Black Pride RVA celebrates big time this weekend

Black Pride RVA July 2021

Us Giving Richmond Connections, the local nonprofit that encourages the well-being of Black LGBTQ people, is hosting an exciting weekend of educational seminars, entertainment and community building activities. Planners expect big crowds and have scheduled a variety of events that will offer a wide selection of activities for people to choose from.

The weekend begins tonight with the kick-off event, “Community Root Awards,” being held in the event hall of Diversity Richmond. Outstanding leaders in the Black LGBTQ community are being recognized. Tickets are $20.00 and can be purchased at blackpriderva.com

Saturday’s “Day of Purpose,” is a wellness event with health screenings, HIV/STI testing, and COVID-19 vaccinations, educational classes, entertainment, a variety of food trucks and over 100 vendors. The festival will take place at Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road. Admission is free.

Saturday evening, the Black Pride Block Party will be held outside Richmond Triangle Players Theater, 1300 Altamont Avenue in Scott’s Addition from 7:30 till 11:00 P.M. The free event will include food, music and entertainment. A drag show will take place inside the theater. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

The weekend will conclude with a Pride in the Park community cookout in Bryan Park, 4308 Hermitage Road from 1:00 to 6:00 P.M. on Sunday.

For more information, visit blackpriderva.com/coming-soon

Your support helps us help people everyday

Give Out Day June 30, 2021

Within the last two weeks, we have spent over $2,000 helping six LGBTQ people facing homelessness by paying rent and also providing grocery gift certificates. The money for rent was made possible by you and the store cards were donated by Kroger.

Most every day, through Diversity Thrift, we help people who need clothing and shoes. Many are referred to us by social service mental health and recovery programs.

Over the last few months, we have provided a week’s supply of groceries to over 2,800 families.

With the pandemic ending, our building is once again in demand with play rehearsals, twelve-step programs and our transgender support groups returning.

Iridian Gallery volunteers brushed themselves off and had their first gallery opening in over a year last week. Iridian is one of the few galleries in the nation whose sole mission is to support LGBTQ artists. Diversity Richmond makes history again.

We could never do our work without your support. I hope you will donate today through the Give Out link below. When we help someone, you are helping them as well, by making the assistance possible.

Bill Harrison

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 Treehouse Realty VA

Treehouse Realty RVA Makes $1,500 Give Out Day Match

Longtime supporters Wanda Fears and Brinlin Maki of Treehouse Realty RVA are making a $1,500 matching contribution to our Give Out Day campaign. This means that they will match donations up to $1,500!

She and her team have advertised on our web site for several years and every time they sell a home due to the ad, they have been most generous to Diversity.

Wanda is now retired, but remained active by acting as a consultant. “I still work closely with the LGBTQIA+ community” she shared. “My joy has always been helping folks plan to get their homes ready for market, or helping them figure out the cost of remodeling homes they buy. I love helping people get the equity out of their home and move up in the world of real estate.”

New president of Treehouse, Brinlin Maki, assumed the position with 14 years of mortgage business experience. “We love working with the LGBTQ community and also love giving back,” she said. Diversity Richmond is but one nonprofit that she supports.

Thank you to both Wanda and Brinlin. Our community is better because of you.

 


Give OUT Day is the only national day of giving for the LGBTQ community, raising $6+ million for 700+ LGBTQ organizations since 2013.

Here's how your monetary donation can help Diversity Richmond support the LGBTQ community:

$65 provides one night’s lodging for someone facing homelessness
$35 provides three meals
$75 covers the rental of a conference room for nonprofits to use
$1,500 allows a nonprofit to use our event hall for free
$200 provides a month of lawn care for Diversity Richmond
$50 purchases five much needed shopping baskets for Diversity Thrift
$50 allows us to donate 13 items of clothing to a person in need
$100 purchases a week’s supply of gloves and hand sanitizer for customers
$600 provides gas for the Diversity Thrift truck for one month
$60 sponsors our monthly WRIR radio segment “Diversity Richmond Speaks”
$95 funds our twice monthly newsletters
$250 sponsors two newsletters. Banner ad and two articles about your business
$8,758 pays our monthly mortgage
$5,800 pays a month of utilities
$25 provides six articles of clothing for someone in need
$10 provides two pair of shoes
$15 provides several toys for kids in need.

Any amount you can give is greatly appreciated!

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We Lift People Up, With Your Help

Helping

Three times this past week we helped LGBTQ people in need. We paid the rent for two and provided food gift certificates for one.

