Personality: Genevieve A. Roberts
Spotlight on board president of YWCA Richmond
10/8/2020, 6 p.m.
The presence of COVID-19 hasn’t slowed down YWCA Richmond, which is preparing to celebrate 40 years of recognizing women leaders in education, volunteerism and more with its Outstanding Women Awards on Friday, Oct. 16.
Genevieve A. Roberts was elected board president of YWCA Richmond after serving in various leadership positions for the past six years. She takes the helm during a critical time for the organization that was started in Richmond 133 years ago and has worked to empower women through programs focused on aiding women and children.
“YWCA Richmond has been tackling our region’s most critical social issues – from the individual inequities that affect a woman’s health or safety to systemic problems that affect her family’s future,” Mrs. Roberts says. “We empower women who are at the lowest of lows in their lives and have nowhere else to turn.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, which has seen a rise nationally in domestic violence and child abuse cases, and when October is designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, YWCA Richmond’s programs are even more in the spotlight.
Through its Domestic Violence Program, the nonprofit organization provides emergency housing for those in danger, individual and group mental health counseling, safety planning and referrals to other services, including employment, health care, court advocacy and financial literacy.
YWCA Richmond also provides a 24-hour regional hotline – (804) 612-6126 – to help survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.
The agency also has continued providing child care for essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis and recently opened another pre-school location on Bainbridge Street in South Side.
Mrs. Roberts is leading the organization as it launches a fundraising campaign to renovate its headquarters on 5th Street in Downtown and relocating its Downtown pre-school, called the “Sprout School,” to a bigger and better-equipped space.
“We are on the brink of completing some incredible projects that will continue to shape the social services sup- port network in Richmond,” Mrs. Roberts says.
The scale of the initiatives YWCA Richmond is handling and developing this year is extensive and far-reaching, and that’s something that clearly appeals to Mrs. Roberts, who is eager to do her part in furthering the organization’s mission and vision.
“It’s an exciting time to lead this organization and I want to give back my time, talent and treasures to something that truly makes a phenomenal impact in my community.”
Meet an advocate for women and the community and this week’s Personality, Genevieve A. Roberts:
No. 1 volunteer position: YWCA board president.
Date and place of birth: Oct. 5 in Wilmington, Del.
Where I live now: Glen Allen.
Education: Bachelor’s in psychobiology from Wellesley College; MBA from Georgetown University.
Occupation: National managing director, leadership & organizational development consulting, A.J. Gallagher & Co.
Family: Husband, Chris; teenagers, son Tucker and daughter Maddie; and dog, Cody, a Basenji/Jack Russell mix.
YWCA mission: To eliminate racism and empower women. YWCA is intentional about fulfilling its mission by providing programs and services to women and children in the Greater Richmond vicinity that support them in times of need, whether they are victims of domestic or sexual violence, racial discrimination or have children in need of education that is provided through our preschool called Sprout.
When and why the YWCA was founded: YWCA Richmond was conceived in a parlor meeting of eight women on May 16, 1887, and a year later, it opened a boarding home, which would accommodate 19 young women moving to Richmond for factory work. One year after that, they opened a day nursery to care for children while their mothers worked in local factories.
YWCA Richmond is important in our community because: YWCA Richmond has been tackling our region’s most critical social issues — from the individual inequities that affect a woman’s health or safety to systemic problems that affect her family’s future. We empower women who are at the lowest of lows in their lives and have nowhere else to turn. They may have been continually physically beaten by a spouse or psychologically abused by a significant other. They need to leave their unsafe home. We provide safe temporary housing, assistance in finding employment and a place they can send their young children to get a top-rated pre-school experience. Further, our mission focuses on eliminating racial discrimination by striving to transform communities, systems and public policies.
When elected board president: July 1.
Length of term: 2020-2021.
Why I accepted position: I have been serving the YWCA as a board member in various leadership positions since 2014. I felt that it was the right time to step up and lead our amazing board of 27 women who represent all of Richmond. We are on the brink of completing some incredible projects that will continue to shape the social services support network in Richmond. We just opened up another pre-school location on Bainbridge Street. We have launched a fundraising campaign that will expand the path to equity and opportunity for women through transforming our historic building on 5th Street and relocating the Downtown Sprout school to a bigger and better-equipped space. It’s an exciting time to lead this organization and I want to give back by giving my time, talent and treasures to an organization that truly makes a phenomenal impact in my community.
Number one goal as YWCA board president: To lead and motivate our board members to be authentic advocates for the work of the organization.
Strategy for achieving goal: Virtual transparent communication and relationship building.
How YWCA is helping women and children during COVID-19: Child care for essential work- ers; continuing to provide almost all of our services. Some are delivered under social distancing
and other safe guidelines.
How I start the day: Yoga, a cup of Americano coffee and walking our dog Cody with my husband, Chris.
Three words that best describe me: Friendly, good listener and competitive.
Best late-night snack: Black licorice.
How I unwind: With a glass of wine and a walk near the water.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Paddleboarding with my dog.
A quote that I am most inspired by: “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” — Brene Brown
At the top of my “to-do” list: Write a book on my experiences in working with leaders over the past 25 years and draw comparisons with marine life on the “rivah.”
Best thing my parents ever taught me: Everything in moderation.
Person who influenced me the most: My sister, Emily Davison.
Book that influenced me the most: “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. I read it when I started my first job out of college and was living in New York and worrying about everything.
What I’m reading now: “Book of the Little Axe” by Lauren Francis-Sharma, “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate and “None Like Him” by Jen Wilkin.
Next goal: To retire as soon as my kids graduate from college!
Want to go — virtually?
What: YWCA Richmond’s 40th Outstanding Women Awards Luncheon
When: 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16
Details: Nine women will be honored for their contributions to various segments of the community
Cost: Free or $1,500 to host a viewing party for 10 with boxed lunches