How 3 Local Nonprofits Are Making a Difference (and What Hoos Can Do to Help)

How 3 Local Nonprofits Are Making a Difference (and What Hoos Can Do to Help)

Across Grounds, there are signs of fall: Students are back, leaves are turning and the University of Virginia is preparing to kick off the annual Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign, a fundraising drive in which thousands of UVA employees help Virginia nonprofits, including many here in Charlottesville.

As a statewide workplace-giving campaign, CVC makes it easy for state employees to donate and give back to the community. The list of nearly 1,000 nonprofits that benefit from CVC shows a cross-section of the important work unfolding every day throughout the state.

The campaign begins Oct. 1, when UVA employees will see the signature red envelopes in their mailboxes. For more than 20 years, UVA has contributed the most of any state agency to CVC, and organizers hope this year will be the University’s best yet.

UVA Today caught up with members of three Charlottesville-based, CVC-affiliated nonprofits to talk about their work and learn how these donations make a difference.

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Charlottesville Free Clinic

Colleen Keller, Executive Director, Charlottesville Free Clinic

Q. Could you tell us a bit about the Charlottesville Free Clinic?

A. The Charlottesville Free Clinic provides an open door to health care for around 2,600 low-income and underserved members of the Charlottesville community. We are devoted to delivering the highest quality of care in partnership with dedicated health care volunteers who provide around 14,000 hours of service annually. We are truly a community organization and believe that when all our neighbors are healthy, the entire community prospers.

The clinic provides more than 8,000 medical visits to uninsured individuals in our community who would otherwise have no access to care. Eighty-two percent of these patients seek out the Free Clinic because of chronic illness. We also provide more than $2 million worth of medications (mostly donated) at no cost to our patients.

The most rewarding moments are hearing patient stories and learning how the Free Clinic has helped someone or how it has changed their lives. For example, one patient we helped worked as a chef in several local restaurants and told us, “The Free Clinic helped in so many ways to lift me up. I was able to keep working hard, and now I have my own business and am an employer of others.”

The Charlottesville Free Clinic was able to help in a time of need and watch her prosper as a member of our community.

Q. How would you like to see the Charlottesville Free Clinic grow?

A. Our goal is to continue to open the door to health care. We served almost 400 new patients last year, but we want to help more. There are around 5,000 people in Charlottesville who qualify for our care but aren’t existing patients. We want to make sure everyone in our community has access to high-quality mental, medical and dental health care.

“We are truly a community organization and believe that when all our neighbors are healthy, the entire community prospers.”

- Colleen Keller
Charlottesville Free Clinic

Q. How do donations given through CVC help the Charlottesville Free Clinic’s work?

A. CVC donations help fund everything from medical, dental and mental health care to the fresh pharmacy and patient prescriptions. Your dollars are put to work for our community members in the following ways: $2 per paycheck can annually provide Metformin, a diabetes medication, for a patient for a year; $6 per paycheck annually pays for a dental appointment for a patient; $19 per paycheck annually pays for medical care for a patient for an entire year.

The Charlottesville Free Clinic provides health, dental and mental health care. (Photo by Shannon Reres, University Communications)

Habitat for Humanity

Dan Rosensweig, President & CEO, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville

Q. Tell us a bit about Habitat for Humanity.

A. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville is a national leader in innovative affordable housing solutions. Since 1991, we have built and sold more than 200 homes to hard-working, low-income families in the area and preserved housing for more than 2,000 community members through neighborhood stabilization and revitalization.

Q. On UVA’s Corner, there’s a mural of UVA creative writing professor Rita Dove’s poem, “Testimonial.” In it, there’s a line, “The world called, and I answered.” For Habitat for Humanity, what would you say has been the world’s call?

A. We are called to provide safe, decent affordable housing for all. Habitat answers that call by partnering with low-income families who are ready to purchase their own home, as well as those who need to overcome financial obstacles in order to improve their housing.

We also answer by pioneering new housing solutions, as evidenced by the resident-led redevelopment of Southwood Mobile Home Park into a vibrant 700- to 800-unit, mixed-income, mixed-use community without resident displacement.

“We are called to provide safe, decent affordable housing for all.”

- Dan Rosensweig
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville

In the past 27 years, Habitat has enabled 228 local families to achieve homeownership, helping them earn more than $60 million in home equity. In 2010, we transformed a 16-unit trailer park into a 70-unit mixed-income community without resident displacement – a first in this country. We are currently developing our latest mixed-income neighborhood, Harmony Ridge, on 5th Street in Charlottesville and partnering with residents of Southwood Mobile Home Park as they lead the redevelopment of their community.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers work on construction of the Belmont Cottages. (Photo courtesy Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville)

Q. How would you like to see Habitat for Humanity evolve and grow?

A. As I look ahead in the next 10 to 15 years, I see us increasing our building operations from building about 20 homes a year to 45-plus, continuing to support Southwood residents as they design and build a new future, and continuing to develop new products, new pathways and new approaches to better housing. Our vision is a Greater Charlottesville community where everyone can find a decent place to live.

