Former slave Lucy Goode Brooks established the Friends’ Asylum for Colored Orphans in Jackson Ward in 1871 and the work she began continues to this day. With the help of her sewing circle and local religious groups, Brooks provided a home and hope to black children in Richmond who had been orphaned by slavery and war. Today, the organization continues to rely upon a diverse array of supporters to fulfill its mission of advancing youth’s potential.
In the 142 years since, the organization has continued to reinvent itself to meet the changing needs of Richmond’s most vulnerable youth. It has transformed from an orphanage into an agency assisting foster families and most recently into a nonprofit providing education and enrichment programs. Now called FRIENDS Association for Children, the organization provides affordable childcare, homework assistance, lessons on health, fitness and nutrition, performing arts classes, free individual music lessons for kids along with workshops for parents and guardians. Annually, more than 1,000 children are touched by FRIENDS, says its executive director, J. David Young.
“We remain indebted to Lucy Goode Brooks for having the foresight and dedication to create an agency that remains an active community and family partner,” explains Young. “Her 142-year-old gift to Richmond is FRIENDS and we are honored to continue her vision with the help of our awesome partners, donors and volunteers.”
An end-of-the-year awareness and fundraising campaign, spearheaded by Shaka and Maya Smart, helped to broaden FRIENDS’ base of support. The t-shirt-based campaign raised $30,000 in 30 days through a combination of t-shirt sales via BonfireFunds.com and offline donations. Best of all, the goal was reached by engaging more than 100 individual fundraisers and 800 individual donors.
“We’re thrilled to put more than 1,000 FRIENDS RVA shirts into circulation,” says Smart. “Whenever supporters don the shirt around town, they are helping to raise FRIENDS’ visibility and bolster its sustainability. They are also promoting the basic principle that as a community it’s our responsibility to care for one another.”