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Did you know approximately 2 million people are living below the 200% poverty level in Virginia? Did you know over 600 veterans are homeless on any given night in Virginia? Quin Rivers, a Community Action Agency, works diligently to strengthen individual, family and community development and help eliminate poverty in the Virginia area. Through their moving community-based programs such as Project Discovery, Healthy Families, Project Hope, Homeless Prevention, Micro Loans and more they provide the community with a resource to better their lives and those around them. In this week’s Friday Focus we spoke to Gillian Barney, Executive Assistant, to learn how one small step can make a big difference. Learn about Kate West and her story with Quin Rivers.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

Quin Rivers is a nonprofit Community Action Agency dedicated to advancing the well-being of individuals and families living in the central Virginia region. We serve 11 localities with a total population of nearly half a million people. Our service area includes: the counties of Caroline, Charles City, Hanover, New Kent, King and Queen, King William, King George, Stafford and Spotsylvania, the City of Fredericksburg and the Town of West Point. Quin Rivers was founded in 1970 as an outgrowth of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to fight America’s War on Poverty. We are honored to serve those within our community who are striving to better their lives. They may need assistance in putting food on the table, financial counseling to help them budget and plan, assistance to prevent a foreclosure, a safe environment away from a violent situation, skills to help them become a better parent, or assistance to pursue their education. Whatever the circumstance, Quin Rivers seeks to empower individuals and families to become self-sufficient, live with dignity and achieve optimum health.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

Kate West is a single mom living in Providence Forge, Virginia. She relocated to the New Kent community from Texas in 2007 and with assistance from the Quin Rivers’ micro-loan program, was able to get her child-care business off the ground in 2009. Her business has done so well in fact, she was able to pay her loan off early—she is the poster child for how the micro-loan program can work. In Kate’s own words…

“Empowering me to be the mom I wanted to be.

I started the business in 2009 as a way to be the mom I wanted be and still support my family. I tell people all the time that I wanted to be the one putting my kids on the bus and helping them with their homework. Now I just do that for 40 other kids too.

Starting a business can be scary and difficult. I think that people hear the statistics about how hard it is and can become discouraged by the risks, but knowing that there are programs to help negates that risk a little bit. I wish more people knew what Quin Rivers has to offer for rural businesses.

I had already been turned down by my bank for a loan; they were only willing to loan me a very small amount to get started. The micro loan from Quin Rivers gave me exactly what I needed and plenty of support to go with it. - Support you can rely on from start to finish.

The whole thing started with a chance meeting. Melvin, an employee with the micro lending program, reached out to share what Quin Rivers does and asked if they could help in any way.

From start to finish, I have never felt alone in the process. Any time I needed to get a hold of someone at Quin Rivers, there was always a person there. I’m so close to the office that a lot of times we were able to meet and do paperwork in person.

The best part of having the loan was paying it off. When we first opened, it seemed like a lot of money to pay off. Even though mine was only a micro-loan it still felt like a lot. The best part about getting the loan was paying off the loan—actually completing that process.

I was probably one of the early recipients for the micro loan program. It was a great process for me and I would recommend it to anybody interested in pursuing starting a small business.

As a business owner in the community I feel it is important to participate and give back. I volunteer with the United Way out of Williamsburg, I’ve been working with the food bank, which Quin Rivers supports and I am also on the Chamber of Commerce Board. To anyone considering supporting Quin Rivers or this amazing program for small businesses, I highly encourage your participation. Quin Rivers does amazing work in the community.”

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges facing community action agencies throughout the U.S. is the current political climate and instability of federal funding through the Community Services Block Grant. Quin Rivers relies on these funds in order to provide the infrastructure and support for the agency’s five critically important programmatic initiatives that assist over 2,500 clients annually.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

There are no pending events at this time. However, feel free to keep an eye out on our website for other opportunities.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

Interested persons may visit the agency’s website www.quinrivers.org for information on how to donate to the organization, volunteer with the organization, or simply find out more in-depth information about the programs and services the agency offers.

Girls on the Run, Southern Maryland
empowers girls to recognize their inner strength and have the confidence to live a healthy and happy life. This moving organization instills confidence, care, connections, character, competence and contribution into young girls lives so that they realize their potential to achieve more than they thought possible. Girls on the Run of Southern Maryland provides fun, personal programs to celebrate the joy of movement, while developing leadership skills and friendly connections. In this week’s Friday Focus we caught up with Kristine Hall, Council Director of Girls on the Run, Southern Maryland and learned just how inspiring this organization truly is. Read more to discover their upcoming events and how to get involved!

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

Girls on the Run Southern Maryland is a physical activity based positive youth development organization that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum, which creatively integrates running. Our council was established in January 2017 and serves girls in Charles and St. Mary’s counties. We use Lerner’s Five Cs + 1 framework as a basis for its intentionally designed curriculum, creating lessons that target the promotion of competence, confidence, connection, character, caring and contribution to society. The program's personal development goals and social-contextual features have tremendous potential for promoting a lifetime of healthy behaviors while preventing unhealthy behaviors. Meeting twice a week in small teams of 8-15 girls, the program teaches life skills through fun, engaging lessons that celebrate the joy of movement. The 20-lesson curriculum is taught by certified Girls on the Run coaches and includes three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork and understanding how we connect with and shape the world at large. During the season, each team creates and executes a local community service project. This experience demonstrates to girls the unimaginable strength that comes from helping others. At each season's conclusion, the girls and their running buddies complete a celebratory, non-competitive 5K running event. Completing a 5K gives the girls a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. The Girls on the Run 5K also often serves as a conduit for inspiring family, friends and communities to begin a journey towards health.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

Girls on the Run Southern Maryland believes that all girls and communities should have access to our programs. We strive to eliminate barriers to participation and to continue creating programming that engages all communities. We are very excited to announce that we are serving C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School, a Title I school, in our first season this fall.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is publicity. As a brand-new organization, we are working to establish new sites at local schools to ensure all girls have access to our program.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

Our biggest event this fall is our end of season 5K on November 18 at 9am at Southern Maryland Blue Crabs stadium. Registration will open on our website (https://www.gotrsomd.org/5K) on September 1.

Our fall 2017 season registration opens on August 12 and we will start our season on September 11.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

We are a 100% volunteer organization and are always looking for new people. Coaches are the backbone of our organization who work with the girls over the course of 10 weeks. We provide free CPR/AED/First-Aid training to all our coaches. Coaches are also required to complete a background check and attend a mandatory 4-hour training. Interested community members can apply to be a coach on our website.

We are also looking for 5K volunteers. Registration for our 5K volunteers will open on September 1 along with our 5K registration. Lastly, for those interested in taking a more involved role, are always looking to for new members on our board of directors.