Through Diversity Thrift we granted seven clothing vouchers for people participating in addiction recovery programs. We partner with several recovery programs who share that we are the only thrift store in town who will help.

We just conducted our first COVID vaccination clinic, once again donating our event hall to the Virginia Department of Health in an effort to save lives.

Our monthly WRIR FM program is now back on the air. For our next show, we interviewed a couple who is adopting a transgender daughter, working with enCircle. Please see the full article below.

These are but a few examples of the good work that your support makes possible. Diversity Richmond leads. We strive to every day to help build a more just community.

Please consider a donation to help us continue the good work.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

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May is Foster Care Awareness Month

EnCircle

All smiles! The Lacy family is part of EnCircle’s Foster Care Program

LGBTQ Children are overrepresented in Foster Care

How the world has changed. While we still have a way to go, progress has certainly been made.

No better example than when we were recently contacted by EnCircle, a nonprofit that places kids in foster care. They wanted to ensure that LGBTQ people are aware that there are children who would love to be our foster children. And that EnCircle would also love to connect appropriate parents with those kids.

Formally known as Lutheran Family Services, EnCircle works with children who are in the custody of the Department of Social Services. The article below shares more information about the organization.
Many in our community know full-well the hardships of growing up with unaccepting parents. This is an opportunity for us to change that cycle. Think about it. That’s all we ask.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

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“Can you discount this backpack? I am homeless.”

backpack

Recently an older woman approached a Diversity Thrift manger while holding a backpack. “Can you discount this?” she asked. “I am homeless.” Wearing tattered and torn, dirty clothing with a brace on her leg, the manager replied that we would love to give her the backpack. She immediately erupted into tears. Customers were watching.

We then began discussing how else we could help. Food? Clothing? While talking, we learned that her home was a spot behind two dumpsters in an alley near VCU. That’s where she slept. That’s where she lived.

We gave her Kroger gift certificates and placed her in a local hotel for two nights. Through her tears she said she could not wait to take a shower. We are also helping her look for other resources.

This is what we do at Diversity Richmond. While others turned her away, we welcomed her in.

While the hungriest most of us have ever been is when we miss lunch, we cannot even begin to imagine circumstances such as this. It is because of community support that we help people such as our new friend who now has renewed hope.

Thank you for your on-going support.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

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Thank you, Raul Cantu

Raul Cantu

Sometimes the words “thank you” just don’t do justice. This is one of those times.

When Raul Cantu joined our staff a little over a year ago, little did we know what the future held. About a week after Raul signed the dotted line to become our Events Coordinator, COVID hit and all our events for the next year were all cancelled.

Within a few days, Raul came into my office with a list of things he thought Diversity could do in spite of the pandemic. Actually, his brainchild of food drives was prompted because of the pandemic. Our first two drives targeted the Hispanic community as so many Hispanic people work in the hospitality industry which has been especially hard-hit due to COVID. Our third drive was open to the public with over 800 cars traveling through our parking lot with volunteers filling their car trunks with a week’s supply of groceries. Since late last year, we have helped over 2,300 families.

Raul has been a Richmond fixture for years as owner of the popular restaurants, Nacho Mama’s. He was president of the Carytown Merchant’s Association and lifted Richmond’s awareness of the Carytown shopping district, the same way he did for Diversity Richmond.

The partnerships he has forged with other nonprofits is absolutely amazing. The numbers of people who had never set foot on our property and who now love Diversity has grown tremendously because of his efforts.

As one of our employees shared, “You can’t help but love the guy.” And we agree.

Raul’s husband is a doctor and has accepted a position in South Florida. It’s not difficult picturing Raul in the midst of palm trees and sunshine. But he will always be a part of what he created here at Diversity Richmond. Folks such as Raul don’t just fade away. They remain and remain in our hearts he will.

Bill Harrison, President and Executive Director

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Diversity Richmond and Virginia Pride getting married!

Diversity Richmond Virginia Pride

The engagement has been a long one, but the rings are finally being exchanged. On February 23rd, the marriage of two of the commonwealth’s leading LGBTQ organizations was announced after over a year of study and preparation.

The merger comes after years of significant growth for both organizations. Since 2015, Virginia Pride’s budget has increased by 500% with its impact through advocacy and events substantially increasing, all while being managed by an all-volunteer structure. The merger will provide additional staff and organizational infrastructure that will support continued growth.

“Pride enters into this merger at a time when both organizations are thriving,” shared Pride President, Stephanie Merlo. “We have experienced exponential growth including our annual Pridefest which attracts over 40,000 people. The responsibilities of coordinating such an event is not a reasonable expectation of an all-volunteer team.”

