Tag Archives: Richmond

A Conversation with Mary Wilson

My mother’s sister operated a record store in our small hometown of Reidsville, North Carolina. During my childhood in the 1960s, I spent a great deal of time there. While other little boys were outside climbing trees, swinging bats and getting into mischief, I was inside spinning records. Music was everything to me, and while I was a huge Beatlemaniac, my favorite music of all was that of The Supremes — Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson.

The Supremes’ classic 1964 album, “Where Did Our Love Go,” was actually the first long-playing record I ever owned, and as I listened to it over and over and over again, I grew to deeply love The Supremes. Though Diana Ross sang most of the lead vocals and was the most visible of the ladies, my favorite Supreme was always Mary Wilson.

“I am coming to see that Children Incorporated is a loving organization.”

– Mary Wilson

In 2016, in my role as President and Chief Executive Officer of Children Incorporated, I decided to write to Ms. Wilson to ask her to support our work. Over the years, I had read about her charitable giving, and I knew that she had been appointed a United States Culture Connect Ambassador by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Ms. Wilson had traveled all around the globe promoting peace initiatives, and her work to remove remaining landmines from war-torn countries inspired me.

With these things in mind, I sent her a lengthy letter filling her in on the incredible and life-changing work of Children Incorporated. Ms. Wilson responded a few months later and said that she would love to help out as her busy scheduled allowed. We corresponded back and forth a number of times over the following year until late 2017, when Ms. Wilson decided to sponsor a little girl through our organization.

A CONVERSATION WITH MS. WILSON

Mrs. Wilson’s third book, “Supreme Glamour”, was published in September 2019.

A few months back, Ms. Wilson was scheduled to be in Detroit to attend an event. She contacted me before that visit to ask if she could meet the child she was then sponsoring in the Detroit area. The Children Incorporated staff and I were pleased to make Ms. Wilson’s wish to meet the child become a reality.

I met Ms. Wilson in Detroit and escorted her to a struggling school in the heart of the motor city. There, she interacted warmly with her sponsored child and members of the highly-dedicated school staff. I watched as Ms. Wilson encouraged the little girl to take her education seriously and to always strive for more. The big smile on the girl’s face said it all. She had connected with her sponsor, the Supreme Ms. Mary Wilson — and Ms. Wilson with her.

Following the visit, Ms. Wilson asked me if I could take her to her favorite coffee shop before she had to return to her hotel and prepare for an afternoon radio interview. I was honored to do so as I was in the presence of not only a loving and kind person, but also Motown Royalty! During our time together, we discussed many things — her long career, her history of supporting charitable causes, her children and mine — and I had the chance to share more details about Children Incorporated with her. I will never forget my magical day with Ms. Wilson.

The following are some of the highlights from our conversation:

Ron: Ms. Wilson, you have supported a number of charities over the years. How did you first get involved in doing charitable work? What led you to want to support these types of groups?

Ms. Wilson: After having traveled the world in the ‘60s, I had seen a lot of third world countries where poverty was just too much to bear. It was easy to see that here in America we have it pretty good — even with all of our problems. I guess the reason I chose to sponsor a child is because I had so many things going on, including my career and my own big family. I even adopted my little cousin, Willie. Sponsorship was a way that I could give back and be a part of a child’s life. I could see that there were so many children who were not getting the love and care they needed. I decided to sponsor a child in the Philippines, and that lasted until she graduated from high school.

Ron: You’re still fairly new to Children Incorporated. What are your first impressions of our organization? Why did you agree to support our work?

Ms. Wilson: I am coming to see that Children Incorporated is a loving organization. I saw that very early on when you made a great effort to arrange our meeting today. You are very passionate, Ron, about your work, and you reached out to help me become acquainted with the Children Incorporated sponsorship program on several occasions. So far, I have only met a few of the others who are part of the team — like the women who serve as your volunteers at the school. But everyone seems to be very passionate about the work. It is not just about getting a paycheck. You all seem to have a real passion for helping children.

