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ConnectVA Spotlight: Cory Richardson-Lauve, Virginia Home for Boys and Girls

Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I’m Cory Richardson-Lauve, and I’ve worked at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls for fifteen years. Currently, I serve as the Vice President of Programs. Over the years I’ve been responsible for training, program evaluation, and human resources. Prior to that I worked as a case manager, staff supervisor, and in a direct care role with our youth in VHBG’s group homes.

I also have experience as a classroom teacher. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 1996 with an undergraduate degree in English and master’s in Teaching.

 

What is the focus of your work?

As a nonprofit that’s been helping children in crisis since 1846, we’ve evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of our community.

When a child’s welfare or academic success is at risk, we partner with localities, parents/guardians, and funding sources to do what’s best or what’s next for each child who’s experiencing emotional and behavioral challenges.  We help kids with emotional and behavioral needs experience the fun and learning of childhood and take steps toward adulthood as they grow. Through relationships, play, support, and teaching we aim to restore hope and ensure children and their families thrive.

We work with DSS, DOE, and DBHDS to make sure that we’re providing care, prevention, and reunification services through our group homes, independent living apartments, John G. Wood specialized k-12 school, and therapeutic resource center.

How do volunteers make a difference to your organization?

Skill-based volunteering and in-kind donations play a critical role at VHBG. Recently, through the Lowe’s Heroes project, 14 stores within the Richmond area teamed up to renovate not only our group home kitchens – but the greater campus – in an effort to improve the lives of the youth we serve.  This took place over the course of three days in July and included approximately 60 Lowe’s Heroes who worked tirelessly each day. The following video celebrates their work and our beautiful campus.

How is your organization different?

All of our services are scaled at a size that allows for relationships and community. Our program directors know each of the clients served by their programs by name. Our campus setting, and therapeutic class size allow for youth to get the one-on-one attention they need—from lots of diverse, caring adults.

We’re also one of the very few campus group home environments in Virginia to remain licensed as a social services provider (licensed by DSS) not a mental health facility (licensed by DBHDS). We have retained this DSS license, so we can provide a place for children who need a home and not a treatment facility…a place where they can play, interact with the community, learn about life, and heal from their trauma in the least-structured, most natural environment possible for their needs.

Many young people benefit from our unique niche, including: children stepping down from long-term clinical treatment facilities, youth who have been in conventional foster care homes and have not yet been successful, youth who need to be placed out of their home while parents are getting the support they need, children who can’t be successful in public school, and children aging out of foster care.

From the moment a child comes to us we’re working to give them hope for a safe, permanent home or a return to their public school.

But in the meantime, we create a home-like environment where our evidence-based, trauma-informed care starts youth on their path to healing and gives them the courage to thrive.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Witnessing growth…growth of individual children and their families, our staff members, our teams, our systems, and our organization.

Our core value of excellence keeps us striving to be the best at what we do in small and big ways. It is a delight to be a part of a mission-driven team united in their desire to have a positive impact on young people and their families.

 

 

What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?

I am excited about legislation regarding the Families First Prevention Services Act efforts and how that will help shape the landscape of services for youth and families in Virginia.

VHBG is collaborating with state and local entities to ensure Virginia complies with the legislation and expands its systems to serve kids in new ways. It is a unique time to be the leader of any organization touching the lives of vulnerable children and their families. We are serving on every work group and focusing on advising decision makers from all three branches of State government on topics such as foster care placements, prevention services, evidence-based practices, and finance.

 

 

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

ConnectVA keeps us connected. From the job finder, to the event calendar, to blogs and news, we really appreciate the centralized point of contact within the nonprofit community.

 

Anything else you would like to share?

I want to say a few words about VHBG’s chosen model of care—the Teaching Family Model. The Teaching Family Model is an evidence-based, trauma-informed, cognitive-behavioral approach to caring for complex individuals in complex environments.