“By joining forces with Pride, we hope to take one and one and make three, said Diversity Board Chair, Luise “Cheezi” Farmer. “We are confident that the merger will amplify the impact of the work of both organizations and allow us to better serve the entire Richmond region.”

The boards of both organizations have approved the merger plan. Virginia Pride will submit the plan to its voting membership for approval on March 22 with the merger becoming official as of April 1, 2021.

DR VA Pride merger

Photo: Jamal Brooks, James Millner, Stephanie Merlo, Cheezi Farmer and Bill Harrison.
Stronger Together” has become our new catch phrase.

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Diversity Richmond had dirty floors

Covid Testing

When I spoke with the contractor who recently cleaned our event hall floors, he said, “These are the dirtiest floors I have ever cleaned.” While I did not see that as a compliment, I shared it during a recent Financial Committee meeting somewhat as a joke, but it brought about inspiring conversation.

Co-chair Chris Moore said the comment made him think…”Of course the floors are dirty and I see that as something to be proud of.” And he’s right. That room has seen literally hundreds of thousands of feet since it was last cleaned. Every single scuff mark tells a story.

We’ve had countless numbers of events such as when we announced yet another year of grants; recognized outstanding volunteers and donors; karaoke and drag shows; news conferences; memorial services; the first Black and Bold Awards, the first Black Pride Festival in Virginia; anniversary and birthday parties; NACCP meetings, the Orlando Pulse Nightclub massacre service; a Black Lives Matter March and candidate forums…just to name a few.

In 2020, Governor Ralph Northam made history by signing the Virginia Values Act in the event hall. And in the last few months, the hall has been often donated to the Virginia Department of Health for COVID testing.

Committee co-chair Kevin Allison shared how his work in the Thanksgiving Community Dinners and the food drives had given him a new appreciation for the building…. and while asking for money to maintain the facility was not “heart-touching,” the true meaning of what we are asking for is support to keep “heart-touching” happenings alive.

We are happy to report that we now have some of the cleanest floors in town, and hopefully soon, footsteps will be marking the shine. And the heart of Diversity Richmond will beat as loud as ever.

Bill Harrison

Photo above: Shiny, bright floors greeted the Virginia Department of Health staff as they conducted COVID testing this week. Over the last few months, hundreds of people have been tested in the hall which is donated by Diversity Richmond.

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Thanks to you, Diversity Richmond Ended 2020 on Positive Notes

Hands all in

While 2020 brought the unimaginable, through your support, we stretched our loving arms further than ever before. Just a few examples of what you made possible:

Through two food drives, we reached over 1,000 local Hispanic families with a week’s supply of groceries. The incomes of many Hispanic people have been adversely impacted as many work in the hospitality industry;

Our December food drive, which was opened to everyone, provided a week’s supply of food to over 800 families. The food drives brought about our new partnership with Feed More, which donated over 20,000 pounds of vegetables and meats;

Through our partnership with Black Pride RVA, we served Thanksgiving dinner to many, delivering food to the homeless;

During the summer, we held several drive-in drag shows in our parking lot, providing safe fun and also helping our beloved entertainers;

While facing uncertain times, we still continued our annual grants program, funding causes that battle LGBTQ violence; support LGBTQ youth; provide food for those in need; provide outreach to rural LGBTQ people; help LGBTQ veterans facing hardships and to connect with LGBTQ seniors;

This autumn, we co-hosted with VA Pride and Minority Veterans of America a Black Lives Matter march in our parking lot, attracting over 1,000 people;

We were proud to donate space to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond Superintendent of Schools, Jason Kamras to update the community on local COVID programs;

We also donated the event hall to the Henrico-Richmond Health Districts for COVID testing four times as well as for news conferences for pandemic updates;

It was an honor to partner with Equality Virginia and host Governor Ralph Northam and numerous elected officials as they signed the Virginia Values Act during a news conference in our event hall, making Virginia the first southern state to provide LGBTQ protections;

Due to volunteer efforts, we continued through on-line activity, the work of Iridian Gallery, the South’s only gallery dedicated to supporting LGBTQ artists;

These are but a few examples of 2020. It is only through your support that we do what we do. Wishing you a healthy and safe 2021 which will be better for us all!

