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
Robins Foundation, in Partnership with the City of Richmond, Launches $1 Million Family Crisis Fund
Families with children are in direct and immediate need of support during the current states of emergency in Richmond and Virginia due to job loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To mitigate the impact on our most vulnerable children and families, Robins Foundation, in partnership with the City of Richmond has launched a Family Crisis Fund. Seeded with matching $500,000 contributions by Robins Foundation and the City of Richmond, funds from this initiative can be disbursed to families soon as April 7-8th, allowing for immediate financial relief for families and immediate impact on the local economy. This will meet critical needs while families and local communities prepare for the federal stimulus to be activated within the next 60 days.
In partnership with Family Independence Initiative (FII), this stimulus program is being launched on a platform that allows us to work closely with three of our four strategic partner communities who continue to work with children and families during this crisis – Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico.
Through an innovative public-private partnership, The Enrichmond Foundation and the City of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building will coordinate one-time family stimulus gifts for families with children in the City of Richmond.
Chesterfield Education Foundation and Chesterfield County Public Schools will also implement the initiative as will Henrico Education Foundation in partnership with Henrico County Public Schools Office of Family Engagement. The platform also allows us the flexibility to add other nonprofit partners as opportunities are identified moving forward.
Our actions are motivating peer funders and individuals to get involved as well. These donors are pledging to join the initiative and invest in this family-focused, place-based effort to support families during this unprecedented time of crisis while stimulating our economy.
Every commitment makes a difference in addressing a situation of this magnitude. We are thankful for the strategic, adaptable and collaborative efforts between philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and our local government partners to contribute to relief efforts across Richmond and the Commonwealth through initiatives like this and the many others that have launched in response to the impact of COVID-19.
We are excited to announce that Housing Families First has been awarded the $500,000 Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins Community Innovation Grant (CIG) for their project Bringing Families Home.
Housing Families First (HFF) is a primary provider of crisis housing services for Richmond-area families experiencing homelessness. In partnership with the Richmond Public Schools McKinney-Vento Program, Bringing Families Home will provide assistance with housing search, rental applications, lease negotiation, and move-in funds so that unserved students and their families can secure stable housing and end their homelessness. This partnership project will provide the foundation – stable housing – on which students can build improved school attendance, reduced behavioral concerns, and/or improved academic achievement, while also providing parents and non-school-age siblings with the benefits of safety and stability.
“A great deal of effort has been made to ensure that every student succeeds academically, but many students, siblings, and their parents have been left behind when it comes to housing,” said Beth Vann-Turnbull, Housing Family First Executive Director. “Housing Families First is thrilled to partner with Richmond Public Schools to help families experiencing homelessness get back into a home of their own.”
CIG funds will be used by HFF to hire a Community Housing Navigator to provide housing search help, as well as financial assistance for leasing, for students and families prioritized by RPS McKinney-Vento staff.
“Each year as we take this journey through CIG grant process we are given the opportunity to learn more about and be inspired by the many amazing organizations in Richmond that are working to improve the lives of children and families in our community”, said Juliet Shield-Taylor, Robins Foundation Board Chair. “We are so excited to partner with Housing Families First and their collaborating organizations. What the Richmond Region needs is more innovative programs and approaches like Bringing Families Homes that have the capacity to really change lives.”
About Housing Families First
Originally founded in 2001 as Hilliard House, HFF supports families with minor children to access shelter and find permanent housing, then connects them with community resources to keep it. Their mission is to provide families experiencing homelessness with the tools to achieve housing stability. The goal is not only to assist families in finding permanent housing but also to ensure that each family has access to the supportive services necessary to sustain housing in the long run.
About the CIG
The CIG provides a unique opportunity, and a $500,000 award, for Richmond’s non-profits to propose actionable solutions that will have a meaningful and measurable impact on complex issues that our region has been wrestling with for generations, including homelessness, housing instability, education, workforce development, and health.
