Personality: Christa Lynne Coleman

Spotlight on board member of Peter Paul Development Center

10/4/2019, 6 a.m. | Updated on 10/4/2019, 12:24 p.m.
It is unbelievable for Christa Lynne Coleman, daughter of the founder of Peter Paul Development Center, to celebrate the organization’s …

It is unbelievable for Christa Lynne Coleman, daughter of the founder of Peter Paul Development Center, to celebrate the organization’s 40th anniversary as well as the life and legacy of her late father.

The celebration, “A Bridge and Life Legacy” will be held at Peter Paul Development Center,1708 N.22nd St.from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.

The event focuses on John Coleman’s community ideals and the center’s history, including incredible testimonies of strength, vulnerability and service to the East End community.

“What my father did is awesome and inspiring,” says Ms. Coleman, a board member since 2016. “My dad did this after he returned from seminary in New York and (the center) has blossomed over the years.”

An East End resident, parent and activist, Mr. Coleman founded the center in 1979 as a nonprofit organization, housed at the time in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at the corner of X and 22nd streets.

Mr. Coleman had a vision for his struggling neighborhood in the heart of the East End: To elevate lives, improve education and job opportunities in his community that faced average or below-average income levels, high crime and drug use.

His goal was to support and rebuild the community by strengthening families; providing a program for seniors; offering financial assistance, economic development and opportunities for parents and young adults; and providing academic support and recreational activities for school-age children, as well as creating a hub for social events.

“It took me a while to appreciate what he was doing because I was quite young when he started, plus I was moving all around the country as he was building his dream,” Ms. Coleman says.

The center founder was an inspiration for his daughter, as well as for all of the people he encountered.

“This anniversary is unbelievable as my father’s legacy has endured and prospered. He would be proud,” she says.

Forty years later, Peter Paul Development Center is a powerful force in the East End as it lives up to its mission to educate children, engage family and empower the community.

After living in different parts of the country and traveling extensively, Ms. Coleman, a professional educator working with nonprofits serving low-income students, returned to Richmond after 37 years.

“What struck me the most about my father’s dream-turned-reality was the power of what Peter Paul achieved during my absence and the impact it had on lives in the community,” Ms. Coleman says. “People shared the impact my dad had on their lives and why they continue to be involved in Peter Paul. That is a powerful force.”

As a member of the board, Ms. Coleman is looking toward the next 10 years. “I see the community transformed by people from the community because the center is ‘of the community.’ That’s the vision of the board and I know that’s what my dad wanted.”

Peter Paul’s after-school program uses the best practices from the center’s experience to help students at satellite locations at Fairfield Court, George Mason, Bellevue, and Chimborazo elementary schools.

After John Coleman’s death in 1986, the center continued to be supported primarily by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and many generous individuals as the organization expanded and strengthened with a focus on fostering and measuring academic achievement.

Becoming reflective and emotional, Ms. Coleman asks a poignant question as she remembers her father’s life and legacy: “What can you do in a lifetime and what will be your imprint?”

“If my father were here right now, I would tell him thanks from the bottom of my heart for your gift to me, to people you don’t even know and to people who are not born yet,” she says through a teary swell of emotion. “Your life was short but incredibly powerful.”

Meet this week’s Personality, whose father’s legacy lives on through her,

Christa Lynne Coleman:

Date and place of birth: Sept. 16 in Richmond.

Current residence: Glen Allen.

Alma mater: Bachelor’s of science, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1979.

Relationship to Peter Paul Development Center: Daughter of founder John Coleman and board member since 2016.

Why the center is important to the East End community: This center has been a place of support, resources, refuge and hope for 40 years.

Leadership of the center: It enjoys the service of impas- sioned board members, with most members filling their maximum term of six years; community members are em- ployed at Peter Paul and serve on the board, as well.

What changes and progress have occurred since center’s founding: Peter Paul continues to respond to the community and has grown its impact in the level and depth of programming. In 2007, the main building was built, which allowed us to serve three times the number of students. In 2012, Peter Paul opened its first Promise Center at Fairfield Elementary.

Challenges facing the center and community it serves: The lack of safety for our children and the overall impact of community trauma.

The center’s greatest reward: All the successes of the children and their families, including academic confidence and success, high school graduations, stable housing, full-time jobs, first cars, etc.

Role of the center in eliminating social ills: Peter Paul takes an asset-based approach to its work and focuses on empowering its families with the skills needed to thrive.

What makes a good leader: The ability to inspire people to want to achieve more than they think is possible.

How I start the day: In total gratitude.

Quality I most admire in another person: Acceptance of others — not just in words, but in deeds.

Three words that best describe me: Curious, apprecia- tive and under development.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Most people who know me know I love professional football. I don’t think they know just how much I love it.

A perfect day for me is: A chilly fall Saturday that starts with a long walk, followed by a long stay at a cozy coffee shop and ending with a deli- cious bowl of soup and a game of football.

Best late-night snack: All late- night snacks are the best!

How I unwind: Watching professional sports — no storyline, no dialogue, just talent and artistry.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: To give — of myself and my treasures.

At the top of my “to-do” list is: To read more books!

Persons who influenced me the most: My parents. I watched them both carefully, and I am so glad I did!

What I’m reading now: Just finished “The Storyteller’s Secret” by Sejal Badani and about to start “Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland” by Gerald Clarke.

Next goal: To keep learning!

Want to go?

What: “A Bridge and Life Legacy” — Peter Paul Development Center 40th Anniversary.

When: 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.

Where: Peter Paul Development Center, 1708 N. 22nd St.

Details: Interactive exhibits, inspiring speakers, food from Chef Pescado Catering, local beer and wine and entertainment from local band “Brown’s Island.” Tickets: $40 through Thursday, Oct. 10; price increases Oct. 11 to $50. Proceeds will support Peter Paul Development Center’s programming and purpose to “Educate the Child, Engage the Family and Empower the Community.”

For more information and tickets: Peter Paul Development Center, (804) 780-1195, or www. peterpauldevcenter.…