Personality: Luise ‘Cheezi’ Farmer
Spotlight on board chair of Diversity Richmond
10/29/2020, 6 p.m.
Being elected to lead a group in the midst of a pandemic would be a sizable burden for anyone. But for Luise “Cheezi” Farmer, board chair of Diversity Richmond, it’s a welcome opportunity to show her commitment to the cause and a sign of how much her role is valued.
“After being on the board for three years, it was a humbling experience to know that other members believed I was the right person to help lead the organization,” Ms. Farmer says.
Ms. Farmer, a retired UPS employee and owner and master barber of RVA Clippers, was elected in June to serve a two-year term.
Diversity Richmond was founded as Gay Community Center of Richmond in 1999 to provide for support the groups that served the city’s LGBTQIA+ community and to educate the public. Since then, the organization has greatly expanded its efforts and means of ensuring its vision of an inclusive and equitable community comes to fruition. The name changed to Diversity Richmond in 2015.
Diversity Richmond offers a number of programs and services, including a thrift store, emergency support systems, referrals and yearly grants to area nonprofits that strengthen the LGBTQIA+ community. The group also partners with many local organizations and nonprofits, including Jewish Family Services, LGBT Cancer Resources and the Black History Museum.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, coronavirus community testing has taken place at Diversity Richmond. The organization also has held food drives, given stipends for purchases at its thrift store for those in need and provided emergency financial support through collaboration with its community partners.
Ms. Farmer is more than aware of the significance of leading the organization not just during the pandemic, but also during a time of protests against police brutality and a re-energized push for racial equality.
As a result, Diversity Richmond has moved beyond its original mission through partnerships with nonprofits such as FeedMore and by deepening the group’s outreach to Richmond’s Latinx community. The group also is “committed to give to, work for and support efforts to eliminate structural racism and marginalization,” according to Ms. Farmer.
“Our community really knows how to come together to support one another,” says Ms. Farmer, extolling the volunteer support Diversity Richmond has received. “We are stronger together through difficult times.”
For now though, Ms. Farmer is focused on fulfilling her duties as board chair and working on the organization’s future plans. Among them is to provide hot meals on Thanksgiving Day and a food drive some time in December.
Meet a generous, optimistic and hard-working activist and this week’s Personality, Luise “Cheezi” Farmer:
No. 1 volunteer position: Board chair, Diversity Richmond.
Date and place of birth: Oct. 14 in Louisa.
Where I live now: Richmond.
Education: Worldwide School of Evangelism; Anderson Barber College; Evans-Smith Training Institute at Virginia Union University. Certifications: Personnel administration, Christian counseling and nonprofit management.
Occupation: UPS, retired in October 2020; owner and master barber, RVA Clippers.
Family: Daughter, Nicole; and two grandchildren, Jayden and Jayla.
Diversity Richmond’s mission: Diversity Richmond envisions a community where LGBTQIA+ citizens are treated with respect and dignity and their unique gifts are championed and celebrated, thereby strengthening our community.
When and why Diversity Richmond was founded: It was founded as Gay Community Center of Richmond in 1999. GCCR was founded to provide support for the agencies and groups that served Central Virginia sexual and gender minority people and to educate the public about the many issues facing the LGBTQ community. In 2004, GCCR purchased the current facility located on Sherwood Avenue, which has undergone extensive renovations through the years. In 2000, Jon Klein opened a Main Street thrift store called, Out of the Closet Thrift. The name was later changed to Diversity Thrift and is now one of Richmond’s best known and most popular thrift stores. In 2015, GCCR became Diversity Richmond.
Why Diversity Richmond is important in our community: It supports the LGBTQIA+ community financially, collaborates, convenes groups to effect social change and encourages acceptance.
When elected board chair: June 2020.
Length of term: Two years.
Why I accepted position: After being on the board for three years, it was a humbling experience to know that other members believed I was the right person to help lead the organization.
Significance of being board chair at this time: The relationship between the board chair and the executive director is critical for success, particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Number one goal or project as board chair: To create a junior board to raise monies and spread the message of Diversity Richmond.
Strategy for achieving goals: Name the problem, invite feedback and possible solutions then find consensus on what is the best decision for the organization and the community.
How Diversity Richmond is helping during COVID-19: Holding food drives, giving stipends for those in need to shop at Diversity Thrift and providing emergency financial support with community partners.
How COVID-19 has caused Diversity Richmond to think beyond its original mission: Through partnerships with non-profits such as FeedMore and deeper outreach to the Latinx community, along with keeping the safety of our employees a priority by strictly following CDC guidelines.
Lessons learned during this pandemic by Diversity Richmond: Our community really knows how to come together to support one another. We are stronger together through difficult times. Volunteer support has been amazing.
Services we provide: Various programs, emergency support, referrals and grants to area nonprofits.
Diversity Richmond partners with: A variety of organizations and nonprofits, including Jewish Family Services, LGBT Cancer Resources and the Black History Museum.
Black Lives Matter and Diversity Richmond: Diversity Richmond is committed to give to, work for and support efforts to eliminate structural racism and marginalization.
Who benefits from Diversity Richmond: Diversity Richmond has distributed more than $850,000 to area nonprofits, including Richmond Triangle Players, Health Brigade, NATIONZ, Equality Virginia and many more. Grants also are given out on an annual basis to support programs that strengthen the LGBTQIA+ community
Diversity Richmond’s upcoming events: Providing hot meals from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, and a food drive in December.
Ways to work with Diversity Richmond: Volunteer and donate either financially or by donating items to the thrift store.
How I start the day: Meditation and being grateful with a good cup of Cafe Mocha from Starbucks .
Three words that best describe me: Generous, optimistic and hard-working.
Best late-night snack: Goobers or Boston Baked Beans and Dr. Pepper.
How I unwind: Watching MSNBC.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Shop.
A quote that I am most inspired by: “Do everything with a good heart and expect nothing in return and you will never be disappointed.” — Unknown
At the top of my “to-do” list: Enjoy retirement.
Best thing my parents ever taught me: Family is impor- tant.
Person who influenced me the most: My mother, the Rev. Ada Davis.
Book that influenced me the most: “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz.
What I’m reading now: The news on all platforms.
Next goal: To continue my work with Diversity Richmond and fulfill my duties as board chair to the best of my best abilities.