Kim and Matt Powell, owners of Black Creek Farm “Karen Grisevich runs a nonprofit called FeedRVA, which has done a lot to make the South of the James Farmer’s Market assessible to families with SNAP benefits, ensuring them quality food for their families. She’s also worked tirelessly to support people with disabilities, employing them and allowing them to earn money, be exposed to a highly social environment, and learn life skills.” Every Saturday, Edward, who is a graduate of The Next Move Program (click to read their story), is at the South of the James (SOTJ) Farmer’s Market welcoming customers with a smile, directing cars to parking, and helping man the FeedRVA booth. Edward is a market employee of FeedRVA, a GrowRVA nonprofit program focused on educating RVA communities on the importance of food systems; healthy, lifelong nutritional habits; and accessibility to quality food. FeedRVA’s immediate mission is to create a matching funds system for farmer’s markets that use SNAP/EBT. Over the past 12 years, GrowRVA has also given over 25 nonprofits the opportunity to set up at the SOTJ market, which draws a wide swath of the RVA community every weekend, to raise awareness for their missions. Edward was initially a volunteer with FeedRVA but has since been hired onto the team. When he’s not hanging out with friends, learning to drive or drumming with SPARC (click to read their story), he’s at the farmer’s market, supporting both customers and vendors. The young man loves being a regular within the SOTJ community. If you’re a regular yourself—whether vendor or shopper—you can count on Edward to recognize you when he sees you ... and maybe even greet you by name! Help educate RVA communities on the importance [...]
Noah Scalin, artist, author and creator of the Skull-A-Day project (the inspiration for #SpreadtheGoodwill) “Art on Wheels has been doing amazing hands-on work bringing art to communities that desperately need it for over a decade. I actually recently became a board member because of how impressed I was with how much this scrappy little organization was able to accomplish. Barbara was struggling with chronic illness, which had impacted her life both physically and emotionally. That’s when she picked up a paintbrush and started creating art with Art on Wheels. Art on Wheels brings art, which has been proven to relieve stress, provide cognitive engagement and increase self-confidence, to communities with limited access to the arts. That includes not only the chronically ill, but also the elderly and the disabled. The nonprofit also offers community art opportunities to the general public at local fairs, festivals, public events and corporations. Painting was a transformative experience for Barbara. Once she took her first class five years ago, Barbara hasn’t missed a single class since then. In turn, the bold, vividly colored paintings that she creates have a positive effect on anyone who views them. “Without Art on Wheels I never would have discovered that painting needed to be part of my life,” says the artist. “The program is helping me deal with new health issues and problems, and for that, I am very, very grateful.” Help bring art programming to communities with limited access to the arts by volunteering or donating today to Art on Wheels!
The man pictured is not the person in the story. Mark Smith, owner of Midas of Richmond “Every day this amazing group of people prepare and distribute thousands of meals to area kids, families and senior citizens. The team at Feed More, along with the 7,500 active volunteers a month are fighting hunger and creating better nutrition platforms in our community.” When Joe’s wife passed away, he was suddenly living alone after all those years. Although his daughter stops by frequently to check on him, the Vietnam vet really looks forward to his daily visits from Feed More’s Meals on Wheels volunteers. Not only do these compassionate workers bring him food and check on his safety each day, but they also give him the companionship that he was sorely lacking after his wife’s passing. “They are like family,” says Joe. Every year, Feed More distributes more than 20 million meals through programs like Meals on Wheels, the Mobile Pantry, Kids Cafe and the weekend BackPack program, as well as its network of nearly 300 agencies, to ensure their neighbors in Central Virginia who struggle with hunger have access to healthy meals. Joe feels blessed to receive a healthy, diet-specific meal from Meals on Wheels each weekday. But those meals provide more than just nutrition for him; they also support a hobby of his. After he’s finished his meals, the retired tractor trailer driver recycles the boxes, along with other castoff items, to build incredibly realistic model trucks. From a tractor trailer that bears his name to a tow truck with cargo storage and a lift, these trucks give new meaning to “Meals on Wheels.” Help fight hunger in Central Virginia by volunteering or donating today at [...]
