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2009 Richmond History Makers Honorees

Creating Quality Educational Opportunities

LaVerne Spurlock, Virginia Heroes, Inc.

“If Dr. Spurlock’s ambitions had propelled her towards elective office, I suspect we would be honoring her as a senator or a former governor. Instead, she took that unique combination of energy, organizational savvy, civic spirit, and charisma, and quietly make the future brighter for generations of Richmond schoolchildren.”

Dr. LaVerne Spurlock’s commitment to serving the Richmond community spans her entire life. A Richmond native, she attended Armstrong High School, where she graduated as Valedictorian of her class. After obtaining a degree from Virginia State University, she went on to gain graduate degrees in education from Columbia University, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, but ultimately returned to her hometown to better the community. She has since served tens of thousands of Richmond area school children through her role as a school counselor in area public schools, her service on the Board of Partnership for the Future, and through her involvement with Virginia Heroes, an organization founded in 1991 by Arthur Ashe that provides role models and mentors to sixth-grade students in Richmond middle schools.

Demonstrating Innovative Solutions

James Schroeder, D.D.S., CrossOver Ministry
Schroeder, Stenger, Cole & Gupta

"Dr. Schroeder’s work is unique because he values relationships. He does the work, but he is primarily about building relationships between individuals and community groups.”

Local dentist James Schroeder’s began offering dental care to uninsured individuals 25 years ago, which led to the establishment of CrossOver Ministry, a network of free clinics that provide health care to Richmond’s uninsured and low-income population. His unfettered passion for community service has been critical to attracting new health care providers to the program and has prompted other dentists to treat uninsured or low-income individuals either through their own practices or through volunteering. In spite of owning his own practice, Dr. Schroeder has helped raise $50,000 for CrossOver Ministry by spearheading fundraising efforts such as the CrossOver Challenge run.

Fostering Regional Cooperation

Central Virginia Waste Management Authority

“The diversity of the thirteen member localities and the ability of the CVWMA to bring them together and provide a variety of recycling and solid waste solutions is a unique illustration of regional cooperation.”

Chances are that if you’ve recently recycled anything from plastic bottles to cell phones to household appliances, the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority (CVMWA) has managed the process. In fact, the CVWMA handles waste management and recycling programs for 13 localities across the Richmond area, from as far west as Goochland Country to New Kent County in the east, and has helped raise the Richmond area recycling rate to more than 50% since the Authority’s inception in 1990. The CVWMA also develops creative partnerships with local corporations and institutions. In 2007, it partnered with Ukrop’s Supermarkets to “eCycle” more than 270,00 pounds of electronics, and last year, the CVWMA introduced a school recycling pilot program, which involves 26 area schools and has collected more than 200 tons of paper for recycling.

Improving Social Justice

John Dougherty, ROSMY

“Thirteen years ago, kids were beat up and bullied in most high schools across the region for being gay. Now, with ROSMY’s help, it happens less frequently. There are more kids who feel comfortable to come out, there are more teachers who feel safe to support them, and there exists a much greater amount of tolerance and acceptance throughout the region.”

ROSMY is one of just a handful of organizations across the country that seek to provide a supportive community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) youth. Founded in 1991, the organization has grown from meeting in a therapist’s waiting room to owning its own youth center while supporting hundreds of adolescents along the way. Additionally, ROSMY includes several programs, including the Institute for Equality, the first ever training program for adults who work with GLBTQ youth; the Youth Engaged in Leadership (YEL) program; and a Youth Support Line (YSL) that is operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.   

Promoting Stronger Communities

Mary Lou Decossaux, Neighborhood Resource Center

“Today, she continues to ask each neighbor who walks through the door not only what they need from the center, but what skills and talents they can bring to the center with them. Greater Fulton Hill is a stronger community because of her work.”

Whereas some people saw an undesirable neighborhood with little hope, Mary Lou Decossaux saw in Fulton Hill a goldmine of potential. In the late 1990’s, she established the Fulton Hill Neighborhood Watch, joined the Greater Fulton Hill Civic Association, and founded several civic initiatives. As founder and co-executive director of Fulton Hill’s Neighborhood Resource Center (NRC), she has provided educational, social, and cultural assistance to numerous residents of all ages through services that include a lending library, computer lab, recording studio, community garden and cafe, Montessori pre-school, GED classes, career center, and after-school programs for children. Most programs are free; others are offered on a sliding scale for affordability.