2014 Richmond History Makers Honorees

Creating Quality Educational Opportunities

Ms. Dorothy S. Gallimore, Executive Director of Coal Pit Learning Center

“Miss Dorothy” strives to nourish her students’ emotional well-being and teach respect for self as well as others. Her children graduate not only with academic skills, but with the knowledge and reassurance that they are loved, accepted and cherished.”

-Patty Kruszewski, Nominator

When Dorothy Gallimore began working in the Francistown community of Glen Allen in 1976, she found many African-American families living in poverty. Most homes lacked electricity, heat and running water. There were no paved roads. Hired by Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church to run the church’s social ministry, Dorothy worked to improve conditions. But when she took on the task of converting an old, abandoned one-room schoolhouse into a preschool, Dorothy truly began to transform the community. The Coal Pit School was closed when Dorothy lobbied for its return. Her mission was to build a program to provide children from low-income families with the skills necessary to succeed in school. In the formerly boarded-up building, she taught 4-year-olds basic ABC’s and numbers to prepare them for kindergarten.

Thanks to Dorothy’s calls and fundraising efforts over the years, the school has grown and been remodeled. The program is open five days a week and has added a class for 3-year-olds. Of the more than 1,000 children who have graduated from the Coal Pit Learning Center, all have fully qualified for kindergarten. She is still contacted by former students who share their current successes as adults and express appreciation for the positive difference Coal Pit Learning Center made in their lives.

Demonstrating Innovative Solutions

Richmond Cycling Corps

“Richmond Cycling Corps is a paradigm-changing organization. Its success is both immediate – redefining the nature of community for at-risk youth, and generational – these youth become leaders and examples for their communities at large.”

-Peter Fraser, Nominator

Richmond Cycling Corps (RCC) is a local nonprofit organization founded in 2010 by former professional-level cyclist Craig Dodson, RCC’s executive director. RCC’s goal is to improve the lives of under-served youth living in Richmond’s public housing neighborhoods. The organization uses cycling as a platform for outreach, teaching inner-city youth to be leaders in their communities. They are guided by a dedicated cadre of volunteers, who provide leadership, guidance and stability. The organization includes Matt Crane as the development director, and Wilson Hale as the coordinator of Richmond Bicycle Studio – RCC’s earned income boutique bike shop.

To ensure youth are committed to the program, they are asked to sign contracts that outline their responsibilities, as well as set year-end goals for distance ridden in one day. In less than four years, youth ages 10 to 18 living in Fairfield Court have ridden more than 60,000 miles.

In February, RCC started the nation’s first inner-city high school cycling team at Armstrong High School. In its first season, two students competed in the varsity category, and the women’s JV team produced podium finishes in three races.  In June, RCC began construction on the nation’s only inner-city mountain bike park, located at Armstrong High School. It will open in September. 

Encouraging Regional Collaboration

CARITAS

“CARITAS is worthy of recognition because it plays a unique role in helping to break the cycles of homelessness and addiction in the Richmond region. What distinguishes it from others in the homeless services system is that CARITAS fills the gaps so that people in crisis can achieve long-term stability.”

-Keith Evans, Nominator

CARITAS is the largest provider of homelessness services in the Metro Richmond area, with four unique programs to help vulnerable individuals get back on their feet and become self sufficient.

The emergency shelter serves more than 1,000 people annually, and is a place of last resort for individuals ineligible for other programs, including large families, families with male heads of households, children aging out of the foster care system and men facing addiction.  

The Furniture Bank – the only one of its kind in central Virginia – distributes gently used furniture, kitchenware, linens and other basic household items to local families and individuals in need. CARITAS Works, a five-week, job-readiness and life skills development program, helps men with barriers to employment reenter the workforce. Started in 2005, the Healing Place offers men struggling with alcohol and drugs a pathway to recovery. CARITAS reports 65 percent of graduates remain sober one year from completing the program.

In 2013, CARITAS partnered with more than 165 congregations and 15,000 volunteers to provide more than 37,500 nights of shelter and nearly 113,000 meals to 1,018 individuals, including 211 children, who were in crisis.

Improving Social Justice

“Miss Community” Clovia Lawrence, Founder of Rolling for Freedom

“Clovia recognized early on the lack of voter participation in the poorest communities throughout the city. In her effort to level the playing field and ensure that every eligible Richmond resident could be fairly represented, she decided to tackle that disparity.”

-Kimberly Booker, Nominator

In April 2004, Clovia Lawrence founded Rolling for Freedom, or R4F, a bipartisan organization that provides voter registration, education, empowerment and assistance with restoration of voter rights for ex-felons. After witnessing firsthand the lack of voter participation in poor communities throughout the city of Richmond, Lawrence created the grassroots organization to bring voter resources directly to these under-served individuals.

Today, R4F prides itself on its hands-on approach to empowering and educating individuals about their civil rights, which includes rolling rallies; mayoral, gubernatorial and senatorial community forums, justice center workshops; social media outreach; Election Day poll transportation; and watch parties.

Over the past 10 years, Lawrence and her team of state-certified volunteers have registered more than 10,000 voters and educated thousands about the process of voter rights and restoration. In May 2013, Governor Bob McDonnell announced that his administration would waive the waiting period and automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons, due in large part to Lawrence’s efforts. This year, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that his administration would move all drug convictions from the violent list to nonviolent list.

Promoting Stronger Communities

Robert (Bob) S. Argabright II

“Always one to roll up his sleeves and do the dirty work, Bob puts in about 30 hours-a-week as a long-term volunteer. Meanwhile, he is most instrumental as the community’s advocate – recruiting volunteers, churches, private schools, businesses, community members and parents to work together.”

-Jim Ukrop, Nominator

Bob is a 1964 graduate of Virginia Tech and Shenandoah University. He retired from The Chesapeake Corporation and Packaging Corporation of America in 2004 and soon after began his second full-time career as an advocate for Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School, as well as the community that surrounds it. Recognizing that he wanted more out of retirement than the customary leisure pursuits, he answered the call to mentor children at the school. He now plays a vital role in the public-private collaboration that occurs in the community.

Bob’s transformative goals for the area started with the construction of a new school building to replace the former one. He is also helping the campus evolve into a walking and biking community. This effort includes organizing neighborhood families to provide supervision for children who walk or bike to school, gathering donations of bikes and helmets for those in need, and providing safety training. He is currently spearheading efforts to restore a nearby creek as part of the Watershed Project, bringing the outdoors to many young students who have had little or no exposure to life outside of high-risk areas. It will provide a focus for environmental education and be a resource to the community.