Richmond Mayor holds news conference at Diversity Richmond

Mayor Stoney news conference

Richmond Mayor, Levar Stoney recently held a news conference in the Diversity event hall to update the community on the city’s efforts to address issues surrounding the impact of the Corona virus. He began his remarks by sharing that donating space for testing is just one example of how Diversity Richmond has played major roles in the life of Richmond.

Health Departments conducting virus testing at Diversity

DR virus testing

The Henrico and Richmond Health Districts conducted COVID-19 testing recently is the Diversity event hall. About 175 tests were conducted. Health department staff will call those who are tested within 3-5 days with test results. They will also return for more testing on June 2,16 and 30th. For more information, call the COVID-19 Hotline at 804-205-3501. Diversity Richmond is very pleased to support the testing efforts by donating the event hall usage.

Picture: Richmond and Henrico healthcare staff tested 175 people recently at the testing site in the Diversity event hall.

Masks made from donated Diversity Thrift fabric given to homeless

masks made from donated fabric

Members of Richmond Zen made a number of masks from donated Diversity Thrift materials and then donated them to a local homeless shelter. “The masks are being used at a facility which is serving as a high-risk alternative shelter for people who were already in shelter when COVID-19 began,” shared Zen member, Blythe King. “They are older adults with many already having health issues. They were excited to receive them.”

Several hundred masks have been made by locals using Diversity Thrift fabric. Just one more way we are helping. If you would like fabric, please email us at

Photo: A small sampling of the masks made by Richmond Zen members

Rotary Club funds Greenwich Walk Masks Project

masks Rotary

The Rotary Club of Huguenot Trail granted the Greenwich Walk Stitch Therapy Group $5,000 to design and create masks for local causes. The group, comprised of 28 members, has shared their good works with local hospitals such as St. Mary’s and Hunter Holmes McGuire Veteran’s, law enforcement, nursing homes and first responders. Greenwich member and Diversity Thrift shoppers, Glenn and Peggy Thomson, dropped off a number of masks for our staff and volunteers. This horrible time has connected us with so many good people.

Photo: Glenn and Peggy Thomson donated masks made by Greenwich Walk for Diversity staff and volunteers.

Diversity Thrift Accepting Donations

donation dropoff

Diversity Thrift is now accepting drop-off donations. Three pods are located in the store parking lot. Hours are 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM, seven days a week. Pictured is longtime shopper Anthony Stout who recently dropped off a couple of bags of clothing. For more info, call the store at 353-8890.

Minority Veterans of America Helping LGBTQ Veterans

Minority Vets flag

Minority Vets is 2020 Diversity Richmond Grant Recipient

The Minority Vets COVID-19 Relief Fund provides members up to $150 in food and transportation support. The fund is supporting members in Virginia and is taking applications on a rolling basis. If you have minority vets in your community who are in need of support, please refer them to minorityvets.org/COVID19.

In addition to relief funds, Minority Vets are working on major programming, including a Juneteenth Virtual Open Mic and a Pride Block Party (Take Pride in Your Block) initiative to clean-up our local neighborhoods and blocks.

Shawn Smith Board Spotlight

Shawn SmithDiversity Richmond is a volunteer led organization with our Board of Directors at the helm. As we continue to get through this pandemic together, Diversity Richmond will shed a light on our wonderful board members that make our work possible. In the coming months we will ask board members some questions so our community can better know our board. This month’s feature is Shawn Smith.

1. How did you first become aware of Diversity Richmond, and what led you to join the board?
I first became aware of Diversity by seeing the building from the interstate as I drove by. The brightly colored façade was very visible and eye catching from the highway. I then attending a Richmond History Maker’s Event where former Asst. Director, Rodney Lofton was being honored. He and I met and connected and after some conversations, he asked if I’d be interested in becoming a board member. After further conversations with Rodney and Bill Harrison, I agreed and was elected to the board.

2. What responsibilities do you have on the board, and what contributions have you made?
Because of my background in event production and management, I serve as the chair of the Events Committee. This committee oversees Diversity’s key annual events which include All Americans, Scary-Okey and Drag Bingo. I’ve also participated in the annual Black and Bold Awards and the annual Scholarship awards event. All of this in addition to contributing to Diversity as a donor and attending monthly board meetings.

3. How many years have you served on the board?
I’ve served on the board of Diversity for 2 years.

4. What is your favorite thing about Diversity Richmond and the greater LGBTQ+ community as a whole?
My favorite thing about the Diversity is the community of acceptance. Diversity works hard to ensure that the space is inclusive and inviting. While it is not perfect in reaching all people, the team is willing to look at itself and it’s faults and seeks ways to improve. In addition, it is an organization that doesn’t sit on the sideline when there is a need. Diversity’s leadership is always anxious and ready to give when a need arises. There is little bureaucracy which allows the organization to react with immediacy to help those within the community in ways that is both tangible and meaningful.

5. What do you like most about volunteering and why do you do it?
I volunteer because I enjoy giving back. I’m passionate about helping people find purpose in their lives as well as helping them take small steps in self-discovering that leads them to a better existence built on better relationships. I find that volunteering and connecting myself to larger communities helps me to put my own life, gifts and purpose into perspective. It’s self-discovery for me as well.

