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Longtime LGBTQ nonprofit rebrands to reflect expanded mission, community outreach

ROSMY, which has supported the area’s LGBTQ+ youth since 1991, has relaunched as Side by Side, it was announced this morning.

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25-year-old LGBTQ+ nonprofit ROSMY has relaunched with a new brand and name, the organization announced today. ROSMY is now known as Side by Side, an organization dedicated to creating supportive and inclusive communities across Virginia and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and those questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Side by Side leaders say the new name is more inclusive and replaces an outdated term. Part of ROSMY’s acronym stood for “sexual minority youth,” a description that no longer fully encompasses the growing number of transgender youth the organization works with.

Additionally, Side By Side now serves a larger geographic footprint than just Metro Richmond. Today, youth, families, and institutions from across the state access the nonprofit’s resources and trainings. The organization also launched a Charlottesville support group in 2008.

“In 1991, when ROSMY was founded, sexual minority youth was the nomenclature used to describe the youth we were serving,” said the organization’s founding board president Chris Clarke. “Times and culture have shifted and the organization has expanded over the course of 25 years toward building communities with LGBTQ+ youth, families, schools, and faith communities.”

The organization’s rebranding efforts were supported locally by the VCU Brandcenter. In 2014, the school approached ROSMY with the offer to work with the center in a rebranding effort. All services were provided in-kind by Brandcenter graduate students, who conducted research and interviews with Side by Side’s stakeholders which resulted in a new logo and a website redesign.

“The staff and board are thrilled with the new name and brand, and thankful to the Brandcenter’s students for all the hard work they put into the rebranding exercise,” said Side by Side’s executive director Ted Lewis. “The rebranding process took more than a year, as we engaged youth and the community in the process. We believe the Side by Side name better aligns with the work the organization is doing to foster inclusive communities with LGBTQ+ youth, families, schools, and more.”

Side by Side works with young people ages 11-20 through regular support groups, a leadership development program, and a Youth Support Line staffed by a trained operator for support, information and referrals. In the last year, Side by Side worked directly with more than 300 youth, as well as offered resources, guidance, and connection to parents and families. Side by Side also provides expertise on how to best work with LGBTQ+ youth to other organizations, schools, law enforcement, community leaders, and faith communities.

Though times have changed and society has largely moved from a position of tolerance to acceptance of the community Side by Side serves, data from the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reveals that nearly 4 in 10 LGTBQ+ youth are physically harassed in schools. LGBTQ+ youth also commit suicide at nearly four times the rate of their heterosexual peers, according to data from The Trevor Project.

To that point, the organization works to create positive and affirming school environments, which have been associated with decreased depression, suicidal feelings, substance abuse, and unexcused school absences among LGBTQ+ youth. In a survey of youth who took part in the organization’s programs, 95% of respondents said they now “feel like they matter,” while 85% of middle school youth reported higher feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.

To learn more about Side by Side’s services and programs, visit their new website or call 804.644.4800. The Youth Support Line can be reached anytime at 888.644.4390.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.

History

StoryCorps encourages Richmonders from different backgrounds to take “One Small Step”

In these challenging times, StoryCorps’ One Small Step program is working to help mend the fraying fabric of our nation–one conversation at a time.

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Today, in our divisive political landscape, some nine out of ten Americans say they’re exhausted by our political divisions and looking for a way out. In these challenging times, StoryCorps’ One Small Step program is working to help mend the fraying fabric of our nation–one conversation at a time.

The One Small Step program is working intensively in three “Anchor Communities,” including Richmond, to bring strangers with different political beliefs together–not to debate politics–but to have a conversation about their lives. In the process, the hope is that they both discover their shared humanity.

To date, over 3,000 people across more than 40 U.S. states have participated. Anyone anywhere can be matched for a conversation. Click here to learn more.

In one recent conversation, Richmonders Jerome and Warren learned they had more in common than they thought, even though they’re on different sides of the political aisle.

