Chief Operating Officer, Goochland Cares
What is the value of volunteerism to you?
In 2022, Goochland Cares volunteers donated 18,897 hours valued at $651,702. That’s just part of the story. Every week volunteers make it possible for clients to select food for their families rather than getting pre-packed bags.
Advocacy specifically is important to me because of the connections I have made with people through volunteering. Unfortunately, I have come to understand that our country is drastically biased and many systems that create our country’s foundation are ultimately unjust and ineffective for marginalized groups. Because I so fervently believe that we cannot improve our immediate communities without also helping those in surrounding communities, advocacy is crucial in my quest to better our world and become kinder, and more empathetic.
They build ramps for clients to have safe access to their homes. They provide medical care for those without health insurance. In the words of a client, “They make me feel like someone cares.” In the words of a volunteer, “I get much more than I give.” Volunteers don’t just help us extend our budget; they help us expand our reach.
Senior Associate Director, Community Relationships, Bonner Center for Civic Engagement
Why is it important to you that your work is connected to community?
Effective positive social change efforts feel impossible without centering relationships. Relationships help us appreciate the complexities of where we are and where we want to be and lay the foundation for possible collaborations.
Working with and not for communities we care about, where we all have chances to bring forth talents, skills, and passions, is how we best work towards communities where we all thrive.
How are you helping others stay informed and get involved in ways that are meaningful to them?
I aim to listen intently and make connections wherever I can. Being a part of regional initiatives, like RVA
Engage, where participants can learn from and with each other and meaningfully collaborate when it makes
sense provides connection opportunities that might not appear if we didn’t make space to be in community with one another.
Why do you volunteer and why is advocacy important to you?
As an inquisitive person, who loves to meet new people, volunteering provided an opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life. Since I began volunteering, I often forgot about the broader end goal (tutoring, organizing a drive, etc.) and got lost in conversations with the people I was working with/serving. Working towards a common goal with new friends, who may come from drastically different backgrounds is endlessly inspiring, in that it shows that we have more similarities than we have differences and that helping each other can be powerful for everyone involved.
Tell us a little bit about your work in advocacy. Do you have any advice for other people your age on how to use their voice?
My work in advocacy began through research, which embodied the “listen and learn” point on the civic circle. Through analyzing K-12 public policy, I learned about why the public education system I was heavily involved in through volunteer work had shortcomings. After becoming more educated, I kept reading and was eager to put my knowledge into practice. Luckily, Chris Jones, the executive director of VASCD, supported my interests and let me get involved with VASCD as a student. Through looking at policy priorities and familiarizing myself with bills being discussed at the General Assembly, I felt empowered to send letters to senators and use my passion to invoke change.
My advice to other students in high school, who may want to become involved in advocacy, would be to reach out to community leaders. Mr. Jones and Ms. Cavallaro at the community foundation were both extremely kind and helpful in my journey to become more involved in Richmond, and I have no doubt that there are dozens of other community leaders who are just as incredible. Just don’t be afraid to voice your passion to those around you, and good things will come out of it! Spend time educating yourself about your community and try to go out of your comfort zone and meet new people.