Personality: James V. Duty

Spotlight on board president of Friends Association for Children

12/15/2022, 6 p.m.
Following the end of the Civil War and slavery, the Friends Asylum for Colored Orphans formed in 1871 to aid ...

Following the end of the Civil War and slavery, the Friends Asylum for Colored Orphans formed in 1871 to aid Central Virginia children and families in need. Today that organization is known as the Friends Association for Children.

Through the years, Friends evolved into an adoption and foster care agency, and eventually became one of Central Virginia’s premier early childhood education providers. Today the organization offers care for infants and toddlers, preschool programming, before and after-school services and more.

In the early1990s, James V. Duty joined Friends’ efforts, beginning a decades-long association with the group that now has him leading its board for the third time.

His leadership is especially important as Friends works to re-establish its community services after setbacks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the height of the pandemic, Friends assisted 170 children and 20 families. Mr. Duty envisions the nonprofit returning to its pre-pandemic status in which Friends assisted more than 200 children. However, this task is complicated by the current economic challenges many families are facing.

Nevertheless, Mr. Duty believes that the nonprofit is up for the task.

“We’re fortunate to have strong staff leadership in a number of positions, and have been graced by the generosity of our community, so that we’re financially sound,” Mr. Duty says. “We do need to fill some staff openings and to retain the people we have in order to do all that we can do for the community.”

Areas in need of staffing include child, youth and family development, health education, performing arts and more.

To address staffing challenges for Friends’ Jackson Ward and Church Hill locations, the organization has devised several methods to attract new hires, including a “sign-on” bonus for new members, referral bonuses for employees who recommend potential candidates, and other incentives.

It’s these ideas and others that Mr. Duty believes will help ensure that Friends is can continue its necessary work in for Richmond’s families and communities in need.

“Children today need a safe environment to grow in,” Mr. Duty says. “They need positive influences in their lives, nutritious meals, and genuinely caring adults that understand education and developing minds.”

Mr. Duty previously served as board president for Friends in 1996, at the request of then-Executive Director John C. Purnell Jr. He assumed the role again in 2012 for two consecutive terms after Mr. Purnell’s retirement.

Now, he’s taken up the position a third time, and for three years instead of the usual two for the role, at the request of Friends’ Executive Director David Young. His mission: to provide continuity for a board — and nonprofit — that has gone through much in recent years.

“We have a strong board but many are either relatively new to Friends or in key committee assignments,” says Mr. Duty.

“I hope we are able to build on our strengths,” says Mr. Duty when asked about his hopes for Friends and its clients in 2023, “and continue to meet the needs we’re positioned to do.”

Meet a frequent friend and frequent leader in community service and this week’s Personality, James V. Duty:

Volunteer position: Board chair.

Occupation: CPA, financial planner.

Date and place of birth: Aug. 27 in Lexington, Ky.

Where I live now: Henrico County.

Education: Bachelor of science, University of Virginia, and master’s in accounting, University of Arizona.

Family: Wife Becky, four adult children, eight grandchildren.

Friends Association for Children is: A nonprofit child and family agency that has served Richmond for more than 150 years.

When and why founded: Friends Association for Children was founded in 1871, as Friends Asylum for Colored Orphans. The purpose was to address the needs of children and families in Central Virginia displaced by slavery and the Civil War.

Founders: Friends was founded by a former slave – Lucy Goode Brooks, with the help of area churches – Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fifth Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of South Richmond, Richmond Friends Meeting, and Third Street Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Why I became involved: I was attracted by the mission and the effectiveness of the work I witnessed.

Why I accepted position as board president: This is my third term as board president, each in a different decade, and for a different reason. This time, I accepted to provide board continuity.

No. 1 goal as board president: To do all that we can to fulfill our mission.

How Friends is financed: Approximately half from fundraising development efforts and half from fees.

What Friends means to me: Friends changes lives in incredibly positive ways and is a trusted member of the community.

Number of families served: We currently serve about 120 children and 70 families. Friends stayed open the entire time during the pandemic and we are working to (return to) our pre-pandemic enrollment of 200-plus children.

Age of children that Friends focuses on: Infants and toddlers – 6 to 24 months; Preschool – 2 to 5 years of age; Before and afterschool – 5 to 12 years of age.

Friends partners with: Aramark, Bon Secours, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and several other corporations and foundations.

How to get involved with Friends: Contact Friends via telephone at (804) 644-2357, via our website at www.friendsrva.org, or via Facebook.

A perfect day for me is: Being with extended family at our annual beach reunion.

What I am continuing to learn about myself during the pandemic: I’ve learned how much I enjoy being with people. Remote work and virtual meetings are fine, but I always prefer to be with people.

Something about me that people may not know: I spent four years as a high school basketball coach at the Steward School.

A quote that inspires me: Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

My friends describe me as: Loyal, dependable, generous.

At the top of my “to-do” list: Helping people.

Best late-night snack: Freshly made chocolate chip cookies.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: To do the best I could at whatever I was trying to do.

The person who influenced me the most: My father.

Book that influenced me the most: “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.

What I’m reading now: “Principles” by Ray Dalio.

Next goal: Figure out how best to help people.