The CIG cycle started in October 2019 with proposal submissions. Organizations were invited to present ideas to the Robins staff and the CEO of the previous CIG winner. Following those presentations, ten non-profit proposals were invited to host site visits to bring their proposals to life. A committee of the Robins Foundation Board then met the top five to determine the top two finalists before announcing the recipient today.
Robins Foundation Approved $6,385,725 in Grants for 2019
At Robins Foundation we are committed to a deep focus on education with the expectation that a focus on an “education continuum” or pipeline, could lead to better outcomes and reduce some of the challenges vexing this region. We continually look for innovative ways to keep making both incremental and transformational improvements in education policy and programmatic, nonprofit practice affecting children and families.
In support of this commitment, the Robins Foundation Board approved $6,385,725 in grants in 2019, including Community Focus Grants, Strategic Partnerships, the Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins Community Innovation Grants, Northside Proceed Grants, and Director Initiated Grants.
Community Focus Grants, awarded two times per year, are for organizations and programs seeking funding along the education continuum. The board agrees that every level on the education continuum is critical to long term regional growth and success. We want to partner with organizations working to make the Richmond region the best place for children to learn, grow and thrive. We collaborate with neighborhoods, schools, nonprofits, and peers to move our region to a point where every child is bolstered by a well-coordinated education system. This year, $2,655,000 in Community Focus Grants were approved by the board.
For Strategic Partnerships, funding provides multi-year support for organizational growth in critical operations areas: Governance, Management, Finance, Fundraising/Development (Relationship Building) and Program. We use a number of tools to support leadership development, collaboration and the strengthening of resources “from the inside out” of an organization. The strategic partnership cohort includes Richmond City, Henrico County, Chesterfield County and Petersburg City public schools. Funding for Strategic Partnerships totals $505,000 for 2019.
The Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins Community Innovation Grant (CIG) is awarded annually and funds proposals that celebrate the imaginative, cooperative spirit of Greater Richmond. The award is designed to support a project that addresses unmet community needs or issues in emerging neighborhoods. Successful proposals for the CIG demonstrate an innovative approach to solving the need, strategic collaboration, and the potential for a wider, long-term impact on the affected audience. CIGs totaled $1,310,000 in 2019.
In support of their commitment to children and families in Richmond’s Northside, Robins invested proceeds from the March 2019 sale of the Lora M. Robins Family Learning Center to help build the capacity of anchor organizations and support programs in Richmond’s Northside. The Northside Proceed Grants total $781,865 in 2019.
Each member of our Board of Directors has the opportunity to sponsor a limited number of Director Initiated Grants to organizations they consider deserving of support. These recommendations are strictly at the discretion of individual Board members and they may not be solicited for these funds. This year, the board funded $1,000,000 in Director Initiated Grants.
We strongly believe that serving the community isn’t just about funding. It’s about time, energy and ideas. Our staff welcomes the opportunity to align and strengthen our community by learning how to best support our nonprofit partners and their activities and initiatives. We are delighted to meet with organizations and engage in thoughtful dialogue that fosters innovation and drives transformation.
Let’s have a conversation about community, together.
In April of 2019, we had a conversation with president emeritus of University of Richmond and longstanding Robins Foundation board member, Dr. E. Bruce Heilman. We asked him to tell us about an experience that inspired him to partner with Claiborne Robins in their joint mission to help youth reach their fullest potential. We talked about Dr. Heilman’s presidency of University of Richmond, his start working in higher education and Mr. Robins’ foresight. Dr. Heilman will always be a treasured member of the Robins Foundation family.
Dr. E. Bruce Heilman July 16, 1926 – October 20, 2019
Becoming president of University of Richmond
I thought about a lot of things and finally concluded that my experience, above all others, was my first meeting with Claiborne Robins at my office at the Downtown Club, following my having rejected an offer to be president of University of Richmond. It was just the two of us for two hours with a cup of coffee in a closed room.
This was two weeks after meeting with the university committees. I had been with every committee – there must have been a dozen of them – and every one of them said I was their first choice. Still, I turned them down and went back to my presidency at Meredith College. And again, two weeks later, a board member came to persuade me to come back to the university, and I said no.
