Category Archives: Charity and philanthropy

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Hubs for Government and Not-for-Profit Services in Inner Cities – Part 1 – the Current Framework

by James C. Sherlock

I believe a major approach to address both education and health care in Virginia’s inner cities is available if we will define it right and use it right.

Community schools.

One issue. Virginia’s official version of community schools, the Virginia Community School Framework, (the Framework) is fatally flawed.

The approach successful elsewhere brings government professional healthcare and social services and not-for-profit healthcare assets simultaneously to the schools and to the surrounding communities at a location centered around existing schools.

That model is a government and private not-for-profit services hub centered around schools in communities that need a lot of both. Lots of other goals fall into place and efficiencies are realized for both the community and the service providers if that is the approach.

That is not what Virginia has done in its 2019 Framework.

The rest of government and the not-for-profit sector are ignored and Virginia public schools are designed there to be increasingly responsible for things that they are not competent to do.

To see why, we only need to review the lists of persons who made up both the Advisory Committee and the Additional Contributors. Full of Ed.Ds and Ph.D’s in education, there was not a single person on either list with a job or career outside the field of education. Continue reading

Dominion Energy Scholarships Define “Communities” by Race

By Carol J. Bova

Dominion Energy is offering 60 undergraduate Equitable Education Scholarships totaling $500,000 for “students from historically underrepresented communities.”

The rules exclude White students (unless they identify as Hispanic), no matter what “community” they’re from, because to be eligible, applicants must:

— Self-identify as Black or African American; Hispanic or Latino; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander with higher education expenses;

— Be high school seniors or graduates or current college undergraduates residing in Connecticut, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Idaho, Wyoming, or Utah, with plans to enroll full-time at an accredited two- or four-year college, university or vocational-technical school for the entire upcoming academic year.

The press release quotes Robert M. Blue, Dominion Energy’s president and chief executive officer, who said: “We have already seen a tremendous return on investment supporting students obtaining higher education. Dominion Energy remains committed to investing in students’ access to higher education, strengthening our communities and future generations, and building a sustainable workforce.”

Scholarship America, a nonprofit specializing in managing scholarship and tuition assistance programs, says it “will support Dominion Energy in the selection of finalists.” Scholarship America says: Continue reading

RVA 5X5: Enrichmond and the City’s Radio Silence

Photo credit: Flickr

by Jon Baliles

I won’t do a “Top Stories of 2022” list for this newsletter, but if I did, one of them would surely be the collapse of the Enrichmond Foundation and the radio silence on all fronts concerning its finances, the groups that depended on it, their assets, and the two historic Black cemeteries in its portfolio — Evergreen and East End Cemetery.

The important question is not so much what happened in 2022 (although that is important); the critical next steps — should anyone decide to take them — are what will happen in 2023?

A brief recap from the October 14 newsletter: “The Enrichmond Foundation was founded in the early 1990s and had grown to support more than 80 small, local, all-volunteer groups that worked to help Richmond in various ways, many of which focused on keeping the City green and clean. Enrichmond allowed the groups to use their insurance coverage and raise tax-free donations, served as a fiduciary for the funds each group raised, and distributed those funds as directed by the groups.

Suddenly in June, the Foundation announced a cessation of operations, leaving no transition plan. The Board voted to dissolve the Foundation but left no accounting of the funds it had in its accounts, and then within weeks the lawyer representing the Board stepped away from his role as counsel.

None of the “leaders” at City Hall has said anything about this. Not. A. Word.

The City’s Parks & Recreation Department has been able to assist some of the organizations, but there are so many they can’t do it all themselves. That’s why the Foundation existed. It is known that the amount of money held in trust for the various “Friends Of” groups is anywhere from $300,000 to $3 million, though I have been told recently that it is closer to the lower estimate.

While the City dawdles, how are these small “Friends Of” groups to do the important work they do (much of it is environmental) if they can’t access their donations? How can they raise money if they have no place to put it? The more this drags out, it is a safe bet those groups will lose volunteers, who will put their time toward other causes. Continue reading

The Governor Asks Virginians to Support Food Banks

by James C. Sherlock


Homelessness in Petersburg – Part 2

Travel Inn was shut down by the ACE team in June. Courtesy Joyce Chu, Progress Index.

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote yesterday about the excellent investigative reporting by the Progress-Index about the knock-on effects of the renewal of fire and building code enforcement in Petersburg.

My position is that Petersburg must enforce its codes for public safety and the livability of the city.

But I also recognize the need to provide better solutions to homelessness in that city. I am pursuing a story on that subject.

But in the meanwhile, the Progress-Index’s Joyce Chu has posted her second article in that series.  I refer to

‘A fresh can of nowhere to go’: Health and stability stumble with fewer motel rooms for those on the edge”

It consists almost exclusively of the stories of those displaced with the closure of those motels.

It is powerful stuff.

Petersburg Resumes Important Actions Against City Code Violators — Homeless Needs Increase

Travel Inn was shut down by the ACE team in June. Courtesy Joyce Chu, Progress Index.

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes absolutely necessary actions have more than one outcome.

Such is the case in Petersburg.

