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Mayor announces city child care and preschool grants

Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced the recipients of Child Care and Preschool Stabilization and Expansion grants awarded by the City of Richmond.

The more than $619,000 in grants awarded yesterday follow previously announced grants of $500,000 to Smart Beginnings of Greater Richmond for child care and preschool expansion, and $200,000 to Family Lifeline to expand home visiting services to eligible families.

The mayor also announced a $50,000 grant to the Children’s Museum of Richmond to expand access for low-income families.  A $50,000 grant was also awarded to the Children’s Funding Project to study costs and financing strategies for universal preschool in the city. Additionally, the Mayor announced the hiring of early childhood specialist Daphne Bolotas in the city’s Office of Children and Families to support the coordination of efforts to provide universal preschool.


“High-quality, affordable and accessible child care and preschool continue to be vital to the overall health of our community and our economy,” said the mayor, who called on the Virginia General Assembly to increase investments in these areas.

“I am honored to stand alongside these heroes who have committed their professional – and often personal – lives to supporting the youngest Richmonders and their families,” the mayor said, surrounded by childcare advocates at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. “Together, we will accomplish so much for so many families across our city as we lay work together to ensure that all children across our city have the opportunity to thrive.”

The following organizations received grants:

  • FRIENDS Association for Children has been serving children in Richmond for over 150 years. Following the Civil War, FRIENDS began as an orphanage in Jackson Ward dedicated to caring for formerly enslaved Black children who had been abandoned by their former slavers. FRIENDS will receive $100,000, which they will use to increase their capacity by 50 percent – effectively returning to their pre-pandemic level of service – across their two sites in Gilpin Court and Church Hill.

  • Fulton Montessori is a grassroots organization that began serving children out of the Neighborhood Resource Center in 2018, after the NRC closed its preschool program, in order to meet the urgent need for affordable early education in the East End. Their $64,500 grant will allow them to immediately open an additional classroom as well as invest in capital improvements so that they can ultimately grow to serve 75 children total.

  • SCAN is a longtime partner of the city in its effort to support survivors of child abuse and neglect. SCAN’s Circle Preschool Program provides intensive, year-round, trauma-focused mental health treatment both for young children who have experienced trauma and their caregivers through a preschool setting at its location in Blackwell. The $20,000 grant will allow them to serve two additional students and maximize their capacity, while ensuring that every child and their family benefits from a suite of intensive wraparound services.

  • St. James’s Children’s Center has been serving Richmond families for over 30 years. For decades, they have remained committed to ensuring that all children, regardless of their families’ ability to pay, deserve access to the very best early childhood education experiences. The $50,000 grant will allow them to return to their pre-pandemic enrollment level of 75 students.

  • Woodville Day Nursery has operated in the East End for over 60 years as part of the mission of Woodville Church of the Nazarene. Woodville provides low-cost child care and camps for community members who rely on them for safe, affordable care. They have been a Head Start and Early Head Start partner for going on six years. The $10,000 grant will provide retention bonuses to 10 staff members, and they will also receive technical assistance to support their operational success.

  • The YMCA of Greater Richmond has served our region for 167 years, constantly adapting to meet community needs. The Y has been a particularly vital partner to the city over the past few years, in the effort to universalize access to elementary afterschool programs and to stand up emergency child care centers when the pandemic closed down schools. The $75,000 grant will support the YMCA to open two new preschools on the Southside, serving 100 3- and 4-year olds.

  • YWCA Richmond has been leading efforts to empower women and children in Richmond for the last 134 years. Its child care journey dates back to 1891 when they opened a nursery to care for children while their mothers worked in local factories. In 1989, the YWCA opened the first and only preschool program in the city to care for homeless children.

Today, the YWCA operates the Sprout School, which provides a mixed income, full-year, all-day early education program in two locations: their Bainbridge Street school in Blackwell and two classrooms within the Children’s Museum. The organization is receiving $300,000 both to maximize the capacity of its existing program in Blackwell and to open a brand-new school in 2nd Presbyterian Church, which was forced to close its long-running early childhood program during the pandemic. All told, YWCA will grow its capacity by almost 100 children with this grant.

To view video of today’s announcement please visit:


City announces first phase of gun violence prevention efforts


Mayor announces community safety coordinator and partnership to distribute $1M in community grants

Richmond, VA Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced several important steps to protect city residents by addressing and preventing gun violence.