I can tell you a mistake the university made when I was there talking about being president. I was not even introduced to Mr. Robins, who said that he’s going to give $50 million dollars to the university. He wasn’t on the committee — he wasn’t on the campus.
I said to the board member, “I will do one thing. I will come back to Richmond, but I won’t come back to the university. I will meet with Mr. Robins because I think he’ll have more to do with how this university succeeds. If the university and Mr. Robins are willing to have me come back to Richmond to talk to him, having declined the presidency offer, I’m prepared to do that.”
So, they made that arrangement. I came back to Richmond. Mr. Robins and I met in the Downtown Club in a private room with a cup of coffee, and we talked for more than two hours. That was my first knowledge, first meeting, first experience with Claiborne Robins, and that set the stage, from then until his death. And that was 48 years ago.
Because of that meeting, I accepted the presidency. Mr. Robins told me what he expected, I told him what I expected, and he said, “I believe with all the committees, you’re the right person. And if you are willing to come to the University of Richmond, I guarantee you, I’ll see that you never regret it.”
I don’t know any story that can beat that one. That’s how I came to know him. And after I became president of the university, he put me on the board of his corporation, he put me on the board of the foundation, he invited me to be on the board that oversaw all the Robins’ company businesses, and he was my partner, my support. And as he said, he never allowed me to regret becoming president 48 years ago.
Mr. Robins was a supporter of the university even before he and his wife gifted $50 million dollars, which was the largest gift from a living family in the whole country. We discussed all of those things during our meeting. We discussed my authority as president, the authority of the board, his participation and support of the president, and his leadership of other members of the board. He was giving me his assurance, and obviously he was going to have much power as a member of the board in his persuasion.
From day one, in our first meeting with the University of Richmond Board, he had written to each one of the members insisting that they all be present and support me as the new president. We unleashed many different aspects, in our conversations, of how the future would unfold and his working with me as a board member. I am sure he knew – I certainly knew – he was going to have much influence simply because of his capacity of him making a great investment.
Already serving as a president before, I already knew what I had to do, I knew how the board had to function, and I knew certain members had great influence. We discussed all of that. And that’s why he said, “I guarantee you’ll never regret becoming president.”
He knew he had influence and he stood by me as president and he believed, as the other members did and all the committees that had offered me the presidency, that I supported what he believed in and he supported what I indicated I would be able to do with his money, my authority as president and our working as a team.
My life in higher education
I flunked out of high school. I was a farm boy, and I never dreamed of going to college. I joined the Marine Corps during World War II and I spent four years growing up, and that’s when I became more interested in college. Not having a full high school education paired with the benefits of the GI Bill, I tried to see if I could get into college. Without the GI Bill, there was no possibility. I applied to a senior college and was turned down because I didn’t have a high school diploma. So, I went to a smaller junior college in Kentucky that had 198 students and would take anybody. Thank goodness for it. I’m on the board today, have been for years, and I’m a very strong supporter. And I think of my time there as the foundation in college that provided for my future.
At this junior college, I was in a barrack of World War II veterans — there were 18 of us. We were all on probation because none of us had gone to high school or done well. I spent two years at this college, met my wife there, married there, graduated with a 3.9 average, and then went from there to Vanderbilt University. When I finished, I joined a public accounting firm. Then I went to audit a college and they employed me as the chief financial officer, so that’s where my higher education administration experience began. I was the president and the chief financial officer of three colleges.
Then, I decided if I was going to spend my life working at a college, I needed a Ph.D., because one day I may want to be a Dean. So, I went back to school and got a Ph.D. I had a wife and six kids at the time.
I later became the head of the Tennessee State Institution of Higher Education as the coordinator of the state system of higher education and headed up the finances of all colleges and universities there.
From there, I became vice president and dean of another college. From there, I was selected as president of Meredith. While at Meredith, I was on some national committees that highlighted my successes (and we really were successful). I was there for five years, and that’s how University of Richmond got word of what I had done, and what I was doing. That’s when they invited me up to be a candidate with 97 others for the presidency of University of Richmond. And lo and behold, I ended up being the one they selected.
