Funds available for groups hurt by Enrichmond’s collapse

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 10/5/2023, 6 p.m.
A promised $250,000 bailout fund for more than 80 community groups that lost most of their money in the 2022 ...

A promised $250,000 bailout fund for more than 80 community groups that lost most of their money in the 2022 collapse of the Enrichmond Foundation is finally available.

City Council cleared the way for the release of the money that will go to the Richmond Outdoor and Prosperity Fund that is being administered by The Community Foundation.

As previously reported, the money was included in the 2023-24 budget but needed council approval to be released.

The fund, led by charity consultant Kelly Chopus, has been notifying the affected groups and plans to award grants of $1,000

to $10,000 to the organizations based on their applications, according to information provided to the council.

The money that City Hall is providing is believed to be only a fraction of the losses the organizations that support parks and recreational activities experienced. Some examples of the affected groups include the Friends of East End Cemetery, Friends of Pump House and the Richmond Tree Stewards.

Current estimates suggest that up to $3 million that Enrichmond was holding for those groups disappeared, based on the Enrichmond financial records that the city secured after the collapse.

State and federal investigations also are underway to determine if any laws were broken as a result of the loss, city officials said.

The foundation, which the city created as an independent operation more than 30 years ago, served as an informal bank for organizations that operated like nonprofits but had not secured the IRS designation.

But instead of holding the money, the foundation began spending the money it held to pay staff wages and bills, according to the records, until the money ran out and it folded.

In other action at the Sept. 25 meeting, the council also agreed to use $2.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to expand a housing renovation program. The money is to go to the nonprofit project: project:Homes that already operates a city-supported repair program. The new funds will allow project:Homes to do renovations for elderly homeowners that cost up to $60,000, or nearly double the current limit of $35,000, according to information presented to the council.

The council also began wrapping up needed approvals to allow Richmond-based Lynx Ventures to move forward with its $55 million plan to replace Oak Grove Elementary School in South Side with 243 income-restricted apartments and 15 townhomes targeted for households with incomes below the area median. The company had already bought the long vacant and decaying building at 2200 Ingram Ave., but needed the permits to proceed.

The council also authorized the city to accept the U.S. Soccer Association’s gift of a mini-soccer pitch with lighting that is to be installed at the Oak Grove Playground, 2207 Halifax Ave., just a block away from the apartment complex Lynx Ventures plans to develop. The gift is valued at $100,000, the council was told.

The council also accepted a $70,000 donation from the National Recreation and Parks Association that will be used to support a youth mentoring program the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities plans to operate, according to information accompanying the grant.