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Local nonprofit receives $2.5 million grant from Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos’ “Day 1 Families Fund”

The grant from the founder of Amazon and his wife will help nearly 500 children and adults exit homelessness into permanent housing over the next four years.

RVAHub Staff

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Local nonprofit Housing Families First announced last week that it has been selected to receive a $2.5 million grant from the Day 1 Families Fund, which will help nearly 500 children and adults exit homelessness into permanent housing over the next four years.

Funding from this grant also will provide space and furnishings for an additional 160 family members to access emergency shelter over the same period. Critical to this expansion are shelter modifications and upgrades made possible by the grant.

“This investment from the Day 1 Families Fund will transform not only the lives of literally hundreds of families who will be able to quickly move out of shelters and the streets into permanent homes, but also the long-term effectiveness of homeless services for families throughout the Richmond region,” said Beth Vann-Turnbull, Executive Director of Housing Families First. “We could not be more honored, humbled, and excited about this amazing opportunity from Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos.”

Housing Families First is one of 24 nonprofits to receive the first Day 1 Families Fund grants, totaling $97.5 million.

Founded by Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, the Bezos Day One Fund consists of two programs: the Day 1 Families Fund that provides grants to nonprofit organizations fighting homelessness, and the Day 1 Academies Fund that will fund and build a network of pre-schools in low-income communities across the country.

The Day 1 Families Fund’s vision comes from the inspiring Mary’s Place in Seattle: no child should sleep outside. A small group of expert advisors provided input to the Bezos Day One Fund team to select these organizations.

The Day 1 Families Fund will be awarding grants annually.

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Four-legged assistant at Sheltering Arms is helping change lives

Motivation and support come in many forms, including a cold nose and a warm heart. Sheltering Arms Institute has welcomed its newest team member, Canine Companions for Independence Facility Dog, Clara.

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Motivation and support come in many forms, including a cold nose and a warm heart. Sheltering Arms Institute, a collaboration with VCU Health, has welcomed its newest team member, Canine Companions for Independence Facility Dog, Clara. Clara will assist handler Dr. Cynthia Rolston, Director of Psychosocial Services and Inter-Professional Science, in her work with patients.

Clara is a two-year-old Lab/Golden Retriever cross and has been training since she was eight weeks old. After being carefully matched with one another, Clara and Dr. Rolston spent the last two weeks working with professional Canine Companions instructors to prepare for their new roles. Training consisted of intensive lectures, hands-on practice and simulations, and multiple examinations in order to acquire public certification.

In just her first few days on the job, Clara has already acclimated to the many changes in her life and settled into her new home and work environment, bringing smiles to our patients’ faces.

“This is a new and exciting program for all of us, and I can’t wait to see how Clara helps our patients achieve independence,” Dr. Rolston said. “We will be working together as a team as we integrate Clara into patient therapy sessions at Sheltering Arms Institute.”

Since 1975, Canine Companions has bred, raised, and expertly trained assistance dogs in more than 40 commands designed to assist people with disabilities or to motivate and inspire patients with special needs. Clara can pull toy wagons, push drawers closed, and retrieve all kinds of items. She has specific commands that allow her to interact with patients in a calm and appropriate way.

“We have full confidence Clara will be an exceptional facility dog for Sheltering Arms Institute and bring a host of skills and smiles to the halls daily. She will assist the patients with their therapies, help patients practice their activities of daily living, and bring an added psychological assist,” said Debra Dougherty, Northeast Region Executive Director for Canine Companions for Independence.

Canine Companions for Independence enhances the lives of people with disabilities by training and placing more than 6,000 assistance dogs with program graduates. Canine Companions depends on the support of tens of thousands of donors and volunteers to match our facility with an assistance dog like Clara entirely free of charge. The support for staff training and Clara’s ongoing needs is being provided by generous Sheltering Arms Foundation donors.

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More than 200,000 Virginia voters cast ballots in first week of early voting, Virginia Department of Elections says

Virginia voting is off to an active start, with tens of thousands of people hitting the polls during the 45-day early voting period. 

Capital News Service

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By Joseph Whitney Smith

Virginia voting is off to an active start, with tens of thousands of people hitting the polls during the 45-day early voting period.

Over 164,000 citizens have voted in person, while more than 926,000 absentee ballots have been issued as of Sept. 25, said Andrea Gaines, director of community relations and compliance support at the Virginia Department of Elections. Over half a million people returned absentee ballots in the 2016 presidential election, according to the department.

Breaking the traditional custom of voting on Election Day, the governor and other top officials hit the polls when they opened Sept. 18. The General Assembly earlier this year removed restrictions to vote absentee and allowed early, in-person voting until Oct. 31. The move allowed individuals to cast their ballots 45 days early.

“While the pandemic has made this an unprecedented election year, Virginia voters have several safe and easy ways to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a press release. “Voting is an essential part of our democracy, and I encourage every Virginia voter to know their options and make a plan for safely casting their ballot.”

About 20 people were lined up, six-feet apart, to vote Friday morning at the Henrico County registrar’s office. Carrington Blencowe was one of the voters. She said that voting early is more convenient for her family.

“This makes it a lot easier than trying to vote the day of because it gives people more time and we’re a working country,” Blencowe said.

Voters do not have to fill out an application to vote in person early. They just head to their general registrar’s office or satellite voting location, show ID and cast a ballot.

Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, said previous early voting and absentee ballots were much more inconvenient.

“It involved signing a statement saying you had one of a range of acceptable excuses, they included military service, being away at college, travel plans, working from out of county, or disabilities,” Farnsworth said. “When you think about how much easier it is to vote via mail-in, my guess is that it will remain popular after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.”

The last day to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 23. The Virginia Department of Elections recommends that applicants return their ballot as soon as possible due to the high number of ballots issued. In 2018 and 2019, 90% and 85% of requested absentee ballots were returned, respectively.

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Richmond honeymooners camping out in Cape Hatteras parking lot after storm causes suspension of ferry service

A Richmond couple who planned to spend their honeymoon in Ocracoke, North Carolina has been camping out in the Hatteras Ferry Terminal parking lot after ocean overwash caused the closure of NC Highway 12 and the suspension of ferry service.

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A Richmond couple who planned to spend their honeymoon in Ocracoke, North Carolina has been camping out in the Hatteras Ferry Terminal parking lot after ocean overwash caused the closure of NC Highway 12 and the suspension of ferry service.

From the Ocracoke Observer:

Katie and Matt Oldhouser didn’t expect to spend most of their honeymoon this week in the Hatteras Ferry Terminal parking lot.

They are among those in about two dozen vehicles that have been waiting in the stacking lanes since Sunday afternoon hoping for passage to Ocracoke Island but were thwarted again on Wednesday.

A large wave swell from the passing of Hurricane Teddy well offshore has battered the Outer Banks. Since Sunday, the ocean has over washed the hot points at high tides at the north end of Ocracoke and the northern part of Pea Island between the Basnight Bridge and Rodanthe.

“While we’d hoped to be able to open NC 12 today, the ocean had other plans,” the NCDOT posted Wednesday on its Facebook page. “The road will remain closed between the Basnight Bridge and Rodanthe as well as on Ocracoke between the Pony Pens and the Ferry Terminal until at least noontime Thursday.”

Continue reading here.

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