Ron: That’s true, and I think that is what makes Children Incorporated so special.  The work is personal. Our goal is always to improve the lives of children, and I know that is also a passion of yours.

Ms. Wilson: I always look for organizations that help children. You’re right — that is a passion of mine.

Ron: A few years back, former Secretary of State Colin Powell recognized you as a Cultural Ambassador for the United States. I’m sure that was an incredible honor.

Ms. Wilson currently sponsors a child in our program from Richmond, Virginia.

Ms. Wilson: Yes! What an honor it was for me to become a Cultural Ambassador for the United States! Through another organization that I was supporting, I met a woman named Patricia Harris in Washington, D.C. Ms. Harris suggested to Secretary of State Powell that I become part of his program under President George W. Bush — and that is how I was appointed one of the Cultural Ambassadors. Then I traveled around the world, working as an ambassador for peace. It was an incredible honor and a wonderful experience!

Ron: You’ve had a very long and fruitful career. Looking back, what — off the top of your head — are a few of the highlights or things that were especially meaningful to you?

Ms. Wilson: I am a truly blessed person. Coming from very humble beginnings and truly living the “American Dream” of becoming a star has been most gratifying. The Supremes did some great things in our career. Being on the Ed Sullivan Show fifteen times was one of them. We also gave command performances for the royal family in Great Britain. Along the way, we were inducted into various halls of fame. And of course, having all those number-one records around the world was one the biggest thrills of all! Oh, and there is also a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

Ron: Two years back, you had a top-twenty hit, “Time to Move On,” on the Billboard Dance chart. It must have been very affirming to see yourself on the charts after so many years.

Ms. Wilson: The music industry has changed so much over the years. I am one of the lucky ones to still be performing after fifty years. Getting a record onto the charts today is not easy. The charts today are made up of a very young generation of singers. Even though we were also young people when we were having our hits, there were a lot of different styles of music out back then. More people got a chance to have hits. It isn’t that way now. Digital downloads and music subscriptions have also taken a big toll on how people share their music. I was very lucky to get a top-twenty hit, and I hope to follow it up with another one. I’ve been in the studio doing some recording, and will hopefully have some product out soon.

“After having traveled the world in the ‘60s, I had seen a lot of third world countries where poverty was just too much to bare. It was easy to see that here in America we have it pretty good — even with all of our problems.”

Ron: You have worked tirelessly to keep The Supremes’ legacy alive. You’ve helped with archival record releases, and I understand you are now working on a new book about the group.

Ms. Wilson: Yes, some have said that I have been the keeper of The Supremes’ legacy — but I also want people to know that I do not live in the past. I have many new projects going on. Presently, I am working on another book that will come out soon. I want to thank all of the fans who have stood by our music throughout the years. They must know how very much they are appreciated by me, and I am sure by Diane (Diana Ross) as well. Flo (Florence Ballard) would feel the same gratitude if she were still alive.

Ron: You’ve said many times that people should dare to dream — that dreams do come true — and you’ve certainly seen some of your dreams become reality. Are there other things you still wish to accomplish — dreams you have yet to see realized?

Ms. Wilson: There are a couple of issues that I am very passionate about. I, as well as many others in the music industry, have worked on the CLASSICS (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society) Act bill. This deals with records made prior to 1972. Artists who recorded their hits prior to then haven’t gotten paid when their records are played on the air. This is so unfair. Much of the greatest music was recorded in the years prior to 1972, and those songs are still played on the radio all the time, yet the artists weren’t being paid.  The bill was finally signed into law in October 2018. I am also continuing to work on the Truth in Music Advertising bill. This one deals with the fact that there are many bogus groups on the road now, claiming to be originals when, in fact, none of the members are original. People go to see a group they loved in the 1960s or 1970s, for example, yet what they get is not the original group. I have been working on this for many years, and I recently addressed Congress about this very important matter.

Ron: Ms. Wilson, do you have any final words of encouragement for your sponsored child?

Ms. Wilson: Again, I just wish her happiness. I want her to have hope, and I want her to dream of possibilities. I want her to know that there are good people in this world who care about others and are willing to help out when help is needed. Children Incorporated is like that, and I am very proud to be part of this organization!

