2011 Richmond History Makers Honorees

Creating Quality Educational Opportunities

Dr. Margaret Dabney

“Dr. Dabney was a pioneer in her endeavors to identify and teach children with a broad spectrum of abilities and talents who might otherwise go unrecognized. Without her, literally thousands of talented, primarily minority youngsters in Richmond and many surrounding counties would not have achieved to their fullest potential.” Barbara Fuhrmann, nominator

Dr. Margaret Dabney is dean emeritus of the School of Education at Virginia State University. She has been creating quality educational opportunities in the Richmond region for over 50 years, most notably through her leadership in establishing two accomplished, innovative local schools. Established in the 1970s, Richmond Community High School (RCHS) has provided advanced learning opportunities for gifted students from low-income families for almost four decades, using a curriculum still largely based on Dr. Dabney’s original model. RCHS has been recognized as one of the top schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report, among other awards. Her second project in this regard occurred after her retirement from Virginia State in the 1990s, when she set to work proposing the establishment of the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for Arts and Technology (ARGS). Located in downtown Petersburg, ARGS is a full academic-year program that offers students from 16 localities the opportunity to focus their studies around artistic and technologic disciplines. Her proposal for ARGS was the first of its kind to be approved by the Virginia Department of Education in its original form. Dr. Dabney’s influence on the development of the broadest range of talents in young people is unmatched, and the accomplishments of the students have contributed to the betterment of their communities.

Demonstrating Innovative Solutions

Joe Doetzer, Elderhomes

“During his tenure, Joe has coordinated and supervised the activities of more than 9,000 volunteers in the construction of more than 800 wheelchair ramps…While gradually losing his independence with the debilitating disease Parkinson’s, Joe has passionately transferred his own independence as a gift to more than 800 disabled individuals by personally overseeing the ramp process for each one of them.” Anne McNeal, nominator

Joe Doetzer has been improving the lives of disabled people in greater Richmond for more than 18 years by designing and installing accessibility-related home modifications. With ElderHomes, a nonprofit that makes home repairs for low-income homeowners in Central Virginia, Mr. Doetzer has developed an affordable and environmentally-friendly modular ramp design that cut construction time in half. Each ramp is customized to fit the home, made of pressure treated lumber and can be reused once the family no longer has a need. Disabled himself, Mr. Doetzer designs every ramp installation, provides the schematics and materials list for the volunteers and procures building permits for each project. He has supervised 9,000 volunteers in the construction of 800 ramps, resulting in a total social cost savings of $19 million while allowing ramp recipients to remain living in their own homes with a substantially improved quality of life.

Encouraging Regional Collaboration

Regional Hospital Accompaniment Response Team (RHART)
Kristina Vagas, Safe Harbor
Stacie Francis, Hanover Safe Place
Shawntee Wynn, YWCA

“The RHART collaboration is certainly unique to the Greater Richmond area and is also the first of its kind in Virginia. The RHART work group has consulted with both state and national experts in the domestic and sexual violence field and no one has identified a comparable collaborative effort anywhere in the country.” Sheryl Robins Nolt, nominator

The Regional Hospital Accompaniment Response Team is a medical companion services program for people who have experienced domestic and sexual violence in the Greater Richmond area. Many people who experience domestic and sexual violence do not know that help is available for them in their communities. RHART changes this. Now, assault victims have an advocate by their side throughout the hospital process, which typically lasts two to six hours, with follow up services available. RHART’s services cross city and county lines. Trained hospital accompaniment volunteers are available at the request of hospital staff 24 hours a day for service at Bon Secours Richmond hospitals and the VCU Medical Center in downtown Richmond. Formed by members of Hanover Safe Place, Safe Harbor and the YWCA of Richmond, RHART has provided services to more than 500 patients since its start in November 2009. This equates to almost 1,600 hours of direct support to survivors within the hospitals. By connecting service providers, RHART provides domestic and sexual violence survivors with seamless services and comprehensive support that offers lasting hope and healing.

Improving Social Justice

Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities
Jonathan Zur, CEO

“Whereas other organizations may attempt to provide the tools to deal with prejudice and discrimination, only the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities makes it relevant to all…Over the years, the organization has become known for one-day youth seminars, high school leadership development programs, teacher workshops, elementary school programs, police/community training, Holocaust education, clergy dialogues and  many other special programs to assist Virginia communities.” Miriam Davidow, nominator

The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC) promotes understanding and respect on issues of diversity for all age groups across the state of Virginia. Each year, the VCIC leads educational programs for thousands of youth, educators, parents, clergy, organizations and business leaders. These events and experiences teach participants not simply to notice differences but also to respect variety in race, religion and culture. The VCIC’s experienced human relations staff works to stimulate discussion and action related to prejudice and discrimination and has made remarkable strides. Two local school districts, for instance, have VCIC trained groups of teachers working to promote understanding and awareness in a way that fits the needs of each particular school. For adult groups, the VCIC provides regular workshops and retreats to organizations across the region. In all, the VCIC conducts more than 140 programs annually, reaching approximately 7,500 individuals of all ages and backgrounds and making an outstanding impact on social justice in Richmond and throughout the Commonwealth.

Promoting Stronger Communities

ART 180
Marlene Paul, Executive Director

“The young people of Richmond will someday grow to be the adults that make decisions about the welfare, health and success of the city. Through participation in ART 180, young people think seriously about themselves and express their truths through art, inspiring others to do the same.” Heilbron Rushing-Cooper, nominator

ART 180 is a Richmond-based nonprofit that creates and provides art-related programs for young people living in challenging circumstances. In doing so, the program encourages personal and community change through self-expression. Formed in 1998, ART 180 partners with a number of Richmond organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs, Communities in Schools and ROSMY, to connect artists of all disciplines to young people across the community. Murals across the city serve as lasting legacies of this work and of the lives transformed as a result. Through hands-on art instruction, young people develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, leadership and communication skills as they learn to express their thoughts, feelings, and aspirations while developing artistic ability. Each program offers instruction in a single art form, such as painting or music, and challenges students to answer questions regarding their aspirations for themselves and others. In this year alone, ART 180 has made its cultural discourse richer and more complete through the empowerment of over 350 young people.