I was introduced to the practices of the Teaching Family Model more than 20 years ago, when I was a classroom teacher in Baltimore. The techniques and concepts transformed my ability to relate to kids in ways that aligned with my values, and they also helped me manage all the complex dynamics inherent in a classroom setting. Later, the Teaching Family Model provided a framework for my husband and me as we pursued a mission to serve young people in a group home environment, which we did for seven years (first at Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, and then here at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls).

The Teaching Family Model brings to life the two elements most crucial to our kids (and all people, really): relationships and structure. Relationships: we believe that all healing starts with relationships, and our model gives us concrete strategies for building relationships with our kids—and avoiding damage to relationships when addressing behavioral concerns. Structure: we also believe that people can grow through learning—and learning takes structure and expectations. So, the Teaching Family Model helps us build a structure of support around our kids that guides their learning, allows them to give input, and ensures they are treated as individuals even during a “program.”

Further, a similar structure of relationships and expectations is provided to our direct care staff through our framework. The Model’s strategic staff development and support helps our direct care staff stay engaged and effective in a potentially high-burnout environment.

A decade after leaving a direct care role, implementing this model in our group homes gives me peace of mind as a Vice President and administrator. I know that, through the Teaching Family Model, we have three key elements: shared, trauma-informed practices for interacting with our youth, ways to monitor those interactions to ensure individual staff haven’t drifted from fidelity to them, and a system to monitor our agency’s processes in an objective way through the accreditation process.

The Teaching Family Model is an evidence-based practice which has been shown through research—and my professional experience—to be highly effective and sustainable. Please contact me if you’d like to learn more!

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Gail Crawford, Making a Difference for You (MAD4YU)

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Gail Crawford and I’m the President and Founder of Making a Difference for You (MAD4YU) Community Enrichment Resource Center.   I have been with Bank of America for 46 years and I have a background in Information Technology.  I have always had a desire to give back to the community and have volunteered throughout my years at Bank of America.  This desire to give back inspired the creation of MAD4YU.

What is the focus of your work?        

When MAD4YU was founded, its primary services were teaching computer literacy to children and seniors, and tutoring for students having difficulty learning.  It acquired a multi-room facility with donated computers, in-kind contributions and volunteers.   It evolved by responding to other client needs that surfaced.

Services currently provided, but are not limited to: free tutoring, homework help, communication technologies, PC training, college and job readiness preparation including resume writing and online submission, personal and professional development, adult literacy, health and housing resources and social advocacy.

MAD4YU’s service users include non-mainstream Richmond Virginians who are struggling with job readiness, faltering grades, and aging – with limited access to tools needed to live fulfilling and productive lives.  These citizens come from diverse backgrounds:  elderly, youth, homeless, Veterans, immigrants, single-parent family, economically disadvantaged, learners who process differently etc.

 

 

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

No narrative can capture the essence of volunteers tutoring eager Greater Richmond students, many who were on the verge of failing and/or who learn differently.  Hearing the testimonies of the parents, children, seniors and volunteers is very rewarding.  Student’s grades are improving, parents are pleased, seniors are experiencing a rewarding learning curve as they attend our basic computer, internet and email classes and volunteers look forward to truly making a difference in the lives of others.

 

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

Funding and space are our major challenges.  Currently, we receive no outside funding. In 2017 alone, the organization provided in excess of $150,000.00 in tutoring services to over 45 clients on a weekly basis, with an annual budget of under $50,000.00. This is based on more than 6,000 hours at an average rate of $30.00 per hour (many tutors charge upwards of $40-60 per hour) for tutoring/training services.

MAD4YU is currently housed in the MAD4YU Community Enrichment Resource Center.  Our 55 volunteer instructors operate out of a 979 sq. ft. office space to teach 45 students on a weekly basis. Students cram into strategically decorated and organized classrooms, which are equipped with donated computers, equipment and supplies. Refreshments are available when volunteers and students take their breaks. Word has circulated in nearby Richmond/Henrico County schools, which are now referring their students who also need homework assistance.

