William Byrd Community House

For more than 80 years William Byrd Community House has been quietly reaching out to help in ways that are not always easy to see…unless you look closely. And listen carefully to stories from real people who have been encouraged, motivated and redirected. Members of our community who are on their way to lives full of hope, promise and purpose.

In The News-

How We Get There: The Goal: An Equal Chance for All to Climb Economic Ladder REGGIE GORDON TIMES-DISPATCH GUEST COLUMNIST Sunday, November 12, 2006

REGGIE GORDON Richmond Times-Dispatch November 12 , 2006

The William Byrd Community House will outsource the collection and distribution of gifts for our clients during the upcoming holiday season. Instead of creating a plan to mobilize our staff to be the conduit for the wonderful outpouring of generosity from our friends and supporters in the form of holiday presents for the children and families we serve, we are placing the names of the children, families, and adults served by the William Byrd Community House on the Salvation Army Angel Tree. The Salvation Army has successfully demonstrated that it has the capacity to manage the logistics and coordinate the gift exchange and volunteers required to ensure that Christmas is merry for thousands of local children, families, and adults who would have been unable to afford to buy their own gifts. We are happy to partner with the Salvation Army, redirecting our donors and supporters to it for the holiday gift-giving process. Meanwhile, the William Byrd Community House will continue to use our resources to focus on our core business during the holiday season: Providing the programs and services that help us fulfill our mission of creating pathways to self-sufficiency for children, families, and adults.

Partnerships, collaborations, strategic alliances, and conversations about the like are taking place each day in our community in the nonprofit sector. Many of us in the nonprofit community are engaged in productive dialogue about modifying some of our strategies in order to have an even greater impact on the overall quality of life in the region. The programs and services that we offered 10 years ago may no longer be relevant, as we try to find solutions for the challenges faced by low-income residents of our region today.


Recognizing Patterns

Moreover, most, if not all, of the challenges faced by the children, families, and adults we serve are a byproduct of societal or systemic barriers that are beyond the scope of any program or service we may offer. As the staff and board members from area nonprofit agencies discuss realignment, share ideas and resources, and compare information, we see patterns in the cycle of life for low-income residents of our region that have significant importance for regional policymakers and corporate leaders.

Many of the people we serve are taxpaying residents of the region. Many of them vote, shop, work, and pay utilities, rent, or a mortgage. Those who do not come to us because they would like to be able to do those things. They may turn to us in times of personal disaster, but their sense of social responsibility, dreams, and aspirations are not unlike those of the balance of the population in the region who have either more stable income or a stronger system of support.

So what is the solution? Reframe the way we think about poverty and the work of nonprofits. We all want safe neighborhoods, good schools, and access to jobs, food, health care, and housing. Nonprofits function as the safety net when something goes wrong and a child, adult, or family needs some help to rise above

 their circumstances, get back on track, or stay alive. The gravity of these challenges requires a coordinated approach that incorporates not only the nonprofit sector, but also the faith community, foundations, the public sector, and the private sector. Each sector has an equally important perspective, valuable data, and discrete resources to bring to the table. We must carve out time for consistent, joint strategic planning that incorporates candid dialogue about the role of each sector, acting independently or collectively, to ensure a better quality of life for all residents of the region. Our approach has to be strategic, compassionate, and visionary.

                                                                                         Fresh Strategies Needed

Our shared goal is to demonstrate that we have a strong, vibrant community where everyone has an equal chance to live stably and build personal wealth. This is how we retain young people in our community, eradicate poverty, diminish crime, and attract new businesses. We each have a role to play in achieving this goal for our region. We will have to deconstruct some of our systems and replace them with fresh strategies, learning from our mistakes as we grow. Framing our collective future in this manner is both exciting and challenging.

For our part, in addition to continuing to provide quality, outcome-based programs and services, the William Byrd Community House is poised to be a hub for information, capacity-building initiatives, and dialogue that will lead to a coordinated exit strategy from poverty for as many residents of our community as possible.

Reggie Gordon is the executive director of the William Byrd Community House and a Commentary Columnist in the Helping Hands series.