Class of 2023 | Connecting Community … One Table at a Time
Project: The Class of 2023, the “Resilient Class,” worked to make positive change and to unite the Greater Williamsburg community by building and installing Turquoise Tables, places where individuals and groups can meet in person to share a cup of coffee, a meal, stories, and conversation. After several years of Covid lockdowns, divisive politics, and an unpredictable economy, the class strove to bring back a sense of “community” in our community, to break down the barriers that set us apart, and to create new opportunities for personal interactions. The movement was simple: place a turquoise picnic table in a prominent location and invite your neighbors and fellow community members to meet there. The color is inviting and is a recognizable sign that the tables are places of connection. Everyone is welcome at the tables, to meet neighbors and friends, to share information with colleagues, or to take a moment for reflection or study. Sponsors and hosts were encouraged to schedule events where community members meet at a Turquoise Table to learn from an expert, discuss current events, and meet new friends.
Each table has a plaque with a QR code bringing users to the Present at the Table Facebook page where they will find useful community information and resources. Reaching out and sharing information on organizations that aid with food, shelter, job searching, mental health, and other topics was one of the goals of the class.
Through sponsorships, the Class of 2023 installed eight hand-built tables using Evolve Poly Lumber for low maintenance and durability. These tables are located at:
Williamsburg-area Sherwin-Williams paint stores joined the movement by generously donating free gallons of “Nifty Turquoise” paint or stain to the first 25 people who registered with the LEAD Class and painted their own picnic tables. This expanded the number of tables in the community and encouraged community businesses to commit to connecting with their customers and neighbors. The table hosts also purchased special plaques with the QR code linking users to the Present at the Table Facebook page. As of August 2023, recruitment and painting was still ongoing, and tables were installed at the following locations.
Class of 2019 | WMBGkind Campaign
Project: the WMBGkind Campaign was created to inspire Greater Williamsburg to become the next Community of Kindness. With the help of educators; elected officials; small businesses and corporations—this LEAD class effected meaningful change in the region's schools, local governments, businesses, and neighborhoods. Through strong community engagement efforts, traditional media coverage, and a powerful social media strategy—the campaign reached thousands in Hampton Roads. It also garnered the support of Gov. Ralph Northam who issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 10-16, 2019 Random Acts of Kindness Week all across the Commonwealth.
Together, throughout the campaign, the class collected more than 300 prom and homecoming gowns for the peninsula’s inaugural Queen in a Dress program; delivered 559 pounds of food to Virginia Peninsula Foodbank; hand made more than 200 Get Well cards for patients at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center; surprised deputies at the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s office with free Chick-fil-A sandwiches; delivered food, cards, and words of encouragement to five different agencies on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day; passed out roses to strangers on DoG Street for Valentine’s Day; significantly reduced the student lunch debt in WJCC schools; read to students at Head Start and Bright Beginnings during Read Across America Week; and participated in a “Choose Kindness” art event and “Great Kindness Challenge” for local students.
During a Commit to Kindness kick-off event held at Legacy Hall, the class planted the seed of kindness and throughout the campaign, watched it grow to include 500 WMBGkind Ambassadors who officially pledged to join the movement by the time the class graduated. The week after graduation, the class invited everyone to come together for Miles of Kindness, a series of one-mile walks and races on Historic DoG Street followed by a free community concert featuring The Deloreans on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
Class of 2017 | Greater Williamsburg Youth Leadership Project
Project: Youth Leadership Program. This LEAD Class project was designed to connect with local students and provide an opportunity for them to learn more about their community and the career opportunities within it. Mentors helped the youth develop leadership skills which set them on career paths to keep them here in the Greater Williamsburg community after graduation. To help with education and exposure--they focused on classroom learning and team-building activities by emphasizing different job industries within the area and post-high school career options. The LEAD class helped to promote and establish crucial professional skills such as strategic thinking, organization, action planning, risk management, decision making, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
Class of 2015 | Adopt-A-Bench Project
Project: The Adopt-a-Bench Program brought an improved quality of life and a measurable demonstration of respect and dignity to those in Greater Williamsburg who do not have access to private forms of transportation. The LEAD class partnered with the Williamsburg Area Transportation Association (WATA) for this project after learning there were 271 bus stops along the WATA service route, 235 of which had nowhere for anyone to sit while waiting for pick-up. Given the number of citizens, students, and tourists who rely on the bus service to commute to work, go to class, get to the grocery store, and attend doctor's appointments--they identified a real need within the community.
WATA helped to pinpoint the stops with the highest volume of passengers and the class worked to install low-maintenance, paint-free, environmentally-friendly benches in those locations. The class also recruited local businesses to sponsor specific installations and solicited private sector tax-deductible donations too. A custom engraved commemorative brick from each donor remains on display at each of the LEAD bench sites.
