Personality: Shavon M. Ragsdale

Spotlight on Village Against Violence Foundation founder

12/8/2022, 6 p.m.
If it takes a village to raise a child, Shavon M. Ragsdale works to make sure the village is ready, ...
Raindrops failed to dampen the smiles worn by Shailyn Woodson and Kennedy Johnson, both 4. The girls, members of Sparkle Cheer and Dance, were among dozens of participants Dec. 3 in the annual Dominion Energy Christmas Parade.

If it takes a village to raise a child, Shavon M. Ragsdale works to make sure the village is ready, willing and able to protect and support those most in need.

In 2019 she created the Village Against Violence Foundation as a solution to the violence plaguing the Metro Richmond area at the time.

Three years later, Ms. Ragsdale sees an even greater need, as rising mental health and medical troubles continue to threaten the safety and well- being of Richmond residents.

“The community needs help,” says Ms. Ragsdale, who frequently hears requests for help and words of encouragement since first forming the foundation. “I just really wish we could all get together in the city of Richmond, and help the surrounding counties, and become a big community.”

Currently, Ms. Ragsdale and the members of the foundation are focused on their “Gift for Healing” Toy Giveaway. The free event will provide various aid to the children of homicide victims and the less fortunate, including toys and financial donations from the community.

The Village Against Violence Foundation’s ultimate aim is to create a sustainable community center that can provide safety and comfort to at-risk children in Richmond.

The toy giveaway will be the beginning of a new annual event for the foundation, which is working with several partners, including the Unity in the Community Revitalization Coalition and local community and faith leaders, to bring joy and comfort to the less fortunate.

“The goal of this event is to support children and families who may need some extra love and kindness during the holidays,” Ms. Ragsdale says. “This has been another tough year. We want to give back in a major way.”

Her focus beyond the toy giveaway is on raising funding and partners for her number one priority: a sustainable center for children and community that can provide safety and comfort to Richmond children.

Progress on the center depends on fundraising, according to Ms. Ragsdale, to hire staff for necessary roles. But efforts have begun to improve with partnerships for the center secured, which have helped to bolster her efforts, take some of the burden off her shoulders, and inspire more optimism in its success in the near future.

“My goal is April 2023 to open,” she says. “I’m really pushing and praying.”

The road to bring the foundation to fruition so far has been a challenge for Ms. Ragsdale, who has had to fund much of its work, and her own education, with her own money. She also hasn’t seen much interest from similar community groups in collaborating and supporting each other.

Despite these initial problems, and what she saw as a worsening state for the community’s well-being, Ms. Ragsdale believes that the foundation is building momentum toward something great. And she is eager to make new connections, build a coalition and do her part to improve the quality of life for all Richmonders.

“I really can see the change,” Ms. Ragsdale says. “I’m excited, but I just want to keep going because it’s so much that I want to do to give back to the community.”

Meet the leader of an emerging group in community support and this week’s Personality, Shavon M. Ragsdale:

Volunteer position: CEO/ founder, Village Against Vio- lence Foundation.

Occupation: Community engagement specialist.

Date and place of birth: Nov. 18 in Richmond.

Where I live now: Richmond.

Education: Associate degree in human services; business certification, Cornell University Women’s Entrepreneur.

Family: Three children, Marsaan,15, Malaia, 4, and Myana, 2.

The Village Against Violence Foundation is: On a mission to strengthen families, heal at- risk children, ease hardship and build stronger communities.

When and where founded: August 2019 in Richmond.

Why Village Against Violence Foundation was created: The VAV was created from pain.

What keeps me helping others: My heart and to know how it feels firsthand to struggle. So many go through things they don’t talk about. When you help a person going through something it changes their mindset mentally and spiritually. I want to be the change.

Advice for turning tragedy into something positive: Prayer changes things. Give it to God and turn your pain into purpose.

Our No. 1 goal: VAV seeks to establish a sustainable Village Against Violence Children & Community Resource Center (VAVCCRC). The objective of the facility is to provide a safe and secure multiuse/multiuser community resource center for children in Richmond.

Strategy for achieving goals: Partner with local churches and community organizations.

Our No. 1 challenge: Funding.

How we plan to meet it: Donations, fundraising events, silent auctions and applying for community grants.

The Village Against Violence Foundation partners with: United Health Care Community Plan, Richmond Police Department Faith Leaders, Panera Bread, Hobson Lodge #23, Richmond Public Schools Headstart Program, Wawa Foundation, Publix, Walmart and Amazon Smile.

Ways to become involved with VAV: Visit our website — www.vavfoundation.com or contact us on Facebook: The Village Against Violence Foundation.

Upcoming events: VAV, a local, volunteer-driven 501(c)(3) charity, Richmond Police Department Faith Leaders, and Unity in the Community Revitalization Coalition are gearing up for its first “Gift for Healing” Toy Giveaway.

This community event will be held in support of our children of homicide victims and those who are less fortunate. The goal of this event is to support children and families who may need some extra love and kindness during the holidays. This event is free, but we are asking for monetary or new toy donations. This has been another tough year. We want to give back in a major way.

Place and time: Saturday, Dec. 17, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fresh Anointing Cathedral, 3001 2nd Ave., Richmond.

A perfect day for me is: Being able to wake up to see that day so I always thank God first with prayer. Fresh hot coffee, spending time with my kids and giving back to my community.

What I am continuing to learn about myself during the pandemic: That I have more strength than I thought. Everything that didn’t break me made me stronger, and I thank God for that.

Something about me that people may not know: I am the chairperson for Richmond Public Schools’ Head Start Parent Committee.

A quote that inspires me: Be the best version of yourself.

My friends describe me as: A go-getter.

At the top of my “to-do” list is: Christmas shopping for children in need. Ordering a cake for my daughter’s fifth birthday on Dec. 22. Helping my son’s basketball team raise money for dues.

Best late-night snack: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: Never give up and everyone is not your friend.

The person who influenced me the most: The late Alicia Rasin, who was a longtime community advocate in Richmond.

Book that influenced me the most: “After the Rain: Gentle Reminders for Healing, Courage and Self-Love” by Alex- andra Elle.

What I’m reading now: “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self -Involved Parents” by Lindsay C. Gibson.

Next goal: Open a community center.