6. What’s something or a fun fact about you that not many people know?
Many people don’t know that I am a former, State Champion gymnast. I did gymnastics all through high school, coached gymnastics in college. I still tumble here and there 😊

7. What are some things you are doing for self-care right now?
I’m typically a weightlifter. I love to go to the gym as a way of staying in shape. Unfortunately, the gyms are closed as result of the COVID Pandemic. Therefore, I’ve taken up running. I hate running, but it’s a way to get out and maintain my physical health in these unusual times. I’m grateful for the opportunity to run, but I’ll be glad when the gym reopens.

8. What’s the best advice you have received and who gave it to you?
As a high school student, I was pretty clear on the fact that I wanted to go to college. As a first-generation college student, I wasn’t clear on what I would do when I got there or what I would do when I got out. I had a friend in college with whom I was discussing my post college plans, or lack thereof. I was a bit distressed about what I wanted to do and she asked “What would you do if you knew you would not fail?” Once I gave her a sincere answer, she then stated, “Great, then go after it as if you’re going to be successful, because the only way to fail at it is not to try.” This advice changed my entire perspective on life and my future. I was afraid to try many things simply for fear of failure, thus limiting my entire future. From that point forward, I tried everything I was interested in. Some things I found out I didn’t like and quit, other things I discovered I loved and was good at and continued to pursue. From that advice, I can honestly look back at my life without saying “I wish I had…” I live with no regrets and unfulfilled wishes.

Diversity Richmond Loans Event Hall for Virus News Conferences

virus news conference

When Fernando Rodriquez, Communications Director for the Richmond-Henrico Health District, reached out to see if news conferences could be held at Diversity Richmond, of course we said yes. Pictured is Dr. Danny Avula addressing the media with the latest information on the virus impact on a local level.

Diversity Richmond Helping With Surgical Gown Project

Surgical Gowns Jeanne and Tara

During the last few weeks Diversity Richmond, through Diversity Thrift inventory, has supported numerous people who are making masks to help people protect themselves and others from contracting the Corona virus. We were also approached by two local women who are making surgical gowns as there is a national shortage of this particular protective gear.

Tara Hepler, Speech Language Pathologist and Jeanne Laign, Occupational Therapist, who both work in local rehab facilities, reached us in hopes that material was available to help address the depleting supply of personal protective equipment. They needed sleeves of particular fabric types that could be sewn onto pre-existing hospital gowns to create re-usable protective gowns for healthcare workers. Members of Hill City Church have taken on the sewing portion of the project.

The finished products will go to local skilled nursing and rehab facilities.

“As a result of your generosity, sets of reusable protective gowns will be created that will ultimately serve to protect both patients and healthcare workers from further spread of the virus,” wrote Jeanne.

While we appreciate her comments, the real work is being done by Tara and Jeanne, along with their teams at Hill City Church. Bad times can bring out the best in people. No better example.

surgical gowns

Sewing Masks

A member of Hill City Church sews gowns

We love you, but please do not bring donations until we reopen!

Diversity Thrift pile

We could never do our good work in the community without you, our donors. The over one million dollars that we have put back into the community, would never have happened without your support of Diversity Thrift. Thank you!

But we must ask that you refrain from leaving your donations until we reopen. Staff is not here to process your gifts and your donations get rained on or stolen. And thank you to our wonderful community members who have offered to help, but we are not asking anyone to leave home. We are closed and will remain closed until local health officials say it is okay to reopen.

Lots of people are cleaning out those closets and basements and we look forward to being the recipients of your generosity. We will welcome you with open arms, but till then, please bear with us.

Diversity Thrift Best Thrift

Diversity Richmond Grantee Spotlight: Minority Veterans of America

Minority Vets Logo

This past November Diversity Richmond celebrated our 20th anniversary by giving 50k in grants to organizations around the LGBTQ+ community. We did not foresee the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic back in the fall and how that could impact our partners. As such, Diversity Richmond will unrestrict funding so that partners may use funds however they see fit during this pandemic. One grant recipient, Minority Veterans of America (MVA), is answering the call during this crisis.

MVA and their executive director Lindsay Church have been working hard to pivot their services to be provided virtually. “When we started MVA in 2017, it was out of a deep desire to serve the community, in the best and hardest of times,” said Executive Director and co-founder Lindsay Church. “We will continue to check in with our members throughout this national emergency, and after, to ensure that we are responsive, adaptive, and innovative in how we deliver service to meet our community’s greatest needs.”

MVA recently launched their COVID-19 Relief Fund which will provide $30,000 of direct financial assistance to minority veterans and their families in the form of food and transportation assistance. A pool of $4,500 will be dedicated to a minimum of 45 Richmond minority veterans and their families with $1,500 of that total coming from the Diversity Richmond grant. The fund will be open for applications from members May 1 through May 8, 2020 and will reopen during the first week of every month to ensure the community’s needs are met through the duration of the crisis. Membership in the organization is free, and can be gained by visiting MinorityVets.org.

All of us at Diversity Richmond are so thankful to continue working with organizations such as Minority Veterans of America especially during a time like this. For more information about Minority Veterans of America or how to contribute, please contact Cassie Gabelt at .

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