A year in review: How Central Virginians came together to help ‘Build a Better RVA’

Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 6:53 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - When NBC12 first launched “Building a Better RVA,” Central Virginia was still in recovery mode from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and there was no shortage of stories about people and places on a mission to help others bounce back.

Those stories quickly evolved into other meaningful missions that viewers brought to our attention in an effort to help “Build a Better RVA.”

Whether it was free haircuts for the homeless or a first-of-its-kind business academy for Black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, Central Virginians have made one thing clear: they’re here for each other.

“It’s all about giving back,” said Perry Lee, who launched an apprenticeship program at his Trufades Barbershop in Shockoe Bottom early this year.

On Tuesdays, twice a month, Lee and his squad of trainees teamed up with the non-profit Nurturing Minds for what they called “Community Cuts.” Together, they offered everything from free haircuts to hygiene kits for people like Kvon Johnson in need of a helping hand. “

Ain’t no nation like a donation,” Johnson said. " A free haircut, free food, and hygiene stuff could take you a long way.”

Then, there was Partnership for the Future, or PFF, paving the way for students like Srista Tripathi, an aspiring trauma surgeon, to dream big.

“Finances were a large concern for my family for a very long time, especially when my father passed away,” said Srista Tripathi, a PF student and sophomore at Princeton University.

PFF equips high school students from low-income backgrounds with the tools they need to get into and through college. Dionne Henderson, who is president and CEO of PFF, told NBC12 ahead of the new school year that 80 to 85 percent of students in the program were going to be the first to go to college.

“This is the most impactful, most important thing I’ve ever done because the work we do truly has the possibility to change the trajectory of their lives,” Henderson said.

By working with 17 high schools across the Richmond metro area, students who enter the program during their freshman year gain access to a world of opportunities. From internships to college tours and a mentor to help with college and scholarship applications, students like Tripathi, who is on a full-ride, are thriving!

And speaking of moving in a new direction, Metro Community Ministries has been a beacon light for returning citizens.

“Being a convicted felon trying to get jobs, you’re kind of looked down upon,” said Dale Battle, who was released from jail early this year.

“We believe in second chances,” said Monica McMillan, who is the program manager for Metro Community Ministries Inc. “We believe that just because someone makes a mistake, it does not define who they are.”

With a new office in Richmond, the faith-based organization builds relationships with incarcerated clients weeks before release. Then, they help with the transition back to society using multiple programs.

“I think it’s vital that you build that relationship with your client pre-release because you can get a feel for who they are as a person so when they come home post-release and you can spot irregularity,” said Thomas Mundy, a case manager, mentor and returning citizen himself.

The power of giving has also been on full display with the launch of Hope for Learning’s Resource 180 pilot program.

The non-profit is helping four families, including Angela Garland, who is raising four of her grandchildren alone, get through the holidays the next six months. The organization relies heavily on donations and continues to seek them into the new year.

“When your rent is $700, and your check is $841, and that’s not counting lights, gas, water, necessities, anything like that, it is very hard,” Garland said.

“Anything you can do is a help,” said Exec. Dir. Chuck Caple. “10 dollars a month can provide food for 10 kids.”

“19 dollars a month can provide books for 40 kids,” Caple explained.

Generosity abounds throughout Central Virginia to make the place so many call home better for all.

If you know a person or place on a mission to help “Build a Better RVA,” send an email to buildingrva@nbc12.com.