““Nothing is more important than the public health and public safety of our residents,” the mayor said. “Gun violence is a decades old issue that has afflicted cities across the country and has only been made worse by the pandemic. We’re taking these steps because our hearts break each time we hear about the loss of life and the trauma caused by gun violence, and NO mother should have to bury her child because we haven’t done enough.”

The city has hired its first Community Safety Coordinator, Samuel Brown.  The Community Safety Coordinator (CSC), a recommendation of the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety and supported by the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group and, will be the primary point person within the city administration for issues involving gun violence. 

This Community Safety Coordinator will focus on the fundamentals of the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Framework, including engagement, prevention, intervention, training, and supportive services for victims as well as perpetrators of gun violence. The CSC will also host community conversations and focus groups that involve community members in steps toward halting violence in our communities.   

Reggie Gordon, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services, hailed the hiring of Mr. Brown, who grew up in Richmond and holds degrees from Virginia Union and Virginia State University. 

“Samuel has made a personal and professional commitment to find solutions so that Richmond, Richmond’s children, Richmond’s families can exhale, breathe free and have a restored sense of calm and security,” Gordon said of Brown , who previously worked at the Peter Paul Development Center before joining the City of Richmond in the Human Services Portfolio.

“Samuel has been a teacher and a coach, and is ready to build upon the work that has been done and bring myriad stakeholders together to grow solutions that make our city safer.” 

Mayor Stoney also announced the City will partner with the nonprofit community organization NextUp to distribute $1 million in funding for community led programs for children and families.  Based on CDC guidance, prevention efforts will focus on after-school programming, parenting support, mental health support for kids, tutoring and mentorships.

NextUp will not be the sole recipient of these funds. Rather, it will serve as the fiscal agent to make grants to grassroots and community organizations and provide quality programming and training so that those closest to impacted communities can have resources to disrupt the cycle of violence.

“Communities benefit when children and their families have access to quality programs right in their neighborhoods,” said Barbara Sipe, President and CEO of NextUp. “Richmond has so many amazing providers and programs doing exceptional work, and NextUp looks forward to increasing access to important programs that build community strength and socio-emotional wellness for our youth.”

Richmond Police Department Chief Gerald Smith also discussed the role of RPD’s civilian “Violence Interrupters” in helping to deescalate conflict and be credible, trusted community voices to help residents connect to support systems instead of violence.

“This evidence-based intervention leverages multiple sectors of our community to provide a holistic approach for those who are most at risk of perpetrating or being victimized by violence,” said Chief Smith. “The violence interrupters draw upon lived experiences to help deescalate and mediate conflicts, diffuse tensions and act as peer counselors. They are of the community and for the community.”

The $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPS) funding targeted specifically for gun violence prevention is only one component of the city’s investment in keeping communities safer. Other investments include:

  • $2M in ARPA for childcare and parental support
  • $1.5M in ARPA for initiatives out of the Office of Community Wealth Building   
  • $ 500,000 to the Richmond City Health District for the establishment of a trauma response network
  • $300,000 from the Gang Violence Assessment grant from DCJS
  • $500,000 from DCJS for ”We Matter RVA” program

“These steps signify progress in implementation of our framework, and while no one program or strategy is a panacea that will cure this decades-old issue overnight, it’s our firm belief that the solution that’s right for Richmond relies on a holistic, community-based approach,” the Mayor said. “One that takes into account the roles housing, transit, jobs and social supports play in healthier families and safer streets. One that builds trust from the ground up through collaboration and cooperation.”

The mayor also thanked the many community members and organizations that have played a role in working to prevent gun violence in the city, including Sheryl Garland, Torey Edmonds and Dr. Michel Aboutanos of the VCU Health System, and the staff of the Richmond City Health District, as well as the hundreds of city first responders who show up when the call for help goes out.

And the mayor made a special mention of the unsung heroes who go out of their way to protect their communities and work to resolve conflict and prevent violence, calling it a “team effort” that needs everyone to be involved.

“Somewhere in Richmond, right now, someone, some young man or woman, is alive due to a mentor, a coach, a pastor, a neighbor a big brother or big sister who intervened just at the right moment to help that young person divert from situations that would have placed their life in jeopardy,” the mayor said. 

“To you unsung, unknown, angels, guardians, parents, teachers who have saved the life of a youth that you know, I say, ‘Thank you.’ We all thank you.”


