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United Way kicks off annual free tax prep service

The local nonprofit will offer both in-person and virtual tax preparation services in 2021.

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With an April 15 tax-filing deadline just 10 weeks away, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program officially began last week. The free tax preparation service is offered to area families with household incomes of less than $56,000.

In its 18th year of operation, United Way’s VITA program will utilize a combination of tax sites across Richmond, Goochland, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Charles City as well as online tax preparation services. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person tax sites will operate by appointment only, and spaces may be limited. Sites will follow social distancing guidelines and require masks, and hours of operation are subject to change. An up-to-date list of locations and hours is available at https://www.yourunitedway.org/tax/sites/w.

For online preparation services, United Way will utilize a new secure web portal that allows participants to upload tax information, speak to IRS certified tax preparers and receive help filing taxes online – all for free. Those using the service will need to upload photos of their ID cards and tax documents and answer questions about their tax situation. The service requires filers to have access to the internet and a camera through a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

“With tax season upon us and financial uncertainty due to the pandemic still a reality for many in the region, it is more important than ever for households to be able to plan for what they might owe or have coming back to them,” said James Taylor, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. “Our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is an impactful service that we provide every year. This year’s blend of in-person and virtual options will allow us to meet this challenging moment and help thousands of local families work toward financial stability.”

In 2020, local United Way volunteers helped secure $2.8 million in tax refunds for 2,790 households in the area. Families who took advantage of the service received a total of $790,000 in EITC funds from the IRS. The average household income for customers was $23,652.

Find more information at https://www.yourunitedway.org/tax/.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Mediterranean restaurant taking over former Urban Farmhouse spot in Scott’s Addition

The vacant space at 3031 Norfolk Street is being renovated for a planned July open date.

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From Richmond BizSense:

One of the more prominent restaurant spaces in Scott’s Addition left vacant due to the pandemic has been snapped up by a pair of local industry veterans.

John Reynolds and Steve DeRaffele are preparing to open Pinky’s, a full-service Mediterranean restaurant in the former Urban Farmhouse space at 3031 Norfolk St.

Pinky’s menu will take influences from the entire Mediterranean region, while the restaurant’s name is a nod to DeRaffele’s late mother whose nickname was Pinky.

“I learned how to cook from her and want to make the kind of stuff I learned to make at home,” DeRaffele said. “Now I can bring people into our space and cook for them like I would if they were at my house.”

Continue reading here.

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Arts & Entertainment

Weekly pop-up market coming to the Diamond every Saturday beginning April 10th

River City Festivals is partnering with The Richmond Flying Squirrels to present a new weekly Popup Market that will be held Saturdays at The Diamond in Richmond, beginning April 10th from 10 am-4 pm.

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River City Festivals is partnering with The Richmond Flying Squirrels to present a new weekly Popup Market that will be held Saturdays at The Diamond in Richmond, beginning April 10th from 10 am-4 pm.

PopUp Market at The Diamond will feature dozens of rotating artisans, craft, and other local business vendors as well as food and dessert sales and beer and wine. Each week will showcase a new lineup of vendors including Woodworking, Art & Homemade, Activities & Games, Clothing, Jewelry & Accessories, Kitchen & Beverage, Beauty Supplies & Services, Pet & Pet Supplies, Kids Games & Activities, Desserts, Beer & Wine, Locally Grown Products, CBD, Non-Profit & Cause Based, and more, according to organizers.

The full lineup of participating vendors can be viewed at RiverCityFestivals.com. Local vendors and other businesses interested in participating can find more information and register at the same website.

PopUp Market at The Diamond will be held rain or shine in the “Blue Lot” directly next to The Diamond located at 3001 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.

All COVID guidelines will be strictly adhered to according to the then-current requirements and guidelines.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels are the host organization for the PopUp Market, River City Festivals is the organizer and promoter, proceeds from the event will go towards Giving Local, helping to support small businesses.

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BLK RVA serves as year-round source for celebrating black history and culture in region

While Black History Month may be over, Richmond Region Tourism is reminding the community that the BLK RVA campaign serves as a resource to honor and celebrate Black culture and Black-owned businesses every day of the year. 

