Visit GoochlandCares.org for guidance on conducting a safe food drive in your neighborhood.
As a single mom, Sheila Jamerson doesn’t worry about herself. She worries about taking care of her two children. That anxiety recently turned to fear when Sheila lost her job. She was able to find part-time work, but the fear continued as she struggled to make ends meet. Medicaid provides some assistance for the kids, but she cannot afford health insurance for herself. After paying rent, there was barely enough money to buy food for meals. Then Sheila heard about GoochlandCares and the services it could provide for her and her family.
“The staff and volunteers at GoochlandCares don’t make me feel embarrassed for needing help,” says Sheila. “Each week, I pick up food at the Food Pantry to feed us. I can stop by the Clothes Closet for school clothes, coats, and gloves for the kids, and work clothes for me.”
The Food Pantry and Clothes Closet are just two of GoochlandCares’ critical assistance programs. The organization also provides medical transportation, financial assistance, critical home repair, emergency housing, case management, GED/ESL education, services for sexual and domestic violence survivors, and medical, dental, and mental healthcare through the Free Clinic.
GoochlandCares got its start in 1952 as Goochland Fellowship and Family Services. Founded by a small group of women, the Fellowship helped those in the Goochland community who were not eligible for state or federal assistance. In 2000, several parishioners from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Goochland created the Free Clinic of Goochland to help care for county residents with no health insurance. The two organizations merged in 2007 and became Goochland Free Clinic & Family Services (GFCFS).
In January 2018, GFCFS moved into a new 20,000-square foot facility and officially re-branded to GoochlandCares. All services are under one roof to increase access and serve clients efficiently. In 2019, more than 2,100 Goochland residents, including 600+ children, received assistance from GoochlandCares. The Food Pantry serves more than 300 households every week. That is nearly 10 percent of the county’s total population.
“We are the net below the government’s safety net,” said Sally Graham, executive director of GoochlandCares. “We here at GoochlandCares envision a community where everyone’s basic human needs are met, including quality healthcare, secure housing, nutritious food, adequate clothing, and freedom from violence. Our clients struggle every day with tough choices – like either putting food on the table or purchasing asthma medication.”
GoochlandCares delivers quality, client-centered services with compassion and dignity, both internally and by partnering with other agencies and organizations in the Richmond area. Sheila discovered this when she called the Free Clinic in severe pain. Soon after that call, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Devastated by the news, her first thought was for her children. Who would take care of her kids when she received treatment? How could she begin to afford the treatments and therapies to combat the cancer? Through GoochlandCares’ participation in Access Now from the Richmond Academy of Medicine, Sheila qualified for surgery and treatment at no charge. But while recovering, she fell behind on her everyday bills and expenses.
Graham says wrapping social services around a family is the blueprint for success in the rural communities of Goochland. “Sheila feared losing her home or having the utilities disconnected, but with the help of her case manager at GoochlandCares, she crafted a plan to get back on her feet,” says Graham. Now cancer-free and back at work, Sheila still relies on the Food Pantry to keep food in the refrigerator. “She may not know what tomorrow will bring, but she does know that GoochlandCares is there for her so she can be there for her children,” adds Graham.
Sheila says the support she has received through GoochlandCares has taught her how decent and kind people can be, and what it means to be part of a community. Says Sheila, “I’m so grateful to live and work in a community where neighbors really do take care of each other.”