Bill Harrison

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Virginia Values Act

Governor Ralph Northam signs the Virginia Values Act at Diversity Richmond

 BLM march

Over 1,000 people joined our Black Lives Matter March (above)
We provided snacks for Black Lives Matter at VCU (below)

BLM snacks

Volunteers at food drive

Volunteers prepare for our first food drive

Masks

Diversity Thrift provided free fabric for the making of hundreds of facial masks.
We donated the event hall to the Henrico-Richmond Health Districts for COVID testing as well as for news conferences for pandemic updates

 COVID News Conference

Practice Physical Distancing

We were creative in our COVID safety protocol messages

Drive In Drag

Our drive-in drag shows showcased lots of local talent

Drive In Drag

 

Diversity Richmond 2021 Grants Announced

money tree

Always a difficult task, this year’s grants committee had a challenging time selecting the organizations that would receive funding through our annual grants program. Since 1999, we have invested more than $1.1 Million back into the community.

Listed below are this year’s recipients:

Metropolitan Community Church Richmond is receiving $5,000 in support of the church’s Vicky Hester Food Pantry, Bread Ministry and the Good Neighbor Fund;

Virginia Anti-Violence Project is granted $5,000 for their LGBTQ+ Survivors COVID Mental Health Project;

Minority Veterans of America, Richmond Chapter, $5,000 to provide emergency assistance for LGBTQ veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic and in its aftermath.

Side By Side is receiving $2,500 to support Making Schools Safe and Affirming: Protecting Transgender Students, to ensure every school district in Virginia follows new laws set to protect trans students;

The Longevity Project, $2,500 for the LGBTQ+ Elder Social Connection, to address the unique needs of LGBTQ seniors with attention to people of color and the transgender community. The project is in collaboration with Senior Connections;

Twin Oaks Queer Gathering, $650 to support rural outreach.

Each of the 2021 grant recipients will be featured in our 2021 newsletters.

Bill Harrison

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Diversity Richmond is community and as community we respond

We are proud of Diversity Richmond for the leadership role it has assumed over the last nine months. Our food drives gifted a week’s worth of groceries to over 1,000 families (we are hosting another on December 19.) Our drive-in drag shows not only provided safe, fun means of community, but also gave the opportunity to support entertainers. Our recent on-line movies (another planned for December 17) promoted local talent and also a free means of safe theatre.

In partnering with Black Pride RVA, we helped share Thanksgiving meals with our community, shut-ins and the homeless. Several times our event hall has been donated to local health departments and governments to provide free COVID-19 testing and public-school updates.

The numbers of Diversity Thrift clothing vouchers are reaching an all-time high. Word has traveled that we help those in need and our partnerships with social services agencies is continually growing.

And then there is you … our wonderful family of supporters. While the year has been challenging, through your support, we have successfully met obstacles and found new ways to help.

It is only through community support that we can do what we do. Thank you for continuing to make good things happen. With you, we look forward to continuing our work in 2021.

Bill Harrison

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The Joy of Diversity Richmond Cookies

12 Days of Giving

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The four-year-old jumped up and down. “Cookies, cookies!” he cried joyfully. He tugged his sister’s shirt. “Look, cookies!” His parents smiled and said, “Gracias. Thank you very much.” Then they drove away, making room for the next car, the next family, one of 500 for whom Diversity Richmond’s Hispanic Food Drive was able to supply a week’s worth of food.

What does a Hispanic Food Drive have to do with Diversity Richmond’s mission? Nothing and everything. Because while Diversity Richmond’s mission is to serve the LGBTQ+ community, that mission is more deeply rooted in a love for all communities.

And so, when COVID devastated the hospitality industry, many Hispanic families were now without income. Diversity Richmond’s deeper sense of mission compelled us to respond.

The resulting food drive was so successful that we did another several weeks later, helping another 500 families. And another is planned for late December--this time open to everyone.

All this while continuing our service to the LGBTQ+ community. To highlight just a few ways:

  • Diversity Thrift shares clothing vouchers with people needing shirts, pants and shoes
  • We help LGBTQ+ people avoid homelessness by assisting with rent and utility bills
  • We provide meeting space for twelve-step programs and transgender support groups
  • We loaned our event hall to the Henrico-Richmond Health Districts and the City of Richmond for Covid19 news conferences, and free Covid19 testing
  • We helped host a Black Lives Matter march with over 1,000 people safely participating
  • Continued the south’s only art gallery whose sole mission is to support LGBTQ artists.

We are also pleased to continue our grants program this year, offering up to $25,000 to deserving nonprofits. This is a risky decision in light of our own funding uncertainties, but risk we are willing to take when such worthy organizations have critical funding needs now.

May your holiday season and 2021 be safe and healthy, and may your days be filled with the joy of sugar cookies.

Bill Harrison

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