AmeriCorps Team Brings Passion & Commitment to Enrichmond Foundation

Published on December 6th, 2020 by The Enrichmond Foundation

Last month, we announced the arrival of the new AmeriCorps team, named the “River One” Team, who joined The Enrichmond Foundation on November 18th, 2020. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have these young leaders join us in service; this team has extensive experience in working in parks and on rough terrain, and have been working in other public spaces to clear trails and enhance access to the spaces. Though just a few short weeks in, their team has already been extremely helpful as we open new land and continue to reconnect families through volunteer cemetery cleanup and outreach.

The Enrichmond Foundation’s mission is clear: to serve the people, parks, and public spaces of Richmond through citizen involvement, education, and fundraising. With the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) Team’s help, we’re now able to further that mission, and formalize volunteer restoration and record-keeping efforts at historic East End and Evergreen Cemeteries. 

As we all know, the pandemic continues to impact the ways in which we come together to serve the community, and the River One Team’s contributions couldn’t come at a better time. They’ll help clear overgrowth from grave sites, mark and record headstones that will be added to a digital database and GIS map, and update the current Volunteer Procedures Manual for the site. Not only will their efforts benefit the City of Richmond at large, but we’re proud to continue our commitment to preserve the legacy of Richmond’s African American families by making long lost burial records available to the families of those interred.

Sophia Farchione, AmeriCorps’ River One Team Leader, recently graduated from college and knew that not only would giving back to communities across the country connect her with fellow young adults who have a passion for service, but it’d also allow her to explore a myriad of career possibilities as she prepares to enter into the workforce. 

“I get to use this time to dedicate 100% of myself to giving back to communities across the country,” says Farchione. “I also get to do it with a team of hard working, young adults who all have a passion for service.

I am so excited to be a part of this major project at the Evergreen and East End cemetery. Prior to arrival, I knew it was a unique project. But it wasn’t until I arrived here, met the staff, and gained an in-depth understanding of the cemetery and the surrounding community that I understood the true importance of why we are here.”

“We are not just weeding and making an area of land look pretty. We are helping undo a lot of damage from decades of neglect.” 

The passion the NCCC team has for this type of work is what makes us hopeful for the change they’ll help make in the coming months. With a total of nine members, all of which are ready to serve over the next few weeks, we’re able to clean the cemeteries while reflecting on the importance of this work. As Farchione learns the scope of her team’s work, she builds an emotional connection to the gravity of the task. 

“It’s heartbreaking to know that the areas we are cleaning are the resting spots of loved ones whose families lost the opportunity to stay connected with,” she says. “It’s this feeling, and the contagious enthusiasm from the staff of Enrichmond, that drives me to work hard everyday. With every headstone uncovered, a family is closer to the ones they lost.”

Julia Bina, River One’s Assistant Team Leader and Community Relations Representative, looks forward to the opportunity to strengthen communities beyond her own. After researching AmeriCorps, she knew it was the right choice for her. She looked forward to the opportunity to live a life of service while also stepping outside of her comfort zone, and now looks forward to extending that service to The Enrichmond Foundation.

“AmeriCorps is allowing me to fulfill my dream of traveling to serve others while also giving me opportunities to develop as a person and as a leader,” says Bina. “One of my favorite parts of the program is the wide variety of projects I’ve gotten to be a part of, from trail building in Connecticut and Virginia to disaster relief in Louisiana. I knew that this project would be special after reading the project application, but upon meeting the Enrichmond team I was blown away by their passion and excitement for this work. Enrichmond made sure to educate my team on the history of the community we’re serving and the challenges that its members continue to face.”

“I’m so excited to work with this team to help make these cemeteries the peaceful and reverent resting places that this community deserves for its loved ones.”

We couldn’t be prouder of these young leaders on the AmeriCorps River One Team. Our work together is just getting started, but they’ll be essential to our getting back on track with our onsite restoration efforts. They will serve as leaders for the volunteers returning to the space to work, and will meet the community need to continue to engage with the properties and help care for them properly. Carrying out our mission is a collaborative effort, made stronger by those who extend their time, experience, and most of all, their passion. We’re made greater by the AmeriCorps River One Team, and can’t wait to update you on the incredible work we’re accomplishing together.