2006 Richmond History Makers Honorees

Creating Quality Educational Opportunities

Dr. William and Janet Kell

When “Buzz” and Janet Kell saw that children of Gilpin Court couldn’t read or write at the appropriate grade levels, they started their own “school” in the basement of their Northside home. In the first year, with the help of dedicated volunteers, the Kells worked with eight children to improve their reading and writing skills. Today, Elijah House Academy (EHA) has the capacity to serve 300 children in grades K – 8. Located at 6255 Warwick Road, EHA offers quality education reinforced with traditional Christian values in a protected environment.

Most of EHA’s students are considered high-risk. Many live below the poverty level. Nonetheless they achieve certain levels of academic achievement. EHA graduates have gone on to the Governor’s School, St. Christopher’s, Collegiate, Trinity and Freeman and continued on to college. Students excel at academics and on average add more than points to their scores every year they attend.  EHA emphasizes character development, good citizenship, integrity, honest, respect for authority, kindness, responsibility, and service to the community.

Demonstrating Innovative Solutions

Michael Parker

Steven J. Ashby, Ph.D., executive director of the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA), calls Michael Parker an “innovative and dedicated professional, one of the most talented people I have worked with in more than 35 years.”  Parker, Director of Human Resources and Special Services, developed the RBHA Workplace Solutions initiative that has changed both the internal and external culture of RBHA.

RBHA Workplace Solutions delivers a customized and flexible program of human resource solutions to both public and private sectors. The program integrates diversity, leadership and wellness that is expected to generate revenues in excess of $350,000. Parker also established RBHA’s Wellness Center which alone saved the agency and its employees $400,000 in insurance premiums last year and contributed to a 40% reduction in employee sick leave. As a result of Parker’s efforts, RBHA’s workforce of 400 strong demonstrates a strong commitment, low turnover and high morale and is a workforce that values diversity in culture, race, religion, age, and sexual orientation.

Fostering Regional Cooperation

James River Advisory Council

The James River Advisory Council serves as a forum for those who use and love the River.  Comprised of local governments, state and federal agencies, businesses, industries, organizations, and individuals concerned about the recreational and historical aspects of the River. They promote the James River and its watershed as a shared resource. The Council sponsors events and activities, addresses issues such as water quality, signage and points of recreational use.

Hundreds of volunteers collect litter and debris along the James, doing their part to keep the river clean and safe. James River Days is a six-month program of activities focused on publicizing and stimulating use of the River.  The 13th annual Parade of Lights is a holiday tradition when lighted boats parade down the James from Richmond to Varina-Enon. JRAC has over 100 partners that sponsor activities and promote public policy relating to the River. The James River Advisory council has changed the way the community views and uses the James River

Improving Social Justice

Constance K. Chamberlin

Access to schools, jobs and security all begins with housing.  Often barriers limit a person’s access to good housing.  Connie Chamberlin has devoted her entire professional and personal life to breaking down barriers to housing.  Chamberlin is President and CEO of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME).  For close to twenty years, Chamberlin has demonstrated remarkable leadership in promoting equal housing opportunity and improving housing conditions for millions of families across the country.

Under her leadership, HOME won a 1996 court case vs. Nationwide Insurance that resulted in the availability of quality homeowners’ insurance in urban and minority neighborhoods across the U.S. Chamberlin’s commitment to the cause of equal housing is demonstrated by her volunteer service with a variety of housing organizations in addition to her career with HOME. She was a founder of the Better Housing Coalition, a founding member of Housing Virginia and board chair of the Virginia Housing Coalition.  She leads the state’s efforts to ensure that all Virginians have access to safe, decent and affordable housing.

Promoting Stronger Communities

Larry L. Lindsey

F.I.R.S.T. Contractors, Inc. (FCI) is committed to helping young adults leave the foster care system with skills that will help them move forward. As staff psychologist with the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, Larry Lindsey saw how poorly these young adults were faring outside the system and how ineffective counseling was.  Lindsey created a pilot job readiness program involving hands-on experiences to enhance each person’s ability to provide for themselves.

FCI was established 2001 with a mission to create self-contained job readiness training experiences for young adults. Lindsey believes every young adult possesses the ability to live and work effectively. FCI aims to empower young people by training them in construction industry trades including carpentry, inventory management, sales and marketing. To date, over 200 young adults have gone through FCI’s job readiness training program. As a result of Lindsey’s leadership and the dedication of his staff, the young men and women who go through the FCI program have increased opportunities for immediate success, higher wages and career advancement.