Class of 2013 | Hands Together Historic Triangle Project
Project: Hands Together helped the homeless and "precariously housed" in Greater Williamsburg by presenting a resource fair to connect those in need. This LEAD Class project was a collaboration between local businesses, non-profit groups, faith-based organizations, and government agencies to bring necessary services under one roof to help families in need. The class solicited donations and used volunteers to spread the word. They conveniently brought together providers of a variety of community services for an entire day to offer expanded access to those who needed them most - citizens who would ordinarily have challenges getting to all the different locations on their own. Some of those represented included local social services agencies, non-profits, and various healthcare providers. Their driving mantra was a community-wide issue requires a community-wide solution. This event was held at the Quarterpath Rec Center for its inaugural year.
Class of 2011 | Healthy Habits Project
Project: Historic Triangle Healthy Habits (HTHH), Established a program to promote and encourage community citizens to make healthier food choices when dining out. The LEAD Class solicited participation from all members of the Williamsburg Area Restaurant Association (WARA) and supported them with advertising and cross-promotional opportunities. They also collaborated with other subcommittees to improve the effectiveness of the "Nutrition" element. Yorktown Market Days, the farmers market in York County, still holds an annual wellness market as part of this initiative and features free health screenings, healthy cooking demonstrations, and fitness demonstrations every spring.
Class of 2009 | My Place Playground Project
Project: My Place Playground , Established an all-inclusive playground for children and families regardless of ability. Their inclusion project included a playground area that encompassed 5,120 square feet. It is located within the James City County Park. This was a massive undertaking and the LEAD Class had many corporate sponsors. They initiated several grant writing proposals, and established a "Buy a Brick" program to encourage individual/family sponsorship opportunities. James City County Supervisors were very interested in the playground and stated their intentions to provide ongoing care and maintenance for the project , taking it over after class completion to also help add picnic tables and restroom facilities in the area of the playground. The project was completed in December, after the class graduated, when they had an official dedication and "Grand Opening" ceremony.
Class of 2007 | PIPE (Providing Indoor Plumbing for Everyone) Project
Project: Provide Indoor Plumbing for Everyone (P.I.P.E.). The project consisted of three parts: 1) to provide indoor plumbing for a low-income family who was prohibited from returning to their home due to such poor conditions 2) to establish an endowment fund to help low-income families maintain alternative septic systems and provide gap funding for existing programs 3) to create and implement a marketing plan to increase awareness of the indoor plumbing problem that exists with at least 83 other homes in the area. Fortunately, the class was able to team up with Housing Partnerships, Inc. following their graduation and have made an important contribution to the Greater Williamsburg community.
Class of 2005 | Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program Project
Project: Conduct a complete audit of the Rita Welsh Adult Skills Program. The mission of the RWAS Program is to provide literacy education to the adult residents of the Greater Williamsburg area. The LEAD Class audit resulted in recommendations to the RWAS Board concerning the program's public awareness; technology; fundraising strategy; physical classroom environment; curriculum and teaching approach; and name. As a result, the program's name was changed to the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program to more clearly reflect its mission.
Class of 2003 | Housing Partnerships Project
Project: Review Housing Partnerships Agency with the goal of improving its administrative operations, increasing its level of funding, adding to its number of skilled volunteers, and expanding the client base for which it served. Class members used their business skills, knowledge of resources and commitment to Housing Partnerships to affect a welcome and much-appreciated strengthening of the agency.
Class of 2001 | Virginia Emergency Families for Children Project
Project: Collaborated with Volunteer Emergency Families for Children (VEFC): Agency's purpose is to train families willing to open their homes to children when crises exist in their own living situations. The project's purpose was to bring about awareness of the agency within the community and to assist in recruiting families for the agency which they did. Twenty-five families signed up. The class also raised money for VEFC and caught the eye of Richmond Services which impressed, adopted the projects for its own area.
Class of 1999 | Stay Up While You’re Out Project
Project: Worked with Keep up While You're Out. Rev. Terrell, LEAD Historic Triangle keynote speaker at the class retreat, began the program in Newport News to assist suspended students with their school work through tutoring by volunteer groups. The LEAD Class adapted it to our community, recruited the volunteer groups, and at the end of the year--passed it on to the Community Action Agency. It is still a part of that agency to this day.
Class of 1997 | Volunteer Database Project
Project: Established a central database to match volunteers and their interests with community needs through a day-long Volunteer Fair which brought potential volunteers of all ages together with agencies, civic organizations, and others needed help. The established database became the heart of the United Way Volunteer Center of today.
Class of 1995 | Youth Leadership and Awareness Project
Project: To develop youth leadership in the community through mentorship by LEAD members to middle school students--culminating in a youth conference led by Greater Williamsburg community leaders at the College of William & Mary. More than 500 children participated.
Class of 1994 | FISH Building Project
Project #1: Construction of a building for the agency FISH as part of the new Community Services Building; class members would solicit in-kind donations, expertise and materials goods, and would offer their volunteer time and services: more than $50,000 worth collected; building was finished in summer at less than half its original cost!
Project #2: Construction of a formal program designed to bring the community together to discuss and improve race relations and quality of life. It was based on the program People to People in Newport News, the precursor to today's successful All Together program.