2015 Richmond History Makers Honorees

Creating Quality Educational Opportunities

GRASP – Great Aspirations Scholarship Program, Inc.

“GRASP has been impacting the lives of our youth for more than 30 years through their encouragement, caring, and dedication to helping youth set and reach achievable goals for their lives through education beyond high school. Because of GRASP’s continuous and reliable perseverance toward their goal of ensuring that every student has an equal opportunity for continuing education after high school, regardless of financial or social circumstances, I highly recommend that GRASP be recognized as a Richmond History Maker.”

– Delegate Betsy B. Carr, Nominator 

GRASP (GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program, Inc.), a nonprofit, college access, education organization has impacted the lives of thousands of students, inspiring them to believe that higher education is attainable regardless of their financial or social circumstances. GRASP serves 76 schools across the commonwealth and has been especially effective with students in the Greater Richmond and Tri-Cities areas.

GRASP advisers meet with students at high schools during the academic year, educating them about and assisting them through the financial aid process. The nurturing nature of the advisers puts the students and their family members at ease and they begin to realize that educational goals can be reached and funding is available to make those dreams a reality. Any student, typically seniors, at area schools with a GRASP adviser can receive assistance. GRASP has “Last Dollar Scholarships” at each school as well, which students can apply for to receive help to fund their post-secondary education.

GRASP has been impacting the lives of students for more than 30 years through its encouragement, caring, and dedication to helping youth set and reach achievable goals for their lives through education beyond high school. Through all of its programs, GRASP is focused on helping students, on an individual basis, and, ultimately, families and communities, improve their quality of life through the pursuit of education.

Demonstrating Innovative Solutions


“WRIR-LP 97.3 FM’s (WRIR) role as a giant microphone for Richmond’s thriving cultural scene has contributed to the city’s ongoing renaissance over the past decade. Every week, 150 volunteers produce 16 public affairs and 58 music programs. Through its content and public service announcements, WRIR has become a key way for locals and visitors alike to keep abreast of all the exciting things our city has to offer.” 

 – Chris Bernhardt, Nominator 

From early efforts to get on the airwaves to today, the volunteers who make up WRIR-LP 97.3 FM (WRIR) have innovated and worked tirelessly to realize their vision of a radio station that airs underrepresented music, news, and views in order to provide a platform for cultural diversity in Richmond. In the early 2000s, a group of Richmond artists, musicians, and journalists created what would become WRIR. The first generation of WRIR volunteers were pioneers of the national “low power” (LP) FM movement that sought to counter the homogenization of radio.

They lobbied Congress on the need for LP FM stations to be a voice for communities whose needs were not being served by the existing corporate radio stations. In response, in 2003 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an application for Richmond to become one of the first LP FM stations in the country and the largest city to receive a LP FM license. On Jan. 1, 2005, WRIR went on the air. Over the past decade, WRIR’s volunteers have created programming that is unique and specific to Richmond. Numerous local nonprofit leaders, community representatives, business owners, musicians, artists and citizens both young and old have found a place to share their stories and art.

In 2006, WRIR reached another milestone when it became the official emergency broadcast outlet for the City of Richmond, furthering its core mission of serving the people of Richmond. WRIR has created a microphone for the people of Richmond. In March 2012, eight years after WRIR received its license, the FCC announced that it would grant hundreds of new LP FM licenses. Now more communities will experience the power of grass-roots radio that Richmonders have been listening to on their own pioneering LP FM station.

Encouraging Regional Collaboration

The Greater Richmond Age Wave

“The Greater Richmond Age Wave and their collaborative workgroups have been the catalyst behind many changes in the community. As a result of the their leadership, workgroup volunteers, and partners’ research and findings, the aging population, their caregivers, and family have readily available resources in a central location. More importantly, aging individuals not only have access, but choices in how they live their senior years.”

 –Beth Ludden, Nominator 

Never in human history have so many people lived so long. Over the next 20 years, Greater Richmond’s demographic landscape will change dramatically, and the number of adults age 60 and over will outnumber school-aged children for the first time. Older adults represent the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

This demographic shift, known as the age wave, signals unprecedented change in our community and beckons us to consider new ways of utilizing the existing talents of our residents, addressing changing needs and embracing emerging opportunities for innovation. Elders are valuable assets and resources that continue to contribute to our communities. Helping us is a unique collaborative called the Greater Richmond Age Wave. Age Wave creates “systems change” – people in multiple organizations and programs, working often behind the scenes, to create changes in the way decisions are made and money is spent that positively impact our aging population and future generations.

