Investments in Early Childhood Education (ECE) have the power to change the trajectory of individual lives and entire families, as well as deliver significant returns for the community. Access to high-quality early childhood experiences sets children and their families up for long-term success by:
Preparing children for school and lifelong learning
Providing support of child development and general well-being
Equipping parents to be their children’s best first teachers
These investments are all the more important as young children recover from pandemic impacts and the Richmond region contends with a widespread lack of affordable, accessible child care. To that end, we are pleased to announce the following grantee partners for our second ECE-focused grant cycle which totaled $780,000:
VPM Media – $50,000 for VPM Early Childhood Education program
“From preschool programs to home visiting to parenting support and education, these organizations work tirelessly to ensure our region’s youngest children get the best start,” shares Robins Foundation President & CEO, Chris Chin. “We’re grateful for their efforts and delighted to support them.”
Robins Foundation is thrilled to announce that Meg Pienkowski, Ph.D., is joining the foundation as Senior Program Officer, Early Childhood Education. A passionate leader and advocate for children and families, Meg brings decades of experience in early childhood education and a deep belief in the power of this work to transform children, families, and communities.
“Meg is an enormously talented leader and a true champion for children,” said Chris Chin, Ph.D., President and CEO of Robins Foundation. “She brings a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience, as well as relationships and credibility from her deep work in the Richmond community. As Robins Foundation advances our strategic focus in early childhood, we are extremely excited to welcome Meg to our team.”
Meg is the former Vice President of Community Partnerships and Programs for Thrive Birth to 5 (formerly Smart Beginnings-Greater Richmond), an affiliate of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. She also served as a W.K. Kellogg Fellow and Project Management Analyst in the Office of Community Wealth Building for the City of Richmond. Prior to that, Dr. Pienkowski spent many years in the classroom as an educator and administrator with Hanover County Public Schools, Richmond Public Schools, and Gingerbread Cottage Preschool. She began her career as a preschool teacher at the Harold E. Jones Child Study Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
Meg earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in Developmental Education from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. in Education: Curriculum, Culture, and Change from Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Robins Foundation because of their strong track record in early childhood education and their commitment to this community,” explained Meg. “We share a belief in the power of early childhood education to change the trajectory of people’s lives and make a significant impact on our communities.”
Robins Foundation envisions a vibrant and unified Richmond, in which our children are prepared for bright futures, our communities are culturally enriched, and our region grows as a positive and dynamic place to live. For children to have the best opportunity to thrive, they require access to high-quality early care and educational experiences, as well as stable families who can act as their first teachers. Robins Foundation’s work in early childhood education is focused in three areas: provider support and infrastructure, parenting support and engagement, and policy and advocacy.
“Robins Foundation has sought out the foremost leaders in the field of early childhood education to support our work,” explained Juliet E. Shield-Taylor, Chair of Robins Foundation’s Board of Directors. “Meg’s impeccable academic background speaks for itself, and her dedication and contributions to our community have earned her the trust and respect of early childhood professionals throughout our region. For anyone who has the chance to meet her, Meg’s passion as an advocate for children is clear. We can’t wait to see the impact she will make in this role.”
For children to have the opportunity to thrive, they require access to high-quality early care and educational experiences, as well as supportive families. These factors can deeply influence children’s cognitive and social-emotional development, school readiness, and long-term wellbeing.
Toward the end of last year we shared that Robins Foundation would be investing deeply, and more narrowly, in early childhood education (ECE). Since then we have launched our initial ECE-focused grant cycle, had numerous conversations with our nonprofit partners, and reviewed dozens of proposals aligned with our new strategic framework. We are pleased to announce the following grantee partners for our first ECE-focused grant cycle which totaled almost $900,000:
“All of these organizations have demonstrated a strong commitment to and have an impressive track record in early childhood education,” shares Robins Foundation President & CEO, Chris Chin. “We’re delighted to invest in their efforts to make a significant impact for Richmond families.”
Toward the end of last year we shared that Robins Foundation would be investing deeply, and more narrowly, in early childhood education (ECE). This new strategic direction is well underway, and we are actively engaging with and investing in organizations addressing the ECE needs in our community. Last week we announced the 15 nonprofit organizations who will receive grant funding totaling almost $900,000 as part of our June 2022 ECE cycle. We are also defining and building out our framework to begin investing in nonprofits making Richmond a vibrant and dynamic place to live.