Footnote:  Ms. Wilson currently sponsors a little girl from Richmond, Virginia.  Her third book, “Supreme Glamour” was published in September 2019, the same month that she debuted as a contestant on the ABC television series, “Dancing With The Stars.”  At 75 years young, Mary Wilson continues to tour and perform to fans around the world. She is an inspiration to many who have followed her career for the going on six decades.

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A Magical Time of Year

A few years back, my younger daughter, who was in grade school and believed wholeheartedly in Santa Claus at the time, asked me a couple of questions that I have since replayed in my mind time and time again. She had heard me talk about the fact that many children go without presents at Christmas, and she knew that Children Incorporated works with various organizations, companies, and individuals to provide gifts to many such youngsters at this special time of year. She did not understand why Santa, who is supposed to care about all children equally, would overlook some, leaving them with no presents at all. So she asked me, “Why doesn’t Santa Claus also give those children toys? Why does he pass them by?”

No gifts for children living in poverty

Thanks to you, children all over the world are receiving Christmas gifts this holiday season.

As many parents through the ages have struggled with questions about Santa Claus, I, too, wrestled with responding in a way that would make sense, yet would not rob my child of her innocence and brief belief in the man in the red hat. I quickly came up with something along the lines of Santa not paying for the toys he delivers; but rather, parents send him money for gifts that he either makes or picks up, and he delivers them on Christmas Eve. Then I explained to my child that some parents cannot afford to send Santa money; thus, their children go without gifts. My daughter seemed to accept this explanation fairly well, and we moved on to the next topic.

Now, years later, my child is in high school – her belief in Santa long forgotten. She and I still struggle, however, with the concept of poverty, and the fact that many youngsters have little to celebrate at Christmastime – or throughout the year, for that matter. Basics such as food and clothing are often in short supply in their lives; thus, presents wrapped in pretty holiday paper, adorned with bright sparkly bows, are merely something about which they can only dream. As their parents struggle to provide shelter, pay rent and utilities, and ensure that their sons and daughters get to and from school – where parents hope their children will receive an education that will lead them to a better life – the brilliance of the Christmas season is greatly dimmed.

Because of kind donations, many children around the world are feeling the Christmas spirit during this magical time of year – a warmth they would not be feeling otherwise.

A season of new beginnings

Christmas is a magical time for many. Advent, the period leading up to it, is a season of new beginnings; fresh starts and hopes and possibilities – the very things those who struggle are often missing in their lives, and so desperately need. During this special time of year, I want to thank our sponsors and supporters for all that they have contributed to the work of Children Incorporated by sponsoring children, making donations to our Hope In Action Fund, and helping us to provide not only food and clothing – but also sometimes a toy or book or ball – to children who might otherwise go without. Because of kind donations, many children around the world are feeling the Christmas spirit during this magical time of year – a warmth they would not be feeling otherwise. Thanks to you, so many youngsters are having a very merry Christmas and a happy holiday. We can’t thank you enough for changing the lives of these children in need.

From the heart,

Ronald H. Carter
President and Chief Executive Officer

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD WITH CHILDREN INCORPORATED?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child that is available for sponsorship.

Our Partner International Student Exchange Releases an Update on Their ISE Gives Back Charity Initiative

International Student Exchange (ISE) is pleased to announce the release of their most recent ISE Gives Back charity initiative update. This initiative was designed to provide support to organizations that assist underprivileged children around the world. The most recent ISE update covers their ongoing partnership with Children Incorporated, which has helped children in need across the United States, specifically, for the last two years; and it details some of the programs funded through their $100,000 donation.

“It’s truly remarkable what we’ve been able to accomplish together in these last two years, and we look forward to continuing this impactful work.”

– Amanda Corey of ISE

“Being able to launch this initiative and see how it has positively impacted so many people is an absolute honor,” said Amanda Corey of ISE. “We have heard so many wonderful stories, like from Alyssa*, a young girl from Kentucky who received treatment at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston after she sustained severe burns during a house fire. It’s news like this of kids receiving the help they need that keeps us moving toward our mission to bring people together for the greater good of the world.”

