Endings and New Beginnings: A Season of Transition at Embrace

Embrace Richmond started out of a homeless woman’s desire to give back.  We did not have a strategic plan, we had no funding, no staff, no space and no idea what God would do.  Over the past seven years, I have learned to live by faith and not by sight. I have made a lot of mistakes, turned the wrong way and at times led us down a dead end path, yet none of it was wasted.  Every miss-step we have made led us to a deeper understanding of our unique call and place in the world.   Every ending, led us to a re-birth. We are approaching a season of endings, but what God has for us on the other side is more exciting than I ever imagined.  As I have shared many times, I often struggled with where Embrace Richmond fits.  While we exist for charitable purposes, we are more than a non-profit doing good deeds.  While we are gathering people and growing a sense of community and belonging in under-resourced communities, we are more than just community developers.  Our rich spiritual foundation and reflective practices combined with our corporate commitment to going on mission in the world with God, fuels us and guides us but we are not a church in the traditional sense of the word.  So where do we fit? I shared several months ago that our leadership team wrestled with this question years ago and came up with the statement “Embrace Richmond is a faith-based organization founded on Christian principals.”  During that debate, Janie Walker, a pastor with more than 30 years community ministry...

Family Matters – Meet Patrice Shelton

  For Patrice Shelton it all comes down to family. It was Patrice’s passion for strengthening families that led to the formation of the Hillside Family Support Team, which she now leads. Patrice shared a little of her journey with us, “I’ve always had family there for me, but it’s always been my own personal choices that sometimes haven’t  agreed with their values. I took a year off from school, I guess you can say I’m still taking a year off. I started my family when I was 20. I was told at 16 that I would never be able to have children but I’ve been blessed with two boys.  I’ve raised my two boys and took care of four other kids until they were grown. I lost my mom when I was 25 and that left me lost but pushed me harder to keep my faith.” Then a friend introduced her to Embrace Richmond, “I needed to get out of my apartment, and once I got there, I liked that they were about helping people that really needed it. I’ve been called to help because of my upbringing and there always being someone there to help those in need.  There are so many children and elderly here that need help but can’t speak for themselves. If I had a magic wand, I would fix it so there was always enough love, food, and faith. With those three things we should be able to knock out all the bad things.” You can help Patrice and her team make a difference in their community. Simple things like offering transportation for...

We Remember – Alphonso Henry

Today, the Embrace family said our final farewell to our dear brother Alphonso Henry, who went on to be with the lord.  For those of you who never had the privilege of meeting Alphonso, you missed out on pure joy.  Alphonso had a smile that just made your heart leap and a spirit that refused to give up. This video was shot this past August after Alphonso was released from the hospital and sent home to spend his final weeks with his loved ones.  However, as you will see, lying around waiting to die was not in Alphonso’s nature. As Alphonso’s brother reminded us at the funeral today, Alphonso is no longer in pain and I hope his laugh will ease the pain his loved ones feel at his loss. When I think of Alphonso, it is his smile that will live on in my memory forever.  I think he would want us all to smile when we remember him and his beautiful spirit. (to view the unedited version of this interview click...

Opening Doors of Opportunity – October From the Director

For the next several months, we are going to be highlighting a different initiative, community leader and the partners who support these initiatives.  We will also be sharing stories of how each initiative is making a difference on the ground and in the lives of our friends.  This month we are profiling our Job Readiness Initiative which was launched in March of this year.  You will meet Joseph, Tesia and Tearra and learn of how Embrace Richmond’s donors, volunteers and partners are opening doors of opportunity for the Hillside residents. Currently there is a 75% unemployment rate in the Hillside Court Community.  While some residents are not seeking employment due to age or a disability, there are still a large number of able bodied individuals living the community who are out of work.  Initially we thought the greatest need was simply to connect those without employment to job openings, but we have found the issues are far more complex. Over the past several months we have found that the following barriers are keeping our friends from actively seeking employment: lack of a GED, felony convictions, lack of transportation, inadequate childcare, fear of losing benefits,  loss of motivation do to years of rejection, and lack of work experience.  Over the past few months, our approach has morphed to try to address these barriers.  We realized that there was no one-size fit’s all solution to the many challenges facing the unemployed in our community.  Below are the measures we have in place to meet people where they are. The Embrace Richmond’s vocational mentoring team meets with residents one on one, providing...

Thank you Brandermill Region Men's Club

We would like to thank every member of the Brandermill Men’s club in Midlothian for their assistance in Hillside Community’s first computer lab.   This group has committed to covering the cost of internet access in the lab.  Because of their generous support, residents will have access to job searches and employment/educational assistance. By funding internet access for the year, the Men’s Club ensures that Embrace Richmond staff and volunteers can sit down with interested individuals and help them assess their employment opportunities. This lab would not be there without their assistance and we are extremely grateful!! Now that our lab has internet access, we recognize that the computers that we have need to be upgraded.  We are looking for six computers to replace the existing ones.  We are seeking computers with a minimum dual core processors and 2 gigabyte of RAM. Please contact scott@embracerichmond.org if you are able to...

Facebook Saves Tearra's Job

  October 14th at 10:00pm, I posted this on my personal Facebook page. “We have a 23 year old single mother in Hillside who just started working. Her neighbor was going to take care of her daughter but that fell through. She qualifies for subsidized childcare but DSS will take 30 days to process her application. In the meantime she is at risk of loosing her job. The daycare is willing to waive the application fee and has room but it costs $80 per week and she only works 10 hours a week earning minimum wage. Anyone feel called to help? Everyone points fingers at “welfare” moms, but no one understands how hard it is for our friends to work.” By October 16th at 2:06, we had pledges from three individuals and one Sunday school class which equaled a full month’s worth of childcare.  The mother mentioned above is Tearra Nicholas and this is the note she wrote to share with those that helped her: “My name is Tearra Nicholas.  I took this time out to say thank you to each and everyone that went out of their way to help me and my daughter with childcare.   This not only helps my daughter with learning her colors, numbers, shapes and abc’s but it also helps me with a chance to better myself and not worry and stress about things I wanted to do that I thought I couldn’t do.  I really do appreciate this a lot!  That just shows me that there are people out there that have a good heart, care and want to see others get further...