 

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

We are a very diverse organization, some of our families speak Spanish, Arabic and other foreign languages.  During the tutoring sessions for the children, the parents attend one on one ESL sessions.  We have also developed resources for the parents, youth and adult volunteers based on their needs that include sites for mentorship information, business groups, books for graduates, sites for graduates, staffing agencies, career coaching, scholarships, intern programs, resources for teens, resources for medical students, resources for college and high school students and resources for parents and single moms.  It’s our way of giving back to the volunteers because without them we could not have made the impact we have made thus far on the community.

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

MAD4YU has received in-kind services and/or partnered with organizations such as: Hands on Greater Richmond, Ezyetts Youth and Family Services, AmeriCorps/The Literacy Project, Bridge to Well Being, AARP SCSep program, Anthem CareMore, Aetna Better Health, United Health, Unique Dreams, and the Federal Reserve Bank to name a few. It is important – now more than ever – that the organization strategically assesses and get a handle on its diverse activities to address its effectiveness and sustainability.

 

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

Hands on Greater Richmond has proven to be very resourceful, all our volunteers register and express interest via their platform.  We utilize ConnectVA for posting needs and resources and our goal is to utilize the platform more in 2019…..the partnership with ConnectVA and the Community Foundation has proven to be very rewarding and we look forward to a lasting relationship.

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Great Nonprofit Awards Spotlight Part 1

Get to know a few of the finalists for YNPN RVA’s Great Nonprofit Awards, coming up on 11.7.18!  People and organizations will be recognized in 3 categories:

  • Rising Star: A nonprofit professional with fewer than five years of career experience making significant contributions to the RVA nonprofit sector.
  • Great Nonprofit Boss: A nonprofit manager who has gone above and beyond to promote a great work environment for their staff.
  • Outstanding Organization: A great nonprofit organization that fosters a nurturing and empowering environment for young nonprofit professionals.

The many nominations were scored by a panel of young nonprofit professionals from the YNPN RVA Leadership Team.  The winner in each category will be announced at the November 7th event. (find tickets here http://bit.ly/YNPNGNAs).

Audrey Trussell, Director of City and Schools Partnership, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, Finalist in the RISING STAR category

What do you love about the RVA nonprofit community?  The spunk! The RVA nonprofit community is passionate. It’s energetic. We’re daring and innovative, and we aren’t afraid of the challenges we face.

What motivates you?  The potential of what we can achieve when we believe in the power of “yet.” Every person can succeed if we work together to transform our systems to provide the right climate and conditions. These changes are happening and having a big impact – I want to see that continue!

Looking back, what was a great career decision you made?  To go for it! I’ve arrived where I am because I was brave enough to put myself out there, commit to learning for life, and take on opportunities that would challenge me…. and also because the people that surround me – my friends, family and colleagues – push me to keep growing and doing.

Erica Mann, Regional Director of Community Based Services, UMFS, Finalist in the GREAT NONPROFIT BOSS category

What keeps you in the nonprofit sector?  Honestly striving for our mission that truly impacts the community on a much broader level is something that provides endless creative challenges, while meeting a deeper spiritual need at the same time. The thing that can keep you going on some of the darker days are the brilliant, passionate, and loving people that I work with. I have spent my entire career at UMFS, and everyday my colleagues demonstrate the goodness of humanity…who doesn’t want to be surrounded by that?!

What advice would you give to other nonprofit supervisors?  Find trusted people that will disagree with you, but also love you in your strengths and flaws. Also, you can never do enough professional development around conflict and emotional intelligence—I can’t think of two topics that I deal with more as a leader and that I haven’t been more challenged by!

What was a pivotal moment in your career?  One was early on in my career, when I had a mentor suggest I move into a supervisory position—I never would have thought that possible unless someone had seen something in me and encouraged me. The other was more recently when one of our programs went through a major financial crisis that lead to job eliminations and serious morale challenges. I cannot share how much I had to grow both emotionally and business-wise, and the humility that comes with not always knowing what to do as a leader.

