Volunteers help out at Shalom Farms. Photo courtesy Shalom Farms
Serving with volunteers from different faith traditions, these five community partnerships lift hopes by meeting the needs of some of our most vulnerable residents.
CrossOver Healthcare Ministry
Established in 1983, CrossOver Healthcare Ministry is Virginia's largest free clinic, with two locations in the Richmond area. Serving nearly 7,000 patients a year, CrossOver provides health care services for the working poor. "Our system allows us to help people manage ... or identify chronic disease in the early stages before they end up in the emergency room and have irreversible damage to their system," says Julie S. Bilodeau, executive director.
In addition to health care services, CrossOver's staff and volunteers are committed to upholding the vision of "creating a healthy, vibrant community where every person is restored by the compassionate, healing love of God." 521-8263 or crossoverministry.org .
Hanover Interfaith Free Clinics
Nearly seven years ago, Susan Hubbard and her husband, Dr. Thomas Hubbard, were instrumental in establishing a free clinic in the basement of St. James the Less in Ashland. As demand for services grew, the initiative expanded to four other churches as Hanover Interfaith Free Clinics. "When we first started out, we wondered if we could do this. But there was a population of people who weren't receiving services, and we had volunteers with the skills and passion to give," says Susan Hubbard, executive director of Hanover Interfaith Free Clinics.
Volunteers offer free medical, dental, eye and podiatry services to patients who do not have health insurance. 798-8890 or hanoverfreeclinics.org .
In 2012, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders met to consider what would happen if the community of faith partnered to offer support to people in the Richmond area. That initiative, Interfaith Outreach United, or I.O.U. Richmond, now brings more than 1,000 volunteers from different religious traditions and races together annually for two days of community service.
In 2013, the number of participating organizations grew from six to more than a dozen, including colleges and universities. Volunteers feed the hungry, help the homeless, visit the sick, beautify the community and perform random acts of kindness.
"All of us realize that regardless of our specific faith community, we share much more than what we disagree upon," says Rabbi Ben Romer of Congregation Or Ami. iourichmond.org .
The Micah Initiative
A partnership between more than 130 faith communities in Greater Richmond and the Richmond Public Schools, the Micah Initiative connects volunteer tutors with at-risk students. Fifteen years ago, the Micah Initiative began at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, when members joined with the Richmond Jewish Coalition for Literacy to mentor children in the city's elementary schools.
Taking its name from the biblical book of Micah, the program today involves more than 1,600 volunteers — Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim — as mentors, tutors, teacher's assistants and lunch buddies.
As Betsy Carr, St. Paul's director of outreach, says, "Relationship is the thing that transforms, and the Micah Initiative is about the power of relationships." 783-7903 or
When children in Richmond's low-income neighborhoods enjoy a serving of fresh squash, there's a good chance it may have been grown at Shalom Farms in Goochland County. An initiative of United Methodist Urban Ministries, Shalom Farms has been fighting hunger in Richmond's inner city since 2008 by growing fresh produce. Community volunteers of all ages and backgrounds do most of the planting and harvesting, before the organic farm's bounty is distributed almost entirely to residents who lack access to fresh, nutritious food.
In addition to growing food, the initiative offers resources and educational tools, says Dominic Barrett, director of Shalom Farms. "We can grow all of the food in the world, but folks also need the tools to cook, share and enjoy healthy, sustainable food." shalomfarms.org .
Claire Mills is founder and editor of faithinrichmond.com .