Personality: Deidre Harris

Spotlight on founder of Touching One Life at a Time

8/5/2016, 7:23 a.m.
In 2005, a single phone call sent Deidre Harris into a spiral of depression. The caller said that Anthony Davis ...

In 2005, a single phone call sent Deidre Harris into a spiral of depression. The caller said that Anthony Davis Sr., Ms. Harris’ boyfriend and father of her then 2-year-old daughter, Kennedi, was dead.

Mr. Davis, 26, had been shot multiple times at a nightclub on Creighton Road. He died a short while later at Richmond Community Hospital.

The news left Ms. Harris with no appetite and unable to leave the house, socialize with friends or be around family. A month or so later, she contacted a local counseling service for help.

“When I came out of (the depression), I used what I learned to help others, Ms. Harris says.

Now 36, the Henrico County resident helps others through the grief process with an organization she started two years ago, Touching One Life at a Time. The nonprofit helps individuals and families who have lost loved ones find assistance with grief counseling and other services.

Ms. Harris said fundraising projects, yard sales and out-of-pocket resources have allowed her to help families in crisis. “Funds raised have gone toward funeral expenses, food, clothing, flowers and anything the family may need,” she says. She has raised awareness about her organization through word of mouth, knocking on doors and distributing fliers in various communities, particularly Richmond’s East End and South Side.

Ms. Harris also gets the word out by attending community events and partnering with other organizations that work to fight crime.

Five volunteers routinely help her.

So far her efforts have been successful. She said most of the people she has approached with information are grateful. “They are more than eager to speak with me, and say they’re happy to meet me,” she says.

She is excited about the organization’s future with its new nonprofit status. Already she is planning for expansion. “Nonprofit status will allow us to conduct fundraising, charity events and to apply for grants,” she says.

Meet this week’s people-helping Personality, Deidre Harris:

Occupation: Richmond Public Schools’ Exceptional Education program.

Current residence: Eastern Henrico County.

Education: J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and University of Phoenix, where I’m working on a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Family: Kennedi Davis, 12, and 2-year-old triplets, Keri’Co, Kali’Co and Koh’Co Robinson.

When and why Touching One Life at a Time was founded: In 2005, I lost my oldest daughter’s father to gun violence, leaving me to struggle as a single mother. I didn’t know what resources were available to me. I did some research years later and found different community resources.

Inspiration for its name: As we change one life at a time, we change the world.

Touching One Life at a Time’s mission: We focus on the grieving family member after their loved one passes away. We work with the person for an extended period of time, offering an array of services. Regardless of age, when a loved one perishes, the family suffers a sense of loss and a grieving process that is very challenging.

Strategy for achieving mission: Team-building, training and partnership.