Q. How do donations given through CVC help Habitat for Humanity’s work?

A. Donations help Habitat purchase building lots and building supplies we use to construct homes in partnership with local families. Donations provide resources for housing counseling, community engagement and post-closing support that bolster a sense of hope and opportunity for the thousands of families in our community in need of affordable housing who must make the difficult choice between shelter, food and health care each month.

“Our vision is a Greater Charlottesville community where everyone can find a decent place to live.”

- Dan Rosensweig
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville

 

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Q. If you could have five minutes with someone who is thinking about giving to Habitat for Humanity, what would you want them to know?

A. I would want them to know that one in six American families pay more than 50% of their income for housing, and affordable housing interventions are needed for 12,000 households in our area. I hope that five minutes could be spent on one of our build sites, where they would see volunteers working alongside Habitat homebuyers to make the dream of homeownership a reality. I would want them to know that they can help solve what may seem like an insurmountable problem – providing safe decent housing for all of our neighbors – by volunteering, donating or advocating.

The Haven

Stephen Hitchcock, Executive Director of The Haven

Q. Tell us about The Haven.

A. The Haven is a day shelter and housing resource center for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness in the greater Charlottesville area. We are open every day of the year, morning to evening, providing respite and basic resources – breakfast, showers, storage, laundry, physical mailing address, etc. – as well as onsite referrals and an array of housing interventions.

No matter the circumstance, we endeavor to help all of our guests successfully navigate the homeless system of care, with the expressed purpose of helping them navigate their way out of homelessness into housing.

Every morning, volunteers help serve breakfast to The Haven’s guests. (Photo by Shannon Reres, University Communications)

Q. How has The Haven helped our community?

A. Here are a handful of statistics from our annual homeless census, administered by the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless, illustrating The Haven’s impact in the community since we opened in 2010: Chronic homelessness is down 70%; veteran homelessness is down 21%; severe mental illness decreased by 64%; chronic substance use decreased by over 70%; people living with HIV and experiencing homelessness has decreased 91%.

Last fiscal year, we housed 111 individuals and families who were experiencing homelessness. We also prevented more than 130 households from entering homelessness.

Q. What’s one of the most rewarding parts of working at The Haven?

A. One of the most rewarding parts – if not the most rewarding part – of working at The Haven is participating in someone’s transition out of crisis into stability. I recently reconnected with a former Haven guest who experienced chronic homelessness for about three years, before getting into permanent supportive housing. That move literally saved her life, as she was not sufficiently medicated (and was also self-medicating) and thus extremely vulnerable while on the street.

Now stabilized for more than three years in housing and receiving regular mental health support, she has become a fierce advocate for others who are still experiencing homelessness. To accompany someone through that kind of transition is such an amazing privilege.

“One of the most rewarding parts – if not the most rewarding part – of working at The Haven is participating in someone’s transition out of crisis into stability.”

- Stephen Hitchcock
Executive Director of The Haven

Q. How would you like to see The Haven evolve and grow?

A. In conjunction with the UVA Health System, we recently launched a health clinic at The Haven. The clinic happens every other Thursday afternoon. This crucial bridge between street and hospital highlights the need to partner across systems of care. I would love to see that partnership grow and evolve and expand.

Q. How do donations given through CVC help The Haven’s work?

A. Donations from the CVC keep our doors open and the lights on! In so doing, those donations provide the necessary space and time and resources for people not only to subsist, but actually resolve their homelessness and reintegrate into the broader Charlottesville community.

A volunteer helps wash dishes during breakfast at The Haven. (Photo by Shannon Reres, University Communications)

When speaking about The Haven, I always encourage people to broaden their social imagination, specifically about why and how individuals and families become homeless. I often repeat something I heard a colleague in Fredericksburg say: “People don’t become homeless because they run out of money. They become homeless because they run out of relationships.” I wholeheartedly agree. Relational connections and social support keep us all afloat, no matter who we are or where we come from.

So, for those who have lost or forfeited those connections, The Haven becomes a new point and source of connection. We establish that connection through basic services and housing interventions. We establish it by fostering an environment of radical acceptance and hospitality. We establish it through time, attention, care and creativity. It is through those connections that we accompany our guests, at their own pace, into stability. This may take years or may happen in a matter of hours. Regardless, we reject the notion of a static population called “the homeless,” a kind of permanent underclass.

Yes, everyone does need a place to start – but everyone also needs a place to land, a safe and stable place of their own.

Media Contact

Shannon Reres

Office of University Communications