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User Spotlight: Erika Schmale, Homeward


Get to know Erika Schmale, Community Engagement Coordinator with Homeward

Q: Tell is a little about yourself and your work.

Our community is filled with human services professionals and passionate volunteers. I have the opportunity to bring these folks together through community workgroups and trainings to really focus on ending homelessness for our neighbors. When people come together around one issue, real change can happen. I love being a part of this possibility and seeing our community make progress on our goals. 

Homeward is the regional planning and coordinating agency for homeless services. Our goal is to end homelessness in the Greater Richmond region. We work with regional public and nonprofit service providers to fill gaps in the community’s services for residents with very low incomes; to enhance the housing stability and quality of life for these residents; and to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of programs serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Q. Share a success or accomplishment in your current role.

In 2013, I was able to rally a small group of volunteer professionals to form Homeward’s Volunteer Action Council. The council initially focused on Project Homeless Connect, a service fair for adults experiencing homelessness. Their energy and customer-service focus enhanced the event for staff, volunteers, and guests. After Project Homeless Connect, the council decided to continue its work year-round. I am looking forward to seeing what the group can accomplish for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. 

Q: Can you share some lessons learned?

Homeward is a small nonprofit. Because of this, I juggle many roles and responsibilities. This is exciting because I have the opportunity to gain experience in many different areas but it is also challenging. I have to prioritize what projects are most important, ask for help from other staff members when I need it, and find creative ways (like the Volunteer Action Council) to involve the community in Homeward’s mission.

As a young professional, it is very important to listen more than you speak. Everyone around you has wisdom, you just have to give them the opportunity to share it with you.

Q:  How are you leveraging ConnectVA?

Homeward uses ConnectVA to share its opportunities with the community as well as find information — we especially love the Job Finder and Community Calendar. Just last week, I was able to track down a new meeting location using ConnectVA’s Meeting & Venue Space — we host several meetings a month, so this resource is very beneficial to us. As a nonprofit professional, I read the Weekly Update email to stay connected to what is happening in our community.

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