We have people from all walks of life living in our little corner of the world, and each one of them deserves to be respected, seen as equals, and genuinely included in all aspects of community life. Beyond that, a healthy and thriving community also needs all its citizens and organizations, who are passionate about different causes, to be engaged. By reaching outside of their individual silos and working together they can more fully and effectively serve the people of the community.
Each of Community Knights’ programs has a focus on increasing inclusivity within their scopes and beyond. Our initial program, the GIFT (Grant Initiative Fundraising Team) Program, is designed to bring people together from a wide range of backgrounds to support our entire community. Additionally, it works to break our participating organizations out of their isolated silos and support them in building new and innovative partnerships with one another. Along with the GIFT program, we have two new programs in development.
The GIFT Program works towards breaking down the invisible barriers that often exist between non-profits. By being together in the same space during committees, talking and learning from and about one other, non-profits are able to more seamlessly serve the people of the Virginia Peninsula. The COACH Program, which is expressly intended to promote inclusion of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the non-profit sector. It is structured to facilitate the process of finding and maintaining volunteering positions for individuals with disabilities who want to give back to their community.
Who Gets Included?
Inclusive Large-Scale Fundraising
Even from its inception, the GIFT program has been structured to cultivate an inclusive environment within its large-scale fundraiser. Twice a week people from across the community come together to work and have fun in support of the Virginia Peninsula. These volunteers are diverse in just about every manner:
- Opposite ends of the political spectrum;
- All racial and ethnic backgrounds;
- Ages ranging from 14 to 70;
- With and without disabilities; and
- Support and represent a diverse array of passions and causes.
Just like the volunteers who come to serve the community, the organizations that receive our grants aim to serve diverse populations; through participating in the GIFT program, they are introduced to one another and have the chance to learn about the other groups who participate. As the program grows, we continue to see these partnerships and friendships strengthen and lead to new, innovative projects.
One of the core goals of the COACH program is to promote a community that is inclusive of individuals with disabilities. When people have the chance to work and interact with people who have disabilities, it gives them the opportunity to break down and overcome any stereotypes they may hold, as well as come to see these individuals as their peers. Over the next several years, we hope to see an increase in the number of people with disabilities who are engaging in their community through volunteering, and who are truly accepted in the non-profits they choose to volunteer for. Additionally, we hope to see a more inclusive day-to-day culture as more and more people who previously hadn’t had many experiences or interactions with people with disabilities come to know them, develop friendships, and overcome the subconscious bias that many people have without realizing it.
Along with how close knit our volunteering family is, the sense of community which has grown among our bingo players is astounding. Much like our volunteers, our bingo players come from just about every background you can find on the Peninsula and, also like our volunteers, they have become a family. Our regular players support one another and our volunteers – saving seats for each other, pointing out when another player has a bingo that they missed, noticing when other players aren’t there, and helping new volunteers learn the ropes – that goes beyond what is typical for a game like this. The sense of community and the love that has developed in a group filled with so many differences among them is magical.
Our COACH program is expected to expand on this inclusivity and community building. We have the program scheduled to go operational in 2019, and our first goal for the program is to have 15 partnerships of individuals with disabilities and volunteer coaches placed in local non-profits within the program’s first year.