Tell us about yourself.
My name is Veronica Fleming and I’ve been the Executive Director with Partnership For Families since 2015. I always reflect on my own childhood when I think about the families and children we serve at PFF. I grew up poor in a middle class community, raised by a single father who taught me to be respectful, self-sufficient and compassionate. We spent our summers with family in Gilpin Court and I only remember feeling safe among a close knit family and community.
I began my career as a community organizer in Durham North Carolina and, as a result, I have a deep commitment to engaging the voice of the community and families we serve. I worked with families in Gilpin Court for 10 years providing literacy programs for children and training programs for parents. After working the next 10 years with Youth Matters and the Christian Children’s Fund (now ChildFund International) I learned lessons about the gap between great plans, good intentions and the real, “on the ground” needs of children and families. PFF allows me to bring those hard lessons-learned together with the expertise and commitment of my Board, staff and partners and work intentionally toward making meaningful impact on families in Northside.
What is the focus of your work?
PFF was established by the Robins Foundation in 2004 with a mission to empower vulnerable families to develop healthy, stable, nurturing environments for young children beginning at birth, sustained by a network of partners committed to social change. At the core of this work is literacy. We want to ensure that children have sufficient pre-literacy skills to enter school ready to read and learn. Literacy/education, in my view, is the “coin of the realm”. It is our obligation to equip families with the skills/resources/information they need to create nurturing environments for their children. To that end, PFF supports the work of 12 partner agencies whose services include putting books in the hands of children, providing quality childcare, parenting classes, intensive home visiting, adult literacy, financial literacy, job training and emergency services.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I can look out of my office window and see the backdoor of the home in Northside where my father lived in for many years. And right below my window, I watch the children in our VCU Childcare Center, run, play, fall, laugh, cry…and I am inspired and sometimes moved to tears.
I love the work of bringing people and organizations together to explore new ways of supporting families and children. Ideally, we help our 12 partners effectively and efficiently wrap services around families and children in need…ultimately leading to a seamless path toward self-sufficiency and fulfilling their dreams. That’s what I mean when I talk about “collective impact.”
What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?
A major challenge/opportunity is to build upon the investment made by our funders, partners and families over the past 12 years to ensure that children are getting what they need.
My approach has been to listen and find ways to further engage our families in determining how we move forward. We’ve begun by formalizing our “Street Team” as paid staff, opposed to volunteers. This involves parents who are responsible for reaching out, door-to-door, and engaging the voice and perspective of their neighbors. This is evolving but it is critically important to work alongside the community and build community voice and leadership to create more and more effective ways to build the literacy skills of vulnerable children and contribute to building solvent futures for our children and families.
What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?
It’s incredibly exciting to work with amazing committed partners, staff and community volunteers. The collective impact of our work together can yield remarkable outcomes for our families. We’re working with a network of organizations, also committed to collective impact, who are striving to enhance community engagement strategies and interrupt the impact that poverty has on the ability of our children and families to grow and thrive.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
We regularly use ConnectVA to post our job openings and to inquire about grant opportunities
Anything else you would like to share?
I am honored to be nominated among a group of really outstanding leaders; committed professionals dedicated to making Richmond a wonderful place to live, work and play.