 

Matt Morgan, Deputy Director of Neighborhood Revitalization, project:HOMES, Finalist in the RISING STAR category

What do you love about the RVA nonprofit community? I love working in the affordable housing niche of the Richmond nonprofit community. In many ways it is very similar to living in Richmond – there are many people you don’t know, but once you meet someone you see them everywhere. We have fun little rivalries, but at the end of the day, we all have the same mission – to create safe, affordable housing in the Richmond region.

What motivates you?  Hard work is always easy when what you’re doing is making a difference in someone’s life. We always say at project:HOMES that at the end of every day, someone’s life is better than it was the day before. Sometimes it’s as big as a low-income individual getting the keys to their first home, other times it’s a homeowner who has slept through the night for the first time after a summer without air conditioning.

Looking back, what was a great career decision you made?  My first career step following grad school was to identify an agency that I felt passionately about, not a job title or specific position. Once I found project:HOMES, I applied for the only available position, which was working with the agency’s for-profit subsidiary. My job had nothing to do with urban planning or affordable housing, but it got my foot in the door at an agency I believed in, and I was able to take on projects and help others work on things I really cared about. Within a year, another job became available and I was able to move into a position more relevant to my background. Since then I have grown within the organization and am proud to be a part of the change that project:HOMES is making in the community.

 

Lynnhaven Academy, Casey Hitchcock, Head of School, Finalist in the GREAT ORGANIZATION category

What are you doing to create a great work environment for young professionals? At Lynnhaven, we strive to create a positive, caring, and compassionate environment for our students. The same can be said for our faculty and staff as well. Ease of communication with leadership, small acts of kindness, and constructive feedback make it a place where our faculty and staff can continue to grow in their career while feeling valued within the organization.

What are trends or shifts that you see in the local sector? In general, I see organizations thrive when they find their niche and focus on small, meaningful change at the local level that builds up to a larger impact. More and more nonprofits are addressing the causes of larger systemic problems.

What’s your leadership style? I am a collaborative leader that values input at all levels. I believe that recruiting and building a strong team means utilizing all members strengths and talents while providing a clear focus. It is vital that leadership is the champion of the organization and sets high expectations at all levels.

 

Click here to see a full list of all finalist and nominees and make sure to get your ticket to the event coming up on 11.7.18!  Stay tuned for Part 2!

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Jennifer Maddux, Director of Education, Richmond Performing Arts Alliance

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Jennifer Maddux and I am the Director of Education at Richmond Performing Arts Alliance.  I received my undergraduate degree in Music Education/Voice at Shenandoah Conservatory and my masters degree in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University.   I spent the majority of my career serving in Henrico County Public Schools getting my start as a chorus teacher at Byrd Middle School (now Quioccasin Middle School) and then transitioning into Instructional Technology at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Most recently, I served in school leadership as an Associate Principal at both Short Pump Middle School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School. I also have a passion for music theatre. In 2003, I took part in CAP21- a six-week intensive music theater program through New York University. Through the years, I’ve gotten the opportunity to perform with various local theater companies and directed at both public and private middle schools.

Richmond Performing Arts Alliance (RPAA) is a 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide diverse local and world-class performing arts, transformative arts education experiences for students of all ages and inspirational venues—all to strengthen the cultural and economic vitality of the Greater Richmond region. Our venues serve as home to nearly a dozen resident companies, including Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet, Virginia Opera, Latin Ballet of Virginia, Quill Theatre and more. Each year our BrightLights Education Initiatives reach over 3,000 through programming in the schools and in our venues. Our venues include Altria Theater (located at Monroe Park, at the edge of the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University) and Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts, the latter which house the historic 1800-seat Carpenter Theatre, Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse (200 seats) and Rhythm Hall (135-200 seats). The Dominion Energy Center also houses the Genworth BrightLights Education Center (which includes an innovative Digital Arts Lab), and the administrative offices for RPAA, Richmond Symphony and Virginia Opera.

ABOVE: RPAA just announced the expansion of their flgship program, now called “Greater Richmond Wolf Trap”

What is the focus of your work?