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Relief, investment, and opportunity creation in the City of Richmond

City officials are poised to put forth a new resolution to bring the One Casino + Resort to Richmond.  Empowered with the knowledge that residents want to know how the casino revenue will be spent, city staff proposes a two-cent tax rate reduction and uses the additional revenue for one-time capital improvement projects for Richmond City Public Schools and the City of Richmond.

The infusion of 1500 jobs and millions of dollars in economic growth and development that will help Richmond grow is exactly what many leaders and community members desire.

But it is much more than dollars and cents, it is also about closing gaps and providing relief.  Equity and community wealth gaps can be narrowed with this one project.  As the city continues to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the casino project can assist with leveling the playing field for many Richmonders who continue to struggle during these uncertain and unprecedented times.  This resolution doubles down on the city’s commitment to creating “One Richmond”.

"Our city needs to explore opportunities that create new jobs, generate new revenues, and create new tourism destinations,” said Councilman Andreas Addison. “This is more than a casino, it’s a new privately funded entertainment district for music, arts, and other amenities in the heart of southside where more investment opportunities are needed. I support the democratic process to explore this project."

While the proposed ideas center around tax rate reduction and capital improvement projects, which are both areas that provide relief for Richmond residents, the main relief can be found in providing jobs for those hardest hit by COVID.  Relief can be found in the revenue being used to address transit mobility issues.  Relief can also be found in the revenue being used to address diversifying the city’s economic engines that can bring sustainable change to Richmond.

"I strongly believe that the revenue from the resort casino project can purposefully be used to provide property tax relief for residents across the city,” said Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert.  Richmond is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.  In fact, in the 3rd district, there are working families, seniors, and other residents on fixed incomes who are unable to pay for their increased property taxes.  They are at risk of losing their homes.  At the end of the day, I think that this project will help mitigate one of our city’s top issues."

Introducing new economic engines into the city is extremely important as the community looks strategically at moving away from being dependent on the government.

“Economic development is a top priority for 2022. A lack of diversity in revenue sources makes the cost of living in Richmond too high,” states Councilwoman Ellen Robertson. “As such, in 2022, we should focus on economic development to include: the Boulevard, Downtown/Central City Small Area Plan, $20M investment in affordable housing, South Richmond 1-95 Gateway and Urban One Hotel Casino Resort - which will create thousands of jobs, reduce real-estate taxes tremendously, and assist with completing facilities and infrastructure development throughout the city.  When we increase employment, increase tax revenue and retail sales, and put community benefits in place that will drastically impact the lives of citizens, we are certainly putting the community first.”

As Richmonders look towards the future of their city, officials have heard the need for more jobs, bringing the right development that benefits all of Richmond, and growing through sustainable economic development.

“The One Casino + Resort opportunity makes sense for our entire community.  Our residents should have the chance to change the narrative of their city and One Casino + Resort helps us do that,” stated Councilwoman Reva Trammell.  “Providing jobs and access is paramount to what we believe in doing in Richmond.  With the One Casino + Resort, we can jumpstart careers, provide access and wealth-building opportunities for those who need them, create spaces for creativity, and provide new educational outlets.  This is what inclusive development looks like – something for everyone.”

While the proposals have to be vetted, it is important to highlight some of the community benefits if One Casino + Resort calls Richmond home –

  • No city funding required
  • Capital Investment over $560M which can be spent on improvement projects in Richmond City Schools and the City of Richmond
  • Influx of 1500 jobs for those who need them most
  • $16M to support local community organizations which assists with decreasing the wealth gap
  • $325K to support transit mobility solutions which creates more access

Councilmember Michael Jones echoes the sentiments of his colleagues.  “Investment in our community and our people is the key to the casino project.  There is no time like the present to ensure that our residents know we are committed to creating a better Richmond for everyone,” said Councilmember Michael Jones. “While the casino may be housed on the Southside, its benefits will be felt citywide.”

The community benefits encompass all of Richmond therefore all Richmonders win.

“Our residents deserve tax relief and access to good jobs,” said Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “They want public infrastructure improvements and more funding for school capital projects. This project provides a unique opportunity to do just that. I know City Council is committed to creating opportunities that uplift and support ALL Richmond residents, and I’m hopeful tonight’s vote affirms this shared commitment.”

This project is about the people of Richmond.  It is about providing security, relief, jobs, and investment which leads to a brighter future for the entire city.

Patrons for the resolution include President Newbille, Vice President Robertson, Councilman Jones, Councilwoman Trammell, Councilwoman Lambert, Councilman Addison, and Mayor Stoney.

The proposed resolution will be introduced at today’s City Council Meeting at 6 PM.