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While Black History Month may be over, Richmond Region Tourism is reminding the community that the BLK RVA campaign serves as a resource to honor and celebrate Black culture and Black-owned businesses every day of the year.

Richmond Region Tourism and a group of community-driven leaders launched BLK RVA in 2019 to develop unique ways to amplify local Black-owned businesses by increasing tourism, engaging regional residents and showcasing spaces that highlight Black excellence.

BLK RVA’s website includes an overview of attractions and historical sites that center the Black experience, as well as Black-owned tourism-related businesses and restaurants in the region.

Earlier this year, BLK RVA welcomed a new group of community leaders to its Advisory Board. The Board provides direction for the program, while helping to grow community involvement and building the BLK RVA brand.

Organizers are committed to launching four local marketing campaigns in 2021 that will spotlight each of BLK RVA’s main pillars: history, community, arts & entertainment, and food & drink.

The first campaign focused on Black history in the region launched last month and included BLK RVA trivia challenges, scavenger hunts at historic attractions, limited edition t-shirts designed by local artist J Ford and visual strategist Shannon Bass, and a section of the website dedicated to historic resources and video content from community leaders. The videos aim to connect viewers to the past, celebrate the present and look toward the future and will release over the coming weeks.

The first two profiles in the series feature Omilade Janine Bell, Elegba Folklore Society’s President and Artistic Director and Free Bangura, Founder & CEO of Untold RVA, Chair of the City of Richmond’s History and Culture Commission, and BLK RVA Advisory Team Co-Chair.

Ryano Graphics, a local communications and design firm, is leading planning and execution for the marketing campaigns.

“We’re creating authentic and thoughtful marketing campaigns that highlight and celebrate the Black experience,” said Tameka Jefferson, Richmond Region Tourism’s Community Relations Manager. “Black contributions to Richmond’s culture dates back centuries, and our restaurants, businesses and legacies continue to thrive in our region. We look forward to rolling out the videos and engaging residents and visitors with the BLK RVA campaign throughout 2021.”

In addition to 2021 marketing programming, BLK RVA is introducing initiatives that build capacity and expertise at Black-owned businesses. The organization has partnered with Capital One to create mentorship programs for Black-owned businesses. BLK RVA also recently hosted a Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business (SWaM) certification training in partnership with VCU’s Department of Procurement, the Department of Small Business & Supplier Diversity, and the Metropolitan Business League. Part two and three of the SWaM certification training will be hosted in April and May.

“My small business has greatly improved with the resources and support from BLK RVA and the mentorship program with Capital One,” said Keshia Bell-Rainey, owner of Bodies N Motion, LLC.  “I have access to great mentors to help with marketing and ideas for creating revenue. I would definitely recommend this program to small Black-owned businesses.”

Organizers are also offering a training course March 15 to help caterers and food service professionals navigate procurement and corporate contracts. Two participating businesses will have a chance to win $2,000 supply stipends to support recovery efforts. Eligible participants must register by March 12 to attend the two-part course.

“By learning and growing from industry experts, local Black entrepreneurs will be able to arm themselves with the skills needed to recover, rebuild and thrive,” added Jefferson.

BLK RVA received national recognition last December when The New York Times featured Omilade Janine Bell and the Elegba Folklore Society in Five Kwanzaa Celebrations Around the Country.

In January, BLK RVA collaborated with Nomadness, an award-winning lifestyle brand that supports underrepresented demographics in mainstream travel, for two well-received panel sessions during the virtual Audacity DIGI 4 event that showcased Richmond. The “BLK RVA: Why Richmond needs to be on your radar!,” session featured videos highlighting BLK RVA and Richmond’s artistic landscape that continues to evolve in response to the social justice movement, comments from Enjoli Moon about the region and campaign, and remarks from Hamilton Glass about the Mending Walls mural project.

Richmonder Melody Short also participated in the panel discussion, “Keeping Small Businesses Alive” giving an overview of the Richmond Night Market and the Jackson Ward Collective.

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