At a time when people can’t interact with the City of Richmond community in the same way they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s comforting to know that a virtual community is just a click away at RVAStrong.org.
Recently created and introduced by Mayor Levar Stoney, the site brings together a variety of resources for the community and voices from the community.
That’s what Mayor Stoney appreciates about the site. “We needed someone to bring those resources together to make sure the most vulnerable in our community have the opportunity to get through this pandemic,” he says.
Mayor Stoney had seen similar sites from other cities such as Birmingham and Seattle that were putting their resources into one centralized hub. “What we say amongst mayors is that there is no monopoly on good ideas,” he says. “We wanted to create our own centralized resource hub with some of our own initiatives.”
The goal was to provide Richmonders with a reliable network of support that would be consistent and trustworthy. The site has a number of interactive elements.
At RVAStrong.org, visitors can:
- Explore everything from housing stability and food security to families and neighborhoods.
- Find links to make donations and look for safe volunteer opportunities.
- Identify a need such as housing or income support and be directed toward nonprofit, city and individual efforts to meet those needs.
- Propose a resource or content to add to the site.
- Tell a COVID-19 isolation story that the Mayor will share periodically, if the user gives permission.
- Sign up to receive the COVID-19 public briefing, which includes timely updates and links to city resources via email.
- Donate to the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund, coordinated by the Community Foundation.
- Apply for the Family Crisis Fund if your family has lost income due to COVID-19.
“We want to centralize resources and allow folks to interact,” says the Mayor. “I see the site as a living document. Anytime an individual or organization wants to help, we want to add that resource to the site. As new initiatives are created, we want to make sure that support has a place to live.”
The information on the site is being developed into a printable resource that will be distributed for Richmonders who don’t have access to the Internet. A Spanish version of RVAStrong.org is in development as well.
The Mayor’s office has already received many stories on the site. The stories run the gamut from hearbreaking to funny. “Some of the stories we’ve received will make you cry and some will make you laugh,” Mayor Stoney says.
A very community-oriented, people-driven person, the Mayor misses the opportunity to get out into the community and interact with other Richmonders, but knows the importance of social distancing and staying at home. “We are all in this together and dealing with the same thing, having to stay indoors to prevent the spread of this virus,” he says.
Seeing how people from all walks of life are handling this situation inspires the Mayor. “It reminds me that we are going to get through this. This new normal will be temporary. We can get back to our lives before the pandemic landed in the city,” he says.
The Mayor says he can’t believe he hasn’t been outdoors in several days. “Folks that know me know that I usually spend more time outdoors than indoors,” he says. “This might be inconvenient, but it’s necessary for me to play my part. Richmond is a city defined by its resilience. We’ll get through this, but we have to support each other.”