Providing transformative arts education for students of all ages is at the heart of the mission of Richmond Performing Arts Alliance. Since 2009, the BrightLights Education Initiatives have aimed to serve educators, students and families from across the Richmond region, working to increase equity in access to the arts and arts in education.  Our programs take place in schools, community settings and in the venues of RPAA. We believe in the power of the arts to enrich, enliven and educate children and adults in transformative ways that lead to new understandings in learning and life, which inevitably improves the quality of living across our region.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Throughout my career as an educator, it has been my passion to find opportunities for children to engage with music, theater, and dance.  I love seeing the spark in a student’s eye when they experience pure joy through the arts. During a time where these vital programs are disappearing in schools across the nation, I am proud to be working for a non-profit that is helping to make arts-integration a vital component of the preschool curriculum. The arts shaped my childhood and directly impacted the way I learned and- ultimately- the choices I made in my career and life.  I hope that we are doing the same for the children we interact with daily.

 

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

One of the greatest challenges that we find in our work with preschool students is trying to connect with the families of the students in the schools where we have residencies.  Because we are an outside ‘provider,’ we don’t have the same direct connections with the parents and community members as the school has developed. We have tried to host family nights for the preschool classes that we support, but typically have minimal attendance because of other commitments that parents have in the evening.  One way we are working to overcome this hurdle is by coordinating our family events with school events so that we can catch families while they are already attending a school function. By showing parents the work we do with their children, we are increasing our impact and- quite often- introducing the parents to a new way to bond with their child.

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

RPAA works intentionally to support today’s artists by cultivating diverse arts experiences, to nurture tomorrow’s artists through programming and experiences that deepen their connection to the arts, and to provide spaces for the arts to thrive by supporting Richmond’s premier historical venues.  Most of the Richmond community know about the venues that we work with (Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts and Altria Theater), but many are surprised to hear that we have robust educational programming.  We provide arts-integration residencies for preschool teachers in local schools, theater classes for NextUp (an after school enrichment program in Richmond Public Schools), and operate a Digital Arts Lab where we offer courses in Video Production for high school students in the Greater Richmond area.

 

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

Through the years, our ‘flagship’ educational program has been ELLA (Early Literacy Learning through the Arts).  We recently announced that this program will be expanding through a new partnership with Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and will now operate as Greater Richmond Wolf Trap.  Using Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts’ proven model, we will pair active learning experiences for children with powerful, effective professional development for early childhood educators.  Educators will receive hands-on, customized coaching, working side by side with RPAA’s professional teaching artists to develop arts-based skills and discover how to actively engage preschool students in core subjects through singing, dancing, role-playing, and storytelling.  We will be taking these residencies to schools and preschool centers in Richmond Public Schools and Henrico County Public Schools.

Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts (Wolf Trap) announced in mid-October it will bring arts-based learning to preschool and kindergarten students in the greater Richmond, Virginia area, expanding its national affiliate network to 19 partners, which now includes Richmond Performing Arts Alliance (RPAA).

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

The arts-integration residencies above are a part of a new partnership with Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.  We recently had leadership from Wolf Trap’s national office as well as two master teaching artists spend a week with us training RPAA’s local teaching artists.  Through this week-long professional development, our teaching artists learned how to connect their art form with literacy curriculum in the preschool classroom and developed their skills in arts integration.

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

We are very fortunate to have the Community Foundation support of Greater Richmond Wolf Trap through grant funds.  In addition to supporting our Pre-K programs financially, they also recently provided us with a capacity building grant to help develop our new three-year strategic plan that will guide our work. Additionally, we have enjoyed our continued partnership with NextUp, over the years providing middle school students with instruction in subjects like theater, piano, and video production. Finally, we are always looking at ConnectVA for enrichment classes for our staff and interesting articles related to our work.

Anything else you would like to share?

If anyone is interested in learning more about our BrightLights Education Initiatives, please feel free to email me at jmaddux@rpaalliance.com . You can also read about them on our website: http://rpaalliance.com/education

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ConnectVA Spotlight: David Kunnen, Executive Director, Blue Sky Fund

Tell us about yourself.