In addition to helping this family, ISE’s partnership with Children Incorporated has also had a far-reaching impact. In Washington, D.C., the donation provided funds for a weekend Backpack Feeding Program for children who would otherwise not have food to eat on the weekends; as well as helped to fund a Joyful Food Market – a market where families with limited access to grocery stores can obtain fresh vegetables, fruit, proteins, and more once a month.

Thanks to ISE, children all over the United States are receiving much-needed support.

In Richmond, Virginia, the ISE-Children Incorporated partnership resulted in the purchase of Legos and Lego Base Plates for the Broad Rock Elementary School library. They will be used for the school’s math program, which promotes coding and logistical and higher-level thinking.

To the south, in North Carolina, funds from the $100,000 donation helped to sustain the Junior Appalachian Musicians program, where children stay after school to learn about traditional Appalachian instruments and culture. Across the country, in Arizona, the donation provided funding for the construction of a reading pergola and native canyon grape vines at Pinon Community School in the Navajo Nation, as well as supplies for students to turn grapes into jam for consumption at school and at home with their families.

Amanda went on to say, “As if that weren’t amazing enough, ISE and Children Incorporated are currently sponsoring 119 children through this partnership, including 58 older boys and girls, for whom it is most difficult to find sponsors. It’s truly remarkable what we’ve been able to accomplish together in these last two years, and we look forward to continuing this impactful work.”

Visit iseusa.org to learn more about the ISE-Children Incorporated partnership, and to discover what it’s like to become a host family or area representative.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

About International Student Exchange

International Student Exchange sponsors secondary school exchange for international students, as well as provides cultural exchange programs for American high school students interested in opportunities for living and studying abroad. Founded in 1982, this certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization has provided quality foreign exchange programs for over 30,000 students.

ISE’s goal is for student exchange to bring people of the world closer together, and for the relationships created between exchange students, host families, and local communities to promote peaceful, cooperative international relations. Those interested in helping and getting involved may host an exchange student, or join a team of incredible area representatives.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD WITH CHILDREN INCORPORATED?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child who is available for sponsorship.

A New Playground and New Supplies for Students in Richmond

Last November, Children Incorporated staff members Renée Kube, Shelley Oxenham, and Chuck Smith helped rebuild a playground at G.H. Reid Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia, where we partner with Communities in Schools of Richmond (CIS) to support sponsored children in the Richmond area, near our headquarters. Just a few months prior, over summer break, the old playground was set on fire, and it spread around the equipment, melting and disfiguring most of it, and leaving the 750 Richmond public school children with few options for outdoor play.

Partners in Rebuilding

Fun supplies makes for a good time for kids

A few of the donated supplies for kids at G.H. Reid Elementary

Renée, our Director of U.S. Programs, explained that the playground rebuild project was able to happen thanks KaBOOM, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds, especially in low-income areas. The CarMax Foundation also stepped up to contribute funds and materials for the build, and Renée attended the volunteer work day, along with her Children Incorporated coworkers Shelley, U.S. Programs Specialist, and Chuck, U.S. Sponsorship Manager. About 250 volunteers built the playground from the ground up in just one day. One of the jobs Renée, Shelley, and Chuck were assigned was painting maps and game boards onto the playground surface.

A Big Initiative

By the end of May, we had $1,000 to donate to G.H. Reid, and we couldn’t wait to present the check to them, as well as contribute some supplies to get them started.

In early 2017, Children Incorporated promoted Renée, Shelley, and Chuck’s story about helping to rebuild the playground. We took that opportunity to mention another initiative as well: we wanted to provide additional funding to the school for the playground’s upkeep, such as laying new mulch and repainting, which it would be in need of at the end of the school year. But by early spring, that initiative grew beyond just helping with maintenance, thanks to a special sponsor, Micah Greer – it turned into a campaign to raise funds to purchase playground supplies as well.