For over the past seven years, more than 80 diverse stakeholders (local governments, businesses, nonprofits, academia, philanthropy and individual volunteers) across our community have been working collaboratively to implement, monitor, and evaluate the Greater Richmond Regional Plan for Age Wave Readiness —a shared blueprint that prioritizes targeted actions to improve the well-being of residents in the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan, and the City of Richmond. No single organization can do this alone. Targeted actions require transformative approaches and multiple partners to implement.

Age Wave is the first and only regional collaborative helping us do that across generations. And thanks to their progressive efforts, individuals of all ages will have better access to the resources and tools that improve choices of how we live our lives and where we choose to grow old.

Improving Social Justice

Ana Edwards, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project

“Ana Edwards’ ongoing work in Richmond to represent Richmond’s history more honestly has resulted in several important developments regarding how the city commemorates its history and engages its past. She said in an interview, ‘We can look at [Richmond] and see it as a point of progress – but only if we can acknowledge what happened here. What happened here was profound, complicated, and it needs to be revealed and it needs to be talked about.’” 

 – Ellen Chapman, Nominator

For the last 13 years, Ana Edwards has been one of the most tireless advocates for Richmond communities, particularly in the areas of racial justice and inequity in historical representation. She has commented on and contributed to many other social justice initiatives relating to poverty, such as affordable housing, early-childhood education and access to healthy food.

One of her hallmarks is that she works for greater bottom-up decision-making that is responsive to the needs of all Richmond communities, particularly underserved and underprivileged ones. In 2002 she co-founded the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, a volunteer community group working for social justice through public forums and activism. She is always working toward solutions as she identifies and acknowledges community challenges. In 2003 she became an advocate for systemic change in homeless services through Homeward.

In 2005 she and her husband, activist/editor Phil Wilayto, launched a radio show on WRIR-LP 97.3 FM, and a community newspaper, The Virginia Defender, to cover issues and perspectives not typically given priority in local media. Since 2009 she has managed a farmers market as a healthy food access program of William Byrd Community House, an early childhood education center which has addressed the symptoms of poverty for nearly a century. Her most high-profile work has been as chair of the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, which played a leading role in the successful efforts to reclaim Richmond’s African Burial Ground and prevent a baseball stadium from being built in historic Shockoe Bottom.

The Sacred Ground Project facilitates community input processes while reaching out to regional and international partners to recognize the importance of this space so important to people of African descent.

Promoting Stronger Communities

Darcy S. Oman, President Emerita, The Community Foundation

“During her tenure as President & CEO of The Community Foundation, Darcy has earned the respect of Richmond’s leaders in business, government and nonprofit organizations – even the tough ones. Locally, she has been a thought leader, a collaborator and hands-on participant in the creation of many initiatives, non-profit collaborative models, awards programs and fundraising initiatives.”

 –Kim Russell, Nominator 

Darcy Oman transitioned to the role of President Emerita in July as a capstone to her illustrious 30-year career at The Community Foundation. In 1985, she was hired as the Foundation’s first full-time employee and was charged with executing the vision of its founders to build and promote a vehicle for local philanthropy that would benefit our region for the long-term. Indeed, she has done just that. TCF is bigger than a single organization – it is the intersection of inspired giving and lasting impact. More than 800 donor families have placed their trust in the Foundation to carry out a wide range of charitable goals. The result is an average of $40 million in grants awarded each year.

Under Darcy’s leadership, TCF has grown exponentially to become the 29th largest such foundation in the U.S. and the third-largest in the Southeast. Darcy’s legacy is undeniable and will be felt in the Richmond region for generations. She passionately advocates for cultural vibrancy, economic prosperity, educational success and improved health and wellness for our region’s residents. She has advocated for resources and training for Richmond’s nonprofits, their staffs and their leaders. More important, she has been one of the most effective conveners in our region. If she has not been intimately involved in every major initiative in Richmond, leaders have sought her counsel and followed it. She listened. She innovated. She created. She has an authentic passion for helping others. That passion has changed the face of philanthropy in Richmond – for donors and nonprofit organizations.