Welcome to Our 2020 Annual Report

2020 has been a difficult year, marred by continued racial injustice and violence compounded by a global health crisis. While that’s not news to anyone, it is important to acknowledge the challenges that individuals, businesses, and communities are continuing to face, as a result of COVID-19. Like all organizations, we planned how to affect the greatest positive change at the beginning of the year. Our response to the crisis and ability to be agile and creative in how we connect to our community members and provide resources has been the true test of our commitment to our mission.

If I were writing this letter in March, it would different. We’d be talking about how we executed against our strategic vision and how enthusiastic and optimistic we are about the direction our organization and community are headed in. But instead, the playbook got thrown out and the strategic plan got marked up and edited. To me, that’s a microcosm of what this year was all about. It has been up to all of us to pivot, change our plans, and come together to do what needed to be done.

I’ve heard it said that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” This rings especially true now. We’re stronger together. More resilient together. It’s important for mission-aligned organizations to find ways to partner and pool resources in pursuit of the greater goal: more equitable communities. We get more done when we find common ground. We positively and sustainably affect more of our neighbors and community members when we are creative about what binds us, instead of working in silos.

We partnered with the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, the City of Charlottesville, County of Albemarle, and Cville Cares to disburse over $4.5M dollars to community members in need for basic necessities. We partnered with the Virginia 30 Day Fund to offer forgivable grants to early education centers and minority-owned businesses. We partnered with Carter-Myers automotive to launch Driving Lives Forward, offering low interest rate loans and affordable automobiles to qualifying individuals and families. We continued our work with Habitat for Humanity, Network2Work, the University of Virginia, Adiuvans, and all of our other community partners to meet the immediate needs of our neighbors, and further our vision of a strong, equitable community where every person thrives.

We do this work in partnership rooted in equity, and we must be clear what we mean when we say “equity” and how it differs from “equality.” Equality is defined as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” More pointedly, treat everyone the same. Everyone has access to the same resources, the same opportunities, the same capital, healthcare, and treatment by law enforcement. Your upbringing doesn’t matter, your zip code doesn’t matter, the color of your skin doesn’t matter. All people are created equal.

We know this is not the case. This country was built on the foundation of racial inequality and the legacies of slavery continue to permeate every major sector of our society. Equality doesn’t catalyze change. We must, instead, act equitably. Equity is defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial.” This means doing more for historically-marginalized communities that we know are paid less for the same labor, have higher mortality rates, and are arrested, jailed, and die in police custody at alarmingly higher rates. It means creating partnerships, programs, and initiatives aimed at breaking down the systems, structures, and practices that have made it notably harder for communities of color to thrive.

We don’t have all the answers, and we know that these complex issues won’t be “solved” in short order. But to make demonstrable progress on gaps in equity and access that have been compounded generation after generation, and highlighted by COVID, we have to be more inclusive in how we speak about them, and actionably address their root causes.

To be a part of the movement, we have to walk the walk. I urge you to join us.