Go to ConnectVA.org and register/login

  1. Registered users – Login with your existing email and password.
  2. New users – Register by entering your first name, last name, and email. Then set your own password and save it somewhere safe for future reference.
    • Please be sure to check Spam/Junk/Clutter boxes for your new account email verification. To complete your full profile, open your personal navigation menu from the left side of the page and click on “Go to your profile.”

Proceed to the Learning Center, under ‘Learn’ tab

  • View our Course Catalog
  • Select the Resource Guide (or any other course) you desire by pressing ‘Get this course’
  • Once you have the course, the orange button will say ‘Start or resume course’ in the individual course listing. For Resource Guides, simply ‘Start’ the course to view the materials.

Here are some recent Community Conversations and links to their respective Resource Guides:

Tax Law for Nonprofits Community Conversation

In February the Community Foundation and The Institute on Philanthropy invited speaker Bill Gray, Partner at McGuireWoods LLP, to speak about tax law changes and how they might impact the nonprofit world.   The presentation addressed what you might need to know as a nonprofit about new tax laws, how you might prepare your organization, how to adjust fundraising strategies, and more.   Check out the resource guide, which offers the full presentation by McGuire Woods, information about charitable bundling from the Community Foundation and a recent tax law checklist for nonprofit board and staff members created by the National Council of Nonprofits.

Community Conversation with the Office of Community Wealth Building

On March 30, 2018 the Community Foundation hosted Reggie Gordon, Director of the Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB), for its second Community Conversation.  Reggie and his team have spent the past year in due diligence to best understand the needs of RVA residents who face challenges in accessing living wage jobs, affordable and safe housing, a quality medical home, and overall financial stability.  During the Community Conversation participants learned more about the major OCWB initiatives, plans for the year ahead, and had the opportunity to give insights and suggestions on how to best work together to achieve common goals across sectors.

In the resource guide, you will find an infographic created by the OCWB called “Where Do You Stand?” that illustrates the climb (a ladder is depicted) an individual (and family of 4) must embark upon to reach financial independence locally.  Also included, is a recent City Council presentation and a 2018 Annual Report.

#metoo is Us Too! Community Conversation

In April, the Community Foundation and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (VSDVAA) jointly presented a free learning event for nonprofit professionals with speakers Kristi VanAudenhove (Executive Director), Jonathan Yglesias (Policy Director), and Ki’ara Montgomery (Member and Donor Liaison) from VSDVAA.

Drawing on lessons learned from public health and social change movements, Kristi, Jonathan, and Ki’ara discussed the risk factors for sexual harassment, the protective factors that make for a healthier workplace where harassment is less likely to happen, and benchmarks to ensure that sexual harassment is handled well when it does happen. The session included interactive elements, including tools for assessing risk and protective factors in your agency, which will be posted soon on the resource guide.  Also included are relevant blog articles from Nonprofit AF, Nonprofit Quarterly and Chronicle of Philanthropy.


Want to join our upcoming free Nonprofit Community Conversation: Engaging Community Voice on May 24th for a panel discussion with Ryan Rinn, Director of Storefront for Community Design, Albert Walker, Director of Healthy Communities at Bon Secours Health System, Mary Thompson, 65-year resident of Church Hill, and Chanel Bea, founding member of Engage Richmond.  The Engaging Community Voice panel will delve into the collective wisdom and experience of the panelists who have worked on issues of neighborhood planning, revitalization and design, community health, civic engagement, housing and other pressing issues that face our community. They will reflect on the diversity of ways they have engaged residents in community change as they actively dialogue with the audience about engaging community voice in their work.

Sign up quick, we’ve almost sold out.

You can also sign up for the complimentary course Engaging Community Voice on June 9th.  This is a 3 hour workshop that will help participants design and plan effective community engagement that is clear in the level of input, goals and impact, involves (and hopefully empowers) a diversity of community stakeholders, employs strong recruitment and communication strategies and utilizes a diversity of meeting types and tools.


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Help Somebody Spotlight: Shandra Thompson, Director of Operations and Programs, Dress for Success Central Virginia

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in our RVA community.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members.  This month, we’re recognizing Shandra Thompson – a staff member at Dress for Success Central Virginia.

Dress for Success Central Virginia is best known for providing professional attire to women reentering the workforce but we are about much more than simply a new outfit. Besides physically equipping a woman with apparel and accessories, our programs furnish her with a confidence that she carries forever and the knowledge that she can actively define her life, the direction she takes and what success means to her.Support from our donors ensures we can continue to offer our wide range of programs to women striving for economic empowerment. Your financial contribution is an investment that will generate tremendous benefits not just for the women we serve and their families but also for your community.Visit centralvirginia.dressforsuccess.org to learn more about how we are empowering women around the world and how you can get involved. #DressforSuccess #CentralVirginia #RVA #womensempowerment #economicindependence

Posted by Dress for Success Central Virginia on Saturday, March 4, 2017

Shandra was nominated by Dress for Success Central Virginia’s Executive Director, Shantell Malachi.  Shantell told us, “When I think of ‘help’ her name is the first that comes to mind. She really is the embodiment of the empathy and selflessness that is necessary to move Dress for Success’ mission forward and impact the lives of the women we serve.  On a personal level Shandra has allowed me to grow as a leader. Most Executive Directors have to wear many hats but Shandra allows me to delegate, focus on my personal and professional goals, and be physically present in the community, while never having to worry that our clients aren’t being served.”

Read more about Shandra’s story:

How does Shandra demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Shandra serves as the Director of Operations and Programs for Dress for Success Central Virginia.  The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

As the Director of Operations and Programs, Shandra helps more than 250 women a year find appropriate professional attire and prepare for interviews. However, her empathy for her clients goes so much further than clothing and resumes. Shandra’s ability to establish personal relationships with each of her clients never ceases to amaze me.

Shandra serves women on such a high level because she cares to a degree that surpasses most people’s understanding. It’s hard to describe one time that she acted selflessly because it is embedded in her DNA.

Dress for Success clients can tell you that Shandra has helped them obtain emergency housing, restored their faith in God, healed emotional wounds, and provided a safe space for them physically and emotionally. She ministers to women outside of Dress for Success through her church and her business, New Beginnings Enterprises.

Shandra with Team Members from DFS


What is the impact of Shandra’s generosity? 

Because of her generosity she directly impacts the foundation of every family, the woman. She is helping women change the trajectory of their personal and professional lives through her service. She is lending a hand to fight against poverty by helping to heal the whole woman, not just a piece. It’s so refreshing to see someone give some much of themselves outside of the confines of 9-5.

Shandra with DFS Volunteers

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

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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.

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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!

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