City, Venture Richmond to cut ribbon on new parklet, plaza, and community-painted mural at gateway to Arts District in Historic Jackson Ward

The city and Venture Richmond are prepared to cut the ribbon on a new, vibrant public space connecting the Historic Jackson Ward neighborhood and City Center. The intersection of Brook Road and W Marshall Street now hosts a three-part placemaking project consisting of a custom-designed parklet, pedestrian plaza, and intersection mural designed to provide space for community gatherings and art appreciation.

Designed by local firm Walter Parks Architects, this is the first custom-designed public parklet built in the City of Richmond. Located outside of ART 180, it will provide safe space for participants in the nonprofit’s youth programming to gather before and after class, and is open to the general public as well. 

Local artist Chris Visions designed the mural, which references the rich history of Jackson Ward and the neighborhood’s enduring mission to carry on a legacy of Black excellence. The design is based on the Sankofa, an Andikra symbol from Ghana meaning “to go back and retrieve/get,” and the colors echo the red, black and green of the Pan-African flag. ART 180 youth painted the mural as part of  the culmination of their Community Program earlier this fall.

The plaza is a result of reclaiming unused public space in front of Gallery 5 and restoring the historic bricks that existed beneath the asphalt. Artist Chris Visions created an artistic extension of the intersection mural into the plaza space and Venture Richmond provided bike racks for people visiting Gallery 5, ART 180, and neighboring businesses and residents.

The Broad Street Task Force, a group of proponents of Richmond’s Downtown convened by the mayor, shared that residents want more vibrant spaces to gather in the area. This, alongside an Asphalt Art Initiative placemaking grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the advocacy of community partners, acted as a catalyst for this new public space placemaking project at the intersection of Brook and Marshall.

City of Richmond staff from Planning and Development Review, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Public Utilities and the Public Art Commission worked alongside Venture Richmond to make the project possible. Additional project partners include ART 180, Big Secret, CB Chandler Construction, Cite Design, Gallery 5, Richmond Toolbank, Vanderbilt Properties, and Walter Parks Architects.

A ribbon cutting for the placemaking project will take place on site in front of Gallery 5 (200 W Marshall St) on Wednesday, November 17 at 2:00 p.m. All are welcome.

Quotes from partners:

Mayor Levar Stoney: “The pandemic has taught us that safe and welcoming outdoor space is more important than ever. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the many people who dedicated their time and talents to make this possible. It will be an enduring community asset and a model for future endeavors.”

Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking, Venture Richmond: “It has been so rewarding to see this shared vision take shape over two years of work with the ever-growing team of businesses, nonprofit organizations, residents, and artists in the area immediately surrounding the intersection of Brook and Marshall. By working together and bringing everything we have to offer to the table, we have created a sense of place through lasting infrastructure change that everyone in the neighborhood can enjoy.”

Prabir Mehta, Chair of the Board of Directors, Gallery 5: “Having a place for the Jackson Ward community to gather, enjoy art, and interact with one another is vital for our neighborhood's general health. Gallery5 is excited too as we will now be able to create unique programing that we would have never been able to do in the past. We're very excited to see how this new plaza will become a home for engaging communities through the arts!”

Sean Wheeler, Project Manager and Registered Architect, Walter Parks Architects:WPA collaborated on the design and provided drawings for the project. When we entered the Park(ing) Day competition [hosted by Venture Richmond] back in 2019, we were excited to try and create an engaging but temporary public space. And although all of the installations only lasted a day, the transformations and interactions within those creative spaces sparked hope for a more permanent placemaking. That is why our office and I think the immediate neighborhood were willing to pursue a more durable site specific design in our shared public way.”

Marlene Paul, Cofounder and Executive Director of ART 180: “I love the ‘intersection’ of public art, placemaking, and community building that this intersection promotes. As a nine-year resident of Marshall Street, ART 180 welcomes this new way to connect our young people and our teaching artists to our neighborhood, honor its history, and positively participate in its future. We hope the parklet and plaza will be active spaces that invite the community beyond our block to gather and connect. The mural is intended to slow cars, just as the parklet and plaza will seek to slow human beings—to gather, connect, intersect.” 

Susan Glasser, Secretary of the Richmond Public Art Commission: “This mural embodies public art in every sense: created by a local artist, painted by local young people and marking space for local gatherings. The Public Art Commission is proud to have supported this effort and looks forward to continuing our work to empower the making of art for all.”

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