Personality: Emilie G. Webb

Spotlight on nonprofit Assisting Families of Inmates Silent Auction chair

3/10/2017, 7:16 p.m.
Every week, dozens of individuals and families with incarcerated loved ones benefit from Emilie Webb’s decision to pursue a career ...

Every week, dozens of individuals and families with incarcerated loved ones benefit from Emilie Webb’s decision to pursue a career in nursing instead of art.

An art enthusiast from a young age, she still remembers the pride she felt when one of her original drawings, a picture of ducks drawn using pastels, showed up on the bulletin board outside her principal’s office. She says that a lack of courage eased her into her nursing career, and that if she’d had guts, she would have pursued art instead.

“But I was too chicken,” the retired psychiatric nurse says. “When thinking about how I was going to support myself, and with my mother working as a nurse and my interest in science, I decided to follow the same career path.”

Ms. Webb, 81, retired in 2001 after nearly 30 years in the nursing profession. Her experience working with patients as a psychiatric and substance abuse nurse fuels her passion to help families stay connected through Assisting Families of Inmates.

The nonprofit organization provides bus rides to prisons in Virginia three weekends a month for families who have loved ones behind bars, as well as video visitation at seven sites to 18 prisons. Ms. Webb says her experience as a nurse enabled her to see firsthand the stabilizing impact of maintaining familial bonds in helping individuals rebuild their lives.

“The kids need to see that their loved one is OK, and seeing family provides a stable foundation for inmates that can lower rates of recidivism,” she says.

In addition to the family visitation programs, AFOI also runs “Milk and Cookies,” an after-school program serving about 75 youngsters at four Richmond schools. The youths have parents who are incarcerated. The program has a curriculum based on the seven principles of Kwanzaa, Ms. Webb says, and offers field trips and summer programs for students.

Primarily funded by the organization’s annual silent auction, AFOI started in 1978 with parishioners from several churches in Downtown Richmond using their personal vehicles to transport families to prisons to visit their loved ones. Today, the organization works with a local charter bus company to provide transportation.

Ms. Webb serves as treasurer of the board of directors for AFOI and is chair of the organization’s three-day annual silent auction. The auction will be held 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 12, Sunday, March 19, and at the organization’s annual meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, March 16, in the Heritage Room at Second Presbyterian Church, 5 N. 5th St. in Downtown. All events are free and open to the public.

Dr. David Coogan, a Virginia Commonwealth University writing professor and author of “Writing Our Way Out: Memoirs from Jail,” will speak.

Meet this week’s Personality, Emilie Gustafson Webb:

Occupation: Retired registered nurse. I was nurse manager of the psychiatry and substance abuse in-patient units at McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Date and place of birth: Feb. 4 in Cambridge, Mass.

Current residence: Richmond’s Fan District.

Education: Bachelor of science in nursing, Simmons College in Boston; master’s in psychiatric mental health nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University.