As we’re settling into our new strategy, we’re seeing a natural evolution of our team:
Chris Chin has embraced his new role as President & CEO and is fostering stronger alignment, enhanced communication, and deeper relationships among board and staff members.
Dan Halloran has been promoted to Director, Operations.
Elliot Haspel shared that he will be relocating to Colorado at the end of July to be closer to family and leaving Robins Foundation later this fall.
We announced an opportunity to join our team as Senior Program Officer, Early Childhood Education.
Courtney Rice shared that she will be leaving Robins Foundation on July 22nd for an exciting career development opportunity. She hopes to share more details in the coming weeks.
We recognize that this is a significant amount of change in a short period of time for a small organization. We are more committed than ever to supporting our partners as you continue your amazing work in our community. And we are excited for and supportive of our team members as they grow and transition within and beyond the Foundation.
Please join me in congratulating our team members and spreading the word about our open position!
Robins Foundation’s new strategic direction is well underway, and we are actively engaging with and investing in organizations addressing the early childhood education (ECE) needs in our community. In fact, next week we will announce the 15 nonprofit organizations who will receive grant funding totaling almost $900,000 as part of our June 2022 ECE cycle. We are also defining and building out our framework to begin investing in nonprofits making Richmond a vibrant and dynamic place to live.
To fully execute our Board’s new strategic direction, we have developed a streamlined staffing structure that sets us up for success and provides well-deserved opportunities for team members to step up and shine in new ways. To that end, we are delighted to announce the following promotion:
Dan Halloran has been promoted to Director, Operations. Since starting with Robins six years ago as an intern, Dan has quickly developed and mastered a wide range of knowledge and skills related to our “behind the scenes” operations needs and requirements. For the past three years, Dan was our Program and Grants Manager. Now, in his new role, Dan will continue his Program and Grants Manager duties while also taking on new administrative responsibilities related to budgeting, human resources, office management, and various other internal processes that are essential to the Foundation’s success.
We also want to announce an opportunity to join our team, as we are looking to fill an upcoming opening for a Senior Program Officer, Early Childhood Education. Elliot Haspel, our current Senior Program Officer, will be relocating to Colorado at the end of July to be closer to family and leaving Robins Foundation later this fall. Elliot has played an integral role in developing our early childhood strategic framework and overseeing our early childhood grant-making portfolio, and we will sincerely miss him. As a nationally-recognized child & family policy expert and commentator and the author of Crawling Behind: America’s Childcare Crisis and How to Fix It, we have no doubt Elliot will be hugely successful in his new ventures.
If you know someone who may be interested in this opportunity at Robins Foundation, please share the job description with them.
Chris Chin named Robins Foundation’s new CEO – will lead Early Childhood Focus
Juliet Shield-Taylor, Chair, Board of Directors announced that Dr. Christopher Chin will become the President and CEO of Robins Foundation, effective March 2, 2022. An experienced leader in philanthropy, child development, and nonprofit organizations, he will focus on launching the foundation’s new strategic framework centered on early childhood education.
Chris has devoted his educational and professional career to helping young children and their families and is well poised to lead the organization into a new phase of early childhood-focused impact in the community. He is a licensed clinical psychologist with his PhD in Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology, including advanced training at Yale University in child psychology. He has led several efforts focused on early childhood education and family literacy, including serving as Co-Director of the Literacy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University and Director of the Virginia Literacy Foundation, where he developed and oversaw state-wide initiatives focused on early learning and development.
Chris has been with Robins Foundation for almost eight years, starting as Director, Community Partnerships, leading the foundation’s early childhood-focused grantmaking. He was responsible for developing peer funder collaborations and deep community engagement throughout the Richmond region. Most recently, he served as the foundation’s Vice President, Operations and Organizational Development.
Says Chin, “I am thrilled and honored to lead this organization as it begins the next exciting chapter in its longstanding service to the Richmond community. We have an incredible opportunity to strengthen our investments and partnerships in early childhood education so that Richmond can become a place where all young children can learn, grow, and thrive. This next step for me and the foundation reflects my long-standing passion and commitment to make a meaningful difference in the lives of as many children and families as possible. I look forward to working alongside our energized Board, our talented staff, and our inspirational partners to make a measurable impact on our community.”
Kelly Chopus, Robins Foundation’s current President & CEO, will be moving on from the organization in late March.
As CEO of Robins Foundation for almost 8.5 years, Kelly has been a change-maker in the community, leading the organization through strategic shifts and building a talented team of experts. Her leadership has been influential in enhancing the landscape of Richmond’s nonprofit community through open dialog, relationship-building, and collaboration with other funders to address the region’s most pressing needs.