Photo: Reilly Fountain (not the child in the story) Shannon Milligan, Realtor at RVA Home Team brokered by eXp Realty “I love CJ’S Thumbs Up because they help many critically ill children here in RVA with grants, easing the financial burden on their families. In addition, their Meal Fairies initiative allows families to enjoy a delicious, hot meal inside the hospital, so they don’t have to ever be far from their child. It’s amazing the legacy Roger and Rachel have made for their child, CJ!” While Liza was being treated at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, her parents took turns at her bedside 24/7 for three days straight. Not only did they get very little sleep during this time, but they also didn't eat much, grabbing snacks from the vending machine or nibbling on food from Liza’s meal tray. Food was simply not their priority right now. On the fourth day, CJ’s Meal Fairies, a program of the CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation, which provides assistance to families of children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, brought lunch to the hospital. When Liza’s parents walked into the lounge and saw the free meal waiting for them, they both were overwhelmed to the point of tears. “It was the first real meal we’d had in days,” says Liza’s mom. Not to mention, just getting out of their daughter’s hospital room for a little while and sharing lunch with other families in similar circumstances provided some invaluable support for her parents. When another family was behind in their bills during their baby's three-month hospitalization. CJ’s Thumbs Up, which also provides emergency financial assistance, picked up the tab for their electric bill. Instead of the family returning to a house [...]
Richmond SPCA’s Susan M. Markel Veterinary Hospital Offers Affordable Veterinary Care to Low-Income Families
Susan Higgins, Corporate and Foundation Relations Director of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden “I support the SPCA because I love animals. It’s that simple.” Chris and Larry noticed their dog, Buddy, typically a big goofball, was suddenly lethargic. He also had a fever of 105.2°F. His dads were concerned and knew their 12-year-old pup needed immediate care. They took Buddy to Susan M. Markel Veterinary Hospital. This veterinary facility, which is affiliated with the Richmond SPCA, has provided Buddy with full-service veterinary care for years at a cost his dads could afford. The facility also serves pets in local government shelters, feral cats, and those adopted from the Richmond SPCA. There, the doctors performed diagnostic radiographs and bloodwork. The results showed that Buddy had a high white blood cell count, which more than likely indicated an infection. The vets gave the sweet, scruffy dog IV fluids and antibiotics, and sent him home with additional medications. When Buddy returned to the hospital for his follow up a week later, his temperature had dropped, his bloodwork had improved, and he was back to his normal, goofy self! “We are so grateful. There's no way we could provide Buddy with the same quality of care without the hospital,” says Chris. “We are his caregivers, but the team there are Buddy’s extended family.” Help pets receive the veterinary care they need at a cost their families can afford by volunteering or donating today at the Richmond SPCA!
Grace in the Summer 2017 show, Oliver! Photo credit: Tom Topinka Marna Bales, Singer/Songwriter & Executive Producer, Red Amp Audio “As a performing artist, and one who was fortunate enough to take some dance and music classes growing up, I love SPARC. I think all kids need to have a place where they can have their creativity encouraged and supported through training. And I especially love that SPARC is all inclusive – meaning it is open to all youth regardless of disability or income.” Upon entering middle school, Grace was bullied. She also began struggling with food, eating and body image. The mounting pressures led to an eating disorder that quickly took over her life. By the eighth grade, she had to have supervision every time she ate and was rarely left alone. Grace had been involved with SPARC, one of the nation’s most comprehensive, community-based youth performing arts education organizations, since she was 7 years old. The summer after the eighth grade, Grace attended the organization’s summer camp, where she was surrounded by people who accepted and supported her. The camp gave Grace a place where she could totally be herself. Grace also participated in SPARC’s LIVE ART program, which culminates in an annual performance of music, dance, visual art and human connection. Involving students both with and without disabilities, the LIVE ART curriculum focuses on compassion, acceptance, respect, and empathy. Grace was not only on the receiving end of this support, but also was given the invaluable opportunity to support others. This experience made the young woman realize that everyone, even those who fit societal norms, needs a shoulder sometimes. Today, Grace, who is in recovery from her eating disorder, is a sophomore at [...]
Topher Lytle, Engage Director, Area 10 Faith Community “The heart and mission to find safe and loving homes for the thousands of kids throughout Richmond and Virginia drives Virginia’s Kids Belong as they continue to make a significant impact in the lives of individuals.” This isn’t a story about any one child. Instead, this story is about the more than 5,200 children in the foster care system in Virginia who need a family to love, support and keep them safe. Without people sharing their lives, these kids feel like they don’t belong. That lack of belonging can lead to many short- and long-term problems for children, including poor academics, trouble with the law, and human trafficking. By leveraging the combined power of the state’s government (across party lines), business, faith and creative communities, Virginia’s Kids Belong (VKB) runs innovative initiatives to recruit more foster and adoptive families, engage wraparound support for at-risk, foster and adoptive families and help youth who have aged out of foster care. VKB strives to create an environment where there are more foster and adoptive families waiting for kids than there are kids waiting for families. “Community leaders often want to solve societal problems, especially those involving vulnerable children, but they often don’t have an easy on-ramp to do so,” explains former Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell. “VKB helps match the needs of children in foster care with people who have the resources to meet those needs. The end result is more families for kids who need them and more support for those families.” While this nonprofit is new to the state and its work has only just begun, other state affiliates of America’s Kids Belong have been able to grow their pool of foster families by over 40 percent [...]
