Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT) has won $500,000 through the inaugural Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins, Sr. Community Innovation Grant. The new annual award will fund one proposal that “celebrates the imaginative, cooperative spirit of Greater Richmond.”
CHAT plans to use the money to support a program designed to increase job training, marketable skills and employment opportunities for youth in North Church Hill. CHAT’s Young Entrepreneurs of Richmond Project includes the purchase of Captain Buzzy’s Beanery as a community and entrepreneurial hub. The project also includes elements intended to enhance the mental and nutritional health of participating youth.
“With this new grant category, we challenged the human services community to think creatively and collaboratively and to dream dreams bigger than they could have imagined,” said Juliet Shield-Taylor, the Robins Foundation board member who chaired the selection committee. “We were impressed with CHAT’s creativity, passion and the potential for making a real difference in the lives of Church Hill’s youth, and we look forward to witnessing the transformation within that community.”
The Young Entrepreneurs of Richmond Project is a multifaceted initiative with a broad scope of elements. A key component involves the purchase of Captain Buzzy’s Beanery, whose space will be utilized for a variety of retail, training and other entrepreneurial activity. The acquisition will allow for the expansion of CHAT’s existing entrepreneur teams, which are currently involved in woodworking, urban farming and screen-printing.
A second piece of the plan involves the development of a work-study program called Project First Job, a program designed to introduce participating youth to marketable job skills through paid positions with partner businesses. A third component focuses on addressing the mental and nutritional health needs of the community’s young people through education, evaluation and counseling.
In addition to funds to pay for the acquisition of the coffee shop, grant monies also will go toward the purchase of pickup trucks and a tractor to support the urban farming elements and two 14-passenger buses to transport students to small businesses as part of their entrepreneurial education.
The grant also will support work stipends for participating youth as well as salaries for new staff positions.
“We couldn’t be more grateful to the Robins Foundation, not just for this grant but for creating this process that invited us to dream big and take risks for our community,” said Caitlin Barnes, communications and development director for CHAT. “It is particularly notable that CHAT students helped develop this dream, presented to the selection committee and were an integral part of helping leverage $500,000 for their community.”
The runner-up proposal was submitted by CodeVA to support a program called Building the Digital Dominion, an initiative that seeks to create greater digital literacy – or computer science literacy – among Virginia’s public school students.