Kelly will remain with the Foundation in an advisory capacity until the end of March. Kelly looks forward to continuing to serve both Richmond and the region’s philanthropic community in a new capacity.
Says Chopus, “I am humbled by the trust the board, staff, and community placed in me and I am more humbled by the experiences and privileges of meeting and knowing community leaders who serve their neighbors every day through the work their organizations do. I am truly amazed by the work of our board, our staff, and our partners. The foundation has a powerhouse staff who will carry on the upcoming important work as the foundation refines its focus, and I am thrilled about the future impact of the organization. Chris Chin is the right leader at the right time, and I have utmost confidence in him as he steps into the role of CEO.”
Robert Dortch, Robins Foundation’s current VP, Program and Community Innovation, will leave the organization in mid-February.
For almost 8 years, Robert focused on growing a highly-skilled, diverse program team and strengthening the foundation’s innovative grantmaking, community engagement, and collaboration.
Robert has played an enormous role, leading the foundation’s deployment of more than $30 million in grant funding to support education, capacity building, innovation and strategic partnerships; helped create $4.5 million of impact investment to support place-based community initiatives; and led the foundation in innovative grantmaking, launching a Community Innovation Grant (CIG) process that resulted in more than $6 million distributed.
We are enthusiastic about the significant impact Robert will continue to have for the region in his new role as Chair for the Board of Trustees of Philanthropy Southeast.
“I am grateful for my time working with the Robins Foundation’s incredible staff and inspiring partners,” says Dortch, “and I am excited for this opportunity to have a bigger impact outside the organization, pursue a personal passion, and continue to give back to our partners and philanthropy as a whole.”
Juliet Shield-Taylor, Chair of the Board of Directors added, “The Robins Foundation is grateful for the vision and leadership of Kelly and her team, and we are thrilled to welcome Chris as our next leader. While we are sad to see Robert leave us, we wish him well as he pursues his professional and personal interests.”
Continuing a legacy of impact and transformation for our community’s children
Over the past eight years, with the hard work of staff and skilled guidance of the board, Robins Foundation has been committed to strategic grantmaking, collaboration, and community support, aspiring to be a catalyst for positive change within the Richmond region.
We are grateful to our leaders and staff members for the impact they have had on the foundation’s direction and success. Under the leadership of Chris Chin and the Foundation’s Board of Directors, we look forward to new opportunities to ensure our young children thrive and to contribute to the long-term dynamism and vibrancy of Richmond.
We have also seen, during this pandemic, that our non-profit partners have been overwhelmed with requests for support and services far beyond their existing programmatic and general operating capacity. As a result of this increasing need, there is opportunity for funders to increase their impact by leveraging our collective resources and expertise to support our region’s children, families and non-profits.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Robins Foundation has embarked on a learning journey with several peer funding partners and identified specific ways in which we can collaborate and leverage resources to increase community impact. We are pleased to share that the Bob and Anna Lou Schaberg Foundation, Richmond Memorial Health Foundation and Robins Foundation have created and approved a collaborative Social and Emotional Learning & Behavioral Health General Operating Support Grant.
Our foundations have approved five organizations as recipients of two-year Social and Emotional Learning & Behavioral Health General Operating Support grants for fiscal years 2021 to 2023, with funding from the three foundations totaling $700,000 ($70,000 per organization/year). The grantee organizations were specifically selected because of their ability to meet the unique needs of diverse populations, and because of their connection to social emotional learning. Needs in this area are significant and urgent due to the pandemic, so we prioritized organizations with a proven track record of successfully meeting community needs in partnership with the three collaborating funders. Meet our Social and Emotional Learning & Behavioral Health grantees:
Robert Bolling, CEO of ChildSavers said, “We cannot overstate the exacerbated impact of trauma on children made more manifest by a pandemic, by race and by the social injustices that create more stressors. Now is the time to help! Proper mental health supports enable kids to process trauma and to build resilience as a cornerstone for strength and the ability to thrive. Our partnership with Robins, RMHF and Schaberg Foundation provides crucial, accessible and timely aid for our behavioral health work with children.”
We are proud to join together in supporting these organizations during a time in which behavioral health services and social-emotional learning are critical to the ongoing recovery of our communities individuals, children and families.
Robins Foundation partners with organizations like Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) because positive educational outcomes for children depend on a number of criteria, including housing stability. Children in families with stable housing attend school more consistently, tend to perform better academically and experience less stress.