Annie Tobey, editor of BOOMER magazine “This organization has supported a healthy Richmond by encouraging healthy behavior for people from all walks of life (training teams and events, programs for kids, programs for underserved communities) and through sports tourism, which contributes to financial health for the region.” Carlene attended a Fitness Warriors Reboot class in her community to lose weight and help with knee problems. The next class, she decided to bring her 11-year-old daughter, Kayla, along with her. Kayla, who has an intellectual disability and club feet, was apprehensive at first and stood quietly with her hands clasped. She told LaCora, the instructor, that she was nervous. LaCora said she was too, and they’d just be nervous together. Kayla also told the instructor that she hoped she didn’t play “old people music”! LaCora is an instructor for Fitness Warriors, a program of Sports Backers that trains community members to lead free fitness classes throughout the Richmond region. These classes are often held in underserved areas, which lack access to gyms, fitness centers, and safe or connected places to get exercise. Before long, Kayla found her groove to the instructor’s music (apparently not “old people music”!) and started to relax. After class, LaCora asked the young girl if she’d come back to help her get over her nervousness again, and Kayla said she would. After several classes, the balancing exercises were beginning to help Kayla walk better. Kayla has even led the class in sprints! "She's resting better during the night which has helped her focus at school,” says her mom, Carlene. Over the several classes the young girl has attended, LaCora has also noticed Kayla’s confidence increasing. By taking a step to improve her own health, a mom has made [...]
Craig Evans, Singer and Bass Player in The Taters “I love what they do, and that they are very much a rubber-hits-the-road project. You can go to the restaurant and see the work they are doing, see some of the results. …The Taters, as well as other musicians in town, regularly donate performances for some of their fundraisers. Garth and all of his people are a real inspiration to what can be accomplished.” Several months after Josh completed the training program at the Positive Vibe Café, his mom called the executive director in tears. But she wasn’t upset. Instead she was overjoyed to watch her 24-year-old son, who has developmental difficulties, walk into a convenience store and buy a drink on his own ... for the very first time in his life. This seemingly small step was a major leap forward in the young man's confidence. The Positive Vibe Foundation offers hands-on training in food services—everything from bussing a table to handling kitchen utensils—to individuals with physical and developmental difficulties. While enjoying a delicious meal, diners at the Café are not only giving trainees a chance to put their new skills to work, but also financially supporting this important training. Some graduates of the program go on to work at the Café fulltime; others find jobs in different restaurants, grocery stores or other places of business. But perhaps the program’s greatest benefit is how it helps build self-esteem, conquers fears, and gives participants opportunities they and their families never thought possible. For years, Josh went straight to his room and watched TV every day after school. After completing the Positive Vibe training program, his mom reported that he was much more sociable, even chatting with people in [...]
Jimmy Comer, Co-Owner of Relationship Business and Insurance Services LLC “Julia’s (the founder) passion for Celebrate! RVA is evident anytime she talks about the nonprofit that she created six years ago at the age of 16. Birthdays are a special day, and she fully believes that every child should have that rite of childhood, no matter their economic status.” As the boys and girls celebrating September birthdays made their way into the Oak Grove Community Center, there was music playing, confetti flying, hula hoops twirling, and banners wishing them, “Happy Birthday!” The gym was positively electric with excitement! Many of these children, whose families sometimes can barely afford rent, much less cake and party hats, have never had a birthday party before. The mission of Celebrate! RVA, the nonprofit that hosts these birthday parties for disadvantaged elementary school children every month, is to make sure that every child has the opportunity to be celebrated at least one day a year and is able to carry that special feeling with them throughout the year. The organization even gives the children “birthday bags,” with candles, banners and more, so they can celebrate whenever and wherever they choose. At the September celebration, a young girl was sitting alone and seemed unsure of how to engage with the other partygoers. One of Celebrate! RVA’s staff went over and encouraged her to get up and dance. When she and the staff member started swaying to the music, the girl’s shyness melted away. Her joy was infectious, and soon 10 more children had joined in the fun. Their elation spread like wildfire through the gym. At these parties, kids proclaim again and again, “This is the best birthday ever!” Every child deserves an [...]