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Outdoors

Sports Backers kicks off ‘Building a Vibrant Community’ fundraising campaign

The $3 million, five-year campaign has raised more than $1.5 million to date.

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Sports Backers, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring people to live actively, kicked off their ‘Building a Vibrant Community’ campaign with the announcement that the campaign has already raised more than $1.5 million towards its $3 million, five-year goal.

“The Building a Vibrant Community campaign will raise funds to make a lasting impact on the Richmond region,” said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers. “This campaign will help us grow and create major events, expand the number of group fitness and youth activity programs we offer, build world-class bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and empower volunteer leaders and our region’s best and brightest scholar-athletes. As a result, our region will be a healthier and more vibrant place to live, work, and play.”

The initial success of the Building a Vibrant Community campaign is thanks to contribution pledges from corporations, foundations, community leaders, and regional governments. The campaign is led by Chairman Daniel Gecker, Chair and Partner for Urban Development Associates. Members of the Campaign Committee include the following community leaders:

  • Carrie Roth, Chair of Sports Backers Board of Directors, Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission
  • Neil Agnihotri, Surgeon, Agnihotri Cosmetic Facial Surgery
  • Lashrecse Aird, Richard Bland College of William & Mary
  • Neil Amin, CEO, Shamin Hotels
  • Bob Blue, CEO, Dominion Energy
  • Suzanne Gardner, Banking Relationship Manager, Wells Fargo Bank
  • Roy Grier, Community Volunteer
  • Burke King, Community Volunteer
  • Kim MacLeod, Finance Partner, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
  • Sam Mintz, Financial Advisor, Truist
  • Clark Mercer, Community Volunteer
  • Ken Shepard, Managing Director and Head of Wealth Portfolio Strategy, Bank of America
  • Bobby Ukrop, CEO & President, Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods
  • Tom Vozenilek, Executive Vice President, Colliers International

An investment in this $3 million campaign benefits the Richmond region by:

  • Energizing the Richmond community by reinvesting in significant events, expanding the goal-setting impacts of all events, and creating new events
  • Advocating for active living infrastructure, including the Fall Line trail, and creating an active living hub for the region
  • Hosting group fitness programs, including weekly fitness classes, youth fitness clubs, and training teams, as well as a scholar-athlete leadership program

“My confidence in the impact Sports Backers will continue to have on the health and vibrancy of our community has never been stronger,” said campaign chairman Daniel Gecker. “Sports Backers’ ingenuity and dedication to their mission has helped keep our entire community moving during one of the most challenging periods of our lives. This campaign will build on that and provide even more opportunities to get us moving, which is something we all have a renewed appreciation for.”

The following foundations, individuals, companies, and jurisdictions have already made significant contributions to the Building a Vibrant Community campaign: 

  • Lashrecse Aird
  • Allianz Partners
  • Astrya
  • Bank of America
  • Bob & Liz Blue
  • Margaret & Al Broaddus
  • Cameron Foundation
  • Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond
  • Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer
  • Davis Elkins Charitable Foundation Trust
  • Susan & Lennart Freeman
  • Don & Betsy Garber
  • Suzanne Gardner
  • Matt & Kirsti Goodwin
  • Greater Richmond Partnership
  • Roy & Charlotte Grier
  • Hanover County
  • Henrico County
  • Heritage Wealth Advisors
  • Hunton Andrews Kurth
  • Dorothy Jaeckle
  • John Randolph Foundation
  • Chris & Nancy Jo Kantner
  • Burke & Gay King
  • KPMG
  • Maria (Keech) leGrand
  • David Lyons
  • Kim MacLeod
  • Clark Mercer
  • Sam Mintz
  • Randy & Mary Lloyd Parks
  • Frank & Caren Payne
  • P.D. Brooks
  • Maria Purcell
  • City of Richmond
  • Richmond Region Tourism
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • Road Runners Club of America
  • RMC Events
  • Sam & Nikki Young
  • S.B. Cox
  • Scott* and Karen Schricker
  • Shamin Hotels
  • Ken & Brooke Shepard
  • Bob & Melinda Sledd
  • Buck Stinson
  • Barbara J. Thalhimer & William B. Thalhimer, Jr. Family Fund
  • Jayne & Bobby Ukrop
  • Tom & Betty Baugh Vozenilek
  • Tamara Wagner
  • Lee & Margie Warfield
  • Craig & Anita Waters