Micah is the founder of Operation Optimist, a web-based clothing company in Austin, Texas, and he is a personal trainer. Micah has been a sponsor through Children Incorporated for more than a year, and he decided to take his involvement to new heights by making the generous offer to donate ten percent of all of his merchandise sales to our organization. When Micah sent Children Incorporated a check for $500 in April, we decided we would use the funds to purchase supplies for children to use in support of healthy living, since that’s one of Micah’s primary focuses. And we asked donors to match it – which they happily did! By the end of May, we had $1,000 to donate to G.H. Reid, and we couldn’t wait to present the check to them, as well as contribute some supplies to get them started.

Presenting the check to our volunteer coordinator to purchase even more playground supplies for the fall

The Dream List

With the funding in place, Renée asked for a “dream list” of playground supplies from G.H. Reid, which was provided by Mr. Vickers, the physical education teacher there. Mr. Vickers told our volunteer coordinator, Sydney Capito, that the children could use detachable hurdles, a handled parachute, dumbbells, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, kick balls, and hula-hoops. Renée purchased some of the items, including a flag football set and wiffle ball bats. We were so excited to take fun supplies to the school last week, and to present a check to Sydney, who knows the children will be thrilled to have all this new gear to play with in the upcoming school year.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN RICHMOND, VIRGINIA?

You can sponsor a child in Richmond in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our Sponsorship Specialists, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Volunteers Restore School Playground Destroyed by Arson

Someone set fire to the playground matting at G.H. Reid Elementary School last summer. The fire spread around the equipment, melting and disfiguring most of it, and leaving the 750 Richmond, Virginia public school children with few options for outdoor play.

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But when bad things happen, good people often start showing up to help. Hundreds of volunteers from various Richmond organizations, including Children Incorporated, stepped up to help out last November.

Together, they rebuilt the playground in just one day.

Community support

Renée Kube, director of U.S. Programs for Children Incorporated, explained that the project was led by KaBoom, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds, especially in low-income areas.

But when bad things happen, good people often start showing up to help.

“We had been told by our Volunteer Coordinator at the school that funding had been secured from KaBoom,” she said. “But KaBoom requires community buy-in: additional community funding and also hands-on help so what they really needed from us was warm bodies to come and work all day.”
They also needed maintenance funding and Children Incorporated pledged to provide that as well.

A one-of-a-kind design

But it was the children who designed the playground, which was based on ideas and drawings submitted by students at the school. Because the children created their own ideas and voted on what they wanted, the Reid Elementary School playground is one-of-a-kind.

img_9088The CarMax Foundation and KaBoom put in most of the upfront money and materials and on November third, Kube turned up to work, along with her Children Incorporated co-workers Shelley Oxenham, U.S. Programs Specialist; and Chuck Smith, U.S. Sponsorship Manager.

They were among about 250 volunteers who built the playground from the ground up in just one day. One of the jobs Kube, Oxenham, and Smith were tasked with was painting maps and game boards onto the playground surface.

A global concern

They painted maps of the United States and of the world, a hopscotch board and other game lines on the blacktop. Fortunately, Kube said, they didn’t have to be experts on global geography in order to get the maps down.

“KaBoom sent people out the day before to plan out where things would go,” she said. “They decided where to put the monkey bars and swings and they drew out the outline of the maps for us.”

“It was tremendously exciting,” she said. “The kids were peeking out the windows to watch it going up; and at the end of the day, they were leaning out of the school buses, looking at this new equipment so longingly.”

When the work team arrived on November 3rd, they painted the maps, after some redesign.

“One of the volunteers looked at the map of the world and said ‘That’s not right,’” Kube recounted. “He was Dutch, and he said that part was wrong – so we said, ‘Okay, you’re in charge of Scandinavia.’”

An enthusiastic audience

In addition to the playground, the team built a swing set, a giant Connect 4 board and a trellis with a bench and cubbies. They also painted the maps and blacktop games and repainted the lines on the basketball court; and they cleared out a garden area and removed trash and debris from the site.

