I’d like to introduce you to my “Great Neighbor” – Charles W. Bland, Jr. 

I first met Charles when I joined several residents in an effort to clean up our community. The group was RVA Clean Sweep.  Charles walked up wearing his official orange Clean Sweep t-shirt and greeted everyone with smiles and handshakes.  When he got to me he mentioned that he had done some work at UPS and maybe we had friends in common.  I immediately wondered how he knew my affiliation but soon realized that Charles had noticed my old faded UPS shirt. Charles quick and observant nature makes him friends easily. We ended up talking for a few minutes and found out that we knew quite a few of the same people. 

Since moving to the area in 1994 he has been affiliated with the Battery Park Civic Association, the Northside Library, RVA Clean Sweep, monthly meetings with Northside Safety and most recently the Historic Brookland Park Collective. Having clean streets, well-lit alleys and unobstructed sidewalks, so neighbors can move around freely and safely, keeps him going on a daily basis. Helping the community and being active is what drives Charles. He says that developing a sedentary lifestyle affects your health and makes you get old very quickly!   

Charles credits some of his internal drive to his father, Lt. Charles W. Bland, Sr.. Charles Sr. was educated in the Richmond City School system and Virginia Union University.  He was then drafted and served with the Tuskegee Airmen.   After serving, Charles Sr. used the G.I. Bill to go back to school at Temple University and obtained a Masters degree.  He then returned to Richmond to teach in the public school system. He loved the sciences. Charles believes that his dad’s love for learning and science fueled his own inquisitive nature.   

Charles’ dad also showed him how to be honest and upright and how to appreciate people. Because of this, Charles never points his actions at himself, but at the result. He believes that when neighbors come together they can accomplish anything. He believes that neighbors can overcome any boundary, gulf or limitation when they pool their resources and work together.  

So, when you see Charles say “Hello” and “Thank You” for the great behind the scenes work that he does and continues to do. 

   – by Leroy Jefferson, Jr., Executive Director of the Historic Brookland Park Collective