Joyce Chu of Petersburg’s indispensable Progress- Index last evening initiated a multi-part series on the impacts of the city’s closure due to safety violations of two motels used by otherwise homeless people.

Her first article makes a case for more government and charitable services for the people affected by the closures. Good for her. No one wants people living on the streets and everyone wants the kids in school.

She explains that the California Inn, OYO and Travel Inn motels, among a group of low cost motels right off of I-95, were

also hotbeds of crime, drug overdoses and prostitution mixed in with families with children, according to former residents and homeless advocates.

She points out that Petersburg has resumed (after a lengthy period when it did not) enforcing its zoning codes. A team called the ACE team — Abatement, Compliance, and Enforcement — is on task, run by the Fire Chief.

Code enforcement is an absolutely necessary step to revitalize the city.

So is helping those adversely affected.  -Hotel owners should be forced within the limits of the law to assist. Continue reading

Food Bank Shelves Emptying — Time to Help

Almost empty food pantry Austin Tx. Courtesy KXAN Austin

by James C. Sherlock

Showing the dual effects of inflation — more people need food assistance and the costs of providing that food have risen — a local food bank we have long supported ran out of food this weekend.

First time ever.

The director told us that this is happening everywhere. See empty shelves in Austin Texas above.

If you have not dealt with one, food banks in my experience tend to be exceptionally well run, most by churches, synagogues, mosques or other faith- based organizations.

They screen their clients and keep careful track of donations. Most provide food by appointment or specific days of the week or both.  All that I am aware of have limits on how many times a month each client can access food to make it go as far as possible.

The best ones are hyper-efficient with donations of money. Most staff are volunteers.

I request those readers who can afford it to please try to help. If you have a food bank you already support, help them.

If you do not already give, you can go here and put in your zip code to find local food banks. I tried other sites and web search terms and none of them provided nearly so complete a list.

Donate food, money, your time or perhaps more than one of those.

You will feel good about it and God knows people need the help.

Feel-Good Story of the Day: Ambulances for Ukraine

Senator Mark Warner speaks at Richmond Ambulance Authority event in front of the ambulance going to Ukraine.

The Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) has announced the donation of one of its ambulances as part of the “U.S. Ambulances for Ukraine” initiative. The RAA partnered with the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA), which coordinated donations from HCA Virginia, VCU Health, and the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System to stock the ambulance with medical supplies.

So far, the Ambulances for Ukraine initiative, launched by an Illinois hospital executive, has donated more than two dozen ambulances with supplies.

“Healthcare workers in Ukraine are risking their own lives for their calling to help others in times of need,” said Michael Roussos, president of VCU Medical Center, in a press release issued by the VHHA. “VCU Health’s mission to preserve and restore health for all people extends beyond the commonwealth.


Not Gilly Sullivan’s Alumni Association Anymore

Gilly Sullivan

by James A. Bacon

Aiming to address the lamentable decline in state/local news coverage, States Newsroom supports local news operations in 29 states, including Virginia.

As Jim Sherlock detailed here, the nonprofit organization was launched in 2017 by the left-of-center Hopewell Fund, which itself is managed by the left-of-center Arabella Advisors.

Its Virginia Mercury digital publication has made a valuable contribution to Virginia journalism by breaking many important stories. While the Mercury can credibly profess to be politically “nonpartisan,” its news coverage leans hard to the port side on environmental and social-justice issues.

In a nod to transparency, States Newsroom publishes the names of all individuals and groups that have contributed $500 or more since November 2019. One of the names listed is the “University of Virginia Alumni Association.”

Conservative UVa alumni might ask themselves the question: why is their alumni association contributing funds to a left-of-center news organization?

I posed that question to Richard Gard, vice president of communications for the association. It turns out that the alumni association did not make the contribution. Rather, it acted as a pass-through for another UVa-affiliated entity.

And therein lies a story illustrating the opaque organizational structure of the University of Virginia and its Oort Cloud of satellite foundations and affiliated groups. Continue reading

Some Pretty Good Clues to the EnRichmond Saga

by James C. Sherlock

EnRichmond Balance Sheet, December 31, 2019

Jon Baliles wrote an article about the EnRichmond Foundation. Seems everyone is in the dark.

To throw some light, I offer the last Form 990 from EnRichmond that is available online. It was filed October 20, 2020.

It offers some clues, such as …

  • the name of the Executive Director;
  • the name, address and phone number of the tax accountant;
  • the names of all of the officers, directors and key employees; and
  • the fact that the EnRichmond balance sheet above lost more than half its net assets or fund balances from the end of 2018 until the end of 2019, not including the pumped up intangible assets,  perhaps indicating some issue — just saying.

The balance sheet indicates EnRichmond finished 2019 with savings and temporary cash investments of $210,961 and $124,699.

I guess it is possible for that amount to have increased to $3 million that is being discussed as missing, but the total revenue in 2019 was $1,175,990 which was exceeded by $1,542,978 in expenses.

I am also sure that Richmond police have this data. So it really cannot remain a mystery.