Be the Solution

The solution to ending poverty is not more programs or more hand outs, it is more jobs.  You can be a part of the solution in the following ways: Volunteer:  Consider joining our Job Readiness Initiative and help with resumes, tutoring or by becoming an encourager to one of our residents who are seeking to advance vocationally.  To learn more about volunteering please join us for our upcoming volunteer information session. Employ:  We are looking for employers who are willing to offer an opportunity for the willing and able.  We need everything from day labor  to full-time employment.  If you would like to explore how your business could partner with Embrace Richmond, please contact Wendy McCaig at wendy@embracerichmond.org. Recycle:  Our computer lab is in great need of upgraded computers.  We are seeking computers that have a minimum of dual cure processors and 2 gig of ram. Support:  Help keep this initiative going.  It costs Embrace Richmond $11,200 per year to keep the Hillside computer lab, the vocational mentoring and job readiness initiatives and the collaborative partnerships all up and running in a coordinated fashion.  Your gift of $500 per month would pay Joseph’s training cost and living allowance.  A monthly gift of $100 would cover the cost of internet and phone access.  A gift of any amount would be greatly appreciated.  Donate Here. Create:  All around the Hillside area, we see elderly residents who could us a little help maintaining their homes.  There are trash lined streets, abandoned buildings, and many other signs that there is ample work to be done.  The challenge is in connecting the labor with...

Richmond Workforce Pipeline Partnership

Finding employment for individuals is one of the more important aspects of turning under-resourced neighborhoods into productive communities. Through a collaborative effort with the City of Richmond’s Department of Economic and Community Development, there will be a push to find, engage, and encourage those individuals that are willing to put in the time and energy to become competitive in the work force through their Richmond Workforce Pipeline initiative. Through this program, these individuals will receive comprehensive screening and assessment, customized skills training, intensive work readiness activities (such as resume development, communications skills, basic job search techniques, etc.), and mock interview evaluations. One of the recent pushes in City economic development is finding ways to connect the unemployed with opportunity. As the city begins to build new schools, finding manual labor among the area’s unemployed becomes a situation that benefits all. “We are grateful to the City of Richmond in their understanding that there are willing participants in the community who want to work, but have barriers preventing them from competitive employment,” notes Wendy McCaig, Executive Director of Embrace Richmond. “Through this partnership we should be able to get those motivated individuals some additional training which will hopefully lead to job placement.” Collaborative efforts such as these are a true testament to the commitment of concerned individuals in providing opportunities which fosters a more productive environment and, in the long run, reduces the need for relief programs which fosters more dependence. “This is about giving economical freedom and responsibility to those individuals who wish to better themselves,” Wendy added, ” There are a lot of people who want and are...

Proving Them Wrong: Joseph Roberts – Hillside Community Leader

At Embrace Richmond we use the term ‘Street Saint’ to describe those individuals with leadership qualities that originate from their spirit. Despite living in poverty and surrounded by challenges, these individuals rise to the occasion and seek to help others despite (or because of) their own personal experiences. In a sense, when you look at what our ‘Saints’ are doing, and the place they are doing it from, it tends to give you an entirely different perspective on the act of giving to others. No where is this more clear then in speaking with Joseph Roberts. Quiet and unassuming, Joseph came to Embrace Richmond with a lifetime of hardship and the determination to make it better for himself and others. It hasn’t been easy; at age 9 he suffered a brain aneurysm. Joseph shared what that experience was like for him, “But the really crazy thing about it was when they took to me to school anyway on that day. Once they saw I couldn’t even get off the school bus, they had to drive back across town just to get me to the hospital. No one knew anything was seriously wrong until they gave me a spinal tap and found blood. After they operated on me, I had to learn how to walk and talk again. But, God is good.” He says this as he takes his right hand to place his left hand on his lap. Joseph is paralyzed on his left side, though he can walk, he can’t move his toes or arm on the left side. “It was devastating and I kept thinking, ‘why me’...

Making the Grade – Tesia's Story

We first met Tesia during a listening conversation we had on the topic of employment needs in Hillside court.  Tesia was shy, quiet and I am not sure she really trusted us in the beginning.  In the first conversation around employment, I was shocked to learn that one of the top barriers our residents noted to employment was a lack of motivation and encouragement.  I heard several stories about how residents had been seeking employment for years and could see in their eyes that they had given up hope.  However, 23 year old Tesia was different.  She had not been beaten down the way many of the more seasoned residents had.  Tesia got involved at Embrace and began volunteering. She shared with us her dream – the dream of one day being a hair stylist. To reach her dream Tesia, needed to go to school.  We connected Tesia to Don, one of our vocational mentors.  Don evaluated Tesia’s skills and learned she needed help with the entrance exam, particularly in math. After studying and failing the math portion by a small margin, Tesia was discouraged to the point of giving up.  Don connected Tesia with Dolly, a volunteer math tutor. So Dolly began to meet with Tesia.  Dolly shared, “After I left Tesia one day, I stopped by Virginia College on the way home.  I met with several staff members, all of whom were extremely helpful and I was impressed. They checked their records for Tesia and told me that she had missed passing the entrance exam by just one point.   When I returned to Hillside the next week,...