(* Denotes deceased)

To learn more about Sports Backers and the Building a Vibrant Community campaign, visitwww.sportsbackers.org or contact Megan Capito, Director of Development, at 804-285-9495 or[email protected].

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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Government

Early voting nears 1 million mark in Virginia

Thousands of Virginians used a warm November Saturday to cast ballots on the final day of early voting. Over 1 million absentee ballots were issued in the 45-day stretch of early voting that ended Nov. 5, and over 940,000 have been returned.

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Chloe Hawkins

Thousands of Virginians used a warm November Saturday to cast ballots on the final day of early voting.

Lawmakers passed a series of election reform measures in recent years that expand the voting period and allow for no-excuse absentee voting, or early voting.

Virginia voters will elect a member to the U.S. House of Representatives in all of the state’s 11 congressional districts, with varying districts also voting on local candidates and initiatives. Over 1 million absentee ballots were requested, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. Over 940,000 ballots have been received as of Nov. 7. Over 680,000 ballots were returned in person, and over 226,000 ballots were mailed.

Polls were open on weekdays except for the two Saturdays preceding the election. A steady line of people waited five to 10 minutes outside the Henrico County Western Government Center to vote Saturday. Some people waited longer than they might on Election Day, but appreciated the convenience of checking voting off their to-do list.

Henrico County general registrar Mark Coakley has held the position for 18 years, he said. Coakley, who studied political science in college, said he chose to be a part of the political process because it’s been a passion of his since he was a young adult.

“I’m really excited for voters showing up,” Coakley said. “Today, and on Election Day.”

Voters are happy with this shift, he said.

“With early voting, the voters get to choose to wait in line at 8:30 on a Saturday morning,” Coakley said. “It’s their choice — they’re not forced to vote on a Tuesday after a long workday.”

Alan Wagner is a voter who lives in Henrico County, parts of which are in congressional District 1. Wagner is concerned about crime, and the economy—especially the rising costs of items due to inflation, he said.

“I’m afraid to go into downtown Richmond sometimes,” Wagner said. “And the gas and food prices are outrageous.”

This is the first year Wagner voted early, in four decades of voting, he said. He decided to vote early due to the uncertainty of his work schedule on Election Day.

“I’m really busy working 10-hour shifts,” Wagner said. “I don’t know what the lines will look like at the precinct after 5 o’clock on Tuesday.”

Virginia residents have more of a voice in elections such as midterms, Coakley said, when they choose representatives to speak on their behalf in Congress. But, turnout is always higher in a presidential election. Almost 2.7 million early votes were cast in 2020 in Virginia, according to the state’s Department of Elections. For the gubernatorial election last year, over 1.1 million people voted early, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, or VPAP.

Although voter turnout in the 2018 midterm election was historic, an expanded time frame for early voting did not exist, Coakley said, which makes turnout comparisons more difficult.

“These laws weren’t put in place in 2018,” Coakley said. “But they have caused an increase in early voting.”

For example, over 330,000 early votes were cast in 2018 in Virginia, and that number will likely be at least three times higher this year, according to data from the Virginia Department of Elections. But, 1.2 million more people voted in 2018 than the previous midterm election. It remains to be seen if turnout this year will reach similar participation.

There is a 70% return rate of absentee ballots overall in Virginia as of Nov. 7, with the lowest district return rate at 64% and the highest at 76%, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by that date and received by noon three days after the election to count. Voters can find their polling place on the Virginia Department of Elections website. Voters can also register to vote on Election Day, though they will be given a provisional ballot.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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