Scandal in Virginia Not-for-Profit Hospital Reported by the NY Times – Regional Perspectives

Richmond Community Hospital – “A glorified emergency room”?

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes my subscription to The New York Times pays off. This is one of those times.

The subtitle on the Times story is:

Bon Secours Mercy Health, a major nonprofit health system, used the poverty of Richmond Community Hospital’s patients to tap into a lucrative federal drug program.

It is a blockbuster of a scandal, extremely well reported. I hope a Pulitzer awaits.

The Times, as is necessary in that paper, made it a racial issue. Bon Secours has for generations served the Black population of Hampton Roads nearly exclusively. It continues to do so and continues to lose money doing so.

That was not mentioned in the Times article. Nor in the editorial in the Richmond Free Press about the scandal.

But it doesn’t really matter. What happened in Richmond was wrong. This scandal is not the work of a properly led charity.

I have directly dealt with and reported on Bon Secours Hampton Roads for years. I will attempt to offer background on this mess for perspective both looking back and looking forward. Continue reading

Virginia Needs Better Information Sharing to Provide Mandated Public Services to Illegals Efficiently and Effectively

by James C. Sherlock

I am on record as a persistent advocate of improving the quality of both schools and medical services for poor and minority citizens. It has been the main focus of my work for years.

In a directly related matter, we read, with different reactions depending upon our politics, of the struggles with uncontrolled immigration on border states on the one hand and D.C, New York City and Los Angeles on the other.

We are treated to the public spectacle of the mayors of sanctuary cities deploring massive new influxes of illegal border-crossers and asking for federal assistance. It provides one of the best object lessons in being careful what you ask for in recent public life.

All of that is interesting, but Virginians know that the problem is increasing. They know Virginia can’t fix it, and they want to know how Virginia will deal with it.

By law we owe illegals services. And we need to provide them efficiently and effectively both for humanitarian reasons and to ensure that citizens are not unnecessarily negatively affected.

There is work to do. Continue reading

Where Does Virginia Most Need Charter Schools?

by James C. Sherlock

Discussing failing schools in Virginia, people tend to speak in generalities. When an example is needed, the City of Richmond Public Schools is chosen — an uncontested layup.

But failed schools are not a problem just in Richmond. And bad public schools in Richmond are not limited to RPS. They are a problem to which VDOE has paid lip service, hamstrung by Virginia law and constitution when trying to fulfill federal mandates with federal money.

I will be very specific about schools and school divisions and the potential to help those children with professionally-run charter schools. Currently not a single one of the six or so charter schools in Virginia is managed by a successful charter management organization (CMO).

The most useful public list that we have at the moment for this discussion is the 2020-21 VDOE list of “Schools Identified for Support and Improvement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

I will use that list to offer specificity to a Governor who wants to help. Continue reading

The Governor’s Tuition Freeze Request and the Board at UVa – It’s Complicated

Signatures from the first meeting recorded in the Minute Book of the UVa board of visitors, May 5, 1817 – ALBERT AND SHIRLEY SMALL SPECIAL COLLECTIONS LIBRARY, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

by James C. Sherlock

Much has been made of a recent request by Governor Glenn Youngkin to eliminate a tuition increase at the University of Virginia and the Board’s decision not to honor it.

The tensions between means and ends that have to be resolved in producing a budget at any large and complex university are enormous.

UVa has implemented a Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budget model.

An RCM budget model decentralizes decision-making, provides incentives for innovation, and improves overall financial results and stewardship. It couples distributed program responsibility with meaningful authority over resources.

A central RCM budget product is thus fragile, in that changes have far reaching effects unpredictable at the board level. The later the changes, the bigger the disruptions.

The Governor’s request, while appropriate to his goal to help parents deal with inflation, arrived just before the start of the fiscal year. The board judged it to be too late to be accommodated.

This is the story of the budgeting process that drove that decision and why the endowment could not be used to fund the difference.  I think elements of this may prove be informative to all who send their kids off to college. Continue reading

How are Virginians Preparing for the Coming Food Price Shocks?

by James C. Sherlock

Virginians have only begun to experience price inflation at the grocery store.

Price increases are in the food pipeline that will be a much bigger problem starting this summer.

Farmers and ranchers invest up front. They borrow money to do it. They are incredibly efficient at what they do, but are at the mercy of input prices. They must wait until their crops and animals are sold to recoup their investments.

Everything farmers and ranchers do with their farm machinery requires diesel. So do the trucks that move crops to those who prepare them for our use and then to market. Diesel prices are expected to reach more than $6 per gallon this summer, a 35% increase from current prices. Inventories are low.

Most fertilizer is an oil derivative and has skyrocketed up to 300% since early 2021. On average, fertilizer in March of this year was 35% more expensive than it was in the fall of 2021, with Roundup up nearly 90%. In six months.

Of course, the feed ranchers buy for their animals comes from the produce of America’s farmers.

Producer prices that reflect what they have paid for diesel and fertilizer and the trucking costs of moving those crops are predicted to reach grocery stores in the summer and fall. That hardly suggests that the 9% inflation recently seen in retail food prices is the end of it.

It is important to ask what our governments and our best charities are doing to prepare. Continue reading