How I got off the farm and back into education after flunking out of high school… folks say, “How’d you do that?” I’m not sure I know even today. Happenstance.
Most people give up when they’re not succeeding rather than fighting the battles of succeeding. And the world, as I have found, is always open if you’re working hard on your own to succeed and you discover the place where you’re capable of succeeding – for me that was my financial background. I majored in accounting at the undergraduate level, and that’s how I became a business officer, and then I moved on up to the dean position and so forth until I got to the presidency.
Opportunity in the good old USA — keep trying and doors will open
Mr. Robins’ foresight
Early on, Mr. Robins made the legal action to found the Robins Foundation. But before then, we would just meet and do pretty much what he thought we ought to do. And then when he passed away and left more money to the Foundation that’s when it became more impressive in what it was able to do. I joined the Robins Foundation Board 48 years ago and served until just a year or so ago.
Before he passed away, in fact, 10 years after I became president, he gave me a letter saying, “more has happened than I ever dreamed could happen in these 10 years.” So, I kept it, along with a few things like it where he’s responded to what his ambition was for the institution and the results of us working together to get it done.
But he was a great friend and a great promoter of everything I was able to do. So, I think of him in positive ways, no matter what age or at what point. And I spoke at his funeral and said much of that at that time because he was a great man and I had worked with him in so many dimensions. We traveled together and he inspired me, and he is the essence of why the University of Richmond is what it is today. It was not just his money, but his participation and his generous spirit and his good will.
One statement I have in my memoirs about him and the family is this…if they had simply given the $50 million dollars – the word simple sounds funny there – and said, “We’ve done our part,” it would’ve been almost nothing compared to what it became. Because they became involved and never left eminent association with the institution.
The Foundation today and those with whom I served over the years, and in more recent years the children and grandchildren as board members, have all been a great source of satisfaction to me. And I sense that with the leadership of the current person, who is doing a great job, it will continue to be even stronger into the future. So, I am very proud to have served with all those folks, and I know it’s going to carry and continue to support the other entity which I’m a part of, and that’s the University of Richmond.
If I had not come back to Richmond, and I had not said, “I will talk to Mr. Robins because I think he’ll make the difference in the future,” who knows where I’d be. The university arranged the meeting, I met with him, and when I left the meeting, I went directly to the university and accepted the presidency.
You never know where the chips will fall or where the ships will sail.
We mourn the passing of our beloved friend, mentor, community advocate and longtime board member E. Bruce Heilman.
Dr. Heilman, former president of the University of Richmond and current Chancellor, died peacefully in his sleep early Sunday morning, October 20. He was a giant among men and will be missed. He was 93 years young, full of energy, smiles and, in the truest definition of the word, AMAZING stories.
Dr. Heilman was deeply connected to the Robins family, first as steward of the $50 million gift by E. Claiborne Robins to the University of Richmond in 1969 and later as close family friend, confidant, wise counsel and partner.
“From the time I walked onto the University of Richmond campus as an 18-year-old freshman to our personal correspondence just a few weeks ago, Dr. Heilman’s warmth has enveloped me and my family. He was a lovely, supportive and engaging man. I will miss him” shared Robins Foundation Board Chair Juliet Shield-Taylor.
Along with our friends at the University of Richmond and throughout the country, we offer our sincerest condolences to his family and their many, many friends.
His memorial service will take place Sunday, October 27, at 2 p.m. in Cannon Memorial Chapel on the campus of the University of Richmond, and his ashes will be interred in the University’s columbarium alongside those of his wife, Betty Dobbins Heilman, who died in 2013.
In part two of our in our video series with Board Chair Juliet Shield-Taylor, she tells us what inspired her to become a member of the Robins board and talks about the importance of “giving while you are living”.
In this first of three videos from Juliet Shield-Taylor, Robins Foundation Board Chair and first grandchild of E. Claiborne and Lora M. Robins, she shares memories of her grandparents, their words of wisdom and how she came to write her grandfather’s biography.