My name is David Kunnen and I’m the Executive Director of Blue Sky Fund. I’m a recovering tax accountant who has worked in the nonprofit space in Richmond since 2005. I served the YMCA of Greater Richmond for 10 years, took a quick 12-month detour at The American Heart Association, and have been in my current role at Blue Sky Fund since September 2016.

ABOVE: A  Blue Sky Fund Campaign video from 2017

What is the focus of your work?

Blue Sky Fund is on a mission to provide transformational opportunities for urban youth through outdoor education. Our three core programs – Explorers, Outdoor Adventure Clubs, and Outdoor Leadership Institute – provide opportunities to improve access for children in Richmond Public Schools to engaging, experiential education and enrichment opportunities that take advantage of all of the amazing outdoor assets we have in our region. If we can help increase students’ academic achievement and help develop their resilience, we are making progress towards our goals. Our region wins awards and has magazine articles written that encourage people from across the world to come here to live, work, and play, yet there are large numbers of our neighbors who don’t traditionally take advantage of all parts of our city. That’s not equitable, and we want to help change that. Only two of the elementary schools we work in are currently fully accredited by the Virginia Department of Education, and we want to do our part to help RPS meet their 2023 accreditation and strategic plan goals.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

There is so much – I could write a whole post on this. These two types of examples are always front of mind. First, it’s rewarding to see a child totally engaged in kinesthetic learning during a Blue Sky trip when sitting at their desk in the classroom and listening is a challenge for them. We regularly hear from classroom teachers that students who struggle in the traditional school setting are thriving during our field investigations. Second, our activities constantly provide new experiences for the students we serve. We see the fruits of our work when we go rock climbing and a middle school student who stared up at wall with a look on their face that is best interpreted as “you want me to do what?!” on day 1 ends up overcoming their fears and hesitations to not only become extremely proficient at the activity, but also comfortable teaching their peers.

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

We love being outside and believe whole-heartedly in the power of nature and the outdoors as a catalyst for learning and growth. Unfortunately, it’s not always 75 degrees and sunny when we venture out. When the students’ classroom teachers complain about having to go outside, or that the weather isn’t good, or that they don’t like bugs, the children pick up on those sentiments and run with them. We have a 5-Finger Agreement that we start each program day with, and encouragement is one of the five tenets of that agreement. Our incredible staff will make sure to demonstrate for everyone who is a part of our program – children and adults alike – that we will overcome any negativity about getting outside so that we maximize our learning opportunities. Fundraising is also ultra-competitive in Richmond…but everyone reading this already knows that 🙂

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

We serve over 2,200 children each year. We are still a relatively young organization compared to some of our peers, and our reach often surprises people. Although we have ‘Fund’ in our name, we are not wealth managers or angel investors.

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

We are planning to double the size of our Outdoor Leadership Institute (OLI) when we recruit our next class of participants. Each year, rising 9th-12th graders are nominated to participate in this year-long program that focuses on leadership, unity, and service. We create 12-person crews who share a summer experience that includes a backpacking trip to Grayson County, a year’s worth of service projects, and the development of their own individual leadership portfolios. Until now, we have taken two crews out each year, and we will have four(!) beginning in the summer of 2019. After graduation, OLI participants come back each summer for an alumni experience. The last two years, this group has gone to Colorado and ridden their bikes 334 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC.

 

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Without collaborations and partnerships, our impact would be blunted. We are so grateful for our relationship with Richmond Public Schools. NextUp has created a great system for out of school time programming, and we are excited to see how working with them continues to develop. The James River Park System is always a gracious host, and keeps their parks safe and fun. The VCU Rice Rivers Center is a unique partner, since we take kids from all three of our programs there during the year. Over 35 locations throughout the region and state support our activities as host sites – to say we are fortunate to have their support is an understatement.

 

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

Our nonprofit community is very fortunate to have the resources that ConnectVA and the Community Foundation provide. Blue Sky tries to take full advantage! Our staff regularly checks and engages in the professional development opportunities offered in the Learning Center, we’ve supported teammates through ENLP, we receive many qualified and mission-minded candidates from the Job Finder, and we have even gotten rid of some old office furniture on the Item Exchange! The Community Foundation staff are always supportive and willing to answer questions about program focus and impact, and we are incredibly blessed to be the frequent recipient of Community Impact grants.