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While the volunteers worked, the children tried – mostly without success – to concentrate in their classes.

“It was tremendously exciting,” she said. “The kids were peeking out the windows to watch it going up; and at the end of the day, they were leaning out of the school buses, looking at this new equipment so longingly.”

“They had to wait several days for the concrete to set before they could use their new playground; but since then, it’s been well-used and appreciated,” Kube said.

Children Incorporated will provide funding to repaint and re-mulch the playground as needed – and they may even provide the manpower, too, Kube said.

Ongoing maintenance

The heavy use the playground will get is one of the things Children Incorporated has pledged to keep up with. With 750 children running across its surfaces every day, the paint won’t hold up forever – and neither will the mulch spread around it.

Children Incorporated will provide funding to repaint and re-mulch the playground as needed – and they may even provide the manpower, too, Kube said.

img_9085“We just built it in November, so maintenance is not an issue yet,” she said. “They’ll look at it at the end of the school year and see what needs to be done. We will definitely be providing funding for mulch and maintenance – and, if needed, we’ll be doing the work ourselves.”

Other community groups may put in the physical labor too, Kube said. One church in the area said they couldn’t raise maintenance funds but could provide volunteers to help spread mulch once Children Incorporated purchases it. The paint job may go the same way.

“We want to keep it attractive and we want to keep it safe,” Kube said.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN Richmond?

You can sponsor a child in Richmond, Virginia by calling our office and speaking with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381 or by emailing us at sponsorship@childrenincorporated.org.

Dancing for a Cause

In 2011, Children Incorporated was gifted $10,000 by Deep Run High School in Richmond, Virginia as a beneficiary of the Deep Run Marathon Dance. In an effort to help children in Richmond with vision issues, the contribution was used for a large-scale vision clinic held in October of the same year at the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Athletic Center in partnership with OneSight, Richmond City Public Schools, the Rudi Johnson Foundation, the James Farrior Foundation, and Art on Wheels.

It was announced in early 2018 that after many years, Deep Run High School is retiring the Marathon Dance fundraiser; but the memory of what our organization was able to do, thanks to that donation, will last a lifetime for us and for the children who benefited from it.

Eye chart art

During the vision clinic, funds donated to Children Incorporated helped not only with the cost of providing eye exams for kids, but also with costs associated with a therapeutic, hands-on “eye chart art” project with partnering organization Art on Wheels. As the children rotated through the eye exam stations, they were asked how they ‘saw’ themselves in the past, present, and future. Then, during the wait for their glasses, the children made ‘eye chart collages,’ which were all digitally photographed.

When the clinic was over, the children took their original collages home. The digital photos were judged by Art on Wheels staff members; 25 pieces were awarded special mentions, and they were printed and mounted. At the end of the month, the 25 pieces were installed at a local art gallery, where a screen displayed rotating images of all participants’ art.

Improvements in academic performance

“She had often complained of headaches. With her new glasses, however, she is able to concentrate for longer periods of time, and she no longer gets headaches.”

At the vision clinic, 654 Richmond children received comprehensive eye exams. For many, this was the first time their eyes had ever been thoroughly examined by an eye doctor. Of these kids, 463 needed eyeglasses. Additionally, six children received referrals for pediatric ophthalmologists due to the discovery of serious eye conditions.

After the clinic, a survey was sent to each of the children’s teachers. Their feedback included comments such as, “Because she is seeing the board so much better, she no longer has to sit extremely close to it. There has been an improvement in her academic performance.”

“His writing scores on his bi-weekly tests have improved.”

“She had often complained of headaches. With her new glasses, however, she is able to concentrate for longer periods of time, and she no longer gets headaches.”

We can’t thank amazing students and administrators like those at Deep Run High School enough for making it possible for us to help so many children who were in need of eye exams, glasses, and referrals. These incredible people helped to offer better vision for a better future for so many of our sponsored and unsponsored children.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN RICHMOND, VIRGINIA?

You can sponsor a child in Richmond, Virginia in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.