Families across Richmond deserve a home in a safe neighborhood, access to good jobs, access to good schools, and the ability to build financial stability. HOME’s mission is to ensure equal access to housing for all people. Since 1971 their work has opened doors for thousands.
To accomplish this, they focus their efforts in three key areas:
Fair housing enforcement
Housing counseling and education
Housing research and policy
Help support HOME so they can continue doing this important work.
Donate to support initiatives such as stopping evictions and preventing foreclosures
Become a tester to help identify unlawful housing discrimination based on race, national origin, disability, or familial status
We are excited and humbled to announce that the Richmond Resilience Initiative (RRI), which was launched by the City of Richmond on October 29th in partnership with Robins Foundation, will receive an additional $500,000 for expansion.
These additional funds will add up to 37 additional families to the pilot program. Richmond is one of 30 cities across the nation whose families in need will benefit from a $15 million donation by Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, to help fund the Mayors for Guaranteed Income Initiative (MGI) among partner cities.
The initial launch of RRI was funded by a $120,000 contribution from Robins which was matched by the City. It is the first and only program as part of this initiative to launch fully funded.
The program is part of a larger national movement to foster economic security in a data-driven, research-tested capacity and is modeled after successful pilots in cities like Stockton, California and Jackson, Mississippi.
Current national and local partners are Family Independence Initiative, the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Richmond, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, the Center for Guaranteed Income Research with the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, and Virginia Excels.
In addition to supporting hardworking families and providing the data needed to design policies that promote economic security and mobility, the program will uplift narratives that dismantle negative and unwarranted stereotypes about individuals and families living in poverty.
“No one wants or chooses to live in poverty,” said Tyonka Perkins Rimawi, Robins Program Officer, Community Partnerships. “To improve educational outcomes and other complex social issues, we must address root causes such as economic security and mobility.”
The pandemic has brought to light that for many families just a few hundred dollars can be the difference between keeping or losing access to basic necessities, like food and shelter. But even before the onset of COVID-19, the Federal Reserve Bank found that 40% of all American families cannot afford a $400 emergency.
Direct family assistance like that provided by RRI and other programs is meant to supplement the existing safety net which is designed to protect families from losing financial security or derailing long-term financial goals because of enduring poverty or an unexpected event like a global pandemic, severe recession, or personal tragedy.
Research has proven that when families receive supplemental assistance, they prioritize spending on what they need most: rent, groceries, transportation, and childcare. It also has revealed that direct cash assistance shows positive impacts on health and education outcomes with negligible effects on the labor market.
“We have learned that economic security among families is at a crisis point. Individuals, families, and communities know their needs best, and initiatives like this recognize their dignity and freedom to best meet those needs,” said Rimawi. “Through these strong partnerships and others we hope to see develop across the region, we can expand this initiative so even more families can thrive through direct support and policy change.”
“Led by Tyonka, our team has done extraordinary work to find and thoroughly research an initiative that supports the work the Foundation has been doing for more than 60 years,” said Juliet Shield-Taylor, Chair of Robins’ Board of Directors.
This program joins others, including eviction diversion, and the Family Crisis fund, which was launched in April in partnership with the City of Richmond. The Family Crisis Fund – a crucial element of the region’s response to economic hardship resulting from the pandemic – provided direct cash assistance to more than 2,600 families in the greater Richmond region.
In addition to RRI, through numerous partnerships with regional funders and nonprofits, Robins Foundation and the City of Richmond have given give $1,314,500 to 2,629 families in the region in 2020. Those funders and nonprofits include Richmond Memorial Health Foundation (RHMF), Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, Richmond native and professional football player Clelin Farrell, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, and Richmond Flying Squirrels, along with other individual and corporate donors.
Robins Foundation and Friends Association for Children (FRIENDS) believe in investing in and supporting our children and their families, so they have every opportunity for success.
For nearly 150 years, FRIENDS has been dedicated to supporting and educating thousands of Richmond’s children and families.
“There’s nothing more important than making sure our children are prepared to be successful,” said J. David Young, executive director of the Friends Association for Children.
FRIENDS teaches children ages six-weeks through 17-years critical literacy and development skills needed to succeed in school and in life, with the hope that children achieve a greater understanding and appreciation for their community and the world around them.
You can help support their mission! • Donate to FRIENDS to help them reach their fundraising goals so they can continue their work in the Richmond community • Or volunteer your time to help enrich the work they do and touch the lives of the children and families they serve