Anything else you would like to share?

On Saturday, October 27 we are hosting our 7th Annual Hike for Kids event. Participants can choose to hike 3, 8 or 14 miles through the James River Park System in downtown Richmond. The 3-mile option is very family-friendly. After hiking, enjoy food, beer, and live music at our host site (thanks Virginia War Memorial!) overlooking the river. Proceeds from the event will provide more opportunities for the children from our city’s most vulnerable communities to experience the outdoors in a meaningful way. For more information and to register, click here: https://secure.qgiv.com/event/936972/.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Ross Catrow, RVA Rapid Transit

Tell us about yourself. My name’s Ross Catrow, and I’m the staff person for RVA Rapid Transit, a local nonprofit focused on advocating, educating, and organizing for a frequent and far-reaching public transportation system in the Richmond region. Before taking a job advocating for better public transit, I ran a local news magazine called RVANews, and, today, run a daily newsletter called Good Morning, RVA.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Scott Kocen, Virginia Voice

Tell us about yourself. My name is Scott Kocen and I’m the Development & Communications Director for Virginia Voice. I graduated from the George Washington University with a B.S. in Political Science and Psychology. I went to Graduate School at Virginia Commonwealth University for Sociology and have been fortunate enough to spend my career raising awareness and support for worthy causes in the political and nonprofit sectors.  I’m a lifelong Richmonder and have the pleasure of seeing the best our community has to offer and how it constantly evolves to showcase service, culture, and inclusion for everyone.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Christina Manikus, Adult Education Programs Coordinator, Sacred Heart Center

Tell us about yourself. My name is Christina Manikus and I am the Adult Education Programs Coordinator at the Sacred Heart Center. I started my relationship with Sacred Heart Center as a volunteer teaching English as a Second Language after I had recently moved to Richmond from Argentina. While in Argentina, I had taught English, and I was able to bring my experience to share with the other teachers. I joined the staff towards the end of 2014 and have since evolved in my role from Development Assistant to Volunteer Coordinator and now working primarily with the adult programs. This has given me a well-balanced sense of the organization and nonprofits in general. In a former life I focused more on communications, since I studied Media Arts & Design with a minor in Theater & Dance at JMU and worked on a few movie sets afterwards.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Daphne Swanson, President & CEO, Junior Achievement of Central Virginia

Tell us about yourself. My name is Daphne Swanson, President & CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia (JACV).  I have been with Junior Achievement for 13 years.  Prior to joining Junior Achievement, I worked at Deloitte where I was as an auditor primarily working with clients in the mortgage and financial industries as well as local government. I’m originally from upstate New York, but moved to Norfolk, Virginia where I attended and graduated from Old Dominion University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science.  Seven years later I received a Post-Baccalaureate Degree in Accounting from Virginia Commonwealth University and shortly after became a Certified Public Accountant.  I have an 18 year old daughter who recently graduated from Maggie Walker Governor’s School and will be attending VCU in the fall. I serve on the board of ChamberRVA and Henrico Firefighter Foundation and a member of the West Richmond Rotary.  I am also an Advisory Board Member for BB&T of Richmond and I sit on the Virginia Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Kristin Vinagro, Director of Communications, Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity

Tell us about yourself. My name is Kristin Vinagro and I am the Director of Communications at Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity.  I’ve been with Richmond Habitat for a little over seven years, and I absolutely love it!  Prior to working for Habitat, I worked for the United Way in Fredericksburg, Virginia as an Information Services Specialist, helping to direct individuals in need to services and working with local nonprofits to help build their capacity and foster partnerships. I am a double graduate of the University of Mary Washington, graduating in 2006 with a Bachelors in Historic Preservation, and again in 2007 with a Masters in Education. In my non-work life, I have a wonderful husband who is a teacher in Chesterfield County and two adorable cats.  My favorite hobby is traveling to new and exciting places!

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