Introducing our Cohort of Black- and Brown-Led Grassroots Organizations

December 3, 2020

Last month we announced that we engaged Gladys Washington, retired Deputy Director, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, to guide us as we look to invest more deeply in capacity building, particularly for Black and Brown-led grassroots organizations. 

We are excited to share that we have invited leaders from seven organizations to join us on a learning journey.


“Our deep commitment to this work reflects two things. First, our five-year journey to consider how we promote health equity in our region. Second, our understanding that we will never reduce health disparities without collaborating with and investing in organizations and leaders that are responsive and accountable to neighborhoods and communities. We anticipate that this investment in capacity building and leadership development will benefit our community for years to come.” 

Reggie Gordon, Incoming Board Chair, RMHF



Michael Smith“We are deeply grateful for the members of this cohort who will come together over a period of nine months to explore how we and our partners can strategically invest in capacity building for Black- and Brown-led grassroots organizations.”  

Michael Smith, Director for Community Investments and the Built Environment, RMHF




The Grassroots Capacity-Building Cohort kicked off last month. The group’s first objective is to review responses to a Request for Proposal (RFP) published on November 23. The RFP seeks a consultant especially equipped to advise and help lead this co-learning initiative with an emphasis on Black- and Brown-led organizations. The cohort members will choose the consultant in January 2021 and begin engaging in February.  

The cohort and the consultant will focus on 

  1. Designing and facilitating a community of practice with seven, Black- and Brown-led organizations seeking growth in capacity, scale, and overall sustainability
  2. Assessing and evaluating where the gaps and barriers exist for Cohort members as they seek to expand their capacity and sustainability
  3. Identifying opportunities and resources for Cohort members that support their growth in capacity and sustainability
  4. Providing recommendations to RMHF that reflect the findings and observations of the community of practice

Please join us in congratulating and supporting these organizations.


Education Connection Academy (ECA) works to overcome disparities in health care services and promote preventative care for marginalized communities in both urban and rural settings. ECA’s purpose is two-fold: to increase mental health awareness and reduce the rate of childhood obesity. Dr. Shawnrell Blackwell is the Community Liaison and Founder of ECA.








As part of its work toward building a more inclusive Central Virginia, the Nationz Foundation focuses on empowering members of the LGBTQIA+ community to take responsibility for their own health and wellness. The Foundation provides HIV and STI testing, Linkage to Care (L2C), and holistic services free of charge. Zakia McKensey is the Executive Director of Nationz Foundation.








Groundwork RVA’s mission is to make Richmond greener, more sustainable and more equitable. Through summer and afterschool programs, the nonprofit nurtures the next generation of urban conservationists by providing youth with hands-on experience enhancing the green spaces of our city. Rob Jones is the Executive Director of Groundwork RVA.







In pursuit of educational equity, Virginia Excels combines research and engagement to promote policies and practices that advance racial and socioeconomic justice. Together with their partners — families, community leaders, service providers and educators — Virginia Excels envisions a future where every child in the Commonwealth has equitable access to an excellent public education, regardless of their race or income. Taikein Cooper is the Executive Director of Virginia Excels.







The Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center’s bilingual and biculturally trained advocates fight on behalf of Hispanic and Latino families affected by violence and injustice. The Center eliminates cultural and linguistic barriers that prevent monolingual Spanish-speaking people from accessing services and creates a space where those with limited English proficiency feel safe, welcome and respected. These efforts promote equitable access to free and confidential services. Elvira De la Cruz is the CEO and Senior Advocate of Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center.







Waymakers Foundation is a food bank that serves food -insecure communities including undocumented families who struggle with stable employment, people who lack the education and training to earn a living wage, and Virginians who struggle with literacy and language. The Foundation recognizes and addresses the need for fresh produce and whole foods as well an emphasis on maternal and infant nutrition. Natasha Lemus is the Founder of Waymakers Foundation.







The Faces of HOPE uses a multi-disciplinary approach to prevent childhood obesity. Its team of fitness, behavioral health and nutrition specialists combine their expertise to offer a variety of programs for Richmond area youth — ages 3 to 19— and their families. Jeannette Cordor is the Executive Director of The Faces of HOPE.