Jay Paul Photo; Dining room courtesy Kent-Valentine House
Never let it be said that Richmond lacks the spirit of public service. It abounds. Peer into every neighborhood, every community of people, and it does not take long to find those who do for others. They donate or volunteer or teach or mentor. They understand that the health of the city, of the region, depends upon the health of its parts: its people and neighborhoods.
There is a particular vein of public service that is inspired by the belief that we all have something of value to contribute to the city’s future, that we all have something to offer – indeed, have a responsibility to offer — even if we don’t yet know it or don’t believe that our contribution matters or is wanted.
In this month, the month of Thanksgiving, we give thanks to some of the many among us who made it their mission this year to be the amplifiers of voices unheard. They are the miners of human capital, the unleashers of potential, and our Richmonders of the Month. —The Staff
From left to right around the table:
Andrea and Kevin Orlosky, founders of Art on Wheels, which brings art programs to the elderly and people with disabilities or chronic illnesses. This year, the organization partnered with Virginia Supportive Housing to tell the stories of the formerly homeless in its citywide Find Art Doors project. “We feel that everyone has a responsibility to use their talents to leave the world a better place. We believe that art creates happiness, and happy people build happy communities. So we work to increase happiness, health and wellness through art.”
Kiwana S. Yates, principal of Carver Elementary School, this year received the Community Foundation’s R.E.B. Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. “I see myself as a trailblazer. Families entrust me with their most precious jewel … their children. As a result, I simply prosper utilizing the idea as quoted by [scholar] Warren Bennis: ‘Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.’”
Art Burton, founder of Kinfolks Community, which seeks to improve opportunities in Richmond’s Mosby Court public housing community.“It’s about demonstrating that we have the ability to change lives. I believe that the test to us being a great city is to do something that everyone thinks is impossible, and that is to teach every child to believe in hope and possibility.”
Mark Strandquist, artist and founder of Performing Statistics, an art exhibition created this year by incarcerated youths tackling juvenile justice reform. “Art can create humanistic windows into these incredibly complex issues and, combined with education and activism, opens a powerful and rare space to bring people together to envision and perform a more whole, healthy, and creative community.”
Courtney Bowles, local archaeologist who this year helped teens develop a ‘zine about Maggie L. Walker with Groundwork RVA and the National Park Service. “Much of my practice involves working alongside diverse groups of teens, community members and local partners to use history and archaeology as tools to explore and champion overlooked or underrepresented stories. We learn the importance of our own histories and how we can become active agents of change.”
Carol Adams, Richmond police sergeant, domestic violence survivor and founder of the Carol Adams Foundation Inc., which this year opened its first safe house. “For me, it’s truly about being a servant to the people. Servants have a different set of life instructions, which is to uplift others. I must take my assignment seriously and not waste one second of my allotted time on earth.”