Q&A: 4 Nonprofits Share How UVA Makes an Impact in the Community

November 14, 2019 By Shannon Reres, ser5qt@virginia.edu Shannon Reres, ser5qt@virginia.edu

For more than 20 years, University of Virginia employees have led state participation in the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign – an annual fundraising drive – giving nearly $17 million to nonprofits that are making a difference in the community and state.

This year’s campaign kicked off Oct. 1 and will run through Dec. 20.

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With little over a month to go, UVA Today caught up with four local nonprofits to learn about the important work they are doing in Charlottesville and beyond – and how gifts made through the CVC can help advance this work.

Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary
Madeline Zimmer, Associate Director

Q. Could you tell me a bit about Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary?

A. We rehabilitate and release native wildlife that has been injured or orphaned. We operate with a small staff and wide network of volunteers to ensure that hundreds of animals – thousands since our founding – can gain a second chance at being wild.

The people in our communities are willing to go to great lengths to help animals that have been inadvertently injured or displaced, but most are unsure how to do that. We provide an answer for the ‘how’ – a place to bring wild animals for the help they need or simply as a source of pertinent information. We receive calls and animal patients daily; answering the call from the communities we serve is what we do. 

Baby squirrels are one of many kinds of animals brought into the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary.
Baby squirrels are one of many kinds of animals brought into the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary. (Photo courtesy Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary)

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

A. Seeing how many people from all walks of life and on all ends of our political spectrum come together because they share love and care for animals and the natural world is very rewarding. On the hardest and longest days, I’ve never gone home and felt that it wasn’t work worth doing.

Q. How would you like to see Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary grow and change?

A. I’m most excited to see RWS grow in staffing and capacity. We’ve continued to admit more animals every year and, as our community grows, so will the need for wildlife rehabilitation. I look forward to seeing RWS as an even greater facility, a more prominent community resource with even more capacity for what we were founded to do: rehabilitate and release wildlife. 

Q. How do gifts made through CVC directly serve the sanctuary?

A. We don’t waste money: we pay our staff, keep the lights on, buy food for the animals and build and fix enclosures. Our staff is small, and we rely heavily on volunteers and our summer internship programs to get it all done in the busy season. All donations go directly to the mission! 

Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle
Ellen Moore Osborne, Executive Director

Q. Could you tell me a bit about Literacy Volunteers?

A. LVCA helps adults learn to read, write and speak the English language. It’s a place where adults can go to improve their skills. Most of our adult learners are in the workforce; they hope that by improving their English skills they can get a job, or a “better” job.

To do this, we match our students with a trained volunteer tutor who acts as a mentor and guide through the learning experience. This is a relationship-based program, and students and volunteers often work together for a year or two.

Trained volunteer tutors work one-on-one with students.

Q. How does LVCA help our community?

A. LVCA consistently helps people master the English language and gain the skills needed to be successful workers, parents and fellow citizens. We help more than 460 people each year begin to realize their potential in our community; we help them envision a future for themselves where they can become self-sufficient.

Through our citizenship program, we have helped a large number of our students solidify their status in the U.S. by becoming naturalized citizens. Becoming a citizen is a strong indicator that he or she is committed to our community and wants to be a full participant.

Q. If you could have five minutes with someone who is thinking about giving to Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle, what would you want them to know?

A. If possible, I’d have them meet one of our students and hear his or her story. But otherwise, I would want to impress upon those thinking about giving to Literacy Volunteers how their dollars are going to help someone who is actively working hard to help themselves. Our students are just like us; many of them are holding down a job (or two), raising families, and yet are making time to learn one of the hardest languages in the world. It’s tough.

And the LVCA program consistently produces results. We are highly regarded in the state among programs addressing adult literacy because we always meet our testing targets. In September, LVCA will be recognized at the national level, because one of our students has been named the “Dollar General Student of the Year.” Our student will get to travel to California to accept the award.

The Shelter for Help in Emergency
Sarah Ellis, Fundraising & Development Coordinator

Q. Could you tell me a bit about the Shelter for Help in Emergency?

A. We were established in Charlottesville in 1979. Our mission is “working to end domestic violence in our community.” We are the only agency in the area offering 24-hour emergency, confidential shelter and comprehensive support services to victims of domestic violence. 

Through our 24-hour hotline and comprehensive services, the shelter provides a safe, supportive environment that serves to empower survivors with the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. We don’t tell our clients what to do; we offer guidance toward the tools and resources they need to move forward with their lives.

The staff at the Shelter for Help in Emergency is an integral part of daily operations.
The staff at the Shelter for Help in Emergency is an integral part of daily operations. (Photo courtesy Shelter for Help in Emergency)

Q. How does the shelter make a difference in our community?

A. The shelter shines a light on an important, and often hidden, issue in our community. By providing safety and support for those in need, as well as information to raise community awareness, the shelter makes individual, community and societal connections – encouraging empowerment, creating awareness and promoting change.

Q. How do gifts made through CVC directly serve the shelter?

A. Every gift to the shelter makes a difference. As a small organization with a big mission, we rely on the generosity of the community to help us do our work.

Donations, large and small, help in myriad ways. They go to keeping the lights on in our shelter, providing warmth and food to those who are hurting and tired, providing support and information to encourage next steps and support for our work with children and youth aimed at breaking the generational cycle of violence.

City Schoolyard Garden
Jeanette Abi-Nader, Executive Director, City Schoolyard Garden/Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville/Charlottesville Food Justice Network

Q. In your own words, could you tell me a bit about City Schoolyard Garden?

A. We engage youth in gardening and hands-on experiential lessons about growing food and caring for the environment as a way to build leadership skills, bring a diversity of students together, enhance academic learning, develop youth confidence and connections, and more.

Students in all of Charlottesville public schools engage in the gardens. Together they create these vibrant growing and learning spaces that evolve from learning about how to grow your own food, to nutrition and teamwork, and expand to how we grow and connect as people, how we build equity, how we steward the planet.

Students come together to garden, grow food and learn leadership skills.

Q. How has City Schoolyard Garden affected our community?

A. Every year, CSG engages more than 3,500 youths in the gardens on a regular basis, not just coming out one time per year. The gardens are an integral part of the schools and of learning; we track more than 45,000 garden learning opportunities each year. Students feel happy in the garden; they are more likely to eat the food they grow; they learn leadership skills.

Q. How do gifts made through the CVC help City Schoolyard Garden’s work?

A. Donations are critical to our work. They buy seeds and compost and chicken food; fund youth interns’ salaries as they work in the gardens all summer; pay for farmers to bring their goats for city students to pet and learn about; provide fresh, local snacks for students to try new healthy foods; fund staff to work side-by-side with youth as mentors in the garden; and provide a haven for a young person struggling.

Q. If you could have five minutes with someone who is thinking about giving to City Schoolyard Garden, what would you want them to know?

A. At CSG, youth wellbeing is at the core of what we do. The gardens become classrooms for learning, relaxing, building friendship, stepping into leadership, resolving conflicts, advancing equity and so much more. It is a vibrant, fun and effective way to invest in our youth and their future for healthy lives.

Media Contact

Shannon Reres

Office of University Communications